Time Out of Mind: Chapter 3

Title: Time Out of Mind
Chapter: 3 of 4
Author: Sheryl
Rating: PG-13
Excerpt: “Now, son… where are you headed?”
Ike pointed down the road. “Down there… I have to pick up my brother.”
The man gazed down the road, eyes narrowed. “Not much down there, you folks from away have friends down there?”
“No, no, it… I don’t know. He felt sick, he got out of the car, and the next thing I knew… he was gone. Or I was…”
The man eyed him carefully. Strange things had gone on down that road as long as he’d lived here.

Chapter 3

Taylor ran blind, unthinking.
A house.
If he could just get to the house, instinctive symbol of safety, of home. Whatever it was couldn’t get him if he got to the house.
Blinking around stinging sweat, his eyes caught the image of a woman.
Oh my God people!” He sped up, heart pounding, head throbbing. Tearing eyes never saw the ball bouncing toward his feet, and one running foot came down on it, sending him sprawling, crying out in spite of himself. He impacted hard, breath knocked out of him, panic increasing a hundredfold.
Oh God, it’ll get me!” The bolt of pain through his head this time barely made an impression, so great was the pain in the rest of his body. He struggled to his
feet, stumbling headlong into the woman, who had approached, unheard.
“Oh my goodness, honey, are you alright?” Her arms went around him instantly, tone solicitous and concerned.
He shook his head, gesturing wildly down the hill.
“No, no, down there…” Gasping for air, chest burning, vision beginning to blacken, he clutched her arm desperately. “In there, something…”
“Sssh, shh, now there’s nothing there. Look.” She turned him gently, showing him the blameless lawn that led to the road. “There’s nothing there, dear. You come with me…”
His breathing began to slow as she lead him to the house, calling to the two children who’s ball had been the obstacle that had tripped him.
“You two finish hanging this laundry, while I…”
“Don’t go with her.” The voice, breathy and hoarse, cut her off, and she stared, shocked, at the apparition before her.
“She can’t help you, Taylor. Don’t go in there.”
“You…” The woman hissed, increasing her grip on Taylor’s arm. “You have no business here. This isn’t for you. You go!”
The boy standing there shook his head, unkempt hair falling in his eyes.
“No. Taylor, don’t go with her. It’s all fake. All of this. Just a mask. Don’t go with her. Come with me, I’ll help you. I’ll help you…” He stopped then, face contorting, and the woman snorted.
“You see? He’s crazy, dear. Shouldn’t be out alone. You come on up to the house with me. We’ll get you a drink, get you cleaned up. Come along now.”
For the briefest of moments, Taylor hesitated, something about the boy’s eyes drawing him in, and he felt the lightest touch, soft stroking, at the back of his mind. He took a step toward the boy, pausing as he felt the woman’s hand tighten on his arm, almost painfully. He flinched, and glanced up at her, catching a flicker of something in her eyes, something dark, and empty, gone in a moment, leaving the taste of fear in his mind. Thoughts of spiders flitted through his head for a moment, unconnected.
He pulled away a little and turned back to the boy, recoiling, horrified, as the boy’s eyes and nose suddenly began to bleed.
“You see? You see, you should never have come here!” The woman’s voice, shrill and edging on furious, directed at the boy.
She turned Taylor around, slipped an arm around his shoulders, leading him, perhaps too quickly, toward the open kitchen door.
He looked back at the boy, something in his mind screaming, half heard, as the thin comfort of the woman’s touch, and the smell of familiarity, drew him in.

*********************

Ike, Ike what’re you doing?” Zac curled on his side, mind tuned to his brother’s. He’d caught a rush of fear, and frustration. “Ike, what is it, answer me!” Sudden flurry of images in his head, snow, mud, the car stuck on the side of the road. “Oh Ike, you got stuck??
Ghost of a voice then, Ike sounded so faint.
No, I’m unstuck. But I’m back at the beginning of the road. You have to help me, Zac…
Back at the beginning?
Another spate of images, the car creeping through blue whiteness, shadowed with evergreen, cold. Sudden flash of lush greenery, and then the image of the store at the crossroads.
Ike, what happened?
I don’t know…” Taste of exhaustion, weariness. “I just found myself here again. I’m going back down. Help me, I’m tired…
The voice in his mind blinked out, and the image faded. Sighing, he turned on his back, unthinkingly sending any kind of help he could.
It won’t be enough, Zac.” The voice sent him bolting upright. “You need to be together, all three of you. I didn’t know about the links, if I’d known, I never would have been trapped there. You can defeat it, you can get me out. But you have to wake up Tay. You have to connect with his mind, and he has to understand what’s going on. It’s tricking him, confusing him.
Zac felt his stomach churning, dizziness distorting his vision.
Who are you?
It’s a long story Zac, but I’m someone who got trapped down here a long long time ago. I’m trying to help you. You two have to stay together, and you have to reach Taylor.
I don’t know how.” Zac felt tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how to do this…
Yes you do Zac, yes you do. Just let instinct guide you.
But I’m sick…” Mental tone turned sulky. It wasn’t fair that they were making him do this when he felt so bad.
I know you are. I’m sorry. You can do it though. You’re the strongest Zac. If you’d been here, it would be you it wanted. You have to pull them together. They can’t do it without you. You’ll lose Taylor to it, and you’ll lose Ike to what he blames on himself. Get it together, Zac, they need you.
The touch to his mind, somehow so familiar, gone then, as he lay there, thinking.

*********************

Ike slammed his hand onto the steering wheel, incoherent sound of rage bursting from his throat. How could he be here again??? How?? It was as if something were specifically shunting him back out. He’d gotten stuck, and it had been hell getting out. Finally, at the height of frustration, a man had come out of the house on the corner, bundled against the December cold.
“Here boy, here’s what you need..” He’d dumped a goodly amount of what appeared to be cat litter onto the snow behind the stuck tires, and then stood back. “‘Y want to rock her, boy, rock her.”
Ike had stared, amazed. “What?”
“Not from here, are you.”
“No, no, and my brother… I have to go get him.”
“People from away shouldn’t try to drive in this. Here, move aside.”
Ike had stepped back, as the man got in, and sure enough, had rocked the car, back and forth, back and forth, slowly inching it back onto solid ground.
“Now, son… where are you headed?”
Ike pointed down the road. “Down there… I have to pick up my brother.”
The man gazed down the road, eyes narrowed. “Not much down there, you folks from away have friends down there?”
“No, no, it… I don’t know. He felt sick, he got out of the car, and the next thing I knew… he was gone. Or I was…”
The man eyed him carefully. Strange things had gone on down that road as long as he’d lived here. Shrugging, he gestured to the car. “Well, good luck. Be careful down there.”
Ike had nodded, and climbed in, noticing the look of sadness on the man’s face as he watched him out of sight. He’d gone creeping down the road, terrified he’d get stuck again, some part of his mind taking note of all the “for sale” signs on the houses lining the edges of the road. Soon enough they’d thinned out, and desolation began.
He came around a curve, caught the beginnings of the edge of the village, an impossible splash of green and yellow brightness, and had suddenly found himself back at the corner, looking at the store.
Refusing to think about it, he’d immediately turned around, and started back down the road, only to find himself, once again, back at the beginning.
Exhaustion was heavy in him, the constant terror stricken adrenaline rush taking its toll, his eyes struggling to close.
He could feel Zac there, hear him, but God, he was just so tired.
I need to regroup. Zac…
Yeah…
Faint, so faint.
I just need a minute.
Yeah…
He shut his eyes, just for a moment.

*********************

“Mom! Mom stop…” Zac was annoyed. His mother had been fussing at him fairly continuously, and he’d just had enough. He pushed her hands away from the blankets, and scooted back a little. “I’m okay, you’re driving me crazy…”
“Zac…” She sighed, exasperated. “You are not okay. I want to have them send up some soup for you…”
The thought of food nearly made him gag, and he shook his head rapidly.
“No, no food, mom, you go eat. I’m okay, I’m just gonna go back to sleep.”
The part of his mind, so newly awakened, hummed and buzzed, distracting him. Ike, what was going on with Ike? Was he asleep??? He couldn’t be…
“…baby, alright?”
Oh for… what was she saying? “What mom? Mom, please…” He took her hand, forcing himself not to shout at her. “Please, I just want to go to sleep.” He made himself smile, knowing if he looked anything like he felt, she wouldn’t be buying it. “I don’t want to eat, I can’t… I just am so tired….” He let his eyes close for a second, and felt her hand stroke his hair. The urge to bite her suddenly surged in him and he turned over, burying his face in the pillow. If she didn’t leave him alone soon he was going to go postal. He heard her mumble something, and the snick of the door as she left the room. Sighing in relief he turned over again, wincing at the pain in his head. “God I feel awful…”
He reached a little, looking for his brothers. No Taylor, but Ike was there, faint… indistinct.
Holy God, he’s falling asleep…
Zac, you have to go help them.
His half closed eyes snapped open. “Tay?
Sort of, yeah. Not the Tay you know. Zac, you have to go help him. It’s almost too late.
God, I’m hearing voices…” He pulled the blankets back up around his chin. “You’re not real, I’m sick…” He felt, more than heard, the voice chuckle, and that curious mental singing started in the back of his head again.
I know you’re sick, Zacman, and I’m sorry. But I need your help. Look at Ike, he’s just all done. He’s so tired, and it is getting to him. You need to join together to be strong enough to fight it. It was just me… but things are different this time. This time It could get Ike too… they need your strength, Zac.
I don’t know where they are.” Zac had climbed out of bed, and into his clothes, without even realizing it. “I need you to show me where they are.” No longer questioning, that new-old talent firing and snapping, filling his mind with knowledge, he had no more doubts.
You’ll know, Zacman, you’ll know. But get out before she comes back.
Nodding, Zac tugged on as many layers as he felt he could walk in, and without looking back, slipped out the door. His head was spinning and aching, his eyes burned, everything hurt, and he came dangerously close to throwing up in the elevator, but when all was said and done, that singing thrum in the back of his mind felt pretty good. Felt right somehow. He’d be okay. And whoever that was had been right. He did know where to go. He stepped into the chill of the afternoon, took himself to the road, and stuck out his thumb.

*********************

“Here sweetheart, you drink this. You’re so hot…” Taylor accepted the water gratefully, rubbing his eyes. “Does your head hurt, honey?”
He nodded, thinking that was quite an understatement.
“Could I make a call, ma’am? My brother, I guess he drove off… I’m kind of stranded.”
“Oh, call me Lou, dear, of course you can. The phone is right over there.”
He glanced over to the table, puzzled. He’d have sworn there was no phone there a minute ago. Shaking his head, feeling a cold chill wash over him, he stood up and headed for the phone, weariness threatening to overwhelm him.
His gaze drifted out the window for a moment, as his hand touched the phone, pausing as something nagged at him. “Phone lines, there are no phone lines out there, Taylor…” A whisper in his mind, there and gone.
Shaking it off, he picked up the phone, held it to his ear, smiling a little at the familiar dial tone.
“Is someone coming to pick you up, dear?”
He nodded and sat back down at the table, still rubbing his eye. The headache was getting pretty bad. “Yeah, my dad is.” His brow knit a little.
Something about the conversation hadn’t made a whole lot of sense to him, but he just couldn’t connect. Whatever, they were coming to get him.
“Why is it so hot here?”
The woman smiled, nodding. “August in Maine is always hot. Why?”
He frowned, glancing back out the window. “August? But…”
She reached out, resting the back of her hand against his forehead. “Honey, you’re burning up, are you feeling alright?”
He shook his head. “No, no I’m not. I just don’t understand what’s going on. It’s not August, it’s December! Christmas was last week…” His voice trailed off as his eyes took in the lush green of the yard beyond the kitchen windows.
“You poor baby, it’s that fever doing it to you. Christmas last week… my goodness. Here…” She reached above the refrigerator, and pulled down a bottle. “Can you take Advil?”
He nodded absently. Had the fridge been there when he came in? The whole kitchen seemed more modern. “God, I really am sick… must be what Zac has…” He reached his hand for the Advil, glanced into his palm, yelped, and dropped them, sending the yellow tablets tumbling, bright against the blue tablecloth. For just a moment, he’d seen little spots of blackness, holes in his hand, it had looked like. Blinking, he eyed the innocent looking tablets.
“Later, I’ll take them later… I… I’ll be fine.” He dropped his head into his hands, hearing Lou’s little “moo” of sympathy.
“Would you like to lie down, honey? What’s your name?” He nodded, and mumbled out his name. Lying down sounded wonderful. “Well, you come with me, I have a guestroom upstairs. ”
He followed her, eyes moving to the window again.
Something in his head kept yelling at him to get out. He saw the children playing catch on the lawn, laughingly keeping the ball from a largish mutt. A dog? Had there been a dog before? He watched a little closer, shaking his head again as, for just a moment, the figures of the children mutated, becoming smaller, misshapen. He blinked again, and the scene returned to normal.
“Oh God…” He groaned softly, and felt the woman’s arm slip around his shoulder.
“Oh, now, it’s going to be fine. ” She led him up the stairs, turning to gaze at him sharply as he suddenly froze, hand on the banister. “What is it Taylor?”
He shook his head. For just a second it had felt as if he were going down stairs, rather than up. “Nothing. I don’t know. I really do need to lie down.”
She smiled, nodding, and led him to a small room, simply furnished, and beamed at his pleased look. The room was wonderfully normal, he thought, white lace curtains blowing in the breeze through the screened in window, scent of lemon furniture polish and clean sheets.
“Here love, you just have a sleep, and I’ll wake you when your ride comes, alright?”
He smiled, sleepiness overcoming him. A voice suddenly spoke in his mind.
They don’t know where you are, Taylor, you didn’t tell them. You don’t know…” His smile vanished, but the thought ran before he could catch it. What had he been thinking? Sighing, he curled up on the soft bed, wincing for a moment as something that felt like a rock, dug into his hip. He reached down, hand contacting only soft quilts, and shrugged. Whatever, it had been, it was gone. Just something in his pocket most likely. The pillow was soft, and fresh, the breeze felt good. Within moments, he had drifted off.

*********************

It watched, by no means all seeing or all knowing, though It enjoyed thinking It was. The boy, something wasn’t right with the boy. He was seeing through It’s carefully constructed illusions.
What was going on? Just outside It’s focus, something tapped and nagged. Some other presence. Some other shine? Boys? More boys? It’s boys? The shine in this boy, the radiance, the power.
It had been here forever, disturbed only by the timeless cycle of arriving. Myriad times it had happened, always the same. What was different this time?
It saw the boy now, curled asleep on the basement floor, head pillowed on a stone. For a moment the illusion had slipped, but it was intact now. The boy felt neither the dirt floor, the stone under his head, or the rats clawing at his legs. The boy thought he was safe and clean, in a bed, in a house.
Satisfied, missing entirely the figure of the boy in the woods, It turned It’s attention outward, to the other boy. The boy in the car, just beyond It’s realm. Ah, beyond It’s realm but not beyond It’s influence. That boy was the problem. he kept coming back. Why did he keep coming back? To get It’s boy? To get the boy? No, no, that mustn’t mustn’t happen. Couldn’t be.
Unused to confusion, It wavered. The boy should not remember. He should not keep coming back. No matter. He had a shine too. Not as bright as His boys, different from His boys, but still strong. It could take him into itself, yes it could.
Greedy, It reached…

*********************

Ike’s head snapped up, had he been falling asleep?!
“Oh God, don’t go to sleep. You have to find Tay.” His head was aching fiercely, the spike of pain behind his eye close to unbearable and faintly nauseating. “God, getting sick…”
Sighing, he started the car, and flipped the heat on, the warm air soothing. That the car was cold, and warm air an impossibility, never occurred to him.
He sat back again, rubbing his head, struggling to think.
Tay. He had to get Tay.
You have to go beyond the barrier, Ike. Behind the barrier. You can get through. You can. You just can’t let It stop you.
He shook his head, dismissing the voice. “Hearing things… oh yeah good.” The pain in his head, in the way. “Why did he wander off anyway? Put me through this…” He didn’t realize, but It did, that the pain was making him weak, letting It in. He didn’t recognize the annoyance at Taylor as an outside influence, but in the darkness, It capered and gibbered gleefully.
This boy would be Its’ as well. There was something, something still stopping it, the boy still maintained most of his own awareness. A corner of the mind It could not get into. But It was patient. It had time.
It set Its being to an illusion, watching with satisfaction as the boy took in the shimmering, wavering light just outside the car, delighting that It’s plan was working. Delight became outrage, as the boy dismissed the shimmer.
“Trick of the light. Pretty.” And leaned back, closing his eyes again.
What was in Its way? What?!

*********************

Zac huddled in the corner of the seat, miserable beyond belief.
The pain in his head was horrible, blinding, and the riding was making his already upset stomach even worse. Waves of nausea had begun almost as soon as the man had picked him up, horrible, unmanning nausea that made him want to throw himself to his knees and beg God to make it stop, or kill him. He’d gagged half a dozen times, bringing nothing up, hiding it easily by turning his back. The man driving never noticed.
Ike, Ike, come on, where are you?!” He reached hard, feeling the pain surge, ignoring it. His brother was there, he could feel him, he could see him, leaning back against the seat, half asleep, but Ike couldn’t seem to hear him.
Something seemed to be around him, in him, something black, something less than black, nothingness. Nothing was there, and it was all over his brother. Fear and anger rose in him, and a fierce protectiveness.
Get away from him…!” He sent, unthinking and powerful, and recoiled as a sudden presence screeched through his mind.
GET OUT OF HIS HEAD YOU LITTLE SHIT!!
Jumping, crying out involuntarily, Zac pressed too tightly against the door, his elbow hitting the handle. Before the startled driver could respond, the door had opened, spilling the boy out onto the road.

*********************

“Taylor.” He looked down at the sleeping boy, hating to wake him. “Taylor. You have to wake up, Taylor. Now. While It’s occupied.” He reached down, hesitating only fleetingly before touching him, contact, skin on skin, sending a shock through him that nearly grayed him out. Recovering, he opened his eyes to see Taylor staring at him.
“Taylor.”
“Yes…” Wary gaze tainted with something approaching understanding.
“Taylor, look around you. Look, and see what’s here.”
Taylor looked, eyes taking in the cozy room, the sun-dappled floors and walls.
“No, Taylor, no. Look and see. See what’s really here.”
Taylor’s gaze shifted back to him, searching his eyes.
‘You were down in the yard. You tried to stop me.” He sat up, his mind clearing a little. “There’s something wrong here. I can’t remember what it is, but there’s something…”
“Yes, Taylor, there is. You have to look though. You have to get It’s veil off your eyes, and see what’s going on.”
The boy’s hand reached out, touching Taylor’s face, turning his head away, to the room. “Look. Look, and…” He reached then, mind touching mind, stripping away the fog of illusion. “…really see.” Taylor’s eyes widened as he took in the murk of the dark basement, stomach twisting at the smell of rot, drawing back in horror at the sight of the rats, perched on his boots.

*********************

“Holy God, child, get out of the road!”
Hands grabbed Zac, lifting him from the pavement. Vaguely aware of motion, he blinked watering eyes, struggling to catch a breath, chest burning. Hands released him and he stumbled, barely catching himself before sinking onto a snowbank, head in hands, still gasping for air.
“Are you alright? Did anyone hit you?!” The man’s hands had his shoulders again, shaking him slightly.
“No…” He croaked it out, feeling the burning subside. “No, just… quit shaking me, no…”
“Just knocked the wind outta ya?” Zac nodded, swallowing against the nausea that had re-surged. “Yer lucky nobody ran you down like a bug! That’s interstate 95, you don’t want to make a habit outta falling outta cars there!”
“No….” He laid his head on crossed arms, attention too divided.
Ike, he could see Ike, something was after him, Tay, where was Tay, scared, Tay was scared, “Oh, God what’s going ON?!” He’d have cried out, had he the energy, but all that came was a whisper. The man he’d been riding with clapped him on the back.
“Come on then, if you’re alright, and let’s get where we’re goin’.”
Zac shook his head, feeling his churning stomach suddenly go deathly still. “No… I can’t…” He swallowed again, wanting to warn the man. “I’m gonna…” That was as far as he got before everything suddenly came up at once. Sickness of overwhelming intensity washed over him, consciousness dimmed to a pinpoint, and the link with Isaac went down, as if it had never been.

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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