I read my dead mother's diary. I don't know if I can ever forgive myself. - Chap 5
The first thing I did after learning about Mrs. Crawford’s death, was attempting to call a friend back in my home city. I just needed someone to get us out of town. But as fate would have it, no calls would go outside of town. Whoever was in control of the phone lines, had made certain it only worked locally.
I needed to talk to Sheriff Dawson, who’d be the one picking me up in the morning. He was his usual, punctual self, showing up with a concerned look, but comforting presence.
“Hear any strange sounds during the night?” he asked.
“Not this time. It was pretty quiet.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Listen, I know things seem strange around here. But I need you to know that I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
His words seemed so genuine. The concern in his eyes truly shined through his otherwise confident exterior. He was the only person in Tenebris I thought I could trust. I needed to open up, and tell him what I knew.
“I know about my mother,” I said, checking if he’d finally come clean about the information he held.
He turned pale white, holding a finger to his lips and gesturing for me to keep quiet.
He walked over, a little too close for comfort. Then he leaned in towards my ear and whispered just enough to make me keep my mouth shut.
“They’re always listening.”
He was getting visibly upset by the conversation. His calm demeanor had turned to a nervous, jumpy one. “Not here… we need to go somewhere else to talk. Do you trust me? Let’s get some breakfast.”
I nodded. He had to be a better option than Mrs. Crawford. We followed him into the patrol car, and he started driving towards the outskirts of town, where the diner was. I put a headset on Alex, to make sure he wasn’t listening in to our conversation. It played his favorite audio book, giving me a moment of half privacy with Sheriff Dawson.
“Can’t we just leave town?”
Dawson just shook his head. “They’d find you. Your mother tried it once, but when they threatened to bring you in, she came back. They’ve isolated town, no calls in, nor out. No one leaves without explicit permission.”
“Who are those people?”
“They ain’t people, Laura. Whatever your mother brought back, it’s something evil.”
Then a thought hit me. If everything I’d heard was true, why hadn’t they converted him to whatever they were. I had too many questions, and I didn’t know how to express them all in a meaningful manner. Instead, they just fell out of me like an incomprehensible alphabet soup. But Dawson, being the Sheriff and all, had plenty of experience talking to people in shock.
“Why haven’t they taken you?”
He paused at that, as if feeling guilty at my remark.
“They let me stay. They needed someone to cover for them as they brought more of their kind into our world. They’re smart, and they adapt, but they’re not human, something anyone could notice if they spent enough time around them. So they use me, to keep people out of town, to make sure no one falls suspicious. In the beginning there were just a few of them, I knew they were acting strange, but not that they weren’t human anymore. But now… I don’t know if there’s anyone else left. Maybe Riley, I don’t know… he’s always been a weird case.”
He took a deep breath, his voice cracking ever so slightly as his previously strong facade started to fade.
“I told myself I did it to protect the living, to protect you… But the truth is, I just couldn’t stand the idea of one of them inside my corpse. I don’t want to walk around like some sick puppet after I’ve died.”
I trusted him. Mostly because he was the only bit of genuine human interaction I’d experienced in Tenebris. The rest had all been too artificial. I’d written that emotion off was nervousness, but it made sense then. All the people had been familiar, yet foreign. It was because they weren’t themselves, but rather vessels walking around, housing creatures from another world.
My mind was shattered. I still didn’t fully understand what was going on in Tenebris, or why my mother had been so important to bringing people back. But one burning question still remained.
“You mean you haven’t figured it out yet?”
The question almost felt condescending. Of course the thought had struck me, but I needed absolute confirmation.
“You’re here to replace your mother,” Sheriff Dawson said.
By then, we’d already reached the diner. The lifeless exterior hardly seemed inviting, but I needed food. I’d barely eaten since arriving, save for the few snacks I’d brought with me.
“Listen, you’re going to have to pretend that you don’t know what’s going on. Just play dumb, we’re just here to eat. If we stray away from the plan for too long, they’ll get suspicious.”
I took the headset off Alex’s head. He was still as ignorant about the horrors around him as ever, smiling at the thought of more french fries drowned in ketchup.
“You hungry, hon?” I asked.
Alex nodded enthusiastically.
“Just get the meatloaf or fries. It’s the only thing not rotten around here. They’ve kept that stuff frozen since the owners died,” the Sheriff whispered to me.
“They don’t eat?” I asked.
“They don’t have to.”
As before, there were no people inside, save for the waitress that didn’t bother greeting us. She moved around strangely, akin to a calf learning how to walk. I hadn’t noticed that last time as she seemed fine, albeit empty inside.
“Are you alright?” Dawson asked.
The waitress ignored him, just took our orders and left with broken steps towards the back room.
We ordered our food, and waited in silence. I wanted to keep talking to the Sheriff, but with one of them around it wasn’t safe. He kept looking over to the counter, there wasn’t anyone manning it. In fact, the waitress was the only one we’d ever seen at that diner since returning to town.
It only took about ten minutes for our food to arrive. It was clearly little more then defrosted meatloaf for me, and poorly cooked fries for Alex. Still, with enough ketchup, he didn’t notice. I tried my best to eat it, more from hunger than actual appetite. It tasted like cardboard, which was a better alternative than rot.
Then we heard it again, the sound of someone crying. It didn’t take long to realize it was the waitress. Yet, like with all the others, there wasn’t a hint of emotion in the whines.
“Stay here. I’ll deal with this,” Dawson ordered.
The Sheriff stood up and headed towards the backroom of the diner. Alex and I remained behind, silently listening to the empty sobs.
“Why is she crying?”
“I don’t know, Alex. Just keep eating.”
“Is Sheriff Morgan helping her?” he asked.
“Yes. She’ll be fine. The Sheriff knows exactly how to handle these things.”
Alex seemed satisfied by the answer. His world was so simple, as if we couldn’t get hurt when we had our own police officer watching over us. I wish I could have felt that safe, but I knew that even Dawson couldn’t keep the creatures from this town away from us.
“Sit still, dammit. I’m just doing what they told me to,” we heard Dawson yelling from the backroom.
I got curious, and with no one else in the diner, I figured Alex would be safe if I just got to take a peek. “Stay here Alex. I’ll be back in a second.”
I tried to walk quietly towards the backroom where Dawson had entered. I could hear him struggle on the other side, and it had me worried. I opened the door, and found him trying to pin down the waitress, holding a massive syringe in his hand. The waitress’ sobs immediately turned to laughter as she saw me. A broken, wet laugh like she had an overabundance of phlegm stuck in her throat.
“It is she, Nephilim,” she laughed. “She will bring the Acolytes to this world, she is ours.”
The Sheriff turned to me for a second. “Laura, what are you doing get out of here!” he shouted, before plunging the syringe into the waitress’ leg.
She just kept laughing. “You won’t leave, you belong to us.”
But then she reverted back to crying. Her eyes lit up with absolute, heartbreaking sorrow. The creature that occupied her body, vanished. “I don’t want to be here. It hurts so much. I just wanna go… I just…”
She drifted off as the liquid Dawson had injected started to work.
“What did you give her?”
“Etorphine,” he said as he showed me the empty syringe. “I have to give them that when start acting weird.”
“What happens if you don’t?”
“Then the vessels break, and they show their true form.”
“Well, the people they’re using. The bodies. Trust me on this, you don’t want to see what they really look like,” he said, frustrated at my presence.
He stood back up, and threw the syringe onto the ground. Then he escorted me out of the room, and back into the diner. Alex had already finished his meal. Dawson rushed us both into his patrol car, clearly annoyed that I’d interrupted him.
“You really shouldn’t have that, Laura.”
“I’m sorry. I heard you yelling. I thought…”
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I need you to trust me if I’m going to keep you safe.”
The car fell silent. Alex had returned to his audio book, still unaware just how close we were to danger.
“She called me Nephilim. What is that?”
The Sheriff sighed. “I’m not exactly sure. Marianne and your mother were always better at these things. It basically means descendant of angels. Your mother was one, and by extension, you are too. That’s why your mother could bring people back from death.”
“Angels? Shouldn’t that be a good thing.”
“Well, there’s another translation of the word. Some think it means fallen. But I don’t know… whatever the history behind the word is, it’s a curse brought upon this town. I’m sorry your mother had to be the one bearing it, but at this point I don’t know if we can ever stop it.”
Defeating evil wasn’t my first priority at that point. Before I did anything stupid, I needed to get Alex out of town.
“Sheriff, can’t you call for help?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“There has to be some other town nearby that hasn’t been taken by these things. Couldn’t they help?”
“They’d die like the rest of them, and who’s going to believe Tenebris has been taken over by horrific creatures from another world anyway?” he asked back. “Not that it matters, there’s no way of contacting the outside world. Lines are down, and there are working cell towers anywhere near us. The best I could do is to use my radio, but even then I’d have to be miles outside of town.”
“What about leaving Tenebris, then?”
“If I follow through on the meeting with Mrs. Crawford, could you leave?”
“Alone? I suppose they won’t care too much if they’re keeping an eye on you.”
“Then I need you to take Alex away from Tenebris. We both know it’s me they want, but I need to save my son. He trusts you, and so do I.”
“Laura… it’s not…”
“Please, if they’re going to take me, I at least need to know that he’s safe.”
Dawson sighed as he mulled over the question. “Alright, I’ll get him out of town. But I can’t protect you if I’m not here.”
We were about to reach the hospice again, but that time no one waited for us outside. Dawson stopped the car, and I got out. Alex tried to follow me, but I stopped him.
“Alex, I’m going to meet with Mrs. Crawford alone. I need to stay with Sheriff Dawson in the meantime. Okay?”
He shook his head in refusal. “I want to come with you.”
“I know, but this time you can’t. I need to speak to her in private. You trust the Sheriff, right?”
“He’s a good man. He’ll look after you, and keep you safe,” I explained.
“But who will protect you?” he asked.
I couldn’t help but smile at his concern. But the joy quickly faded as I realized just how right he might be. Though he didn’t understand the horrors surrounding Tenebris, he knew enough to be concerned about my safety.
Before I could answer, Dawson stepped forward holding a walkie in his hand. “Since you lost your phone, I figure this will be a suitable replacement. At least we can keep in touch then,” he said as he handed me the radio.
Then he turned to Alex. “You see, now she can talk to us whenever she needs to.”
Alex smiled, convinced that everything would work out.
“I’ll come back as soon as I can. Be careful in there, alright?”
“Thank you Sheriff.”
“Just call me Morgan. Your mother always did.”
I embraced Alex in a hug, trying to hold back tears. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to see him again. But I rejoiced in the fact that he’d be safe, even if it meant my own sacrifice. If these things wanted to keep me there, at least I would go down swinging. What Dawson hadn’t seen, was that I took a large container of Etorphine with me, alongside a couple of syringes.