Young Nicholas was running through the field with his father behind him. Lucas was doing his best to keep up with his son, who could care less if you were dead, he’d drag you to wherever he wanted to go.
“What’s the rush, my boy?” Lucas panted as his son led the way.
“Papa! They’re having a town meeting!” the young boy exclaimed.
“And? What is so special about that Nick?”
The young boy stopped in his tracks and looked at his father with grave grey eyes. “They’re deciding about the outsiders.”
Lucas’s face grew grim, his eyes narrowed and he broke out into an all out sprint, this time leaving his child struggling to keep up.
At the town church, it was dark and cold and everyone seemed to be there. Mister Jonah with his wife Marie, Francis the tailor, Frederick the blacksmith, John the butcher, Dr. Hathoway, even Constance the village oracle was there.
A gavel rocked against the podium and Mayor Ezekiel looked on as silence settled into the crowd and he had the floor to speak. “Fellow townspeople, we have convened to decide, as a community, in regards to the best action to take against the outsiders. Our community is a place of rest, of peace and quiet. We bother no one and expect the same treatment in return. That peace has remained undisturbed for several years... until now.
“New members in our community are often welcome for in the end, we are all the same, we are equal. However, these outsiders have insisted in making their presence felt and in the name of supposed peace, they wish to change our ways, for our supposed benefit. To this, we have already spoken and have answered their offer with a firm no thank you. This meeting is to decide as a community what our next step will be.”
The door at the end of the hall suddenly crashed open with a gust of wind and everyone turned to see Lucas at the threshold. His labored breath seemed to sing his protest at not knowing of the meeting while everyone stared either at his intense eyes or his right hand, which carried a gleaming axe.
“Sorry for my tardiness, it’s just I didn’t know about this meeting, mister mayor.”
Ezekiel’s eyes surveyed the lumberjack before replying. “We thought you were clear as to your opinion of the outsiders.” As the mayor stared at the axe, he raised an eyebrow. “Do you have anything to add about these outsiders? I thought you were receptive to them.”
Lucas grit his teeth as he spoke. “Those outsiders spoke to my daughter.”
The collective shuddered although everyone remained calm enough for him to continue. “They also brought something dark to the community. Something that almost took my daughter.”
As the townspeople began to react in hushed tones, which were quickly silenced by the mayor’s gavel. “Silence, please. Brother Lucas was speaking. So tell us, brother: what do you suggest we do with these outsiders?”
The rage in Lucas’s eyes could have burned down a forest but his tone was calm and sure. “We welcome them to the community so they may become acquainted intimately with our soil.”
Another shudder swept through the town hall, which was cut short by the doors slamming open again. This time it was Percy, someone whom the mayor clearly didn’t expect to see because he was supposed to be guarding the gate. But before the mayor could question him, two words clearly explained the situation.
The gavel called for silence again and the mayor’s voice carried a concise message. “All those who agree with Lucas, raise your hand."
Everyone looked at each other apprehensively until one by one, like stars lighting in the coming night, one hand raised after the other and a chill silence spread throughout the hall.
Far off in the entrance of the town, two men walked past the broken old gate.
“Man, this place is creepy,” said one man to the other. “Do you think it’s a good idea to come back here, Jack?”
Next to him, a man in a black long sleeve shirt and matching black jeans turned on a flashlight. “There’s people here that need our help... even a little girl. I can’t turn my back on them, Rick.”
Rick was a little worried as he checked his equipment to make sure everything was working correctly. “Check your walkie, Jack.”
“Testing, one, two,” said Jack. “Seems good.”
“OK, it’s on channel four. If this one doesn’t work, go to five or six.”
Jack fastened the walkie on his belt. “Sounds good. I don’t see signs of anyone though. Wanna split up to cover more ground?”
Rick looked at Jack as if saying, are you kidding me?
Jack noticed. “Come on, it’ll be quicker and you can get back to your home to see your boxing match.”
“I hear Mark Ward is gonna fight Jones for some BS title. Ward used to be such a good fighter; now he’s just a bum.”
Jack spoke defensively, “Hey, just because a fighter is past their prime, doesn’t make them less worthy. Journeymen are just as necessary as superstars. So you game?”
Rick thought a second. “Two six packs and you got yourself a deal.”
Jack shook his head. “One six pack a piece, now get going.”
They split up and the town seemed completely deserted. Not a light on, not a sound heard. Just dismally quiet. Jack made his way down the main street to a small cabin that was completely dark.
Rick pushed in the large doors of the church and immediately felt the hair on his arms stand on end. He clicked on the walkie-talkie: “Jack, this place is charged up and creepy as hell.”
Jack clicked on his walkie: “Anything there?”
“No signs of anything, just a weird vibe. I’m going in.”
“Roger that,” said Jack as he knocked on the wooden door of the cabin. Waiting a couple of seconds before entering on his own. The home was very quiet as well although he didn’t feel a thing.
Back at the church, Rick kept feeling major fluctuations in temperature. He pulled out a digital thermometer and saw that inside the church there were areas where temperature dipped almost twenty degrees. Putting that device away, he clicked on the walkie again: “Jack, major temperature dips.”
Jack clicked on the other end. “Any electromagnetic spikes on the MEL meter?”
“Let me check,” Rick said. Switching devices, he pulled out a grey box with a green LED Screen. His breath caught though because as soon as he pulled the device out, it started beeping like crazy until with a popping sound, the screen went black. The light from his flashlight also flickered and he clicked on his walkie again. “Jack... the MEL meter’s dead. All out of juice. Everything OK on your front?”
On his side, Jack felt no shifts in temperature and his electromagnetic meter showed no fluctuations. “Everything’s quiet here.”
Rick on his front kept getting chills and when he was able to see his own breath, he pulled out the digital thermometer again. When when the screen came on, the temperature registered forty degrees lower than on the outside. That’s when the numbers also got all screwy and shifty in sequence until it settled on 11.34. As he thought about that number, he felt something graze his arm, causing him to drop the thermometer and scream. Looking at the device, it had landed upside down and when he clicked the walkie, it was as if fingers that weren’t his own were pressing the button.
Jack heard his walkie buzz, but no one spoke so he clicked on his end. “Rick, are you OK?”
From the other end came a shiver of a voice. “J-J-J ack... I-I d-d-don’t think I’m g-gonna see the fight.........”
Jack became intensely concerned. “Rick! You OK buddy? Talk to me!”
After a long pause, Rick spoke again: “F-f-fingers in my hair Jack... hell on the thermometer.”
“Rick!!! What the hell is going on?”
“Hell on the floor, Jack... temperature dropping... f-f-flashlight d-d-dead... walking with lighter.”
“Rick! I’ll be right there!”
At that moment, Jack listened to the other line and heard a heavy breath as if someone was blowing out a candle and then static.
“Rick?!” Jack called out. “Rick???!!!” He tried again and started running to the church trying the walkie on channel four and only getting static. Switching to channel 5, he got more static and switching to channel 6, he was relieved to at least get a clear channel as he entered the church.
Jack called out at the top of his voice. “Rick!!”
The temperature immediately dropped and two pops from his pocket showed that both devices were drained of their batteries. His walkie hissed and popped as well, showing it also went dead and his flashlight flickered until it also went out leaving him in complete darkness.
“What the hell is going on?” he yelled.
His response came as a hiss from his walkie-talkie that had somehow turned back on. He felt the temperature drop further and two things happened in sequence.
The first was that a voice he didn’t recognize spoke through the walkie. “Stay away from my daughter...”
The second thing he heard was the slow metallic grind of something being dragged on the floor... something that sounded sharp.