New to The Docks? Click here for Episode 1.
How could I let this happen? I looked around at the shifting sands, drifting eerily without the wind to move them. Helene stood next to me, her eyes narrowed in the moonlight. “There’s something out here,” she said. She took a sideways step toward me. Our shoulders touched. I shivered with the effort of keeping the wall between us. It wasn’t easy. What Helene was feeling was the raw wound of a lost spouse. She’d been tied to Alan, that much I was knew. She’d told me as much on the doorstep.
“Will I always feel this way?” was what she greeted me with as soon as I opened the door. “Will it hurt like this forever?”
“Helene-“ I began, but how do you continue? Her face was blotched and red. Her eyelashes twinkled wet under the porchlight. “Do you want to come in?”
“No,” she said, smoothing her hair down absently. “I don’t know why I came here. I just-“ She trailed off.
I knew why she was at my door in the middle of the same night Alan had died. I’d been with her when he was swallowed up by that great nothing we were staring into right now. I had opened myself to her, foolishly, impulsively, to ease her grief on the ride back to Soel. She was bonded to me know, a piece of my mind the way I would be a piece of hers, if it were possible for her to learn bonding. My mother seemed to think it would be impossible for Helene to recognize and reciprocate the bond the way she and my sister could.
Maybe she was right.
But Helene had looked at me in a way that would have touched my heart even if she hadn’t been bonded mind to my mind. “Come with me. I know we haven’t been friends, but I feel like I can trust you with this.” She’d leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Sheriff’s with Alan’s family. My parents think I’m asleep. I came out the window.” She’d cocked her head to the Jeep in the drive. “My dad’s.”
“Sure,” I’d said, grabbed my jacket from the hook on the back of the door, and disappeared without a word to my own family. I could feel Jana with me though. My sister was listening, ready to help if I needed her.
We were already into the canteen of Frist I kept snapped inside my coat. Helene held it in front of her, turning the round container to let the firelight illuminate the odd inscription. “What does it say?” she asked.
I looked at the words, curved and pointed in the Brazic script of Deserters. “And always come home to Me,” I whispered.
She sipped Frist from the spout and handed it back to me. “Thank you. It’s helping.”
We returned to staring silently at the moving sea of sand beyond the docks. Our fire burned green at our feet. I felt the Frist igniting my energy. The cobwebs were clearing. The night unrolled backward. I let the trance overtake me.
There was Alan, spewed up from the sand. Up to the docks, waving, walking backward, pausing now and again to rest. We were all there, the Middles and Uppers of Soel high school. Me, my first time in the dunes, watching the fire uneasily. The fire disappearing into the sand. The Uppers removing the driftwood back to where they found it.
In my trance, I split myself. My father had taught me this; to exist in one plane but investigate another. Time reversed. The fire was lit. I looked at myself, then past myself to the docks, and past the docks to the waterless seabed. Was there something there? Was Helene right? On the way back to Soel, second vision had shown me something sinuous with a jaw that unhinged to swallow Alan whole. I searched the sands.
There, twinkling in the seabed. Two stars. Not stars. Eyes. Locked with mine. I stood rigid, gasping against the trance, against Helene who was shaking me and crying, “Bria, where are you? Don’t leave me here. I need you! Bria, come back!”
The eyes came toward me. Dunes rose and fell like waves as a beast found her way out of a waterless grave. How long have you been here, Strange Creature? You, I wanted to tell her. You are beautiful. But what are you? How long have you been waiting underneath the sand? What have you been waiting for? And why do you stir now?
“Alan!” Helene was screaming. “ALAN!”
I broke free of my trance and found her running toward the docks. What was she doing?
“Helene! Come back!”
“ALAN!” she shrieked into the deathly still night.
I followed her, pulling my knees high as I knew to keep traction as I ran in the sand. “Helene, he can’t be here. Come back!” I pushed hard to catch her. She was moving at speeds I didn’t know were possible on shifting ground. Sharp grains of sand found their way into my throat. It burned. I panted. “Stop, Helene! Wait for me!”
I lost sight of her when she ducked behind a newly formed dune. I continued running as I had been, parallel to the nearest dock. “Helene?”
“Alan!” I heard. Her voice was muted by distance.
I unraveled the wall I’d built to protect myself from her. I threw my conscious outside my own body until I found hers. Helene hadn’t bonded me in return. That left what we shared incomplete. The symmetry of a bond was what gave it stability. Should I lose my mother or sister, some piece of them would always remain with me through the bond they had created. I wasn’t certain, but if Helene were lost forever in the dunes, I would be lost too. Eventually my shield would weaken, and if she were alive and crazy, my mind would be lost to hers. If she were dead, the absence would suck me into its void. So I slammed my mind into her body and led myself to where she cried over a long piece of driftwood.
Putting my body back on was like rolling on a bed of cactus. My mouth was dry and my throat burned. The shift hurt, and it took me a moment to regain my senses. When my vision cleared, I stumbled toward Helene. My hands found her shoulders. “Come on,” I told her.
She stood up and I gasped, my brain scrambling to make sense of what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t driftwood Helene was crying over. It was Alan’s body, perfectly petrified.
Click here for Episode 5 of The Docks.