Alex went to bed in his old room. The old posters and toys that he once played with were still where he’d left them. His mother had taken great care to make sure that everything was exactly as he remembered it. Clearly she’d expect him to come home at some point, though he had other plans.
It was yet one more sin on Alex’s soul. He had no way of repenting for this one. He had missed his chance when that drunk slammed into his mother’s old Chevy.
His eyes fluttered and he finally went to sleep. As his eyes closed, his field of vision became painted red. His eyes shot open, but there was nothing but red all around him, “What… what is this?”
At that moment, a cross appeared in front of him. The moment that it fully materialized, a woman slowly began to appear. Her hands and feet were nailed to each end of the cross and a crown of thorns adorned her head. Blood was everywhere.
Alex’s eyes widened as the woman looked at him. He knew who it was, “Liliana…”
Her head moved slowly so that her eyes met Alex’s, “Why didn’t you save me? Why did I deserve to die?”
“I tried!” Alex insisted. “Really, I did everything that I knew how to do.”
“You couldn’t protect me… how do you intend to protect her…”
Alex’s eyes narrowed, “Who?”
The image suddenly faded and reappeared in front of his eyes. To his horror, Tersa now appeared in front of him. Alex was confused, “Why her? I don’t understand.”
The bloodied effigy smiled at him, “You will, very soon.”
More blood began to pour from her hands and feet as her body fell limp. The world suddenly faded to black, forcing his eyes opened. He woke up in a puddle of his own sweat, breathing heavily.
Much to his surprise, it was already morning. The storm was over, but the clouds had not yet passed by. Alex got up and went to the door to check on Tersa. He quietly exited his room and went to the guest room. He slowly opened the door to take a quick peak and to make sure that she was okay.
At first, he didn’t see anything, just a mess of tangled sheets. Afraid of what he might find, he pushed the door open hard. Tersa was gone.
In a panic, Alex quickly turned to the bathroom to see if she’d gotten up. The bathroom was empty. Maybe she went to the kitch? That was empty too. Oh God, what happened?
Alex began to feel the same sense of dread that he’d felt that day at the Vatican. He needed to get out and find her. Maybe she woke up early and wanted to get home?
He threw on a new set of clothes and ran out the door. Without a second’s hesitation, he jumped into the family car, turned it over, and shot out of the garage as fast as he could. He was determined to find her.
The Cadillac barreled down the road at almost twice the speed limit. Within minutes, he found the Oldsmobile right where they had left it, but where was she? Had he hallucinated being there her somehow?
Alex shook his head. That wasn’t possible. Where the hallucinations had become fuzzy afterwards, he remembered her being there clearly. So where could she be? Another quick search of the house revealed nothing. There was no evidence that she’d been there.
A sense of panic flowed over him. Too much didn’t add up from the night before. The power going out, Tersa getting stuck on the side of the road, him just happening to be outside at the right moment to see her, the tree falling, and the whispers on the wind was all too much. One looking at this from the outside could have dismissed them all as coincidence, but Alex suspected that there was something darker behind all of this.
With the tree still blocking his path, the only way into town was to go through the wooded backroads and that would take an extra twenty minutes. It was a long way around that he would not have been able to undertake the night before, but now that the weather was clear, it would be more manageable.
Alex pulled the car around and headed down to the other end of Pleasant Hill Road before turning left onto Silent Hill Lane. He kept his eyes open on either side of the road, looking for Tersa, but could find no sign of her anywhere.
Finally, he turned left at the other side of Pleasant Hill Road and then onto Main Street. He pulled his car right up in front of the police station and paid the meter to park for a few hours. So where should he start looking? Should he go to the police?
Windsted, Massachusetts was a fairly small town with less than 1500 people living. Everyone knew everyone from the town, so it would be a good place to start. However, if no one had seen her and he started asking questions, it may seem suspicious and if he had been imagining the whole thing, he would look like a lunatic.
Alex lit up a cigarette and pondered his options for a moment. His thoughts were quickly interrupted by the door to the police station flying open and an older, well-built, man in uniform came down the stone steps. He had a stressed look on his face.
Alex immediately recognized the man, put out his cigarette and intercepted him, “Officer McConnel, remember me?”
The officer stopped for a moment and looked at Alex, “Oh so you’re back in town… I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to exchange pleasantries, my daughter didn’t come home last night. She was out celebrating her 24th birthday party.”
Chills went down Alex’s spine as the hallucination theory had finally been disproven, “Tersa didn’t make it home?”
Officer McConnel shook his head, “Have you seen her? She was driving a silver Oldsmobile Firenza.”
What could Alex do? If he told the officer the truth, he’d be a suspect in her disappearance. He’d be hauled in for questioning while whoever had her was able to finish whatever they were doing. Time was of the essence and there were no minutes to spare for that, “Um… theres a car that looks like that on the side of the road Pleasant Hill Road, but I didn’t see her.”
The officer shook his head, “Oh God… I’d better get over there. You’re sure it’s the same car?”
“No, but it says Firenza in white letters on the side.”
“Yeah that’s my car. All right, thanks!”
Alex nodded as the officer hopped in his car and pulled away without another word. Her birthday? She didn’t mention that…
The date was the 13th of October. Alex shook his head at the odd coincidence. The 13th… well that’s a bad omen if ever there was one.
Alex paced for a few minutes thinking of where he should look next. At that moment, he saw a dark figure clad in all in black, watching him from a distance. The figure had a menacing aura about it, but made no move to confront him.
Alex was about to cross the street when the blare of a loud horn made him jump back. A large truck entered his line of sight as it drove by. Once it passed, the figure was no longer on the other side of the road. What was going on?
Directly behind where the man had been standing was the town library. It was an impressive stone building for such a small community. Was this a sign that he was supposed to go in there? He had too many unanswered questions. Where was Tersa, why was her date of birth becoming significant? Something didn’t add up.
Then he remembered something his uncle had said to him. There hadn’t been a storm like the one that rocked Windsted in the area for almost 25 years. Tersa was 24.
What was going on? Alex needed answers and standing on the curb wasn’t going to yield any. He abruptly crossed the street and went into the library. From the front door, he was immediately drawn to the microfilm room with all of the old Newspaper articles from the town.
Alex’s hands shook with either fear or anticipation as he brought up the October 13th, 1990. His eyes scanned over the page. Nothing. There was a mild thunderstorm on the day of her birth, but the date was otherwise insignificant.
What could he be missing? There had to be some sort of connection there. Something was not adding up right. Alex sat back and stared at the image on the Windsted Sun for a few moments. He said 25 years… not 24… and Tersa mentioned when her mother found out that she was pregnant.
Alex’s fingers went flying back about nine months and slowly made his way through the papers. It took him 20 minutes to find the paper. There it was, February 3rd, 1990. It was a very unusual time of year for such a storm. According to the paper, the meteorolergists were baffled by its sudden appearance.
He continued scrolling until he reached the next day’s paper. It took a few minutes of his eyes scanning the pages before he stumbled on a small article off to the side. The title was in bold black letters, “Storm Topples 300 year old tree.”
At first, this didn’t seem significant, but something in the page caught his eye. The word ‘Quetzalcoatl’ jumped out at him. It was an odd thing to see in a story about a tree, so he turned back and began reading the article.
His eyes flew over the lines as he read. Witnesses claim a random bolt of lightning struck the tree, causing it to break and burn. The tree is situated in what was once a local grave yard. Records of Windsted dating back to the 1690s indicate that a young woman by the name of Rachel Proctor had been discovered praying to the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl. She was immediately tried for heresey and witchcraft, and sentenced to hang.
Rachel is believed to be one of the earliest people tried for witchcraft. Her family pleaded with the local clergy to allow her to be burried. The clergy agreed only if a tree were planted over her grave to bind her wicked soul. Until yesterday’s storm, that tree remained as a silent reminder of past crimes.
Alex went pale and pushed away from the film projector. He had heard of this practice being done by the Amish, but this was the first historical case of it that he had read about. Ordinarily, he dismissed things as ancient superstition, but after what he saw in Rome, he wasn’t sure any more.
So Tersa was concieved around the same time that the tree was destroyed. There was another, much smaller storm on the day of her birth, and now on her 24th birthday, a raging storm hits Windsted and she disappears the net morning. Could this all be connected?
Alex put a hand to his head, “Okay, this is nuts. I’m letting my own fears get the better of me and come to life. Most likely she left my house early, walked home, and she got there after her father left.”
He wanted to believe that, but why would she leave without saying goodbye? Why wouldn’t she call her folks? Her phone may have been dead and maybe she didn’t want to wake him. It was plausible, but likely?
Alex’s head was beginning to hurt. He decided that the best thing to do was head back home going the way she would have walked. Maybe he’d see something that would give him a clue.
He turned off the microfilm and turned to leave the library. His father’s Cadillac was where he left it, however now there was another black figure standing in front of it. This one looked taller than the first.
Alex froze in place for a moment before stepping forward to confront the dark figure, “Who are you? What do you want?”
The figure didn’t move, but a voice came from under his hood, “Do not interfere.”
“Interfere? What are you talking about?”
Another voice broke the silence, “Hey Alex!”
Someone else came around the corner, making a started Alex turn to see who it was. His eyes lit up when he saw an old friend, “Henry?”
He quickly looked back at the cloaked figure, only to see that he was gone. Henry came running over, “Hey buddy, long time no see.”
Alex’s eyes darted around, “Where’d he go?”
“The man dressed in a black cloak!”
“Alex, what are you talking about?”
“Come on, you must have seen him!”
Henry shook his head, “Sorry man, you’re the only one here.”
“I swear to God, I’m losing it!”
A sympathetic look appeared on his face, “Who could blame you, the untimely death of your mother and all. You look like you haven’t slept in days. I’m really sorry buddy.”
“I’ve been sleeping just fine…”
“Then you look like you’ve put yourself through hell.”
“That might be closer to the truth.”
Henry nodded as Alex pulled out a cigarette and lit it up, “By the way, Henry, do you know a girl named Tersa? She lives not too far from here…”
“The McConnel girl?”
Henry nodded, “Yeah I see her around every now and then. Rumor had it she had a major thing for you in High School, why do you ask?”
“No kidding? How do you know?”
Alex thought for a moment, “Can you keep quiet about something?”
“Of course, lord knows you’ve kept quiet many times for me.” Henry laughed.
“She was at my house last night.”
“Yeah, but when I woke up, she was gone. The guest room was empty.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed, “Did you tell her father about this?”
“No.” Alex admitted.
“I’m going to, but I want to see if I can find her first. I’m worried that there may be… a reason she’s gone.”
Alex shook his head, “That’s all I can say at the moment, keep it quiet will you?”
“All right man.” Henry replied. “Just promise me one thing.”
“Go to the police soon. If you don’t find her, let them take over. That’s their job and you’ve got enough on your plate.”
Alex nodded, “All right, I’ll do that.”
Henry looked back at the convenient store that his father owned, “All right man… well I need to get back and deal with a missing order. I’ll be at your mother’s wake this weekend. When you’ve got everything together, call me. We’ll grab a drink and catch up.”
“See you later, Alex.”