Alex got into his car and headed down the road in the opposite direction from the one he came. He turned on to Smithfield Road and a moment later, turned on to Pleasant Hill Road. He kept his eyes open for any sign of Tersa. Chills ran down his spine as the feeling that her time was running out continued to linger in his mind.
Cleaning crews were already working to get the large tree off of the road as Alex approached. They had managed to clear half of the tree so that cars could get by on one side, but they were still working to remove the heavier piece.
Alex slowly drove by and looked at the workers. At that moment, he saw another black figure standing off to the side where the tree stump was. It quickly vanished the moment he looked away to make sure that he was still going straight. He tried to ignore the figure as he wasn’t sure whether or not his mind was messing with him again.
Much to his disappointment, he arrived home with no sign of Tersa anywhere. Alex became frustrated and slammed his hand on the wheel. Where could she be? Could he really have imagined everything that happened the previous night? Was it even possible? Many of his previous halucinations had been very convincing, meaning that he could not rule the possibility out.
He pulled into his driveway and went inside. He needed to figure out what his next move was and grabbed his cellphone, off of the entry way table. The house was as he left it without a single thing had been moved.
At that moment, he noticed something out of place. Tersa’s black raincoat was still hanging in the foyer. She had been there, all doubt had been erased, but why had she not taken it? Could she have forgotten it as she hurried out the door? Alex sincerely doubted it. He ran upstairs and into the bathroom to confirm his suspicions.
To his horror, Tersa’s clothes were still in the tub. While one worried had been put to rest, a far greater one had reared its head. Where ever she was, she had no defense, not even against the elements. He didn’t know why, but he knew that he had to find her, and quickly.
Where could he go and look now? He already checked around the house, the center of town, and all parts in between. What was left? It was a small town with very few places to hide.
Alex decided to head out to the older side of town where Tersa lived. It was the only place that he hadn’t checked. It was also where the remains of that old cemetery were.
He grabbed his phone, dashed outside, and slid back into his car. Moments later, the car was speeding down Pleasant Hill Road. His mind wandered back to Rome as the car picked up speed. What demons was he welcoming into his own life by getting involved with this girl? Could he truly handle more when his own demons haunted him so?
A honking horn brought him back to reality and he quickly swirved to miss an oncoming car. He breathed heavily and wiped the sweat from his brow as he regained control of his car. It turned on to Main Street and followed it for five miles until he reached Pilgrim Avenue.
On the left side of the road was a line of houses. Every few hundred feet, one popped up out from behind the trees as Alex drove by. On the right side of the road were marsh lands and cranberry bogs for as far as he could see.
As he continued driving, the remains of a large, burnt out oak tree came into view. It was the one tree that stood in the middle of the field, at least what was left of it. The tree had been sliced in half by the lightning strike and the other piece had long since been removed by the town. Around the tree were small, worn down, stones that had once been gravestones. There had presumably been a fence there at one point, but it had long since been overtaken by nature.
It was an eerie sight and something about the tree began to call to Alex. His eyes fluttered and he heard the voices that he’d heard the night before with Tersa. His head felt heavy as the whispers passed through his head, “We’re here… we’re with you…”
Alex snapped out of it long enough to slam on the breaks, pull over to the side of the road, and put the car in park. He had one cigarette left in his pocket, which he immediately moved to light up, “You’re not sucking me in, not this time!”
Relief finally came when he sucked the smoke into his lungs. He sat back as the voices in his head slowly went quiet. Smoke poured out of his nose as he slowly reopened his eyes. His head rested on the back of his seat as he savored the moment.
As Alex’s eyelids open, a small brown blur near the dead tree appeared. He blinked a few times as he pushed the car door open. His eyes remained transfixed on the brown figure in the distance. He was certain that it was human.
Alex quickly began running towards the tree, hoping that the figure was Tersa. He ran through wet grass to the open field. The closer he got, the more his mind began flutter. The voices slowly began to enter his mind again, despite his trying to block them out.
Out of breath with legs that were soaked to the bone from the wet grass, Alex stopped a few hundred feet away. He struggled to catch his breath and coughed as he looked up at the dead tree. I guess this is what happens when you smoke too much!
Alex looked at the figure. It was definitely Tersa. The robe that she was wearing was wet and her hair was matted to her head, but it was definitely her. She was completely motionless. Had Alex not known better, Tersa could have passed as a statue.
He couldn’t see her face as he cautiously stepped closer. When he got to within twenty feet of her, he saw that she was holding a sharpened stone and had been carving an image of what looked like the Sun, into the trunk of the tree. He still couldn’t make out her face, but she seemed entranced.
Alex took a few more cautious steps towards her, “Tersa…?”
At first, she didn’t move, but as he took another step closer she instantly came to life. Her head turned at incredible speeds and looked up at him. Her eyes were as black as coal and her face was twisted into a dark expression that almost looked demonic. She pointed an accusing finger at him and began screaming at a pitch that her voice should not have been capable of, “Quam audeo vestri! Defensor fidem haberet. Defensor videre potest bonum. Vides tantum malum!”
Completely startled by her outburt, Alex staggered backwards. He had learned Latin in both College and the seminary, but her screaming made it hard for him to understand what she had said. Clearly she had accused him of something and then mentioned a defender having faith, but that was all he got.
Tersa, or whatever was controlling her stared at Alex, waiting for a response. He had a bad feeling that if he didn’t say something soon, he would be under attack, “Qui estis?” (Who are you?)
“Sum solus in coelum. Revertar.”
(I was alone in the sky. I will return.)
Alex’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her. He was almost completely paralyzed by fear. He wanted to reach out to her, but something held him back. He was completely powerless.
Tersa’s eyes rolled over white and closed. She collapsed on the wet ground. She began to shake as she looked up at Alex with her normal brown eyes. Her pleading look shot Alex straight through the heart, “Alex…? Please… help me!”
Alex couldn’t stand it any longer and forced himself forward. He quickly knelt down and ripped off his shirt. Looking away as he worked, he quickly pulled the soaked robe off and ran the shirt over her head. It wasn’t much, but a dry shirt would protect her better than a wet robe.
The moment she had the shirt on, he ran his hands under her back and legs. Her body was as cold as ice and the shaking had not stopped. He picked her up and began running as quickly as he could back to his car.
Alex had left the door open when he ran to Tersa’s aid. He slid inside and rested her on the passenger’s seat. She was still shaking as he started up the car. Alex turned on the heat, but wasn’t sure if it would help. She was as white as a ghost. Her skin was normally pale, but this was white even for her.
Tersa’s breathing slowed as her eyes glossed over. She looked exhausted as she curled up on the seat. It was clear that she was getting sick.
The relief of finding her had to take a back seat to him getting her the medical help she clearly needed. The closest hospital, Cooley Dickinson, was about twenty minutes up the road. He hit the gas in an effort to cut down on the time, “Hold on Tersa, we’re going to get you some help. It’ll be okay, I promise.”
Tersa looked at him weekly, “She was pulling at my mind… I couldn’t stop her.”
Tersa lost consciousness before he could finish. Alex pulled the phone out of his pocket and activated the voice recognition software. The phone came to life and beeped, indicating that it was ready for a command.
Alex put the phone up to his lips, “Look up the phone number for the Windsted Police department.”
The phone beeped, did a quick search of the web, and brought up the phone number. Alex tapped on the screen, allowing the phone to dial and connect. The phone rang for a few moments before an unenthusiastic voice picked up, “Windsted Police Department.”
Alex spoke quickly, “Yes hi, I’m looking for Sgt. McConnel if he’s available. It’s an emergency.”
“Alex Hendrickson, I spoke to him earlier today, and it’s about his daughter.”
There was a pause on the other end. Alex could hear the rusteling of a few pieces of paper as he waited. Finally the voice came back, “All right, he’s not at the station, so I’m going to see if I can get him on the line and transfer you in, hold on.”
There was a beep and then silence. Alex watched as the trees blew by on either side of the road. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to Tersa’s father, but he knew that he had to.
He waited as a small group of buildings blew by when he turned on to Route 9, heading East. He hadn’t been down Berkshire Trail in a while and was feeling slightly nostalgic. This was in many ways his exit from the small town.
Okay, what is taking so damn long? Alex thought to himself, dying to get this over with.
Seriously, did they not hear me say it’s about his daughter?
“Hello, this is Sgt. McConnel.”
“Sir, this is Alex Hendrickson, I ran into you earlier today. I found your daughter sir!”
There was a detectable level of concern in his voice as he responded, “Is she okay? Let me talk to her.”
“I can’t sir, she’s unconscious.”
“Unconscious? What in God’s name happened to her?”
“I… I can’t say.”
“You better start talking son, right now.”
Alex let out a deep sigh. He understood her father’s tone, but he was trying too hard to concentrate on driving, “Sir, I can’t really do that at the moment. What I can say is that your daughter is alive, she’s… not hurt that I can see, but I’m taking her to Cooley Dickinson Hospital right now. She’s pale and was soaked to the bone when I found her. Meet me there and I’ll be happy to explain everything, but right now I have to focus on driving.”
The tension in Sgt. McConnel’s voice was so potent that Alex could almost feel it through his phone, “I’ll be there, and God help you if I find out that you are in any way responsible for this.”
Alex nodded, “Fine, see you then.”
Alex turned off the phone as he turned onto Old North Road and then quickly turned into the ER parking. Once his car was off, he quickly grabbed Tersa and ran through the main entrance and up to the service desk.
Thankfully, the emergency room wasn’t crowded and no one was in his way as he headed towards the startled receptionist. He caught his breath before she could say anything and quickly moved Tersa forward in his arms, “I found her outside like this, she’s cold and passed out in my car.”
The receptionist immediately pushed a panic button under the counter, “Hang on sir, we’ll have a stretcher for her.”
A moment later, a group of nurses burst through the door to the ER floor with a stretcher. Alex laid her down on the blue vinyl cushion. The nurses quickly wrapped her in a blanket and proceeded to bring her inside.
One stayed behind to speak to Alex. She was an older woman with graying blond hair. Clearly she had been there a while as she didn’t seem phased by what had just happened, “Sir, how do you know this girl?”
“She’s a friend. I found her out the field in my town. She was just standing there, completely soaked.”
“Did she say anything?”
Alex shook his head, “Just that someone, a she, was trying to pull at her mind. It was really weird.”
“Where’s her clothing?”
“She was in a bathrobe when I found her. I left it there when I gave her my shirt.”
“What’s her name?”
“Tersa McConnel. I’ve also called her parents. They’re on the way.”
The nurse nodded in approval as she straightened her glasses, “Okay good. Is there anything else you can tell us?”
“Well… she’s 24. Her date of birth is October 13th 1990… I don’t really know anything else.”
The nurse nodded, “That’s good enough. All right, we’ll take care of her. Have her parents let the receptionist know when they get here.”
The nurse turned and disappeared back through the doors. Alex sat down in one of the padded chairs against the wall. He still had no clue what was going on, but he was quickly getting the feeling that a hospital wasn’t what she needed. Too little, too late.
Alex’s thoughts were disturbed as a large man in unform and an older woman with a worried look on her face ran through the sliding doors into the ER. He watched as they approached the secretary and gave their names. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he saw her point them in his direction.
He recognized them as Sgt. McConnel and his wife. The old officer had a look on his face that made Alex’s blood run cold. He half expected that he was about to take a hook to the jaw.
Alex stood up and braced himself for what was to come as the officer marched up and confronted him, “Alex?”
Alex nodded, “Yes, sir.”
“You’d better start talking, boy. What happened?”
Alex lowered his eyes, “I met your daughter last night, her car broke down and she was walking in the massive storm. Her cell phone wasn’t working and I just happened to be outside at the right time, grabbing some supplies when she walked by. The power had gone out on my block. It was sheer luck that I saw her. I took her back to see if we could get her car started, but there was nothing I could do. She looked like she was ready to panic so I brought her back to my place to dry off. I couldn’t get her home because of the tree that came down, so I let her stay in my guest bedroom. By the next morning, she was gone…”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“My phone wasn’t working either and with the power out, the house phone wasn’t an option.”
Tersa’s father glared at Alex, “Why didn’t you tell me any of this when you were in town?”
“Maybe I should have.” Alex admitted. “I thought you’d bring me in for questioning or something like that. I wanted to help search… I felt responsible. Look, I’m sorry for that, but I did find her and I called you as soon as I could.”
At that point, her mother stepped forward, “Thank you Alex. Where did you find her?”
“Out in the field by the old burnt down tree, not too far from where you guys live.”
Tersa’s mother shook her head, “I’ve told her so many times to stay away from there. I told her it was dangerous.”
Alex nodded, “Because of the witch?”
Before her mother could respond, Sgt. McConnel spoke up, “All right, that’s enough of this nonsense. What happened when you found her?”
“She was wet, cold, and very pale. She said that someone was trying to get into her mind and then passed out.”
Tersa’s mother glared at her husband, “I told you how many times to get rid of that lousy car! The thing is a piece of s…”
Sgt. McConnel looked back at Alex, “I am not happy that you didn’t come clean with this sooner. Hopefully my daughter will wake up soon, and you better hope she corroborates your story.”
Alex nodded, “I’m sure she will.”
“Very well, we’ll see.”
Alex was tired. Tersa’s parents were there and it didn’t look like they were up for having company, especially not someone with a previous history. Satisfied that he could do all he good, he decided it was time to go, “Well now that you’re here, I should probably let you be. I have some family issues of my own to attend to.”
Mrs. McConnel’s eyes lit up in shock as she remembered, “Oh my goodness, yes. Alex, I’m so sorry. We’ve just been stressed out. I was very sorry to hear about your mother. She was a wonderful woman. I spent many an afternoon with her.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”
Alex didn’t say another word and turned to leave, no longer caring for being under the accusing eye of Tersa’s father. He’d done his job, now it was up to her parents and the doctors. He headed back out to his car and pulled out of the parking lot, stopping only for a moment at the hospital exit. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about all of this…
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