2012 | Chapter 9 of 33

Author: Whitley Strieber | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1455 Views | Add a Review

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FOUR

 

DECEMBER 2

THE POISONER

 

WILEY LEAPED UP FROM THE computer, threw open the bottom drawer of the desk, grabbed the booze he kept in there, and just plain poured it down. "Christ, you dummies, can't you see it's a damn trick?"

But they had not seen, not even Martin and Lindy. They'd gone to the church, too, they'd made themselves sitting damn ducks and they'd-oh, God, the poor Winters family, and poor Harrow. All those good, decent people.

Wanderers. It was worse than dying. But why was this being done to them and where were they going? He thought that Martin was right about one thing-they were certainly on their way to designated locations. Collection points, though-he was just guessing about that. Maybe they were going to gas chambers or something, God forbid that such a fate would befall Lindy and Winnie. He was crazy about them, that sweet, bright little girl, her mother so full of love and brilliance.

"This is not real," he said, "I refuse to let this be real."

Maybe he wasn't recording events in the other human universe, but creating them. Maybe he was an instrument of the reptilians, and maybe that was why they had came into his life five years ago. They had done something to him. Prepared him. But how?.

He knew that supple movement between parallel universes was involved with belief and the lack thereof. By continuing to deny that UFOs were something real, our own version of NASA had saved us-at least, so far. But not him. Maybe not him.

Thing was, the closer we got to December 21, the easier it became to get through the gateways. And on that day, all hell was going to break loose in the other human universe. That had to be what this was all about. Preparing for the invasion...and maybe here, too, no matter what our version of NASA denied or did not deny.

He clicked through the pages he had written. He knew both more and less than was in the laptop. For example, he knew what was happening in the Far East in Martin's world, which was a catastrophe so vast that it was, quite simply, unimaginable. He knew, but he couldn't access any detail. Couldn't see much. Could feel it though, the terror being experienced by billions.

What would happen if everybody became a wanderer?

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Damn Brooke and her rules. A cigar would go very, very well right now.

Maybe Martin was right and it was a harvest of slaves. Might not six billion slaves be worth something in the parallel earth of the reptilians? But if the souls were being taken out, then what was happening to them? Martin thought they were just disintegrating, but Wiley wasn't so sure of that. He had no idea what to think. He'd never really believed in the soul or God or any of that stuff. Like Martin, he'd been to Stanford, and had come away, also, with a strong rationalism and fundamental disrespect for unprovable assertions.

Those monstrous creatures wanted the bodies, he was convinced of it.

Unless...how many parallel universes might there be? If the Many Worlds interpretation of Hugh Everett was correct, then this oppression could be coming from any one of literally uncountable numbers of parallel universes.

He thought not, though. He thought that the reptilian forms that the people in the church had glimpsed were the final telltale. He was right about the creatures and he was right about their world. He could feel their need, could see their glaring, relentless eyes the same way he had on that night five years ago when they'd tried to-what had they tried to do? Had they really somehow captured him?

No, something was wrong with that picture. He'd written a whole book about it, but he was increasingly aware of a missing element. Because what had happened to him on that night had been hard, but-there was just something missing. Tip of the tongue. Couldn't quite remember.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there were three earths involved. A triad.

Buckminster Fuller had called the triangle the building block of the universe because of its structural integrity. There was a reason in conscious life, also, that notions of trinity made structural sense. A triad had a positive side, a negative side, and a balancing side. If the two-moon earth was the positive side, then the negative side was the reptilians with their evil hungers.

Oh, Christ, he was not the balancing factor. I mean, well, let's face it, a middling writer with a burr up his ass about aliens is not the right guy to bring things into balance.

In other words, not up to the job of-what? So far, he wasn't really doing a whole lot beyond writing a history that his world would take to be fiction. He wasn't helping anybody.

He closed his eyes. If there was a god anywhere out there, may he now deliver his servant Wylie Dale from the curse of this writing.

But even as he tried to push away the other human world, his mind slipped back toward its suffering. There, this house was now cold and dark, not nicely heated and cozy with a lovely family inside.

As dawn broke here, the phoebes started their sweet calling, the very essence of peace in the country. Over there, though, the people left alive were crying together, their sorrow unspeakable. Wylie was crying, too-in silence, though. Brooke and the kids mustn't hear.

Then Brooke was there. She had come quietly and he had not heard her, but she was there, standing in the door of his office, and he thought she was an angel come down, and he turned to her in his creaky old chair, and slid out of it and to his knees, and embraced her waist, and buried his face in the sweet and sour scent of her.

Her hands came around his head, and he felt cradled. She said, "You need to come to bed, love."

"What time is it?"

"The phoebes are starting."

He'd been in here for close to twenty-four hours. "Oh, man."

"Wiley?"

He looked up at her in her nightgown, so pale in the thin light that she might have been a ghost or a memory. "We're travelers on the long water," he muttered, "you and me, sweets, you and me." Her hand came into his and it was warm, and he kissed it and it smelled like sweat and remembrance.

He went to his feet and took her into his arms, and she settled there. He closed his eyes and sailed in the comfort of her closeness.

"You were crying," she said.

"Mm. My story."

"It's really getting to you, Wiley."

He nodded against her shoulder.

"Your imagination is supposed to be a tool, not a weapon, especially not against yourself."

"Oh, honey," he said.

"Wiley, it's not real, remember that this time. Don't get yourself confused."

He nodded again. Her hands swept his thighs, then her long fingers probed at his pants, but playfully, quickly. He felt himself stir. She was his home, Brooke was, the home of his soul.

She'd been there that night five years ago. It had been the two of them. And it-was it-not what it seemed?

"Let me show you a little reality," she whispered in his ear. "Let's do dawn patrol."

That's what they called it when they made love in the early hours, which they often did. This is the time when childrens' sleep is deepest and parents are least likely to be disturbed, and, for Wiley, when his body called him to the ocean of his wife.

But as they walked arm in arm to the bedroom, he heard a door open and close downstairs, and then the voice, low and full of sorrow, of an invisible man. The man went into the living room and became silent there. "Did you hear that?"

"The warbler? He just started in."

"Not the warbler."

She guided his hands to the familiar pink ribbon that was tied behind her neck, and he untied it, and the nightgown floated down. Her matchless curves shone in the rising light, her nipples blushed pink and coming tight, and she was the loveliest thing that he knew, a beauty that, when it surrendered itself to his big hands and arms, seemed as if it must bear some sort of strength in it that was connected to eternity, or it would have melted into shadow at his touch.

As she unbuckled his belt, she made a familiar tune in her throat, "Never grow old, never grow old," a line from the old hymn that was a theme in the music of her life. And they would not, not in a love like the one that had possessed the two of them. And had possessed Martin and Lindy, too, and been destroyed, just freshly, along with the children that had been woven out of its flesh.

They lay with the windows open, their bodies close in the cool morning breeze, and came together while the birds called softly, the phoebes and the tanagers and the doves, and the first sun spread across the floor.

When he should have been completely absorbed in her, when his body was radiant with pleasure, his eyes drinking her face, his powerful hips pumping and making her cry out softly, then, at that grand private moment, he heard another voice cry out, and knew that it was his own and not his own, a broken, bereft voice from downstairs and a universe so close and so very far away.

He went plunging on, but then heard the back door slam and the voice screaming, but faintly, faintly...and yet so terribly that it shattered everything and caused him to go twisting off her.

He flopped onto his back, gasping.

"Honey," she said, "oh, honey," and came to him. But he leaped out of the bed.

"It's him," he said.

"Who?"

Out in the back yard, he was screaming. Wiley ran downstairs. "Martin," he yelled, "Martin!"

He went through the living room and out the back door into the dewy grass.

"Wiley, for God's sake!"

Then he heard them, their shuffling walk, the wanderers coming up from Harrow. He stood in a shaft of hazy light as they came closer, and saw the branches shake, and then heard their voices murmuring, and heard Martin screaming and screaming.

The murmuring came closer, got louder. "Hear it, Brooke?"

"What?"

They were right in front of him now, murmuring, breathing, their feet shuffling. "Brooke, look at the grass!"

"Honey, oh, for God's sake!"

The footprints came closer and closer.

Then he reached out, and he touched the air where one of them must be. He felt a shoulder, part of an arm.

And then he saw them. Where he touched them, he could see a knit shirt, part of a neck, then a muscular forearm. "My God, look, look!" He reached, he touched the face-and saw glazed, empty eyes, a slack mouth-male-but the man went on, the man did not seem to be aware of him at all. "Winnie," he cried, "Lindy! Trevor!"

Then he heard Martin, heard him close, heard him whispering "baby, baby please, please wake up baby-"

He reached out-and there, under his hand was a khaki jacket, then a face-Martin, richly alive, totally there! "Martin! Martin, you can't help them, you were all tricked, you should hide, you need to hide! Oh, Christ, somebody in the government is on the dark side, Martin, can't you see that, they want this to happen!"

But Martin was gone. All around him, the wanderers continued passing, and he kept reaching out to them. He touched Mrs. Sweet from the drugstore, her gaping face, and the old pastor Reginald Todd, and then Doctor Willerson-the town doctor, reduced to this. "Oh, Jesus, Jesus-"

Then Brooke was there, and she slapped him so hard there was a flash and pain.

He grabbed her wrist. "What the hell's the matter with you?"

"With me? You're naked in the back yard, for God's sake, and look, you have an audience-"

There, face pale in his bedroom window, stood Nick, staring down on the scene. His expression was grave, like a judge at a sentencing. Martin took the robe she'd brought and covered himself, and went in through the shuffling sounds of the wanderers, and Martin's cries, and the pleading, praying voices of the followers, and the last thing he heard was a child's voice calling for his mother and his father to stop, in the choked tones of a twelve-year-old trying to be brave.

"Get in here, Wiley, you're scaring me!" She tugged at him and he went with her. As they returned to the house, he waved up at his son. Inside, she threw her arms around him. "Wiley, what is it? What's happening to you?"

"The story's got me. It's drowning me."

"Wiley, you were warned."

"I can't stop it!"

"I want you to see Doctor Crutchfield. I want you to see him today."

"He's a wanderer."

"A what? What does that mean?"

"No, of course not, that's Doctor Willerson in the two moon world, I'm sorry. I'll call him."

"What in hell is a two-moon world?"

"A place of great beauty, my wife, that is being raped by creatures without mercy." He grabbed her shoulders. "And they are coming. They are coming here."

She stepped back. She went pale.

"In your heart," he said, "you know."

"I do not know!"

Then Nick came downstairs. He looked up at them. "I dreamed awful things," he said, "then I woke up and it was worse."

"What was your dream, son?"

"I dreamed we left, Dad. You tried, but you couldn't go where we were going, and we couldn't stop, and then I woke up and you were in the yard, and what's wrong, Dad?"

Brooke gave Wiley a hard, hard look, and coming from his gentle Brooke, that meant a lot. It meant she thought he had hurt her boy.

Then Kelsey came down, flitting along in her pink nightie, her curls bobbing. She looked just as darling as the most wonderful little girl picture ever taken, and he opened his arms and lifted her to him. "I had a bad dream," she said, "I dreamed me and Mommy got leashes put on us and we had to walk all night and forever and I got so tired but I couldn't stop, and you ran along behind us praying and he had a bottle of Ayers water. I thought we didn't get bottled water. I thought it was too expensive."

"Now, see," Brooke said, "that proves it was just a dream, because there's Evian and Perrier and Ozark and lots of other kinds of water, but there is no Ayers water."

"There isn't?"

"Not in this universe," Wiley told her, and kissed her button nose. As best he could, he concealed what was almost a sickness of fear. In the other universe they had Ayers water, he'd seen bottles among peoples' provisions in the church.

But how had Kelsey known about it? How indeed, unless the wall that separated the two human universes was also breaking down, just as he had feared it would, and hell was getting closer fast.

They all went into the kitchen, and he turned on the radio and he and Brooke made breakfast. His mind was completely focused on one thing-how had Kelsey known? What might be about to happen?

"You're staring," she said.

He shook his head. "Don't be mad at me."

"No."

"It's not even a big deal in physics. Parallel universes are real."

"I'm sure they are. I'm also sure that they don't cause people-just generally speaking, I mean-to leap around naked in their backyards. Your appointment with Crutchfield is at eight-thirty, so you'd better get rolling."

"Eight-thirty? You're kidding."

She looked at him, and the fire in her eyes actually reassured him. He wanted to feel like somebody was in control, because he was not in control.

He gobbled down the last of his eggs and went up to dress. Maybe this would be actually be good, maybe all that was happening here was that he was losing his grip-which, frankly, would be a hell of a lot better than what he feared.

Moving fast, he managed get to town just in time.

As he drove along the familiar streets, he kept expecting to see little knots of tragic people, but all he did see was a small Kansas community in its mild prosperity, a gentle bustle in the streets, even a recent addition, the Starbucks. Nobody seemed strange, nobody had a vacant look.

He drove past Third Street Methodist. The church was closed, but it looked perfectly normal. Sylvester was on the walkway with a trowel, turning soil in a flower bed. Wiley slowed down and waved. "Hey there, Syl."

Syl waved back. Nothing unusual.

Of course not, you fool. Things are fine in this universe-for now.

When he arrived at Crutchfield's office, which was a walk-up above the Danforth Meat Market, one of the few small businesses hanging on in downtown, it was twenty to nine. "Sorry I'm late, Marla."

"Brooke says you've gone around the bend."

"That would be true."

"Then I'll remind you that I've got Mace."

He'd come on to the girl with the porcelain skin and the bright green eyes. But all in fun, of course. He would never cheat on Brooke. But with that black hair and that creamy skin, Marla did inspire.

Crutchfield looked normal, also. White hair, tiny glasses, a sense of therapeutic fog clinging to him.

"So you were capering around in the back yard naked. What say we start there?"

"Look, I've got-oh, Christ. I've got something happening that I can't even begin to understand."

"I think Brooke is having exactly the same problem."

"It feels to me as if something enormous is happening that has to do with what I am writing, and it is not good, this huge thing, but I cannot stop writing about it even if I want to. I'm a sort of infernal machine."

"You're a machine?"

"Not in control of my own body. Not channeling, it's not like that. I sit there and I type. Automatic typing. I've abandoned my Corona and I'm just working on the computer. But the book isn't mine. I can write without thinking. Read, watch TV, close my eyes, it doesn't matter. My fingers just type away on their own."

"If your work isn't yours, whose would it be?"

"That's a hell of a good question. The answer is, I have no idea."

"But you're not involved in the writing?"

"Well, I am, of course, sort of. In the sense that I can see their world, hear their voices. Shit! You moron. Moron!"

"I'm a moron?"

"I'm a moron! You don't tell a shrink you hear voices."

"The voices don't want you to tell me about them?"

"Aw, shit. Sheee-ut! Goddamn it, the voices don't care."

"So what do they say?"

"They cry. They're suffering. Some of them came up through the yard, and when I touched them I could see them-see the hands, the faces that I touched. Does that sound plain crazy, or spectacularly crazy?"

"Sounds like I might as well get that new Lexus I've had my eye on."

"Do you know what a parallel universe is?"

"Something that exists deep inside the CERN supercollider for a few billionths of a second?"

"I'm not paying you to bait me, Henry. We're deducting three minutes of money for that little flippancy."

"You're afraid I'm laughing at you, but that isn't what's going on."

"What is?"

"I'm trying to make sense of what you're saying."

"Would it disturb you to know that in a parallel universe a doctor very much like you called Frank Willerson is currently walking off toward the northwest with most of the other people in this community, and he has no soul?"

"We're probably all better off without that soul mythology, anyway. Let's you and me deal with who and what we know we are, which is us in this room together. Or are you here? Are you a projection from a parallel universe, Wiley? Is schizophrenia the problem, here?"

"Look, I had a close encounter with creatures from a third parallel universe a few years ago, and because that happened-well, I'm doing what I'm doing."

"Which is?"

"I'd say I have no fucking idea, but I'm beginning to have an idea. I'm the balancing force between the positive and negative earths."

"Ah, of course, that makes complete sense. Would you be God, then, or just Jesus?"

"I'm Napoleon, you fuck."

"Not interested, Wylie. Every psychiatrist reaches a point in his career where he has to draw a line. No more Napoleons. I reached that point a while back."

"Am I insane?"

"Of course you're insane."

"What can I do about it?"

"Come here a lot. Keep paying your bill."

"You are a cynical man."

"Yes I am."

"Look, I'll apologize to my wife for going out in the back yard naked. If that's a compromise, here."

"Is it a compromise?"

"When you're bored, you turn the patient's statements into questions. You're doing that now."

Henry lifted his arm, drew back his sleeve, and looked at his watch. "I'm relieved to say that we've come to the end of our time, Wiley. You can reschedule with Marla."

"Can I fuck her, too?"

"If you want to continue treatment with me, no."

"You don't like me very much, do you?"

"Do you want me to like you?"

He left the office without making another appointment. What was the point? The good doctor didn't believe a word he said. Hell, he didn't believe a word he said.

Driving back in the Jeepazine, he made a decision. He would change it. He'd simply go back and alter the text. Because if he changed it, maybe he would also change events. No more ruined Winters family, no more ruined world.

He drove faster, and faster still, thinking only of his computer, of the urgent need return to his writing-which was returning to him and fast, roaring into his head like some kind of a dam-break flood blasting down the stream behind his house, a flood of words-

-and then there were lights, bright, back windshield.

Damn, he did not need another ticket, he was gonna need to take a damn compulsory driving course, which would take hours and piss him off in a mighty way.

"Hey, there, Matt, I'm sorry, I guess I was a little fast, there."

"Wiley, you were doing a hundred and eleven."

"Oh, that is bad."

"Well, you know, I don't usually stop town people. But-"

"How's Beka?"

"Aw, shut up."

"Uh, I could buy you a box of Partagas? Or just hand over the fifteen hundred bucks they cost? Cash, now?"

"I'll take money and smokes. But I'm still gonna have to write this up."

"Aw, fuck, Matt. Damnit, fuck."

"Why were you going so fast? I mean, damn."

"What can I tell you? I'm crazy."

Matt wrote the ticket and handed it in for Wiley to sign. "This is gonna four-point you, but this is town, you're in town, and we just-a hundred and eleven is not good, Wiley, I'm sorry."

Four points added to the eight he already had would mean not only compulsory driver's ed, but also a court appearance.

"I'm gonna call George Piccolo and tell him you harassed me."

"You do that and I'll beat your ass, boy."

When they were kids, Matt had always won. He was heavier, he was faster, but Wiley was capable of getting more pissed off, as he did now. "Gimme the goddamn ticket, and for the love of God don't tell Brooke or I'll get my ass whupped, serious."

"Well, you might like that."

"Tell you what, I'm gonna drive home at thirty miles an hour and then I'm goin' back to the cave for a smoke. I'll call you on your cell to share my enjoyment with you."

"Smoke my cigars, you're gonna eat the butts. Remember that, because I get off duty in an hour and I will check."

Hiding the ticket carefully, he drove on. He'd find a way to hide the fat check to the county in Quicken. Somehow or other.

Once back in his office, he pulled out the bottle of Woodford Reserve he kept in his bottom-drawer liquor stash and sipped at it.

What seemed like the next moment, voices caused him to come awake. Had he been sleeping? What had just happened? For a disoriented moment, he had the horrifying sense that he'd crossed into the parallel universe. But then the voices resolved into familiar ones. Brooke was coming in from the garage with the kids. She'd brought them home from school.

He looked at his watch in stunned amazement. It was four-thirty and the sun was on its way down. He'd been sitting here all day. Writing? He had no idea.

He listened to Brooke, to Kelsey's high voice full of excitement about a snake in show and tell, to Nick's thumping tread on the back stairs.

Then silence fell, and what he listened to now was the silence. Soon, the words came again, the words-whispering, shouting, demanding, from the other universe.

It was Martin, and he was talking to himself, and Wiley knew why. The poor guy had stayed here at the house, and was trying to force himself not to follow his family, and was agonized about that.

Martin was crying out, Martin was more desperate than any human being Wylie had ever known.

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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