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Thread: This thread for parallel stories not directly linked to "Disturbing News"

  1. #61

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 8

    Finding a young man in Louisiana, who has reported experiences like his, Brian feels compelled to write him an e-mail asking Andre to call him. He does, and they make plans to meet.

    "What I want to know, is what's going on," Sweet said. "I mean, it was freaky enough when it was me—then Andre. After that, we found the girls and now you."

    "I saw a website for a girl in Washington state who had experienced similar things," Brian contributed. There were more, but when I saw Andre's site, I decided to contact him cause y'all are so close."

    "How much more?" Ginnifer asked, her green eyes wide and circled with kohl.

    "I don't know. But I brought my laptop with me." Brian unslung the bag he carried. He booted up his system and waited for the internet hookup. Tapping in the commands, he showed them the sites he'd seen. The list went on for 30 pages.

    "This is crazy! It's all over the country!" Sweet said.

    "There's one form Peru and another from Australia," Louisa pointed out. "This is world wide."

    "I'm freaking out here," Ginnifer said, hugging herself. "It's like the whole world is going crazy!"

    "But you notice, the people seeing and reporting this stuff are all between fifteen and nineteen? There's no one over twenty on any of these pages," Andre commented, opening one window after another. "And we all start out almost the exact same way, My name is.... and I'm X years old. Almost like a template. The things we describe, really similar and we use the same words—wraiths, ghost in the fog, swamp creatures.... It's freaky. How likely is it that we'd all write the same way?"

    "Not very," Brian admitted. "I was calling them wraiths in my head, and I barely know what that means."

    "We should contact more of these people," Ginnifer said in a matter of fact tone. "We need to find out everything we can."

    They went into the main part of the library and each of the others signed up for a computer. Andre set up a Yahoo e-mail account for them to use as a contact and they wrote out a basic e-mail and divided up the sites. Each of them cut and pasted the message to the site owners asking for them to reply via the e-mail address.

    It was nearly 6:00 when they finished. Brian had to get home to help his mother with dinner. Andre gave him a ride. On the way, they stopped and picked up his bike from the ditch where he'd dropped it.

    Before they left, the five of them exchanged phone numbers with the assurance that the next time something freaky happened, they would call as soon as possible.

    "Stay safe," Ginnifer said, hugging Brian. "You should ask around town and see if anyone you know has been having stuff happen."

    Brian shook his head adamantly. "Nope, not gonna happen. They'll think I'm stone cold crazy."
    She pouted prettily. "Just a suggestion."

    Louisa didn't hug Brian, but she did shake his hand, followed by a knuckle bump. "Cajones of pure steel," she said with a grin. "Be careful."

    They made plans to get together weekly to report on incidents and connect. Brian watched them drive away, feeling suddenly alone. He walked in the door, closing it quietly behind him.

    "That you?"

    "No, it's a perfect stranger."

    "Okay. Well, come introduce yourself and help me with this blasted jar."

    Laughing, Brian walked in the kitchen. His mother handed him a jar of spaghetti sauce and another of minced garlic. He opened both. She gave him a kiss.

    "Wash up. You're just in time to check the meat and drain it for me."

    "You got it, Chef!"

    "You missed your appointment with Father Ramsey."

    "Oh, crap!" He slapped his forehead. "I'm sorry. I forgot."

    "It's all right. I'm glad you were out with friends. You spend too much time with me," she commented quietly. "You need to be around young people."

    "I like being here, Mom. Most of the kids here aren't that interesting. I mean, we get along okay...."

    She stopped him, putting her hand on his cheek. "I know, honey. I understand that probably better than most parents. I was always the outsider, the loner. It's not easy. But at least you learn how to be strong and rely on yourself."

    Brian smiled and nodded. His mother patted his cheek.

    "Can't hear a smile, kiddo."

    "Yes, ma'am."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  2. #62

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 9

    Home once more, Brian helps his mother fix dinner. She reminds him that he missed his appointment with the parish priest, but is happy that he's out with friends. Brian doesn't dare tell her what is really going on.

    They had fun over dinner. Brian hadn't realized how subdued he'd been the last few weeks. He couldn't say he was exactly depressed, but he was certainly stressed by the recent events. Having someone else to talk to about it, who understood and didn't think he was crazy, had made a world of difference.

    Brian went to bed early that night, determined to get a better night's sleep than he had the night before. Fortunately, his rest wasn't interrupted by nightmares or bears. He woke the next day feeling rested and ready for whatever the world handed him.

    The sky was cloudy as he headed for the bus stop. It looked like it would rain again. The temperature had dropped during the night. He could see his breath in the early morning air. He was usually the only one at his bus stop, but today there was a new kid sitting on the bench under the awning.

    Brian walked up warily. He didn't know the person and wasn't sure if he could trust them or not. Being so far out of town, they got tramps and transients. Just because the person sat at a school bus stop didn't mean he or she was a student.

    The person didn't look up when Brian stepped under the awning. Instead the stranger fiddled with an iPod which apparently wasn't working right. A few muttered curse words confirmed that assumption. The person smacked the iPod with a flattened palm, cursed again and shoved the device into a pocket.

    A baggy, navy blue, hoodie concealed a short, slight frame. Straight, brown hair stuck out from under a multicolored beanie, concealing most of the face. Jeans and boots completed the anonymous outfit.

    "Trouble?" Brian asked quietly.

    The person gasped, looking up at him. "I think I managed to delete all my music," the gruff voice complained. "Either that, or something else is wrong with the wretched thing. It won't work."

    "Man, that sucks. Mind if I sit?"

    "Help yourself. Not my bench."

    "I'm Brian Casey."

    "Jordan Barrett." The name and voice did nothing to clarify the gender issue.

    "You must be new around here. I've never seen you before."

    "My folks wanted a quieter, simpler life. So, instead of living in the suburbs, they picked his tiny town in BFE. I can't even get cell service unless I'm standing in the center of town. So much for keeping up with my friends back home."

    "Guess you'll have to make some new ones," Brian said quietly. He wasn't sure what to think of the mouthy, disgruntled teen. He dearly wished that either the name or the clothing was different so he'd have a clue if he was speaking to a boy or girl. He still couldn't tell and he didn't think it was polite to ask.

    "Yeah. Not like I had so many, ya know? Not one to be popular."

    "Me either. Gotta work too hard to be popular. Besides, I prefer being anonymous."

    "Whatever works, right? Of course, my parents are upset that I'm a social pariah. They were head cheerleader and captain of the football team. They went Greek in college and belong to the alumni association of their high school and college. Mom was also Miss Teen Spirit when she was in high school. I told her I wasn't interested in being named after a deodorant—or a song. She so didn't get it."

    Brian chuckled, nodding. "I'm lucky. My mom couldn't care less if I'm popular. She wants good grades. Can do that standing on my head."

    "You any good at math?"

    "Yeah, pretty good. Why?"

    "Because I suck ten kinds of suckage at math. I need someone to help me. Dad said he would, but he's about as patient as a wet cat. Mom's blonde." Jordan said that as if it meant something special.

    Brian, who was also blond, looked confused.

    "Dumb blonde?" Jordan snickered. "I guess it's contagious."

    "I may be blond, but at least I'm good at math." He tried not to sound offended, but didn't conceal it well.

    "Oh, touchy! If you can help my math grade, I forgive you for being blond and promote you to honorary brunette."

    Brian chuckled. "Mighty kind of you."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  3. #63

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Parts 10 & 11

    Hello, Friends! Since I totally forgot to post anything on Wednesday, I decided to post 2 today. You're welcome

    The next morning, Brian meets a new student at his bus stop. The person's name is Jordan Barrett. Dressed in a hoodie, jeans and a bulky coat, Brian can't tell if Jordan is a boy or girl.

    The bus arrived a few minutes later. Brian let Jordan walk on ahead of him. He moved down the aisle and took his usual seat. Since no one else sat with him, Jordan joined him. They talked a little bit on the way to school, but the engine noise made conversation difficult, especially once the bus filled up.

    "What's your first class?" Brian asked Jordan as they got off the bus.

    "Chemistry. You?"

    "The same. Mr. Sullivan?"

    "Yeah. I didn't see you yesterday."

    "I was sick. Want to walk together? We social pariahs should always travel in pairs."

    Jordan laughed. "Yeah. Thank you. Hey, can you open these lockers? I couldn't get mine and had to carry all my books home. My shoulders are killing me."

    "Sure. There's a trick to it. I'll show you."

    He walked with Jordan to a nearby locker. Brian opened it with ease.

    "How did you do that? I tried forever!"

    "Gotta spin it twice all the way around to the right before doing the numbers. Also, you have to do the locker dance."

    "Locker dance?" A raised eyebrow showed Jordan's skepticism.

    "Yeah. You don't know the locker dance?" Brian winked and gave a little shake of his hips as he shuffled in a circle. He even gave it the Saturday Night Fever point.

    Jordan laughed loudly, head tossed back. "Oh, that's a good one. I have to remember that. Help me with these books, would you? I hurt my wrist. Had a fall. It's all bruised up."

    "No problem." He took the books and laid them neatly in the locker.

    "I hate to ask, but I need help with my jacket, too."

    "Sure thing."

    He held the end of one sleeve, pulling it over a wrist brace. He stood close to Jordan, helping to detach the Velcro straps that kept catching on the jacket sleeve. With a mighty tug, he lost his balance, toppling over and knocking Jordan back a step. It was then, face to face and mere inches separating them, that he realized Jordan was a girl.

    A snug, red sweater clung to her upper body and the bell bottom jeans fit closely to her thighs and hips. Brian was mortified. Hopping back a step, he lost his balance and would have fallen backward if Jordan hadn't steadied him. She laughed at his clumsiness as she removed her beanie.

    "And I thought I was a klutz!"

    "Dumb Velcro," he muttered, trying not to blush.

    "I know I've got nice boobs, Bri," she said quietly. "But they aren't that good." With a wink, she sashayed away from him, heading toward the chemistry room.

    "I wasn't looking at your boobs," he called after her. "I swear!"

    Horribly embarrassed, Brian stopped at his locker, a few down from Jordan's, and put his things away. He wandered to chemistry only to find Jordan sitting at his table. Groaning inwardly, he sat down.

    "Oh, is this your table?" she asked.

    "Yeah. My old lab partner moved to Michigan."

    "Bummer. I hope you know what you're doing. I've got a lot of catching up to do."

    "Pretty well."

    "Are you one of those boy geniuses?"

    "I do okay." He actually did very well, but he didn't want to sound like he was bragging.

    "Will you help me get caught up?"

    "Sure. Any subjects we've got in common, I'll help you with."

    "Thanks! You're wonderful!" She hugged him enthusiastically. "I'm so glad you go to my bus stop."

    "Uh, me too."

    During lab, when Jordan went to the supply cupboard for equipment, one of the popular girls in the class stopped by.

    "So, who's your girlfriend?"

    "Not my girlfriend, Marissa."

    "She seems very chummy."

    "Oh?" he wasn't sure what to say.

    "Yes, she's hanging on you and practically ravaging you in public." Not only was Marissa popular, she was highly religious and very judgmental.

    At school, Brian nearly does a face plant in Jordan's chest, and finds out irrefutably, that she's a girl. Embarrassed, and trying to get over it, he gets to class only to find out they are lab partners. When Jordan is getting supplies, another girl talks to him about her.

    "That's because we're lovers," Jordan said as she plunked a beaker on the desk. "Brian just rocks my world! Maybe you wouldn't be such so super, uptight if you found the right guy."

    Marissa turned red and hurried off. Jordan laughed, watching her rush off to her table. She huddled with her lab partner, pointing at Jordan.

    "And that was necessary, why?" Brian asked quietly.

    "Cause it's so much fun to see her look like she just sucked a lemon."

    "You know you've just ruined my reputation," Brian said, trying to sound hurt.

    "Oh, the carefully crafted one where you're a complete tool? Sorry. We'll see if we can work on that after class."

    Laughing, Brian set up the equipment while Jordan read through the experiment. Together, they measured ingredients and started mixing. Their teacher came by, hands clasped behind his back.

    "Good job, Jordan," the young science teacher complimented.

    "Thanks, Mr. Sullivan. Brian helped."

    The teacher, who was staring at her chest, smiled slightly as he passed by.

    "Speaking of tools," Jordan whispered. "Is he a perv or what? My boobs are very popular today."

    Brian shifted slightly. "He's just a guy, Jordan. We all stare at a woman's boobs. And I wasn't staring on purpose."

    Jordan giggled, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. "I forgive you. But I think it's precious how you try to defend the fact that you nearly had your face down my shirt."

    "Laugh too much, I won't help with math."

    She sobered immediately. "Fine. I'll behave."

    They finished their experiment, wrote down their notes and cleaned up before the bell. They had four out of seven classes together, the only differences were PE, which were separate, and their electives Brian had Spanish and shop. Jordan had theatre and chorus.

    They met up at their lockers at the end of the day and hurried to the bus stop. The weather had warmed, so Jordan carried her jacket. She hopped onto the bus and the driver didn't recognize her. It took some fast talk to convince him that she had given him her bus pass the day before. Once Brian vouched for her, he relented.

    "Tell you the truth, I thought you was a boy. Big, ol' coat and a boy's name. Kinda confusing."

    "Yeah. I get that a lot," Jordan said in a condescending tone that was totally lost on the driver.

    The ride home was just as uncomfortable as the ride that morning. The difference was, that Brian had someone to walk home with. Jordan's house was only a couple blocks from his, not quite as deep into the woods. He walked her home before heading to his own house.

    "If you want, I'll drop by in the morning and walk with you."

    "Would you? That would be so great! I hate that early morning walk in the dark. I—see things—in the woods. It creeps me out."

    "Yeah. I don't mind." He paused, wondering how much he should say. He decided to give it a try. If she thought he was crazy, fine. But if she was having the same experiences he'd had....

    "What—uh—what kind of things?" he tried to sound casual, but knew he'd failed when her eyes darted to his face.

    "You've seen stuff too?" she whispered harshly. "Tell me."

    "I asked first."

    They were at her house. Jordan invited him up to sit on the porch swing.

    "Yesterday morning, I was on the way to the bus stop and I swear I saw—things in the woods. Like ghosts, wraiths...."

    Brian gasped. "Me too. Did they chase you?"

    Jordan didn't say anything, she merely looked terrified.

    "At the risk of sounding completely insane, can I tell you something?" he asked quietly.


    Brian told her about his experiences. He also told her about meeting the group from Louisiana. He left nothing out of his story, even including the bear incident. He still wasn't convinced that was a coincidence.

    "I would have been screaming," Jordan confessed.

    "You think I wasn't? Screaming like a baby. I thought I was gonna die."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  4. #64

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 12 & 13

    After school, Jordan reveals to Brian that she has had experiences very similar to his.

    "You need to know how I hurt my wrist," Jordan said, decision in her voice.

    "You told me you fell."

    "Yeah, but the reason I fell and how. That I didn't tell you. Come in and have something to drink. My folks won't care."

    Brian hesitated. His mother might, but he felt comfortable with Jordan and her house gave him a sense of calm that he hadn't had for a long time.

    The walls were covered with all kinds of strange pictures and symbols. Rainbows, crystals, plants, stained glass—all this and more assaulted his senses when he entered the house. The furniture was sparse and had an Asian feel. Woven mats graced the hardwood floors instead of carpet. The whole house smelled like lavender and sage.

    Brian inhaled deeply, the sense of calm overwhelming him. He'd never experienced anything like it. It was as if he'd just come home. In fact, his own home didn't feel as good as Jordan's.

    "Want something cold to drink? We might have some sodas. Mom usually only has healthy stuff, but Dad sneaks in some Dr. Pepper. Or I can make tea."

    "Anything. I'm not picky."

    Jordan found two bottles of Snapple and Brian opened them with a quick twist.

    "Have a seat." She gestured to the bar in the kitchen.

    Brian slid onto a tall stool. Jordan, who was a lot shorter, had to climb up and perched on the seat like a little girl.

    "So, the wrist." She paused. "I'm only telling you this 'cause I know you won't think I'm crazy. Based on the crap you've seen, this isn't that big a deal."

    Brian nodded, smiling encouragingly.

    "It was back home—our old house in Pennsylvania. I was home by myself. Mom and Dad were out being Mr. and Mrs. Popularity. I was coming down the stairs from my room and when I got about halfway down, it felt like someone shoved me. I fell down the steps and landed at the bottom. I was lucky I've had gymnastics training and know how to fall. I relaxed into it and came out with bumps and bruises instead of broken bones."

    "You're sure you didn't trip?" He held up his hand to still her protests. "I'm not being a jerk. I'm serious. You're certain it was a push?"

    Jordan shoved his shoulder. "It hit me that hard, right here." She reached her hand over her shoulder, tapping her back. "You can't tell me it was an accident. I was the only one home and I'm very careful where I put my feet."

    "I don't disbelieve you. In fact, I felt like that when I fell in the mud puddle. My feet got all tangled up."

    "I didn't tell you everything about the bus stop. When I was on the way there yesterday, something else happened. I saw fog in the woods—pretty normal. But it started moving, forming kind of a wall. The wall rushed at me, trying to close around me. All of a sudden, this dog jumped in front of me, barking and growling. The fog moved back, drifted away and left. The dog stayed with me until the bus came."

    "Was she kind of silvery looking with a ridge of fur down her spine?"

    "Right color and the fur stood up, but it was decidedly a male dog."

    "You're sure?"

    "Dude, even a social pariah knows the difference between boys and girls." She rolled her eyes at him, laughing.

    "Well, then that means there's more than one around, because the one that helped me, was female."

    "The people you contacted, did they have dogs too?"

    "Yeah. They had a male and female too. Just like us."

    "This is really freaking weird, Brian."

    "No kidding."

    "Hey, you want to stay for dinner?"

    "I really can't. My mom's blind, and I have to be home to help her fix the meal."

    "Oh, sure. I was thinking maybe we could do homework together."

    "I could probably come over after dinner. Mom's okay on her own. She just can't cook a meal successfully. She tends to burn stuff or undercook it."

    "I understand. That will probably be okay. I'll call you once my mom gets home."

    "Cool. I guess I'd better get going."

    "Yeah." She smiled up at him. "Thanks, Brian. It's nice to have another social pariah as a friend."
    "It sure is."

    Jordan hopped off her stool and hugged him impulsively, throwing her arms around his neck. She had to go on her tiptoes to do it. As he held her, Brian thought she seemed awfully small and vulnerable. He knew he would do anything he could to protect her. Keys rattled in the front door and Brian leaped away from Jordan as if he'd been shocked. A beautiful blonde woman in a business suit strutted in, smiling.

    "Hi, honey. Who's your friend?" She walked over to Jordan, kissing her cheek before setting down a briefcase.
    "Mom, this is Brian. He's from my bus stop. Brian, my mom, Jacqueline Barrett."

    "Mrs. Barrett, pleased to meet you," Brian said, shaking her hand. "I'm also her chemistry lab partner."

    "And he's good at math. Can he come over after dinner and help me get caught up?"

    "Sure. I don't see why not. Do you have a last name, Brian?"

    "Casey. My mother is Maribelle Casey. We live a couple blocks from here."

    "Will you have her call me? Give him my numbers, sweetie." She dusted her hands, done with the conversation, and headed upstairs.

    Brian stared after her, stunned. That was a weird conversation to have with a parent.

    Jordan gave him her mother's business card. "Call her cell. My parents don't answer the house phone, for some reason. They expect voicemail to get it and screen their calls."

    "What do they do?"

    "Mom's a drug rep and dad's a lawyer. Which is strange, because they are both New Age Hippy Freaks."


    Jordan scoffed. "Yeah. You didn't think all this weird crystal stuff was mine, did you?"

    Brian laughed, sobering slightly. "Clearly not."

    "Have your mom call as soon as she can. Jacqueline was serious about that."

    "Do you really call her that?" he asked as they moved toward the front door.

    "Not to her face, no."

    "Okay. I'll have Mom call as soon as I get home."

    "See you later, Brian."

    He waved as he headed out the door. Once he got home, he asked his mother to call Jordan's and went to the kitchen to start dinner. His mother had jars and cans lined up for him to open for her. Hamburger was already cooking on the stove with some herbs and garlic added. An onion sat on the counter on top of a cutting board. He started with that, then moved around the kitchen taking care of the things his mother couldn't do by herself.

    Brian wondered, not for the first time, what she would do when he went to college in a few years. She was too independent to go into an assisted living home and far too young to want to consider it. With Brian's dad gone, god knows where, she'd be lost.

    His mother came into the kitchen with the phone to her ear, smiling brightly. "That sounds lovely, Jackie. I'll let Brian know. I look forward to seeing you, too. Bye!" She hung up. "She's very pleasant. A bit odd, but pleasant."

    "Jordan would say that's because she's blonde."

    His mother laughed. "I don't think blondes corner the market on flaky. She's very nice and concerned about her daughter. She wanted to make sure that if Jordan ever came over, there would be an adult present."
    Brian rolled his eyes. "Not to mention that I'm not some oversexed, ax murderer who might slaughter their entire family when I go over to help their daughter study."

    "Not to mention. They're from the big city, son. Give them a chance to adjust. Oh, she invited us to dinner tomorrow night at seven."

    Brian couldn't help wondering how Jordan would feel about that, but didn't go into it with his mother. Instead, he asked what they were making for dinner and set about helping her prepare their meal.

    After eating, Maribelle rinsed dishes and Brian loaded them into the washer. He gathered his books and got ready to go to Jordan's.

    "You be careful out there. How I wish I could drive you."

    "I'm okay, Mom."

    "It's just, after that bear.... A mother worries."

    "I'll smack the bear on the nose and holler," he replied. "It's okay."

    "Be safe, baby." She kissed both his cheeks.

    Brian couldn't help feeling odd when she did that. She always gave him a kiss on the cheek, but this was different. Concern, almost fear, layered her words.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  5. #65

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 14

    Jordan invites Brian over to her home that evening to study. He's pleased to be invited and his mother is happy he's socializing. However, she is worried about him, especially after the incident with the bear.

    "I'll be fine, Mom. Don't worry."

    "Call when you get there and when you leave."

    "Yes, ma'am!" He clicked his heels, saluting.

    Brian arrived at Jordan's house a little after 7:00. Her mother surprised him by answering the door in a colorful kaftan. Her hair was down, forming a golden halo around her head and shoulders. She wore a necklace made of different polished stones with a bright crystal hanging from it.

    "Brian!" She hugged him enveloping him in a rose scented cloud. "Honey! Brian is here!"

    Brian expected Jordan to appear. Instead, a tall, broad shouldered man came out of an adjoining room. He wore a lose fitting beige hemp shirt and pants. Another string of rocks circled his neck and he was barefoot. His hair and eyes were dark like Jordan's. He grinned at Brian, holding out his hand.

    "Heath Barrett. Nice to meet you."

    They made small talk for a few minutes while Jacqueline plied Brian with cookies and herb tea. Jordan came in a few minutes later to rescue him.

    "Sorry it took so long. I was setting up and then Grandma called. She talks more than both parents combined. It's never a short chat with her."

    "And your folks wanted a chance to talk to me."

    "Yeah, that. I'm sorry." She looked embarrassed.

    "No, I get it. If I had a sister, she'd never date. Not that this is a date— I mean, it could be— But it's—not."

    Jordan laughed, patting his shoulder. "Relax. You survived the parental units. They like you."

    "How do you know?"

    "If they didn't, you'd be gone. Dad may be a free thinker, but he's old school where boys are concerned. I almost had a boyfriend last year. He didn't make it past the foyer."


    "Nope. Mom didn't like his aura."

    Brian laughed loudly, until he realized Jordan was serious. He couldn't imagine basing decisions about people on something so arbitrary. Jordan led him to the dining room. Her books sat on one side of the long table. A laptop and a stack of paper flanked two chairs that were placed a foot apart.

    "Welcome to my study. We have no use for a formal dining room, so Dad is going to convert it to a study space. Meanwhile, the table is great to spread out."

    "Let me know when you're ready. I know a really good carpenter. I'm gonna be working with him sometimes."

    "That's cool. Have a seat." She indicated the chairs.

    "Okay, what first? Math, chemistry, English or science?"

    "Let's get math over with. I have a prayer with the other stuff, so I'll be able to work on it if we don't get to it."

    Brian rubbed his hands together gleefully, giving her a maniacal laugh. "Bring it on!"

    They spent an hour on her math. There were many things Jordan didn't understand, but Brian could see the understanding growing as he explained one thing after another. Her face brightened.

    "Now that you put it that way, I get it! This is the first time in my life that I truly understand.Thank you!" She flung her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek.

    Of course, it was at that precise moment that her mother walked in. Brian wanted to crawl under the table and hide. Jordan gave him another kiss and hug before letting go.

    "Mom, I totally understand now. Brian is a great teacher."

    "That's wonderful, honey. Would you kids like anything to drink, or maybe a snack?"

    Brian glanced at Jordan and his stomach growled. Both she and her mother burst out laughing.

    "There's a yes," Jacqueline said.

    Brian could feel the blood rise to his cheeks. Ducking his head, he thanked Mrs. Barrett.

    "Darling, I have three boys. Jordan is my only fledgling left in the nest. I know how young men's bellies are never full. Especially a man your size." She fluttered out and came back a few minutes later with tortilla chips, nacho dip and pico de gallo.

    "Mrs. Barrett, how did you guess I love Mexican food?" Brian asked.

    "Mom always knows. She's spooky like that."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  6. #66

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 15

    Jordan's parents are friendly, even if her mother is a bit different with her beliefs in crystals and meditation. Brian takes it in stride, delighting in her openness.

    Jacqueline Barrett gazed at him, tilting her head with her eyes half shut. "Your favorite color is dark green. You were born in May and you love lima beans, but hate raw tomatoes."

    Brian's eyes grew rounder with each pronouncement. "My mom told you all that, right?"

    "Nope," Jordan assured him. "I heard the entire conversation. Lima beans never came up."

    "Are you psychic, Mrs. Barrett?"

    Jacqueline giggled, touching his cheek with the palm of her left hand. "Not exactly, dear, but I know things about people that I can't explain."

    "You're right, down to the last detail. Not even my mom knows my favorite color is green. Well, she knows, but doesn't understand that not all greens are created equal."

    "You prefer the subtle ones," Jacqueline concluded. "No Packers green or emerald for you."

    "You're good." Brian pointed at her, winking.

    The teenagers ate as they continued to work. An hour or so later, Jordan was caught up in math and had a good start on chemistry. They planned to work on that the following night after dinner.

    "I'll be by to pick you up about six fifty," Heath said as Brian was leaving. "Would you like a ride tonight? I don't mind."

    "I'll be fine," Brian assured him. "It's a small town. I'm safe as a baby in a stroller."

    "If you're sure."

    "No need to trouble yourself. But thanks."

    A block from Jordan's, he wished he'd taken the rode. The sky opened and it started raining.
    Brian thought about turning back, but it was just as far to Jordan's as it was to get home. His feet moved automatically and he splashed and squished through the rising water. He was about to step into the shelter of a bus stop and wait for it to subside, when a car pulled up next to him.

    "Hop in, Moby D**k," Jordan's father called to him through the passenger window. "I'd have been along sooner, but Jackie had to give me provisions. I have towels and blankets."

    Brian gratefully accepted. The seat was heated and felt wonderful to his chilly body. Fluffy towels absorbed the runoff and a cozy blanket waited until he was settled. Heath laid it over his lap.

    "Wasn't a cloud in the sky when you left. This is plain weird."

    "This is Mississippi," Brian said, his teeth chattering. "Rain's like this all the time."

    "You seem like a nice boy, Brian. So I don't want to bust your chops."

    "Thank you," Brian replied warily.

    "But Jackie and I worry about Jordan."

    "We're just friends, sir."

    "Right. Yeah, I know. But she's had—problems. We came here hoping it would do her good to have a change of scene. So, if she spins any tales about fog critters or ghost dogs, just—well...."

    "Ignore it?"

    "Yeah." Heath nodded, trying to smile. "Good. We understand one another."

    "No problem." Brian forced a smile. He had no intention of ignoring it, but he sensed that Mr. Barrett wouldn't like knowing that Brian had, had some equally strange experiences.

    Mr. Barrett backed into Brian's driveway, getting as close to the side steps and he could. Brian thanked him for the ride and ducked under the roof quickly. He waved to Mr. Barrett and watched him drive away. Inside, the house was warm and inviting. Brian smelled cookies, so he headed to the kitchen.

    "Welcome home! I just took the first pan out. Check them?"

    "Perfect. Your nose never lies with cookies, Mom."

    "There's hot water for cocoa. I set out your mug."

    He kissed her cheek. "Thanks. Let me change first. I'm dripping on the floor." He trotted down the steps to the dryer where he shed his wet clothing and changed. Upstairs, he fixed hot chocolate and ate sugar cookies. His mother sipped tea.

    "Have a good time?"

    "Yeah, up until it started raining. Jordan's parents are nice."

    "I enjoyed talking to Jackie. She's got some unique ideas."

    "They're both a little out there, but mostly they're cool."

    Mrs. Casey clasped her mug, sipping thoughtfully. Brian sensed there was something more she wanted to say, so he waited quietly for her to continue.

    "They moved here because they were worried that Jordan was too stressed by her environment. She had some strange things happen. Things they couldn't explain. It prompted them to move here where things wouldn't be quite so hectic."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  7. #67

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 16

    Brian gets home to find his mother waiting for news of how his visit went. He tells her how good a time he had and she explains why Jordan's family moved.

    "She's not crazy, Mom. She's had some weird things happen. That's all."

    Brian paused, wondering how much he should tell her. So far, he'd kept it to himself, but he knew that he wasn't the only one experiencing these strange things. She might understand. Then again, she might lock him in his room until he was thirty. Taking a chance, he forged ahead. His mother had never condemned him before. He trusted she wouldn't start now.

    "She's not the only one who's had weird things happen. I have, too. The other night, when I came in so dirty, it was because I fell in a puddle. But it wasn't because I wasn't paying attention." He leaned forward, taking his mother's hands. "There's something in the swamps, Mom. Something that tried to get me and Jordan. I can't explain it—hell, I barely believe it. But there's kids all over the place telling similar stories."

    He told her everything that had happened to him. He went so far as to talk to her about Jordan's experiences too. He even mentioned, in less detail, the things that Andre and the others had told him.

    "Oh, Brian! That's unbelievable!"

    "But you do, don't you Mom? You don't think I'm totally whack?"

    "I believe you, Brian. Strange things are happening all over. The evangelists would have you believe it's because the end of the world is coming. I don't believe that the world is going to end in December, but I certainly feel that change is on the way. Maybe these incidents are part it."

    She paused so long, Brian thought she was done talking. He stood, ready to clear his spot, but she stopped him.

    "I want you to be very careful when you go out. Don't go alone unless you have to. Take rides when they are offered. And one other thing. Go up to my room and bring my jewelry box."

    "Yes, ma'am." He set his dirty dishes in the sink and took the stairs two and a time to fetch her jewelry box.

    Brian set the lovely, delicate box on the table in front of his mother. The jewelry box was oval shaped with a slightly domed lid. It was made of some honey colored wood inlaid with other woods and mother of pearl. The pattern had always looked kind of random to Brian. This time, when he looked at it, the negative space between the inlaid pieces stood out. He saw his mother's name, Maribelle. She ran her hands over the smooth surface, her eyes misting.

    "Your daddy gave this to me our first Christmas together. He said he wished he could fill it with diamonds and gold. I told him I'd rather fill it with memories." She blinked hard. Silent tears fell from her eyes. Wiping them away, she opened the box.

    Maribelle felt the contents carefully, selecting a little package wrapped in tissue paper. She lifted it from the box, laying it in front of her as she continued to search. Her fingers closed over a chain. She lifted this from the box as well, placing it beside the package. Before closing the box, she touched each item. Satisfied, she put the lid down and turned her attention to the paper wrapped package.

    "Open this. Then use the chain and put it on. I can't see to do it, but it's better if you do it for yourself, anyway."

    Brian's fingers shook when he opened the paper. He knew something special lay inside, he could feel it. The hairs on his arms rose and his skin tingled as if whatever was in that package radiated some kind of energy.

    He opened the paper, gasping. Inside, lay a ring of metal, too large to fit a finger and too small for a bracelet. It was divided into sections, rather like a compass. In the center, suspended in a lattice work of fine wire, was a clear crystal. At top, bottom and both sides, were four black stones, each slightly different. In between were other stones, twelve total, all different. He spotted amethyst, apache's tear, hematite, onyx and citrine. The rest weren't familiar to him.

    "This is beautiful, Mom! Where did it come from?"

    "Look at it carefully. What do you see?"

    "It's a circle—like a ring. Looks like iron. In the middle is a crystal that's caged in another metal—maybe bronze or brass."
    "It's iron and brass. Go on."

    He named off the stones he knew. Nodding, his mother took the ring from him, holding it with the onyx at the top. She felt down the right side, naming the stones.

    "Onyx, lapis lazuli, amethyst, obsidian, amber, citrine, lodestone, azurite, opal, hematite, blue topaz and aqua aura. In the center is a clear quartz crystal. Now, the chain."

    Brian lifted it up. It was beautiful. "What's this?"

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  8. #68

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 17

    While they are talking, Maribelle tells Brian to go to her room for a jewelry box. He brings it to her and she shows him a medallion he's never seen before.

    "Something I was given many years ago, when I was about your age. I don't know why my great-grandmother gave it to me, but she told me to keep it. She said there would be a time when it was needed, I would know what to do. I always thought she was a little wacko. She was a spiritualist or mystic. You'd call it a New Age freak." She smiled.

    Brian laughed nervously. He knew there was more that she wasn't saying. He hoped she would tell him. His mother handed him the chain. It was made of dark iron rings laced with glittering brass. The double chain was heavy in his hands. It should have felt like cold, but it was warm. His skin tingled when he touched it.

    "The amulet goes on the chain—but you have to have to do it. My great-grandmother was very adamant on that point. I was never to wear it or put it on the chain. In fact, except for putting it in this box seventeen years ago, I haven't touched it until today."

    Brian took the amulet in his left hand, the chain in his right. He couldn't tell how to put them together. There was no link or clasp on either item. He stared at them a long time until his vision blurred. He saw his hands drift together as if pulled by a magnet. The lodestone touched the the iron with a snap. The stones and brass rings glowed for a moment and the crystal in the middle flashed.

    Brian gasped. "Freaky!" He described what had happened to his mother.

    "Put it on against your skin," she murmured. "Never take it off. Not even to bathe and sleep. It will help you."

    "Help me with what?"

    His mother shrugged, shaking her head. "I just know."

    Brian picked up the necklace and put it over his head. It should have been heavy, but it was virtually weightless. Brian slipped it under his shirt. It throbbed a moment, matching its rhythm to his heart. A glowing warmth radiated from the necklace, flowing from head to foot.

    "Thank you." He gave his mother a kiss.

    "You be careful. Understand?"

    "I do. Don't worry about me."

    "But I do worry, Brian. Your dad left and I lost my sight. I can't protect you. I have to rely on you to help fix dinner and do so many things I used to do by myself. I can't even drive anymore." She burst into tears. "I feel so helpless. And now all this! I know things are changing, coming to a head, and I can't to a thing to stop it."

    "What things? What are you talking about, Mom? Why do I need protection?"

    Brian tried to get answers but his mother wouldn't tell him any more. Wiping her tears, she went to her room with her jewelry box. Brian reached out to take the paper and throw it out. It fell to the floor. Leaning over to pick it up, he noticed writing on the paper. The ink was faded, but the script was bold and strong. He unfolded it carefully, smoothing it on the table.

    This will keep you safe. The hematite, lodestone, obsidian and onyx help with protection. Amber, amethyst, citrine and lapis lazuli will aid in healing. For psychic abilities, the aqua aura and azurite will assist you. Love, Grand-mère
    ~ For more information, seek the Encyclopedia Magicka

    Brian couldn't help wondering if the book still existed. He knew his parents had inherited the house and its contents from his mother's family. His father had used the original study for his office. He hadn't been in the room since his father left. The memories of his father were too painful. But if he was going to find the book, that was the place to start.

    The door moved stiffly, creaking slightly as he pushed it open. The air smelled damp and stale and Brian knew his mother hadn't been in there either. The lights glared in the ancient brass fixture, illuminating the room in a golden light. There must be hundreds of books here. Except for the name, he knew nothing about the Encyclopedia Magicka.

    Maybe he could find an image online. His father's laptop lay on the old, faded, green desk blotter. He walked boldly over to it and sat in the antique oak desk chair. He almost felt guilty about using his dad's computer, since he'd rarely been allowed to use it before. His hand trembling, Brian pressed the on button.

    The computer hummed quietly, the screen flashed and the desktop appeared. The picture brought tears to Brian's eyes—a photo of him with both parents. It was Brian's fifteenth birthday in May. His father grinned at the camera, his arms around Brian's and Maribelle's necks. His mother's eyes glittered and sparked with happiness. The blindness had overcome her only weeks after the picture was taken.

    Brian searched for the browser icon. His father had always set up his desktop strangely, grouping the icons instead of listing them alphabetically. Brian clicked the arrange icons tab and put them in alphabetical order. He was about to click on the Google Chrome icon when another one caught his eye. It looked like the emblem his mother had just given him. Odder still was the title—Encyclopedia Magicka.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  9. #69

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 18

    Brian finds a note with the necklace, in his father's handwriting. It directs him to a book called The Encyclopedia Magicka. Curious, he decides to use his father's laptop to see if he can find information.

    He clicked the icon and opened a PDF file. It looked as if someone had scanned an old book. The pages bore the stains of time. In places, the ink was faded and nearly unreadable. Someone had written notes in the margin, explaining the text.

    Another file appeared on the screen. This one was a Windows Media file. Brian clicked the arrow, starting the video. He recognized his father's desk. This was filmed in this office. His father walked into the frame and sat. He looked worried.

    "Hi, Brian. If you're seeing this, it means I'm not there to tell you this personally. My investigation may take me away soon. Things are coming to a head. I'm guessing your mother gave you the amulet and you saw the name of the book. I also assume you came in here to look for it. Smart move. I found it myself a couple years ago. I scanned and hid it. That book holds secrets the other side can't be allowed to find. Guard this file carefully. Share sparingly and only with those you trust completely."

    He folded his hands, leaning toward the camera. "Brian, you're in a lot of danger. Things are changing in the world. We are coming to a time of great enlightenment—but only if the balance can be kept. I know strange things are happening. You're probably terrified and I'm sorry I'm not there to help you. I had to weigh the choices. Leaving you won't be easy, but investigating this further had to take precedence."

    He sighed, closing his eyes. "I'm not explaining well. You know that people talk about how the world is going to end in December in 2012. It's not ending, but it will be changing—radically. Everything we take as real and natural—is no longer. Besides, the Encyclopedia, I've gathered files to help you. They are all on this computer. I've also loaded them onto a flashdrive. Take out the upper right drawer. It's taped underneath.

    "When you've watched this, I want you to erase the file. Don't tell anyone you can't completely trust. And if your mother tells you something, listen to her. She has amazing intuition. I'm sorry, son. You don't deserve any of this. I wish it could be different. Read the Encyclopedia. Go through the files—quickly. You need the knowledge to help you." He held up his hand as if trying to touch his son. "I'm sorry, Brian. I miss you terribly. I love you." He paused for a moment before rising to turn off the camera.

    With tears in his eyes, Brian erased the file. He wanted to watch it again, but he knew his father was right. Things were changing, getting crazily out of hand. He had to tell his friends immediately. He thought first of Jordan and decided to call her before he contacted the others.

    Her phone rang twice and she mumbled hello. With a lurch, Brian realized he'd woken her. A glance at the clock showed him it was nearly midnight.

    "Jordan, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

    "Well, you did, so what do you need?" she didn't sound happy, but she wasn't angry.

    "I found some information my dad left. We need to talk about it."

    "Now? Brian, it's midnight and we have to be up for the bus at the butt crack of doom."

    "I know. I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was so late when I called you. It can wait until morning."

    "It is morning, moron."

    "I'm going to come by a little early in the morning. We really need to talk."

    "Okay. In that case, let me go back to sleep so I can be my usual perky self."

    Laughing at her, he apologized again and hung up. The idea of Jordan actually being perky amused him.
    Turning serious once more, Brian retrieved the flashdrive from its hiding place. It was one of the bracelet kind that many of his classmates wore. He had one himself that was the same color and style. He put the flashdrive around his wrist and put the drawer away. He wasn't sure what to do about the computer, but since it had been fine here until now, he decided to leave it alone. Better not to draw attention to it by moving it.

    Brian set his alarm early and wrote a note for his mother before turning out his light. Sleep was hard to come by. His mind spun out of control with everything his father had, or hadn't, told him. He wasn't clear on details, but Brian hoped that the files he'd left would explain more.

    Finally, around 3:00, he dozed off and woke to his alarm blaring at 5:30. He took a hot shower, hoping it would wake him up, and made a strong cup of coffee. He poured it in a travel mug, left the note for his mother, and headed to Jordan's.

    The air was chilly and damp. Brian hunkered lower into the collar of his coat, wishing he'd worn his beanie. His hands were so cold, he could hardly feel his fingertips. His breath hung around his head in a hazy cloud. Ice coated the sidewalk, so going was slower than usual. He had to watch carefully where he put his feet. His next door neighbors had left their outside faucet dripping. The water had run down the steep driveway and flooded the sidewalk in front of their house. Brian had to walk into the street to avoid falling on the three foot, icy patch.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  10. #70

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 19

    It's morning and Brian has to get up for school. He spent an uneasy night, getting very little sleep. He wakes to find it unseasonably cold and icy. Rather than walking straight to the bus stop, he stops to pick up Jordan on the way.

    The wind picked up as he approached Jordan's. The moisture in the air coalesced, forming sleet. The icy crystals flew into his face, stinging any exposed skin. A whirlwind, like a tiny tornado, paralleled his path. Adjusting its trajectory slightly, it headed right toward him, kicking up frosty grass, dirt and debris. Faster it whirled, driving straight at him.

    Knowing this wasn't natural, Brian reached into his coat, fumbling for the chain around his neck. Cold fingers grasped the iron and brass chain. It felt unnaturally hot and it glittered in the dim light of streetlights. A phrase came to his mind, whispered in his ears. It wasn't a language he recognized, but he bellowed loudly and confidently as the growing whirlwind got closer.

    "Imigh leat!" He roared, throwing his coffee at it.

    The miniature tornado halted in its path, ducking and wavering uncertainly. It tried to approach, but seemed to hit an invisible wall about a foot from Brian. He yelled the words again, feeling them sucked into the wind. The whirlwind shivered, backed up and tried to hit him again, this time from the side. Brian clutched his amulet, bringing it out from under his shirt. The stones and metal seared his palm, making it glow as if it were on fire. With a loud poof, the ice tornado exploded. Crystals and trash flew in every direction, but none of them reached Brian. A barrier stood between them, protecting him.

    As soon as the whirlwind disappeared, Brian ran as fast as he could for Jordan's. Heedless of the ice, he thudded up the sidewalk. He arrived at her front porch to find the lights on and the door open. He knocked on the heavy screen door. Jordan's worried face greeted him moments later.

    "Are you okay?" She opened the screen.

    "I don't know." He sat on the bench just inside the house.

    Jordan closed the door, bolting it. "I had this awful premonition. I knew you were in trouble and I was coming to help you, but I couldn't get out. Something held the screen in place. It was like it was frozen shut. I tried all the doors and windows, same thing. Are you sure you're okay?" Her hands moved over his body, checking him for injury.

    "I'm okay. But it was close." He told her what had happened and started to laugh. "I threw my coffee at it. Brilliant."

    Jordan giggled. "We can get more. Come into the kitchen. Mom's up."

    "Does she know—about all this?"

    Jordan shook her head. "No, but she knows something strange is happening. Like I said, she's intuitive. I don't think we should keep this from her."

    Brian followed Jordan into the warm, comfortable kitchen. Mrs. Barrett had made breakfast and coffee. She served Brian a huge plate of waffles, eggs and grits. He was a little disappointed to find out there was no bacon, but he wasn't surprised to find out that the Barretts were vegetarians.

    "You're sure you're okay?" Jackie asked after he told her what had happened to him. He left out the part about the amulet, but she found the part about hurling his coffee at the whirlwind amusing.

    "Yes, ma'am. I'm fine. Shook me up some, I have to admit."

    "That's settled. I'm taking you to school today—every day. I don't know what's going on, but I have a horrible feeling in my stomach." She pursed her lips, thinking. "I'll pick you up after school, too," she announced. "And then we will sit down and you will tell me everything. Is that clear?"

    "Yes, ma'am," Brian said, casting his eyes downward. He didn't want to tell Mrs. Barrett, but he sensed that not only would she get the entire story from him anyway, she could probably help. There was no reason why adults couldn't be involved. The weird events might be happening to them too, they just weren't blogging about it. If anyone could understand and assist them, she seemed the best equipped.

    It was wonderful riding to school in Mrs. Barrett's luxurious SUV instead of the noisy, smelly bus. She played some kind of weird New Age flute music as she drove, but Brian found it oddly soothing. One tune in particular, he liked. It had a lot of drums at the beginning and a rumbling bass line that made his heart race. It stayed in his mind even after he was at school.

    The main topic of conversation that morning, was the cold. Living in southern Mississippi, the residents weren't used to weather this chilly so early in the year. It was still hurricane season, for god's sake. They were prepared to be dodging late season storms, not battling ice.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  11. #71

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 20

    Concerned about the weather and the events that morning, Mrs. Barrett drives Brian and Jordan to school.

    "Did you hear that snow is predicted for tonight?" Marissa said as she passed Brian and Jordan's table.

    "Hey," Chase, one of Brian's few good friends, stopped at their table, flopping on Jordan's stool while she was at the supply cupboard. "Did you remember about the bonfire tonight?"

    "No, where?"

    "My place, of course. Dad and I have been gathering wood for days. It's going to be a great one. Bring whatever you wanna toast. Mom will have every conceivable, non-alcoholic beverage imaginable. Bring your lady friend. Starts at eight."

    "She's not my girlfriend," Brian tried to explain.

    "So what. Bring her anyway." He leaned closer. "So, if y'all aren't dating, is she single?"

    "I have no idea. You'd have to ask her."

    "'Cause, dude, if you haven't noticed, she is smokin' hot!"

    Brian had noticed, but it didn't seem quite as important as the fact they'd both been attacked and seemed to be the targets for some massive paranormal upheaval. He hadn't missed the fact that Jordan was pretty and well built, he just hadn't dwelt on it. Apparently, Chase had.

    "I'll see if she's free. My mom and I are going to her house for dinner. We may be later than eight."

    "Fire won't start until nine, so that's cool. See you there."

    "I hope so."

    It did sound fun. Brian wanted something like a bonfire party to make him feel like a real teenager again. He'd played adult since his dad left, even more after his mother's accident robbed her of her sight. The days and nights of worrying about her, spending weeks in the hospital, hoping she'd be able to see again, had taken their toll. He wanted something calming and a bonfire would go a long way to relaxing him.

    "Who's that?" Jordan asked as she sat down.

    "That was Chase. He invited us to a bonfire tonight."

    "Sweet. Not quite the social pariahs we envisioned, huh?"

    "I guess not," Brian chuckled. "Have to square it with the folks. We're due at your house for dinner."

    "Mom will probably be delighted I'm meeting more young people. She used to worry about me back home. I never went out much. So many kids my age are so superfluous." She waved her hands like she was brushing away fluff.

    Brian had to agree. With very few exceptions, he found kids his age annoying. They embraced the rap culture, watched reality TV and thought that The Lord of the Rings was a series of movies, not epic novels.

    "I still need to call Andre and them," Brian murmured as he measured water for their experiment.

    "Wait until after school. Then, if we need to, we can make plans to get together this weekend."

    "Good point. They're probably all in school, too."

    "How's it coming along?" Mr. Sullivan asked from behind Brian, making him jump.

    "Fine, until you scared three years off his life," Jordan replied with a sweet smile. "You always sneak up on folks like that?"

    "Not unless I think they're talking about something other than the experiment. Were you talking about personal matters?" He raised a curious, yet knowing, eyebrow.

    "Never, not us," Jordan replied with a perky grin that made Brian choke. "We're all business, Mr. Sullivan." She sounded a lot like Shirley Temple, pout and all.

    Brian almost choked, he was trying so hard not to laugh. Instead, he made it sound like a sneeze, covering his mouth with his hands.

    "Bless you," Mr. Sullivan said automatically.

    "Thanks." Brian rubbed his nose, pretending it still tickled. "I guess these chemicals irritated my delicate nasal passages."

    Mr. Sullivan smiled and moved on. The two of them fought down the giggles. Fortunately, class was almost over. They were able to contain their laughter until they got down the hall a few steps.

    "Oh, my God!" Jordan burst out laughing. "I almost peed myself!" She clung to Brian, laughing so hard she had tears.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  12. #72

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 21

    Caught talking about non-lab related issues in chemistry class, Jordan and Brian lie, covering for one another. Barely able to contain their mirth, they manage to wait until they get outside the room to laugh.

    Brian chuckled as he supported Jordan. He didn't think the situation was nearly as funny as she did, but it was amusing.

    School went well. The weather stayed chilly, but there were no more weird winds or sleet storms. After school, Brian and Jordan waited for her mother to pick them up. They sat on the steps leading up to the school, sharing a Coca-Cola and a cinnamon roll Brian had leftover from lunch.

    "Mom would kill me if she knew I was eating junk. She thinks we shouldn't eat meat or refined sugars. Of course, Dad and I like Reuben sandwiches and steak, so we sneak out for a Dad and Daughter day and gorge ourselves."

    "Doesn't your mom suspect?"

    "Oh, sure. When you come back smelling like fried food, it's hard to deny."

    Brian chuckled. "Worse things to smell like."

    "Yeah, don't get me started on that stuff. Mom would seriously give birth to a cow if I did drugs. And she's a drug rep. She would know."

    "The one time I smoked a joint, my mom knew. She was cool about it, didn't freak out, but she also didn't let me go out for a week and I'm not allowed to hang out with that kid any more."

    "Doesn't it bother you that she's that over protective?"

    "Not really. It shows she cares."

    "Hadn't thought of it that way."

    "I don't always agree with my parents, but over all, they're pretty okay. Then again, I don't give them any reason to freak, either."

    Jordan raised the Cola can in salute. "Being a social pariah has its perks."

    "Yeah." Brian laughed loudly. "Yeah, it does."

    Jacqueline Barrett was only a few minutes late. She'd cut short an appointment in order to pick the kids up. She was a little flustered.

    "I can't wait until you can drive, Jo-Jo. It will make life easier."

    "Mom, Jo-Jo? Really?"

    "Sorry, baby name," Jacqueline apologized. "But the sentiment remains."

    "I wish I could drive," Brian said. "Dad was gonna teach me, but he left right after my birthday."

    "I'll talk it over with your mom," Jacqueline said. "Maybe Heath and I can take that in hand when we teach Jordan. We'll see about getting learner's permits next week, if it's okay with her."

    "You'd do that for me? Thank you."

    "You're so welcome, honey. I wouldn't do it for everyone, but you have such a beautiful aura. You're a lovely green with a strong blue presence."

    "I don't know what that means," Brian admitted sheepishly.

    Jacqueline smiled as she pulled into Brian's driveway. "It means that you're a strong healer, and you're very peaceful. It also means you're steadfast and a wonderful young man. I couldn't ask for a better friend for my daughter. Her aura is a lovely sunrise yellow."

    Brian looked at Jordan for an explanation.

    "It means I'm full of inner joy and love," she replied with a smirk and an impudent flutter of her eyelashes.

    "You sure your mom's not color blind?" Brian asked with a sly wink.

    Jordan punched him.

    "Yup! I'm feeling the love right now, Mrs. B."

    Jacqueline laughed at him. "Well, we all backslide sometimes."

    "Before we forget, Mom, Brian and I were invited to a bonfire at nine. Is it okay if I go?"

    "How will you get there?"

    "I guess we'll need a ride," Brian admitted. "I can see if maybe Chase's dad can come get us."

    "Heath or I can take you," Jacqueline replied. "Of course, it will depend on if your mother says it's all right. Does she know Chase's parents?"

    "Ms. B, there's like fifty people in town. Of course, she does."

    "If she says it's all right, then yes. But you'll have to come home by ten thirty. It's a school night."

    "Thanks for the ride. I'll see y'all at seven for dinner." He waved as he got out.

    "I'll pick you up in the morning," Jacqueline said as he got out. "I don't like you kids walking in the dark in this weather. It's supposed to snow."

    "That'd be great, Ms. B. Thank you." He closed the door and headed up the steps to the house.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  13. #73

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 22

    Brian's mother reluctantly agreed to let him go to the bonfire. She didn't like the idea of him being out at night. After a bit of cajoling, he got her to agree. He'd be surrounded by others, he'd have Jordan and her father with him. After all, hadn't he fought off the whirlwind by himself? He judiciously left that incident out of his argument. He didn't think that his mother would like it. He hoped that Jordan's parents wouldn't mention it to her, though he was sure that Mrs. Barrett would probably tell her husband.

    At 6:50 on the nose, Mr. Barrett drove up. He helped Maribelle into the front seat while Brian hopped into the back. Jordan greeted him when he got in. They drove to Jordan's house, chatting happily about the weather. Fortunately, Mr. Barrett said nothing about that morning's encounter.

    "Does he know?" Brian asked as he took off his coat in Jordan's room.

    "Yes, but he won't say anything unless he thinks we're in trouble. My folks are pretty cool. They won't narc us, but they do like to know."

    "I will tell her," Brian promised. "I just couldn't tell her today. She'd never let me out of the house again."

    "Do you think it's safe going to the bonfire?"

    "I think so. We'll be surrounded by people. Besides, Chase's dad is a deacon. Reckon he can handle an icy whirlwind, if anyone can."

    "Maybe he knows what's going on. We should ask him."

    "Not tonight. We can go by the church sometime and see him at the office. I'm also supposed to go visit our priest. I bet he'd have some answers too."

    "You're Catholic?" Her eyes brightened.

    "Yeah. Born and raised. You?"

    "Yes. Despite their oddities, Mom and Dad are very traditional in some ways. What's the priest like?"

    "He's a nice guy, probably about my dad's age. He married my parents, baptized me, gave me First Communion and was there for Confirmation."

    "Why do you have to go see him? Confession?"

    "Nothing like that. Mom's worried about all this—whatever it is. She thinks he can help."

    "Let's go see him tomorrow. Maybe see Chase's dad too. Did you ever call Andre?"

    "No." He pulled his phone out of his pocket.

    Andre's phone went right to voicemail. Brian left a message and called Sweet next, getting the same thing. Frustrated, he called Louisa. She answered absently, as if she were busy with something. When she heard Brian's voice, she perked up.

    "I've been checking the e-mail we set up. We got some replies already. I'm reading through them. Unbelievable! We'll talk about it more when we see you. What's up?"

    He gave her a brief rundown on meeting Jordan and battling the whirlwind. Louisa made all the appropriate noises and promised to talk to the others and set up a meeting for the weekend.

    "Thanks, Louisa. I appreciate you passing word along."

    "Not a problem, Brian. I can't wait to meet Jordan. Bye!"

    Brian hung up, feeling better about the situation. At least there were more of them involved than just him and Jordan.

    "We should go downstairs and sit with our folks," Jordan said once he was off the phone. "Mom likes me to help entertain company."

    "Thought that was what you were doing," Brian replied. He gave Jordan a hand up.

    The two of them went downstairs just as Jacqueline appeared at the bottom to call them down.

    "Perfect timing, you two. Get washed up. Jordan, can you give me a hand?"

    "Sure, Mom."

    "Can I help with anything?" Brian offered.

    "Sure. You can carry in some of the dishes for me. We're ready to serve."

    A few minutes of bustle and they were seated in the kitchen. Brian sat between his mother and Jordan at the large, circular table.

    "Everything smells delicious," Maribelle said, inhaling deeply. "Do I catch a hint of anise?"

    "You do! I made my vegetable lasagna. It has layers of anise cookies in it. Strange as it sounds."

    "Sounds and smells divine," Maribelle complimented.

    Brian took a few minutes to serve his mother's plate before serving his own. He told her where each food was located, but wasn't sure what everything was. Laughing, Jacqueline explained.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  14. #74

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Parts 23 & 24

    I apologize for missing last week, and yesterday. At this time of year, it's easy to forget and get busy with something else. That being the case, I've given you a twofer. I hope to be back on track next week, but who knows?

    Brian chuckled at himself. "All I could tell was it's green," he told his mother. "I had no idea it was spinach pilaf."
    "Well, I'm sure it's delicious."

    Heath led the blessing and they ate, exclaiming over the excellent meal. Brian wasn't sure half the time what he was eating, but it was all so good, he didn't care. At the end of the meal, he had to control a burp. The others chuckled at him as he blushed.

    "That's the nicest compliment my food has gotten in a long time," Jacqueline said. "I'm glad you liked it. Did you leave room for dessert?"

    "Depends on dessert," Brian responded with a wink.

    "I think we can find something good," Jacqueline replied. "Honey, do the honors?"

    "Sure thing. I suppose I should mention that my wife is half Greek. She makes the most delicious baklava in the history of mankind." He went to the kitchen and brought out a platter of the flaky, honey drenched pastry.

    Brian thought he'd died and gone to heaven. He'd never had baklava before, but decided that it was now his favorite sweet.
    "I could die right now and be happy," he declared. "That was heaven, Ms. B."

    "A delicious meal, Jackie," Maribelle added. "Thank you for having us over."

    "No need to rush off," Heath said. "You ladies stay here and visit. I'll take the kids at the bonfire and hang out for a little while. You ladies can get better acquainted. Sound like a plan?"

    "That sounds delightful," Maribelle said.

    "Good, because I can't stand the idea of you spending the evening alone," Jacqueline said. "Jordan isn't the only one who left her friends behind. It's such a delight to find a kindred spirit, don't you think?"

    Brian thought it was a weird thing to say, but apparently his mother agreed with her new friend. Jacqueline had a strange way of expressing herself, but Maribelle liked her. He was glad to see her out with other people. She spent too much time at home alone. Her blindness had isolated a woman who was normally outgoing. This was good for her.

    Jacqueline made sure the kids had hats, scarves and gloves before she allowed them to go. Armed with three different kinds of marshmallows, they hopped in the SUV.

    "This is one treat Mom doesn't mind me having, for some reason. It's sugar and air. Go figure." She shrugged.

    "Because your mother loves marshmallows," Heath replied. "She's a closet sugar addict," he told Brian. "My favorites are the coconut ones."

    They arrived at Chase's house and Heath parked about half a block down the road. Chase lived in the woods a mile or so from Brian's house. Tall trees ringed the two story home, standing guard over it. The property was on the edge of the swamp, so the pine trees mingled with swamp bay, dogwood, spruce pine, black gum and hawthorn. Holly bushes circled the base of the house and ivy climbed up the walls.

    "It's like something out of the Old South," Jordan mused as she approached. "I expect to see Scarlet O'Hara running down the steps." It was oddly romantic of her to say. "Of course, she'd trip on the hem of her dress and fall splat on the ground, but I can totally see her."

    Brian and her father laughed loudly. So like Jordan to find the humor in something that wasn't really humorous.

    "We just go around back," Brian said. He'd been to Chase's bonfires many times in the past.

    Loud music played and Jordan was surprised to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd crooning Sweet Home Alabama. Most kids their age played rap and hip hop at parties. It was a relief to hear something different for a change. As they walked up, a song by blues guitarist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, blasted from speakers.

    "Your buddy has good taste in music," Heath commented loudly.

    "Yeah, he does. It's one of the reasons we get along. That, and he actually has read a book or two."

    The fire was set well away from the house in a clearing not far from the swamp. The ground was damp, but logs had been laid out and covered with plastic tarps. When they walked up, Chase yelled loudly.

    "Dad, you can light her up. Brian's here!" He turned to greet his friend. "Hey, man. Good you came. And Jordan, right? Nice to meet you. Can I get you a drink? Totally no alcohol," he added quickly when he saw Heath's frown. "Chase Finley," he introduced himself, holding out his hand.

    "Heath Barrett, Jordan's father."

    "Good to meet you, sir. My dad is right over there, trying to start the fire. Excuse me." He ran to his father's side, hollering instructions over the music.

    Everyone gathered around as the flames took. Kindling and dried leaves crackled and the flames jumped higher. Everyone grabbed sharpened greenwood sticks and started jamming hot dogs and marshmallows into the fire. Brian got some sticks for himself and Jordan. They roasted a couple of coconut marshmallows for Heath, who then opted for a root beer.

    Brian and Jordan sat on a log close together, trying to stay warm. Although the fire burned brightly, their faces were toasty, but their backs were cold. Brian gazed deeply into the fire, hypnotized by the movement and color. His father had often teased him about being a pyromaniac. He loved to watch flames in the grill, fireplace or candles.

    "When I was little, if I got fussy, all my mom had to do was light a candle and set it where I could see it. Strange as it sounds, it calmed me down when nothing else would."

    "With me, it was water. We had this little miniature waterfall that sat on the table. When I got cranky, Mom turned it on and let it splash. I loved it. I still have it. It was the first thing I unpacked when we moved in."

    Jordan snuggled closer, her leg pressing against Brian's. She shivered, so he put his arm around her shoulders. Her head drifted to his shoulder and her hand to his leg. They sat quietly, watching the flames.

    Brian startled. He'd seen something in the fire that didn't move like the flames. When he focused on it, all he saw was fire. When he let his gaze soften and go slightly out of focus, he saw a face in the burning wood. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, but needing Jordan to see it, he picked up his stick again and put a marshmallow on it. He poked it toward the flames, indicating the face. It leered at him. A flame shot out, igniting his marshmallow. Brian pulled it out, blowing on it.

    "Do you see that?" he whispered to Jordan.

    "See what?"

    "The face. There's a face in the flames."

    "Don't be silly. It's just a fire."

    "It's not. I promise you. Something's in there."

    "You're jazzed on sugar. It's just a—" She stopped talking abruptly, her eyes wide. "Oh, my God, Brian! It's like people in the flames!" She spoke sharply, but didn't raise her voice.

    "I told you!"

    "We aren't safe! My dad. Where's my dad?" She stood suddenly, knocking Brian backwards off the log. "Daddy!" she screamed.

    Heath dashed up, taking her arms. "We need to go, Dad. Something bad is going to happen."

    "What are you talking about? Is this another one of your fantasies? I thought we were past that, honey."

    "Water," Jordan said. "We need water. Brian, get the ice chest."

    Scrambling to his feet, Brian ran across the clearing to the nearest ice chest. By this time, others had noticed the figures in the fire. At first, they thought it was some sort of illusion, until one of the flame creatures stepped out of the fire and started toward Jordan, leaving a trail of embers in its path.

    Heath put himself between Jordan and the fire creature, but she pushed him aside, wielding her wooden sticks like daggers. It took a step toward her and she poked it back. The sticks were greenwood, but that didn't mean they wouldn't eventually catch fire.

    Brian grabbed at the cooler, tugging on it. It was full of ice and sodas, so it was really heavy. He yelled at Heath to help him. Jordan's father crossed the clearing, grabbing the other side of the cooler.

    By this time, the others were running as quickly as they could for the house. Chase and his father were the only ones who remained with Brian, Jordan and Heath. Seeing what they were doing, Chase and his father grabbed another cooler, hauling it to the fire.

    "Jordan, there's a hose to your right," Chase called. "Turn it on, quick!"

    Holding her sticks in one hand, Jordan ran to the hose. It was draped over a wooden pole and attached to a metal pipe that stood about two feet tall. A cracked, rusty faucet topped the pipe. Jordan twisted and turned, but the faucet wouldn't budge. The fire creature came closer, its hand reaching for her. Jordan swatted at it, but it kept advancing.

    "I can't get this," she called. "Help!"

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  15. #75

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Parts 25 & 26

    Brian didn't even think. With a surge of strength, he threw his end of the cooler at the fire. Without watching it land, he ran across the clearing to where Jordan stood, swatting at the flame creature. Her sticks were blackened and burning, no longer an effective weapon.

    Avoiding the fiery grasp, Brian leaped toward the water faucet and grabbed. The rusty metal scraped and cut his fingers, but he wrestled it into the on position. Jordan grabbed the hose, aiming it at the fire creature. Brian turned the faucet full on.
    "Put your finger over it," he called to Jordan.

    She did as the said, decreasing the size of the hole to increase the range and pressure. The cold water splashed into the fire creature, knocking it back a step. Its feet advanced haltingly. The ember trail behind it flickered and went out.

    By this time, Chase and his father had added their cooler to the flames. The fire ducked and shivered, but still hadn't gone out. There was a third cooler and Heath already had it halfway to the fire. Chase and his father joined him. They hauled it to the edge of the fire pit, dumping it into the center of the fire.

    The creature stumbled, fell and turned black. It crumbled when it hit the ground, like so much charcoal. Brian grabbed the hose from Jordan, turning it on the fire. He walked boldly toward it, as far as the hose would reach.

    Chase and his father used shovels to cover the flames as Brian continued to soak them. Heath kicked dirt into the fire pit. Finally, only a thin wisp of smoke remained. They stood around the pit, gasping and shaking.

    "Someone want to tell me what that was?" Mr. Finley asked. His hands shook as he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.

    "I don't know," Heath replied. "But I hope to God I never see another."

    "That wasn't my imagination, was it?" Chase asked Brian.

    "Not if we all saw it," Brian told his friend. "Jordan, you okay?"

    "It tried to get me," she gasped. "It was after me!"

    Brian took a step toward her and she hurled herself into his arms.

    "It wanted me! Why?"

    "I don't know. Shh. It's okay now. It's okay. Let's go home."

    "We'd better go check on the others," Mr. Finley said calmly. "Heath?"

    "Yeah. You kids okay?"

    They nodded, mumbling in unison. Heath joined Mr. Finley and the two men walked up to the house. The teenagers followed more slowly. Jordan clung to Brian, shivering uncontrollably.

    "You've seen stuff before, haven't you?" Chase asked them. "Cause you didn't act like that was the weirdest thing you ever saw. You didn't run away."

    "Yeah, I notice you didn't run, either," Brian said quietly. "What have you seen, Chase?"

    "You'll think I'm crazy."

    Brian chuckled, hugging his friend with his free arm. "Chase, we just fought a fire elemental together. Do you think I'm gonna find anything else you have to say any crazier than that?"

    Chase burst out laughing. "No, I guess not." He shook his head, walking slowly by Jordan's other side. "Living out here in the swamps, you see a lot of strange stuff. Mom says it's swamp gas. Dad says it's ghosts—but he's a superstitious Cajun. Here lately, every time I go out by myself, I have this feeling like I'm being watched. And sometimes, I see things moving in the trees that can't possibly be there, but they are. One time, it looked like the trees were walking toward me. I screamed like a little girl and ran to find my mama!" He laughed nervously. "I never had anything appear in the fire before. That was beyond freaky."

    "How long has this been going on?" Brian asked him.

    "Few months, since my birthday in March. It was like, I turned fifteen and I start seeing all this weird stuff that wasn't there before."

    "Or it was there, and you couldn't see it," Brian corrected.

    Chase shuddered. "Oh, man. You had to say that. I'm half superstitious Cajun, you know. My granny has visions. She reads palms and does the tarot. She says big change is coming. But she never said a thing about flames walking out of the fire!"

    They got to the house to find most of the guests gone. Heath was on the phone to Jacqueline, assuring her that they were fine. Chase's mother was hysterical. Mr. Finley did his best to calm her, but she was wild eyed and incoherent. Jordan walked up to her and her husband, who looked near panic himself. Standing in front of the frightened woman, she planted her feet, hands on her hips. She might be smaller than Mrs. Finley, but she was still intimidating.

    "Hey," she said loudly. "Don't make me slap you," Jordan said. "Because I will. These men here won't hit you because it's not polite to smack a woman. But I'm a girl, so I can hit you all I want. It's gone, so calm down and stop acting like a schizy Barbie doll. I want to wash my face and I really need to pee."

    Mrs. Finley blinked at her and stopped babbling. Her face lost its panicked expression. Heaving a loud sigh, she took Jordan by the shoulders. "Of course. Where are my manners? Come inside, honey, and freshen up."

    Brian and Heath exchanged a shocked look.

    "Do you think she'd really hit her?" Brian asked.

    "My daughter? Oh, hell, yeah. She'd smack the daylights out of her." His laugh sounded forced, but it broke the tension between them.

    They chatted a few minutes on the back porch before following the women into the house. Jordan had convinced Mrs. Finley to make some hot chocolate and stood by the stove, helping her stir the milk with cocoa powder and sugar. Mugs were lined up on the counter. Jordan had been busy.

    It amazed Brian how she could make a crazy, frightening situation fade away and seem normal. By the time they left, Mr. and Mrs. Finley acted like nothing strange had transpired. The only one in the family still shaken by the experience, was Chase. Brian made sure to make plans to meet up with him at lunch the following day.

    "We've got a ton to talk about," Brian told his friend. "Lock up tight and be safe."

    "You bet I will! Thank God I don't have to ride the bus to school. Dad takes me every morning."

    "See you tomorrow." Jordan hugged Chase before hopping into her father's car.

    Brian patted his friend on the shoulder and got in, closing the door with a thump.

    "That was some bonfire," Heath said as they drove home. "Hope I never see another one like it."

    "Makes two of us," Brian said. "Are Mom and Jackie okay?"

    "They're fine as can be," Heath said. "But you two have some explaining to do." He sounded stern, but Brian sensed worry underneath. "Tell me what's going on."

    The two teenagers knew there was no point in denying anything. Heath had been there and seen things he couldn't logically refute. Something that couldn't possibly happen, had. Rapidly and rather incoherently, Brian and Jordan told Heath what had happened to them over the last few months.

    "Why didn't you tell us?" Heath asked his daughter.

    "I did, Daddy. Remember? You took me to a bunch of doctors who tried to tell you I was crazy and wanted drug me and lock me up."

    "I told my mother and we did the doctor thing too. Only they ran tests, just sure I had a brain tumor or something."

    "Well, if you have a brain tumor, then so do I," Jordan stated.

    "Mr. Barrett, I think the reason my dad left had something to do with all this stuff that's happening. I haven't even had a chance to tell Jordan this, but Dad left me a message and some computer files to read. He said to read them right away, but I haven't had time."

    "I'd say now was the perfect time to start. I don't want you and your mother in that remote house on your own. We're going to stop and get Maribelle, then take you two home to pack. You're going to stay with us, at least for tonight. We'll figure out more permanent arrangements tomorrow."

    Brian didn't argue. He felt the same way. How could he protect a blind woman all by himself? With Heath around, he had backup. And Jordan. How could he forget her bravery? She held off the fire elemental with two sharp sticks and a lot of moxie.

    Heath left Jordan with her mother so they could make up the guest room and den for Brian and his mother. Heath went in the house with the Caseys, checking it carefully before he let them go upstairs to pack. Once they were ready, Maribelle locked up the house and they headed back to the Barrett's house.

    Jacqueline showed Maribelle to the guest room and Jordan led Brian to the den. The futon couch folded out to a comfortable queen sized bed. Warm blankets and a heavy afghan lay on top of the flannel sheets.

    "Do you have the files with you? Can we read through some of it now?" Jordan asked him.

    "Yes. But we probably should go to bed. We've got to get up pretty early."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  16. #76

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 27

    "Mom and I heard a weather report. They expect a storm late tonight. Probably won't be school tomorrow. Even if there is, Mom is so freaked, it's unlikely she'll let us go."

    "I don't want to start on any of this tonight. I'm beat. I just want a shower to get the smell of smoke out of my hair."

    Jordan showed him the bathroom and got him out a couple of towels. Before Brian went in the bathroom, she stopped him with a hand on his arm.

    "You saved my life tonight," she said quietly. "I don't know how to thank you."

    "It's easy, you just say it."

    "Brian, thank you for saving me," she whispered. Her dark eyes filled with tears and she leaned toward him.

    Feeling drawn to her like a magnet, Brian leaned over. Jordan's arms went around his neck and she kissed him. It started as a soft, simple kiss, but soon took on a life of its own. Brian dropped his backpack of clothing, clasping Jordan to him. She stood on tiptoe, arms around his neck, holding him close. Brian opened his mouth a little, teasing at Jordan's lips. She opened to him, kissing him hard.

    They broke away from one another, panting. Neither of them had ever experienced anything like that before. Then again, neither of them had fought off a fire elemental before. Smiling nervously, Brian held her waist. Jordan put her hands on his chest, grinning up at him.

    "Wow," he said. "That was the best kiss ever."

    Jordan tossed her hair, smirking. "Of course you've had so many."

    "A few," he replied, defensively. "Even social pariahs have a chance to make out."

    Jordan shoved him playfully away, but he didn't let go. She didn't want him to. Her emotions still ran high—fear and excitement had her adrenaline pumping. Even though she wanted another kiss, she knew they shouldn't. Stepping away, she pulled his hands from her waist, holding them between her own.

    "Thank you, Brian. That's the greatest thing anyone's ever done for me." She gave him a quick kiss on the lips before dashing off to her room.

    Brian watched her go, wishing she would stay. He'd had a few girlfriends over the years, but none of them had ever been serious and hadn't gone beyond kissing. Having Jordan kiss him like that made him understand why so many of his friends were already having sex. Not that he ever expected to get to that point with Jordan—he just could understand it now like he never had before. Maybe it was the fear making his nerves jangle. Or maybe it was the thrill of having a beautiful girl kiss him.

    Trying to set those thoughts aside, he got in the shower. It took awhile to get the stench off him, but he eventually toweled dry and got into his pajama pants and T-shirt. Normally, he slept only in his boxers, but he it was far colder than most nights. He crawled into the bed, folding his arms behind his head. He stared a long time at the ceiling, thinking over the last few days. His life was crazy, but having Jordan around made it bearable. She understood what he'd been experiencing and didn't think he was completely out of his mind. Finding out that Chase had been having similar experiences made him wonder how many other people had. He couldn't think of a good way to find out. Maybe Jordan would.

    Jordan's face floated in front of him and he felt her lips on his once more. With her in his mind, he fell asleep.
    Jordan woke in the middle of the night. Despite her pajamas, warm socks and extra blankets, she was cold. A chill wind blew in around windows, finding chinks and gaps that no human ever would. Was this another attack? Or was this simply a natural occurrence? She didn't know. Her room was dark, not even the night light in the corner was lit. The power was out. Jordan shivered, terrified. She never liked losing power, but considering all that was going on with her, Brian and the elements, she was terrified. At least she had a flashlight in the drawer beside her bed. She reached for it and turned it on. She couldn't sleep with the lights out, but maybe she could read a book.

    Something glittered around the edge of her window. Getting out of her warm bed, she crept to the window. The glass was cold to the touch, Jack Frost's patterns were scattered across the panes, but didn't stop there. Little by little, frost crept in around the wooden frame, filling the gaps with crystals. When Jordan came close, the ice receded slightly when her warm breath struck it. It halted, waiting. As soon as she inhaled, the ice advanced again.

    Terrified, Jordan backed away from the window. The wind increased. She could feel it sneaking in with the ice. Grabbing her robe and slippers, she ran from her room, shutting the door against the advancing cold. The only thought in her mind was to get somewhere the ice couldn't reach her—Brian. She needed Brian. Running down the stairs, she burst through the door to the den. Brian sat up in bed, startled and disoriented. Jordan flew at him, hopping on the bed. She scrambled under the covers, pulling them over her head. She huddled under the blankets, trembling. Brian lay on his side, rubbing her back over the covers.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  17. #77

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 28

    "Jordan, what's wrong?" Brian asked.


    "What are you talking about?" He lifted the blankets, talking to the top of her head.

    "There's ice trying to get in my room. It was coming around the window frame. They're trying to get us!" Her eyes met his, pleading. "I'm so scared! It tried to get me."

    He wanted to tell her it was her imagination and that everything would be all right, but he knew that wasn't the case. The attacks had been less than subtle and decidedly specific.

    "Do you want me to go look?"

    "No! Stay here! It will get you instead."

    "Jordan, our parents are up there. Aren't you worried about them?"

    She didn't respond, but Brian sensed she hadn't thought of that. So far, they'd been the targets, but what if that changed? Were their parents safe? Could they count on that?

    "We at least have to check on them," Brian told her. "We can't stay here and do nothing. If the ice is coming in, maybe our folks can help. Your dad was pretty great at the fire."

    "I'm so scared!"

    "I know. But I'm not leaving you down here alone, and I've got to at least check on my mom. She can't see. How would she even know something was wrong?"

    Jordan could understand the logic of that. She didn't like it, but she couldn't leave a blind woman helpless and in danger. She sat up, pulling her robe closer around her. Her bunny slippers seemed oddly ridiculous under the circumstances.

    Brian pulled on his sweater and a pair of heavy socks. He'd packed a telescoping baton his father had given him for his birthday. He took it out of his backpack, opening it. If there were ice creatures or some other creepy thing in the house, he wanted to be armed. With Jordan following him, he headed to the stairs.

    Jordan stopped Brian with a hand on his arm. She reached into the closet and pulled out a baseball bat. Brian hid a smile. How often had he seen horror movies where the gutsy young woman went after the serial killer with a bat? Of course, it usually ended badly for the gutsy young woman. He pushed that idea from his mind. He couldn't think of the possibility of anything happening to Jordan.

    He led the way up the stairs, warily approaching her bedroom door. The upstairs hallway was much colder than downstairs. Wind whistled under her door, chilling their feet. Brian and Jordan exchanged a look. Jordan bit her lower lip, holding it between her teeth. She nodded, eyes wide. Brian reached for the doorknob. It was so cold, it burned his hand. Turning it quickly, he released it and pushed the door open. Ice coated the inside and outside of Jordan's windows. Frost crept across the windowsill and down the wall, advancing quickly into her room. Brian didn't like the odds if frost creatures attacked them inside.

    "Go check on your folks," he whispered.

    "What about you?"

    Brian closed the door. "I'm going to check on my mom. Then we're going to see what we can do about getting some heat in this house."

    Jordan nodded sharply and moved to her parents' room. Brian went to the guest room at the other end of the hall. The doorknob felt fine when he touched it, not the burning cold of Jordan's room. His mother was sound asleep. There was no frost on her windows, except the amount one could expect with an ice storm going on outside. He shut the door quietly, heading back down the hall. Jordan met him at the top of the stairs, directly across from her room.

    "They're fine. I woke Dad."

    Moments later, her father joined them. In his robe and slippers, he still looked commanding. Brian was glad he was on their side. Heath opened Jordan's door and walked in. Hands on hips, he looked around.

    "This won't do," he remarked calmly. "Get towels and blankets," he told the children.

    "Do you think that will do any good?" Brian asked him. He followed Jordan to the linen cupboard in the hallway.

    "Can't hurt. I wish I had heat."

    "I have candles, Dad. And we have some cans of Sterno in the pantry."

    "You and Brian go get those and I'm going to see if I can block some of this with towels. Try not to wake your mothers."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  18. #78

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 29

    The teenagers went downstairs and rummaged around in the kitchen. They gathered matches, candles and cans of Sterno. When they got back, they found that Heath had blocked the base of the windows with towels and blankets. Jordan placed the Sterno cans and candles in foil pie pans scattered about the room. Brian lit them and they gathered in the center of the room, waiting.

    After a few minutes, they noticed the ice melting and evaporating. Slowly at first, it got faster when they moved the Sterno closer. Mindful of the towels, they waited and hoped that no fire elementals decided to come to call. The ice retreated and the wind died down.

    "Do you think it will be all right now, Dad?"

    "I don't know, sweet pea. It's okay for now. Why don't you kids go back to bed? I'll keep an eye on things."

    "I can't sleep in here, Daddy. I'm too scared."

    "Crawl in with your mother."

    "Why don't you go sleep in my bed," Brian suggested. "I'll stay up her with your dad."

    "I don't want to be alone!"

    The men exchanged a look. "I'll hit the recliner," Brian said manfully. "You take the bed."

    Jordan hugged him. She grabbed her duvet from the bed and wrapped it around herself as they went downstairs. Jordan hopped in the bed, pulling the blankets over her head, the duvet still around her.

    "Don't just stand there," she said, her voice muffled. "Get in here and warm up the bed."

    "Jordan, your dad will kill me...."

    "No, he won't. Nothing's going to happen."

    "Pretty sure he won't see it that way."

    Her angry face popped out from under the blankets. "You get in this bed this second or I'll start screaming."

    "Jordan...." Brian knew he was defeated. There was no arguing with her. Nothing would happen between them, but would her father believe that? "If your father kills me, you have to take care of my mom for life."

    She flashed a satisfied grin. "Done. Now get in this bed and warm it up."

    Brian lay down on the edge of the bed, as far from Jordan as he could get. She had other ideas. Shivering, she snuggled close, putting her head on his shoulder and her arm across his chest. She pulled his arm around her as she cuddled closer. With a contented sign, she fell asleep. The extra warmth of her body did feel good. Brian's eyes closed and he fell into a deep sleep.

    Morning sun filtered in around the drapes, piercing Brian's sleepy eyes. He tried to sit up, but an unexpected weight on his chest kept him pinned to the bed. Jordan lay with her head over his heart, her arm around his waist. One of his arms cradled her shoulders and the other held her hand that rested on his belly. He dearly hoped her father wouldn't see them, or he was a dead man. Carefully, he disentangled himself and got out of bed. Quietly, he wrapped the duvet around himself and got in the recliner. A few minutes later, Heath poked his head around the door.

    "Psst, Brian!"

    Acting like he'd been in a deep sleep, Brian sat up, stretching. "Yes, sir?"

    "Come see." He motioned excitedly.

    Brian got up and followed Jordan's father to the living room. The landscape was concealed under a thin layer of snow. Frost decorated the windows, creating a delicate filigree design on every pane.

    "Ever seen snow before?"

    "Once or twice. It's sure pretty."

    "It is indeed."

    "How are things upstairs?"

    "Seem to be okay. I camped out in Jordan's room and checked on the women a few times. Not a thing wrong. The power came back on a couple hours ago. Should warm up nicely soon. I'm glad I've got firewood."

    "Do we really want fire in the house after last night?"

    Heath paused. "I hadn't considered that. Why do you suppose the Sterno wasn't a problem?"

    "I've got a weird theory about that," Brian said as he followed Heath to the kitchen. "I got to thinking—all these things are natural elements. The fog, that's water and air. The swamp creatures Andre saw, that's earth. The ice is water. The fire was burning wood."

    "I see where you're going. Maybe because the Sterno and candles are petroleum based, they aren't attracted the same way."
    "Yeah. We can hope, right?"

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  19. #79

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 31

    Jordan's mouth tightened and she glared at him. "Just because you don't understand, doesn't make it any less true. You told me your mother makes teas from different herbs."

    "Yeah, so? They all do different things."

    "So, think of these stones as being the herbs. Each one has different properties and strengths. The blue ones help with healing, psychic projection and opening the third eye."

    "Now I know you're making things up. We don't have a third eye."

    Jordan thumped the center of his forehead. Brian's hand flew to his face, eyes watering.

    "Ouch! What was that for?"

    "For being an idiot! Could you put aside the fact that you're a moron and just listen for a couple minutes? This is real, documented evidence. Just because it's not in the science books doesn't make it any less true."

    "How do you know? Because your parents told you?" His tone was rude and scathing.

    Jordan flushed, her cheeks an angry red. "No. For your information, douchebag, I've had an out of body experience. I've viewed auras and I've been healed with crystals. I've seen more amazing stuff in the last five years than you've seen in a lifetime. My parents may be kind of out there, but they know things that could be very helpful to us. In fact, they need to see your necklace."

    "Why? So they can admire it?"

    "No, dummy. Because there's no one who knows more about this kind of thing than my mother. She's worked with metals and crystals for years."

    "How do you know she'll be of any help? Your psychic powers?"

    Jordan snatched the laptop and accessed one of the websites his father had referenced. There was a picture of Jacqueline Barrett's smiling face.

    "Mom wasn't always a drug rep. She has graduate degrees in geology and metallurgy as well as a doctorate in metaphysics. So she needs to see the necklace now. This was made for a very specific purpose. Even you should be able to figure that out—if your dense brain will let you accept something beyond your own micro-existence."

    Brain put his hand on hers. Jordan tried to snatch her hand away, but he gripped more firmly, willing her to look at him. He kept his voice calm, his face open and receptive.

    "I'm sorry, okay? In case you haven't noticed, a lot of weird stuff has happened to me—to us, lately. I'm scared out of my mind and it seems easier to call this crap and move on with my life. Because if this real, then the rest is real and I'm not ready to face it. I want to turn my back, walk away and forget it's happening."

    "You're not the type to turn your back on anything."

    "Thank you. Neither are you. But wouldn't you love to be able to pass this all off with a shrug and pretend you are?"

    "Yeah." Jordan took both his hands in hers as she gazed into his eyes.

    "Let's go talk to our folks. I have a feeling my mom and your dad could also be helpful."

    "Me too."

    They carried Brian's laptop to the kitchen, prepared to talk to their parents. A man they didn't know sat with them, sipping tea. He was the strangest looking man Brian had ever seen. His features looked African American, though his nose was very flat and pointy, the nostrils almost slits. His hair hung in heavy dreads, well past his shoulders and wore shabby clothing like a tramp. The thing that really set him apart was his skin color. He wasn't some normal shade of brown. His skin looked as if he'd bathed in black paint. His eyes were pools of black against a sclera so white, it glowed. His teeth were the whitest Brian had ever seen, though his lips seemed almost blue.

    "Honey," Maribelle Casey said with a smile. "This is Mr. Deidrich. He's going to stay with us for awhile."


    "Yes," she replied. "He's agreed to come to the house and live there until your father comes home."

    "That could be awhile," Brian said rather rudely to Mr. Deidrich.

    "Not a problem, son. As an old family friend, I came when I was called."

    "If you're such an old family friend, why haven't I ever met you or even heard of you before?" Brian's eyes became slits.

    "Oh, Maribelle, you never mentioned me to your darling boy? I'm hurt!"

    "The subject never came up, Gavin."

    Brian's lip curled in disgust. "Nice to meet you."

    "And you too, young man." Gavin Deidrich held out his hand for Brian to shake it.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  20. #80

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 32

    Skin crawling, Brian took the black man's hand. He hair on his arm stood up like he'd touched a Tesla plasma ball. Jordan stood slightly behind Brian's right shoulder. He could feel her presence and appreciated the fact she was backing him up. Their parents seemed oddly subdued.

    "How did you know to find us here?" Brian asked, chin up, slightly defiant. He didn't trust Gavin Deidrich and didn't care if the man knew it.

    "Little sniffing around. It's a small town, after all. When I didn't find you at home, I asked until someone told me."

    "I'll have to be sure to talk to the neighbors about minding their own business," Brian said.

    Gavin Deidrich's eyes glittered, spots of darkness in his black face. "You do that. Meanwhile, why don't you join us for a cup of tea? My own blend."

    "I think I'll pass. Jordan?"

    "We need to go out for a little while," she said quickly, her voice tense. "We're going to meet some of our friends."

    "I'll be happy to drive you," Mr. Deidrich made to rise.

    "Not necessary," Brian interjected. "We're fine, thanks. A walk in the snow will be fun."

    "Fresh air and exercise," Jordan added.

    "Bundle up," Jackie said. "And be home for supper at six thirty."

    "Yes, ma'am," Jordan replied automatically.

    Brian hugged and kissed his mother's cheek, hoping that whatever Deidrich had given her wasn't going to cause lasting harm. He hugged Jackie and shook Mr. Barrett's hand, squeezing extra hard as he channeled the thought, 'Snap out of it. You're drugged.' He had no idea if it would work, but of the three, Heath seemed the least affected by the brew.

    A slow smile spread across Gavin Deidrich's face. It was an ugly, predatory expression. "See you two at dinner."

    "Not if we see you first," Jordan snapped. That was the sort of reply that would normally have earned her a sharp reprimand from her mother. When none came, she grabbed Brian, dragging him out of the room by his elbow.

    They threw on their warm clothing and scurried out the door. Gavin Deidrich was waiting in the foyer for them. He opened the door, grinning nastily, the cheer not reaching his eyes.

    "You two have fun, now. I'll be here when you get back."

    "I certainly hope you won't," Brian said calmly. "Because I don't trust you and I don't like you and I think you should leave. You aren't welcome."

    "But Jordan's parents say I am."

    "But I say you aren't. You need to leave," Brian said, meeting the dark, forbidding gaze with a frown.

    Mr. Deidrich shivered. His features moved and changed slightly and Brian saw the same grimace he'd seen in the thief's face a few days ago. Making himself touch the older man, he pushed a little with his mind.

    "You need to leave. You aren't welcome."

    Deidrich shivered again, but straightened his shoulders, smiling. "When you learn to use that thing better, you come see me. Then it might be a different conversation. Meanwhile, y'all have fun."

    Wishing he could drive, Brian trotted down the steps. Jordan waited on the sidewalk for him, shivering with fear.

    "Who is he?"

    "I don't know, but I don't trust him. I think he drugged our parents or took control of their minds, or something."

    "Got that, huh? You're not as dumb as you act." She hunkered down in her jacket. "You need to call Andre."

    "I agree. Let's get a little further from the house and I'll do it."

    "I bet the coffee shop is open. Why don't we go there? They have free wi-fi and we can get a hot chocolate."

    "Good idea." He measured his stride to Jordan's shorter legs.

    On the way to the coffee shop, he called Andre. The other boy sounded concerned when he answered.

    "Dude, I was fixing to call you. You been on my mind since last night. Are you okay?"

    "I'll tell you about it when I see you. Can you get away?"

    "Sure. I can't bring all the gang. Sweet and Louisa have to work today. Me and Ginnifer are free."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

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