V I S I T O R S -- Downstream -- Part 1
Alice tossed and turned. Ghastly images flitted across her brain and crouched on the edges of her mind, like children playing hide 'n seek. In light of recent events, sleep was becoming a dreaded chore, but Alice's waking hours were even worse: much worse.
Listening to Joanna and Duncan at recent town meetings had been mere confirmation for Alice. She'd known all along that something was in town.
She'd known, because Alice knew things.
It wasn't an enjoyable gift and she'd always kept it well hidden--fearing ridicule and hostility from small-minded neighbors. Once, just once, Alice had tried to use her gift to help the police locate a missing child . . .
But that was in the past, a different time, different town, and a lifetime ago. One thing that Alice had learned from her experience, however, was that despite what she was supposed to teach the children, police aren't always our friends . . .
Best not to dwell on the past. In truth, Alice had a difficult time trusting anyone and everyone. That was why she'd purchased her cute little house at the bottom of the dead end street known as Wooded Gully. Her job, as third grade teacher, was a mere fifteen minute walk through the woods to the elementary school playground beyond. Other than fellow teachers, Alice spent her days talking with eight-year-olds. Why little Melanie Thomas had been in Alice's class until . . .
"I heard my dad say that when he found them, they were all black and charred, like burnt toast," little Nate Birdsong bragged to a circle of wide-eyed children in the playground.
"Where?" piped up little Crystal Rogers.
"I know where," said Eddy Parker.
Frowning, Nate bellowed. "You don't know everything just cause you live up there on Wooded Hill by the Thomas place. Let me tell the story."
"Well just cause your father's the sheriff, it don't mean that you know everything either," Eddy said. "They were right there--in their house."
Eddy looked around the circle from one shock-filled face to another as if expecting some negative noises.
"I looked in the window. There they were all laying--like they were just sleeping, you know--on a big pile of leaves in their living room."
"Leaves?" little Crystal questioned, wrinkling her pug nose. "Leaves in their living room?"
"Yup, black leaves like maybe they all got burnt up together," Eddy said.
"Cept the leaves where there before. I seen 'em a couple days before the Sheriff came and looked in at the dead Thomases. Seen that mean old man raking them out of the house before, too."
Carefully listening around the edges of that strange little conversation, Alice heard the children talk about how Melanie's uncle -- that awful, mean old Man -- was missing; only his gun had been found half-submerged in the shallows of Black Lake. According to little Nate Birdsong, bullets had been fired from the gun and Mr. Long's car had been all shot up, like gangsters had gotten him.
"There now, that'll be enough of that, Nate Birdsong," Alice had said, her voice shaking slightly as she broke up the morbid circle. "You'll be giving this class nightmares for sure."
Continued in my next post.
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