A 'Novel' Glimpses At Chastisement

[adapted from: The Seven]

Linda woke up with a start.

She had another dream but couldnít put her finger on it.

If she didn't catch it immediately, it would be gone.

She struggled, heard someone in the living room, called out. "Steve?"

"Yeah," he said after what seemed like an eternity. "Did I wake you?"

"No. A dream did. I donít know what it was about. What time did you get back?"

"Just now."

"Casale said it was nothing serious."

"Right," said Renford, standing at the door, exhausted, backlit by a distant lamp. "Go back to sleep."

Linda glanced at the clock. Almost five. "If it wasn't serious why were you out there so long."

"Paperwork."

"Paperwork?"

"For a Code Six."

"Thatís vandalism?"

"Yes."

Linda sat up in bed. "Well what happened?" she asked admonishingly.

"There were pranksters making a racket in the woods, and then some vandalism at a farm at the far side of the TNT."

"Near Thatcher?"

"Right."

"Near the burial mound?"

"It had nothing to do with that," said Renford sharply. He began to undress.

"Well what happened at the farm?" she insisted.

"They killed a couple cows."

"Cows? They killed a couple cows? Who killed a couple of cows? Kids don't kill cows."

Renford feigned nonchalance, growing irritated. "I don't know. And a goat. They killed a goat. That's the whole story."

This struck Linda as strange. A farm. In her prayer group a friend named Louise had once gotten a "word of knowledge" that youíll know the danger when the cock crows. Her mind was moving quickly. "Was it one of those cattle mutilations?" asked Linda.

"Cattle mutilations?"

"Like out west. For years theyíve reported it in places like Colorado."

"Cows?"

"Horses. Cattle."

"I donít know," said Steve.

"Well, were any organs or eyes removed?"

It took Steve aback. "I guess youíd describe it that way."

"You'd 'guess'?"

"Someone took some body parts and also the blood."

"Blood?"

Renford reverted to silence, threading his legs into pajamas. "Don't read too much into it," he said, now feigning sleepiness.

"Too much into cows that were slain for no reason?" Linda shot back at him. She mulled it over. 'I could feel it in my spirit," she finally said, "and I prayed the whole time you were gone, until I passed out."

"You always pray."

"Spirits roam, you know. They roam or wander and they may be 'earthbound.' They get trapped here. They may have an attachment to someone or something -- or to a burial area. Itís a portal. The TNT is a power center. You can feel it. It would attract cultists."

Renford mentioned nothing about the scare on Thatcher and the gooseflesh that had erupted on the back of his neck. "I've never felt it," he said, before realizing the fib -- or trying to convince himself.

"I told you, the more you pray, the more you feel things. You cleanse inside, you feel things outside. Otherwise, you have a tin ear."

She was turning it into a sermon. He prayed too, although there were times when he mixed up the end of the Hail Mary with the Lord's Prayer.

Linda wouldn't let it go. "You were in danger," she said. "You were in danger and I think the whole town is in danger."

"Danger?"

"Thatís right," said Linda, now demure. "There are spirit forces, Steve, and they're all around this place. It's a vortex, and the center is the TNT."

"Spirits can manifest any way they like," she went on. "There are thousands of forms they take. They can appear as lights, as globules, as creatures. They can infect people. They can come in the physical or in dreams. I sense danger. I really do."

They settled down to sleep. Renford rolled over. Linda lay on her back. The town. The town. Iíve got to get in there or the whole town's gone.

That was it: thatís what she had heard again in her dream.

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