Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 30

“Well now, you want to keep me around for Clyburne, don’t you? Unless you’ve decided he ain’t much of a threat. He thinks I’m on his side, after all.”

Gantry eyed him for a while, his expression difficult to make out in the dark. Finally, he lowered the pistol. “Sure,” he said, “sure, Quinn. Because you’re really on our side, right?”

“You can help me find Temperance. Clyburne couldn’t convince me he cared about her if he tried.”

“Yep, Clyburne’s a cold fish isn’t he? I’m willing to keep her alive for a while, just ’cause she’s such a fine looking woman. Let’s see if we find him up there, shall we?” He stepped to one side. “After you.”

“Gonna draw my gun, if you don’t mind,” Jefferson said, as he started forward, following the flow of people.

“Nah, you just keep it where it is. I’ll pick off anyone who gets troublesome–don’t worry your head about it. But without Farthing here it makes me a bit nervous, you waving a gun around. Besides, if we run across Clyburne you’ll want to be acting all friendly toward him, right?”

Jefferson made no reply, simply falling in with the slow-moving flow of people. He tried to keep an eye on the shadowy figures, but they seemed to be ignoring him, and each other. It was hard enough picking his way along as the ground got steadily more swampy, without trying to keep an eye on anything else.

“You think these people are headed underwater?” Gantry asked from behind him.

“Hope not,” Jefferson replied shortly. If nothing else, he hoped to find Temperance, up ahead, and not after she’d drowned herself.

Gantry chuckled dryly, and Jefferson considered how he might be able to get a hand on his gun and shoot the bastard through his coat. But Gantry would be watching for that. Hell, he was probably goading Jefferson in hopes he’d make a move.

He stepped in a soft spot and cursed quietly as he pulled out his wet foot. He pushed aside the dripping branch of a cedar. Things were getting darker and more closed-in as the cedars grew more dense.

“You feeling that?” Gantry asked.

“Yeah,” Jefferson replied shortly. He was referring to the feeling of the Sciribath, a crawling, oily feeling that was steadily growing as they got further into the swamp. It was hard to say exactly when it had appeared, but there was no denying it now.

“Might be we got more to worry about than Clyburne,” Gantry said. He was getting positively chatty, nerves most likely. Jefferson wondered if he’d talked to Farthing like that. Temperance said that he got more talkative that usual himself, when there were Sciribath around, but just then he didn’t feel much like talking.

A low noise sounded ahead of them, loud, in a way, but so low that Jefferson felt it more than heard it. It was something he remembered from back when he’d first met Chipper and Temperance, back in the village Colonel Tacy had set up.

Both he and Gantry had stopped at the sound, and he swore softly. The sound had come from up ahead, and not as far ahead as Jefferson’s gut would have liked.

“What do you think, Quinn?” Gantry asked.

Jefferson didn’t answer, just pushing forward through the cedars. Abruptly, the undergrowth cleared up as they reached an area of lower vegetation creeping up on open water, black in the dim moonlight. Jefferson could make out the shadowy forms of people gathered on the spongy shore, standing still and staring out over the water as near as he could tell. It was hard to estimate how many there were, but it was dozens, at the very least.

Jefferson and Gantry came to a halt, trying to make sense of the scene. Gradually, Jefferson became aware of other forms interspersed among the people. Forms that looked just enough like humans to make his skin crawl. He only noticed them because, unlike the humans, they seemed to have noticed Jefferson and Gantry. They began to turn and shuffle forward.

“Aw hell,” Gantry said.


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams


~ by smwilliams on December 1, 2012.