Devil Cares: Chapter Four

May 8, 2008 at 5:00 pm (Devil Cares) ()

More details about the trip available on my LJ.

Just as a side note, this is my least favorite title pic I’ve made so far.

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Kimber had to admit to some amusement as he surveyed the scene, despite the circumstances. Wesson was on his feet and Barrett was slowly following suit. Rain was coming in through the shattered glass door. Barrett was mostly soaked, his hair and clothes both plastered to his body.
Tucking his holy icon back under his shirt, Kimber started forward into the family room. His pace was not slow, but it was deliberate and unhurried. Beneath an arched brow he took in the used paper plates on the bar and the dirty dishes in the sink. Shaking his head, he turned back to his brothers.
It was unnerving the way they’d changed. Wes had gone from a slip of a boy to a young man, muscled and tall. Barrett hadn’t changed overly much, grown into his shoulders some. It was almost like déjà vu being back at the ranch after all the time he’d been away from it. The night he’d left he had every intention of never coming back. He’d changed so much since he’d last seen the place, but the house hadn’t changed at all. Oh, there were superficial differences. The TV was newer, a few of the carpets had been replaced, but all in all it was like the four years in Chicago had never happened. Kimber wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
“Nice weather we’re having, hmm?” he said.
Wes rolled his eyes. “What was that thing?”
“A wight, I suspect,” Kimber answered.
“What?” Wesson asked.
“A wight,” Barrett began, but Kimber cut him off.
“It’s a corrupted nature spirit, warped by some kind of intense negative experience. Human death, usually.”
Grimly, Barrett said, “The ravine under the bridge is the place in town where most of the spirits gather.”
Kimber nodded. “Yes, that’s probably why it came here. If wights do manifest due to human death, they seek out the same blood as that which spawned it.”
Wes looked back and forth between his brothers. “So, are we good then? We ran it off.”
“No,” Barrett said, “wights don’t last long without human blood. If it can’t get ours it will go for whoever else happens to be around.”
“The hands’ bunkhouse is closer than town,” Wes said.
“We should probably head there first,” Kimber agreed.
Turning toward the stairs, Wes said, “I’ll go get the key so we can open the gun cabinet—”
“No need for that,” Kimber informed him, “wights can only be returned to nature by something made from nature. A spike of evergreen usually works best.”
Barrett gave his brother a look. “I’m surprised you remember this stuff.”
“It’s not the kind of thing one forgets,” Kimber replied coolly.
There was an uncomfortable beat of silence before Barrett turned to Wesson and said, “We need to get on the move. Run out to the back porch and grab the flashlights.”
“I’m coming too,” he said, not moving a muscle.
“You want to come after a hunting wight in the dark? Absolutely not,” Kimber said.
Very deliberately Wesson replied, “My parents died a few days ago, and I need to kill something.”
With that, he turned and headed to the back porch.
Barrett and Kimber shared a look. There wasn’t much they could say about it.
“Mom grew evergreen in her greenhouse, correct?” Kimber asked.
Barrett nodded. Kimber headed out the door. He felt Barrett’s eyes on him and knew he was watching the way Kimber walked. It was not effeminate, but it was, well, graceful. He held himself with poise and balance, with posture. He walked tall with no slouching. He walked as if he knew exactly where he was going and what he would do when he got there. Their father had always said to move with purpose, but would Barrett remember?
When Kimber got to the greenhouse, which was a little reinforced glass building off the side of the house, memories came swarming back. The kitchen herbs were still in their boxes along the far window. On the wall across from them were the more…esoteric plants. He remembered the days when he’d been younger and his mother had described the various uses plants could be put to. Lavender for peace, and a sleep aid, too. Aloe was good for burns and stings. Sunny little marigolds were good for warding off negativity. Back then, he’d thought his mother had known everything.
After a beat, he pushed his sentimentality away and reached for a pair of pruning clippers in the supply cupboard. He discovered this wasn’t necessary as his mother had kept a few thick dowels of evergreen in a box in the bottom of the cabinet. Of course she did, he thought, she was always practical like that. Fishing a whittling knife out of the supplies, he tucked the box beneath his arm and headed back inside. He stopped and went back to pluck a few marigolds. Kimber closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the warm feeling of the greenhouse before heading back out into the storm.
Wes had retrieved the flashlights and Barrett had already dressed in new clothes by the time Kimber made it back to the house. He tossed each of his brothers a dowel, planning to quickly sharpen his own before passing on the whittling knife, but they each pulled out pocket knives. He should have known.
“You got a heavier coat than that?” Barrett asked him.
Kimber nodded. “Yes, it’s in the trunk of the rental car outside.”
His brothers had already donned theirs so as they headed off toward the bunkhouse Kimber quickly fished out his heavy Carhartt coat. It was uglier than hell, but it would do for a night of creature killing.
He caught up to his brothers and together they headed across the Mossberg property. Kimber was blown away by the bizarre weather; even in drought years they’d had some snow at Christmas, and even when they hadn’t they’d certainly never had rain. Especially this howling, biting, miserable kind of rain.
The flashlights weren’t much use, but without moonlight it was the best they could manage. They hurried as much as they were able, the rain, wind, and night doing their best to slow them down. Kimber would have broken into a run, but feared he was too out of touch with the place after all this time to not twist his ankle if he did.
Two things happened at once. The first was that a scream and a gunshot rent the air, the second was that all three Mossbergs burst into motion regardless of the hazards. After what seemed like far too long the lights from the windows of the bunkhouse came into view. The bunkhouse was essentially a long, narrow building evocative of one floor of a college dorm. There was a communal space inside the door with a hall that stretched to the right, leading to the hands’ rooms.
As the Mossbergs neared the house they saw the door was shattered open. This increased their speed. They burst inside to see the wight, blood dripping from its mouth, as the only hand Kimber remembered (Bill Wallace) shot it full of rock salt from his shotgun. An almost instantaneous evaluation of the scene showed that another hand was standing in the hallway that led to the rooms, holding up a faintly-glowing cross with shaking hands. Two other hands were crouched against the wall, one bleeding from the top of his shoulder as the other tried to stop the bleeding with a rolled up t-shirt.
Falling into familiar patterns, the three brothers separated. Barrett went left, heading toward Bill. Kimber withdrew the marigolds and scattered some at the door before heading to the right. Wesson started to head over to where the injured ranch hand was sitting by the window, but the wight’s increased howl was the only warning as it leaped to its feet.
Kimber realized their presence on the scene was a doubled-edged sword. They alone carried the weapons necessary to defeat this creature, but in the presence of the blood it needed to survive it redoubled its strength.
Gathering itself up, still making its inhuman screeches, the wight launched itself at Kimber. He whipped his icon from beneath his shirt, lighting the room with a bluish glow far brighter than the one the hand had managed. The wight fell away, its already ear-splitting wails intensifying. Another round of rock salt slammed into its back, and Kimber saw it look toward the door. Apparently the faint resistance to its presence provided by the marigold was a safer course for the creature than the holy glow or the rock salt.
Hoping to get there before the wight made it out the door, Kimber headed that direction. Too late, he realized it was a feint as the creature launched itself at Wesson.
“Wes!” Barrett shouted, and Bill instantly pumped the last of his rock salt toward the thing. Kimber swirled desperately around, trying to correct his mistake. He noticed Barrett was also racing toward their brother.
As it turned out, neither of them was needed. The round of salt to the back had thrown it off enough that Wes was able to fall to the floor and let it sail over him. Before it could recover Wesson rolled toward it, bowling into it and flipping it onto its back. Screaming and wailing, it clawed at Wesson’s face and neck, trying to slice deep enough to kill, but Wesson kept his cool. Holding his arm up across his face, the wight’s claws bit into his forearm instead of his vital areas. Then, Wes brought up his other hand and brought the spike of evergreen down hard into the thing’s chest.
Again Wesson raised his hand and brought it down, thick black ichor spilling from the wight’s wound. It screeched and shrieked as once again Wes staked it, and again. Kimber stopped his rush toward Wes at the look on his brother’s face.
Finally, the thing was still and quiet beneath him. The light from the holy icons faded and Kimber tucked his back beneath the shirt. Wes dropped his arm, breathing hard. His head was bowed and the hand holding the evergreen with a white-knuckle grip was shaking. Barrett stopped in his tracks much like Kimber had, and now they shared a look. Looking back toward Wes, Kimber closed the remaining distance and gently touched his shoulder.
“It’s okay, Wes, it’s dead,” he said softly.
Jerkily, the youngest Mossberg rose to his feet. He still didn’t look at anyone.
“Barrett, is there still a first aid kit in the kitchenette?” Kimber asked.
His brother nodded.
Touching Wes again on the shoulder, Kimber said, “Go with Barrett to the kitchen, he’ll fix up your arm.”
He looked behind him to the bleeding ranch hand. “You go as well, though yours looks like it might need proper medical attention.”
Very slowly the hand rose to his feet, the one who had been staunching his bleeding with a t-shirt helping him. Wes headed toward Barrett and they all went into the small kitchen the bunkhouse boasted.
Sighing, Kimber looked down at the wight’s body with a scowl.
“Well, it’s good to see you again, Kimber,” Bill said, “even if it’s not under the best circumstances.”
The big man came over to him and shook his hand, eyeing him up down.
“You look good, Chicago treating right, then?”
Kimber smiled. “Yes, Chicago’s just fine. It’s good to see you too.” He glanced around. “You’re the only one I still know.”
Bill laughed; it was the deep from the belly kind of laugh that Kimber remembered. “Yes, you’ll have to get acquainted with the rest of them.”
“Perhaps at another time,” Kimber said smoothly, “we’ve got other matters on hand just now.”
Bill sighed and looked down at the body. “Oh, don’t you worry none. I still know how to take care of this. Salt the ground, bless the wood, pile on the body, salt it too, and light it up sky high.”
“And salt the ashes for good measure,” Kimber said, “if you like.”
Nodding, Bill said, “You can never be too careful.”
Kimber was about to head toward the kitchen before he had a thought, and turned back to Bill.
“Bill, can you do me a favor?”
“Shoot.”
“This was a harmless nature spirit once. When it’s finished burning, can you gather the ashes and spread them in some trees, or in a river or something?”
“Sure, I imagine I can round up some place nice.”
“Thank you, Bill.”
“You bet.”
In the kitchen, Wesson was sitting at the table with his arm all bandaged as Barrett stitched up the ranch hand the wight had attacked.
He glanced up briefly as Kimber came in. “I think he’ll be alright. It wasn’t that deep, just jagged. Cleaned it out with some salt water just in case.”
“That was probably for the best.” Kimber sighed. “You think Bill can run us back up to the house in the truck? I have zero desire to walk out in that storm again.”
Barrett shrugged as he finished up the stitches. “Sure, if we ask him.”
“Then let’s ask.”


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9 Comments

  1. Yahrlan said,

    Hmm, anyone else noticing that every holy icon we’ve seen has been specifically called whatever (all crosses as my count goes) except Kim’s?

    Anyway, I think our dear Mr. Gray was tired as he proof-read…
    ~his mother had described the various used plants could be put to.~ uses?
    ~a hall that stretched at to the right, leading to the hands’ rooms.~ off to?
    ~“Well, it’s good to see again, Kimber,”~ see you again?

    Devil Cares Chapter Playlist

  2. Zappaz said,

    *clicks tongue* Yeah, Yahr, I’ve noticed that too. Interesting. And I can only think of two round holy icons off of the top of my head… Hmm.

    Also, you go, Wes. You kill that wight.

    Awesome chapter, as always!

  3. Seth Gray said,

    Wow, I’m full of fail. Thanks for the catches, Yahr.

    I’m glad you’re both enjoying.

  4. jekloneo said,

    No other mistakes… unless I’m tired too?
    Nice chapter, by the way.

  5. Kyla said,

    “When Kimber got to the greenhouse, …memories came swarming back. The kitchen herbs where still in their boxes along the far window.” needs to say “The kitchen herbs were…window.”

    Told you I should proofread!!! Love you, your “old sage teacher Aunt”

  6. Kyla said,

    “He remember the days when he’d been younger and his mother had described the various uses plants could be put to.” Try “He remembered the days when he’d been younger and his mother had described the various uses of each plant.”

    The remembering is past tense and should be reflected as such. Remember NOT to end a sentence with a preposition!!
    XOX

  7. Kyla said,

    “As it turned out, neither of them was needed. The round of salt to the back had thrown it off enough that Wes was able to fall the floor and let it sail over him.” This needs another “to” after fall — “…Wes was able to fall to the floor…him.”

    And,

    “Wes headed toward Barrett and they all heading into the small kitchen the bunkhouse boasted.” Need to change “they all heading” Maybe try, “Wes started toward Barrett and they all headed into the small kitchen the bunkhouse boasted.”

    Sorry to make so many comments, but it is late for this old woman. Also, I want to give my edit comments as I find them, so I don’t lose them by the time I finish reading! I’m not really reading to edit, but for enjoyment, so know the things I point out are JUMPING out at me.

  8. yinyang said,

    “Shaking his head he turned back to his brothers.” –> “Shaking his head, he turned back to his brothers.”

    “Grimly, Barrett said, ‘the ravine under the bridge is the place in town where most of the spirits gather.'” –> “Grimly, Barrett said, ‘The ravine under the bridge is the place in town where most of the spirits gather.'”

    “Kimber nodded, ‘Yes, that’s probably why it came here.'” –> “Kimber nodded. ‘Yes, that’s probably why it came here.'”

    “‘You want to come after a hunting wight in the dark? Absolutely not.’ Kimber said.” –> “‘You want to come after a hunting wight in the dark? Absolutely not,‘ Kimber said.”

    “He held himself with poise and balance, with posture, he walked tall with no slouching.” –> “He held himself with poise and balance, with posture: he walked tall with no slouching.” Just mixing it up a little.

    “Their father had always said to move with purpose, would Barrett remember?” –> “Their father had always said to move with purpose; would Barrett remember?”

    “Kimber nodded, ‘Yes, it’s in the trunk of the rental car outside.'” –> “Kimber nodded. ‘Yes, it’s in the trunk of the rental car outside.'”

    “Kimber was blown away by the bizarre weather, even in drought years they’d had some snow at Christmas, and they’d certainly never had rain.” –> “Kimber was blown away by the bizarre weather even in drought years they’d had some snow at Christmas, but they’d certainly never had rain.”

    “An almost instantaneous evaluation of the scene showed that another hand was standing in the hallway that lead to the rooms, holding up a faintly-glowing cross with shaking hands.” –> “An almost instantaneous evaluation of the scene showed that another hand was standing in the hallway that led to the rooms, holding up a faintly-glowing cross with shaking hands.”

    “‘Barrett, is there still a first aid kit in the kitchenette?’ Kimber asked.

    He nodded.”

    –>

    “‘Barrett, is there still a first aid kit in the kitchenette?’ Kimber asked.

    Barrett nodded.” I know Barrett is the one that’s nodding, and most people would be able to figure it out quickly enough, but usually pronouns refer to the closest noun that fits, and it’s better to put the name so there’s no chance of confusion.

    “Kimber smiled. ‘Yes, Chicago’s just fine. It’s good to see you too.’

    He glanced around. ‘You’re the only one I still know.'”

    –>

    “Kimber smiled. ‘Yes, Chicago’s just fine. It’s good to see you too.’ He glanced around. ‘You’re the only one I still know.'” I removed the space because I think it’s unnecessary. If you added it for dramatic effect, you could write, “He paused and glanced around.” or something similar.

    “Bill laughed, it was the deep from the belly kind of laugh that Kimber remembered.” –>”Bill laughed; it was the deep from the belly kind of laugh that Kimber remembered.” Actually, a colon may fit better in this sentence than in the other one.

    I haven’t mention it before, but you’ve created a richly detailed universe. Things like the way wights are vanquished, and the background of the city – one of the shopkeepers usually leaves free pizza out, but this year it all got soggy – are really great. 😀

  9. Seth Gray said,

    Nice catches, I could get used to that.

    And thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you’re liking the background details. They aren’t there for nothing.

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