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The Fallen Chronicles: Episode 37

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issue_37[Mysteriousheartland.com] The melodic tones of Woods of Ypres’ song “Years of Silence” filled the Fallen’s Toyota Corolla as it slid through the sludge and ice along the First Avenue bridge and into downtown Sterling, Illinois. Mike managed to keep the car on course as he popped cheesy tots into his awaiting mouth. Aurelia sat next to him in the front passenger seat and Greg, Davin, and Misa sat in the backseat. Wedged between Greg and Misa, Davin gripped Mike and Aurelia’s headrests. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

In the left hand lane, cars crawled bumper to bumper while their drivers cursed and honked at one another. “Glad I have a death wish, because otherwise I would be pissing myself right about now,” Davin yelled over the music as the car swerved.

“Oh, relax,” Aurelia replied. “If we crashed, the windshield would cushion the blow.”

Davin laughed nervously.

“Hey,” Mike interrupted, “I’ve never gotten into an accident, so pipe down.”

Greg grinned. “Yeah, would you rather go back to riding in the trunk?”

“You guys are great friends,” Davin said. His voice dripped with sarcasm.

The Toyota passed the sign for Second Street. “We’re getting close,” Mike said and slightly depressed the breaks. His eyes strained to see out the smeared windshield. It was getting darker. Over the rooftops of businesses to the northeast, he noticed a column of black smoke mingling with the cloud cover to block out the sun.

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The Seventh Avenue Dead End. Photo by the author.

David Gold’s voice, scratchy and filtered through the tape deck and worn out speakers, cut through the momentary silence. But what good are memories with no one to stand beside you? What good are memories if those you made them with despise you?

Mike turned the corner onto Third Street and his car crawled to a stop. Two police cruisers and a fire truck blocked the road, and an officer in a heavy coat detoured traffic north. Flashing emergency lights lit up the storefronts and fresh snow like lasers at a dance party, and flames licked out an old warehouse down the block. Black and gray ash rained down and mixed with the snow.

“Unbelievable,” Mike said. “We’ll have to find a way around.”

“Yeah, let’s beat it before that traffic cop checks our license plates,” Aurelia urgently suggested.

Mike carefully turned the car and began driving away. “We’ll just go around to the other block and find parking on Seventh Avenue.”

With Third Street blocked, the Fallen worked their way north, past Fourth Street—which was one-way in the wrong direction—all the way up to Fifth Street. There they turned right and saw the street was clear. By that time, Woods of Ypres was midway through the song “Deepest Roots: Belief that all is Lost.” Misa sat silent and expressionless in the backseat, listening to the music.

“Let’s go over the case one more time,” Mike said. “Seventh Avenue dead-ends into railroad tracks. People have seen a woman’s ghost there. She’s a ‘Broken Heart,’ a ghost that is searching for a lost child or lover. I hope we can confirm the story.”

“Why?” Greg asked as the Corolla turned onto Seventh Avenue and headed south.

“What?”

“Who cares if the story is true?” Greg continued, gesturing wildly.

“We do, I guess,” Mike replied.

“If the story is true, we might learn something,” Misa explained. “Aware or not, this ghost is in continual contact with the netherworld, and can tell us information about your… predicament. These ghosts usually find everything except what they’re looking for, especially when it comes to information. Their longing draws it in. They are like metaphysical sponges.”

“What she said.”

“When did you become an expert?” Greg demanded. “A decade ago you needed us to save your ass from your bloodsucking father. Now suddenly you’re like a paranormal guru. And why don’t we just ask Aurelia’s imaginary friend? We wouldn’t have had to drive three hours in the middle of winter.”

“A lot’s happened since New Orleans,” Misa replied. “I’ve seen and done things you can’t even imagine.”

“Everything but take a shower,” Greg grumbled.

“That’s enough,” Mike said, and as he reached to take a friendly swipe at Greg, he did not notice the Plymouth Voyager turning onto Seventh Avenue in front of them. Mike slammed on the breaks, and his dark blue Toyota Corolla swerved in the newly fallen snow. He let out a string of obscenities. The Voyager cleared the intersection just in time, however, and the Fallen’s Corolla slid on the icy pavement and became marooned on a snowbank just past the stop sign. The Voyager drove off, seemingly unconcerned with the near-accident.

“Here’s where we get out.”

The Fallen hurriedly left their car. The Seventh Avenue dead end was in sight. On that final block before the railroad tracks, the street turned to brick and only a half-dozen houses stood on either side. “There’s the railroad tracks on the other side of that barrier,” Misa said, pointing south toward the street’s terminus. “Let me do the talking.”

As the quintet walked down the dirty, icy street, Davin realized how odd, unexpected, and alarming their presence might be to the folks living there. He could not imagine many visitors coming to that neck of the woods, let alone a group of five people dressed all in black in the dead of winter. His eyes darted from house to house, looking for any signs of movement.

It did not take long for the Fallen to reach the dead end. They hopped over the guardrail and waded through the knee-high snow to the railroad tracks. A few yards away, the Rock River crept along, slowed by chunks of ice.

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The railroad tracks at the Seventh Avenue Dead End. Photo by the author.

“So where is this ghost?” Greg demanded.

Not long after the words left his mouth, a blast of icy wind cut through the rail bed, rustling the tall, yellow grass on either side. At the same time, a feeling of intense sadness and nausea hit Aurelia. Her friends seemed unaffected, but all five witnessed the flickering specter that formed before their eyes. It was transparent and smoky gray, almost indistinguishable from the dirty snow and overcast sky.

Inaudible but unmistakable, her cries echoed in the minds of those present. “Where are my babies? Where are my babies?”

The Fallen exchanged glances to confirm they each heard the same ghostly voice.

Misa spoke up first. “Yes,” she said. “I know where they are. But first, you have to tell us what we want to know.”

The ghost gave no response, and the air became still.

“I know you’ve felt the terrible creature unleashed on this world one year ago,” Misa continued. “You have felt the cold dread of its presence, and its followers’ determination. My friends need to know how to return it to the netherworld before it destroys them. You’ve looked everywhere for your missing children. Surely you stumbled on something that can help us. Tell us, and I’ll give you what you’re looking for.”

“You know where my children are? You can help me?” the ghost asked, desperately.

“Yes,” Mike replied, knowing it was a lie.

The specter dissolved, and for several moments, the quintet believed she was not coming back. “We don’t know where the hell her kids are,” Greg whispered. “How are we supposed to help?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Misa replied. “Fix your mistake and send that creature back to the astral realm.”

“I don’t feel right about this,” Mike protested.

Misa did not have time to respond before the woman’s ghost reappeared, holding a folded piece of cloth. “Take this,” she said and quickly handed it to Mike. “On it, you’ll find the information you’re looking for. Now, where are my babies?”

“We’ll return before the year is over,” Misa said, then whispered an incantation and waved her hand. The ghost vanished. “A year is nothing to a ghost,” she added.

Mike looked at the cloth. The ghost had burned a list of ritual items into it.

“Let’s beat it before folks start wondering why we’re here,” Davin said.

Mike agreed. He stuffed the cloth into his trench coat pocket, and the quintet walked back to the brick street. “We’ll reunite them, right?” he asked. “The Fallen never go back on their word.”

“Suit yourself,” Misa replied. “Right now we must find those items before it’s too late.”

[New episode every Friday…]

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This page is copyright Mysteriousheartland.com, 2016. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.

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