[Mysteriousheartland.com] The underbrush snapped and shuffled as Davin crawled up next to Aurelia. Dressed in camouflage pants and a black t-shirt, she was laying in the woods behind a partially decayed log two yards west of a horse trail that emptied into a street a stone-throw away. A small, burgundy-colored monument, inscribed with the name “FELIX,” sat at the mouth of the woods about halfway between the pair and the street. They watched the stoplights at the nearby intersection turn from red to green, and then Aurelia pointed her binoculars toward the well-worn Toyota Corolla parked along the curb on the other side of the intersection.
Inside the car, Emmet gestured with his fore and index fingers, and a flash of light answered from the woods. He rolled his eyes and turned up the volume on the cassette player. Orphaned Land’s “His Leaf Shall Not Wither” issued forth from the speakers. This sound quality is terrible, Emmet thought.
“I have a question,” Davin whispered. “Why are we crawling around like this? I’m sure that anyone passing by will be able to see us.”
Aurelia tilted her binoculars and stared at Davin. Without saying a word, she got to her feet, grabbed him by his shirt collar, and pulled him up. “We’ve been here for thirty minutes without anything to show for it,” she grumbled as she brushed off the front of her t-shirt. “I wonder if Mike and Greg are having any better luck.”
“Now, we’re back where it all started,” Mike said, referring to southwest suburban Chicago, where the Fallen began their investigations in Illinois nearly four years earlier. He stared out over Maple Lake as the sun began its descent. The maple trees were just beginning to show their autumn colors, and the air was still. Greg nodded approvingly. Behind them, in the small pull-off, sat two unfaired, black and chrome Suzuki GS500Es.
“What are we going to do when it’s all over?” Greg asked while massaging the few precious hairs that sprouted from his granite chin.
“I don’t know,” Mike replied. “We can go anywhere we want—once we’ve destroyed that creature.”
“Do you think it was worth it? It seems like it would have been a lot less trouble if we never found that portal to begin with.”
“Those zealots would have found it eventually,” Mike said mater-of-factly. “God knows what they would have done with it. At least we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Greg shot Mike a glance that said, “Me, worried?” and a long moment of silence followed. The moon began to show in the rapidly darkening sky. “Where the heck is this ghost light?” Greg finally exclaimed.
“I don’t know, but we should check on Aura, Davin, and Emmet at 95th and Kean. I wonder if they saw anything.”
Greg chuckled. “I doubt it, with Emmet there. As for me, I can’t wait to go to Chet’s Melody Lounge. At least Davin is old enough to drink now… legally anyway.”
“Hang on—I’m getting a text from him right now.”
[Davin]: OMG – You guys will never believe what happened
[Mike]: Stay there. We r coming.
Mike perked up. “Let’s get out of here. Davin says they saw something.”
As Greg and Mike turned their backs to Maple Lake, an orange ball of light, about a foot in diameter, flickered in the middle of the lake, just above the moon’s reflection. It sat there, steadily, as Greg and Mike mounted their GS500Es, then it vanished as quickly as it had arrived.
The pair made their way through the deserted streets of Willow Springs, turned down Kean Avenue, and pulled into the parking lot of Hidden Pond Woods. The woods were just a few yards north of the intersection of 95th and Kean. Aurelia, Davin, and Emmet stood next to Mike’s dark blue Toyota Corolla. They were chatting, laughing, and gesturing excitedly as Mike and Greg pulled their motorcycles alongside. As soon as they cut the engines, Davin blurted, “You guys just missed the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen!”
Emmet, who had been trying to keep a straight face, burst out laughing.
“That’s real funny, guys,” Mike grumbled. “Did you see something?”
“Nope—just as I expected,” Emmet replied in a tone that resembled gloating.
Mike spat. “We better get out of here then, before the cop shows up to chain the parking lot. The forest preserve closes at dusk.”
“What’s next?” Aurelia asked. “Fairmont Cemetery?” She paused. “What happened at Maple Lake? Did you see the light?”
Greg smiled. “Nope. I think it’s just an urban legend. Maybe headlights reflecting off the lake or something like that.”
“Maybe we need to stay at these places longer,” Davin suggested. “All of these reported sightings happen at random times—they don’t happen every day. If they did, they wouldn’t be mysterious or paranormal. They would just be normal. We’ve been lucky, but the paranormal isn’t going to appear just because we show up.”
The others ignored him.
“What’s next on the list?” Aurelia asked impatiently. “We’ve seen Archer Woods, St.
James-Sag, and Resurrection Cemetery already. I want to go somewhere new.”
Greg agreed. “We might as well hit up as many places as we can before we leave the state.” He paused. “We are leaving, right? As soon as we banish that creature back to the other side? You haven’t changed your mind—I hope.”
“We don’t have much of a choice,” Mike said. “And we don’t have any reason to stay. We’re already wanted in this state for God only knows how many crimes.” He grinned. “You can thank Aura alone for most of that.”
Aurelia gave a halfhearted curtsy.
From there, the Fallen decided to go to Fairmont Cemetery, and they left their vehicles on the side of the road where—they hoped—no one would drive past.
“I hope you realize we’re taking a huge risk,” Davin whispered as the quintet crossed the unfenced boundary into the cemetery.
“Lighten up,” Mike retorted.
Greg sneered. “This is coming from a guy who was sitting in jail as little as three months ago…”
Mike shrugged off the comment and led the Fallen deeper into the cemetery, all the while avoiding the main paths. After a short period of time, it became clear that they were not alone. Faint laughter and whispers echoed in the rolling hills among the moonlit headstones.
The Fallen ducked and froze. “I don’t think we’re alone,” Aurelia said with a characteristic flair for the obvious.
“It sounds like a bunch of idiots,” Emmet said.
With a signal from Mike’s hand, Greg dashed to the right and Aurelia to the left, leaving Mike, Davin, and Emmet in the center. After exactly fifty paces, Greg and Aurelia stopped and the entire group began to slowly advance. Their eyes adjusted to the darkness, so they had no trouble recognizing shapes in the moonlight. After a couple of yards, they crested a hill and saw four figures rocking a monument back and forth. Discarded aerosol cans lay in the grass.
Mike grinned and nodded. Without warning, the Fallen broke into a sprint and rushed toward the vandals from three directions. The vandals, who looked like typical teenagers, screamed and fled in terror. Mike, Greg, Aurelia, Davin, and Emmet arrived at the desecrated monument at the same time—all of them laughing hysterically. But their fun did not last long.
A police cruiser’s spotlight swept past, and two headlights reflected off a pair of nearby monuments. Mike cursed and the Fallen ducked.
“I think it’s time for us to leave,” Aurelia whispered. No one argued or (for once) pointed out the obviousness of her statement.
The quintet began to run toward the nearest hill, hoping to avoid the cops until they drove past. They were not that lucky, however. A second police cruiser pulled up on the other side of the hill and shown its spotlight directly on the Fallen.
“Evade! Evade!” Mike shouted. “Let’s get out of here—we’ll rendezvous at Site 23 and pick up the car and our bikes tomorrow.”
The whole episode lasted a few seconds. Greg, Aurelia, Davin, and Emmet shook their heads affirmatively and dashed in opposite directions. When the police stopped their cars and began to yell, the five members of the Fallen had already disappeared into the darkness.
The Willow Springs police officers scoured the hills of Fairmount Cemetery, but all they found were a couple of empty aerosol cans.
[New episode every Friday…]
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