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Infernis – Chapter Sixteen

March 18, 2013

Chapter Sixteen

But Virginia they didn’t give you quite enough information.

“This can be applied to the skin after a shower. And this…”

She held up a plastic sandwich bag filled mostly with greenery but also specked with the occasional reds and shades of golden-brown. Maggie thought she could see a rose petal in the mix.

“Needs to steep for five minutes. Best if the water not quite boil, just almost boiling. Too much heat will break down the oils and other beneficial compounds, too little and they won’t be released into the liquid. It’s a delicate balance.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

Maggie took another look around Deborah Morgan’s living room. There were herbs dangling and drying from most book shelves. Most of the shelves themselves supported glass jars holding one plant or other. There was the exception, one row of DVDs, mostly consisting of Sex and the City, Magnum P.I. and a few other TV shows Maggie didn’t recall. The old woman loved old and new TV. And clearly Tom Selleck.

The room was a mix of the ancient art of herbalism with modern improvements and late 20th century pop culture. On one wall was a large weed identification flowchart and next to it an Iron Maiden poster from a show in Montreal decades ago.

The owner of the room, Deb, was a short roundish woman with brown and silver hair rolled up into a bun and clear blue eyes. The hair, Maggie imagined, must come down to her rear end when uncoiled.

Yes, the woman was friendly and yet somehow intimidating. Deb had come highly recommended by a friend who, the friend maintained, had been cured naturally of some kind of skin rash by purchasing some ointments from Deb. Maggie had a rare digestive problem, well, two actually, and Deb had promised that she could at least make Maggie more comfortable if not a cure, though the latter might take some time. She had also been talked into some homemade skin lotion.

Maggie didn’t know what else to say.

Maggie had always been a little awkward with small talk anyway. Living on the outskirts of Sudbury rarely offered opportunity to meet new people.

“Whatever that is you’re cooking, it smells wonderful.”

She tried anyway.

“Oh, that,” Deb clawed a hand in the air in the general direction of the kitchen, “Just drying out some pine cones.”

“Oh. I wonder if that’s what’s attracting the birds.”

Deb was staring at Maggie now. This made the younger woman uncomfortable, as strangers often did.

“Birds?”

“Well…yes. The big black birds. So many in one place. Never seen that many in one place. Sparrows, sure, but crows–”

“You have to go. Now, Maggie. Just walk carefully to your car. Drive. Don’t look back.”

“Well–”

Deb didn’t wait around for any arguments. She was up off the love seat and going for the gun cabinet. She was loading a shotgun when Maggie closed the door.

Deb pocketed the money Maggie had given her and slipped carefully out the door. She kept the shotgun pointed down, not wanting to give away her intentions. She saw the dust cloud in the wake of Maggie’s car and heard her engine thrumming down the dirt road towards town.

This was different. In recent weeks, the crows had only showed up pre-dawn. This time they had showed up in the afternoon.

During those other visits, the avians had done damage to the plants in two of her berms. Some had even gotten inside the barn and ripped up the seat of the riding lawnmower.

Now, they were scattered about. Some on the edge of the property in trees. Others were perched on the rain gutter. Still more were walking about on top of the barn. There were at least three hopping about on the ground, looking for something, it seemed to Deb.

Deb wandered slowly to get a better vantage point. She was careful not to make any sudden moves that might spook the birds. This might be her only chance to rid herself of them. It was either this, or move, and her entire life was in this house, on this property. Leaving was out of the question.

As she tried to decide best which group to target with birdshot, she heard what initially sounded like a siren. This was quickly followed by another and another, all coming from the same general direction, the forested area beyond her property. It was also directly behind her.

Soon there were at least eight or nine of these sounds, voices really, all wavering and yet somehow in a strange harmony. It didn’t take her long to realize what it was. It was in its own way both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

Deb cursed at herself for being frozen in place for those long seconds. If she had somehow offended Mother Nature, or GAIA, then she at least needed to survive in order to figure out what she had done and make amends.

First the birds, now this.

It had to mean something.

She raised the shotgun and cocked a shell into the chamber. As she did so, she turned to where the sound had come from.

It was a little too late. The gun went off almost reflexively and the birds started squawking, loud and constant. The cacophony drowned out Deb’s screams. She could feel herself screaming, but could not actually hear it herself.

The canines ripped her throat out, tore skin from her arms and legs, and one pulled on a stubborn finger that refused to separate from her hand even after it had pulled the skin off of it in an earlier attempt. She soon stopped struggling. As her life spilled out of her and onto the ground she had just one thought.

Should have moved.

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From → Infernis, Novels

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