xii. Sate His Veins At Her Font
Nearing home, Seven remembered his promise to Doug to stop in at the Alterman’s, to warn them about the bear in the area. He figured he would leave out the ‘Hellbear’ moniker. No need alarming.
“Looks like their lights are on upstairs—should we knock?” Eva said.
“I hate to just drop in on them unannounced, but I guess it is important.”
“Will they be mad? Do you know?”
“No. They are both very laid-back.
“He’s a train engineer from the city—and she’s a retired world-class horse-trainer. They are probably still up now.”
“Is that their old barn over there?”
“Yea—they have a stallion and mare in there. Well, Summer was just a filly when I knew her. Have you ever ridden?”
“You used to come over here a lot?”
“Ya … I took Darkhoof out a few times … He was always good with me—but the Altermans thought he was possessed. There was something to him.”
“Possessed? In what way? How?”
“They lost their boy Red. They let him ride for the first time on his own one day. He took Darkhoof up the trails of Miramar—and what happened on the summit that day … Well—only that horse will ever know—since the horse alone came back alive. Red stayed behind.”
“Oh my God, that is so terrible!”
“They never stopped blaming themselves … Now when the coyotes howl at night—Darkhoof neighs and kicks up his stable―until the whole Forest is awake.
“One time he even broke loose and hoofed the life out of the Alterman’s dog Banjo. Darkhoof can be an unholy terror.”
“My God … Did they find a body?”
“They only found Red’s ball-cap …
“They always suspected Darkhoof was responsible—particularly because he became unstable and violent in ensuing years―like he were an entirely different horse―but they never had the heart to put him down … They never quite could.
“Then after Banjo died―Mrs. Alterman decided Darkhoof must have in fact been possessed by Red—because the boy and the dog never got along in life. Red always avoided I, all costs available.”
“Oh my … That is such a twisted story. What an end to a strange beginning. Do you believe any of it?”
“I kind of do. They said some nights―when Darkhoof was left out to graze—that he would seem to grow in stature—and that his spine would become hunched and spiky … He would howl at the full moon like a wild demon coyote.”
“Whaaat? Okay now you got me.”
Seven nodded. “His eyes would bleed—and Mr. Alterman swears that one time, while he was closing up the stables for the night—Darkhoof grew increasingly disturbed, working himself up into a frenzied madness. The stalls shook fierce.
He said that once again the horse transformed into this great big black hulking beast—this time with nine tails aflame. He claims it broke free of the barn—where it galloped about the fields, spreading concentric circles of fire around.
“That is incredibly creepy. Really?”
Seven shrugged. “You can ask them about it yourself if you want. Mrs. Alterman loves talking about Red absolutely any chance that she ever gets.”
Eva shivered now so uncontrollably.
Seven nodded darkly—grimly in suit.
He rapped on the door now twice in.
It opened out in on its own for them.
Eva rubbed her eyes—and while she did so―the lights inside all now flickered.
“What the Hell? Did you see that?”
Seven went to pull the door shut again—wanting nothing to do with a haunted house. But Eva opened her eyes again—and the lights remained on.
“What?” she said, seeing his hesitation. “Did you see that? Did you?”
“It’s nothing … I think the power went out for a second. They must have left the door open. I didn’t notice when I knocked. But let’s be sure they’re here.”
He rang the doorbell twice in a row.
“Should we just leave a note now?”
“I don’t want to walk in on them … They might be sleeping … or otherwise occupied.” They stood there uncertain.
Through the front hall, they could see into the kitchen, where the lights were also on. Everything about this was all iffy.
Seven suspected someone must still be around, when without apparent cause, the dining chairs started stomping on the floor in an eerie, rhythmic beat possessed.
Forks and knives clanged in the air—as plates flew out from cupboards in every direction, smashing all over the stone floor—disintegrating in orchestrated volleys against all four old flower-papered walls.
“Oh my God!” Eva cried—eyes flashing green as she crossed over into the house—smoothly pulling her phone out and arming its cam lens for swift action.
She had once wanted to hunt ghosts. She had even joined a group of enthusiasts who were all into the phenom.
“Eva! Eva! What are you doing?”
Cats growled and hissed, jumping at nothing—spasmodically clawing up and down the curtains. It was supernatural.
“Come on, you coward!” she shouted back. Her inner tiger leapt out.
“Eva …?” Seven intoned, terribly alarmed. He had never seen her like this.
Her voice sounded more guttural all of a sudden—and this risky behaviour was definitely not like her. It was kind of hot.
Caged birds screeched in cacophony—bursting feathers against bars—disturbed by evil vibrations. The scene split into slivers of insanity as it progressed. Little held back the mental shutters of clarity that this was off hook.
The dining room chandelier shook until it came crashing down on the table—shattering everywhere. Glass cascaded.
Eva jumped, but kept on filming with her phone. She was determined not to miss a shot, now that she finally had one.
“Please let’s go!” Seven begged. “This isn’t safe …!” he snapped, urging from the door-way—waving her back out.
He fought the momentum to run in after her, because he knew that was what Faye wanted after all. He was Her goal.
She was baiting him into Her trap.
Skittish yet inquisitive―Eva jumped at every fright—madly snapping shots as she twisted about—almost as if the mood of the room were taking her over in turn.
She batted her eyes—as they flashed to green and back—and she twirled about at the bottom of the stairs.
The house had swept her up in its insanity of visions. Immaterial had posessed the real in an icy vice-grip.
Finally, She raised her hands in surrender to the soaring euphoria—from such a close proximity to the Other side.
“Come on inside, Seven,” she cried, closing her eyes. “It so warm in here! I feel so ALIVE!!!” She seemed half-dead.
“EVA! IT’S FAYE! SHE’S IN YOU!”
Suddenly, every window in the house blew out—showering Eva with glass shards—cutting her all over. She wailed.
She fell to her knees, crying out—suddenly wondering where she was—and what had happened. She snapped back.
“Eva!” Seven called, about to go in after her, when the door slammed shut in his face, locking him out. He pounded.
Then the remaining kitchen lights went out—and Eva rolled onto her side—bleeding in the dark. This was her Hell.
Thunderclaps shook the foundation violently. The storm raged now full on. The windows lit up with lightning flashes.
“Seven …” she whimpered helplessly. Her thoughts drifted to home. Her eyes flitted shut as she sought peace.
“Eva!” he yelled—kicking the door—but Faye was fortifying it with Her field—keeping him out. He kicked until it hurt.
Hearing him was enough, however, summoning Eva’s courage. She crawled for the front door. Every grip was a mile.
Reaching up, she fumbled with the handle—but feeling faint, she was about to black out—when an icy hand fell ever so softly on her right shoulder. She winced.
She screamed in terror, whipping around to see the Silverskin in the shimmering flesh―all afire in a blazing blue inferno. Eva beheld the Forest Witch.
With Her demonic green eyes dancing—and long twisted horns now spiraling wickedly—Faye cackled crazily.
But then the black curtain fell again.
The next thing Eva knew, Seven was lifting her up—carrying her out into the cool of the night. He breathed heavily.
She was bleeding everywhere—wiping it from her forehead and eyes—tasting salt on her lips. It was too much.
Seven soon faltered on the path, unraveling under the smell of blood—losing conscious mind. His beast ebbed.
French’s Forest was teasing the monster out of him, making him succumb to the dark will of all his undead instincts.
He burned to set her down―to sate his veins at the fleshy font of her neck.
He boiled over at the thought of taking her soul from her then and there—just to feed his deepest beastly vice.
By sacrificing the very life of his beloved Eva Marin, he would satiate himself for one exquisite terran second.
“Seven …? Seven …? What is going on? Babe …? Please Babe, tell me now.”
For what seemed like eternity, his human side could not escape the clutches of his shadow self—but he stood steadfast and unwavering in wait until his true spirit did eventually return to him now in full.
When he then finally walked on, planting one heel after another—ultimately reaching the lane-end and setting Eva down on the walkway there—he breathed a sigh of relief—here then safe at last.
Shortly, her eyes fluttered open―when the cuts on her face began to scab over. Then scar faded back into freshly healed flesh—as the blood disappeared from her clothes and vanished up the path into the old house.
The front door then shut on its own—as if they had never knocked on it at all—and countless clouds of glass shards rose up out of the bushes, piecing every pane of the place back together. Every shard reset into every frame, fusing into so many intact windows once more—as if none of what had just occurred had actually gone down. The world ran back.
“Seven … What? What happened?”
“I—I’m not entirely sure hun …”
“I black out again now … Didn’t I?”
He inspected the house and yard, but nothing seemed amiss. There was no evidence of any of it. It was either all a hallucination or the horror was reversed.
If he didn’t know better, he would say Faye had suffered some kind of second thought about killing Eva after all.
Whatever was the real reason, however, it only made him more suspicious about what She was up to next.
He guessed this was Her way of taunting him—playing with the life of the one he loved the most. Why else be so evil other than for the sake of love lost?
“We stopped at the Altermans …”
“I remember the door opening …”
Olin and Aly were just now walking up to them, from the direction of Bane House. They ran up faster drawing near.
“What is going on?” Aly exclaimed, seeing Eva sitting down as they approached. She knelt beside her now.
“She’ll be okay,” Seven reassured them. “She had another spell. She just needs time.” He grabbed Eva under arms.
They all helped Eva up to her feet.
He thought of telling Aly what had really happened in her house—but he knew that ultimately Faye was mainly interested in him―and so he thought it was best to just leave it alone. He was used to keeping his worst demons secret anyway. He was comfortable with it even.
So instead of burdening Aly with the true account of events, he decided to lie in a way that would still keep her alert to the possibility of danger inside, for her safety.
“Somebody might have been in your house,” he said. “We found the door ajar.” He pointed to the front entrance.
“Oh my god,” Aly exclaimed aghast.
“Did you go in?” Olin inquired last.
“I did. I think it is all clear now.”
Olin went in first to double-check.
“We were at the drive-in,” Aly said. “Then we stopped by Bane House. Olin was acting strange the whole time. I wonder if he sensed something wrong.”
“Where are your folks tonight?”
“Way down South for the winter.”
Olin came back out slowly shaking his head. He looked about the woods.
“I checked every room. If anybody was here, they didn’t stay long enough to leave a trace behind.” He ruffled his hair.
“Should we call the Sheriff?” Aly asked. She cast her gaze about them all. She acted edgy about the whole ordeal.
“Tony’s got his hands full with a black bear in the woods, so maybe hang tight …” Seven offered, gently dismissive.
Olin noticed Seven was acting strange and pulled him aside—out of hearing distance. He poked him straight.
“What is going on?” he said sharply.
“Nothing—I’ll fill you in later Olin.”
“You saw Her didn’t you brother?”
Seven put one finger to pursed lips.
“Come on now … What happened?”
“Drop it for now, okay? Not now.”
“Listen―you know I have to know. Besides—this is about Aly’s safety now, not just your precious Eva. Cough it up.”
“Know what?” Aly interjected, having sharper ears than they realized.
“Nothing …” they said in unison.
“Well I guess we should be getting back,” Seven said, taking the window to exit. “Eva needs to rest,” he said—helping Eva back away from the house.
“No!” Aly said. “I mean … Please don’t … I would feel much better if you stayed longer … You can’t leave so soon.”
“We really should get going now. We’ve already delayed our return to Bane House too long, as the night draws down.”
“Nonsense—we can stay for a bit,” Eva said. “It’s the least we can do—don’t you think?” She walked over to hug Aly.
Seven glared at Olin ultra-intensely.
Olin smirked and shirked it off now.
The four of them headed back into the gates of Hell with little more than the hope that whatever had come was gone.
Eva squeezed Seven’s hand so tight it hurt and he had to pull away to break it.
But then he held it again as symbolized their relationship’s tug-of-war.
One day they would be on again, one day off, with only history to witness.
Which one of them died first in the end seemed to matter not, for the other would be soon not far behind to attend.
(Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr)