R.W. Van Sant
The remaining Chapters
Jerry drove towards town, unsure of where he was going. He only knew that Ellie needed a hospital. Her cell phone slid across the dashboard as Jerry steered the car around the winding coastal roads. He wished Ted was there; he did not even know where a hospital was. Wait, hadn’t Ted said if anything happened to call Al Wallace? He pulled off to the shoulder and grabbed the phone. He took several slow breaths and called information.
“Hello.” A sleepy voice answered after several rings.
“Yes, who is this?”
“You don’t know me. Ted told me to call if I got in trouble.”
“My god, is this Jerry? Where’s Ted?”
“He’s dead.” It seemed strange to say it. It had a finality to it that brought a lump to his throat. “Where is the hospital?”
“Are you alright?”
“Turn at the first left after passing the town. Then follow the signs; it’s about twenty miles. I’ll meet you there.”
“Was it the shark?”
Jerry did not know how to respond. He did not feel strong enough to explain coherently. “It came up from the cove, broke into the house, killed….”
“Broke into the house? Where’s Ted, is he with you?” Mr. Wallace sounded stunned.
“Gas leak, lightning caused a fire. It’s gone everything. Ted’s gone.”
“I’m on my way. I’m sorry, son.”
“Thanks.” Jerry hung up the phone and looked at Ellie. She just stared vacantly at the clouds. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he pulled back onto the road.
The signs led him right into the driveway to the emergency room. He parked in front of the doors and leaned on the horn. “I’m sorry. I never meant for this. I didn’t know.” He took Elli’s hand and thought he felt a squeeze of recognition. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking. As he waited, the world darkened and slipped away.
“Jerry? Jerry. You’re awake,” The voice from the phone greeted him. It belonged to a balding man who stood by his hospital bed.
“Mr. Wallace?” Jerry asked. “How is Ellie?”
“I can’t believe you got her mixed up in this.”
“She got herself mixed in this, to save me.” This time he did not try to stop the tears.
“I told Ted. He wouldn’t listen.”
“We found it,” Jerry said without expression. “The box, the diamond. The house is gone. I saw it.”
“I know you have, son.” Mr. Wallace said. “I see it in your eyes.”
“She saw it, too. She fought it off. She saved me.” Jerry looked down. “It destroyed her mind. Ellie’s not in there anymore.”
Mr. Wallace reached out to get Jerry some water with his remaining arm. The other was missing from below the shoulder under a sleeve. He filled the glass from a pitcher and handed it to him.
“There was a time I wouldn’t have believed it either. It came for us, holding its legs under it, holding them close to its body as it swam. You can’t see its legs in the water. We thought we were safe. Your grandma, grandpa, and I — until it came out of the water for us. It went after your grandma, but your granddad got in its way. I tried to save him, and it got my arm.”
“I saw a box in the back of Ellie’s car. I retrieved it before her parents arrived.”
Jerry tried to sit up, but the room darkened and spun until he fell back into the hospital bed. “Don’t open it, don’t ever. Don’t let anyone. It calls them.”
“The ones who control the shark, the ones who sleep. It’s their alarm clock. They’re hungry, and we’re food.”
“I don’t understand, but I won’t open it. I parked Ted’s truck by the streetlight. It’s yours now. I guess it’s all yours now.”
“I don’t want it, any of it.”
“That’s all for later, son.” Mr. Wallace said. “When they ask, tell the police the truth, as far as you can. I hear you reported a shark attack. Tell them only that lightning struck the house. You got Eleanor to her car. Remember Ted died in the house fire. Tell them nothing else, or you’ll spend months in a sanitarium. I’ll be there to back you up. I’ll stand by you. You’re the only family I have left.”
“What about Ellie? Is she alright?”
“It seems that the people you Tellers care about pay the price for your ancestry,” Mr. Wallace mused sadly.
“You are not a Teller?” Jerry asked.
“No, like Ellie, I got too close. Your grandmother was like the sister I never had.” Mr. Wallace said. “It was good, and she got away. I was sorry to hear of her passing.”
“Ellie hit it with a shark stick and drove it away.” Exhaustion was making it hard for him to focus. “It’s still out there.”
“Relax son; you lost a bit of blood. I take comfort that some part of it must still be natural.” Mr. Wallace said. “Maybe it can be killed.”
“It’s hurt, but it’s still there.” Jerry’s head drooped as he drifted into a dreamless sleep.
He awoke some time later with hoses connected to his arms. His injuries were stitched up and bandaged with clean gauze. A nurse came in to inspect his I.V. “What happened?” Jerry’s voice sounded weak, and he wondered if she had even heard him.
“You passed out from blood loss.” She said.
“Knock, knock.” Mr. Wallace’s voice came from the door.
“Thanks. Is Ellie okay? They won’t tell me anything.”
“She’s not in danger, but there is little change.” Mr. Wallace said. “Her parents are with her now. They informed me that the doctor said she had catatonia.”
“Will she be alright?”
“To tell you the truth, no one knows. It’s her mind. Despite what science books say, no one knows how that works. She might come out of it anytime, or not at all.”
“They found his bones in the ashes of the house. The old place burned to the ground; it’s a total loss. You’ll need to decide what to do with the land. It’s all yours now.”
“Sell it.” Jerry did not want to have anything to do with it.
“I hope you don’t’ mind, but I took the liberty of telling the police that I was your lawyer. I was Ted’s, and I figure you might need one too. Is that alright with you?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“When you feel a little stronger, I will need you to sign some papers. The police want to talk to you. My advice is to tell them that you were injured when the house collapsed. You and Ellie were outside when it exploded. They will never accept the truth.”
“What about her Uncle Paul’s disappearance?”
“They found a body or part of one. It washed up in the cove sometime over the night. The doctors already think that is what caused Eleanor’s collapse. Tell them you found the body with her. You tried to comfort her as the storm destroyed your house. If you can remember that much, it’ll be okay. After all you’ve been through, they’ll expect you to be shaken. “ Mr. Wallace opened a briefcase and pulled out some papers. “Look these over when you feel better. As your lawyer, I advise you to sign, but speak to no one about what really happened.”
“What are they?”
“Power of attorney allowing me to act on your behalf.”
“What was my grandfather like?”
“From what Ted told me about you, he was a lot like you, always trying to be responsible. Joined the Navy. Would have been a great father. They never knew your grandma was pregnant, not until after. That’s why she left. She swore it would end with her. No one else would ever know.”
“That didn’t work out.”
“No, it didn’t. Look, I’ve taken care of the arrangements for your brother.” Mr. Wallace said.
“Thanks, I’m not sure I could have managed.” Jerry sat up in the bed.
“The investigators ruled Ted’s death an accident. The official report said the house was damaged by the winds and collapsed, causing a gas leak. A lightning strike ignited the gas and Ted was inside. They only found a few bones. I’m sorry for being so blunt.” Mr. Wallace’s tone was sympathetic, but they both knew that the truth was much more horrible. “The case is as good as closed. The police would like to interview you later when you feel up to it. Afterward, you should be free to go.”
“I’m not sure what to do now. It’s not the same world it was last week.” Jerry said.
“You’ll be able to do whatever you want. You’re a rich man now or will be when I finish the negotiations on the sale of the property.”
“I’d like to get the interview over with. I want to take care of Ellie’s bills. Her parents don’t have much money. She had to work all the time.”
“I can set up a fund. It’ll be all right, son, just remember what we’ve talked about.” Mr. Wallace advised. “I’ll set them up for today. The press want to speak to you, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Okay then. No reporters.”
“Get some sleep. I’ll handle the rest.” Mr. Wallace patted Jerry’s shoulder then grabbed his briefcase and walked out.
The police interview was not as bad as he thought it would be. Jerry answered as his lawyer advised, and it seemed to satisfy them. As long as everything matched up, they were happy. When it was over, the investigator gave his condolences and told him he was free to go.
“You did well,” Mr. Wallace told him after the investigators left.
“Thanks,” Jerry sat up. It was getting easier with each attempt.
Once he could get out of bed on his own, Jerry went to see Ellie. He sat at her bedside, hoping to see a spark in her eyes. The only recognition he ever received was a tightening of her grip when he held her hand. He took comfort in that and hoped that it brought her some comfort as well.
With its sudden notoriety, the offers on the cove property came quickly. Mr. Wallace spoke of numbers and deals, but Jerry did not care. Jerry told him to take the first reasonable offer that came. It made him a millionaire several times over, although he still could not bring himself to care. Mr. Wallace had proven invaluable; there was no way he could have handled any of it alone. When Jerry asked if he would like to remain his lawyer, Mr. Wallace agreed. Jerry would need someone to manage his finances and special requests without questioning him.
The hospital discharged him after two days, and he moved in with Mr. Wallace. The old lawyer had a large house, and Jerry acquired a room of his own as the older man’s last living relative. He didn’t have to be alone when the final arrangements for Ted were made, and for that, he was grateful.
Ted’s funeral was simple. Neither of them was religious. Mr. Wallace performed the ceremony in a rented hall, empty save for Jerry and Wallace. Ted hadn’t been in town long enough to make any friends, except for Paul. A proper, religious ceremony was arranged for when he returned to New Mexico. Ted’s remains were packed up afterward and sent to Ernesto for burial in Albuquerque.
Jerry left a sizable bounty for anyone who killed the “shark,” but no one ever collected. It went back into the depths and remained there. He bought a small Toyota and made plans to return to New Mexico. He had missed a lot of class, but Mr. Wallace sent hardship documents to the University and arranged for an appointment to talk to councilors when he returned; all that remained was to fill out the final papers.
“These are the papers.” Mr. Wallace said. “Once you sign these, the trust fund and all Ted’s affairs will be concluded. I hope you don’t mind, but I sold myself Ted’s truck. I gave you a good price, and the money is in your account.”
“I don’t need it anyway; you’re welcome to it.” Jerry did not want to see it anyway, too full of bad memories.
“How are you holding up?”
“You know, all Ted wanted was a place to call his own. We hadn’t had that since Grandma died.” Jerry said. “I don’t know. Now that I’m a Teller, I feel even more alone.”
“It’s not fair for so many to pay the price for the greed of one man.”
“I’ll survive. It’s not like I have a choice. I have to go back to the desert. I need to get as far away from the ocean as possible while I figure out how to get rid of that thing forever.
“Whatever you choose, remember you can always come to me if you need anything.”
“Thanks,” Jerry handed him a slip of paper. “It’s new cell phone number. Call me if there is any development with Ellie, or if they find the shark.”
“I most certainly will.” Mr. Wallace handed over a large package in return. “I don’t know if you want this. It may help, it might not.”
“What is it.?”
“It’s a book of sketches from a man called Carlow. He was part of Teller’s crew. I couldn’t make sense of any of it. Maybe you can.”
“Thanks.” Jerry took the proffered gift and shook the old man’s hand. When Mr. Wallace was gone, Jerry packed up quickly and tossed a new suitcase full of new clothing in the trunk, next to a large duct-taped cube. He rolled it in the dirt to make it look even more like trash. Carlow’s book sat next to it, ominously. He would have to study it if he had any chance of stopping them, but for the time being, he had to get home and bury his brother.
Jerry’s first stop out of town was to a thrift store. He bought old clothing, sleeping bags, tools and several kitchen items. All of it went into the trunk to bury his “treasure.” Next, he stopped at a Home Depot and bought a sledgehammer, some turpentine, and gray paint. He drove out of town until he found a deserted road and scratched paint, smashed doors, hoods and a headlamp, ruined the paint job and the interior. As a final insult to the new car, he painted the hood and driver’s side door flat gray. No one would ever think to look for anything of value in the car.
Jerry took one last look at the ocean from a hilltop, went to see Ellie a final time, then hit the highway back to New Mexico. There was no way he could pass his classes. Jerry had missed too much. Furthermore, he no longer cared to try. The University of New Mexico, however, had one of the best anthropology departments in the country. He would use whatever time he had left there to try to find out what he could about the box, the journal, and the sleepers.
He could no longer go back to his life as Jerry Lujan. Whatever happened, it was now his job to save the world. His family had been doing it for over a hundred years, each in their own way. Now it was his turn.
Those who waited beyond the veil were close now; he could feel their rage and frustration. They feared him, in trying to control him, they had given away too much of themselves. Jerry knew what they were, so maybe he could stop them.
The veil was weaker, damaged, but not broken. It held and, as long as it continued to hold, the world belonged to humanity. It was Jerry’s job to make sure it stayed that way. There was no longer time for self-doubt; he had learned the hard way who he was. He was the last Teller.
Jerry walked past a man preaching in front of the student union building, arguing that schools should teach ‘intelligent design’ alongside evolution as science. Jerry started laughing, and then he couldn’t make himself stop. If they only knew the truth, they would run to their churches and barricade themselves inside. Intelligent design versus evolution. How could they possibly know that both positions were true? How could they suspect the hideous purpose that drove humanity’s ancestors from the trees? One of his classmates found him and took him to the student medical center, where Jerry was offered a grief counseling session with a therapist. If only his problems were caused by school stress and the loss of a brother, they might be able to help. Jerry knew that, like the others he’d consulted, they were not equipped to help him.
The stone had awakened something horrible — an ancient terror as old as life itself. Only when humanity recognized the danger and the storms that hid them would humanity be able to fight back. Otherwise, logic would be man’s downfall. The rational mind would not allow itself to believe in the existence of such horrors. Perhaps that skepticism was designed into Man as well, like greed, curiosity, the drive to breed and push boundaries had been. Humanity had become a skeptical creation, unable to believe in the fantastic until it was too late to stop it.
His friends took him to a party off campus and Jerry drank himself into forgetfulness. Each time sobriety tried to impose reality upon him again; he started on a new bottle. The only time Jerry was sober was in the early morning when he called California to get an update on Elli’s condition. And then the setting sun convinced him that he had run out of time. Jerry called the only one he knew who knew the caverns well enough to find the bottomless hole—his cousin Arturo.
As he waited, he opened an email from the Fosters; Elli was looking about the room and humming House on Pooh Corner. For the first time in months, he had hope for the future. The message said that Elli’s condition was improving and she actually whispered his name. He immediately bought plane tickets for a morning flight. Then he contacted Mr. Wallace, who agreed to pick him up at the airport. Abrupt pounding on the door broke his concentration.
“What!” Jerry responded to his cousin’s familiar rapping.
“Thanks for coming,” Jerry said. “Did you bring it?”
“Yeah I got it; don’t know why you want a gun. Diablo Canyon is pretty safe and isolated.”
“I need you to be… understanding. If we don’t need it, no harm, no foul. Humor me okay? “
“Jerry, sit down.” Arturo’s voice grew soft and thoughtful. “We’re worried, you haven’t been yourself since Ted died. My parents and I care about you. We think you need to talk to a psychiatrist. It can help.”
“Art, I have talked to people. It hasn’t helped.” Jerry stood up and sat his cousin down on the bed. “I need to tell you a story that I already know you’re not going to believe. In fact, after I’m done telling you, you will be worried about me. But, God help me; every word of it will be the complete truth. If you don’t want to go afterward, please loan me the gun and give me directions and I’ll do it myself.”
“I’m not going to let you go off with a gun when you’re like this.”
“You might after I explain.”
Jerry took a breath and started at the beginning, detailing everything that had happened. When he was talking, Arturo looked at him in horror.
“Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”
“No,” Jerry had hoped, it would have been nice to have someone who understood with him.Still, if he failed, then at least Arturo would know enough to protect the family. “Tell me how to get there, I’ll go myself. Thanks for listening, though.”
“Hold up. Where’s this giant diamond then?”
“Inside that bag by the door, the box is in it.” Jerry pointed. “I have one last duty to perform before I leave. I got soldering supplies; I have to seal the stone in the box. Once the lid shut, I can only hope that whatever incantations they put on it will contain its evil forever. I need to stop and get cement to pour all over it. It might look enough like a rock that if anyone sees it, they’ll overlook it.”
On a high crag in the Sandia Mountains, a raptor searched the ground for her supper. The food was scarce, and she was hungry. Over canyons and cliffs, she soared, keen eyesight looking for any movement. She felt the sudden force of an alien will on her. Wings drooping, her entire body shivered with pain, and the bird fell out of the sky to land on a rocky outcrop in convulsions. A power external to the world the creature lived in was focused on her, ripping at her body and mind to take on new dimensions. The hawk grew in strength and size. Her mind grew in understanding. She comprehended that she could now hunt for more than rodents. The hissing things that the two legs kept around were now her prey, as well as the larger barking and growing things. Even the two-legged creatures themselves were no longer beyond her reach.
Desire grew within her. There was a thing to retrieve; a shiny thing perfect for her nest. It was nearby, in the city below. Using new legs, she walked to the edge of the crag and leaped into the sky, heading for the lights and dancing on the growing winds of the coming storm. She felt the air tingle with its presence and dove toward it.
“Close the window; the wind is picking up.” Jerry grabbed a few clothes and shoved them into his backpack. As he turned to face his cousin, he was enthralled by the sparkles that spread to every corner of his room. The gem shone beautifully in the moonlight. Prismatic dots flew everywhere, so like the gleam in Ellie’s eyes. Soon he’d be back in California. His skin tingled at the thought of being with her again.
No, not excitement. It was the gem; it was sending the signal. The sleepers were waking. The wind blew strongly through the window. Arturo’s form was highlighted by a flash of lightning that came from the dense clouds that were moving in quickly from the mountains.
“Arty no! They’ll wake up.”
“What?” Arturo turned to face his raving cousin.
“Close the window. Put it back in the box.” Arturo turned and dropped the gem.
The creature dove through the window, quickly and silently from the clouds, razor-sharp talons tearing into Arturo’s neck, separating his head from his body. His head landed on the floor next to the gem as his body fell out the window and tumbled into the courtyard three stories below. Jerry was vaguely aware of terrified screams as he raced to the window to close it.
The wind gushed at him as lightning struck all around the dorm building. The power shorted out, leaving only the dim light of the emergency lighting system for illumination. Jerry grabbed the window and bolted it shut. On the floor at his feet, Arturo’s eyes stared sightlessly at him, just as Ted’s had. Must everyone near a Teller suffer? Arturo, he swore, would be the last.
Jerry bent over to grab the gem.
Crashing class rained all around Jerry as the lighting reflected through the diamond sent a thousand rainbow sparkles across the room. The talons that ripped into him sprayed streaks of crimson between the dots of light.
The creature fed on the carcass of her fresh kill, satiating her hunger. Once her belly was full, she grabbed her shining prize from the cold hands of her two-legged prey. It was hers, a new egg for her nest. The beast opened her massive wings and took the stormy sky. The ravenous storm raged around her, and for the first time, she felt the presence of the others. The ones who had given her power were coming. Soon, they too would feed.