Black Smoke

~ Chapter Five ~

Black smoke

Why were they going to Silent Hill? That was the question, literally. Each of them offered the other an explanation, a reason, but at the end of it all she concluded that the reasons did not seem enough to have landed them in the situation they were in now. Nothing that either Claire or Harper said seemed a big enough motivator for this.

In fact, in his own explanation, she’d never heard him say so much all at once, and he wasn’t entirely comfortable with that at first, at least his body language and facial expressions gave that much away. Finally, when he did offer his explanation, it wasn’t anything spectacular or out of the ordinary. He, well she assumed he was just a regular guy trying to carve out a quiet life for himself. Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with that at all. At least he hadn’t come to this place blindly based on something as stupid as a letter telling her to do it and a letter from a stranger no less.

He had nodded when she explained why her behavior had been so erratic and although she’d felt incredibly stupid once the explanation was out of her mouth, he had only nodded, and somehow she was okay with that. He didn’t laugh at her in disbelief or scorn, but a simple nod as if he actually did believe.

She closed her eyes and struggled to recall anything that would make her remember any damn reason at all for her being here apart from some stupid letter from somebody who she didn’t know telling her to come here. What had she been thinking? The truth was, there was nothing, trying to pull memories was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It was like her memory was a huge black hole and peering into it was like looking down into a dark well.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve this, “she bit her lip in an effort to hold back the tears that were welling in her eyes. She would not cry in front of him, she couldn’t. She squeezed her eyes closed and it came, not much, but something.

The man pressed the leather binder into her hands, speaking hurriedly. “Your apartment, the one that we are standing in front of right now has been taken care of. You won’t have to worry about it for a while. Once inside you are to read everything in here and familiarize yourself with your new identity and history, do you understand?”

She nodded, but then shook her head quickly. Yes she understood what she was being told, but she had a dozen more questions, ones which she knew she wouldn’t get, not at this moment. He was in a hurry to leave, and she was in a hurry to get indoors. The feeling of being watched was far too real.

“Alright good. Also, you will find a bank account, under your new name, with a ten thousand dollar balance. Use it, you won’t need to work. All you need to do is go to school, keep to yourself and wait.”

“For what?”

“When it is time, we will let you know, and you will follow instructions. Do you understand?”

Dumbly, she nodded.

She opened her eyes, and Harper looked at her then, his expression severe, and spoke in a tone that matched that.

“This is a test. Of ourselves, of our strength, of our will and right to live.”

Those words stuck out more than the others and she shook her head, her teeth still pressing down firmly on her bottom lip.

“What if I’m not strong enough?”

She glanced back at the mirror then, and she saw the other face again, only this time she didn’t scream when the voice spoke to her.

You are strong and you will remember, Claire. That’s why you are here. You’re home.

Even if she was going to panic again about the reflection in the mirror that didn’t belong to her again, any thought or further action was interrupted by the sounds of screaming and shouting from outside where some of the others still were. The pair shot each other a quick concerned glance before Harper cracked the bathroom door open, just poking his head out to try and get a look at what was going on.

What Claire heard outside was enough for her blood to run cold.

“ … is that thing?”

“We’re all going to die!”

She closed any gap between her and the much older man and pressed herself up against his side, trying to peer over his shoulder, her hand gripping his upper arm.

“What is it?” She whispered.

“I can’t tell, “he replied, squinting his eyes and craning his neck to try and get a better look out the door without leaving the safety of the bathroom yet. Suddenly, he shut the door again with a bang, startling her and she looked up at him with wide eyes as he turned his head and looked at her, his face pale and concerned.

“What is it?” she asked again, a little louder and more insistent, her voice rising an octave as panic began to set in. She did not like the look on his face, at all, it only made her anxiety worsen. He looked around the bathroom almost frantically as if looking for another way out and then groaned.

“Oh Gods, it’s in here too.”

“What’s in … ?”

He cut her off mid sentence and grabbed her hand in a vice like grip so hard and tugged her towards the door and she only had a couple of seconds to follow his eyes before he flung the door open and she saw what he had. Black smoke was seeping in through the windows at the far end of the bathroom but it didn’t look like ordinary smoke, it appeared to have substance and it wasn’t just coming through the cracks in the old windows, it seemed to be oozing through.

“We have to go.”


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