AP Productions: Winghaven #10

The teenage boy laid on his belly, peering out from under the small bed in the dormitory. The lights were off and he was the only one inside as the other boys in that block were gone. His breath was heavy and his sweaty hands gripped the powdery hammer in his palms tightly, the white ash accumulating on the surface of his fingers. The sun was still beaming in through the barred windows and from under the bed, he could see the door slowly creak open. He wanted to shut his eyes but the fear was so powerful, he couldn’t move enough to do so. He heard heavy tapping sounds like someone slowly hitting keys on a very heavy typewriter. A hoof came into view and as it stepped forward, he heard another tap, then came the second hoof. Typically, anything with hooves should have had four legs but not this creature. Bi-pedal hooves were disturbing enough, but the flesh around the hooves was void of any fur and the rough skin was reddish-brown with a slimy surface. The hooves walked across the room, the sounds of the tapping getting closer. While under the bed, he couldn’t see the rest of the creature and he was relieved by that fact but he knew it was only a matter of time before it found him and soon, he would see much more. The tapping got closer. His breathing was heavier even though he was trying his best to stay quiet. Then he heard a familiar voice, feminine and inviting; a voice so human that it seemed like mockery.

“You’ve been such a good boy, Farrell. Can I touch it?”

Farrell Creed woke with a start, nearly falling out of bed. “Godammit,” he said under his breath as he felt sweat drip form on his brow, “Oh, goddamn.” Cassandra sat up once she was awaken; she was concerned but not entirely surprised. Creed sat at the foot, his hands clenched together to keep them from shaking as he made an attempt to calm his nerves. To show sympathy, Cassandra wrapped her arms around him and laid her head against his back.

“Was it another nightmare?,” she asked.

He nodded but didn’t say anything.

“Do you need anything?”

“No,” he said softly.

“You know the rules. No drinking `til it’s over.”

“I know,” he stood up and began putting his clothes on in the middle of her bedroom, “Gonna take a walk.” Once he got his pants on, he quickly threw on a t-shirt before disappearing out the door. Cassandra knew she wouldn’t be seeing him for a day or two but understood it was best to let him be. It wasn’t the first nightmare. They called them “nightmares”. In reality, they memories. As well as premonitions.

Alysa Saraki walked down the hallway of Mason High School. Some students gave her sorrowful, sympathetic expressions said everything. Other students gave her scared, judgmental expressions that were just as vocal. Her mother had passed a month earlier and this was her first day back at school. Since the funeral, the Iseda community had been supporting her by giving her groceries, paying her bills and helping her with chores around her house. Even though she had never met her father, he saw fit to reach out to her and offer her a place to stay via email. She wrote a quick “No thank you” but she did accept the money he sent. Now wasn’t the time to connect with him. There was no animosity since it wasn’t as though he was a deadbeat father (he and her mother had a certain arrangement) but she simply wanted to get back to some semblance of normalcy. She went back to school, expecting to pick up where she left off. She thought that the events of the previous month would have been forgotten in a town as odd as Winghaven but she did not take the high school rumor mill into account. She tried to catch up in the first few classes but her teachers mostly offered condolences and the opportunity to “talk anytime”. It wasn’t that she resented their sympathy but she wanted to put the craziness of the past month behind her and focus on her studies. Alysa walked up to Grace Smith who was retrieving some books from her locker and leaned against the one next to hers.

“Hey, Alysa,” she smiled, “How’s it going?”

“What’re they saying, Gracie?,” she aksed as she caught a glimpse of a few more odd stares.

“You really don’t wanna know.”

“I just wanted to get back to normal and I see that ain’t happen’n, so now I wanna know about all the spilt tea around here. My mom passed, shit got crazy, buildings got blown up. I know people are talking.”

“Well, I mean…,” Grace stumbled over her words a bit, “Some of it has to do with, y’know, Farrell Creed.”

“Okay,” Alysa nodded expectedly, “He’s kind of a local… celebrity I guess? He saved my life. We fought together. Like I think we might’ve saved the world.”

“I know,” Grace closed her locker, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around you fighting anybody.”

“I even…,” Alysa’s voice got quiet, “… Kinda killed some hitmen. And maybe some other dudes. They killed my mom, but…yeah.”

“Yeah, and I didn’t tell anybody. You know that, right?”

“Girl, I know I can trust you.”

“But people talk. There’s some shit on the news or whatever, so people know… And now, some kids are saying you and Farrell Creed killed like a hundred people… and maybe they weren’t all bad guys?”

“Whatever,” Alysa rolled her eyes and the two girls started down the hall, “I don’t expect people to understand what’s been going on. We’re gonna graduate soon, anyway,”

“Also…,” Grace began almost as if contemplating whether or not to finish the sentence, ” Jessica Dance said she saw you and Farrell Creed… making out?”

“Oh, hell no!,” Alysa stopped dead in her tracks, “When did she supposedly even see that?”

“I dunno. She’s always talk’n shit,” Grace looked around the hall to make sure no one overheard, “She’s the alpha bitch, you know that.”

“I’m gonna make her piss her pants. You know I know a spell!,” they walked into their biology class, “It ain’t even hypothetical. By the time we graduate, she’s gonna pee all over herself in front of everybody.”

“I told you it was best not to know,” they sat down, “But like…,” she leaned in and whispered, “That dude’s creepy as hell. What is he even like?”

“He saved my life and helped me avenge my mom,” Alysa got serious, “I’m not gonna -“

“Um, Alysa?,” her American History teacher leaned over her desk, “Hi, how is… everything?”

“Fine,” Alysa crossed her arms and slouched in her seat.

“So anyway,” the teacher quickly switched subjects, revealing that he hadn’t walked over to her desk to ask about her current state, “The principal would like to see you in his office. He has someone he’d like you to meet.”

“Okay,” Alysa sighed and left the classroom. Since the bell had rung, the hallways were empty which she saw as comforting since no one could stare at her. She wasn’t sure what the principal wanted with her but she knew it wouldn’t be good. When she arrived in his office, she noticed him and the vice-principal standing at the far wall. At the center of the room sat a large man wearing a police uniform. “Hi, Alysa,” the principal began as if they had spoken to each other before. “This is Charles Meyer,” the principal motioned toward the officer in the room, “He’s the Chief of Police. He’d like to have a few words with you.” Alysa was reminded of Creed’s warning that the police in Winghaven would be keeping tabs on her with an emphasis on how difficult the Chief of Police was. She pretended to not know anything about him and sat on the other side of the table.

“First of all, Miss Saraki,” Meyer began, “I’d like to express my condolences. Your mother did a lot for this community.”

“Thank you,” she responded quietly.

“We’ve had our hands full this past month as you can imagine. I know we brought you in a while back and you gave a statement, which was fine. My concern is who you were with when it happened.”

“Farrell Creed?”

“There were bodies in those woods. Creed said he was the one responsible and it was all self defense.”

“It’s true. Those people attacked us and they were the ones who killed my mom!”

“I’m sure they were… but someone as young as you really needs to stay away from Mr. Creed. The guy’s dangerous.”

“He saved my life. Where were you when that was going on?,” Alysa snarled.

“Alysa, please be respectful,” the principal spoke up.

“It’s fine,” Meyer waved him off, “Alysa, do you know who Farrell’s dad was?”

“No,” Alysa said even though she was well aware of the rumors and felt ashamed in helping cultivate them at her school in the past.

“A man by the name of Nelson Creed,” Meyer began, “Nelson lived over in Widow Springs. He was mean as a rattlesnake and had the whole town scared of him through most of the 70s. He took whatever he wanted, beat people up, everything. He might’ve killed some folks for all anyone knew. The man was a monster by all accounts,” his tone became more serious as he spoke, “They say he was a racist and a pedophile too.”

Alysa wondered why he seemed to emphasize those last two words and thought it might have been due to her being a young woman of color but she ignored it, “Just because his dad was that way, don’t mean Creed is that way.”

“See, in most cases you might be right,” Meyers leaned back in his chair, “You know Farrell went to school here? Not that he graduated. Wanna know why? He beat a teacher half to death, so they sent him to juvenile detention.”

“Why’d he beat up a teacher? What happened?”

“Oh, I dunno,” Meyers shook his head but Alysa could tell he was lying, “Your buddy just snapped one day, just like his daddy used to snap and go after anyone and everyone in sight,” Meyers stood up, “Here’s another thing about Nelson Creed. The people over there in Widow Springs had enough of him one day. The whole town met him outside his favorite bar and next thing anyone knows, there was a gunshot through the back window of his truck and another at point-blank range from the driver’s side. To this day, no one knows who killed that man. He had a pregnant wife who was probably a little younger than you, if you can imagine, and that was Farrell’s mom. That’s the kind of ending people like that get and I don’t want to see a young girl with a bright future end up the same way.”

“People in Widow Springs didn’t try to get the cops involved or anything?,” Alysa knew the answer to her question but wanted to see his reaction.

“Oh, I dunno,” Meyers said once again and she could once again tell he was lying. She knew the town was too small to have their own police force so they had to call Winghaven cops, but they were never able to help for a variety of reasons.

“Maybe they did call the cops and it didn’t do any good,” Alysa continued, which got a stern but silent look from Meyer.

“Alysa, you can go back to your classroom now,” the principal snapped.

Alysa left the office and opted to go out to the parking lot and get in her car, skipping school completely, then she decided to go to her temple to pray for some guidance. She walked into the sanctuary and approached the altar where she prepared to light some incense. As she did this, she heard voices coming form the back rooms and when she raised her head, she noticed Miss Gerring stepping out of the office along with two figures. The first was a middle-aged African American woman in traditional Iseda garb and the second was an African American transman who wore an all-white suit. Typically, these clothes would be indications of a priestess and priest (her mother preferred to dress informally unless there was a special occasion).

“Alysa, that you?,” Miss Gerring made her way to the altar with the other two in tow, “I didn’t expect you here.”

“Hi, Miss Gerring. I just came for a little prayer,” Alysa then turned her attention to the two figures.

“I’m glad you’re here, actually. This is Mama Johnson and Papa Abadie from Atlanta.”

“Nice to meet you,” she bowed her head a bit.

“Nice to meet you, Alysa,” Mama Johnson greeted her with a warm smile, “We’re very sorry to hear about your mother and all the trouble with your former priest.”

“Thanks, ma’am.”

“The AIA sent them all the way from Georgia,” Miss Gerring said, indicating the American Iseda Association, “They’ll be…,” she paused a bit, “Taking care of things now that your mother has passed.”

“Oh,” Alysa finally realized they would be replacing her mother and Papa Torres, a reality that didn’t hit her until that moment, “I didn’t know…”

“I spoke with some of the other elders and we thought it was best not to bother you with these things,” Miss Gerring explained, “You just had too much on your plate, baby. With the funeral and… all the struggles you been through lately.”

“Yeah, no… I-I knew we would need a new priest, but I kinda thought…,” she paused as she tried to find the right words. She didn’t like the fact that she was left in the dark, even if there were good intentions involved. Certainly, she didn’t want to upset a sweet older woman like Miss Gerring and causing a scene in front of the new priestess and priest was out of the question. Still, she was the priestess in training. Being a part of the conversation could have helped her brace for this eventuality and, if nothing else, would have prepared her with the correct words to say. She bit her lips and finally sputtered out a meek, “… Will my training continue?”

“Eventually,” Papa Abadie told her bluntly.

“As Miss Gerring said, you’ve been through a lot and we feel it’s best to put your training on hold for the time being,” Mama Johnson continued.

“We realize you’ve grown in power, but maybe it’s best not to burden you with this sort of thing,” Miss Gerring explained further.

“I understand your mother was a strong part of the community but we were a little concerned to hear about…,” Mama Johnson stopped and began again, “… We want to do everything in our power to protect you and all our brothers and sisters in Winghaven. We don’t want you in danger and in order to do that, we’ll need to take some time to get to know you and see where your needs are.”

“Besides, you’ll be graduating soon,” Miss Gerring said, “You have school to worry about.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Alysa said, defeated.

“Speaking of school, it’s only 1:35,” Abadie looked at his watch, “Why aren’t you in class?”

In Pete’s Shop, Pete Bone Splitter sat behind the counter, sipping coffee silently while staring out the door. Lucille brought a few boxes from the back, setting them next to Pete at the counter. Heavy bags rested under Pete’s eyes, indicating a lack of sleep, which elicited a look of concern from Lucille.

“If he comes in, I can take care of it,” she told Pete, “Why don’t you get some rest.”

“The exchange needs to be between me and him only,” he took another sip of his coffee, “I can’t let you get involved in any way. It’s bad enough that we’re talking about this.”

She pursed her lips together and disappeared in the back room. A few moments later, Creed walked through the door. He and Pete met each others’ gazes. Like Pete, Creed’s eyes were red and baggy. The two men said nothing. Creed walked across the room, stopping at the counter while Pete reached a shelf below and brought an object out on the surface of the counter: a glass mason jar full of white ash. Creed picked it up and tilted it and in so doing, shifted the object buried in the ash. The hilt of a small knife clanked against the inside of the jar, the blade still buried in ash. He nodded to Pete silently. Pete nodded back. Then Creed took the jar and left.

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