Here is Part 2 of The First Storm of Spring. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.
And if you're ready to go, Part 2 starts now…
The First Storm of Spring
By Catherine Mesick
When Garrett awoke, he could see the sky. It was overcast, but there was still plenty of light, and nothing in the calm, gray sky gave any indication that a powerful and deadly storm was on its way.
Garrett looked down and realized that he was lying on a bare patch of dirt. He looked up again and saw that he was lying a few yards from Subee’s little house. The front door was firmly closed.
Garrett jumped up and hurried to the little house. He pounded on the front door.
“Miss Subee, I know you’re in there!”
The shade covering the window next to the door flew open, and a moment later the window itself opened too—but just a crack.
“What do you want?” said Subee’s voice.
Garrett walked over to the window and peered inside. Subee was staring out at him defiantly.
“What I want,” Garrett said, “is to help you. It’s my duty to protect the people in this town. And you happen to be one of them. I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.”
“Where?” Subee said. “To jail?”
“No, ma’am. I can take you to a designated shelter or to family if you have any outside the storm path.”
“And if I don’t come out?”
“Then I’m going to stand right here at your door until the storm carries us both away.”
Subee stared at him for a long moment.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said.
“I don’t mean about standing out in the storm,” Subee said. “I meant you’re serious about wanting to help me.”
“Yes, ma’am, to that, too.”
Subee disappeared from the window. A moment later, the front door opened.
“You can come in again, Garrett.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“And seriously, just call me Subee.”
Subee let him in and then sat down at the little dining room table. She motioned for Garrett to take the other seat.
“I’ll say this quickly. You have got to go, and I have got to stay.”
“Why?” Garrett asked.
“I’m trying to protect the people of this town just like you are.”
Garrett smiled a little. “Are you proposing to stop the storm?”
Subee did not smile back.
“I see. And how will you do that?”
“I don’t expect you to believe me,” Subee said. She gestured to the snakeskins on the wall. “This is part of my work.”
Garrett waited patiently for her to continue.
“You have a choice,” Subee said after a moment. “If you believe me, you can stay. If you don’t believe me, then I will have to ask you to leave. And you are unlikely to believe me. So then you really will have to leave—or I will get you out of here myself.”
“Understood,” Garrett said.
“Everyone thinks that I’ve been killing snakes,” Subee said, “and pinning their skins on my wall. But these creatures weren’t snakes. They don’t even look like regular snakes—at least not to me. I can see them for what they really are.”
“And what are they?” Garrett asked.
“Evil spirits. In the guise of a snake.”
Subee paused as if she expected Garrett to react. When he said nothing, she went on.
“This storm that is coming is like that,” Subee said. “It looks like a regular storm, but it isn’t one.”
Garrett frowned. “You mean it’s a hurricane made up of evil spirits?”
“Basically, yes. This is a supernatural storm. Or to put it more exactly, this is a normal storm—a naturally occurring hurricane—that is being used by supernatural forces. The storm itself would be happening anyway, and evacuation is absolutely the right thing to do—for most people. But what the storm brings with it, the evil presence that is opportunistically catching a ride—that’s what I have to deal with.”
“And how will you do that?” Garrett asked.
“I have the ability to touch spirit,” Subee said. “When I touch it, I can make it take physical form. Then, if necessary, it can be destroyed.”
“You’re going to destroy the evil spirits in the storm?” Garrett said.
“Yes,” Subee said. “Well, ‘destroy’ is actually the wrong word. The spirits can’t be destroyed. But they can be dispersed—and sent back where they came from.”
“Why? Can’t you just let the evil spirits roll over everything along with the storm?”
“No,” Subee said. “That’s the last thing I can do. This is a special storm. Most storms have very low levels of spiritual energy, but at times, evil energy builds up—bubbling up from the earth, from the water, even from the air. And all of this evil spiritual energy is looking for one thing: host bodies.”
Garrett shifted a little in his seat. “You’re saying that evil spirits in this storm want to possess people?”
“It’s a little subtler than that,” Subee said. “True possession is extremely rare. These spirits seek to attach themselves to hosts, sort of like a cloud—to use their bodies to influence the physical world. The host still retains its own spirit—but the evil one latches on to it—begins to guide it, especially when it is at its most vulnerable. Once it has taken hold, the evil spirit is nearly impossible to detect. Those who know the person only notice at first that the person’s mood has grown a little darker. As time goes by, that darkness grows and grows.”
“Until?” Garrett said.
“Until the person dies,” Subee replied. “Mortal flesh can only bear so much evil. Like I said, true possession is rare. But influence can occur when evil grows strong enough. And it can take hold of plants and animals as well as humans.”
“Is that what these snakes were?” Garrett asked, glancing at the walls.
Subee frowned. “No—these are a little different. They were never snakes—they just looked like snakes. The material that held these together is organic, but there was never an animal inside. The snakeskins were hollow—I just released the evil spirit within. These creatures were something like scouts for the main group of spirits.”
“Why do you hang them up?” Garrett asked. “As a warning?”
“No—as a shield. The snakeskins are organic but wrongly organic. I am surrounded by their wrongness and it masks my presence—at least for a time.”
Garrett smiled. “So the evil spirits know about you?”
“They do. And they’ll stop me if they can.”
“So what are you going to do exactly?” Garrett said.
“As I said,” Subee began, “I can touch spirit—I can make it solid. I can—not destroy it—but disperse it. I can break up its cohesion and send it back into the air and the water and the earth. And I have my tools. They help me, too. I’ll wait till the storm comes, bringing with it the evil spirits, and then I’ll come out and attack.”
“What are you? Some kind of wizard?”
“I’m not a wizard,” Subee said. “I’m a very ordinary person with a very bad job.”
“So why do you do it?”
“I didn’t really have a choice.”
“Why not?” Garrett asked.
“The ability to do this is hereditary—and rare. Evil poses a very real threat to the mortal world. And I have the ability to help where others can’t. I can see and touch what they don’t even know exists.”
“If I can save people and don’t, then what am I?”
“It’s hard to argue with you when you put it like that,” Garrett said. “And how are you proposing to survive the storm? It’s still a real storm, and it’s very powerful.”
“I’ll survive with this.”
Subee rolled up her sleeve to reveal what looked like a small tattoo of a gold leaf on her wrist.
Garrett looked up at Subee.
“That’ll protect you?”
“That’ll protect me.”
Subee regarded Garrett for a moment. Then she became businesslike.
“So now I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Why is that?” asked Garrett.
“Since you don’t believe me—I’m going to have to—”
“I believe you.”
“What was that?” Subee asked.
“I believe you,” Garrett repeated.
“You can’t possibly believe me.”
“I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I do.”
“Why?” Subee said.
“Why do I believe you?”
“Yes,” Subee said. “Why do you believe me? In my entire life no one has ever believed me. Why would you believe me now?”
“Well,” Garrett said slowly. “There must be some reason why a perfectly normal person has done all of this.”
He gestured to the snakeskins on the wall and then continued.
“And you are perfectly normal. Even if you think you aren’t. Your house, your yard, and even your person are all clean and tidy—the snakeskins notwithstanding. Everything’s in good shape so to speak. When people are troubled—truly troubled in their minds, all these things start to get muddled and disordered. I know that from experience. You might think that we don’t see a lot of trouble in a small town, but working in a job like mine—you see everything, you know everybody’s secrets. I know the difference between a crazy person and a sane person. And you’re a sane person. And I do hope you’ll forgive the references to your person.”
“Okay, so I’m not crazy,” Subee said. “What if I’m just plain wrong? Sane people have gotten ahold of the wrong idea before.”
Garrett eyed her closely. “I don’t think so. You don’t look like a fanatic to me. Like I said, even in this small town, I’ve seen just about everything—every kind of behavior you can imagine. You don’t fit the description.”
“You still haven’t answered my question,” Subee said. “Why do you believe me? You’ve only given me reasons why you don’t think I’m crazy.”
“I believe you believe what you’re saying,” Garrett said. “That’s all I need to know.”
“That’s not enough.”
“It is for me,” Garrett said. “And you said the choice was mine. I choose to believe you.”
“You can’t stay,” Subee said. “It’s too dangerous. This storm is dangerous—even apart from what it carries.”
“If it’s not impolite to point it out,” Garrett said, “I already know that. In fact, I believe this entire conversation began with my pointing that out to you.”
Subee sighed. “What would you do if you did stay?”
“I’m proposing to help you, ma’am, and the people of this town. Just like I said I would.”
“How can you help? You can’t do the things I can do.”
“It seems to me,” Garrett said, “that you’ve been working alone for a very long time. And there are few jobs that can’t be improved by having a partner. I’m sure there’s something I can do.”
Subee was silent for a long moment.
“There is something, isn’t there?” Garrett said.
“It would be dangerous,” Subee began.
“I’m a law enforcement officer, ma’am,” Garrett said. “Danger is part of the job description.”
Subee looked at him as if seeing him for the first time.
“That’s true,” she said softly. “You risk your life every day. You know what it’s like.”
Garrett grinned. “Does that mean I can stay?”
“Yes,” Subee said.
*You can read Part 3 here.*
*You can read Part 3 here.*
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