Right. Sorry about last night's post, but between calling Violet and my family wanting to be all mushy and together (for once), I didn't have much down time.
Now that it's Christmas and all the gift-giving is over (full account of the awesome stuff I got later), I have a few minutes to get this down.
My brother and his family came up to my mother's place in the city to visit for Christmas (every year, we have Christmas Eve-as-Christmas down there, and then real Christmas at my dad's). As well as them, my mom's friend Donnie came over with his dog, Ziggy, who is totally in love with my mom's dog, Phoenix. It was pretty joyous, albeit cramped with all those people and the dogs in the little rowhouse. Around the middle of the day, we decided to take the dogs and bundle up the kids and go down to the park near Donnie's house to play.
We weren't the only ones with the idea; there were a couple of other families there, and we shared holiday pleasantries and the kids played together while we ate the bit of transportable food we brought with us. I'd already asked Desmond about Kayleigh, and he said that he hadn't noticed anything suspicious, but I still managed to ask her about it, in a roundabout way -- asking whether she'd made any new friends, been drawing any different pictures, that sort of thing -- and, thank God, she came up clear.
I almost had my guard down when that feeling crept back up on me.
"What's wrong, Aunt Celie?" I heard vaguely from one of the kids -- was it Ashton? -- as I stumbled back a little.
"I'm fine, sweetheart," I managed to choke out.
I looked around, trying to spot him. I did -- he was under a tree in the middle of the park, near a fence containing a small baseball diamond. At first, I nearly panicked, thinking he was after one of Des's kids, but then I realized that he had his eye -- you know, metaphorically speaking -- on one of the others there, a little boy about ten. I saw the kid see him, and start walking over. He was a fish on the line.
I told the family I'd be right back, and then started walking over as well. No way was I just going to let this slide like before, when I was at work; had I forfeited the kids in the SUV to him? I couldn't let the question rise with this one.
Neither kid nor Man noticed me at first. I had to do something, but what? The little boy was getting closer...I didn't have much time --
I didn't even think about it, didn't even know which one it was directed to, but in a way, it worked. He looked at me, breaking his concentration on the boy. The kid blinked a few times, screamed, and ran back to his parents. As for him -- he just looked at me.
For a good long while, we stood like that. He was angry -- I could feel it in the air, a sudden tensing that made it hard to move or even breathe. Even though he was standing still, he looked like he was moving; he looked amorphous, as though the surface of him itself were a live thing. For a minute, I felt the mix of comfort and terror that the boy had just known.
I'm not afraid of you, I forced myself to think. It wasn't true. But hey, fake it till you make it, right? So I repeated it in my head, directed right toward him. I'm not afraid of you. I'm not afraid of you.
He was gone before I realized what had happened, disappeared in the same way he'd done before, in that same manner that made me unsure whether or not he was even there in the first place.
"Celie?" my mother called. I walked back to them. I looked at the family of the boy; he was still crying, and they were packing up to leave.
The rest of the day passed slowly. I tried my best to act as though nothing had happened, but I think they sensed something was wrong.
Desmond and the family accompanied us back up to our dad's, since my mom didn't have space for all of them.
This raises questions, and only answers some of them. Did Zero's plan work? Not completely. But I think it did enough. I think he may be weaker; how else could I be able to fend him off of that boy?
Or maybe it's not because of them at all. I'm starting to think that maybe I am the Witness. I'm still not convinced, but I was thinking about what you said, Baibre -- and then that made me think of the day we found Mary-Ann Compton in the woods. I caught her as she fell (I still have scars on my arm), I was an active participant, but I still had to fill out a witness report. A witness is not necessarily passive. It makes me feel a little more confident about the whole thing. But like I said, I'm still unsure.
Either way, the fact that he's weakened is a very good thing. It could be that the very thing that's strengthened him -- the information age -- is the very same thing that could kill him. The more people who know about him, the more people can fight him. If he is alive, he can die. Good on you, Zero and Nightcrawler. You guys broke the seal. Now we're gonna break the door wide open.
Merry Christmas, guys. I think it's gonna be a hell of a New Year.