The Cottage – Part Ten – (Short Story)

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Part One | Part Two |Part Three |  Part Four |Part Five |  Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Afternoon found him stiff limbed and groggy. Jim reengaged the safety and set the twelve gauge gingerly on the wood panel floor.

It was stupid to sleep with a loaded and ready weapon. It hurt a bit. He could stand to be a fool but not an all-out idiot. For better or for worse, the sting of self-criticism was short-lived.

Soon his mind recalled the reason for this folly. It replayed the strange melodic chirping, the peculiar pitter patter of flesh on shingle, and Jim shuddered.

He shuddered at the possibility of the unknown. What if his tidy theory was wrong? Most frightening of all, was the idea that for the first time in his quarter century of living, he was out of his depths.

So, Jim was silent as he methodically went about his morning ablutions.

He recalled Kenny’s advice. “Listen ya little shit. You think you’re real smooth. Which is why one day you are guaranteed to fuck up. Sooner or later something always throws us off balance. Let me tell you an old corpsman’s trick. Act natural, act ritual, keep tidy, shave every morning even if you don’t ever shave. Keep your sideburns trimmed. Floss those pearly whites. Gain as much control of the close and minor as possible. The rest will follow. This is the rule of momentum.”

Jim brought his chin to a porcelain smooth polish. His sideburns were soon impeccable. Tucking in his shirt he went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast with a determined circumspection.

Soon his brain produced another theory.

‘They’re tryin’ to spook me into their game. They want me to be a link in the chain. To be a little messenger boy at the safe house. Without even knowing it. That’s why they were up there playin monster. They want me to believe in voodoo rather than let me into the money. Outsiders are too much of a liability even if they’re kin. I know this gangland shit.’

His habitual calm returned. Though only for the span it took to cross his threshold.

The brilliant noonday sun revealed a once familiar meadow crisscrossed by a gridlock pattern of circles within circles.

‘If this is a ruse. It’s god damned elaborate!’ He mused as the chill tendrils of doubt once again crept into his psyche.

Where there is doubt, there is the unknown, where there is the unknown there is fear.

“No.” Jim said aloud.

‘I refuse to be fucked with. I don’t care what sort of Scooby Doo shenanigans these fuckers throw at me. I’m not gonna lose my shit over eccentric landscaping.’

He strode out into the peculiar mist that was so strange for midday. Save for it and the weird circles everything seemed normal.

Birds twittered and insects sang. Wind rustled and trees swayed. He focused on the normal.

‘Yes, in fact everything is normal. There’s nothing abnormal about mischief. Especially from locals to an outsider.’

Still, he figured it wise to stick with his original plan and lay low for a bit.

He considered setting more traps. But there was no way to tell if he was being watched. There were at least half a dozen intruders as far as he could recollect. Any of the tens of thousands of trees could hide them. They could be watching even now.

Jim offered up a double bird salute and went inside to think.

The cottage was strange and silent. It did not creak. It was so perfect still. He felt as if he inhabited a hermetically sealed box.

He didn’t know why it hadn’t bothered him till now. The silence was deafening. He could not stomach it.

Jim took quick efficient strides to the record player.

While he wasn’t particularly keen on the Beatles he figured ‘any port in a storm.’ So, it was that the needle found Abbey Road.

Yet, no music played. Jim leaned forward to try to see what went wrong.

Before he could complete the troubleshooting a crisp clear voice with a Nordic lilt broke through the speakers.

“Abasalom, Absalom, why do you not heed?”

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