azombiewrites: (War of the Worlds - Tv Series)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Dance on Through
Fandom: War of the Worlds (TV Series)
Genre: Hurt/comfort, Horror, Science Fiction.
Rating: PG
Main Characters: Lt. Col. Paul Ironhorse, Debi McCullough, Dr. Suzanne McCullough, Dr. Harrison Blackwood and Norton Drake.
Disclaimers: Based on the characters created by Greg Strangis.
Challenge: Written for The [livejournal.com profile] spook_me Multi-Fandom Halloween Ficathon 2015.
Prompt: Boogeyman
Picture Prompts: #1 and #2
Author's Notes: Story title snagged from the song 'Dance on Through' by The Human Beinz.
Chapter Word Count: 5,313
Total Word Count: 30,738
Status: Complete

Summary: Responding to alien transmissions, the Blackwood Project find themselves embroiled in the legend of the Boogeyman. Children are disappearing, abducted during their thirteenth year. The local inhabitants are certain a boogeyman is behind their disappearance but Blackwood believes the aliens are involved. When Debi, in her thirteenth year, is threatened, Ironhorse risks his life to keep her safe.





Dance on Through
Chapter Five



Ironhorse woke up feeling cold all over, his body chilled.

Except he didn’t.

Not really.

His left side warm, an area on his chest not as cold as the rest of him.

He could feel the comfort of a thick blanket, the material tucked under his chin, around his shoulders. It did nothing to threaten the chill in his limbs, his muscles aching with the cold. A smell of mothballs assaulted his senses, the odour disagreeing with his stomach. Ironhorse turned his head away and tried to take in a cleaner breath, the air cut off when pain echoed in his side and chest, a reminder he didn’t want, images flashing through his mind like a slide show, more horrific than any holiday snap he’d seen.

They had made it out alive. Survived a living nightmare.

“Paul?”

Unexpected company. Not really in the mood to talk or entertain. Not that they would give him the choice, the decision taken away from him, treated like an invalid desperate for company. He could put it off, simulate sleep . . . another breath, features creasing, lines of pain revealed. No sense in hiding. He opened his eyes, snapping them shut when the overhead light glared down at him. A few moments to adjust. A second attempt.

Sitting in a chair beside the bed was Suzanne. She smiled down at him, humour written in her gaze. Unaware of what was so funny, he frowned at her. Suzanne nodded toward something on his other side, her smile growing.

Feeling vulnerable, Ironhorse shifted his gaze, looking down at his side. Debi lay curled up against his side, fast asleep . . . a source of warmth, her head resting on his chest. Feeling awkward, Debi too close, Ironhorse moved away, ignoring ribs arguing against the movement, creating space between them, her head falling away, a soft thump against the mattress.

“She wanted to be close,” said Suzanne, smile dropping from her face.

Ironhorse thought she was angry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it would make you uncomfortable.”

“She’s twelve,” said Ironhorse, very uncomfortable with Debi being so close.

“A twelve-year-old who still sits on her mother’s lap.”

“I’m not her father, Suzanne.”

“No,” said Suzanne, leaning closer, fingers rearranging the blanket around Ironhorse’s shoulders. “But you have a special bond now.”

“I don’t feel comfortable with . . .”

“I’m sorry, Paul. It won’t happen again.”

He allowed himself to relax, closed his eyes, felt damn sure she’d just lied to him . . . easier to allow her daughter one small comfort. Ironhorse couldn’t blame her. Debi had gone through hell and Ironhorse decided – went against his own discomfort – to give the kid what she needed to get through the aftermath.

“Are you all right?”

A release of breath, a suppressed sigh.

He was fine.

Except he wasn’t.

Not really.

He felt . . . strange, lethargic, a familiar feeling he couldn’t name. The ache in his skull paled in comparison to the pain that had tortured him earlier. The nausea dispelled, a feeling of hunger replacing it, one good thing. His side and chest full with a dull ache . . . took a testing breath, lungs filling with air. A sharp twinge of pain before it faded back into a mild ache. So grateful he could breathe again. Took another deep breath just because he could.

Ironhorse opened his eyes, looked back at Suzanne. He wasn’t going to admit anything, not yet, not until he heard what the doctor had said. Comparing notes, he would know what he had to admit to and what he could keep to himself.

“What did the Doctor say?”

Suzanne looked away, back over her shoulder before flicking her gaze back to Ironhorse. Following the direction her gaze had taken, he found Blackwood and Norton. They sat in the corner of the room, a table between them. Spread out on the table was the missing children posters, a collection of children once alive, now dead. Confused, Ironhorse raised an eyebrow at Blackwood, not surprised when the man looked away. Norton unwilling to help, Ironhorse looked back at Suzanne.

For some reason, she found it difficult to look him in the eye. He waited, expecting bad news, his lack of patience showing across his features. When no news came, he pushed the blanket away from his shoulders and made every effort to sit up. Managed to do it but it had cost him, pain flaring in his side, a tight cinch around his chest, the air seizing in his lungs. He slumped back against the headboard, a groan passing through his lips. Closed his eyes and wrapped his arm around his ribs. The pain didn’t linger, drifting away, now a distant memory. The strange feeling finally recognised . . . analgesics; someone had given him what felt like a strong painkiller. He hated the way they made him feel; groggy and slightly nauseated, glad he’d slept through most of the physical side effects but they also loosened his tongue, always said too much, revealing information he preferred to keep to himself . . .

He could feel something rough beneath his arm. Opened his eyes and looked down. The doctor had wrapped a bandage around his ribs, tight enough to make breathing easier. The rest of his upper body bare, he couldn’t find the energy to be embarrassed or cover himself up. Bruises marked his chest, dark purples spreading out from beneath the bandage. Understood there would be matching bruises across his back.

Suzanne stood up, moved around the bed to the other side, a subtle glance given to Blackwood as she passed him. She reached down, placed a pillow beneath her daughter’s head, sat down on the edge of the bed and watched her daughter, fingers brushing the blonde hair away from Debi’s face, tucking it behind an ear, the movement becoming repetitive. Ironhorse could see she was afraid, unsure . . .

“Suzanne? What did the doctor say?”

She didn’t respond.

Worry began to churn in his gut. They were hiding something from him. Confident in his knowledge, he looked at Suzanne, waited for her to look back. It took too long, her gaze finally lifting, finally gaining the courage to look at him. The anxiety must have been showing in his features, Suzanne quick to diminish his fears.

“The doctor said you’ll be fine. Two broken ribs and a mild concussion.”

“Then what is it?” said Ironhorse. “What’s got you so afraid?”

Blackwood shifted in his seat, a look of concern and worry in his blue eyes. “They want you to go back.”

“Go back? I’m surprised we’re still here.”

Looking away, Blackwood stared at Norton. “Not home. Back . . . there. They want you to go back for their children.”

Surprised, Ironhorse couldn’t comprehend what Blackwood was telling him. “Back?”

Standing up, Blackwood gathered the posters and walked to the bed, sitting down on the chair. “They think . . . no, they’re hoping because you came back, because you brought Debi back that you would be able to do the same for their kids. They’re hoping you’ll go back and get their children.”

It felt like someone had slapped him in the face. “I can’t.”

Suzanne gripped his hand, squeezing his fingers. “We understand that you wouldn’t want to go back there. Debi told us what happened--”

“I can’t help them. Their children are dead.”

“Are you sure?” said Blackwood.

Ironhorse could feel the anger rising, muscles tense, hands clenching into fists. “What are you saying, Blackwood? Do you really think I would lie about something like that? They’re dead. I can’t change that. I can’t help them.”

Blackwood shook his head in denial, a deep breath, a frustrated release of air. “No, of course I don’t think you’re lying. It’s just . . .”

“What?”

“Leaving them in there.”

“Believe me, Blackwood. I don’t think they care,” said Ironhorse, looking away for a moment. “Debi was right. They were like zombies. They were dead but . . . they still moved. I . . .” Lifting his hands, pulling his left hand from Suzanne’s grip, he rubbed at his eyes, an attempt to dislodge the image of a young girl with a broken neck.

You kill people.

Lowered his hands. “She wouldn’t let go. I didn’t have a choice. She wouldn’t let go. Even with a broken neck, she kept moving.” He looked at Blackwood, shifting his gaze to look at Suzanne. “They’re dead. I can’t help them. I can’t bring them back.”

Suzanne nodded. “Someone has to tell Harold.”

“I’ll do it,” said Blackwood, standing up and moving away from the bed toward the open door. “The Colonel’s been through enough.”

“I saw Harold’s son,” said Ironhorse. “He still had his teddy bear.”

“I’ll tell him,” said Blackwood, pausing in the doorway, turning and looking back at Ironhorse. “I’m glad you made it back. You and Debi.”

“I’ll go with Harrison,” said Norton, following Blackwood through the open doorway. “In case he needs backup.”

“We thought we lost you both,” said Suzanne, pulling his gaze away from Blackwood and Norton. “You saved my daughter’s life. I will never forget that.”

“Your daughter is . . .” Ironhorse hesitated, not sure how to express in words what he wanted to say.

“Special.”

“Pushy.”

Suzanne frowned. “Pushy?”

Ironhorse smiled. “Pushy. Meaning confident, determined, brave and smart. Just like her mother.”

Held his breath when he realised what he’d said. Damn drugs.

“She’s a lot like Uncle Hank.”

Words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. “You told her I kill people.”

Suzanne seemed confused with the change of direction their conversation was taking. Ironhorse didn’t really care, wanting to know why she would tell her daughter he killed people.

“She told you I said that?”

“No,” said Ironhorse, shaking his head, closing his eyes when the vertigo drifted through his mind, clearing within moments. When he stopped to think about what Debi had said . . . you kill people, don’t you. It had been a question not a statement. Opened his eyes. “Why does she think I kill people?”

“What makes you think--”

“Something she said,” said Ironhorse. “Why does she think I kill people?”

“Colonel, you--”

He knew what she was going to say. Could see it in her eyes, the way she avoided his gaze for a moment. Her body language an obvious tell, limbs becoming tense, fingers fidgeting through her daughter’s hair. “I didn’t become a soldier so I can kill people.” A long, suffering sigh over an explanation told so many times it felt like he was reciting a speech. “I don’t enjoy it. I do it to protect those who can’t defend themselves. I do it because I have to, not because I want to . . . I can’t do this. I can’t keep defending what I do to people like you.”

“You don’t have to, Paul.”

“It’s just . . . it sounded like an accusation. She thinks I murder people, Suzanne. Why does she think that?”

Suzanne looked down at her daughter. Ironhorse could see that she was gathering her thoughts. If she said the wrong thing, gave an explanation that only made things worse . . . She returned her gaze to Ironhorse, her expression confident. He knew she was going to tell him the truth.

“She doesn’t think that. We don’t think that about you,” said Suzanne. “When I told her the truth about the Blackwood Project, I explained what everyone would be doing. I told her you were a soldier like Uncle Hank, that you were there as security.” She hesitated, a moment to gage his reaction.

“You told her you didn’t want me there.”

“Yes,” said Suzanne, refusing to look away. “I love my uncle but--”

“But you don’t agree with what we do and how we do it.”

She smiled. “You’re answering your own question.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” A deep breath before she continued. “Debi had a homework assignment last year. It doesn’t matter what it was . . . she went to Uncle Hank. He wanted to be honest with her. He told her things, things that he’s done as a soldier. Uncle Hank wanted her to understand. She did. That’s why she doesn’t--”

“Hate me.”

“We don’t hate you, Paul. We were angry the military tried to take over a civilian project.”

“That wasn’t my decision.”

“I know that,” said Suzanne. “We know that. We allowed our anger over the decision my Uncle made to make our judgements about you. We didn’t give you a chance. You’re the perfect soldier and sometimes it’s hard to see past that.”

“Military maleness.”

“She told you that?”

“Yes.”

Suzanne looked down at Debi.

“Talking about normal things helped us.”

Nodding, Suzanne said, “She’s taken what Uncle Hank told her and has associated that with you. She’s assuming you’ve done the same things he has.”

“It didn’t come from you?”

“No. She’s curious. You should talk to her about Vietnam.”

A dark expression crossed his features. “I don’t talk to anyone about Vietnam.”

“I’m sorry, Paul, I didn’t mean--”

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t like talking about it.”

“I understand.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. We were wrong. We misjudged you. You deserve to be here. You’ve proven that more than once. You proved that today. If you weren’t here . . .” A sob tore from her throat.

He looked away, not sure how to handle an emotional civilian.

“You saved my daughter’s life.”

Embarrassed, he tugged at a loose thread in the blanket, waited until she gained control of her emotions.

“Have I answered your question?”

“Yes,” said Ironhorse, grateful she’d been truthful with him. “When she said that, I thought . . .”

“You thought what?”

“That she might be scared of me,” said Ironhorse, looking at Suzanne, searching her eyes for assurance.

“She isn’t scared of you, Paul. She keeps her distance from you because it’s what she thinks you want.”

“I’m not good with civilians.”

“We didn’t make it easy for you.”

“We’re having a movie night on the weekend,” said Ironhorse, saw the glint of amusement in her eyes. “Debi and me.”

“That’s a good thing. You understand what each other went through in there. You can talk to each other about it. If there are things you want to talk about but feel you can’t talk to Debi, you can talk to me.”

“We saw things, Suzanne. Debi’s going to have nightmares.”

“You both will.”

“I can deal with nightmares. I had them for a long time after Vietnam.”

“How did you deal with them then?”

“Alcohol.” Realised he’d said too much again. Looked away.

“Did it help?”

“No.”

“It won’t help this time either,” said Suzanne.

“I know that.”

“What happened in there, Paul?”

Looking back at her, he said, “I thought Debi told you?”

“She told me what she saw. I want to know what you saw.”

“There’s a difference?”

“Yes.”

“Are we having a counselling session?”

“It can be. Do you want it to be a counselling session?” Her tone careful, Suzanne waited.

“No.”

“Okay. I won’t push you. If you do need to talk . . .”

“I know where to find you.”

Suzanne smiled. “You look tired. Try and get some more sleep.”

He didn’t think he could sleep. Wasn’t sure he wanted to.

“Is Debi all right?”

“The doctor said she’s fine. He gave her a mild sedative to help her sleep.”

He wasn’t going to tell her what happened, didn’t think it would help if he told Suzanne her daughter had started to turn . . .

A visual snap of blue in his peripheral.

An odour of something rotten . . .

“Suzanne . . .”

A nasty feeling crawled across his skin, the length of his spine, his body shivering in response, pain tingling in his side. The feeling dug deep into the back of his neck, headache returning with vigour. A soft hum vibrated through his skull . . . words spoken, the voice soft . . .

“Naughty boy.”

It was back.

Body snapping forward, pain pulling at his side, Ironhorse searched the room looking for two things: its entry point and a weapon. He found neither. The weapon’s belt around his waist was gone, his bag nowhere in sight. Realised it didn’t really matter, his weapons useless against the thing; shot, stabbed, it kept moving, kept going . . . just like the children. He couldn’t kill it. It wouldn’t die. It wasn’t going to leave them alone until it had drained them of life.

Ironhorse didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know how to fight it. If it took them back . . . reminded of something it had said . . .

The man who protects you. Where is he?

He hadn’t understood at the time. He did now. Back under his Grandfather’s protection, it wasn’t back for him . . . it had come back for Debi and there was nothing Ironhorse could do to protect her. He wouldn’t be able to stop it from taking her back. Debi would turn, just like the others, just like Harold’s son.

“Colonel? What’s wrong?”

“It’s here.”

Suzanne frowned. “You said you killed it.”

Now obvious he hadn’t, her words a recognition of his failure. “I thought it was dead. I was wrong.”

Suzanne moved her body closer to her daughter, leaning over Debi. “How do you know it’s here?”

“I can feel it.”

“You can’t see it?”

“Not yet.”

Dark patches formed on the walls, the ceiling. Doorways. Shadows drifted into the room. They moved through the air, tumbling over each other, fighting for dominance. The motel room door slammed shut, the sound vibrating through the room.

Suzanne screamed . . .

Not slow in its movements, it dropped from the ceiling. Ironhorse fell back, shoulders and the back of his skull hitting the headboard of the bed. It came to a stop, hovering over the length of Ironhorse’s body. Ironhorse didn’t need to look to know Suzanne was pulling Debi away from the bed, out of harm’s way . . . not that it would do any good.

Its cloak moved more slowly, lowering itself to the bed, surrounding Ironhorse, walls of dark material shutting him in, locking him within its embrace. With nowhere to go, a private situation, Ironhorse looked up into its face. Bullet hole still gracing its forehead, it looked content, pleased, a large smile cracking its lower face. Its black eyes blinked, a slow methodical movement; intent on taking its time, enjoying the moment. Arms falling toward the bed, long fingers gripped Ironhorse’s hips. A snap of movement, Ironhorse pulled into a horizontal position.

Chest tight with fear, Ironhorse couldn’t move, his limbs so heavy. Its fingers crept along his body, an insect crawling across his flesh. Skin itching at its touch, it continued, tracing the edge of the bandage, tugging and pulling, increased pressure on his broken ribs. Gritted his teeth, tried to clench his fingers, to form a fist, dig his nails into his palms . . . anything to stop the pain showing on his face but he couldn’t move.

It kept going, dragging its long fingers over his chest, toward his neck. Ironhorse knew what was coming but he still couldn’t move; he tried, tried damn hard, his body refusing to carry out his commands. Remembered what had happened with their first confrontation; it had controlled his body, his movements, taking control, forcing him to obey.

Drifting down, still so slow in its progress . . .

“Colonel!” Suzanne’s voice, her fear evident.

Taking a risk, not sure, he was doing the right thing, not sure, he would be able to speak, Ironhorse called back. “You have to leave. Take Debi and leave town.”

“We can’t leave you.”

“GO!”

Its smile grew, almost splitting its face in half. White gums, short blunted teeth. Unconcerned Debi might evade its intentions, too confident Suzanne wouldn’t be able to escape with her daughter, its gaze grazed on his features, eyes taking in everything.

Any chance of survival fled, Ironhorse losing hope. He couldn’t fight back. He couldn’t stop it. It was over, the end too close, only a matter of time before it decided to stop playing him . . .

Then it would take Debi.

Determined not to give in so easily, Ironhorse struggled to move, his fingers twitching. It was a start, but not enough. Knowing Debi would die if he didn’t do something, anything to stop it, he put everything he had into it, tried to do everything he could to move.

It reached his neck, long fingers of its right hand wrapping around his neck, the frayed piece of string tied around its middle finger brushed against his skin. Lowered its head, so close to Ironhorse, its flat nose giving it room to get too close, its breath rancid as it flowed over Ironhorse’s face.

He couldn’t help but breathe it in, feeling it in his lungs, spreading out to his limbs. Nauseated, he swallowed down the bile trying to escape. Watched as it closed its eyes, relying on touch and smell. It washed his face with its tongue, scratching his cheek. Sniffed his skin . . .

Ironhorse closed his eyes, unable to watch, unable to fight back, limbs still refusing to move, his fingers becoming still. He couldn’t do anything . . .

“Look at me.”

Against his will, his eyes opened, stared up into eyes so black.

“Here, in this place, you are not protected.”

Ironhorse understood. “You let us escape.”

“In there, in my world, I can not feed on your life force, your soul, but here . . .” Its smile grew, wicked, confident, the expression filling the lower half of its face.

Damn thing wouldn’t stop smiling at him.

“Even here, you can not fight me. You can not win. You will die and then I will take the girl. She will become like the others.”

“I won’t let you take her.”

It laughed, spittle wetting Ironhorse’s face. “You can not kill me.”

Ironhorse made another connection. “And you can’t feed on me in this world either.”

“No. But I can kill you.”

“Why haven’t you?”

“I like your fear.” Saliva dripped from its mouth, a long string of bodily fluid. It broke, falling and landing on Ironhorse’s cheek. It leaned even closer, using its tongue once more to wipe up its mess. Lifted up slightly, looked into the dark eyes beneath it. “You fear for yourself, your own life but it is nothing compared to the fear you have for the girl. You make me hungry and she is worth the wait.”

Nothing Ironhorse could say, words wouldn’t be enough, words unable to help or stop it. Still tried to move, limbs still refusing to obey. He didn’t know how to break its hold over him. He felt helpless. Afraid. It was right, more afraid for Debi than his own life . . .

If it fed on fear . . .

Finally, something he could work with. He had no control over his body, but he could control his emotions.

It cocked its head. As though it could read his mind.

Ironhorse held his breath, controlled his thoughts and tried very hard not to think, struggled to keep his one and only plan to himself. Took control of his emotions, pushing the fear aside, allowing the anger move in, to take over. Came to the realisation that his plan had a single fault; if he no longer showed his fear, it would have no reason to keep him alive. With nothing else, body still held in its mental embrace, he had no choice. He had to try something. He couldn’t die knowing he didn’t do everything he could to protect Debi . . . if she died because he gave up . . .

“It will not work.”

Did it know? Was it trying to trick him into revealing his intentions?

“You can not fight me. You have no control over your body.”

Decided it might be worth the effort to keep it talking, a method of distancing himself from his fear. It would also give the others time to get away. He listened for any sign that Suzanne and Debi were still in the room, too distracted earlier to hear the door. Another memory flashing through his mind, Harold unable to open the door. If it were the same now . . . but he hadn’t heard any struggle, Suzanne’s voice. He had no idea if they were still here. The thing above him didn’t seem concerned, in no hurry to go after them. Maybe they were still here. He had to take the chance, create more time.

“You couldn’t control it in there.”

“No but that does not matter. Once I have my victim in my world, there is no need for control. The more they move around in my world, the more they see. Their fear grows, as does my appetite. The more afraid they are the more I eat.”

“That’s how you take the children. You control them.”

“Children are easy. I only control them to stop their screams.”

Ironhorse swallowed.

“You came for me when I was a child.”

“Yes.”

“I was protected.”

“Yes. By what, I did not know. I know now. He can not help you here.”

“How do you know that?”

“Your distractions will not work. Do you think I am not controlling them? Do you think they have escaped? They are still here . . . under my control. I will have the girl and there is nothing you can do that will stop me.”

It was right.

His heart sank, a heavy weight in his gut, the feeling of failure flooding through him . . .

A war cry split through the silence.

Ironhorse recognised the voice. His Grandfather.

It flinched, a flash of fear in its eyes. It was still afraid of his Grandfather and that renewed Ironhorse’s hope. Its fear had meaning . . . if it was afraid, it could die, it could be killed. He didn’t know how, mind reeling at the thought.

Its gaze flickered away. Its cloak moved, fluttering as if caught by a breeze. “He is here.”

“You’re afraid,” said Ironhorse. “You’re showing fear.”

“He can not hurt me.”

“Maybe not but I’m sure he can tell me how . . .”

Wrong thing to say.

Its fingers tightened around his neck. Something cold seeped through his flesh, the string on its finger scraped across his skin. It snapped upward, standing upright, taking Ironhorse with it. Its grip so tight, Ironhorse fought to breathe . . . couldn’t. Experience told him it would be a matter of seconds before he lost consciousness. He had to do something . . . now, no time left.

Ironhorse searched the room . . . looking, always looking for something . . . a weapon.

Noticed the room was empty, Suzanne and Debi no longer here. It had lied to him and the vulnerable idiot that he was he had fallen for it . . . no, something . . . someone was there. Blue denim and grey hair, his Grandfather stood in the corner by the door.

It holds its life in its fingers

He had to be cryptic.

It felt like a slap, brain waking to the obvious, so simple.

Darkness pressed against the edges of his vision. He was losing precious time. Put everything he had into moving his limbs. His legs swayed, no support beneath, his body held up, his weight supported only by the fingers digging into his flesh; it put a strain on his neck, his shoulders. Tried to move his arms . . . couldn’t.

It turned around, feet stumbling on the bed, lost its balance. Fate deciding to interfere? No. It regained its balance, its stance confident as it faced his Grandfather, Ironhorse’s back turned toward his heritage.

Ironhorse felt it, a life force moving through him, an entity without physical form. He felt his Grandfather’s embrace, his love . . . felt his own fingers move, his arm lifting. His Grandfather had managed to do something Ironhorse couldn’t; he’d broken the spell, the thing’s embrace. Taking advantage, Ironhorse raised his arm, fingers reaching for the string tied around its fingers. He felt a laugh bubbling in his chest at the irrationality of it all . . . a piece of string, it had been there in front of him all this time and he hadn’t known it . . .

It roared with anger and fear when Ironhorse gripped the string between trembling fingers. It felt rough, frayed beneath his touch. He pulled at the string, his effort weak, no air in his lungs, his body fighting to stay awake.

It acted quickly, its movements frantic as it let go of Ironhorse.

Ironhorse fell, his fingers still holding onto the piece of cord around its fingers. It had caused its own death, its fear of death taking control of its actions. The string came away, breaking into fragments. Ironhorse hit the bed, body bouncing on the mattress. Above him, the thing crumbled into itself, its body dissolving, falling to the bed in a thick layer of dust . . .

Reacting, Ironhorse rolled off the bed, not wanting any of it to touch him, not wanting to breathe any of it into his lungs. He landed painfully, crawling away until his back slammed against the wall. His chest heaved as he drew in breath, his heart pounded against his ribs, a spasm of pain in his side. He ached all over but he didn’t care . . . it was over.

Debi was safe.

It would take no more children.

An explosion of sound to his right, Ironhorse’s body jerking with surprise and fear. Afraid he was wrong, afraid it had come back, he moved away, pushing himself further into the room. Backed into a corner he could go no further. His heart paused, stumbled, the fear so strong . . . if it came back . . .

Blackwood burst into the room.

His relief so strong, Ironhorse slumped, his shoulders sagging. Head falling forward he closed his eyes. He needed a moment, a few seconds to gain control of his fear, his emotions. It was over . . . he just needed . . . his body began to shake, the adrenaline draining away, the tremors increasing his pain.

Blackwood fell to his knees in front of Ironhorse, reached forward with his left hand and gripped Ironhorse’s shoulder. With a gentle touch, he lifted Ironhorse’s chin.

“Ironhorse?”

Opened his eyes, aware they would reflect his fear he kept his gaze down. “I’m okay. It’s over. It’s dead.”

Blackwood looked back over his shoulder, stared at the layer of black dust on the bed. “How?”

“Does it matter, Blackwood? It’s dead. Leave it at that.”

“Are you sure?

“This time? Yes. I am.”

“Colonel?”

Debi.

Blackwood patted Ironhorse's shoulder before standing up and moving out of the way . . .

Embarrassment lacking, Debi ran into the room, Suzanne close behind her, and fell against him, arms wrapping around his waist. He grunted in pain, his broken ribs taking most of her weight. Found he didn’t care. He needed this as much as she did. He put his arms around her, pulling her closer, embracing her. She pressed her face against his chest, her skin warm, her tears damp . . .

It’s done. You’re safe now.

Blue denim, grey platted hair, the image fading, disappearing.

“Thank you, Grandfather.”

It was over.





Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five


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