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The day was hot. Damn hot. I think the only reason these buckets of sweat stopped leaking out from my every pore is because I’d already been drained of all the water from my body. I just sat there panting like a dog. A searing, suffocating heat. The few clothes I had on were soaked full with the foul smelling sweat. Nobody here expected this kind of weather – we found ourselves unprepared for the melting.
“You know,” Grandpa starts off, “back in my day and I mean waaay back in my day, when I was about as young as you are…” Oh great, Gramps is off on one of his boring stories again. And it’s so freaking hot today! I’m not in the mood to sit through one of these lame oldman tales, but seeing as how he’s old and might drop dead from this heat at any moment, I let him continue. He and I sat outside under what pitiful coolness the trees offered.
“Back in my day I saw a heat wave like this. Only once though. They said it was the hottest day ever recorded. And you know what, boy?”
He waited for me to look in his direction. I shrugged.
“I believed it!”
Gee gramps, thank you for that all important fact…
“There isn’t a lot of time, boy.”
“Time for wha—“ I attempt to interject, but he is already moving on.
“Ever notice how Granny never wears short sleeves?”
Come to think of it, I hadn’t. He must have observed my puzzled expression.
“From where they grabbed her.”
I felt my brows lower in confusion. “What are you talking about, gramps?”
“And that limp of hers? Notice she’s always hobbled about?” he continues, with a sort of glazed look in his eye. Perhaps the heat is already getting to him.
“Yeah, sure,” I say almost unconsciously. There is an ominous vibe between us now. I’ve never seen him like this. Something in his mannerisms is different.
“From the fall – busted her ankle real good. A tiny price, though, wouldn’t ya say, boy?”
I nodded, still unsure what the old man spoke of. He rocked back and forth in his chair. The dull squeaking of the metal legs annoyed me greatly in the heat. Then again, when it’s this blistering hot any little irritation will seem severe. His breathing even got my on nerves.
“They’re just things, boy. Nobody knows. Some say they fly, some say they walk, some say they tunnel in the ground, some say a lot of things. Some say they do it all.”
“What are you talking about, Grandpa?” I asked. He didn’t seem to register the question.
“She wanted to go, boy. I saw it in her eyes. Something, somehow she had been convinced to go. I knew right then and there that what I saw taking hold of her and what she saw, were two very different things.”’
I put my hand on his arm. “Gramps what are you—“
“It’s hot, boy!” he intoned quickly. “No touching. Stay on your side! It reminds me of that day so long ago… Hot just like this. Probably even hotter, well, maybe just as hot. You feel it don’t you, boy?”
“Yeah I feel it,” I told him, reclining back in my chair as the awkward nature of this conversation intensified. The sky didn’t harbor a single cloud. Dull blue stretches of space as far as the eye could see. No relief from the sun. Although, the heat didn’t seem to be emanating from the distant fireball. I guess it had to be. But somehow it felt like a closer source was creating this scorching, burning warmth.
Gramps lifted his arm from the chair, directing a hand toward the woods. “Some say they caused the heat. Something about them warmed the very air itself. But not me, no way, boy. I never thought they was the cause… I always thought they followed it. The things here never caused it. Something else did. They just came along with it.”
Alright… gramps’ story was becoming anything but boring. Downright unnerving in fact. He had a peculiar way of talking now which lead me to question whether he knew who was in front of him or not. “Would you like some water?” I offered.
Here I noticed Gramps would sporadically look to the sky or to the tall trees offering a bit of shade, although his face never changed as he did so. It remained just as stoic and straight as ever. I had to wonder how the man had so many wrinkles on his face in such strange places, when he never made a single expression.
“The neighbors too. I didn’t much care about them, though. Just your granny when they got hold—“
“Gramps… WHAT are you talking about!” My voice sounding perhaps a bit harsher than I intended.
“You’re never the same after,” he said, almost in a whisper. “No one is. How could you be?”
“GRANDPA!” I shook his arm. “What the hell are you going on about!”
“I said don’t touch! …They, boy. They.”
“They? They who?”
“All those years ago, boy. When they came. On a hot day just like this one. Clear sky but you feel the warmth like it’s bubbling up from the ground. Like every blade of grass and pebble on the road is a hot stove.”
“That’s fine, grandpa! Yes I feel it too! Who is THEY? The FBI? A ghost? Some monster?”
“No, boy. I don’t believe in the supernatural. These things wasn’t the paranormal. They weren’t some ghost tale.” Gramps paused for a moment as he gathered a load of spit in his mouth, before forcefully expelling it from his lips with an awful sound as it sailed over my head (the loud sizzling effect as the liquid landed). “They were real. Who knows where they came from. Who knows how they came about. I just know they do come about. And when they do, boy, you don’t want to be about.”
Yup, definitely the heat. He must be off his rocker by now. I should probably take the hose to him. However, I’ll play along a bit more.
“What did they look like?” I questioned him, my palms beginning to sweat (and not just from the heat this time).
“What did they look like, boy? Something I never cared to see again. That’s what it looked like.” His unflinching resolution echoed in each of the words. My grandpa had never been a prankster. He’d never told a real joke in his life. I leaned in closer, my heart beating just a bit faster.
I looked more closely at his face, perhaps for the first time in my life, I really examined the lines. Like nothing I had ever seen in person before. At least not first hand. Extraordinary wrinkles you might say. Not your everyday old man set of wrinkles (however gross that sounds).
“Gramps,” I said, “how did you get all those lines on your face?”
And for a second I thought he almost smiled. “You don’t think they make me look perdy? Have you seen these kinds of lines before, boy?”
“Yes I think so.”
“Oh? Where at?”
And I did have a vague recollection. “They were in some book I saw a long time ago. Something about otherworldly or incredible encounters or something like that. There were several people with them in the book.”
The old timer ran a bony finger along the deepest wrinkle stretching across his jaw line. They appeared to be little valleys carved right into the skin with an almost unnatural color to them.
“Boy,” he spoke, “I made this expression one time – all those years ago, just as I moved to save your granny from being… I made it one time. And they’ve been stuck ever since.”
I stared intently at his visage. “Do you think the heat, uhh, kind of burned them on? Or what happened?”
Gramps just grunted. His favorite answer most of the time.
“You were doing what for granny?”
“It’s not something you want to know about, boy. Hot day, just like this one… They came or she went… Makes no matter. The end was the same. You could never see, but you could always feel. I think they wanted you to sense their presence. To know they was about.”
There came a slight tremor in the ground. You could feel your feet shift ever so slightly. So minor you might just as easily have missed it, if not for my heightened senses and bated breath.
“But don’t worry yourself too much, boy. Not just yet. We’ve still some time left.”
“Gramps… please,” I whined, “Tell me wha—“
A large, fast moving shadow swept over the ground. I jerked my head upward but by the time my eyes reached the skies, there was nothing. I heard a branch snap from somewhere above us in the nearby tree line. Off on the horizon, the sun began its final descent for the day.
Grandpa put his hand on my knee. His face looked calm as he stared up toward the noise.
“Why don’t you and me go inside now, boy?”
The next sound came a little closer.
Credit To – S.R. Tooms