(Author Note: Before I begin, I want to say thank you to those who’ve been with me since part one of ‘The Chronicles’. Writing them is a hoot! They might seem a little rough. I’ll admit, I do the best I can with editing and would also like to thank Amber for helping out and reading through them even though she’s crazy-busy a lot of the time. We’re now getting into some bizarre territory and honestly, one of my favorite parts to write. Who can’t love an ol’ fashioned ghost chicken every now and again?)
Saros awoke, the pain of Mira’s loss stabbed him harder than the throb in his back from the cheap, overused hotel mattress. Other than the prospect of relief from the hot water, taking a shower seemed pointless since he had no clothes to change into and little money to buy some. He knew he lacked resources, but right then, he didn’t care. His only preoccupation was how Mira’s warm lips collided with his own between decaying clouds of cigarette smoke and then, she left.
He picked up the daisy from its spot on the rickety end table next to his bed and twirled the still green stem around in his fingers. As the petals spun, he marveled that he hadn’t even bothered to put the flower in water, yet it continued to thrive.
He’d never seen anything like it; at least, not in his earthly lives. It was while taking a shower he decided to seek out answers, if for no other reason than to occupy himself and get Mira off his mind. He stepped out, mindlessly throwing on his old clothing and tying his shoes afterward. He did what he could to straighten his sandy hair, grabbed the flower, and checked twice before sneaking down the stairs and crossing an empty lot before being seen.
Staying the night at a motel and not paying was against Saros’ principles, but desperate times called for it. He knew he’d have to leave the town, fast. So, he bummed a couple rides and headed back into Missouri.
He stopped late afternoon in a small city named Everest Springs. The driver dropped him off on a main street that seemed to run straight through the town. Hungry, he pulled his wallet and noted a ten-dollar bill in between two twenties. That was it— fifty dollars.
He sighed, he needed a job, but first, he needed answers about the immortal daisy he felt compelled to carry with him and before both of those things, he wanted to eat. He looked to his right and then left and saw a hanging sign for Pine View restaurant.
Saros headed across the street and nearly bumped into the waitress who was turned away from him and locking the place up.
“You closing for the day?” Saros was confused, it was just a little past two in the afternoon.
She squinted her eyes when she looked up at him. “Yah! Guess you’re from out of town, huh?”
“Kay, well. Sherriff’s put a three ‘o clock curfew on the entire county,” she explained, as she turned the lock.
“Odd,” Saros mumbled, hoping the frazzled lady would elaborate.
She did. “The other day was a normal one. We was up by the counter listening to the buy, sell, trade show. Dean from down the road came runnin’ in like Satan himself had set foot in our town. He was real anxious-like, saying that everyone should get back to the farms and take a look. We close the place up and I run out to the old homestead. Daddy’s out at the barn with Momma. Craziest thing— all the chickens were dead.”
Saros’ expression was incredulous.
The waitress continued, “I ain’t joking with you. All the chickens in the county. All of ‘em— dead.”
“Was it an animal attack?” he concluded.
“No, there wasn’t any sign that they’d been physically harmed. ‘Sept they were dead. But that’s not the weirdest part…”
“It gets stranger?” He narrowed his eyes, wanting to know even more.
“Yah! Our roosters crowed at four in the morning and then again around six-thirty. We still hear them. We’re not the only ones, either. A lot of farms began makin’ those same claims.” She ran a hand down her upper-arm.
“O— Kay…” Saros was racking his brain for any sort of logical explanation. The situation sounded familiar, like something he’d ran across in another life, but over eight-hundred lifetimes had a way of tangling memories.
“You ain’t gotta believe me, but I don’t have a reason to just go makin’ this stuff up,” she turned to a patrol car that slowed down. The officer waved and she returned the greeting.
“No, no… I believe you, I guess. Do they know what killed the chickens?” Saros folded his arms. Surely, there’d be a medical explanation. Maybe some chemical in the food?
“Nothin’. They’ve ran tons of tests, but they can’t find anything in their systems,” she paused and sighed. “They’ve sent a few of ‘em off to some advanced labs in the city. And until they have answers, the whole county’s on some type of martial law.” She added, “We didn’t even have church last Sunday.”
“I suppose it’s getting close to three then. Where can I stay in this town?” Saros ran his hand through his thick hair and looked at the waitress who scrutinized him.
“You carry’n a gun or anything?” She looked him up and down.
“No,” was his simple answer. Then he remembered, “Just the daisy.”
She scrunched her nose. “You just go ‘round carryin’ that daisy? It ain’t real, is it?”
The girl reached to touch it, but Saros pulled it back and looked down. “No, it’s not.”
“Well, I suppose you can come back to my place. It’s just me. Mom and Dad’s right down the road, though. So, don’t you try nothin’,” she warned.
Saros looked in her grey-blue eyes and studied her pin-straight, light blonde hair that frizzed a little at the ends. Nothing about her was attractive to him, but she seemed nice. “Don’t worry, I’m harmless,” he assured her.
“C’mon.” She gestured toward a faded pickup and they both walked over and got in.
The ride to her house was silent, except for a cassette tape of Kenny Rogers that sauntered through her speakers. She drove and Saros focused on the situation. What could’ve killed the chickens? Why were their crows still being heard? Where had he ran into ghost chickens before? It was somewhere during one of his Earth lives, but which?
It was that agitating feeling of having the perfect word on his finger tips and not being able to recall it. Maybe he needed a little rest and he’d remember. From out of the silence the waitress spoke up. “We’re almost there. By the way, never got your name. I’m Tammy.”
Saros nodded. “Hey, name’s Saros.”
“That’s an interesting name you got there,” she mentioned.
“You don’t like it?”
“Didn’t say I didn’t like it, just different. That’s all. Hey, didn’t see ya carrying any luggage. If you need spare clothes and stuff, I can get them for ya when we reach the house.” Tammy offered.
Saros was growing suspicious of her eagerness. “That’s sure nice of you.”
“Well,” she shrugged. “In a town like this, you gotta take care of one another. Ya know?”
He agreed and they reverted back to the bluegrass silence until she turned down a graveled path and parked in front of a brown one-story-double wide. Some clothes sat out on a wire line connected to two trees.
When Saros opened the door, a brown blood-hound greeted him. “Sammy! Don’t jump on the man!” Tammy scolded. Saros chuckled and pat the dog on the head. Tammy turned to him. “C’mon, I’ll show ya ‘round here.”
She took Saros on the tour of the small, but comfortable home. As she did, his mind lost itself in speculation of him and Mira living somewhere like that. How they could sit outside on the wooden porch as a twangy wind weaved around their laughs. How he’d grab her around the waist and kiss her all the way into the living room. How he’d catch her head with his hand before it fell against a tan sofa.
“…So. That’s it… Oh, I’ll show you to your room and you can clean up, if you’d like.” He jolted at her words. “Hello?” She waved a hand in front of his face.
“Uh, yeah…” In his daydream, he’d missed everything she told him.
Tammy sighed, thinking the traveler was probably tired and half-scolded herself for taking him in. She knew she’d be the conversation that’d linger between glasses of lemonade and hair-dryers, but she didn’t care. Hadn’t she always been the go-to for whispered intrigue?
“Well, there’s clothes hangin’ up already in that closet, right there. Shower’s down the hall. Get yourself cleaned up and rested. I’m gonna get to makin’ dinner.”
“Heh, thanks,” Saros half-replied.
Tammy turned and left him to it. He placed the daisy on his pillow and sifted through the clothing that hung in the closet. He wondered where she’d gotten it all. Maybe a brother? Maybe she had a plethora of male visitors? Regardless, it wasn’t his place to judge.
He came across a fresh pair of jeans and simple navy cotton t-shirt that looked as though it’d fit him. He grabbed them and took off toward the bathroom where he found razors, deodorant, basically everything he’d need to clean up. He wondered if the woman was her own hotel.
He washed and returned to the bedroom where he lay against the fresh sheets, reveling in the comfort of the mattress. Saros closed his eyes until he heard Tammy’s shrill call for dinner. He got up, straightened his shirt, and headed down the hall.
When he reached the kitchen, she was setting food on the table and he hurried to help her out. “Brace yourself,” she warned.
Saros didn’t get the opportunity to ask why. From out of nowhere, an army of crows and cackles sounded. “What the— ?” he started.
She nodded her head. “Told ya so!”
After a moment, they stopped and Tammy resumed setting out the food. When they were settled, Saros helped himself to the spicy, watering pork-chops that dissolved on his tongue. He filled his plate several times, not wanting to look like a pig, but also thinking it was one of the best meals he’d eaten.
Saros helped Tammy clean up after dinner and they sat for a while watching some game shows and, to his chagrin, reality television. Hours passed when she stood and announced that she was going to bed, but he could stay up if he wanted. He declined and followed her, turning at his bedroom and shutting the door behind him.
He picked the daisy up and put it next to him. He stroked its white petals and pretended it was Mira’s hair he was running his fingers through. He closed his eyes.
A rooster crowed and Saros looked around the darkness of his room. He steadied his breathing and reminded himself of the ghost chickens before finally getting his bearings. He’d no more than sat up when his door creeped open. Tammy was standing in the entrance of the spare room in cut-off shorts and a bra.
“Wha—” Saros started, uncomfortable because he wasn’t attracted to the petite blonde in the least.
She placed a gentle finger against her lips and shushed him before sifting through his soft hair. She whispered, “Is this what Mira would do?”
His forehead crinkled and he bit his lower lip. How did she know? What did she know of Amiralina? He couldn’t ask; she had him pinned on the bed, her thin body hovering over his. Her breath a sickening cinnamon smell, she neared his lips and he tried to move away, but her fragile body somehow overpowered his own.
“N-no…” he stuttered and sat up. His forehead was coated in wax-sweat. It was a dream. Thank God, it was a dream.
Then, a whisper.
At first, he looked at the daisy, picking it up and clutching it to his chest. Another whisper. Saros…
It was Mira’s voice. He pulled the curtains back and looked out the window. Her black hair flowed in spring wind as she drifted into the forest.
So, like any love-sick fool who had yet to come to his senses, Saros pulled on his jeans, t-shirt, and shoes. He was quiet as possible as he snuck down the hall, still grasping his daisy. He gave the door a gentle pull until it closed and made his way off the make-shift porch.
Saros… Came the seductively, eerie whisper.
The logical part of him knew it couldn’t be Mira, but he wanted to believe it was. So, he continued following the sound until he entered the wooded area that surrounded Tammy’s home. The crunching of the forest floor made him glad he’d put on shoes.
And just like in most scary movies involving nature, Saros was standing still, adjusting his eyes to the dark surroundings and strange noises, being stupid in general, as thick roots grew over his feet, knocking him to the ground. “What the actual hell?” He muttered while he kicked in a fallacious attempt to free himself.
The whisper evolved from Mira’s welcoming voice to something sour.
As he struggled to escape, a dark wisp approached him and Saros knew immediately with whom he dealt. “Why do you want me?” He called out in an angry voice.
The wisp took its time to manifest and floated until it became its best impression of a hooded figure. “You know…” The voice wavered. “We need your energy. You’re the oldest of souls and when we felt your presence nearing us, we had to have it.”
“You just killed thousands of chickens. Isn’t that enough energy? If they’re still crowing, you didn’t even siphon it all,” Saros contended, knowing it’d be impossible to argue for his life. The Forest Walkers were a stubborn bunch; they were the very essence of nature. He didn’t know why they desired his ethereal energy, but he wasn’t about to give it up.
The figure bent to him and he braced himself. It reached its slimy fingers to the daisy. “What’s this?” It asked as Saros jerked the flower away.
“A daisy,” he answered simply.
“Yes, but I sense it is more than a simple daisy,” the misty figure replied. “There’s an energy to it.”
Saros thought of Mira. “You cannot have it. Take me, leave it be.” He hung his head. “I won’t fight you.” Why was he willing to die for the flower?
The apparition thought for a brief moment, that seemed more like eternity to Saros. Finally, it answered. “No…” It seemed to contemplate further. “I want to know more about this exceptional flower.”
Seriously, Saros thought because he’d wanted to know for days.
“I don’t make deals, but I am going to make you one. Have you heard of the Vein of Elisha?”
Saros jumped. Of course he had, but it didn’t exist anymore. “It’s extinct, right?”
“Nearly. The last of it is being held by Kansas City Jo. You find him, secure the Vein of Elisha, and I will have enough ethereal energy to wage war against the human race and provide you with the answer you are wanting about the flower. Unless, you decide to go against our plan.”
Saros shook his head. “I don’t have a pony in this show. You want to wage a war, do it. Earth isn’t my favorite dimension anyhow,” Saros shrugged, anxious to seek out the plant.
The figure took in a staggered breath. “We have reached a deal, I believe. Hasten in what you do, our spirit dies a bit more each day. If you cannot get the plant, I will be forced to capture you once more, and I will not be in the mood to negotiate,” the smoke warned to a grateful Saros.
“I want answers, you want enough ethereal energy to wipe out Earth. I believe we have a deal.” Was his response.
“Very well.” The roots loosened around Saros’ feet. He stood and brushed himself off.
Saros didn’t like making deals with the Forest Walkers, but if it meant getting answers about the daisy and how it related to Mira and him, the offer seemed enticing. Equipped with the only information he had and without giving another thought to Tammy, he headed down the gravel road and continued until he reached city limits.
He wondered how much time the Forest Walkers would give him. The more complex question was where he’d find Kansas City Jo. It only made sense with a name such as that, Kansas City would be the perfect place to begin his search. He started walking north as the sun rose and lit the fields next to him.
He continued through the day, pausing to flag down a car here and there, but with no luck. Though, he knew the Forest Walkers were making good on their promise and backing his journey; each time he started getting too hot, a cool wind breezed past him, a hint of Mira’s freesia scent embedded within. If he was hungry, he’d run into a patch of strawberries or an apple tree.
Relief overcame him as a four-door station wagon slowed and stopped a way in front of him. A middle-aged guy pulled his sunglasses down. “Hey, kid. Where ya goin’?”
“Up north. Kansas City,” Saros replied.