|You Can't Help Who You Are
Author: sailorhathor PM
A policewoman from Alva's past comes for a visit, and recognizes Paul. Seems he was there, in a small ski resort town, at the same time Alva was, handling SQ's first supernatural investigation. A case dealing with the infamous Mothman.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 2 - Words: 22,057 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Published: 02-28-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2823391
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
You Can't Help Who You Are, Part II
A Miracles Fanfic
by Laurel (Sailorhathor)
Chapters: 2 of 2
Rating: Sup13+ (some elements might be too intense or scary for those under 13, bad language)
Word Count: 21,716 total
Dates: Written throughout the middle of 2005 'til the end, and into January 2006.
Summary: "We don't choose how things happen, do we Paul? We just adjust." A policewoman from Alva's past comes for a visit, and recognizes Paul. Seems he was there, in a small ski resort town, at the same time Alva was, handling SQ's first supernatural investigation. A case dealing with the infamous Mothman.
Warning: Has a little bad language, including the F word. Contains spoilers for a few of Skeet's movies, including Ride with the Devil and Into the West. Doesn't really spoil The Magic of Ordinary Days although it's mentioned.
Beta Thanks: Thanks to Kaija and Joe for beta'ing this!
Notes: This is my fictionalization of the casefile "The Mothman" on . The story was written in an attempt to give Alva Keel his own experience with the infamous Mothman. It could be called a sort of cross-over with Richard Hatem's film "The Mothman Prophecies" because it contains my own versions of scenes right out of that movie. At the end of this story, I will detail exactly what I took from the film.
The name "Julietta" comes from Evie's dossier in "The Friendly Skies" from a section that seems to detail Evie's siblings.
My friend Kaye typed about a third of this story for me from my handwritten master. Thank you Kaye!
More notes at the end of the story. If I put them all here, you would fall asleep before you could even read the thing. ;)
Part II: Functionally Insane
His College Trig book in one hand and The Bible in the other, Paul entered the second floor Student Lounge, determined to settle in for the night and do some cramming. A couple of his buddies had invited him to go out for pizza and beer, but he had declined because Trig was putting him through the wringer. They were supposed to go over passages of Revelations in Bible Study this week also; if he didn't get caught up in both subjects tonight, it would be embarrassing how far behind Paul would be. With a resigned sigh, he put his books down and started to sit at the table.
A noise behind him made Paul turn to look. The French doors leading off onto the balcony were wide open. The students used this balcony for smoking and the occassional weekend barbecue. Few dorms had them; this one was lucky in that respect. Paul hadn't closed the doors when he came in because he liked the fresh, crisp winter air, especially while he studied. The noise had been very peculiar - a loud swooping and a bump, almost like a large bird had landed out there on the balcony. When Paul turned, what he saw was most definitely not a bird.
There stood the creature that had been terrifying the residents of Mountaineer for almost a month, the beast they called the Mothman. It had taken a little vacation to come to Boston and pay Paul this visit, because it knew he would be useful.
He stared in disbelief for so long that his eyes went dry from not blinking. Finally, Paul rubbed his eyes and expected the creature to have disappeared when he looked again. It was just stress. He'd taken on too many classes, was seeing things.
But the Mothman remained.
This thing couldn't be real. Red eyes, wings, it was huge! What was it? What was it?
I must be cracking up, Paul thought just as the Mothman ducked into the room. Paul stepped back, unsure of what to do, unsure if what he was seeing was real or hallucination. The Mothman advanced toward him, wasting no time. Paul's mind had been frozen with fear and shock, but it finally unlocked, and he started to scream. The sound had barely made it past his lips when the Mothman rushed at Paul, grabbed his arms, and slammed him against the nearest wall. It pinned his arms over his head. He struggled to free himself to no avail; the Mothman was stronger. Paul panted with the effort, and fear. His eyes darted from its red eyes to its softly flapping wings as he wondered what was going to happen next.
He began to pray in his head. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done...
Only a few seconds had passed, but it felt like much longer. Paul finally found his voice and tried to scream again. A proboscis tube emerged from a small slit-like mouth positioned under the red eyes and was quickly rammed down Paul's throat, shutting off his scream. He made horrible strangling, choking sounds, and his eyes went wild with fear. What in God's name was it doing to him?
Paul, struggling to breathe, felt the creature insert something in his throat. It didn't take long, and then it let him go.
He fell to the floor, sitting against the wall with his legs partially underneath him. The Mothman stood over him silently. Paul looked up at it with terror, confusion, and the beginnings of anger, but it knew he cowered from it, and just stared down at him. Paul pushed himself into the corner frantically with his legs; he opened his mouth and began to scream for help, but to his shock, no sound came out. He only expelled heavy breaths. It was the object the Mothman had put in his throat. It robbed him of his ability to speak.
With one last look, the Mothman turned and took flight out the doors, leaving Paul alone. His thoughts immediately turned to the object in his throat. Scrambling up and bolting for the bathroom, Paul found a paper cup and attempted to drink down the pod. He refilled the cup several times, but the object simply would not be swallowed. It was as if it was fused to his vocal cords. Next, he tried sticking his finger down his throat to make himself vomit it up. The pod was immovable.
Paul stared helplessly at his reflection in the mirror, frustrated, beside himself with panic. He realized that his eyes were beginning to pulse in a most unnatural way - they appeared to flutter as the pupils rapidly contracted and dilated in succession. This horrified Paul to the point that he ran from the mirror, out into the hall. The Student Lounge was still deserted.
This was crazy. No one would ever believe this story! But either way, Paul had to get help, because he had something lodged in his throat, and he needed a doctor to remove it. Before anyone could come, he felt his hold on consciousness fading away.
No, no! He had to get help! If someone found him unconscious on the floor, surely they would get him a doctor. Still, Paul felt he had to clue whoever found him in to the fact that there was something stuck in his throat. As his vision started to gray, Paul grabbed a piece of paper and tried to write a message.
Help me! I have something... He attempted to keep writing, but the table swayed horribly, and he realized as the floor came up even with his face that, unfortunately, he was the one swaying, and falling. Paul suspected the pod had caused this. The blackness moved in until he saw only a pinpoint of light, and then nothing but dreams of a far away, alien place.
Paul had been lying on the floor for only a few minutes when two of his buddies wandered by on their way to the stairs. They noticed him lying there and came over to investigate.
"Is he drunk?" Jason remarked.
"I don't know, turn him over on his back. Doesn't smell drunk." The second student was a guy known to his friends as Bennie the Snitch; Paul had grown up with him in the orphanage.
Once Paul had been laid out on his back, Jason said, "Woah, it's Callan. Is he sick or something?"
Bennie found Paul's note. "'Help me! I have something.' Huh. I don't think he finished it."
"What tipped you off, the fact that it wasn't finished?"
Bennie sneered at Jason. "He does all that volunteer work at the church, always talking about Father Calero. You think we should go get him?"
"I think we should just call an ambulance," Jason replied.
"But what if it's drugs? He could get thrown out of school. We should get Father Calero before we do anything else."
Jason disagreed. "In the meantime, he could die of an overdose or somethin'."
Paul stirred with a breathy sound. The two students put their attention back on him. "Paul? Hey Callan, you okay?"
As Paul's eyes opened, the two young men gasped. His pupils were vibrating again, fluttering, just as Officer McCann would later see them do in Mountaineer.
"I've never seen someone's eyes do that," Bennie muttered.
"Paul... you... you okay?" Jason asked again.
It appeared that Paul wasn't even seeing them. He was detached, out of it. Without saying a word, he got up off the floor and walked toward the stairs.
"Paul? Where ya goin'? You alright?"
He did not answer.
"We should get Poppi," Bennie said again. "Something is really wrong."
"Okay, but first, let's get Paul." Jason took off after Paul, followed quickly by Bennie.
When they entered the stairwell, Paul was nowhere to be seen, but the door at the bottom of the stairs that led out into the parking lot was just swinging shut. The two boys bolted down the stairs and out the door.
Paul was running toward his car. They pursued him, catching up just as he laid his hands on the doorhandle. "Wait, Paul, wait!" They wrestled with him.
Bennie spotted something out of the corner of his eye. He glanced up, then looked again in shock. "What's that?"
Both students looked up at the Mothman, flying overhead, performing flips in midair. They had no idea what they were looking at, and so stared in awe. Paul took advantage of the distraction to get in the car.
"What is it?" Bennie asked.
"I don't know," Jason replied.
"You see it too?"
"Good. Thought I was losing it."
The sound of the door lock being slapped down brought Bennie and Jason out of their trance. They yanked on the door handle and banged on the window. "Paul! Open the door!"
Ignoring them, Paul drove away with a squeal of tires. They stood there, staring after the car, hoping he would be alright. "What's wrong with him?" Bennie thought aloud.
"I don't know. Let's go tell Father Calero about it and see what he thinks should be done."
As they were walking away, Bennie nervously scanned the sky.
Julietta turned to look at Alva. "He called you?"
"I received two phone calls from the Mothman," he confirmed. "I'd like to ask him something." Alva walked over to the side of the couch. "Paul, I consulted an audio expert to analyze the tapes of those phone calls. He didn't think the voice of the Mothman could have been produced by human vocal cords. How can that be true if you made the phone calls?"
Paul replied in that deeper, slower voice, the voice of the Forces, "Paul was used as a vessel. The pod held a conduit between the Mothman's dimension and ours. The Mothman cannot speak in normal human languages; that is why he only makes animal-like noises. Therefore, he must speak through the conduit from his place of origin, in the language of his own dimension. By routing that speech through Paul, he acts as a speaker, and it could then be understood by human beings. Paul's vocal cords were not used for this action. Only the pod."
Julietta tried not to gawk, but she did stare at Paul.
Alva nodded. "I believe I understand."
She couldn't help it this time; Julietta turned and gawked at Alva as if he'd grown a second head. Was everyone in this outfit crazy? "You said there were tapes?" she managed to ask.
"Let's have a listen."
Alva arrived back at his hotel room alone, although part of him wanted to be back there with Marie, or have her here with him. This could be a lonely business, and to find a little company in a woman who actually took him seriously... it was rare. Many thought he was handsome, many liked his eyes or his accent, but once they heard some of his theories on the paranormal, they backed away. Some could keep up and relate for a little while - everyone had a weird story to recount - but once he got to the really bizarre beliefs, the demonic, the dark, the frightening, the end of the world, they found reasons to leave. Few found it "quirky."
Even fewer believed.
Alva had no idea that as he sat on the edge of the bed, at the phone booth across the street, Paul had arrived in Mountaineer. He stepped out of his car, inserted some change, and dialed the number of a current stranger, all robotically.
Alva's cell phone rang. He made sure the tiny portable tape recorder was ready, and answered it. "Alva Keel."
Paul opened his mouth slightly, but did not move his lips. The voice of the Mothman emerged from his throat. It was inhuman, decidely male, but unnautural, as its tone fluttered, like insect wings. "Hello."
Alva, taken by surprise by how the voice sounded, took a second to reply. "Hello. To whom am I speaking?"
"I am your Mothman," the creature said through Paul.
This was followed by a long pause before Alva said, "You have a sighting to report?" He had grown weary of people playing jokes on him, even if this one was elaborate. A voice-disguising mechanism... what would they do next? Dress up as a moth and gad about the hotel's parking lot?
"Every time I look in the mirror." The Mothman sounded amused with himself.
"You're saying that you really are the Mothman?"
Alva looked to see that his Caller ID could not identify who the call came from. The number was blank, and the name field said UNAVAILABLE.
The Mothman suddenly said, "The other man named Keel was skeptical too, at first."
Alva knew he was talking about John Keel, the journalist who covered the Mothman sightings in Pt. Pleasant, West Viriginia. The man was no relation to him; it was just a wild coincidence that the two men contacted by this creature were both named Keel. If this truly was the same being. "Well, it's not often that giant moths figure out how to use telephones, much less exist."
The Mothman snickered. "I know much more than that. I will prove it to you."
"Oh?" He grew more tired of this game. "Will you first explain to me why you are terrorizing the people of this town? What purpose does it serve?" Maybe he could trip the caller up with some more specific questions.
The Mothman immediately shot back, "How would you explain your existence to a cockroach?"
Alva almost scoffed out loud. Such conceit. "You are a superior being to the rest of us?"
"On this plane."
What was he saying? That he came from some other dimension? "Provide me with some of this superior knowledge."
"I will. I can see you right now," the Mothman declared. "Receive your thoughts."
Ah-ha! "Really? Where am I?" His hotel room had two full-size beds; Alva sat on the edge of the one furthest from the door.
"In your hotel room. There are two full-size beds. You are sitting on the one furthest from the door."
At a loss for words, Alva paused for a moment to regroup. The fact that the caller had gotten that right, it meant nothing. "Lucky guess." Lots of hotel rooms were set up that way. He was so focused on the phone call that he barely noticed the brief feeling of cold pin-pricks in his brain. "What am I wearing?" The words were out of Alva's mouth before he realized that it wasn't a good test. This person on the phone could have seen him on his rounds through town, performing interviews. But, if he could remove something that he had on earlier right now, it would prove whether or not this person could really see him. As the Mothman began to describe what Alva had on, he removed his watch.
"Black slacks, a green sweater with a white dress shirt underneath..."
In an effort to really confound the caller, Alva put his watch in one of his shoes and pushed it under the opposite bed.
"...black socks, but no watch."
There was another pause as Alva swallowed hard; he didn't know what to say. Could this person really see him? Was it possible that they had planted cameras in his hotel room? That was crazy. Why would anyone do that? "I do own a watch."
"You are no longer wearing it. You just took it off."
A chill ran up Alva's spine. "Where is it?"
"In your shoe. Under the bed. 'To Mango on his 18th birthday,'" announced the Mothman.
Alva's eyes went wide. The Mothman had just quoted what was engraved on the back of his watch. His mother had given it to him on his 18th birthday. "How did you..." He was astonished. Even if he could accept the notion that there was a camera planted in his room, how did they ever see the inscription on the back of his watch? Still, Alva began looking for a camera. "Well, you do know things, don't you?"
"Yes." A confident, smug look came to Paul's face as he mimicked the Mothman's emotions. "You won't find any cameras in your hotel room."
Again amazed, Alva stopped looking behind all the framed pictures on the walls and moved back to the bed. He was almost convinced at this point that he was speaking to a real clairsentient. But he had to test this person to his full satisfaction. Alva reached into the top drawer of the nightstand, into which he had placed nothing, and grabbed the first thing his hand fell on, something a previous guest had left there. He didn't even know what it was himself, although he could guess from what it felt like. Still, Alva tried to keep his mind blank. "What do I have in my hand?"
The response was immediate. "Chaaaap-stick," the Mothman hissed.
"What flavor?" Alva asked, not yet opening his hand.
Alva finally looked. He indeed held a tube of Cherry Chap-stick. Always a realist, he quickly resigned himself to the fact that he was talking to someone who had real psychic powers, who could actually see him using these abilities. Alva was struck by a strong assertion that this "Mothman" had important things to tell him, maybe even the world. What else did he know? This might be Alva's only chance to ask. "What is it that you want us to know?"
At this point, it seemed the Mothman stopped playing games and got down to the business of what he had called to tell Alva. "Once this is all done, you must look up hemography. 'God is Nowhere.' It will lead you to him."
Alva was very glad that he was taping this call. "Who?"
"Danielle will tell you his full name."
A second chill ran up Alva's spine. "Danielle?"
"It's a pity how it all ends up for her," the Mothman lamented.
Now that was really baffling, and more than a little scary. "I don't know what you mean." He hoped the Mothman would explain.
But of course, he didn't. He simply stated, "You will."
"Anything else? Alva asked, exasperated.
"I have a message for Marie."
"Oh, but you call her Marie, don't you?"
The teasing and smugness in his voice was unmistakable; how did he know that Alva and Marie had attained any closeness beyond their business relationship? The clairsentience?
"Tell her, 'Look out, number 37.'"
Another chill crawled up Alva's back. That almost sounded like a threat. His voice was intense and angry when he asked, "What does that mean?"
"All will make sense in time. I will call again." Click.
As Alva pressed the "Off" button, Julietta said to Paul, "How do you feel when you hear that tape, Paul?"
He frowned, his brow knitting. "Sad and scared."
"I get the 'scared,' but why does it make you feel sad?"
"Because I had no control over my body. It felt like being tied up inside my own mind. I was screaming inside, but no one could hear me." Paul's voice wavered with emotion.
Troubled and sad looks passed through the group. It was hard for people who knew Paul, even for people who didn't know him so well, to hear that he had experienced such raw, painful feelings.
"The whole thing was so violating," Paul added disgustedly. It was like he finally had an audience to tell about his harrowing ordeal, and he wasn't going to waste the chance.
"That's understandable." Julietta continued, "After you made this phone call to Alva, what did you do? Head home?"
"No." Paul licked his dry lips. "I stayed in Mountaineer until it was time to make the next phone call. Spent most of the time unconscious. Sleeping in my car. Dreaming of his world."
"The Mothman's world?"
Julietta turned to Alva again. "There's another tape?"
He nodded. "I got a second call the next day. A message was left on my voice mail."
"What did it say?"
"Ah... the message was all feedback whine and strange sound effects. Sounds like insect wings fluttering. Marie put me in contact with a sound expert from the local TV station, a friend of hers, to analyze the tapes." Alva sighed. "The first tape, Mr. Vasquez said could not have been produced by human vocal cords. Some sort of sound thing; he'd know more about it than I would. He thought the voice had been artificially made. The second tape, he played around with until he thought he heard voices."
Julietta questioned, "What do you mean, played around with?" You mean tampered with, she thought.
"Mr. Vasquez slowed it down. He did, indeed, find voices."
"It's good to see you again, Mr. Vasquez. Marie said you found something on the new tape?" Alva took a seat at the sound console.
Sancho Vasquez shook Alva's hand. "Hello, Mr. Keel. Yeah, I slowed the tape down. There are voices on it." He moved the bag of Doritos he was snacking on because it was in the way of the controls. "Where are you getting these weird tapes? I mean, they're real, right? Shouldn't we make them part of the news story about the Moth creature?"
"No, I'd rather you didn't. Some of the information contained in them is too personal to put on television."
"We could edit what we use..."
Alva almost sighed out loud. He didn't like people prying into what was personal to him. "I'll think about it. Now, what about these voices you found?"
It only took a few seconds for Sancho to cue up the first section where he'd found a voice. A woman's voice said, "Mango," in a tone that was almost pleading. Alva looked shocked.
"Play it again," he commanded.
"You know that voice?"
"Play it again," Alva repeated, his voice full of intensity.
Sancho stared at him for a moment before turning back to the console and cueing it up again. Alva listened intently. His eyes were full of disbelief and sadness. "She came back," he said so quietly that Sancho barely heard it.
The sound man asked again, "Do you know that voice?"
Alva let out a long, held breath. "It's a long story, but it sounded like my mother, saying a nickname she had for me when I was a child."
"Not such a long story." Sancho sat back, considering Alva's reaction. "She's dead, isn't she?"
"For many years."
"So this is some really weird shit we got here." He started cueing up the next portion of the tape. "I mean, there aren't tapes of your mother speaking this nickname floating around, are there?"
Alva had to consider that. Could the "Mothman" have gotten ahold of his tapes from college? "Well..." He shrugged. "Like I said, it's a long story."
Sancho fiddled with the buttons on the console. "Hm. There's more to this than meets the eye? Or, uh, ear?" When he saw Alva's disapproving look, he put up a hand in surrender. "Never mind, I'm being nosy. This is the next voice." He pressed the "Play" button.
Among the other noises, a male voice asked, "Why am I different?"
Alva's brow furrowed. "Huh. I don't know this voice."
Just in case, Sancho played it again.
"Why am I different?"
Alva just shook his head. "You'll make me a copy? Maybe this voice will make sense in time."
"Sure. Now I think this last message is the most dramatic, the one you need to hear the most."
Sancho cued up the tape again. "Because it's a prophecy."
At first, there were more feedback and fluttering noises. Then the Mothman voice from the first phone call said, "Tragedy at the Cold Hollow Lodge, on the last day of January. All inside will be buried."
"My God," Alva exclaimed. He and Sancho looked at each other, Alva wondering if he should take this seriously, Sancho considering if they were on the tail of a hot news story. "Is this a prophecy... or a threat?"
On second listen, Alva listened to the male voice he didn't recognize a little more carefully. It irritated him, how much he couldn't place that voice, because something in the pit of his gut told him he should know it. Keeping silent, Alva played it back until he made Sancho sick of it, and then he listened again to his own copy, back in his hotel room.
"Why am I different?" the stranger said over and over. The stranger who would change Alva's life.
Falling silent herself, Julietta blinked in disbelief at the voice coming from the tape Alva was now playing for them all. "That's Paul, isn't it?" The voice on the tape sounded like Paul's normal speaking voice. The fluttering voice, the Mothman voice, that didn't sound anything like Paul. But the taped voice did. They were playing a joke on her.
"Yes, it's Paul." Alva looked her full in the eyes, so she could see how serious he was. He was getting the idea from Julietta's body language and facial expressions that she was trying to hide the fact that she thought they were all crazy. "He said those exact words to me after we met in 2003. 'Why am I different?' About five years after this tape was made."
Julietta wasn't sure she wanted to hear anymore. This story just got more convoluted and hard to explain. She would rather concentrate on Paul - his mental problems alone were fascinating enough. She could probably write an entire book just about him. "Yes, Paul, tell us. Why are you different?"
"I don't know." Such anguish in his voice. "I don't know."
Going on a hunch, Julietta asked, "Does the force inside Paul know?"
"Yes," Paul's other voice, Forces-Paul, replied. "The forces inside Paul are the reason why he is different."
"I should have figured that out for myself. Now, tell me more about this force, Paul. How does it work? What does it do?"
Paul, although his eyes were still closed, turned his head toward her. "You will not be told," the voice of Paul's Forces said.
She recoiled, taken aback by his reaction. "Why not?"
"Because you do not believe."
Julietta looked shaken and surprised at having been found out; she thought she had been so good at hiding it. But even Alva and Evie looked at each other and grinned at the fact that Julietta had been called on it.
The psychiatrist tried to regain her ground. "It's important that anyone hearing an amazing story such as this be skeptical and questioning at first, isn't it?"
"Your mind is completely closed to any amazing possibilities," the Forces-Paul voice replied.
"Oh? And how can you be so sure?" Julietta feigned that she was offended. She had to keep his trust. "For your information, I believe in the possibility of past lives."
"Hmm. Isn't that something?" Forces-Paul said sarcastically. Alva smirked.
"In fact, I'd like to do a little past life regression, if you don't mind."
Alva was the one taken aback now. "What about the Mothman?"
"We'll get back to that." Julietta waved him off, and leaned forward to pick Paul's brain some more.
Alva cut a look to Evie, as if to say, "You're the one who brought her here." He would have put a stop to Julietta's self-serving prying if Evie hadn't given him a pleading look back, a look that said how torn she was between family and friends. Because of that look, Alva stayed in the room and watched the hypnotism session, but he didn't put a stop to it.
"I think we've done a lot of work today, Paul," Julietta said when she felt he'd had enough. She herself had to stretch mightily to work out the kink in her back from sitting so long. "You have a decision to make. If you want, you can remember what we learned here today about your experiences with the Mothman. Or, I can put the memories back where I found them, behind the wall that you built. What do you want me to do?"
"I want to remember," Paul declared immediately.
"Alright. Then let's do this gently, so you won't be too overwhelmed. I want you to take a nap for a couple of hours. Over that time, these memories will come to you slowly, integrating themselves into your regular storehouse of memories. When you awaken, you will remember what happened the night you drove to Mountaineer. Do you understand?"
They left Paul in the dim room to sleep and all went downstairs to digest what they'd heard. Julietta asked Alva for more of Paul's history. When she was finally able to take Gabriella aside for a personal meeting, she was buzzing with excitement. "Did you take good notes?" she asked, closing the door to Alva's office. He let them use it for their meeting, trying to make nice for Evie's sake.
"Of course. We have the tapes too." Gabriella took a seat; she was frowning. "We've never encountered anything like this before. It's so sad, what he went through."
Now that they were alone, Julietta could let her hair down. "Gabbi, that man is a psychiatrist's wet dream. And it's no wonder Paul Callan made up all that stuff. You were listening in on his history. Abandoned by his father, mother dies when he's barely old enough to remember her, he grows up in a Catholic orphanage with a hundred other kids who all want the same attention... it doesn't surprise me at all that Paul would concoct all this." Julietta shook her head, musing over it.
Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Gabriella meekly asked, "You don't believe there was any Mothman?"
Julietta glared down at her sister and really saw her for the first time that afternoon. "You think he was really attacked by some sort of monster?" She started to laugh, shaking her head. "Gabbi, Gabbi, Gabbi... you have so much to learn about this profession."
Gabriella's face burned with the humiliated blush that crept into her cheeks.
Julietta knelt in front of her. She patted her sister's cheek patronizingly. "Gabriella, you can't be so easily swayed by a pretty face."
Now angry, the girl replied, "That is not what is going on here. I don't believe him because I want to date him - "
"Ohh no, you are never dating him."
"- I believe him because he was so sincere. You didn't think Paul was sincere?"
Julietta laughed again, a snickering, incredulous laugh. "I never said Paul was lying."
She rolled her eyes. "I don't get it."
"Of course Paul thinks it really happened. But he hallucinated the whole thing." The frustration she felt at having to explain all this to Gabriella was evident in Julietta's voice. "Do the work, Gabbi."
Gabriella responded with only more frustration. "What was all that stuff about believing in past lives and the past life regression you took him through? Did you even believe in that?"
"Hell no. It's just a good way to get an idea of how a person views himself," she answered immediately.
The reply was so quick and unexpected that Gabriella just stared at her sister for a few seconds, speechless. "What?"
"Let's take a look at Paul's past lives, shall we?" Julietta ticked off her points on her fingers. "One life, he's a rebel fighter of the Civil War with a colorful name like Jack Bull Chiles. He dies of a botched amputation and is heavily mourned to the point that his best friend takes over the fathering of his illegitimate child, even marries his woman. Though he fought on the side of the South, you could say Mr. Chiles is a hero, couldn't you?
"Then we've got yet another life, some farmer named Ray Singleton who marries a pregnant woman and raises her little bastard as his own. What a heroic thing to do. A man might feel pretty important if he had such romantic past lives, hm?
"And look, there's Mr. Jethro Wheeler, who gallantly takes over the parenting of his brother's children when ol' bro is presumed dead. Are you noticing a pattern here Gabriella? Do you see all the children abandoned by dead and absent parents and how past life Paul always saves them from the pain he had to grow up with? Do you think there may be a little wish fulfillment going on here, a little self-rescue?"
Gabriella nodded reluctantly. "Alright, stop it, Juli, I see your point. But there's still such a sincerity about him; I just can't understand how he could have hallucinated such an elaborate scenario."
"Hey, he dreamed up all those past lives. He's very creative."
"But a Mothman?"
Shrugging, Julietta explained, "Mr. Keel said himself that books have been written about this creature. Paul probably read one, experimented with drugs, and went on a wild trip. The simplest explanation is usually the best."
Julietta had barely finished this sentence when the door flew open and Alva barged in with the others behind him. "That will be quite enough, Dr. Santos! I didn't ask you here to provide your pop psychology analysis of Paul."
"What? How do you know what I said?"
Caught in the middle, Evie commented, "The window of the office is open. We heard everything."
"Oh." Julietta seemed a little offended to know they'd been eavesdropping. "May I remind you that I am here as a favor to my sister, and you did not pay me for that session? Did you really expect me to listen to all this amazing stuff and not analyze the man?"
"But you don't even know him," Alva said, exasperated, but still willing to reason with her. "Paul is not the type to take drugs and go off on a jaunt. You're also completely ignoring the fact that there were witnesses who saw the Mothman in Mountaineer, none of whom knew Paul."
Julietta, shaking her head, said, "Mr. Keel, you seem like a reasonable, intelligent man. You can't possibly believe in all this Mothman stuff. Not really."
"Dr. Santos..." Alva leaned in closer to her. "...I most certainly do."
The office fell silent for several seconds.
"So do I," Marie added.
Being that Marie was a policewoman, in a position of authority, Julietta felt she'd lost her last possible skeptic. "You can't be serious."
"I saw him," Marie confirmed.
"You... you saw the Mothman?"
"Yes." She looked at each of them, sharing a particularly long look with Alva, who knew all about it. "Alva went out of town to see John Keel. I - "
Gabriella interrupted, "Wait wait wait, you're not just going to gloss over that, are you? He went to see John Keel? The man who dealt with the Pt. Pleasant Mothman case?"
"Oh yes. We thought he might have some special insight into what the people of Mountaineer were experiencing, but he didn't," Alva sighed. "He did have his own fascinating theories about the Mothman, but nothing that would help us prevent what was to come. Although, John Keel did say something quite interesting." Looking at each of them, he revealed, "I asked him why he thought the Mothman imparted his messages the way he did, without explaining himself better. John Keel replied, 'How would you explain your existence to a cockroach?' Sound familiar?"
Julietta, rolling her eyes, said, "Let me guess. At that time, he hadn't even heard your tape of the Mothman's first call."
"You catch on fast."
"You said that while Alva was gone, you saw the Mothman?" Gabriella reminded Marie. She was quite riveted to the story now.
"Yeah... I saw him the same night we found Paul, after Father Calero had taken him home," Marie said. "My partner at the time was Chuck Sullivan. One of the locals called to have us check out a man in a car who had been parked in front of her house for at least 12 hours. She said he hardly moved, just sat there for hours upon hours, when he wasn't sleeping. Creepy stuff. It was getting dark, so it was important that we check the guy out before the sun went down, incase he ran.
"Now that I think about it, Alva, this house where Paul Callan was parked was diagonal to the hotel where you were staying. He must have been keeping tabs on you."
Alva had to chuckle; the tables had been turned. "I think it'd be more correct to say that the Mothman was keeping tabs on me. Paul was just his conduit."
"What happened when you confronted Paul?" Gabriella asked Marie.
The policewoman continued her story. "By the time we got there, he had gotten out of the car and was wandering down the street. In ways, it was like he was running from us, but didn't want to. I think that Paul didn't want to run... but the thing controlling his body did. There must've been an inner fight. There was something reluctant about how he moved away from me.
"I caught up with him and he stopped walking, and looked at me. The way his face looked... I'll never forget it. Completely lost. Paul's eyes were pleading, full of fear, like he wanted to start screaming right then and there. But he couldn't." Marie swallowed down the emotion that welled up at the memory, at the sympathy she felt for that lost young man. "He couldn't make a sound. Paul's mouth opened and closed, and I thought he was going to speak... it was like he had lost the ability to talk.
"The encounter chilled me to the bone. The way he strained to communicate with Chuck and I. Pointing at his throat and shaking his head. While we were questioning him, he passed between these attempts to explain and zoning out, his eyes going all vacant. He swayed dangerously on his feet. We put him the back of the squad car and he instantly passed out.
"When we got him to headquarters, Chuck grabbed him by the shirt and shook him, and Paul opened his eyes. I literally shrieked."
"The fluttering pupils?" Alva added.
"Yes. Again, he reacted to the world uncomprehendingly. We got his fingerprints, but he couldn't handle the breathalyzer. It was like he couldn't stay awake long enough to understand my directions. Very detached from the world." Marie paused to sigh. "We called Beth to come take some blood. She's a nurse who's a friend of the force, and does this work for us on the side. If we couldn't get a breath test, at least we could take a blood sample before any drugs left his system."
"And that was how you found that junk in him," Julietta stated.
"Yes, the barbiturates that were like sodium pentothal."
"You know he had drugs in his system, yet you still believe he wasn't hallucinating?" asked the psychiatrist in frustration.
Scowling, Marie had to hold back the urge to lash out at Julietta for the way she was being. She had just about lost all of her patience with Evie's sister. The woman picked and chose what she wanted to believe, ignoring facts that didn't fit her theories. "The drug in his system wasn't a hallucinogen. Besides, many more nondrugged people saw the Mothman - including me!"
"How did that happen?" Evie asked.
Marie huffed out a breath of anger before turning from the psychiatrist and answering Evie's question. "A few hours after Paul had gone home, we got a call that someone had spotted the Mothman lurking out by their garage. I investigated, and I saw it, plain as day, just as Paul described it. I pointed my gun at the creature and it flew off." She spoke directly to Julietta. "When I took a look at the side of the garage, I saw that the Mothman had scratched the number 37 all over it."
Julietta questioned, "Why is that significant?"
"We'll get to that. First you have to hear how Paul came out of his stupor. We were able to find out his identity from his fingerprints, and that led us to an emergency contact person - Father Calero. He was called and said he'd come for Paul. While we were trying to decide if we should transport him to the hospital, Paul threw up."
Another man in the jail cell with Paul waved a hand in front of his eyes to see if it would get a reaction. Paul stared down at the floor without a flinch, unresponsive to the world around him.
"What's he on?" a second man in the holding tank wondered.
The first man just shrugged and walked away.
Chuck nudged Marie's shoulder. "The Father is on his way."
"Paul Callan's father?"
"No, the Father. Father Calero."
"Oh, yeah." Marie sighed heavily. "So he really has no parents and no blood family?"
"Looks that way," Chuck said.
Leaning on the counter, Marie looked across it at the big holding tank, at Paul. "Poor guy."
The man who had been gawking at Paul earlier approached him again, sauntering across the cell. "Hey man, you should be more careful what you put in your mouth. You agree at this point, college boy?"
A few of the other prisoners, arrested after a football game for public drunkenness, chuckled and snickered. "Stupid college boys can't handle the hard stuff. Look at 'im." The other man imitated Paul by sitting open-mouthed and staring blankly, an exaggeration of Paul's actual condition, although it was rooted in truth. The imitation got a laugh.
"We got some better things you can put in your mouth," the first man leered. "You wanna be my bitch, pretty boy?"
The holding tank erupted in laughter.
Marie was heading for the cell to tell them to leave Paul alone when Paul slowly turned his head and gave the guy standing before him the darkest look he had ever seen. Then he made a horrible gagging sound and vomited all over the man's legs.
Everyone recoiled in sudden horror and revulsion, especially the prisoner who was unlucky enough to be standing that close. "Aw FUCK!"
Paul lurched forward and threw up again, violently, almost projectile vomiting the last of whatever had been stuck in his throat. A sludgy lime green and black substance that resembled a giant pea plopped to the floor; the shade of lime was so bright, it almost seemed to glow. The "pea" looked like some bratty child had mashed it up in protest of eating it; all that time in Paul's throat had dissolved most of the pod. Barely done making those awful retching sounds, he immediately followed them up with a blood-curdling scream. "GUUUUUHYAAAAAAAH!"
The prisoners pressed themselves into the corner opposite Paul now. "What the hell's wrong with him?"
Marie cringed at the scream. "Chuck!"
They had been partners too long for Chuck not to be able to almost read her mind in a situation like this. He rushed to the door, unlocked it, and went inside to control the other prisoners while Marie took charge of Paul.
Before she had gotten inside the cell, Paul took a deep breath and screamed again, a scream of fear and gut-wrenching terror. "AHHHHHHELP! Get it away! Ohhhh holy Christ get it away from meeeee!" He saw Marie coming into the cell. His eyes pleaded with her; she hadn't seen someone so terrified since they picked up that rape victim off the highway service road. "Where is it?" Paul yelled at her.
"No one here is going to hurt you," Marie assured, pulling her handcuffs. "You're safe now. Do you know where you are?"
Paul's panicked eyes searched the cell. "No," he almost whined.
"You're in Mountaineer, Vermont, Mr. Callan."
"Vermont?" he cried back in disbelief. Then he spotted the handcuffs and shrank against the wall. "Please, no, I can't defend myself with those on! Don't!" Like he'd defended himself so well before?
"I have to put them on for my own safety, son. Just until the Father comes for you."
"Then leave me in here." Paul peered cautiously out through the bars. "Maybe it can't get in." His breath came in quick gasps. He suddenly snapped his head back around to glare at Marie. "The Father?"
"Yes, Father Calero. He's driving in from Boston."
"Oh. Oh, good." Paul sounded so relieved and grateful to know that.
Marie still thought he needed to come out of the cell. "Whatever you think you saw, it wasn't real, Mr. Callan. You took a lot of drugs." She wasn't currently considering at all that maybe Paul had seen the same thing many people in Mountaineer had seen. After all, he was from Boston. "Do you remember that?"
Paul again glared at her, but this time, it was incredulously. "I didn't take any drugs. No, it was... it put..." They'd think he was crazy if he told them the truth.
One of the prisoners being held back by Chuck muttered, "You think he saw that monster that's been seen around town?"
"What, the moth thing?" another asked.
That horrified look came to Paul's face again. "It's here?"
Marie took one of his arms. She didn't make the connection between what he had said and what everyone had seen. The policewoman was too focused on getting a handle on him before things got out of control. "You'll be fine, just come - "
"No!" Paul jerked his arm from her grasp. "Don't you understand?"
"Don't make this harder on yourself, Paul. I can't take you out of this cell without handcuffs on. They're going on one way or the other." Marie forcibly grabbed his arm. He struggled with her, but she managed to slap one handcuff on Paul's left wrist.
"No, no, God, stop!" He pressed himself into a corner, prolonging the inevitable.
"Marie - " Chuck began.
"I got it," she quickly replied. Marie yanked hard on the handcuffs, which brought Paul out of the corner, and with one quick, fluid motion, pulled his arm behind his back. Before he could twist himself out of it, she shoved him down to the floor, on his stomach, with his arm pinned behind his back.
Paul cried out, "Oof!" Although she had surprised him, he continued to struggle. "Please, you don't know what you're doing!"
"Give me your other arm! I don't want to pepper spray you, Paul," warned Marie.
There was nothing else he could do. The policewoman meant business. He put his other hand behind his back, and within seconds, was handcuffed.
"Alright, now up. You'll be fine."
Paul wasn't so sure; his dark eyes darted about nervously as they exited the jail cell.
By the time Poppi arrived, Paul was back to his old self. The handcuffs had come off a couple hours before, since he behaved himself. He seemed more like the responsible young student that everyone back home knew. No charges would be filed as long as Paul agreed to be released to Poppi's custody.
When Father Calero came into the police station, Paul could hardly keep himself from leaping to his feet and crushing the man in such a big bear hug that people would have been talking. He contained himself quite well, but still got up and embraced his mentor and father figure a little too desperately.
"Hey kiddo, you okay?" Father Calero asked.
"I'm alright. A bit bewildered."
"Well, let's get you squared away and out of here."
The first thing Father Calero asked when they got in the car was, "Okay kiddo, what did you take?"
Defensive and frustrated, Paul rolled his eyes to one side and said, "I didn't take anything, Poppi."
"Then how do you explain what happened? You've been missing for days, Paul. We thought you might be dead."
Paul, humiliated by the things he was just learning, sighed heavily. "I'm sorry I worried everyone. But I didn't take any drugs. I'm not sure what happened."
"They towed your car," Father Calero informed him. "You're going to have to get together the impound fees and come back for it some day. I'm not paying it." Poppi was using the tough love approach.
"I don't expect you to." He was mortified, but most of all, Paul was mystified. In the hours he'd spent waiting for Poppi, Paul's mind had locked away the horrific memories as a defense mechanism. "Poppi, I really don't remember what happened. I was in the dorm lounge, and then the next memory I have is of throwing up in the jail cell. The last few days are a blank."
Silent for several seconds, Father Calero thought it over and suggested, "Maybe you should see a doctor, Paul. An incident like this..."
"I know what it could mean. Getting checked out is the best idea." The thought that he could be ill made Paul brood, actually bringing a pout to his lips.
Poppi couldn't stand to see such a dejected look on Paul's face; he tried to make it better for him. "Witnesses saw you eat in the dining hall before you ran off. Could someone have slipped something into your food?"
Paul did brighten up a bit at the thought that it could be that simple. "That's certainly possible." Was it feasible for a person to sound relieved by the revelation that someone could have drugged him?
"We'll look into it. The important thing is, you're okay." Poppi reached over and mussed up Paul's hair playfully, and gratefully.
"Poppi!" he laughed. "Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for coming to get me. I know it was a long drive." Paul looked over at him with boyish admiration.
"No problem, kiddo."
"That was the last time I saw Paul Callan until today," Marie told the group. "I saw what he was like, how terrified he was." She spoke directly to Julietta. "I don't care what you say. You weren't there. I fully believe what Paul says he experienced was real, not a hallucination."
Julietta, sighing, had just about given up. "Fine, whatever. You asked me to come here and analyze the man's experiences. I'm just doing my job. All that stuff about the Mothman and the 'forces' within him? I'm telling you, Paul Callan is functionally insane. He would greatly benefit from some very extensive therapy." She turned to Gabriella then and began a hushed conversation. Gabbi looked uncomfortable as she listened, occasionally glancing at the others like she wanted them to save her.
Evie had her own reasons to look uncomfortable, hands in her pockets, when she leaned over to Alva and said where only he could hear, "Um, Alva, are we completely sure that my sister doesn't have even an inkling of a point? There was that incident with Rebecca. Paul was drinking and smoking, heavily. Totally changed his personality. That doesn't make you question the possibility that Paul could have taken drugs and tripped out?" The second the words were out of her mouth, she felt awful for saying them. Deep down, she knew the Mothman was real.
Alva's eyes sized her up. He whispered, "Paul may have been drinking, yes, but he was also possessed. Evie, I understand you are conflicted because she's your sister. You love her. But you know as well as I do that Julietta is also wrong."
Everyone was too involved in their own secret conversations to notice Paul plodding into the office. Marie saw him, though, and cleared her throat extra loud. Alva turned.
"You all whispering about me?" he asked jokingly, though he knew they were.
They fell silent. No one knew what to say. Alva spoke first. "Are you alright?"
Paul let out a small, derisive laugh. "Physically," he replied in a quiet voice. His face was troubled, his eyes disturbed over the newly recovered memories. "I don't want to talk about that right now." He looked from Marie to Alva. Paul took a seat on top of one of Alva's low wooden filing cabinets, one that would support his weight; the office was so full, there was no where else to sit. It was a habit of his anyway. "What was the tragedy at the Cold Hollow Lodge?"
Alva peered over at Julietta; even she was paying him rapt attention now. Clearing his throat, he began, "The avalanche started at 2:27 PM."
Marie could tell by the defeated look on Alva's face that he hadn't been successful. "They said no?"
"They said no." He let out a sigh and sat across from her at the table in the Cold Hollow Cafe, part of the lodge. "The owner of the lodge spoke to me personally. He laughed, said they'd lose too much money if they closed for a whole day during ski season, and asked me to leave. I'm lucky he didn't have me thrown out, but my story about prophecies and Mothmen amused him so..."
"Well... at least you got past the General Manager this time."
"For all the good it did." The waitress came by, and Alva ordered some coffee.
"So what are we going to do?" Marie asked, offering him the cream.
"We're going to stay here all day and keep an eye on things. If there's going to be a tragedy here, maybe we can prevent it." He looked across the table at her. "Are you up for that?"
"I'm in this for the long haul, Alva," the policewoman replied.
He reached over and took her hand in his own, looking seriously into her eyes. "Are you sure? Because this could be dangerous."
With a tiny laugh, Marie patted his hand. "Alva? I'm a cop." That reminded her of another strange incident... she sat back and blew out a loud breath. "This has been some week. First all these phone calls you got, then we pick up this poor kid on the street for public intoxication, and he is so drugged up, you should have seen him. So spaced out he couldn't even talk. Eventually he threw up this glowing sludge and was okay again." She rubbed at her sleepy eyes. Both she and Alva had lost sleep that week. "Strange times..."
"Hm." Alva did not make any connection between what Marie was talking about and the Mothman. After all, why would anyone? He did, however, perk up a bit. "Glowing sludge?" He looked up from his coffee. "Did you save any of it for me?"
This started Marie chuckling until she couldn't stop. "I love our peculiar breakfast chats."
Hours later, both were bored to distraction as they watched over the Cold Hollow Lodge from their appointed posts. Alva was in the main lobby, and Marie was stationed in the Cafe. The manager eyed Alva with annoyance. He came out from behind the desk and approached the Scotsman.
"Can I help you, Mr. Keel?"
"No. Just hanging around," Alva said in his best contemptuous slang, flashing a fake grin.
"Do you have to hang here?"
Several miles up the mountain, two skiers looked at each other with furrowed brows. "Do you hear that?" one asked the other.
The female had just glanced at her watch to see that it was almost 2:30. She shrugged. "Sounds like a freight train."
"Are there tracks around here?" her husband wondered aloud.
"I don't - " The woman skier looked over her husband's shoulder at a place far up the mountain, miles north of them. The expression on her face slowly turned to that of horror.
"What?" he asked his wife. He looked where she was looking, and saw the approaching avalanche. It was a huge wall of barreling snow, sure to crush everything in its path. "Oh my God..."
"It's an avalanche!" she screamed. The sound of her screech echoing off the mountain made him jump. "It's heading for the lodge!"
"We have to warn everyone!" he declared, lifting his ski poles and waving them. Within seconds, they were speeding across the snow and down the mountain to the lodge.
The Cold Hollow Cafe was on the east side of the lodge; they reached it first. The two skiers simply threw the door open and began to scream, "Avalanche! Avalanche!"
Marie had been hearing the sound like a freight train for a few minutes, but she couldn't place what the sound meant. This all connected for her when the couple opened the door.
"This is the tragedy," she whispered to herself.
The skiers crowded in the door with their skis clacking on the ground. They went right for Marie, the cop, the authority figure, as if she could yell for the avalanche to freeze or she'd shoot. "Avalanche!" they cried, panicking, trying to put it all in her hands.
The cafe patrons started to jump out of their seats and rush to the windows to see. Some let out screams. Some stood and just glanced around in confusion.
Marie tried to keep order. "Everyone, stay calm! I'm Officer McCann of the Mountaineer Police Department. If we just move out of here in an orderly fashion - "
"I see it!" a man at the window cried. He strained to see the upper portion of the mountain. "I see the snow coming down. A huge wall of it!"
"It will bury us all!" a woman shrieked.
"Stay calm!" Marie tried again.
But the woman's shriek had set them off. The patrons started screaming, and broke into a run for the door all at once. The skiers got out of the way, but Marie tried to control the crowd. They rushed past her in a panic, and then were rushing over her. Marie was thrown against the window, her hand still on the handle of the door, which was tossed wide open. There was a sickening pop as her shoulder dislocated. Next thing she knew, she was on the floor just inside the door, feeling the feet of the cafe patrons running over her body. Marie tried to stay conscious, but the pain was too great, and she fainted.
Back at the lodge, Alva was still going rounds with the manager. "You know I could call the police," he said to Alva.
He just shrugged, hands in the pockets of his coat. "You mean Officer McCann? Why don't you go talk to her; she's in the cafe this very minute. She will probably tell you that there's nothing illegal about standing around a hotel lobby just minding your own business."
"Mr. Keel, there is such a thing as loitering. My patience with you has run out. I want you to - "
The front doors flew open. "Avalanche!" a skier screamed.
Outside, the operator of the gondolas that took people up the mountain for sightseeing and skiing quickly herded the cafe patrons into the cars. Each gondola, bearing the logo Brushing Transport, carried 20 guests of the Cold Hollow Lodge above the path of the approaching avalanche. When the manager ran off to help with the evacuation, Alva could sprint upstairs and attempt to light a fire under the straggling guests who had not yet run outside to get on a gondola. The evacuation had been going on all of three minutes when it occurred to him that he hadn't seen a sign of Marie yet. He should have seen her, helping with the evacuation, by now. It didn't cross his mind that she might've already taken a gondola to safety. He was only thinking of losing her.
"Look out, number 37."
Those words going through his head again, Alva ran outside, scanning the crowd for Marie, and when he didn't see her, headed for the cafe. She had been with him through this whole bizarre ordeal; he wasn't about to leave her to die just because the biggest wall of snow he had ever seen was coming right for the lodge and cafe at this very moment. The sound of the avalanche was much closer now, almost blocking out all other sound.
"Hey buddy, we need to leave!" the gondolier yelled to him.
Alva stopped long enough to yell back, "Has a Mountaineer policewoman gotten on one of your gondolas?"
"No man, I haven't seen anyone like that!" he answered.
Alva immediately resumed running for the cafe. He hoped the gondolier would wait for them, but knew that he might not be able to.
The cafe had two entrances, one connecting it with the rest of the lodge, and one that led outside. He found Marie lying near the doorway that led outside, still unconscious. There was so little time, and he didn't need a labeled diagram to tell him what had happened; she was covered in cuts and forming bruises, even a few dusty footprints. Alva simply gathered Marie into his arms and carried her out of the cafe.
The gondolier craned his neck, looking for Alva, not wanting to leave him. He was seconds away from starting the gondola and jumping on himself when he saw Alva running his way with the policewoman he'd been looking for in his arms. The man sighed loudly with relief; they'd probably just get out of there in time. "Hurry!"
Alva ducked through the door, careful not to bump Marie's head, and found a seat among the frightened lodge guests. He cradled her, shielding her obviously injured arm, as the gondolier took the cable car up into the air.
"Alva?" Marie said weakly.
"I'm here." He looked down at her. "Just rest. We're going to be okay. We're in a gondola, moving above the avalanche."
They had been moving up for maybe a minute when the snow brought its crushing, smothering wave down on the Cold Hollow Lodge. The people in the gondola screamed out in horror, and some began to cry, as they watched the avalanche blanket the entire building. The sound was horrifying and final. Alva and Marie felt the weight of how close they had come to death while watching as the snow buried the cafe, where they had just been only a minute before.
"My... God," she breathed.
The Cold Hollow Lodge looked so tiny as it was buried to each peak of its roof in snow, the windows that formed its eyes breaking out under the pressure of wave after wave of blinding white, finally disappearing as if it had never been there.
Before putting his attention on caring for Marie's injuries, Alva allowed himself a nice long stare with a man standing on the other side of the gondola. The lodge manager. He appeared completely broken, wide-eyed, and shaking in fear at the inevitable aftermath.
Bringing Marie a cup of coffee, Alva looked down at her in her pajamas, sitting in a comfortable chair in her home, her arm in a sling, and prepared to deliver the unpleasant news. "They've finished all the rescue efforts. The search for anymore survivors has been called off."
She sipped the coffee, looking up at him with interest. "Oh? They found that one woman alive the first day... how did the rest of it turn out?" Her injuries had kept her from staying current with the rescue efforts.
Alva sat down and touched her hand. "They didn't find anyone else alive."
Marie winced. "There were skiers... people who didn't evacuate the lodge fast enough."
"Yes. People who were caught off guard, or thought they had plenty of time."
With a nod of understanding, she asked, "How many died?"
Alva took the time to pause. He looked at her with sympathy, knowing this was going to shock her, and replied very seriously, "Thirty-six."
The gravity of that truth dawning on her, Marie swallowed hard. She looked stunned as she repeated, "Look out, number 37."
Alva only nodded.
Back in the present, Alva put his hands on Marie's shoulders. "To this day, we don't know if the words the Mothman said to Marie were a threat or a warning. But he was clearly saying that if she didn't escape the lodge, she would be the thirty-seventh person to die."
"We don't know exactly why he came to Mountaineer, either," she added. "Was he trying to warn everyone of the avalanche, or did he cause it?"
Alva suddenly looked at his watch. "Marie, you said you needed to leave by..."
"Uh, yes. I've got to get to my seminar. It was nice to meet you all," she said to the others.
They were glad for the distraction, and said goodbye to her.
Marie approached Paul, who now had his feet in a free chair, and, with sympathetic eyes, leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "You take care of yourself, okay?"
His mouth was covered by his cupped hands, but she could hear him almost whisper, "I'll try."
Marie handed him a small slip of paper. "That's my cell phone number. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call. This thing touched me too. Not like it... well, you know what I mean."
He nodded, his eyes closed. "Thank you."
"I'll walk you out," Alva said, following Marie out of the office.
Paul became acutely aware that he was being stared at by Evie's sisters, one because she thought he was a disturbed curiosity, the other because she felt horribly sorry for him. This is what he hated about the psychic abilities and the odd things they drew to him.
Gabriella was staring; she wondered what it must be like to be so open to the supernatural that a monster like that would invade your person and use you for its whims. She loved her older sister, but she knew Julietta was wrong. Gabriella wanted to go over and hug Paul, but his body language told her he didn't want to be touched right now. A more careful look at his clenched hands brought a lump to her throat; around his right hand and fingers was wrapped a rosary.
In the doorway leading outside, Marie stood with the waning sunlight behind her. She and Alva shared a goodbye embrace. "It really was good to see you again."
She looked in the direction of the office, where they had left Paul. "Take care of him. What that creature did to him... it must've been Hell."
Alva could only nod.
"And take care of yourself." Marie smiled at him, and he smiled back, something he didn't do all too often.
When he came back to the office, Paul had his eyes closed again, lost in brooding thought. "Paul... what can I do?"
Without opening his eyes, Paul replied, "Give me a ride home."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I just need some time alone."
Shifting uncomfortably, Alva said quietly, "Are you sure that's such a good idea?"
Paul repeated, "I just need some time alone."
When they had left the office, Julietta turned to Evie. "If he decides he wants therapy, you give him my card, okay?"
Evie wasn't sure if she wanted to respond with a nod or a punch in the arm. Conflicted, indeed. Dealing with Gabriella was easier right now. She looked about to cry. "Sis, he'll be alright," Evie told her. "Paul's a very resilient guy. He'll bounce back." She gave Gabbi a hug. "You'll see."
Standing before Paul's door, Alva was obviously reluctant to leave him. "You shouldn't be alone after finding out something like this. The thing attacked you."
"I know what it did to me, Keel." Paul unlocked his door.
"Then you understand why I - "
"Please, just leave me alone. I'll be alright!" He opened the door, entered quickly, and locked it behind him, not letting Alva follow. Shutting him out. Alva stood out in the hall for a minute, too concerned to leave just yet.
Paul looked at the rosary he still had wrapped around his hand. His mother's rosary, saved for him by Poppi. Although he was a grown man, he needed his mother more than anything right now. What was the use of being a seer of the dead if he couldn't see his own dead mother when he needed her?
It was no wonder he had repressed these memories. The anger welled up anew as Paul remembered the fear, the terror, the violation... what right did this "Mothman" have to use him the way it did?
He had a sudden need to hurt it, to make it feel the way it had made him feel, but the beast was nowhere to be found. The need was, however, overwhelming, and left Paul looking for something to take his anger out on.
The coffee table. What did he need with a coffee table anyway? Letting out a growling cry, Paul began to beat it with his fists, not even realizing that he was snarling and yelling as he tried to destroy the piece of furniture. The wood let out loud cracks of protest.
Alva had started to leave, giving up, but the noise inside the apartment brought him back. He tried the doorknob, then pounded on the door. "Paul! Are you okay? What's happening?"
He heard Paul yelling. "What right did you have to do that to me? I just want a normal life! I have a right to a normal life!"
Somehow, Alva realized what Paul was doing. Paul was not being attacked again. He was just having a well-deserved breakdown. Alva sighed and stood with his forehead against the door, his hand on the knob. "You let me in once. Why won't you let me in this time?" he said quietly to the closed door.
At some point, Paul had given up destroying the table, although he'd damaged it, and found himself lying on his side on the floor, weeping, sucking on his bruised, bloody knuckles. The rosary had made a pattern of injuries on the backs of his fingers and hand, as he had done the punching with the necklace still wrapped around it. Desperately he looked the rosary over, finding some scratches, and that made him cry harder - he had damaged his mother's rosary.
Paul slowly became aware that he was no longer lying on the floor, but now had his head resting in a woman's lap. Her delicate hands stroked his hair soothingly. Full of hope, he looked up, pleading with God to make the woman his own mother.
But it was not. The woman was definitely someone's dead mother, but not his. She smiled thinly down at him, shaking her head at the sight of his hands. "Look what you've done to yourself, love. There now, do you feel better? You proved to that coffee table what a big man you are." She smiled with a bit more humor.
Paul looked at her dark blonde hair, the crystal blue eyes, and listened to the unmistakable Scottish accent that hadn't been softened by years of living in America. But why? Why? Why did she come to him?
A youthful voice thrust her name into his head. Vivian Keel.
"There there, Paul. You have such a weight on your shoulders, now don't you?" She continued to stroke his head.
"Wh... why are you here, Mrs. Keel?" Paul asked, too quietly for Alva to hear on the other side of the door. "Why you?"
The woman shrugged. She appeared at the age she had been when she died, somewhere in her forties. "We don't choose how things happen, do we Paul? We just adjust."
Not understanding this turn of events, Paul returned to resting with his head in her lap, stunned by his memories and stunned by the identity of this latest visitor.
Vivian Keel looked into his familiar features, stroking the dark hair with wicked interest. "You can't help who you are," she said. Her eyes took on a far-off look, and she started petting Paul's hair a little too hard. "You can't help who you are."
More Story Notes: Jack Bull Chiles comes from the book Woe to Live On aka Ride with the Devil by Daniel Woodrell. Skeet Ulrich played the character in the film version.
Ray Singleton is a character from the book/film The Magic of Ordinary Days. Skeet Ulrich played this character also.
Jethro Wheeler is a character from the mini-series Into the West. Guess who played him? ;)
Stuff that was taken right out of the The Mothman Prophecies movie:
1). A female police officer being involved in the Mothman case.
2). Alva receiving phone calls from the Mothman that predict a tragedy that causes great loss of life. In the movie, a bridge collapsed, just like in the real life story.
3). "How would you explain your existence to a cockroach?"
4). Alva putting his watch in his shoe and shoving it under the bed.
6). In the movie, the policewoman had a dream in which someone said, "Wake up, number 37." (I think it was 37; the number could be different. I haven't watched the movie in a while.) It had the same meaning as, "Look out, number 37," does in my story.
Why did I use stuff from this movie in my story? Because the movie kind of sucked, with a few really brilliant, cool things thrown in and basically wasted on the rest of the filler. I wanted these cool ideas to be given further meaning by putting them in a context I liked better. Besides, Richard Hatem created both The Mothman Prophecies movie AND Alva Keel. It's a natural that Alva meet ol' Mothy, don't you think?
1). I knew a girl in sixth grade who actually dislocated her arm the same way. It was excessively windy that day, and she had her hand on the handle of a door that opened out. When she opened the door, the wind threw the door open very suddenly and dislocated her arm. I always wanted to use it, for some reason.
2). Naming the cop "Chuck" and Marie's last name "McCann" is a little joke on my part, because Chuck McCann is one of my favorite comedy actors/writers. :D "Hi guy!"
3). The reason why I had Paul in seminary school at the same time he was attending Tufts is because of his dossier from "The Friendly Skies." It stated that Paul graduated high school in 1991, earned two degrees from Boston University and Tufts University, and started seminary school in 1997. Which would mean he earned those two four-year degrees in six years? The guy may be smart, but he never struck me as a genius. It makes more sense to me that Paul started seminary while he was finishing up his Theology degree from Tufts.
You Can't Help Who You Are is (c) 2006 Demented Stuff
Miracles is (c) 2003 Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Television