Clark padded across the dusty attic floor with a small plastic crate in his hand. It was getting late, and he and Jonathan had been working hard to tidy parts of the farm all day. The attic had been their last stop, and had proved to be the biggest job.
Piles of papers, a trunk filled with Grandpa Kent's effects, and a bunch of Clark's old toy's still needed tidying in one corner, but for the most part they were almost done. Separating family memorabilia and treasures from plain junk was hard when you tended to get sentimentally attached to said junk. Jonathan had been forced to pry one particular teddy bear from Clark's grasp, only to give in and hand it back moments later with a wry smile.
"Do you really need that, son?" The expression of mirth on the farmer's face said he already knew Clark's answer. The little brown bear had been one of the teen's first toys and there had always been a part of him that thought it was special.
"Dad…" Clark's cheeky grin almost illuminated the attic without the aid of the nearby light bulb that hung from the wooden beamed ceiling.
Jonathan nodded knowingly and headed for the steps with a box of junk to burn outside under his arm. "Don't forget to turn out the light when you bring the last of the rubbish down."
"I'll be down in a second. I just need to go through the last of those toys," Clark settled the plastic crate down beside several metal dump trucks he'd enjoyed as a toddler and began to reminisce. He knew full well he was supposed to be getting rid of unwanted clutter, but instead he found himself thinking back to his childhood.
Images of Jonathan and Martha encouraging him to play outside with the strange toy filled his head. Back then he'd had no clue what a dump truck even was. Clark smiled at the thought of how he'd lifted the toy over his head and tried to make it fly. I could have probably lifted the real thing over my head back then even!
Above him, the cobweb covered light began to flicker and Clark frowned at it for spoiling his trip back in time. He wasn't afraid of the dark- in fact he didn't even need the light to see, but it was an annoyance. The teen looked up, half expecting the bulb to pop any second, but it didn't. Instead, the filament continued to dull and then brighten with alarming regularity.
"I guess the electric company is having yet another outage." Clark sighed and put the toy trucks in his crate to take down before the light finally decided to give out. As he spoke to no one in particular, a harsh grating sound erupted from the chimney breast. It was the only brick structure in the house and wasn't normally given to making any kind of noise. Clark craned his head and kicked into x-ray mode, wondering if a bird had somehow fallen down inside the channel.
The inner part of the chimney was clear, but just before Clark returned to normal vision he spotted something else. On the far right had side of the chimney, hidden by the shadows from the roof beams, there was a loose brick. In fact, now that he thought about it, the harsh noise he'd heard moments ago had sounded like brick, grating on brick.
What was more intriguing was the fact that there was something behind the loose block. Clark set down his now full plastic crate and strode over to the offending aged slab. It protruded from the others quite harshly, and for a second the teen could have sworn it was shaking itself out of the wall.
He stepped back, a small pang of fear overwhelming his super senses, but then the brick appeared nothing more than a brick- motionless in its inset. Reaching out, Clark touched the rectangular slab and wanted to recoil at its cold, malevolent texture.
The light flickered again; almost pulsing in time with the teen's now racing heartbeat. "It's just a brick," He told himself, but the more he scrutinized it and the surrounding chimney, the more he knew there was something strange.
This side of the chimney wasn't red like the others; it had a dark, blackened coating to it that defied explanation. An abundance of horror movies came back to haunt him, and Clark was glad it was nowhere near Halloween. I need to see what's behind here…Like anyone whose curiosity was piqued; Clark couldn't control himself despite what the implications might mean.
Clark reached out again, and this time he saw his own fingertips trembling as he tugged at the brick. At first the block appeared stuck, but with one tug of super strength it gave way to the inevitable. As it came away from the chimney, the bulb hanging close by dulled for the last time and the filament burned through with an electric snap. The room was pitched into complete darkness, and somehow not even Clark could see anything.
"Whoa!" This time Clark made a dive for the attic entrance and didn't care how childish his actions seemed. He'd just reached the steps when Jonathan's head bobbed up through the opening.
"Need a flashlight, son?" Without waiting for a reply the farmer climbed the rest of the way into the attic, and couldn't resist grinning at his kid's apparently terrified expression.
Clark grinned back sheepishly, but then remembered the brick. "Dad, I think I found something in the chimney…" He pointed to the gloomy area where he'd discovered and then dropped the offending item.
"In the chimney?" Jonathan raised a questioning brow, but directed his beam of light over to where Clark was now gesturing. About six feet up the brickwork he spotted the hole where Clark had removed the block. "Well I'll be…"
Reassured by his father's presence, Clark followed Jonathan back to where the brick now lay. In the beam from the flashlight it looked so innocent on the dust covered floor, but the burning question Clark couldn't answer was how had it gotten loose?
"So, what's in there, son?" Jonathan moved the light so that it illuminated the hole in the chimney breast. Even now the blackened scarring to its surface was still visible.
Clark shrugged but knew what he had to do. Nothing could hurt him, so it was childish not to find out what he'd discovered. Lifting an arm up, the teen reached his hand inside the gap and let his fingers search around. Something cold, so very cold greeted his senses, but he didn't recoil from it. From the texture, Clark guessed it was some kind of old leather binding before he even tugged it out, and he wasn't wrong.
Once the book was clear of the chimney, Clark blew a thick layer of dust from its cover and stared at it amazed. It was pocket sized, and although its pages had yellowed, it appeared perfectly preserved. How and why a book of this kind had been stored inside the chimney of the Kent family home was a mystery. He gulped, and carefully peeled back the leather cover to read the first page. The contents were all hand written in black ink, and perfectly scribed.
"It's the journal of Nathanial Kent! Dad, this is old!" His earlier spooky experience forgotten, Clark looked to his dad excitedly at having found part of their family history. "It's dated 1880," He noted, pinching another page and flicking it back. "The last entry is April 21st. I wonder why…" He read the first line out loud, "Midnight till One belongs to the Dead…"
Jonathan sighed and rubbed a hand over the discoloration to the chimney. It's harsh grainy surface reminding the farmer of a tale he'd been told long ago by his own father. "I think I know why, son, and it wasn't pretty." He tapped the brickwork with the edge of his light, "See this?"
Clark nodded, placing the journal in the breast pocket of his plaid shirt. "I was wondering about that."
"It's quite a tale." Jonathan settled his flashlight back on the exit, "C'mon, let's go outside, and I can tell you a real fireside horror story while we burn the rubbish."
"Horror story?" Clark shot his dad a pensive look and picked up his crate full of toys to give to the local charity store. He wasn't sure why, but if Jonathan hadn't mentioned the family yarn before, then he suspected it was for good reason.
When Clark stepped from the porch into the dull evening light he could see his dad already had a fire burning a good distance away from the house. Spirals of smoke ebbed up into the darkness from it as flames gently licked at the night sky. Martha was watching over the proceedings until Jonathan returned, and she looked up and smiled as the pair approached.
"I thought you two had decided to leave me out here alone." Martha took Jonathan's arm as he joined her, "What are you two looking so excited about?" She eventually asked, realizing something was going on between the father and son.
Clark retrieved the journal from his pocket and held it out in his palm. As he opened the front page the nearby fire seemed to grow in intensity. It was as if someone had tossed gasoline onto it, causing an instantaneous eruption of concentrated heat. Before anyone even had time to react and step back, the flames had died back to their normal height.
"We…um found this hidden in the chimney breast in the attic." Clark tried to explain what he'd discovered, but suddenly found he couldn't take his eyes from the now gently burning fire. "It's an old family journal, and dad says he recalls something about it."
Jonathan grabbed a chicken sandwich from a plate Martha had brought out for them, and took a seat on a nearby upturned crate. "I don't personally recall it, Clark. And it's not really about the journal, but it might explain why Nathanial Kent stopped writing it on the day he did…"
Even Martha was intrigued now. She'd never known Jonathan hold anything back before- well, except for the whole Jor-el deal, but that had been an exceptional circumstance. "Sweetheart?"
Clark pulled over two more plastic crates and he and Martha joined Jonathan sitting by the fire. As the farmer silently pitched a pile of old sacking onto the flames, sparks erupted, showering the surrounding area with golden embers. As they settled, Jonathan began his narrative.
"My father told me when I was a kid that many years ago in Smallville a terrible tragedy occurred…A tragedy so awful the town has chosen to forget it." He paused, looking at his watch as a sudden thought hit him. Then, he continued although his expression said that he was abruptly taken aback by what he saw, "It was midnight on the night of April 21st…"
Martha gaped, "Jonathan, that tomorrow's date!"
The farmer nodded, uncertain if he should continue and spook his family after what they'd found. It had to be a coincidence, and yet it all seemed far too convenient.
Clark sat forward on the edge of his seat, unable to contain his curiosity. "So what happened, dad?"
"They say there was a mist that night. An ungodly fog the likes of we've never seen here in Kansas. It had rolled in over the farmers' crops in the early evening and remained there, hovering like some malevolent mass."
Martha hunched closer to her husband and kept a tight grip no his arm. He was obviously enjoying telling the tale to Clark, but if she told the truth it was too creepy for her liking.
Jonathan continued, "From what your Grandpa told me there was some kind of town meeting that night. Father Malone, the local priest had allowed the farmers to use the church as a place to congregate, and it was then that it happened…" He stopped again momentarily to put more items on the fire, "No one knew how it got started, but somehow, hidden by the fog that had enshrouded the town there was a fire. Some say it started at the church, others say it was a brush fire that spread through several local farms. Only one thing was certain, the mist hid the smoke from neighboring homesteads until it was too late…when the fog finally receded from Smallville it left a trail of destruction in its wake…"
Martha was horrified, "People died? I've never heard about this before."
"On April 21st 1880, at midnight, the church burned to the ground with everyone in it…and no one saw the smoke because of the fog. There was never a fog here in Smallville the likes of that again, and for a time the local farmers were so superstitious they said if the fog returned, the souls of those who died that night would come with it."
Clark shuddered and abruptly wished he had not found the journal. "Is that why the diary stops at April 21st? Did Nathanial Kent die in the church fire?"
Jonathan shook his head. "No, son, he didn't, but from the scarring on our chimney I'd hazard a guess that the farm was somehow caught up in the brush fire. Maybe we'll never know what happened for sure…"
Martha trembled from a sudden icy chill despite the fire. She'd heard quite enough of Smallville's history for one night. It seemed the town had a curse on it throughout the passage of time, and not just since the meteor shower. "It's getting too cold out here," She stood from the crate and pulled her cardigan close around her, "You two should hurry up in."
Clark checked his watch and realized just how long they'd been working and talking. It was past 11pm and Lois wasn't home yet. She'd supposed to have been closing up at the Talon while Martha helped tidy the farm, but she should have been back by now.
"Do you think I should check on Lois?" He looked to his mom first, "I know the Mustang was being less than co operative this morning. She was fumbling under the hood for thirty minutes before it would start."
Martha agreed, "Okay, sweetheart, I'll have a snack ready for you both when you get in." She looked sternly to her husband, "And no more stories!"
Jonathan chuckled. He'd been trying to set the mood for a cosy last hour in front of the farmhouse fire with Martha, but all his spooky tale had done was give everyone the creeps. If he were honest, after recounting the story again he was feeling pretty spooked himself. "I promise." He assured, "Just as long as you agree to cook in the morning and not Lois."
Clark looked at his mom expectantly. Anything was worth not having to eat Lois' cooking.
Martha smiled, "It's a deal. Now go find Chloe's wayward cousin before she finds some more trouble to get into." Clark nodded as his mom tossed him the keys to the pickup. Where Lois was concerned there could be no use of super speed, so he'd have to find her the old fashioned way.
"Keep the cocoa warm." He grinned, and then hopped into the truck, cranked the engine, and sped off down the drive hurling flurries of dust up behind him.
Clark pulled the Kent truck up outside the Talon but didn't kill the ignition. Lois' car had already gone from its regular parking space, and so that meant she was most likely already back at the farm. He sighed and rolled his eyes at the thoughts of the army brat once again beating him to supper. The trucks clock said it was almost midnight. What has she been up to till this time?
The teen nudged the truck back into gear and headed down the almost empty Main Street at a snails pace. As he reached an intersection, the overhead lights changed and he began to brake. Before the truck had even come to a halt the lights changed again. This time they remained on amber and didn't move.
Clark scowled and lowered his window in order to pop his head out. The lights still stayed amber, and abruptly all three phone booths on the corner of the sidewalk began to ring incessantly. "What the?" He glanced around to see if any kids were playing a prank, but even with his x-ray vision he couldn't spot anyone.
Eventually, he decided to risk Sheriff Adams wrath and ran the light. It was either that or do a u-turn back towards the Talon. As he approached the edge of town he was glad of his minor little infraction of the law.
Lois' red Mustang was by the roadside, and the normally headstrong Lois was kicking at its tires as if the poor thing was about to assault her.
Clark pulled over with a mischievous grin on his face. "Need a ride?"
Lois scowled but conceded that she indeed did need a lift home. Grabbing her purse from the Ford she hopped into the truck and slammed the door closed. "Let me just tell you I don't normally hitchhike," She joked, "You're not one of those weirdoes that pick girls up are you?"
"Well, yes I am…" Clark couldn't stifle a laugh now. He and Lois had been getting along better lately, especially since she'd opened up to him after the 'Lucy Affair.'
Lois swatted him, "You are? Thank God! Here was I thinking you were just a boring farm boy!" There was a twinkle in her eye as she teased, but it was short lived.
As Clark slowed again at another intersection, the driver's side glass window shattered into a myriad of pieces, showering both of them with tiny sharp shards. It was as if someone had slammed something hard through the glass pane, and yet there was nothing inside the vehicle to show for it.
Clark quickly shielded Lois with his body in case another invisible attack came, but it didn't. Cautiously, the pair sat back up in their seats and looked around outside into the darkness. As they scrutinized the surrounding area the truck's lights faded and then brightened just like the attic bulb- even though the engine didn't miss a beat. Clark noted the same pulsating motion as before, but didn't mention anything to Lois.
"Okay, so maybe I don't want to ride with a weirdo…" Lois brushed flecks of safety glass from her jacket, "So what the heck was that, Smallville?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know, but I think we should get out of here and figure it out at home." He let his boot gently slip from the brake pedal and applied a little gas, wondering what could come next.
Half a mile down the road they found out.