I cannot wait to share the conclusion to The Light Attendant! I just had to share some of it. Here is a peek at what’s coming:
Sparky cracked the reins and the horses snorted before moving off at a reluctant canter. We left town and drove along a dusty dirt road, finally pulling up to a farm lane forty minutes later.
“This is it,” Sparky said in a dull tone.
I got down off the wagon.
“Thanks,” I said and handed the boy a fifty-cent piece. “That’s for you.”
The boy did a double take at me then jammed the coin deep into his shirt pocket. “You gonna be all right here by yerself?” he asked.
“I’ll be just fine,” I said.
“Good, cause I ain’t int’rested in talkin’ to no one what’s worked at a flu hospital.” He pulled away and called back over his shoulder, “Don’t expect anyone to come find you if no one hears from you agin’.”
I watched the wagon drive off. I supposed I had been duly warned.
I hitched my bag further onto my shoulder then started down the road at a marching pace, my heart beating at a shamefully quick rhythm.
The farmhouse rose up before me and I took a deep breath. I wasn’t certain if I was nervous about meeting Abbigail’s parents, about meeting Abbigail again, or if I was afraid of what I would find. I forced my feet up the steps to the veranda and knocked on the front door, my heart pounding faster than any time I had “gone over the top”.
All was silent.
When no one answered, I dropped my bag by the door and went around to the back, my boots grating noisily on the gravel of the yard. I stopped and looked around. Just like the many battlefields I had been on, the silent whispers of the dead brushed past my ears. I pulled my field knife out of my boot from sheer habit, letting the weight and balance of the hard, cold metal steady me. I drew in a breath then headed toward the barn.
The door was wide open and I went in. A couple of horses were in their stalls. They whinnied loudly when they caught my scent, one of them pawing at the dirt of the stable. I looked into their trough and saw they had no water. I grabbed a nearby pail and went back outside, intent on finding the well. The well sat just off to the east and I went to draw from it. There was a small cottage just beyond the well. I left the bucket by the well and went over to the cottage.
I knocked on the door but heard nothing. A determined breeze licked at my face just as I turned to walk away, bringing with it a smell that sent my mind tumbling down the black hole of war and injury and death. I halted in my tracks and turned back, opening the door.
“Hello?” I called.
Not a draft stirred the air inside the cottage. A man lay still and soundless on a bed set against the western wall. There was no mistaking the smell of death inside the room, but I went to check on the man anyway. His face was purplish grey, his lips white. His eyes were dulled over and dry with not even a hint of reflection in them.
I turned and ran back toward the house, jamming the knife back into my boot as I went.
I didn’t knock and I didn’t hesitate. I ran through the back door.
I didn’t look around to get my bearings. I didn’t stop at all. I simply kept moving as though a barrage was opening up behind me. I went through the main floor but found not a soul. I raced up the stairs two at a time. At the top of the stairs, I had to make a quick decision: right or left?
I went into a bedroom and saw an empty bed, the bedclothes in disarray, some of them pooled on the floor along with a pillow. I ducked out of the room and raced in the opposite direction.
I found Abbigail and two other people in the bedroom across the hall. A man and a woman lay on the bed, unmoving, unseeing, unbreathing, suffocated by the hard mask of death. I didn’t spend more than a second on them, quickly moving to where Abbigail lay face-down on the floor.
The conclusion to The Light Attendant coming November 1, 2022, in honour of Remembrance day!