Chapter 7

Chapter 7

A Chapter by Rocki-san

“If you don’t stop pounding the seat, I swear to whatever God or Gods there may be, I will chop your feet off.” Logan threatened from the front seat as we sat waiting for Keno to come out of the General’s office with our next case. I stopped kicking the seat momentarily to look at him, gauging the threat. I always hated waiting for a new case, Keno always took forever getting it. He would ask questions, picking the General’s brain to see how much he really knew.

Deciding that Logan wouldn’t actually cut off my feet and having that younger-brother-innocence, I kicked the back of his seat in the old rusted car we’d borrowed. My head it the floor boards before I could get a second kick in as Logan grabbed me by the ankles while pulling out his special dagger with a purple blade. He’d gotten it from a small village far to the east, it had some kind of crystalline structure and made with certain elements that made the blade perfect for demon hunting.

“Logan, Logan stop!” I shouted with panic and then he dropped me. It took me a few minutes to get right side up again in the cramped car seat. He ignored my glares as he inspected the blade innocently.

“I warned you,” he said. I checked my ankles just in case, though I knew he wouldn’t have actually cut me, not with his good knife anyway.

“Jerk,” I muttered and sighed with relief as Keno came out of the building. “Finally.”

A strange feeling passed over me and I froze as soon as I saw the case file. It was the same kind of file as any other, a simple manila folder, filled to the brim with papers, the CCOR seal engraved on the front. The same kind of file I’ve held in my hand hundreds of times in the past three years. Just a normal, simple folder.

And yet I was terrified.

It wasn’t as if Keno were walking with a different strut, as if the file bothered him, it was just me. A feeling of dread and yearning fear took hold and I found it hard to swallow. A fear that had a chokehold over me, it could only mean one thing.

Everyone had fears, something irrational that you fear for no particular reason. It could be a traumatic event, a concern, or just a flat-out foolish phobia that you had no way of controlling. Everyone had one, I was no different. Forget that I fought some of the most terrifying things on Earth on a daily basis, those were nightmare inducing in themselves but this was different. Always has been, always will be.

“I don’t want to do it!” I said as soon as Keno opened the door. He paused before getting in and looked at me as if I’d flipped my lid, which, I probably did.

“You don’t even know what it is yet,” Logan said and took the file. He didn’t really care about what the case was, as long as there was something for him to fight, and he was giving the Sa’harielans a bad rap. He opened the folder and began reading, a small grin appeared on his face. I can’t rightly say it helped my apprehension any.

“Kuro Lake,” Logan said and looked back at me deviously. “A small lake side town seems to be having lake trouble. Something in the lake.”

That’s right, I was afraid of water.

I could already feel the knot forming in my stomach caused from the phobia, the tightness of my chest as my heart beat rapidly. My lungs cried out for air as if they were already filling up with the hydrogen-oxygen mixture.

I hated this case already.

“Really, still with the water?” Logan asked seriously after seeing my uneasy glare.

“Yes, still with the water,” I muttered. “Can’t we wait for another case?”

“No,” Keno said. “The General says we have to do this one.”

“Well, well-“ I started but really I had nothing.

“Ozzie, we’ve dealt with scarier things!” Logan said, still trying to figure out the basis of my fear.

“Shut up!” I said without looking away from Keno.

“Really, you’re not concerned that a 16-year-old hunter is afraid of rain?” Logan asked Keno.

“No,” Keno said as he buckled his seatbelt. “And he’s not afraid of rain, just deep bodies of water.”

I stuck my tongue out spitefully at Logan and leaned back in the seat. Logan rolled his eyes.

“What I’m concerned about,” Keno continued as he turned the key in the ignition. “Is that he knew what the case involved before I got in the car.”

Good question.

How I’d known? It was a mystery even to me.

 

It was a two hour drive from Headquarters to Kuro Lake, we’d picked up Kotori along the way. It was apparent that there weren’t many cars in Sa’hariel since he had no clue how to buckle himself in or open the door. This didn’t stop him from enjoying the thrill, however, it was all I could do just to keep him inside the vehicle rather than out the window.

We’d finally reached the docks where a small motor boat was used to ferry people and supplies from the mainland to the small island far out on the lake. It was called “Kuro Lake”, or “Black Lake”, for a reason. The water was blacker than the night sky, nothing could be seen in the murky depths save for a subdued attempt of a reflection that was similar to an ancient, dusted mirror.

I looked at my own reflection in the black water with dread; my pale skin looked gray, my purple eyes turning black and my hair almost nonexistent in the water. Just looking at the lake I could feel my lungs contracting, breathing became arduous, my vision and thoughts both muddled and hazy. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, fear, and the thought “I’m going to die” that I’d only had one other time in my life seemed to be the only thought that came to the surface.

“Ahoy thar matey!” Logan clapped his arm around my shoulders, startling me. “Are yer ready fer some adventures? Argh!”

“Shut up!” I punched his shoulder.

“Relax, Ozzie!” Logan rubbed the spot where I’d hit him. “It’s only water! Look, it’s safe!”

He splashed me with the dark liquid and walked away, ignoring my glares. I sighed and sat on the water-stained log at the lake’s edge, never taking my eyes off the water. You always watch your enemies.

“Just ignore him,” I looked up at Keno as he sat down beside me. “Everyone has their fears.”

“Not you,” I said. “You don’t have any and neither does Logan.”

“He says that,” Keno smiled as Logan walked over. “But he forgets about the sock under his bed.”

“That’s not fair!” Logan blushed slightly but, try as he might, he couldn’t hide it. “I was five years old you cruel and corrupt jerk!”

“It’s not my fault you were a gullible child,” Keno shrugged.

“You told me it was a monster, Keno!” Logan said furiously.

“And now you’ll stop bugging Oskar about his perfectly legit fear of water.” Keno said and continued to smile as Logan stormed off to charter a boat. “That’s going to come back to bite me.”

“He won’t win,” I shrugged. Keno started to stand. “Keno.”

“Yes?”

“What’s your fear?” I asked. He looked down at me for a few, quiet minutes as if he had to truly think about it. He sat back down, looking at his hands as his arms rested on his knees. They were battle worn, covered in calluses and scars.

“I’m afraid of failing,” he said. “Failing as a big brother, protector, not being able to find out why the demons killed mom. I promised her I’d protect you two, I’m afraid of letting her down.”

“You shouldn’t be,” I said. “You’re a great big brother.”

“Good answer,” he replied with a tousle of my hair before sighing. “Looks like Kotori and Logan got a boat.”

I groaned but stood to follow. It was going to be a long, long few days.

“Coming?” Logan asked with a grin and climbed into the ratty old boat that I was surprised to see floating. The white fiberglass that made up the boat was now a dark dirt-gray and seemed to be patched up in more than a few places. It was rickety as the waves pounded against the side and small enough to make me wonder how it could possibly stay afloat with all of us aboard.

“Do I have to?” I said with disgust.

“Yes, you do,” Keno answered as he also boarded the boat. “We stay together no matter what, nobody left behind. Anything could happen.”

“Exactly my thoughts,” I muttered as I continued to eye the boat with untrusting disdain. Slowly and carefully, I got into the boat and stood stiffly as the waves rippled against it and the boat steadied. “Okay, I’m ready to get off.”

“We haven’t even started moving yet,” Kotori said, a little confused as to why I was acting like a three-year-old girl in pigtails.

“I don’t care,” I said.

“Just sit down and relax,” Keno said and patted the edge of the starboard side.

“I’m not sitting on this thing! Especially on the edge by the water!” I said and Logan rolled his eyes.

Soon we were on our way and it was all I could do to keep upright on the boat.  Five minutes had passed and we were getting farther and farther away from the dock but my queasiness and anxiety remained. I found myself staring into the black abyss of a lake, cursing at it through my mind.

“Keep a weather eye to the horizon, me hearty!” Logan clapped me on the back but pulled me away before I fell in.

“Logan!” I shouted angrily but clung onto his arm in my fear.

“Okay, okay,” Logan tried unsuccessfully to shake me off. “I’ll stop, just let go!”

“Fear of water,” I looked up at Kotori who’d come up after Logan had gone to sit. “It is a strange fear to have considering what you do for a living.”

“Shut up,” I muttered, clutching the bow for dear life. “I have my reasons.”

Kotori was quiet, waiting for further elaboration. I sighed and stood up straight to look at him, daring to take my eyes off the cursed water. I still didn’t answer him though, instead I went to stand by Keno.

An hour later and we arrived at the small island-town of Kuromura. We’d only been there for a few minutes and I could already tell how serious the case was, the town was in a dark, sorry place. You could spot who was local by the distance they put between themselves and the water, wanting nothing to do with the lake.

I’d read the case file on the way to the ferry terminal, there was something in the lake according to their claims. Apparently there have been numerous cases of missing persons; some people even claim to have seen some of the victims dragged into the water. Most of them are kids, teenagers to be exact, taken in the middle of the day and never heard from again.

“Stay close,” Keno murmured into my ear as he walked by.

“Yeah, yeah,” I sighed. “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

We made our way through the lakeside market, located by the port in order to trap what little tourists came out this way; I was guessing there wasn’t much before this little fiasco anyway. We stopped to interview a few of the locals but didn’t learn anything new from any of them.

“I think the school will be our best bet,” Logan said and Keno nodded.

The school seemed to be the nicest building on the whole island, it was small but I doubted it was cramped. We went to the Administrative Office, interviewing the principal to get more insight.

“It started a few months ago,” Principal Wilkins, a round man in his mid-forties with thin graying hair on top of his head and a white mustache. He was giving us a tour of the small school, stopping in front of a classroom. “Three of our students have disappeared and during school hours at that!”

“A student a month, that is a pattern,” Kotori whispered to me.

“I’m sorry, we were expecting the CCOR but not the Noir brothers!” Wilkins smiled. “We would’ve prepared better!”

“It’s alright,” Keno said. We tended to get this a lot on our cases, just because we were young and skilled we were more celebrities than the usual agent. What did these people think? That we didn’t ever work? “We’re just agents; we don’t want any special treatments.”

“Right,” Wilkins cleared his throat. “Anyway, all of our teens have classes together, it’s the only way to utilize our time and space. This issue hasn’t helped matters any either, most parents have taken their children out of school because of it.”

“But none of the other children have been targeted?” Logan asked. “The younger ones?”

“No, actually, not one of them has been taken,” Wilkins said. “Why?”

“Well, usually supernatural entities go for young children, the younger the better,” I explained. “Even demons prefer young children because they’re more open to the paranormal and their spirit energy more pure. If there’s a whole source of young children nearby then it’s strange that this being is going after the older group.”

“How old are you?” Wilkins asked. I sighed, every case, every single case!

“I’m sixteen,” I said and he nodded with the same shocked expression I see every time. “Yes, the CCOR lets a sixteen-year-old work for them.”

“Right, sorry,” Wilkins said. “You just be careful.”

“Thank you for your concern,” I said impassively receiving an exasperated glance from Keno. I looked at him and shrugged. What could I do? I went through this same conversation a lot! I turned back to Wilkins as he knocked on the classroom door.

“Mr. Shapiro, please excuse the interruption,” Wilkins said. “Students, these are the CCOR Agents sent to help us. Please help them in any way you can. Mr. Noir?”

I could just barely see Keno’s nose wrinkle at being called “Mr. Noir” but he said nothing and stood in front of the class.

“We’re here to help you in anyway we can so we would like your complete cooperation,” another speech I’ve heard a million times. “If you have any information about the victims or the creature then please, let us know. You can tell us anything in the strictest confidence. Are there any questions?”

Only one hand was raised, it belonged to a lifeless looking girl. Her hair a silky charcoal as were her large doe-eyes, she wore nothing but a black dress that hung over her pale frame. Her attitude and tone were as dreary as her appearance.

“Do you have any idea what’s been taking our peers?” She asked, her velvet-laden voice mysterious despite being monotonous.

“Well considering the age of the victims, the location and the element,” Keno paced as a professor in deep thought would. I’d always pictured him to be some sort of teacher if we weren’t in the CCOR; it was what he was good at. He thrived, not only for knowledge, but to share said knowledge. “We could narrow it down to fifty different creatures. Ozzie, Logan, would you like to chime in?”

“No, no, we’re good,” Logan said. Logan was less scholarly, he’d hated school before he’d even step foot in one. I couldn’t help but think that if the school in Sodgrove Valley hadn’t already been burnt down then Logan would correct that mistake.

“Because this entity seems to be going for healthy teenagers rather than children or weak adults we assume that it ages as we do and it is in your age group.” Keno continued. “There are hundreds of creatures like this but because of our location and the fact that it lives in water we can narrow it further. Are there any other questions?”

“Are you gonna, like, shoot it?” A boy in the back asked.

“If we have to,” Keno answered before Logan could get the chance to share his cynic views.

“Alright, students, you’ll have another chance to speak with the agents later, if you have any information pertaining to the incidents come to my office.”

“Thank you, Mr. Shapiro,” Keno nodded to the teacher before we left the classroom.

“What now?” Wilkins asked.

“Now we investigate,” Logan said. “Look through some town records, check a few things out, that kind of stuff.”

“And are there any local hangouts the kids usually go to?” I asked.

“There is one,” I turned to see the creepy girl standing there. She was just barely shorter than I was and looked to be unbelievably thin, not that I was really one to talk. “I can show it to you if that’s alright with Principal Wilkins.”

“Yes, of course, I’ll send a note to your next class.” Wilkins said without making eye contact with the disturbing student.

“Ozzie, you and Kotori can go check it out,” Keno said. “I’ll get statements from staff and students while Logan goes through the records.”

“Oh sure, give me the gouge-your-eyes-out-from-sheer-boredom job.” Logan muttered.

“We’ll meet back here in an hour,” Keno said but grabbed my arm. “Are you going to be alright on your own?”

“I’m not on my own,” I said. “Kotori’s going with me.”

I knew it was a lost cause even before I saw Keno’s wary glance at the Sa’harielan warrior. I was actually surprised he was allowing me to go without either him or Logan. I mean, sure, I’d gone by myself to do numerous tasks but we’d both had bad experiences with me and water.

“Be careful,” he said and moved to talk with Kotori. Probably telling him to watch me closely as if I were a two-year-old. Where was the trust?

“It’s an old cottage rumored to be haunted,” the girl, Elise, said as we arrived to the small, run-down cottage in question. It sat on a small field, a path leading from the front door to the lake shore. The cottage was weathered, the wind and lake water doing a number on the wood that was turning black with rot.

“What do you do here?” I asked as we went into the one-roomed building. It had started to rain heavily outside making the one room twice as dark than it should have been.

“I don’t know, normal teenager things,” she replied only to be answered with blank stares, not only by me but also Kotori. “Right, you’re that little CCOR prodigy; you probably don’t know what it’s like to be a kid.”

I was glad that it was dark, it hid my face which was no doubt flushed. I pulled out a flashlight and looked around the room. Nothing out of the ordinary, graffiti littered the wall as any building subjected to teenage get-togethers would be.

“Alright, Elise,” I said. “Thank you for showing us, you should probably get back to class.”

“Okay,” she shrugged. “See you around.”

I pretended not to notice the out-of-character smile as she left the building. I continued to inspect the old cottage; the cupboards, the closets, whatever hiding place there could be. I even had Kotori boost me up to check the rafters.

“Nothing up there either,” I said as I dropped to the creaky floorboards.

“Maybe we should check the lake?” Kotori asked. I could feel the dread again but nodded as if I were fine.

“Yeah, great idea,” I said with a little more enthusiasm than the situation called for. Kotori quirked an eyebrow suspiciously but walked outside with me sheepishly following behind.

It was hard to see with the downpour and the dark clouds covering what little light the sun managed to pass through. We both scanned the lake to see if anything could be spotted.

“So, you have reasons for your fear?” Kotori asked. “You never did tell them to me.”

“Maybe because it’s personal,” I said and looked inside a large, hollow tree. Nada.

“Still, I am curry,” Kotori smirked.

“I think you mean curious,” I said and he shrugged.

“Potatoes and tomatoes,” he said and I stared at him.

“’You say tomato, I say to-ma-to’?” I corrected.

“Whatever!” Kotori huffed. “Why are you fearing water?”

“It’s no big deal!” I said and climbed down the ledge to get off the path. “When I was little, maybe five or six, I almost drowned in the river near our house. I’d fallen in and sank to the bottom. I wouldn’t be here if Keno hadn’t come and saved me. Water’s scared me ever since.”

“You should be careful of your fears, then,” Kotori said. “The things we fight always take advantage of your fears.”

“It’s never been a problem before now,” I said.

“Can you swim?” he asked and shook his head with disappointment at my silence. “Alright, then try not to fall in. I don’t want to have to jump in the black water to save you.”

Kotori went to check the dock while I avoided it like the plague; instead, I wandered around the shore but had trouble finding anything and only accomplished nearly losing my boot in the muck.

I slid down the bank a little was but caught myself before reaching the water. My hand landed on some sort of regurgitated slime ball of foul-smelling ooze. I jumped back, frantically wiping my hands off on my jeans. Gross.

“Hey,” I called over the symphony of rain. “I think I found something.”

“What is it you have found?” Kotori asked as he slid down to where I was.

“It looks like,” I leaned to get a closer look. “Something shed its skin.”

“Ew,” Kotori replied and I nodded.

“Well,” I started back up the bank. “That makes this a whole lot easier.”

“There were a string of disappearances similar to this about seven years ago,” Logan said. We’d just regrouped at the inn and were looking over all we had. “Kids would show up to school but would disappear half-way through the day.”

“The statements say the students left school early, probably to go to the local youth hangout spot.” Keno continued. “I heard similar statements today.”

“It’s probably the same hang-out,” I said.

“The students would have to trust the creature to go with it to the cottage,” Kotori said. “So it must look human.”

“That would explain the shedding skin,” Keno mused.

“What, so a shape shifter?” Logan asked.

“No, they don’t live in the water,” I said. “And there wouldn’t be a break. It would keep going or move on completely.”

“Selkie,” Keno said and we looked at him. “The skin was just laying there, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, a selkie will shed its skin and come to land every seven years. They’re lonely creatures, always looking for companionship. It looks for four months before returning to the water to stay in seal form for another seven years. I’m guessing this one hasn’t found a suitable companion and so it keeps taking new students.”

“What does it do with the old ones?” Logan asked with a nose wrinkled in disgust.

“I don’t know,” Keno sighed. “People don’t usually disappear when they come in contact with a selkie.”

“Well, one thing’s for sure,” I said and the three of them looked at me. “It’s a young selkie.”

“So what do we do about this? How are we supposed to find a freaking selkie?” Logan asked.

“With a little research, all is possible,” Keno sighed. “What do we know about selkies that hasn’t already been mentioned?”

“As far as we know,” I leaned back in my chair. “There’s no way to tell the difference between human and selkie when it changes from its seal form.”

“So it’s like searching for a needle in a field of hay,” Kotori sighed.

“It’s ‘needle in a hay stack,’” Logan said. He was getting annoyed with the Sa’harielan’s idiom confusions. “After interviewing all the kids you didn’t get any gut feelings about any of them?”

“No,” Keno said. “But, then again, I’m an adult and none of them seemed willing to talk to me.”

“Well,” Logan looked at me with a grin. “Ain’t you handy!”

I scowled at Logan but it was true, I was their age, they would trust me, eventually. There were many times I’d had to interview a group of kids but some of them looked at me as if I were an outsider. As if I were against them in some way because I had a badge in my pocket.

“Alright,” I sighed. “I’ll go over there right now.”

 

We were back at the school now, walking to where the students were having lunch. Every one of them sat in groups with their friends. Then I saw Elise sitting by herself in the corner under a tree, watching all the other kids.

“Is everything alright?” I asked as I walked over to her.

“Yeah, I always sit alone,” she shrugged. “Ever since I was little they’ve treated me like an outcast.”

“That must be hard,” I said and she smiled as I sat beside her.

“Whatever,” she said. “You’ve come to ask more questions.”

“Yeah,” I said and looked at her. “Are there any new students here? They would’ve moved here a few months ago.”

“No,” she shook her head. “Everyone here has been here before.”

“Elise!” We both looked up to see a blonde haired girl with dark eyes. She smiled to us. “What have I told you about sitting here by yourself? I told you to sit with us!”

“Sedna,” Elise said. “You know the other kids don’t want me there.”

“Maybe if you’d talk to one of them like you’re talking to the CCOR then maybe they’d want to talk to you!” Sedna said.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Elise sighed and then turned to look at me. “Sorry, she’s never really liked the CCOR.”

“It’s alright, we learned just recently that not everyone does,” I smiled.

“Yeah, but at least you have a family that will look after you,” she said.

“You don’t?”

“Well, I have parents,” she shrugged. “But ever since my sister died they haven’t been the same. We live together but we’re not exactly a family anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s alright,” she smiled. “It was seven years ago.”

“Was she-” Elise nodded.

“She was the last one to disappear, they never did find out what happened to all those kids.” Elise said sadly. “Well, I ought to be going. Maybe I’ll see you later?”

“Sure,” I said. “Bye.”

“Aw, she likes you,” I looked up to see Logan leaning against a tree. I scowled at him and stood up.

“Shut up,” I said.

“She could be the selkie,” Keno said. “She seemed pretty lonely.”

“Lots of kids are lonely,” I said defensively.

“She seems quite fond of you, Ozzie,” Keno said. “Be careful, just in case.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I muttered.

Later, I sat in our hotel room, looking over files and wishing for a break but I knew one was not about to come. We were all sick of these constant cases; we wanted to work on our own for a while. After our last breakthrough, we were more determined than ever to figure things out. We were eager to see what Stokes had learned since we’d come out here.

And I was more than ready to kiss the lake goodbye.

“You have to know that your little girlfriend is the selkie,” Logan said as we lounged around.

“No, I didn’t, and she’s not my girlfriend.” I said. “Besides, she lost her brother seven years ago because of the selkie. The file is right here.”

“Well, we’ve got no other leads,” he said.

“New plan,” Keno said. “Selkies need their skins in order to go back in the water. It’ll go back to that spot. Tomorrow we’ll just go sit and wait for it.”

“Simple,” Kotori said. “Yet boring. I like what you’ve done with it.”

“I’m sorry we can’t make everything life or death for you, Kotori,” Keno sighed with annoyance.

“Tomorrow will be a long, if not interesting day,” I said to Logan who snorted.





© 2010 Rocki-san



Author's Note

Rocki-san
Okay... this one is really long... Sorry!
If you see any errors or inconsistencies, please, let me know!

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Added on May 30, 2010
Last Updated on October 19, 2010
Tags: supernatural and occult, ANWA saga, sci-fi


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Rocki-san
Rocki-san

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Hey, I'm Rocki! I live on a 14-mile long island where there isn't really anything to do so I write. I'm an Anthropology major and willing to read your stories or books if requested as long as you give.. more..

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