The Others (Haunted From Without - Book One)


Her father's eyes blinked open, and his head turned towards Susie's voice.

Lifting up his other hand, he took the face mask off, and smiled at his daughter.

"Susie . . . "

He squeezed his daughter's hand, and coughed.

"There's something I have to tell you Susie. Something important . . . "

His voice was quiet, and the words were slurred as he spoke, but Susie understood him.

She moved a little closer.

"I'm listening Dad. But maybe you shouldn't speak. You should save your strength."

"No. Susie. I have to tell you. I'm dying, I know I am, and I don't think there is much time."

Susie sniffled, and began to cry.

Her father let go of her hand, and reached up and caressed Susie's face, his fingers gently tracing the contour of her cheek.

"Don't cry, little Susie. I'm not scared. I'm ready. It's my time."

Susie took hold of her father's hand, and kissed it, wiping her tears away with her other hand.

Her father started as if to speak again, but then his eyes glazed over, and he seemed to look away over Susie's shoulder.

"Please . . . ," her father asked, as if to someone behind her. "Can I have another minute? Just another few moments with my Susie?"

Susie turned her head and followed her father's gaze, expecting to see someone else, perhaps a doctor, who may have entered the room without her noticing.

But there was no one there.

She turned around to face her father, and was met by his smiling face.

"I'm sorry, Susie. I have to go. They are waiting for me. And they can't wait any longer."

"Who's waiting?"

"Your grandfather, and your grandmother. And your mother . . . and Timothy."

Susie glanced around over her shoulder again, holding her father's hand a little tighter.

"Dad, there's no one . . . ," she started to say, but turning back to her father, the words evaporated before she could finish.

Her father was smiling at her. Studying her. There was a sparkle in his eye that she hadn't seen for many years.

"I love you Susie." Her father said.

And then he closed his eyes, and passed from this world to the next.

Susie didn't notice the doctors coming into the room, switching off the beeping alarm that emanated from the wall of flashing lights, and which had heralded the last beat of her father's heart. She didn't respond when the nurses said something to her, quietly. And she didn't acknowledge them when they left her alone in the room with her father, his eyes closed, his face peaceful and now free of stress.

The tears began to flow quicker now, the emotion that she had bottled up for the past few hours bursting forth and engulfing her.

Resting her hands upon his, Susie wept. She didn't know how long she cried for, but it must have been quite a while. When her tears eventually dried up, she looked at the clock in the room above her father's bed, and saw that it was 7.14 a.m.

She sat looking at her father, remembering him, and the times they had spent together growing up. She started to cry again, then slowly, very slowly, the tears began to abate.

Leaning forward, she kissed her father on the forehead, stroked his cheek, smiled at him, and then turned and walked out of the room.

Her father was gone. She would never speak with him again. And except for Peter, she was alone in this world.

As things would turn out, she was wrong on all counts.

Chapter 3

Ames, Iowa


1 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST)

Peter opened the door to his motel room and stepped through into the small, musty room beyond. He was exhausted. He had been driving for hours, down endless roads that stretched from one horizon to the other, and although his pickup truck was automatic and the driving was easy, it was mentally tiring.

On top of that, he had spent most of the day trudging across farms, visiting corn fields where the crops were failing, and the soil was dying. He'd taken over two hundred and twenty soil samples, all of which were now labelled and packed in the heavy suitcase that he lugged with him into the room from the Dodge Dakota parked outside.

As he shuffled through the door, he bent down to pick up an envelope that had been stuck under his door, tossing it onto his bed to read later.

Putting the suitcase in the corner, he kicked off his shoes and lay back on the mattress.

What a day.


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