- Chapter 1 – An unsuccessful journey (minor changes)
- Chapter 2 – The Well and the well (new 10/17/2015)
- Chapter 3 – The memories of the Well (minor timeline changes)
- Chapter 4 – The Visitor and the missing visitor (unchanged)
October, the Fifth Year of the Eighty-First Well
Chase sat at the dinner table quietly. He looked around the table and as only a teen can, decide, for that day, he liked none of them. Not his sister. Not his mother. And his father, especially, not his father.
As he looked at each of them with general distaste, his father spoke.
“You need to get to The Well, Chase.”
“I hate The Well.”
“We all do, but it’s needed. You need to let go of what weighs you down. Go to The Well, tomorrow before school.”
The next morning, Chase grabbed a bag of ripe peaches and left an hour earlier than usual and headed down the hill. The peaches swung in his hand. A few cars passed by, but not many. The sun had started coming up, but the air was still crisp and cool. It was going to be a beautiful fall day.
As he walked further down the hill, the houses got smaller and older and the road, a bit narrower, until the sidewalk disappeared, and the road, the paved part, came to the end. His feet crunched against the gravel, and while the sky got brighter, his mood darkened. He started walking a bit slower. The gravel gave way to hard packed dirt and a narrow, but well-worn trail. The trees closed in and the air got cool and damp. He was still sweating.
He got to the gate and it was closed. He breathed a bit of relief. No Well today. There was a bench by the gate, but he wouldn’t have time to wait and still make it to school on time. His walk, even though going uphill on the way back, was faster and his step a bit lighter.
October, the Sixth year of the Eighty-First Well /
The First year of the Eighty-Second Well
Chase looked down on the body of the ruined Well. Its body lay splayed under its kitchen table, most likely having died sitting in the chair and simply sliding off and under. The shock on its face seemed to indicate that death came as a surprise. The stumps of the arms jutted out, white and scarred from the loose robe that pooled around the body, and Chase imagined what the tongueless mouth look like as well. He shuddered a bit, while still staring. Underneath the long mat of hair and tortured body, Chase could still see some of what The Well was before. There was beauty buried there, much like the secrets now held in the breast of the unblinking, unbreathing…unperson. Chase suddenly became uncomfortable waiting in this closed room with the dead body.
“Are we going to move it?” Chase asked.
His father frowned. “Wait”
“I have practice, Dad.”
“I said Wait!” The other men in the small cabin looked up at the sharpness of Chase’s father’s voice. “We need to wait for the keys.”
Four deep sighs and Chase slumped in the chair, avoiding the dead stare of The Well. He looked at the window and the dust floating in the light coming through. He watched at each mote swirled about, and as he stared, he felt he was just on the verge of seeing a pattern out of the chaos, that each floating particle obeyed some order, and it was so simple to see if he could only…
The Doctor came in the cabin, the door pushing a breeze, removing all trace of meaning in the dust previously floating idly by Chase’s eye. He walked with a pronounced limp, and just as Chase was about to ask what had happened to his leg, Chase noticed the Doctor was carrying a heavy bag. Just inside the cabin, the Doctor dropped the bag, causing a sharp complaint from the floorboards.
One of the other men, Randy Randall, said, “How long will it be before we get a new one?” and he pointed with his foot at the body under the table.
The Doctor walked over to the table and pushed it off to the side, so he could get to the body without dragging it. As he was pushing, he said, “It’s never a new one. It’s always the Well. The body may be different, but it’s the same well.” And then he spat the words singly, “Each. And. Every. Time.”
Chase wondered why the Doctor would push those words out with such vehemence for a minute, this was the first time he had seen the Well turn over. This Well had not lasted many years, in fact he remembered when this Well was chosen, only six years prior. He was too young then to help his father, but he remembered the discussion on the death of the bodies that were the vessel for the Well and the reincarnation of the Well into a new vessel, no longer human. Something less than human. Something more as well.
Chase’s father walked over to the bag and dragged out a length of heavy chain. Once the chain was out, he reached again into the canvas and pulled out a large Key and then reached out to Chase. “Go unlock the cover, and we’ll meet you out there.”
Chase took the chain and key and headed outside. He turned to the left, down the crushed grey stone path to the open air shelter. Chase didn’t look around as he went, and didn’t notice the beauty of the area around him, the dark green beauty of the forest and the simplicity of the small cabin and surroundings in the clearing. His eyes were only focused on the low stone circle sitting under the shelter he was walking to. He could almost feel the weight of that stone circle and the empty emptiness that lie under the cover. Weight and Emptiness filling him at the same time. He has always dreaded coming here, but never felt this. As he came closer and closer to the pit, it’s as if the cold void filled the pit in his stomach as well. And with each step, the silence grew in his ears, until even the crunch of his feet along the path turned to nothing. The only thing in existence now was a heavy rusty circle, covering this ancient stone. He stood there, key in hand, staring at the circle, now two feet before him.
“Chase! Open the god-damned well!”
He jumped, aware of everything around him with a start and looked behind him. His father and the other men were carrying it rapidly toward him, bent over with the weight of the chain wrapped around its thin body.
Chase looked down in his hand, suddenly remembering the key and looked down at the cover. To the side was the lock and the other side, a large rusty hinge. He put the key in the lock and expected resistance, but got none. The key turned smoothly and he took the lock off the hasp. And then he grabbed the thick lip of the cover and lifted. The hinges were another story. They groaned and protested. Sharp metal on metal creaks filled the air as he slowly strained. The cover was heavy and his legs trembled as he struggled to keep his footing. after the first foot, the cover started to move easier, but his leverage was less as he leaned over the opening getting larger and larger under him. He felt the cold coming out of the black circle under him and he looked down as he pushed. There was nothing to see but darkness a few feet down into that stone circle, but to him, the darkness had depth, texture and he quickly looked away once the cover was fully open. He heard the shuffling and heavy breathing behind him and turned around, once again seeing the men and the burden they carried. They were only feet away, coming straight for him, and he quickly stepped aside.
They got to the lip of the stone and grunted as they lifted the body over. One of the arms had some loose of the chain and dragged against the stone, and Chase imagined that it was trying to hold itself on the edge, but no hand was there to help, just that white-scarred stump. And suddenly with a chorus of grunts and strains, the body and chains were gone. Replacing the vision instead were the occasional sharp clashes as the body and chain came into contact with the stone walls as it fell into the blackness. The sound, instead of decreasing, was increasing as each clash echoed over and over, building with each impact and now Chase imagined this was the sound of the void climbing out into the world. As the echoes overlapped, it almost sounded human. A group of humans muttering, almost like a babble of a crowd that spoke over each other and got louder and clearer as you walked closer to the source.
A sharp bang of finality startled Chase and he looked down. His toes were up against the stone ring and he stared down not at the hole in the earth, but the rust of old metal. He looked up, and all four men were staring at him.
“Why didn’t you close the well when I asked you?” his father said.
“I…I didn’t hear you, over all the echoes and noise coming out of the well after you dumped her.”
Chase corrected himself, “It.”
“How could you not hear me over a couple echoes.”
“It was loud and kept growing Dad, you know that.”
His father looked blankly back at him. And in that cool shade and sheltered from the sun, all four men looked pale and white. Almost as pale as…and Chase tried to block the rest from his mind, trying to not think of his vision of that alabaster arm reaching for the edge and then tumbling and turning in the blackness.
“Go Chase, you have practice. We’ll finish up here. Run and you should make it on time.”
Chase looked around at the men, all still looking at him. The Doctor’s mouth set in a thin line looking back at him, the other two simply waiting and then he looked at his Father one last time as he stepped down the path. As he got to the cabin, he picked up the pace, and as his pace quickened, the shaded path widened and straightened. The incline grew greater, but the further away from that place, the stronger his legs felt. He started to breathe and truly run. He turned the final corner and at the end of the tunnel of trees he saw the circle of sunlight as the path met the road ahead, and he pushed his legs hard, to escape the blackness around him and the circle grew bigger and brighter with each step. He was sweating now, and his breath came in ragged gasps and he kept running and pushing. He didn’t know why but he needed to feel that sun on his skin and catch the light. And finally, as if he were in a race and breaking the tape across the finish, he leaned into the sun and felt it hit his face. He staggered onto the dirt road, winded far more than he normally would be for such a short run and suddenly realized he had been crying. He had always disliked going down that place and now he hated it even more. He didn’t think he could ever like it less.
Chase wiped the tears mixed with sweat out of his eyes, and jogged up the hill, toward school and the day that was just beginning.
October, the Fifth Year of the Eighty-Second Well
This body remembered the day It became The Well. It had heard the night before the previous body of the Well had died. If The Well’s body had a gender, the previous body was a “she” but it didn’t matter, just as this body was a “He”. The Well had no gender, no name, no possessions, The Well just was. It remembered when the news of The Well’s body-death, the next day going to help his then-father remove the body, and the following night, the parents getting dressed, even though it was after midnight. They dressed in their best clothes, and left their kids, including him and went to their meeting place to tabulate the claims for the body of the new Well with the rest of the town.
The Well that night had called his girlfriend, to tell her to sneak over, that both sets of parents would be gone for hours. She didn’t answer her phone. No matter, he was popular at school, one of the well-known kids, good at sports, good at school, good at everything. He called Shayne instead, knowing she liked him and would do what he wanted. He even liked her. She just wasn’t as popular as the girlfriend. Shayne answered, and in thirty minutes, she was there, in his old room, naked, and he was on top of her. He didn’t care that his sister was in the room next to them. She didn’t matter. What mattered, at that very moment, was that he was close to coming. He wasn’t sure if Shayne was. But that didn’t matter either. He came, and Shayne made the appropriate noises to let him know that he was a man, as only one of the most popular kids in high school could be. He rolled off her that night, and they both felt the post-sex haze come over them and soon they were asleep.
His door boomed open. And he shot up in bed, half asleep and all alarm. He saw his father in the doorway, shadowed against all the lights on in the house. He looked around him and Shayne was still there, lying, trying to make herself smaller in the light. He looked back at his dad, with a half-smile, trying to show the bravado he showed at school. The straight line of his father’s mouth as he came to the bed, told him that his father did not find this funny. He looked as his mother came, she unlooking, and bending to pick up Shayne’s clothes as his father came closer to the bed.
He stood up, naked, “Dad, I’m sor…” and those were the last words he ever said. His father’s fist in his mouth, stopped any further words, and then his father, still a strong man, grabbed him, and drove him out of his room. His cut lips throbbed as he tried to make sense, why his father was so angry at him. The confusion was short, as he was thrown down the stairs and his mind struggled with balance and staying alive. He felt his ankle twist. And saw the foyer door lay open to the outside, and he saw more people out there. Parents of his friends. Friends. Family. Strangers. Enemies. Everyone. Confusion quickly gave way to fear, and then comprehension. With comprehension came more fear. He was the well. He was no longer He, but IT.
His father grabbed him again, and threw him out into the yard and people stood around him. His mother came up to him as he lay on the ground, he thought she was looking to comfort him as she reached out to caress his face. And her hand slid down and grabbed hold of his hair. Hard. He felt more hands pin his hands, his legs and he knew. He wanted to yell out “No!” but he knew and clamped his mouth shut. It would do no good. And he saw his father, face of rage, and no pity with a maul in his hand. The man, once his father, raised the maul, and as It looked up into the sky, the streetlights putting the man in shadow. It saw the shadow of the maul raise up, and swiftly come down. And then instantly – sharp, unyielding pain. Without thinking, as thinking was no longer an option, he yelled. And felt strong fingers wedge something in his mouth, now held open. And the only thing came then were moans and another scream turning into soundless whimper as he felt a hand grab his tongue, and the sharp sear of the knife, with blood choking him. He didn’t feel the axe come down on his other hand.
He awoke slowly. Dull throbbing entering his consciousness slowly. He opened his eyes, and saw a fuzzy outline backlight against the window. His body shuddered as he remembered the outline of his father. His father and the axe. He stiffened in fear and then realized he couldn’t move.
“You’re awake,” Dr. Tate said.
“Your arms are bandaged, and your mouth stitched. You’ve been asleep, or more correctly, I kept you asleep for almost a week, while you healed some. You’re healthy enough to make it to your new home. You will have about two hours to wake here, and then you will be expected to take your place as the Well. It’s been a week, so you are needed. The town is heavy with hurt.”
Dr. Tate paused. Took a breath and then pulled up a chair by the bed, and since h was closer, he talked lower. “You used to be Chase. You’re now The Well. You have to understand that. You know what it means.” Dr. Chase paused, as if he was going to say more, and then he left.
The Well/Chase stared blankly at the ceiling.
Dr. Tate came in again, later, with two men and a wheel chair. The men unstrapped The Well, not gently and placed him in the chair, and then restrapped him.
“I’ll take him down.” Dry Tate said and then wheeled The Well down the corridor, talking as he went. “No matter, you are going to do your job, and well I’m sure. And since I’ve been giving you service for the last week, I have plenty to unburden to you free of charge. I’ll visit you once every two days until you’re healed. You will have plenty of debt to unburden me. And since I will keep your health, I don’t expect you will ask anything else of me. The last Body of The Well asked more.” With that last, Dr. Tate arrived at the hospital door.
The Well looked out, out past the Hospital doors, and saw the town. Family. Friends. Acquaintances. Enemies. And Dr. Tate pushed the chair out into the open, the unnatural silence. And then he whispered in The Well’s ear, low, sharp, menacing. “My first confession. My unburdening….I killed your predecessor. She thought she could make me do what she wanted. I killed her and I made sure you were next. That Thing had no idea what I was doing, all the complaints about you. And then when I slipped the needle in her, she finally understood.”
With that, Dr. Tate unbuckled the restraints and dumped The Well into the grass in front of the hospital. The Well reached out to break the fall with hands that weren’t there, and a sharp unformed scream came out of his mouth as the stumps hit the ground. The Well lay there for a few minutes and then he felt a pair of strong hands life him up, and he stood, in front of everyone.
No one reached out to him. All stared at him. And as he looked around, he saw hate. Anger. But not pity. No pity. Behind him he felt a push. He turned around, and his father….no, not his father he realized, The Well had no father. The man pushed The Well. And a gap opened in the crowd, leading to the road, the road that turned to dirt, and then to a well-worn path, to the old, ramshackle cabin of The Well. And The Well knew and started walking down that path. As The Well walked, people threw their hate at him, spitting, throwing dirt and rocks, yelling curses, and he shambled as fast as he could, until the screams and taunts were no more and The Well walked back into his home, down the hill, down the road, through the trial, and lay on floor, closing the door with its feet and laying there with the feet against the door, barring it as best as the Well could.
No one visited The Well for three days, other than the Dr. who silently jabbed a needle in him the second day (causing The Well to shiver, and the Dr. to nod knowingly), and told him to open his mouth. The Dr. looked at the mouth, and then simply said “As soon as you can stand it, rinse with salt water every day. But it will be a few days before you can do that.” And then the Dr., not gently, looked at The Well’s mangled stumps, that still ached with every movement. He nodded curtly, got up and left.
The Well heard the gate close as IT sat under the roof, overlooking the river, sitting on the bench it sat every day, hours on end. The Well heard the steps, and then saw Shayne walk slowly and heavily into the clearing. She sat on the bench across from him. The circle of stone, covered and locked, between them. The Well sat nervously. Waiting. Shayne swallowed.
“You know what I’m going to tell you, don’t you?”
The Well shook its head, negatively.
“You KNOW!” she said. “You know the burden I need to leave, don’t you?”
The Well paused, and looked at her, the tears in her eyes, and her stiff body. The Well felt the body react. But the Well still shook its head.
“Don’t make me say it. You can’t! Because you know.”
The Well continued shaking its head as it watched her stand up. The Well, half relieved / half hoping there would be no burden passed today. And then suddenly, she walked clockwise around the stone until she stood next to him, bent over and whispered in his ear. The Well hated the whispers the most.
It felt the words turn to stone in its belly, a weight that somehow entered as it left her. This one hurt more than most. Words. Burdens. Secrets. Sins. Jealousies. Envies. The Well held them all. This lifetime lasted a second and then she stood up. There was a spring in her step, as she walked away. Then she stopped for a few feet away, turned back to The Well and spit. It landed on its feet. She then turned back away and then walked quickly away. The Well could feel her lighter step and brighter mood as she disappeared up the trail, leaving the gate open. The Well, on the other hand, got up slowly, struggling with the weight of the burdens it carried already, just months into the new body. It feared how it could hold the sorrows of the town for years.
- End for now. Stub for a longer story if it seems to work…