Enchanted Valley: End of Summer - Part2 - Conclusion

Enchanted Valley: End of Summer - conclusion

SUmmer_End.jpg
Written by Nuuan
Copyright © 2017 by Nuuan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the Author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

~o~O~o~

“Like I’ve told you before we came up, Charlie is different. It’s the main reason I’ve been working on getting all the paperwork the state wants so she can be home schooled.” Erika sighed, “Can you imagine how bored she would be in a normal school?”

“So you home school her,” Jerry shrugged as he pulled two waffles off the stack onto the plate in front of him. “Lots of parents are doing that anymore.”

“It’s not that simple, first you have to be certified. Which I have the college credits to do so, but the way the law is written only a parent can do the home schooling! There’s more PHD’s in this town than all the instructors on campus combined, and all of them are willing to help with Charlie’s education but they can’t be the ones that home school her!” Erika slumped down in her chair.

“And of course you can’t be here to home school Charlie and finish your degree,” Jerry nodded his understanding. “Bring Charlie back with us, we can get a bigger place and you can home school her in the evenings after our classes.”

Erika shook her head, “And what would we do with Charlie while we’re both in class… Daycare? May as well send her to school.”

“What about Susie?” Jerry suggested, “She works nights, she could babysit Charlie.”

“Oh yeah, great idea!” Erika rolled her eyes, “Once Charlie found out what she does for a living we would come home to find Charlie tossing dollar bills at her while she practiced.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Oh no! Charlie would do it for the entertainment value she would get from the look on our faces when we walked in.”

“Okay then what about Maggie?”

“She smokes pot,” Erika quickly killed that suggestion. “If Charlie thought she smelled it on her, all hell would break loose.”

“Tracy?” Jerry continued to list friends they knew.

“Tracy? Are you serious?” Erika asked. “We would have to pay Charlie to babysit her.”

“Okay then what about my grams?”

~o~O~o~

Jerry held the door for Erika to walk into the store. The pair easily spotted Charlie wearing a ball cap with the fishing store’s logo on the front. Charlie’s hair pulled into a pony tail through the hole in the back of the cap, obviously standing on something behind the counter to appear as tall as she was behind the counter. Charlie was counting out change into the hand of a man on the opposite side of the counter. Two boys, the youngest looking about the same age as Charlie stood beside him, the older of the two gathering the paper bag off the counter as his father collected his change.

Looking up at the door Charlie smiled, “Hi Mom!” then a bit less enthusiastically, “Hi Jerry.”

Erika walked toward the counter while Jerry stood holding the door for the man and his sons that were leaving. “I was going to give Jerry a tour of the town, thought you may want to come along?” Erika knew from the look on Charlie’s face that Charlie was going to decline so she added, “Thought we would stop at the coffee shop first and I know how much you love their hot chocolate.”

The thought of the deliciously creamy mugs of hot chocolate they served at the coffee shop brought a wide smile to Charlie’s face. Jumping down off the small step stool she had been standing on to reach the register, Charlie ran over to the opening to the back room and shouted, “Jack, I’m going with Mom down to the coffee shop, you want anything?”

“Whatever Lily wants to send back fer me,” They heard Jack’s voice before he came walking out of the back room. “Darn woman got a knack fer knowing what ya want.”

Looking over at Jack, “I was going to give Jerry a tour of the town, so it might be a bit before we bring Charlie back.”

Jack waved his hand dismissively, “Take yer time, Them waffles Charlie brought with her this morning will hold me over till then,” patting himself on the stomach.

“Those were really good, Thanks Charlie,” Jerry spoke loud enough to be heard from where he was standing between a couple isles looking at some of the fishing gear the store sold.

“I’m just surprised they weren’t chocolate, as much as Charlie loves chocolate,” Erika grinned at Charlie.

“Hey!” Charlie protested with a giggle, “I’m not a total chocoholic!”

“Well I thought they were great Charlie,” Jerry praised. “They reminded me of the French toast the way they tasted.”

“So you ready munchkin?” Erika’s lopsided grin was not lost on Charlie as the three made their way toward the door.

Holding the door for Erika and Charlie, Jerry leaned close to Erika, “Munchkin?”

Grinning back at him Erika quietly explained, “It was a pet name my dad used on me a lot.”

~o~O~o~

Looking at the buildings and the dirt packed street, the whole town gave him the feeling of being in the old west. The small golf cart vehicles he saw parked near a couple of the buildings were the only thing that gave evidence that he had not stepped through some sort of time warp that dropped him into the 1870’s.

Jerry remembered an old movie where they created a theme park of the old west using robots to act as the townsfolk. Of course in the movie a computer virus had spread causing the robots to malfunction and start killing guests. Looking down the short line of buildings that faced each other to create the small town’s street, Jerry couldn’t help but imagine Yul Brenner stepping out from an alleyway wearing all black with cowboy hat and boots and two six guns strapped to his sides.
Jerry stopped in his tracks after following Erika and Charlie into the coffee shop, the modern amenities inside a startling contrast from the ancient exterior of the building. Small raised areas in the center of the tables offered power, network and USB charging ports for the customers.

When the barista behind the counter saw the three enter, she quickly turned around giving the equipment behind the counter her attention while she began creating drinks. By the time the three walked across to the counter the barista was snapping lids on the paper cups and carrying them to the counter.

Reaching up Charlie picked up the one that had her name written in marker across the coffee sleeve wrapped around the cup. “Thanks Lily!” Charlie grinned wide.

Erika reached down picking up the other two cups, handing Jerry the one with his name on it. Jerry furled his brow at the sight of his name on the cup. “How…”

Charlie looked up at Jerry giggling, “Lily always knows what a customer wants.”

Erika nodded with a broad smile, “try it.”

Gasping after taking a sip, Jerry’s wide eyes showing his surprise, “Holy crap, This is the best cinnamon almond milk macchiato I have ever tasted!”

“Just the way you like it,” Lily smiled from behind the counter.

“But how could she know what I like,” Jerry puzzled. Looking from Erika over to the barista, “How could you know what I like?” Noticing her cat-like ears for the first time Jerry’s eyes grew wider.

“It’s my job to know what my customers like,” Lily’s smile never wavered.

“But I’ve never been here before?”

“It’s not worth worrying about dear, “Erika said after digging a bill out of her purse and lying it on the counter to pay for their drinks. “Let’s go show you the rest of town.”

At the end of the street Erika pointed out the building she referred to as town hall, but explained it was more of a community center that also held their small post office. Off to the side Erika led them to a large gazebo. The very center of the gazebo was open to the large granite rock it was built upon. On this granite slab stood what looked like a large egg shaped quartz crystal close to ten feet in height. The quartz was cloudy and only semi-transparent. In the center of the quartz appeared to be something that could only be explained as a cross between the black knight’s armor and a space suit.

Pointing out the monolith, Erika explained, “This is our one big claim to fame. Everyone calls it the Guardian.”

Jerry walked around it several times closely examining the statue, “Someone went to a lot of trouble to make this, there are no seams or anything.” Kneeling down he examined where the crystal met the granite. “To do something like this they would have had to carve the base to fit, then turn it on its side and drill out the shape of a man from the bottom like they do with those imitation crystals that have images carved into the inside of them then paint is poured in to fill the void that is left, but to do that with solid quartz… Wow!” Peering into the quartz at the image held inside, “I wish the quartz was clearer so I could see more detail.”

After they left the strange statue Erika suggested they stop by the small market to pick up a few things they needed at the house. Jerry did make a remark about the lack of variety in brands of goods there. Almost all the items the store carried were unbranded generic in plain white packaging. All the white generic boxes and bags also held writing that they were made from recycled materials and or biodegradable and organic.

“What do you both think about some steaks on the grill?” Jerry motioned toward the rear of the store where he thought he spotted the meat counter.

Erika chuckled at the face Charlie made after hearing Jerry’s question, “Charlie won’t eat any of the meat from the store. If you want to do some steaks we’ll have to drive up to North bend.”

“Why’s that?”

“What we sell here is a meat substitute, it’s made form mushrooms.” Erika explained, “There are huge caverns under the town that have huge mushroom farms and other hydroponic gardens. Most everything in the store comes from there.”

“So instead of soy based substitutes, they use mushroom based ones,” Jerry stated. “That’s actually pretty cool.”

“Yeah and Charlie is fine with it except for the meat, she calls it soylent green and won’t touch it.”

“I’m willing to try it,” Jerry continued walking toward the meat counter.

“It’s really hard to tell the difference,’ Erika confided. “If anything it’s more tender.”

“Sure you won’t try one Charlie?” Jerry asked while bent over looking through the selection.
Shaking her head, Charlie grimaced at the thought of eating the fake steaks, “There’s plenty at the house I can eat instead of that stuff.”

As they wandered down the aisles of the market Erika deposited she needed into a wooden basket she had picked up from a stack by the door they had entered. Once she was satisfied that she had found the things she wanted Erika led the trio to a solitary checkout lane that was set a ways away from two normal checkout lanes.

Jerry found the checkout line reminded him of the self-checkouts that had been appearing in stores over the past several years although this one had a small conveyor belt that ran the items through a machine after Erika punched in a code on a touch screen panel on the machine.

Charlie had moved ahead of her mother and Jerry and was putting the items in a canvas bag Erika had had given her. Pulling his wallet from his back pocket Jerry slipped in beside Erika looking for the cash or credit slot in the machine. Not finding either Jerry looked toward Erika for advice, “How do I pay for this?”

“It’s taken care of already,” Erika informed, pointing at the sign above the checkout line that read ‘Residents Only’. “Everyone that lives here has a code to use, putting that in unlocks the register and takes care of everything for us.”

Separating their ways after leaving the market, Erika and Jerry walking home while Charlie stopped by the coffee shop to pick up something for Jack and another hot chocolate for herself.

~o~O~o~

Charlie got home right after five that evening, quickly changing into a pair of shorts before showing Jerry how to light the grill in their backyard. As Jerry was lighting the grill Charlie went back inside filling a large blue enameled pot three fourths of the way with water that she asked Jerry to carry out and place on the grill.

“What’s the pot for?” he asked.

“While you guys eat your fake steaks, I’m going to have some real food!” Charlie grinned as she picked up a plastic five gallon bucket that contained a small fishing net and began jogging barefooted toward the large creek a little over hundred yards away.

“Damn, we should have never got the steaks!” Jerry heard Erika softly swear behind him.

“Why’s that?” Jerry turned toward her.

“She’s going to go catch some crayfish isn’t she?” Erika pointed to the pot of water on the grill.

“Crayfish? Like they eat in Louisiana and such?”

“Not quite, the ones here are much bigger, almost like little lobsters.” Erika held her hands about six to eight inches apart.

“You’re kidding?”

Erika shook her head, “Hopefully she’ll bring back enough to share. They’re really good.”

Wading slowly into the shallow clear water so as to disturb the bottom as little as possible so the water wouldn’t turn murky, Charlie slowly waded back and forth across the creek looking for crayfish and the places they liked to hide. Finding one then another of the giant crayfish and catching them by slowly lowering the net behind it and then distracting it with her foot. Most would use their tail to flash away backwards into her net, while a few were openly aggressive and stood their ground claws raised in defiance, only to be grabbed up and tossed in the bucket along with the others she had managed to capture.

Charlie saw the man sitting on the back of the lake fishing but paid little attention to him since there were always people out on the lake fishing especially on the weekends. Although she did find it strange that he was bank fishing on this side of the lake since he would have had to hike in six or seven miles to get where he sat. All thoughts about the man fishing were lost when she spotted a really large crayfish half hidden under a flat rock, nor did she notice the large binoculars he brought up often to stare past her at the homes on the small peninsula the town was built on.

Holding the binoculars to his eyes, the man watched the young girl walk back up to the house to the woman he had been watching, chuckling to himself, “Isn’t that nice, the whole family in one place.”

~o~O~o~

The next morning Charlie came out of the bathroom to find Erika laying a child’s dress on her bed, the same color blue as the calf length dress Erika had on, “If you think I’m wearing that you lost your mind!”

“Charlie, it’s just a dress.”

“Sure and these?” Charlie walked over to the bed picking and holding the socks edged with lace, “are supposed to go with those shoes,” Charlie nodded toward the small pair of shiny black Mary Janes sitting on the floor by the bed.

“Can’t I want my little girl to look nice once in a while?”

Rolling her eyes, Charlie looked up at Erika, “I may have bene born at night, but it wasn’t last night. These are church clothes. You said we were going shopping in North Bend.”

“Well we plan on shopping too.”

“I can’t go into a church!”

“And why not?”

“Because,” Charlie tried to think of a reasonable excuse, “I don’t know… lightning will strike or something.”

“Please Charlie, for me?”

Looking into the sad doe eyes Erika made, Charlie sighed, “I thought becoming a girl would make me immune to that look.”

“So you’ll do it?” Erika saw Charlie nod. Bending down she kissed Charlie on the forehead, “Thank you sweetie. It really does mean a lot to me.”

Tossing the towel she had wrapped around her on the floor after Erika had left closing the door behind her, Charlie sat on the bed and began getting dressed. Donning the white cotton panties, then the white camisole, Charlie picked up the dress holding it out in front of her staring at it for some time.

A bird sitting on the tree limb outside her window drew Charlie out of the staring match she was having with the dress. Looking out the window Charlie thought of how easy it would be to throw on a pair of shorts and a shirt and climb out onto the tree limb and slip away, escaping the indignity of putting on the dress. She had used that limb often enough to slip out and get in a few hours of catfishing after Erika had thought she was asleep.

’It would be so easy, but I know how much it would disappoint Mom,’ Looking over at her dresser where she stored the normal clothes she wore, then back to the dress in her hands Charlie sighed heavily while she let her head and shoulders droop down in defeat. Charlie sat for a few minutes before taking a deep breath and begun to dress herself in the clothes Erika had laid out.

Charlie cringed at the, ‘clomp, clomp,’ sound the shoes made on the hardwood floor as she made her way down the short hall toward the stairs. One of the reasons she liked the rubber soled boat shoes she normally wore was how quiet they were. Not that she was the type to sneak around, although she preferred not to sound like a herd of buffalo stomping around.

“You look very…” Charlie cut Erika off before she could finish, “If either of you use the words ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’ I will talk this dress off and feed it to the garbage disposal!”

“I was going to say you look very nice,’ Erika smiled.

~o~O~o~

“Jerry! Erika! I’m so glad you made it,” Charlie saw the older woman standing beside the large double doors at the top of the short flight of steps that led into the church. As Jerry, Erika and Charlie reached the top of the steps the woman wrapped her arms around Jerry giving him a warm hug, once she released him she did the same for Erika. Releasing Erika the woman looked down at the much smaller Charlie, “And this pretty little angel must be Charlotte.”

“Charlie this is Mrs. Nevers, Jerry’s grandmother,” Erika introduced the woman.

“Hello Mrs. Nevers,” Charlie nodded.

“Oh please,” Mrs. Nevers smiled down at Charlie, “You’re almost family, call me Grams Nevers or just Grammy.” Turning toward Jerry, “Knowing you were coming your grandfather has a special sermon planned and wants you sitting up front with the rest of the family.”

After the services they milled around with Jerry’s family, those that had not met Erika were introduced and everyone was introduced to Charlie, including the Reverend Thomas Nevers, Jerry grandfather, who had walked down to mingle with the family and other parishioners after the services concluded. When Erika mentioned that they had plans on some shopping for Charlie, Barbara, Jerry’s aunt insisted they come over to their place first as she had a lot of things that her daughter Cathy had out grown that she would be glad to give to Charlie. Before leaving to follow Barbara and her family home, everyone was invited to Jerry’s grandparents for a long overdue family get together and dinner.

~o~O~o~

“Stop! Stop!” Charlie screamed while laughing hysterically.

“Admit it then!” Erika lay half on top of Charlie in the floor of their living room tickling the smaller girl mercilessly.

“Okay, okay,” Charlie gasped for breath, “It wasn’t bad.”

“Wasn’t bad? I’ll show you wasn’t bad!” Erika’s fingers dug into Charlie’s sides with just enough pressure to make the small girl squeal and begin laughing again.

“You’re going to make me pee!” Charlie squealed.

“Did that ever stop your grandfather?” Erika grinned evilly down at Charlie while continuing to tickle her.

“Okay I had fun!” Charlie relented.

“And?”

Charlie looked up into Erika’s eyes, “And wearing dresses is not that bad either.”

Erika raised up off the girl, helping Charlie up to a sitting position as she did, “What about church?”

“Well I didn’t burst into flames going in the door,” Charlie grinned. “But I’m still surprised the sky didn’t darken and the building wasn’t destroyed by earthquakes and lightning.” Looking over where Jerry was sitting on the couch, “You could have warned me that your grandpa was a preacher!”

Jerry shrugged his shoulders, “I grew up with him being the pastor of the church so I really never thought about it.”

“I think it was really nice of Barb giving Charlie so much of Cathy’s old things.” Erika smiled at Charlie, “Don’t you think so dear?”

“Yeah, It was,” Charlie found herself agreeing. “But one box was almost all dresses and skirts. Those won’t ever get used.”

“You have time to grow into many of them and by the time they do fit, you might even like dresses by then. It’s starting to get late, why don’t you head on upstairs and put away the clothes that are still on your bed. That way you have time to shower and your normal evening routine,” Knowing how Charlie loved to sit and play the lively Celtic and bluegrass music on her violin at night before bed.

Charlie nodded then jumped up and began to run barefooted toward the stairs. “Hey don’t forget your shoes!” Erika yelled after her, causing Charlie to go back and grab the Mary Janes she had quickly removed as soon as they had gotten home.

~o~O~o~

Charlie had finished putting away the things that were laying on her bed and was going through one of the two large boxes packed full of clothes that Jerry’s aunt had given her when she heard Erika scream. Dropping the clothes in her hands Charlie raced out of the open door to her room, her small bare feet almost soundless on the hard wooden floor. Charlie froze at the top of the stairs when she saw a man standing in their living room holding a large military style bayonet. The large bayonet was covered in blood and Jerry lay at the man’s feet, no doubt in Charlie’s mind that he had been stabbed by the man. Erika stood across the room facing the man both hands covering her mouth.

Before the accident Charlie would not have even thought about rushing down and attacking the large man that stood in her home, picking up whatever came to hand on the way down to defend herself and Erika, but then she had been a bit larger than the three and a half feet tall that she now stood. Knowing that racing straight down toward the stranger or her mother would only put herself in peril along with Erika, Charlie slipped quietly back into her room.

At the window in her room, Charlie pulled the screen open and slipped out onto the nearby tree branch climbing out into the tree and down to the ground. Looking close at the nearby houses Charlie could see no lights on, which wasn’t unusual as their neighbors spent most of their time either down in the labs or away giving seminars at universities and hospitals around the country. Knowing the closest person that was likely to be home was Jack Charlie knew she didn’t have the time to get help. Her only hope of saving her mom and Jerry was with herself.

Cursing her small size under her breath, Charlie ran to the small tool shed in their backyard. Swinging the door open she stepped inside, leaving the door open to give her enough light to see in the dark interior. Stepping inside Charlie scanned the various tools inside the shed as she looked for an equalizer to use against the large man.

The double bladed axe hanging from the wall would work, but as much as Charlie wanted to save her mother, using that would kill and even if Charlie would have had no problems using lethal force, the axe was heavy enough that she would only get one chance to swing at him, if she missed with that one chance they were all doomed. Hanging beside the axe was a pick mattock that Charlie grabbed from its hangar. While it was heavier than the axe and possibly a worse weapon with the design of the heavy metal head, it wasn’t the metal head that she wanted.

Holding the pick mattock by the spade bit and pick that protruded from each side, Charlie tapped the bottom of the handle against the concrete floor as quietly as she could several times until the hickory handle slipped loose of the tools head. Armed with the thick wooden handle Charlie crept around to the front of the house. Standing with her back against the door frame Charlie stopped to listen before going inside.

What Charlie heard made her blood boil. While she may have missed much of what he said to Erika at the beginning, it was obvious this was the man that tried to rape Erika and now out of prison he was here for revenge. Peeking around the corner of the door frame Charlie could see Erika was still on the far side of the room and the man had only taken a few steps past where Jerry lay bleeding on the floor.

Erika’s eyes grew wide when she spotted Charlie slip in through the open front door. Charlie, still behind the man wound up the bat like a baseball player before swinging with all her might. The hickory handle caught the attacker in the side of his right knee with a loud bone crunching thwack. Twisting as he fell, the man lashed out with the bayonet. Although expecting a much taller attacker the bayonet passed harmlessly above Charlie head while she wound up for another strike.

Knowing the knife was the greatest threat, Charlie focused on the hand that held it. Before the man hit the ground the pick mattock’s handle was in motion again following the man’s out stretched arm. As his arm met the floor the wooden tool handle met his wrist shattering bone.

“You god damned little bitch!” The man screamed as he reached for Charlie with his good hand, “I’m going to fuck you in front of your fucking mother!”

Swatting his hand away in a back swing Charlie screamed at him, “God damned pervert!” Raising up the pick mattock handle over her head she brought it down hard into his crotch.
Screaming like a girl, his hands flew to his crotch after the blow. But that didn’t stop Charlie would was now seeing red, raining blow after blow directly at his crotch until Erika finally came over stopping her.

~o~O~o~

Jerry opened his eyes to find himself in what appeared to be a hospital room. Realizing his last memories he tried to sit up, “Erika!” he tried to shout but all that came out was a hoarse whisper.

“I’m right here Jerry,” He felt a hand gently pushing him back down. Turing his head he could see the hand belonged to Erika. She and Charlie both were standing beside the hospital bed he woke up in.

“Are you both okay?” Jerry forced his raspy voice, “What happened?”

“After he stabbed you, Charlie heard me scream,” Erika began. “She slipped out her bedroom window.”

“Good girl,” Jerry grinned at Charlie, who began blushing, “Got help.”

“Not exactly,” Erika stated as Charlie’s face reddened further. “She came at him with an axe handle from behind.”

“What!” Jerry gawked at the small girl, “You could have gotten hurt!”

“She came very close to beating him to death with it.” Erika took a deep breath, “Look there is something things we need to tell you. You lost a lot of blood before we could get help for you.”

Jerry tried to follow where she was going with this, “But I’m okay now?”

“Yes, you’re going to be fine,” Erika informed, “But it was very serious Jerry. The knife went through your heart. They, the blood they had to use to save you, it’s different.”

“Different how?”

“It’s artificial blood.”

“I didn’t know that was possible?” Jerry questioned.

“It isn’t, that’s why we have to let you in on the little secret about our town.” Charlie giggled, “On the bright side mom won’t have a reason to say no the next time you propose.”

“Let he start at the beginning,” Erika sighed.

“You expect me to believe that she used to be your father!” Jerry gasped unbelieving at the story Erika had told her.

“Look at your chest, where he stabbed you,” Charlie grinned.

Jerry held the hospital gown out so he could look at his chest to see no bandages, stitches or even a scar, “How?” Realizing how long it would take for a scar to heal that well if in fact it ever did, “How long have I been in the hospital?”

“Three days,” Charlie grinned.

“You lost a lot of blood dear,” Erika consoled the confused man. “Your heart was destroyed and you had bled out. These people don’t believe in letting anyone die if they can do anything to stop it. The blood they used is made for one of their kind that are part machine.”

“You have little tiny robots now that do the job of blood cells,” Charlie held two fingers very close together for emphasis.

“The good side of this is that the artificial blood also repairs the body,” Erika stated. “Using it they were able to repair your heart and save you.”

“You make these guys sound like aliens or something,” Jerry chuckled nervously.

“Yeah, they really don’t like to be called that. Some have been around since before man walked on two legs,” Charlie chuckled.

“So why tell me all this now?” Jerry looked up at Erika, “It’s not like I’ve seen one open it’s skull up and a little green man get out.”

“Honey you need to know because of your blood.” Erika explained, “You can’t ever let anyone take a sample of it now. While it may look like blood if you get cut, under a microscope it’s obvious that it’s not real blood.”

“So I’m one of you now, an alien?”

“Charlie and I are not aliens,” Erika stated. “Well I’m completely human, you and Charlie are mostly human.”

“That sounds like my que,” Greg came in smiling, winked at Charlie before turning to Jerry, “Hi Jerry, I’m the mad scientist that saved you.”

Jerry looked over at Charlie giggling then back to the man who had just entered the room, “You’re a doctor?”

“I do hope so, or all those degrees hanging in my office have lied to me!” Greg grinned. “You ready to get out of that bed?” He watched as Jerry nodded. “Good because all of us are needed at town hall as soon as we can get over there.”

~o~O~o~

Walking into the little used building, it was the first time Charlie had ever seen it this crowded, there must have been one hundred and fifty people or more in the hall. At the front of the room on a small stage stood Jack at a podium. When he saw Erika and Charlie being led into the room he tapped the microphone a couple times to get everyone’s attention. “Okay everyone it looks like the last of those that are required to be here have arrived, so let’s get on with this. Charlie, Erika and Jerry y’all need to come on up here with me.”

After giving the three time to get through the crowd and join him Jack turned back to the microphone, “Having been the only one dumb enough to not run back when our little town decided we needed a mayor, and not slick enough to pawn this job off on anyone else yet, I call this meeting to order.” Jack turned to look at the three standing beside him. “Several days ago a man that we have determined to be Franklin Thomas Sykes entered the Moore’s home and attacked those that were there. In the process Mr. Sykes mortally stabbed Mr. Nevers and boasted that he was going to rape both Erika and Charlie. Before he could carry out those threats Charlie intervened with the handle of a garden tool which she used to render Mr. Sykes unconscious and in need of severe medical care.”

Jack knew that most were already aware of the circumstance but by their own rules he had to read everything on the paper laid out on the podium in front of him. “To save Mr. Never’s life we were forced to use treatments that we are not able to allow the outside world to know about yet, which led to us being forced to let Mr. Nevers know the truth about us and our town.”

Jack looked over at Jerry, “We all hope, that you understand the ramifications of the world learning about our technology before it is ready for it? And we hope for everyone’s benefit that you will choose to keep our secret.”

Jerry stepped forward, “I’m still trying to get a grip of everything that has happened but the last thing I would ever do is hurt Erika or Charlie. If I told anyone about this place, they would find out about them too. So even though I am still in the dark about most of this, as long as I don’t discover your planning on taking over the world my lips are sealed.”

“We only do that on Tuesdays!” someone shouted while the crowd roared with laughter at the comment.”

Charlie stepped up beside Jerry tugging at his arm, “It’s a joke.” She explained once he leaned down to hear her over the roar of laughter, “Down in the labs someone wrote ‘take over the world planning session’ on the labs schedule board, they have left it there as a joke.”

“You sure it’s just a joke?” Jerry looked nervously out at the crowd.

“It was signed by Pinky and the Brain,” Charlie smirked.

“Alright, alright people let’s continue so we can get this over with and go home,” Jack looked over at Jerry, “Mr. Never hasn’t had the full tour yet so he isn’t privy to that inside joke. Next point of discussion, what are we going to do with Mr. Sykes?” Turning to the crowd, “He apparently followed Erika and Jerry up from the city and stalked the home waiting on a time to attack. I recognized him from a car that drove by slowly as I loaded the ferry with Erika Friday evening when she returned from school. A few others have come forward stating they saw him hanging around the lake.” Charlie gasped when she realized he was the same man she saw fishing the night before.

Looking toward Charlie, “As you were the one that gave him his injuries, as per our rules you are the one responsible for him,” Jack held a finger up at Charlie when he saw she was going to speak, “But due to your apparent age it would not bode well to have you be the one to do this.” Turning his attention to Erika, “You understand that we cannot take a life. It’s against everything we strive for, but we also cannot allow Mr. Sykes to go back out and harm others. It has been decided that instead of healing his injuries he will be regressed to a small child and given to a family that we can be assured will raise the child into the adult he should have become instead of the monster he turned out to be.”



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