Zero Hour – Chapter 3

No one in the car – Lucas, Trevor, or Isabel – spoke for the entire hour it took to drive to Isabel’s house on Lake Michigan.

It wasn’t until Lucas and Trevor walked into the living room of the house and saw how massive the window looking out over the lake and Isabel’s boathouse was that one of them – Lucas, as it turned out – broke the silence. “Wow. Isabel. Wow. This is…”

“Rather small, yes, I know. I’m ashamed you have to see it.” Isabel waved a hand dismissively and laughed. “Joking. Obviously. This is one of the nicer properties that I own. Usually I rent it out to tourists, but it happened to be empty, which is lucky for you. I will see if I have any spare men’s clothing laying around so that you two can change out of those… things.”

As Isabel vanished into one of the hallways that led deeper into the house, Trevor reached out and pulled Lucas around towards him. At first, Lucas thought Trevor was going in for a kiss, and so he closed his eyes. Then he felt Trevor’s fingers settle on his throat, and he opened them, feeling only slightly embarrassed.

Trevor was staring intently at Lucas’ neck. “Amazing.”

“What?”

“The hole is gone.” Trevor leaned in closer. “It’s almost like… it sealed itself up. How do you feel? Dizzy? Lightheaded?”

Lucas shook his head. “No. I’m fine. Is it seriously gone?”

“Yup. If it weren’t for the explosion…” Trevor’s voice trailed off, but Lucas figured he knew what Trevor was going to say.

So Lucas finished for him. “…you wouldn’t have believed it.”

Trevor looked away.

Lucas lifted a hand and gently put it on Trevor’s cheek. He applied the barest hint of pressure, tilting Trevor’s eyes back up to face him. “I told you to run. It was dangerous. Why did you come back to the apartment?”

After a moment, Trevor answered softly. “Why wouldn’t I?”

They stood there for a moment, Lucas not sure how to answer that question. He just stared at Trevor, trying to conjure words out of nowhere that would explain that he wanted Trevor to be safe, that he wanted Trevor to be happy, and the best way to do that was without Lucas. But when he saw the way that Trevor looked at him, the words died in his throat, and Lucas couldn’t- wouldn’t-

“The last renters must have left in a hurry,” cut in Isabel’s voice. Lucas broke away from Trevor’s gaze at last to turn back to her. She was standing in the hallway, holding up two tee shirts and two pairs of loose-fitting shorts. “I’m not sure they will fit you, but they will do for tomorrow until I can bring you some more…” Her voice trailed off, and she glanced back and forth between them. “Am I interrupting something?”

It was Trevor who answered. “Not at all. Where’s a guest bedroom?”

Isabel narrowed her eyes. “I thought you two would sleep in the master bedroom.”

Trevor shook his head. “We’ve been… Lucas can have the master bedroom.”

“I see,” Isabel said, and pointed behind her. “First door on the right. The master is the third.”

“Thanks,” Trevor said. He crossed the room to Isabel, stopped just long enough to take one of the pairs of clothes, and then vanished into the guest bedroom. As the door locked behind him, Isabel turned to regard Lucas calmly.

He knew she was waiting for him to tell her what was going on.

Instead, he just mumbled something about “thanks for the clothes, see you in the morning,” took the remaining pair, and hurried to the master bedroom. Only once the door was latched behind him did Lucas let himself breathe.

 

The wind whipped around Lucas as he stood on the frozen lake again. He couldn’t feel it, but he saw the way that it stirred the clothes he wore. In the distance, the light blinked. Blinked. Blinked.

Lucas started towards it. His feet slipped and slid on the ice, but he held his balance well. As he drew closer, he realized that the blinking light was not, in fact, a blinking light. It was a sensation, a rhythmic beating, a pulse that echoed through light and space, calling out to him, drawing him closer and closer…

 

When Lucas walked out into the kitchen in the morning, Isabel and Trevor were already there. Isabel was seated at the table, looking out the window over Lake Michigan, her coffee mug steaming in front of her. Trevor turned away from the counter, a second mug of coffee in his hand. When he saw Lucas, Trevor muttered “Good morning,” and moved to sit across from Isabel at the table.

No one spoke as Lucas got his own cup of coffee. Isabel kept watching the lake. Trevor kept watching the table.

Once Lucas had sat down with his coffee, Isabel finally spoke. “Alright. Who wants to tell me what the hell happened?”

Lucas glanced at Trevor. “You start. She needs to hear your part, or she won’t believe it. Coming from me, anyway.”

“Yeah,” Trevor replied. He then launched into a retelling of the night’s events from his perspective – receiving Lucas’ text, coming home to find him seemingly dead, discovering that Lucas was still alive, and the explosion. As he tried to distract himself with his coffee, Lucas couldn’t help but note the way that Trevor’s voice quivered when he talked about Lucas laying in a pool of his blood.

A fresh wave of guilt washed over Lucas. He wished Trevor had run.

When Trevor was finished, Isabel turned to Lucas. “You’re right. If that had come from you, I wouldn’t have believed you. Fortunately, Trevor has shown himself less inclined to fantasy. So I’m willing to hear why exactly you were dead.”

Lucas’ sip of coffee turned into a gulp. He coughed and patted his chest. “Sorry. So… er… do you remember the grey man from the train platform?”

“I do.” Isabel said, in a way that indicated that they were not fond memories.

“He broke into the apartment and… well…”

Isabel finished for him, her tone as hard as stone. “…killed you.”

Lucas nodded.

“Then he blew up the apartment to cover it up.”

Lucas nodded again.

“Well.” Isabel took a sip of her own coffee. “This is certainly a mystery. And one that I am not prepared to unravel. What I am prepared to unravel, however, is the mystery of why you two-”

“-don’t.” Lucas was surprised to hear his own voice cut through Isabel’s. His hand clenched handle of the coffee cup. “Just… don’t.”

As Trevor awkwardly busied himself with his own drink, Isabel leaned back and fixed Lucas with a cold glare. “You’re going to have to deal with this eventually, Lucas. Whatever you’re running from, it’s going to catch up with you whether you want it to or not. You can either tackle the problem on your terms, or let it break you on its.”

Lucas found that, as usual, he couldn’t argue with that. He also didn’t want to do it.

Isabel finished her coffee and stood, the cup abandoned on the table. “Well, gentlemen, as much as I would love to stay here and piece this together, I need to meet with the bank’s lawyer and find out what I need to do in order to access my father’s will. Now that my favorite poor person is around to appreciate it.”

Anyone else might have thought that Isabel was being uncaring or callous by going straight from giving Lucas serious advice to insulting him. But Lucas knew that it was her way of reminding him that, despite everything that was going on, things were still alright between them. So he laughed, and he didn’t even have to take it. “Thanks, Isabel. Good luck.”

 

Trevor spent the day holed up in the only room in the house with a functional computer. Lucas brought him a late lunch, mostly just to see what he was doing in there, but only managed to catch a glimpse of what looked like a medical website before Trevor got the door closed again.

Back when Lucas had first met him, Trevor had been a premed student in college. He’d been forced to drop out for reasons he’d never told Lucas and had never gone back. It made sense that the first thing that Trevor would do was go to the internet and search for “How can someone lose all their blood and still be alive.”

Lucas didn’t have the luxury of a medical background, but he had the same question. He wandered up and down the shore of Lake Michigan, asking himself a thousand questions. What were those creatures on the train? What had Lady Morrow done to him? Who was the grey man? What should he do now?

He was still asking himself these questions hours later as he sat in the living room and stared out past the boathouse and over the lake, watching the moonlight illuminate the waves. Lucas only stopped when Trevor burst from the room where he had been hidden all day and frantically waved some printed papers at Lucas. “Teke Teke!”

The thought crossed Lucas’ mind, briefly, that his boyfriend had finally gone insane. “What?”

“It’s called a Teke Teke. It’s a Japanese urban legend.”

All that Lucas could come up with in response was a muffled “huh?”

Trevor seemed to realize that he had jumped ahead to the thesis statement rather than start at the beginning. He flopped down onto the couch next to Lucas and gestured to the papers in his hand. “So you described three things on the train. The big thing that broke the tracks that you couldn’t really see, the horned thing that was super vague, and the top half of the woman. The top half of the woman was super specific. So I did some googling. It’s called a Teke Teke, after…”

“…the noise it makes.” Lucas finished for him. He remembered the sound. He still dreamed about it sometimes.

“Yup!” Trevor bobbed his head excitedly. “Apparently, it’s the spirit of a girl who was run over by a train. So now she appears at train stations in Japan.”

Lucas let the last word hang in the air for a moment, hoping that Trevor would realize the odd nature of what he’d just said. But Trevor just sat there, bouncing up and down like a student waiting for the teacher to call on him. Finally, Lucas just decided to put it out there. “She appears in train stations in Japan. So what was she doing on a train in Chicago?”

“What a wonderful question,” said a voice that definitely didn’t belong to Trevor.

Lucas knew, before Trevor’s head snapped around and the papers dropped from his hand, exactly who the voice belonged to. Slowly, he followed Trevor’s shocked gaze across the room to look, once again, at the grey man. He was standing in front of the window, and behind him, the stars seemed to have winked out, leaving only blackness.

Before Lucas could say anything, Trevor stood quickly. His fists clenched, and his eyes flashed with a mixture of fear and astonishment. “Holy shit. You’re real.”

The grey man smiled. “Of course I’m real. I am a force of nature, eternal and unbending, without title or designation to bring me down to your level.”

“Right,” Trevor glanced down at Lucas, “So you’re the Nameless.”

It was the first time that Lucas had ever seen the grey man shocked into silence. He shook his head. “No, I’m nameless, as in, I don’t have a name. That’s what that word means. I’m nameless.”

Trevor nodded. “Exactly. You’re the Nameless. That’s your name.”

“No. No, it’s not.”

“Too late.” Trevor crossed his arms. “That’s your name now. Right, babe?”

Lucas pushed himself to his feet to stand next to Trevor, his eyes locked on the grey man – the Nameless, apparently, since it annoyed him. “What do you want? Is it to kill me? Because apparently the last two times didn’t take.”

The Nameless folded his hands behind his back. “No, it seems they didn’t. Of all the places I expected Lady Morrow to hide her most prized possession, her single bargaining chip, I never thought she’d hide it inside you. Tabitha, your sentimentality is showing. It will be your undoing.”

That series of sentences told Lucas two things that he hadn’t known before. First, that the full name of the woman was Lady Tabitha Morrow. The second was that whatever was in the vial was now inside of him, and it was keeping him from dying. That explained why Lady Morrow had broken into his operating room. That explained what she had done to him. This left Lucas with more questions, but at least it was a start. It was a path he could follow.

Lucas wouldn’t be asking the Nameless, though. There was only a very small chance of getting anything useful (or comprehensible) from him.

“Whatever you want,” Lucas said carefully, “you won’t get it by with threats.”

The Nameless turned his head slowly to regard Lucas with a cold glare. “I don’t threaten. I give statements of fact. You decide what you want to do with them. The facts, Lucas, are that you can’t strike out at me. You can’t harm me. You have only two options – come with me willingly, or watch your loved ones die as I drag you off.”

For a brief moment, Lucas actually weighed going with the Nameless. It would keep Trevor safe. It would keep Isabel safe. That was exactly what he wanted in the first place. More than likely, he wouldn’t come back, but if that was the price that he needed to pay, he would…

…until he turned his head to the side and saw Trevor’s face.

Trevor was glaring at the Nameless with a look of such cold hatred that Lucas half expected it to slice the air in half. He didn’t look at Lucas, his gaze fixed on his target. After a moment, Lucas realized why – because Trevor didn’t need to. He believed, without any doubt, that Lucas wouldn’t leave him behind. He didn’t need to have that confirmed to him. Trevor just knew.

So Lucas decided not to leave Trevor behind.

Not yet.

“I choose option three,” he said quietly, “where we walk away.”

The Nameless raised a hand. His pointer finger and thumb closed in on each other as he sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that.”

He snapped his fingers.

The darkness beyond the windows shifted, and just as Lucas realized it wasn’t the night sky at all, the windows shattered. As Lucas pushed Trevor back, out of the way of the deadly rain of glass, the darkness pushed its way inside the now-exposed room. The edges of it became clawed hands, the middle became a snake-like head, the back became two outstretched wings-

Lucas got the words out before Trevor did. “Holy shit, it’s a dragon.”

“Yeah, no kidding!” Trevor shot back. “RUN!

They sprinted for the hallway as the house around them erupted into splinters. Lucas let Trevor run out in front of him – if one of the two of them was going to get hit, it might as well be the one who apparently couldn’t die. Something scaley slashed above Lucas’ head, barely missing him and reducing a nearby wall to shattered fragments. Lucas kept his eyes on Trevor, and past him, on the exit.

Trevor raced out of the house, with Lucas a few steps behind him, just as Isabel stepped out of her car. She glanced at the two, and then up at the house, and had just enough to spit out the first half of a word before the lake house exploded. Lucas spun around to see the dragon rise out of the flames and rear its head back. He dived forward and tackled Isabel away from the car as a gust of flame obliterated it. Flaming chunks of metal and glass scattered across the lawn, igniting the carefully mowed grass.

Isabel moved first. She pushed herself up and into a run, bolting for the lake while calling “The boathouse!” behind her. Lucas didn’t know what she was planning on, but he trusted her, so he followed. The three of them dashed across the lawn as flames danced around them, around the burning house and towards the boathouse.

Once they were inside, Isabel wasted no time. She hopped into her boat and started flipping switches. “Get in!”

Trevor followed her, but Lucas hesitated. “We’ll be out in the open!”

“You think you can outrun that thing?” Isabel shot back, “Seriously?”

Lucas had to conceded that no, he couldn’t, so he clamored into the boat as well. Isabel slammed her foot into something, and the boat shot out into the lake. Lucas turned back to see the boathouse explode behind them. Then he was speeding across the water, the wind and spray of the water whipping through his hair and drenching his clothes.

It took about half a minute for him to realize that the dragon wasn’t following them.

Once they were safely out of sight of the shore, but could still see the light from the fire that once was the lake house, Isabel slowed the boat to a stop. She exhaled, probably for the first time in a minute, and leaned back in her chair. Her eyes were closed, and her lips were pursed in a way Lucas had never seen before.

“So.” She said finally. “That was a dragon.”

Lucas nodded. “Would look that way. So we have a Japanese train ghost, a dragon, and a man with no color. And me, who can’t die.”

The three sat in silence for a while. They all had things they wanted to say, but none of them seemed to want to say it. Lucas, for his part, wanted desperately to ask if they were past the part where they didn’t believe him and if they could solve the mystery of whatever was going on in this insane nightmare of his. Because it wasn’t just his. Not anymore.

He didn’t say any of that. He just waited for someone else to speak, which turned out to be Trevor.

“So…” His boyfriend coughed. “What do we do now?”

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