Mike Shewfelt – “The Phaireoir Legacy” – Final Chapter

A year ago, e-Veritas ran a four part series featuring the writing of 25366 Mike Shewfelt, whose fantasy novel “The Phaireoir Legacy” tells the story of College Cadet Jim Carmichael, and his journey on horseback from Kingston to Calgary and beyond.   A publisher for the novel is currently being sought.

Read the first eleven chapters of the novel here.

THE PHAIREOIR LEGACY: JIM CARMICHAEL’S STORY, VOLUME ONE

BOOK ONE: BEGINNINGS

CHAPTER 12

What the hell was that…? Cout wondered. He had pushed on through the night, stopping only to eat a little food, driven on by his hunch that Jim was in trouble. The scream had stopped him in his tracks. That’s not any animal I’ve ever heard…but it’s coming from up ahead, and… his eyes scanned the ground, searching in the pale moonlight… Jim’s trail leads that way. Oh shit…

He took the safety off his rifle.

Jim stood, bringing the rifle to bear…and the shadow leapt at him. He got off a single shot, too rushed, and then it was there, a black hand gripping the rifle, a fearful grip threatening to tear it from Jim’s grasp, its foul breath making Jim’s eyes water. He held on in desperation, fear sapping his strength until, with a mighty heave, the creature snapped the rifle clean in two. The shadow threw the pieces aside, grabbed Jim’s shirt as he tried to jump clear, and stabbed him in the chest with its sword.

Cout ran, the sounds of the fight coming clear through the still night air. Hang on, Jim.

The pain exploded in Jim’s mind, and he collapsed to the ground, as a cry of pure agony escaped his lips. His chest was a mass of agony, his breathing coming in great gasps, his life blood flowing out through the gaping wound in his side. For the creature had stabbed him with the same blade that had killed Rudy, and the vile toxin with which it was coated was already eating away at Jim’s flesh.

Again, Jim felt more then heard the voice of the shadow, its fractured words resounding in his mind. “Fear…consumes. Fear…will consume…you…her…”

The creature took a step towards him, and Jim’s mind reeled at the shadow’s words. Her…Becca… His love for her burned within him, and he fought to his feet, roaring defiance at the creature. The shadow shrieked his response and lunged at Jim. They met and fell to earth locked together, Jim pounding on the creature with his all his strength. For the shadow was not a shadow at all, but a living being of flesh and bone. He landed blow after blow, striking its head and neck, but to no avail. He felt his strength begin to fade as the creature stabbed him again and then once more with the sword. The shadow was on top of him now, lying on the ground, and desperation took Jim’s heart. “Fear…consumes you…even now…you cannot…hide…” Jim lay on the ground, flailing desperately for a weapon, any weapon, as the shadow drew back its sword for the final blow. “You are mi…”

The creature’s head exploded, scattering black flesh all over Jim’s face. He screamed as they sizzled and ate into his skin.

“Jim!”

Jim faded in and out of consciousness. He knew that voice… The wounds in his chest burned where the acid ate away at his flesh, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. “Becca…” he moaned. He wasn’t going to make it.

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“Jim!” Cout ran through the swamp, rifle held on the black thing lying on the ground next to Jim. Whatever it was, it was well and truly dead. Cout’s aim had been true, and he put his weapon on safe and rushed to Jim’s side.

“Jim!” Jim was delirious, moaning Becca’s name over and over. Cout ripped open Jim’s shirt to examine his chest, and stopped in his tracks. God, that’s a lot of blood.  He dug into his first-aid pack, plugging the wounds, praying that it would help, knowing that it was probably already too late. For Jim had lost a lot of blood, and, Cout glanced at Jim’s lips- Oh shit, he’s frothing at the mouth, too, he took one in the lungs. A combat veteran, Cout had never seen an injury this bad, and he worked frantically, praying it would help. And whatever this black shit is, it ain’t helping…Hang on Jim.

He was floating. Lost in a dark void, weightless, he hung there, as his mind tried to figure out what was going on. He could remember the shadow, the burning pain of the sword, yet now he felt nothing. Just an overwhelming sense of peace. And then it hit him. Oh shit…I’m dead. He willed himself to move, to look around, to find something to hold on to, and then a pale sliver of light caught his eye.

Wait a second…that’s the moon…what the…? He looked down, saw the fire, the creature lying on the ground, headless, saw the dark body frantically working on his. Somebody found me after all…just a little too late.

He rose up, then, higher above the trees, accelerating, moving west. The ground flew by beneath him, the trees of northern Ontario giving way to the prairies of the western provinces. He could pick out details now, brief glimpses of trees and lakes as he flew by, car lights on the roads below him, the landscape growing brighter as the sun rose with an unnatural speed.

I thought you went up when you’re dead…at least I’m not going down… He slowed as he approached the Rocky Mountains, getting closer to the ground, and the landmarks came into sharp focus. Wait a minute…I know this place…

Cout swore, violently, as only an ex-infantryman could. No pulse… he felt frantically, hands dark with Jim’s blood. He ain’t breathing, either…Oh shit.

There’s Beehive…I’d know that mountain anywhere. Rising up to meet him was a colossal heap of stone, looking for all the world like a beehive turned on its end. If this is heaven, he thought, looking out over the mountains and the see of trees at his feet, I’m not complaining.

But where am I going…? he wondered, drifting northward past the mountain’s rocky face. And why is everything so green…? It sure as hell isn’t summer any more… As he neared the shores of Blue Lake, nestled below the barren shoulder of Mount Lyle, he picked up speed, hurtling towards the water. He barely had time to brace himself for the impact, and then all was black once more.

He opened his eyes, and found nothing but darkness. Maybe I did go down after all… Yet he was no longer floating, of that he was sure. His feet were firmly on the ground, and when he reached out with his hands, the rock in front of him was cool to the touch.

“Hello…?” he called out. “Is anyone there…?”

“Your father was right about you.”

Jim whipped around, drawn to the sound of the voice. Ancient it was, like his grandfather, only much, much older, and yet young, too, full of life and all the wisdom of the ages. And something else, too, Jim thought. A smile, almost.

“Huh…? Who’s there…?”

A bright light appeared, flickering, far off in the distance, although how far away it was Jim couldn’t tell. “Who are you…?”

“Your father was right about you.”

“How do you know my father…?”

“He spoke of you often, spoke of you with pride, and hope for the man you would become.”

“How do you know my father…?” Jim demanded, a note of urgency in his voice. “Am I dead…?”

“You have done well, my young friend, to have come this far. Do not lose heart, for you still have far to go.”

Before Jim could respond, he was yanked back up, through the rocky ceiling, above the mountains, and sent hurtling back across the continent.

Jim gasped, the sudden intake of breath caused by the pain in his chest, the worst pain he had ever known. The agony was worse even than the sword which had cut through his flesh. He lay there on the ground, writhing in agony as his chest burned. His body flashed with a golden light, and then he was still once more.

“What the hell was that…?” Cout knelt beside Jim, felt for a pulse, his bloodied hands reaching for Jim’s neck. Jim lay still, his wounds bleeding as profusely as ever. A moment later, Cout breathed a long sigh of relief. The pulse was weak, but it was there. “Stay with me, Jim.”

Cout tended to Jim through the night, leaving Jim’s side only to keep the fire from going out. When morning came, he felt again for a pulse. It was still weak, desperately weak, but it was there. God alone knows how you’re still alive, Cout thought wearily. He was desperately tired. Jim’s condition had somehow come around during the night, but even Cout, with his years of experience with wounds and battlefield medicine, was at a loss to explain it. The bleeding had stopped, and Jim seemed to be stabilizing but Cout wasn’t fooled. The black acid, whatever the hell it was, that had coated the creature’s sword was slowly but steadily burning through Jim’s flesh. It was only a matter of time.

But what do I do…? Cout wondered. To go anywhere near a hospital would be suicide. Whoever, or whatever, it was that was after Jim would find him there for sure, would expect that, even. Cout was at a loss, powerless to do little more than comfort his friend as he slowly slipped away. He did what he could, nursing Jim through the day. He fed him broth made from deer meet, and he tried to keep Jim’s wounds clean. He was horrified to find, though, that water only intensified the acid. Whatever that shit is, he noted with despair, it thrives on water. And human tissue is mostly water…

And still they stayed where they were. Cout, a career military man, always had a plan. He lived by the plan, and could always come up with one. Now he had none. No plan. No direction. No objective. But as waves of agony again wracked Jim’s battered body, Cout made his decision. To stay where they were meant death. That was all he knew, but it was enough. He quickly broke camp and packed up his kit. Scooping Jim up with all the tenderness of a father lifting his son, he started walking.

Ivan Haskins slowed his big Ford pickup as he rounded a turn on the Trans-Canada Highway. The road, for all its beauty could be deadly, as the North Bay doctor knew from experience. He’d driven it enough times on his way to emergency calls at remote outposts. Still, his mind had an annoying tendency to wonder.

He rounded yet another curve in the winding road, began to accelerate out of it, and promptly slammed on his brakes as a shadow appeared in his headlights. He paused, grateful to have avoided hitting yet another moose, until he realized that the shadow wasn’t a moose at all. It was a man, rifle levelled at him, screaming for him to get out of the truck.

“Get out of the truck! Now!”

Haskins, startled by the appearance of the gun-wielding stranger, just sat there.

The figure, who he could now see was dressed in full combat gear, including helmet, came around to the driver’s side window. Brandishing the rifle, he pounded on the window.

“Are you deaf? I said get the hell out of the truck!”

Shocked into movement, the good doctor complied.

“And leave the keys in the ignition,” Cout, instructed, before moving Haskins at gunpoint to the side of the road.

“I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but I need the truck, and you’re not that far from town.” He tossed Haskins a bag. “There’s food in there.” Then he stepped to the side, scooped up a body that Haskins had yet to notice, and headed to the truck. In his haste, he stepped into the glare of the headlights, exposing Jim’s horrific injuries.

Haskins’ instincts, honed by his years of training, took over. “Wait!” he yelled, running up to them. Quickly taking in the scene, he said, “He  needs a hospital, and now.”

Cout kept walking, opening up the back door of the truck. He’d been on the road with the truck too long already. If the police came… “Take him to a hospital and he’ll die,” he said matter of factly, gently placing Jim on the truck’s back seat.

But Haskins had seen enough. “Listen, I’m a surgeon. He’s a dead man without medical help. By the looks of him, it’s a miracle he’s lived this long.”

Had Cout been thinking clearly he might have responded differently. As it was, the stress of the last few days had taken its toll.

“Do that and every cop in the country will be there within an hour. He’ll be a dead man.”

Understanding dawned on Haskins as Cout climbed into the driver’s seat. This was the one they were looking for, the one whose face had been all over the news a couple of months back. He popped the back door of the truck, climbing in with Jim. Cout made to object, but Haskins stopped him. “Do what you have to do. I can’t leave a patient like this.” Their eyes met for a moment, then Cout closed the driver’s door and took off down the road.

While Cout drove, Haskins dug a small flashlight out of the truck’s emergency kit and began to examine Jim. Multiple stab wounds, days old by the look of them… must have been one hell of a blade…still bleeding…? That can’t be right… He saw the acid, saw the damage done in its relentless march through Jim’s flesh. What the hell…?

“I’ve never seen this before,” he said to Cout.

Cout smiled grimly. “You wouldn’t have.” He paused, finally accepting the truth. “Whatever did that to him was no weapon I’ve ever seen.”

“Maybe I can find a way to stop it, slow it down…”

But Cout wasn’t listening. He was thinking frantically. The truck gave him desperately needed mobility, yet the question remained. Where to go…? Jim was heading west…but why…? Where was he trying to go…? What’s out here that he could be trying to reach…? The answer, when it came, was obvious. The two had spent long hours swapping outdoors stories. That’s how I knew he wasn’t responsible for what they said he was…you spend enough time outdoors and it reveals your character…Most of Jim’s had come from his time in the Rockies… that camp…that’s where he was trying to go…has to be, it’s the only place out this way where he’s ever been…that’s where we’ll go, too. He mashed down on the accelerator.

Jim floated on a sea of blackness. Becca’s face was before him, always before him, yet the darkness grew, and as it did, she was slowly fading. He tried to fight it, tried desperately to hold on to her, but he had no strength left. She faded before him, lost, swallowed up in the sea of black.

END BOOK ONE

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