New Winslow S2E13
Andrew was awake. He could hear the soft ticking of the clock in the kitchen and the occasional puff of the humidifier in Mia’s bedroom. The room was dark, with no streetlights outside to spill in a little bit of light. The dim pink glow of Mia’s nightlight and the blinking red light on the smoke detector above him were the only things Andrew could see in the darkness.
He was trapped. It had been nine nights now, and he was still trapped in New Winslow. For some reason, he’d thought it was a dream when he woke up minutes earlier. Despite the fact he’d been here over a week, it had taken him a moment to get acclimated to where he was. He hadn’t fallen asleep on his own sofa while watching a movie last night. He was on Olivia’s couch.
In New Winslow.
How? How the fuck had he let this happen? Had five thousand dollars really been worth the risk? Because now it didn’t even matter. Now he was going to die in this fucking town.
Andrew took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. This was how his mother’s imprisonment had started. They’d come into town on a wrong turn, then the car wouldn’t move when they’d turned around and gone back the way they’d come. Andrew’s father had gotten out to check if there was something in the road in front of them. And his mother had tried to follow, only to slam into the barrier.
He could see the scene perfectly. His mother crying, pounding on the invisible force separating her from her husband. His dad rushing back over the line to scoop her into his arms. Andrew, fifteen years old and still off-kilter from being in a brand new country, stood and watched. He walked silently past the town line and glanced in front of the rental car to see if there was something there. Nothing except a long stretch of road lined by trees.
A man had been driving by in an old pickup truck as they stood, horrified, on the side of the road. He’d pulled over and gotten out of the car, followed by a boy who seemed to be about Andrew’s age.
“You folks okay?” he asked.
“No!” Andrew’s dad had exclaimed. “No! Something is happening. It’s…my wife can’t move!”
The man, a very tall, craggy man in his fifties, grimaced. “That would be the curse,” he said.
“The what?” Andrew’s mom had exclaimed just as his dad said, with false calmness, “Pardon me?”
Andrew stepped back, closer to his parents. If they were about to get murdered by a mad American, he wasn’t going down without a fight.
The man sighed heavily, like he was dreading what he was about to say. His son, also tall and skinny, hung back silently. “Listen, I can tell you aren’t from around here,” the man said. “This is a strange town and it’s got, well, it’s got a curse on it.”
Andrew had read enough Stephen King novels to know when he was standing in the middle of one. And here, in the middle of the woods in New England, his mother trapped, with bloody Herman Munster talking about a curse. Here was that situation.
And exactly why he’d never wanted to travel here in the first place.
The man had told his parents what to do. Give it an hour, he’d said. If it didn’t wear off in the first few minutes, it would probably in an hour. No one knew why, just that it did. If that didn’t work out, he’d help them find a place to stay and regroup for the night. The town council wouldn’t do shit to help, but the doctors at the medical center were sensible and knew what was what.
His parents had been understandably disturbed, but comforted by the fact that this man didn’t try to get them in his truck. He offered to leave them be and generally came across as non-threatening as he possibly could. Once he mentioned he was a high school English teacher in town, Andrew’s father had finally set down the tree branch he’d picked up from the side of the road.
The man’s son still didn’t say anything as the adults talked. He stood on the edge of the road, watching as the occasional car passed by.
“Hi,” Andrew said, desperate for a break from the stress of the adults.
The other boy turned to him. “Hey.”
“Is it true? The whole curse thing?”
The kid shrugged. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s always been like that.”
“America is so weird. I’m Andrew.”
They stood there silently for a moment as a red Chevy flew down the road and disappeared. “Is my mum going to be okay?” Andrew asked.
Noah nodded. “Yeah, it just happens sometimes. It happened to Dad last year on our way to the grocery store. He was mad because he was making chili and the general store didn’t have what he needed.”
“Wow. Does your mum get stuck too?”
Noah shook his head. “She left so she wouldn’t.”
Even at fifteen, Andrew didn’t know what to say to that.
“Drew!” his dad called over. “Come on, it’s time to go.”
Andrew turned back to Noah. “It was lovely meeting you,” he said.
Noah smiled, and Andrew felt a slight flutter in his chest. “You too. Have a good life, I guess.”
They both laughed and Andrew went back to the car. He and his parents got inside, confident that this would be the end of it. His dad pulled into the road, drove a few feet, and…
Andrew’s eyes flew open at the sound of something heavy falling directly above him. He must’ve dozed off thinking about that first day and the shaking of the walls had woken him up.
He frowned. It was still dark out, so he must not have been asleep long. But that was a very large thud.
Coming from Noah’s living room.
He should really go check on that. He didn’t want to, and he knew Noah would be irritated if Andrew woke him up. But it beat Noah sitting up there all night with a broken ankle or worse.
He paused for a second, listening for anything else. Silence. He grimaced and stood up to go check. Maybe he dreamed it and Noah was in bed. He could peek in and then leave without him even noticing.
Andrew shrugged on the oversized hoodie he’d been wearing before bed and made his way to the door. The stairwell was pitch black and freezing. He fished into his hoodie and got out his phone, flipping on the torch to illuminate the narrow hallway.
Noah’s door loomed at the top of the stairs. While Olivia’s front door radiated warmth, Noah’s was bare. Andrew knocked, then waited in silence for a moment. Another knock and nothing.
He gripped the knob, half hoping that the door would actually be locked this time. It twisted easily, and the door swung open.
“Noah?” he whispered, stepping into Noah’s kitchen.
The bathroom light was on the other side of the living room, which spilled a bit of light into the rooms. Just enough for Andrew to see a shirtless figure motionless on the living room floor.
He swore and rushed into the living room, leaving the door open behind him. “Goddammit, are you okay?” he hissed, kneeling beside Noah and shaking him.
Noah groaned. “‘M fine, fuck off.”
Andrew could smell the alcohol on his breath and his heart sank. Not hurt, just piss drunk.
“What are you doing?” he demanded, sitting down and leaning against the couch.
Noah dragged himself to a sitting position next to him, head back against the seat of the couch. “Going to bed,” he muttered.
“What, on the floor?”
Noah didn’t answer, just let out a bitter laugh.
“You’re wasted,” Andrew said.
Noah shrugged. “I already fucked it all up. Why bother stopping now?”
Andrew didn’t have an answer for that, but Noah didn’t seem to need one. He rocked his head slightly against the couch like he was trying to work out a crick in his neck.
“Why are you here?” he asked after a second.
“Heard a thud. Thought you might be dead.”
Noah nodded. “Want a drink?”
“It’s two in the morning.”
Fair point. “You should go to bed,” Andrew said.
“You should go to bed.”
“I was in bed,” Andrew retorted. “But then your fucking Big Bird self hitting the floor shook the house and woke me up.”
Noah was silent for a second, then started trembling. Andrew thought maybe he’d hit a nerve or something but then realized Noah was wheezing with silent laughter. After a second, Andrew joined in.
It felt good. Everything was fucked, but this felt right.
After a couple of minutes, Noah wiped his eyes and leaned back against the couch, eyes closed.
“Seriously, go drink some water and go to bed,” Andrew said.
“I’m just going to sleep here.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “You won’t be able to move tomorrow, old man.”
“‘M younger than you.”
“Oooh, three whole months.”
He put a hand under Noah’s arm, suddenly way too conscious of the fact that Noah wasn’t wearing a shirt, and pulled him up. Noah stumbled as Andrew swung his arm over his own shoulders and took some of his weight.
“Let’s go,” he said.
Noah took an uneven step and Andrew found his entire body pressed up against Noah’s bare side, face against his warm shoulder.
“Step,” he said. “Step.”
They’d moved a couple of steps in the dark when Andrew’s foot landed on something fluffy. There was a hiss and a screech as Gray Lady tore out of the room.
Noah laughed, his breath hot and boozy against Andrew’s ear. “Don’t kill my cat,” he murmured.
Andrew rolled his eyes and steered Noah into his bedroom, which was as bare as Andrew had expected. A dresser by the door and a narrow bed tucked under the window. The dresser had two picture frames on top. One had a picture of Noah’s dad and the other had a newborn baby that had to be Mia.
Finally, they reached the bed and Noah tumbled into it, taking Andrew down with him. Andrew landed on top of him, one of Noah’s arms still wrapped around him.
“Sorry,” Noah mumbled, eyes already closed.
Andrew reluctantly pulled himself out of Noah’s grip and stood up. “You good?”
Noah pulled a blanket haphazardly over himself and rolled over. “Goodnight,” Andrew said.
“Drink some water,” Andrew said uselessly, then turned and left.