New Winslow S2E3
Noah was chopping up wooden pallets at the far end of the backyard when Olivia stepped outside with a bag of trash. She realized immediately he had headphones in and, not wanting to startle him while he was swinging around an ax, she changed her mind about trying to talk to him. Instead, she headed straight toward the trash bins at the side of the house.
It was freezing outside, but the sun was cutting through the late December morning just enough to feel good on her face as she walked down the stoop and into the yard. The wind had died down and the sky was blue. If it wasn’t for the fact that the air was just as cold without the wind, she would be tempted to stay outside for a little while.
The bins were on the side yard, where a high wooden fence created a narrow path between it and the house. There were only woods on the other side of the fence, but it had been there when Noah bought the house and they both agreed that the little extra security was both comforting and a good way to mark off where the woods ended and where the yard began.
Olivia rounded the corner and stopped as she saw a figure slide across the far end of the side yard. They were shadowy and moved so quickly that she almost didn’t see them.
“Hello?” she called, stepping into the side yard and walking toward the front of the house.
Maybe Noah had someone coming over to work on the house again? She reached the front yard and looked around.
No one. There were no footsteps in the snow, no indication that anyone had passed by. Olivia frowned. Maybe she’d just been seeing things? Or a shadow had fallen just right as she walked by.
Either way, it was freezing, so she was getting those bags in the bin and heading right back inside.
Noah set down the ax and sat down on the stone wall, breathing heavily. He pulled the headphones down around his neck, letting the cold air hit his face and ears.
The stack of pallets that had been sitting out here since November was finally chopped up and ready to become firewood. Now he just had to get it all in the bin and rake up the splinters.
After that, he was going to replace the weather stripping on the main front door and his and Olivia’s front and back doors. And after that, he was heading inside to fix the drywall in the tiny hallway outside their basement door.
Oh, he should fix the weather stripping on that door too.
He’d get to the basement storage units soon. He’d cleared one out for Olivia, but both his unit and the workshop he’d been building were filled with leftovers from the previous owners. That was the big one he’d been putting off. But if he was going to try to shut out the shame of his colossal fuckup last week, he might as well be useful while he did so and get this house into shape.
He took off one of his gloves, then reached into his coat for his flask. He unscrewed the top, took a shot, and screwed it back on. Then he pulled his headphones back on and got back to work.
Andrew knew how the curse worked, at least as much as anyone could. So he shouldn’t have been surprised when he tried to drive over the town line again and hit the invisible barrier with a dull thud.
Day three since he and Cleo had tried to leave. And despite the feeling of inevitability settled in his stomach, it had only been Cleo and Olivia’s insistence on him eating and sleeping that kept him from spending every second here, trying desperately to get out of this horrible town.
But he’d had enough. If he didn’t get out soon, it might take years. He might end up like his mother. Even with her family here beside her, he’d seen the quiet desperation in her eyes as the weeks turned into months turned into years and she was still in this town.
Andrew got out of the car and stepped up to the town line. This invisible barrier didn’t feel like anything under his hand. It wasn’t cold or hot and it wasn’t like he could sense some kind of mystical energy within it.
Maybe there was a hole or something. A little space no one knew about where he could squeeze out. It was a ridiculous thought, but so was this whole situation. So really, it made perfect sense.
Keeping his hand on the border, Andrew began walking into the woods beside the road. If there was a crack in the wall, it wasn’t going to be on any of the main roads. It’d be deep in the forest because why the fuck not?
He wasn’t wearing any gloves as he ran his hand over the barrier, stepping over logs and stumps and pushing aside bushes as he moved. There was snow on the ground and his legs were quickly burning with the effort of trudging through it. Within twenty minutes he was soaked and tendrils of fear were starting to settle in.
There was no way out. He’d been fooling himself.
No, there had to be a way. Andrew started moving faster, running his hand up and down the invisible wall as he went. Maybe it was up high. Planes had to fly over New Winslow, right? Sure, trains had always been redirected, but a plane flying in from Europe wouldn’t know.
Just like a family visiting from Europe wouldn’t know.
Time passed in a haze as Andrew moved, crossing empty roads and pushing through snowbanks. His hand slid along the barrier the whole time and he felt a burning, irrational hatred for the squirrels he saw crossing back and forth without a care in the world.
The sun was going down as he stepped out of the woods and saw the rental car sitting across the street. Andrew was back at the beginning, with nothing to show for it.
Trembling, he got into the car, turned it on, and laid his head on the steering wheel.
He was trapped.