New Winslow S6E74
Andrew got to the shop about thirty minutes later, so distracted by what had happened that he was surprised when he got there. It was hot outside, unusually hot for April, but he’d barely noticed. He’d been walking from the Limerick to Forest Charms in a daze. Luckily there were about four cars going past at any given moment here, and nobody driving them seemed to have any ill will toward him. So he’d survived with nothing more than a mild sunburn.
But Noah had kissed him. For real this time, not that celebratory peck on the cheek that had left Andrew stumbling through his afternoon when they got the Limerick. And they were going to do it again tonight. And clearly more, which made him surprisingly nervous. Mainly because this was Noah and there was so much to lose.
But last time it had been Andrew’s mistake. He’d been the one to initiate, he’d been the one to make it sexual. And then he’d been the one to leave. And judging by everything Liv had told him, he’d messed up colossally with all of it.
He’d technically initiated again, he knew that. But it had been both of them. And he’d seen how flustered Noah was when he left a little while ago. Plus, Andrew was too old and too experienced to jump straight to marriage and mortgages. A couple kisses on his old couch didn’t actually mean anything on their own.
But now, as he saw Noah’s truck outside of Forest Charms, his stomach gave a pleasant little swoop.
When he got inside, Noah and Iris were already in there. Noah caught his eye as he came in, and Andrew couldn’t help feeling a little satisfied by the way he turned slightly red as he smiled.
Iris, however, didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. She waved to Andrew as he pinned his name tag in place. “There’s nothing planned for today,” she said. “So all we have to worry about is drop-in customers. I’ve got a house cleansing scheduled for tonight after we’re done. But-” She glanced at Noah. “If we can figure out anything new during this session, maybe we can meet tomorrow to make plans.”
Make plans to get Andrew out of here. Because maybe the solution was buried deep in Noah’s mind and they just needed to carefully extract it. Noah shrugged, with a wry look on his face. “Alright,” he said. “Let’s get you out of here.”
Why did he have to be so charming when he grinned? It was such a quick thing, like it was only for Andrew. And here Andrew was, with butterflies like he was sixteen again.
Noah sat down in the same metal chair they’d used last time and waited as Iris dimmed the lights and dug through the shelf under the counter. She came back out with a shining glass ball that caught the pink lights coming off the display cases. Andrew could see it looked like ordinary glass, which was a relief. He didn’t want to be reminded of the crystal he’d given Liv to stay safe, or Iris’s response to the whole situation. Because then he was just going to be mad again and that wasn’t going to help.
No, they just needed to do this. Then he and Noah would go back to Andrew’s flat and…
And, well, Noah was going to the post office and probably working a dinner delivery shift since all three of them had been rotating at the Limerick all day. Dammit. But then after that…
He pulled his focus back to the present, where Iris was holding the glass ball just above Noah’s eye line as she spoke softly to him. He was watching the glass intently and Andrew backed up to give them some space.
He glanced around the shop, hoping nobody was going to come in. They should have done this out back, somewhere where Noah could have some privacy. But Andrew could handle any curbside crystal orders that might come in. If anyone did. It was completely dead outside as he peered out into the late afternoon sunlight.
And if they did show up, they could wait, he decided, flipping the lock. Noah deserved better than to have some random customers walk in.
“Are you there?”
Iris’s voice made Andrew look over at where they were near the back of the shop. Noah was sitting loosely in the chair, his head back against the brick wall behind him, eyes closed and hands in his lap. He nodded.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice soft.
“To start, I want you to go back to your dreams,” Iris said, keeping her voice low as Andrew made his way back toward them. “Last time you said there were no messages from anybody. Is that right?”
“Let’s just focus on the dreams then. Did you have these dreams last night?”
He could see Iris recalibrating her plans. “You mentioned the ocean,” she said. “Tell me about the ocean in your dreams.”
“It’s…” Noah trailed off, a slight frown on his otherwise placid features. “It’s always there.”
“And what happens?”
“There’s… there’s a storm.”
“Can you go back to the storm? Tell me what happens when it storms in these dreams.”
“It’s always the same,” he said, rolling his head slightly against the rough brick. “The storm tosses the ship on the waves.”
“The ship,” Iris said, leaning forward. “What ship?”
Iris glanced at Andrew. He saw that beginning of excitement in her eyes. Last time, Noah had only talked about the storms and the waves. While he’d mentioned the ship when he was awake, he had adamantly avoided the subject during their session.
“I see a storm rolling through,” Noah said. “And I’m looking up at the waves. They’re so tall.”
Andrew shivered at the image this statement presented in his brain. If Noah was dreaming about this every night, no wonder it was stressing him out.
“What happens then?” Iris asked. “What happens with the waves?”
Noah was silent for a moment. “I don’t know,” he said finally.
“Let’s move on to the sleepwalking,” Iris said. “What do you see when you’re walking in your sleep?”
Noah paused. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
“It’s fine,” Iris said. “Let’s move on, then. Do you know where these dreams are coming from? Is someone sending them to you?”
He was quiet again, but Andrew could see Noah’s hand twitching slightly in his lap.
“Who is on the ship?” Iris asked. He could tell she was doing her best not to ask leading questions or influence the answers. But her whole body was coiled with excitement and nerves as she leaned closer to Noah. “Who’s there with you?”
Another long pause. “No one,” Noah said finally. “There’s no one here.”
Andrew didn’t expect the level of disappointment that cut through him, but Iris didn’t seem too fazed by Noah’s answer. “Is there anything else?” she asked. “Can you tell me anything else about what you’re seeing?”
“It’s raining,” Noah said. “The wave is above me.”
“Who is telling you all of this?”
Noah was silent again, his expression serene beside Iris’s tension. “No one,” he said. “It’s just me. Iris, it’s happening to me.”
Andrew didn’t expect Iris’ eyes to go wide at that. Honestly, he’d been about to assume this was another dead end. He and Noah had plans tonight and if they were wasting time here, he’d rather just get back to it. But she looked at him, then back at Noah, and he could see that things were about to go in a different direction.
“Who are you?”
Of all the things she could have asked Noah right then, Andrew wasn’t expecting that. Noah didn’t react to the question. He was quiet for a long moment.
“Are you Noah?”
Andrew stared at him. From his periphery, he could see Iris recalibrating again.
“Who are you?”
“I’m not Noah here. I’m… I don’t… I don’t understand what’s happening.”
“Take a moment to breathe, okay?” Iris said gently.
Noah nodded vaguely as Iris turned to Andrew. She looked jittery, and he didn’t like the alarm bells ringing through him at the sight.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I think I was wrong.”
Any other day, he’d suggest she embroider that statement and hang it in the shop. But not right now. Not when Noah was claiming he wasn’t Noah. This could not be happening again.
“The dreams might not have been messages,” she said quietly. “At least not intentional ones. I didn’t even think of this. But memories, especially traumatic ones, can sometimes broadcast unintentionally from one person to another. Usually they’re only picked up by more sensitive people, but not always.”
She steepled her fingers, pressing them to her lips as she thought. “It’s possible,” she continued as though they were having an ordinary conversation on an ordinary day. “Especially if there’s some connection between the projector and the receiver. I don’t know if that’s what’s happening here, whether there’s a connection or maybe he’s got some kind of latent ability? It has to be him, it’s Billy McBride. But I don’t think he’s contacting Noah on purpose. He might not even be aware of Noah.”
“But can Billy hurt him?” Andrew asked.
“That’s the thing,” Iris said. “It’s an energy transfer, you know? I’ve had it happen to me, but I’m psychic and I have the training to move it aside without getting hurt. If he’s got this memory that isn’t his in his head-”
“Is he possessed?”
This was dangerous territory, but Andrew couldn’t afford to beat around the bush on this one. “No,” Iris said quickly.
“How do you know?”
Iris was silent and Andrew moved toward Noah, to shake him and get him out of here. Iris placed a hand on his forearm to stop him.
“What’s your name?” she asked Noah.
“Are you alone?”
“Are you psychic?”
Noah actually laughed a little. “No.”
“What do you see when you’re sleepwalking, Noah? Can you tell me?”
Noah’s fingers fluttered in his lap. “I’m…”
“Are you seeing someone else’s dreams when you sleepwalk?”
“I’m scared,” Noah said, shaking his head. “It’s-I don’t know.”
“Shit,” Iris muttered as his breathing picked up. “I need to wake him up. This isn’t a possibility we discussed.”
Iris looked nervous and Noah’s hands continued to twitch. “I’m going to count in a moment. When I get to three, you’re going to wake up, okay?”
She counted as Andrew’s heart roared in his ears. On three, Noah opened his eyes. He looked around the room for a second, then settled on her. “Iris?” he said. “What’s going on?”
“We need to stop.”
“No,” Noah said. “No, there’s something there, I was so close to remembering.”
“I don’t think they’re your memories,” Iris said.
“What do you mean?”
“Someone’s contacting you, but I don’t think it’s intentional. They might be projecting a memory that you’re picking up. And if it’s who I think it is, I’m worried about what it’ll do to you to receive their message.”
Noah looked a little queasy at that, but then he glanced at Andrew. “Do you think it has to do with the curse?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Iris said, “But-”
“Then come on, put me back under,” Noah said. “Let’s see what’s happening.”
“I’m not sure,” Iris said. “We should talk about it. Every time I ask about the sleepwalking, you haven’t been able to tell me. You were stressed and-”
“If it gets answers for the curse, then it’s fine,” Noah argued. “Come on. You said you need to reach this guy, let’s hear what he has to say.”
“Noah, I’m really not sure-”
“Andrew, I’m doing this,” Noah insisted as he flexed his hands in his lap.
He turned back to Iris. “Please, I want to.”
She still looked uncertain, but picked the glass back up. Andrew assumed there was no way that they’d be able to keep going tonight, even if Noah truly wanted to, and he was glad for it. But a few minutes later, he realized he was wrong. Iris was walking Noah through a script involving doors and corridors and retracing his footsteps on those nights. She’d clearly done this before. It was fascinating and on any other day, Andrew would have wanted to interrogate her and learn everything he possibly could about what she and Noah were doing. But not today. That familiar buzz of anxiety was thrumming along within him and he just wanted this to be over.
“Once you’ve found the door to those dreams, imagine yourself turning the knob and pulling it open,” Iris instructed. “You’re seeing the dreams you have, the ones you can’t remember when you sleepwalk. Can you tell me what you see?”
Noah’s head was resting against the brick wall again and his hand twitched as he thought. “I see the ocean,” he said softly. “It’s a dock.”
“And what day is it?”
“I don’t… It’s summer. It’s warm here, and there’s tall buildings behind me. Am I in… I think I’m in Boston.”
He was scowling as he said it and despite his apprehension, Andrew was amused with a tinge of insult. Even under hypnosis, deep in someone else’s life, Noah had something to fucking say. Typical. “What day in the summer?” Iris asked. “Try to focus on the day.”
“I don’t know the damn day,” Noah snapped, sounding like a petulant child.
Iris held up her hands. “Sorry,” she said. “Can you tell me anything else about where you are?”
She was easing in so slowly after dropping that bomb on the room. Andrew stayed where he was as Noah seemed to consider his answer.
“It’s warm,” he said finally. “The clouds are heavy, but not like it’ll rain. And I can smell the sea.”
His voice was dreamy as he spoke and he moved his head slightly against the brick again.
“Are you Noah right now?”
“Yeah?” he said. “But I’m Billy too? I’m confused.”
Iris’s eyes lit up as Andrew’s heart sank. There it was. Finally, one single solid answer in this shitshow odyssey that had started nearly a year and a half earlier. But instead of any relief or excitement, all he could feel was increasing fear. This wasn’t a good idea. But Noah had insisted and maybe he was right. After all, it was Billy, who was going to sea. He’d finally been able to remember.
Two years ago, Andrew would have laughed at the idea of a long-dead sailor making contact with Noah of all people. He wasn’t laughing now.
“You’re okay,” Iris said. “So you’re by the sea? Can you tell me what else? Look around you if you can.”
“Water,” Noah said. “We’re on a…a dock. I’m on land. But there’s so many people and it’s too loud. I don’t want to be here. I’m sailing out today, but I want to go home.”
“You’re not really there,” Iris reminded him. “This isn’t your memory, it’s a memory left to you from someone else. You’re in my shop, remember?”
He was silent. “Do you know where you’re going?” Iris asked him.
Noah didn’t answer her. He was still scowling in a way that might have actually been kind of adorable if Andrew’s heart wasn’t hammering in his chest right now with that vague feeling of dread. He should have been happy, they were making progress. Enormous progress. They’d found Billy McBride.
But Andrew was pretty sure Billy McBride only sailed out once.
“It’s summer,” Noah said again.
“Thank you,” Iris said, her voice maddeningly calm in the face of everything. “What do you see in front of you?”
“It’s a ship,” he said. “It’s… my ship? I think I’m on the ship now. I wish I wasn’t.”
Once again, Andrew wanted to shake Noah and jerk him out of this. Iris looked concerned, but kept going.
“Noah, what year is it?” she asked, as though she didn’t clearly know where this was going.
“I can smell the sea…” he repeated, ignoring her.
Andrew saw Iris think for a second. “Noah,” she said after a beat. “How old are you?”
Noah was silent, his hand clenching and unclenching in his lap as though he was working out a cramp. “Noah?” Iris repeated.
He either ignored her or didn’t hear her. “Billy?”
There was an innocence in his tone that cut Andrew. “Billy McBride,” Iris murmured, glancing over at Andrew, then back to Noah. “There you are.”
Then Noah’s face twitched. “There’s a storm coming,” he said, starting to breathe heavily, hands still in his lap. “The wind’s picking up.”
“You aren’t there,” Iris reminded him. “None of this is happening right now.”
“It’s a hurricane,” he continued as though she hadn’t spoken. “The waves are crashing over the sides of the ship, I can feel it on my face. It’s so cold. I want to go back to New Winslow, I want my mom. I don’t want to be here.”
“You’re not,” Andrew said, abandoning his position as a silent witness as he moved in closer. “You’re in New Winslow, we’re going home after this.”
“I’m near the edge,” Noah said, his hand moving more rapidly now. “I can’t see anything, the rain’s in my eyes. And I’m the messenger to the captain, they’re telling me… I can’t hear what they’re telling me. The wind is blowing past my ears and it’s too loud.”
“What happens next?” Iris asked.
Both hands were moving now, though Noah’s eyes stayed closed. “The captain’s trying to get us upright, but the ship is swaying. And he’s telling me what to do. I’m on deck again and I’m moving, but the wind is pushing me back.”
This was a mistake, Andrew knew that for sure now. Noah breathed rapidly as spoke, his face tight as though he was in pain.
“I’m on deck and the waves are bigger than I ever thought they’d be. I’m looking up at them. The wave comes over the ship and I want to outrun it. I try, I’m grabbing at anything I can. But it catches me. I’m being knocked off my feet now, off the side of the boat. I’m scared.”
He was gasping for breath, the sound a sickly whooping as Andrew reached for his hand, ignoring Iris’s motion to stop him.
“I think I’m dead.”
The whoops were gone and Andrew realized in horror that Noah’s chest seemed to be caving in and out, heaving without any air actually getting in.
“Noah, you need to relax,” Iris said. “It’s not happening, you’re safe. You need to breathe.”
His chest kept moving, but he wasn’t breathing. “Iris,” Andrew said, the warning clear in his tone.
She hesitated, and he knew it was because she wanted to ask about the Alderidges. Now was her chance to try to get at any other information Billy might have accidentally projected. Noah seemed distressed, yet not panicky. If it weren’t for the fact that he wasn’t fucking breathing, Andrew wouldn’t be as concerned. But for some reason, his lungs apparently weren’t working correctly.
“Noah, goddammit!” Andrew snapped.
“Alright, awake on three!” Iris said, her frazzled tone attempting confidence. “One, two, three!”
She snapped her fingers and Noah took in a sharp breath as his eyes flew open. Andrew sagged with relief as Noah looked around the room again, seeming not to see his surroundings for a moment. He realized he was still holding Noah’s hand and considered letting go, but then Noah did it first.
He stood up without saying a word. “Mate?” Andrew said.
Noah looked at him, and Andrew’s hopes fell. He looked… off. Like maybe he was in shock?
“Noah?” Iris said.
He looked at her with a grim smile. “Did it work?”
“What do you remember?”
He just laughed at that, then started for the door. “Wait!” Andrew said, moving toward him. “Noah, are you okay?”
But he didn’t stop walking. “Where are you going?”
Noah finally stopped and turned, looking everywhere but at Andrew. “I need to go home for a while.”
“Want me to go with you?”
This time, Noah’s smile looked more natural and the constriction in Andrew’s chest lessened the tiniest bit. “Nah,” he said. “I just need a little time, there’s something I have to do first. I’ll see you in a bit.”
He leaned down and kissed Andrew on the forehead, so unexpected and tender that Andrew didn’t know how to respond. Then he was out the door, pulling his keys out of his pocket. Andrew’s heart sank. Despite Noah’s reassurance, he didn’t feel right about this.
“Can I borrow your car?” he asked Iris.
She hesitated a little, but faltered when she saw the fear that must have been obvious on his face. “Yeah,” she said, tossing him the keys. “Just bring it back? If I miss this cleansing tonight-”
He ran, keys in hand, getting out the front door in time to see Noah’s truck peeling off in the opposite direction of home. Iris’s car was directly outside, so he got in and turned it on, pulling out as he buckled himself in.
Noah was flying down the road, but there was nothing erratic about his driving beyond the speed. If he was going to get drunk, Andrew couldn’t blame him, but he was going to stop him. And if there was something else going on, then Andrew was going to handle it with him.
Andrew realized his mistake minutes later as he pulled onto the main road out of town, the trees towering over him in the setting sun. Noah was passing the town line now, and Andrew prayed to all the gods he didn’t believe in that it would be his turn for a miracle. But even as he did so, Andrew hit the invisible barrier with a force that sent his head snapping forward and his seat belt cutting into the side of his neck.
Holding a hand to the cut now bleeding freely down his throat, Andrew could only watch helplessly as the taillights of Noah’s truck went around the curve and disappeared. And he realized he’d never been so afraid in his life.