Chapter 48

Steve continued to chase him as Dustin walked through the shadows of a row of trees and out into an open field. All around there were hundreds of huge metal fish and behind their number, the moonlit ocean. They seemed to be dancing on its distant waves.

"Come on." His partner said as he pushed aside some branches. "We’ll dig this guy out. I’ll call the car company and reactivate the hearse. We can head back to the funeral home together."

"No." Dustin spat.

"It’ll be like we’re making up for that architect." Steve said desperately. "Neither one of us meant for him to fall in. We’ll be hero’s. We can fix it. Let’s rescue this dude!"

"That guy hated me." Dustin said passing among the sculptures, some of them twenty feet high. "I’m not interested."

There was a silence. It disrupted the natural progression of their banter. Dustin grew concerned. He turned around to find his partner stopped and staring blankly ahead.

"Who are you?" Steve yelled.

"I’m no one." Dustin shouted back at him. "My names not even Dustin. I faked every single bit of my employee payroll information. I quit my family and I don’t want to be found. Tell that to the cops."

"Who are you?" His partner shrieked again. It was a frightful sound. "Why are you here?"

Dustin slowly began to realize that Steve wasn’t talking to him anymore. There was something in his tone that belied a mortal fear rather than one of responsibility. His voice was too high, too strained. Looking closer he could see that the man was fixated on a spot directly behind one of the fish.

Steve started backing away. "What do you want from me?" He yelped at the spot.

Dustin took a step forward. "Steve?" He said with concern.

His partner suddenly turned to flee. "Get away from me you ghost!" He screamed.

Dustin watched the man as he ran across the open field. Childlike, Steve glanced over his shoulder in terror. He pushed his way back through the row of trees at its edge, disappearing into their darkened folds.

Curious as to what could have caused this rapid regression, Dustin approached the fish. He crept upon the point that had been the focus of his partner’s harrowed trepidation. A great animal roared from somewhere off in the distance. At the sound of it, Terry Perez jumped out from behind the structure, wild eyed and covered in mud.

"Ahhh." Dustin said falling backwards.

"Ahhh." The architect squealed jumping.

"What are you doing out here?" Dustin asked the specter as he clawed his way to his feet and backed away, his hands out before him.

"I’m hiding!" The architect whispered. "Jesus! They’re big!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Dustin stammered. "How did you get here? You fell into the crack. You’re dead."

Mr. Perez stumbled forward reaching out towards Dustin. "No." He said, desperately. "I’m not. Please! We have to hide!"

"How did you get here?" Dustin repeated ignoring his warnings.

Perez quickly ducked behind one of the fish. Dustin stooped to get a better look at him. His clothes were torn and caked in grime. His brow had a huge gaping laceration. His knuckles were scraped and bleeding. Ghost didn’t bleed.

The architect made a motion for Dustin to join him beneath the sculpture.

"What is going on?" Dustin asked. Cautiously he hunched across the grass towards the man.

Perez looked up in the direction of the fish’s head with a mixture shock and reverie. "Everything is hollow down there." He whispered pointing at the ground. "That’s why we have these earthquakes. Its the weight from above. It’s causing the ground to collapse. Every time we move, every time we stomp our feet we’re causing a little piece of the surface to break off and fill up the gap that’s left in the planet’s center."

"A cave?" Dustin said. "Was it that stream that I saw beneath the cemetery?"

"I held onto my mother’s casket." The architect continued. "I was swept along. I saw things that you wouldn’t believe. Somehow I was washed out on the beach."

"Here?" Dustin asked in disbelief.

There was a low growling from somewhere far away. A landslide, Dustin thought to himself. Perez visibly shrank at the noise.

"I was followed." He hissed spreading out his arms before the field of fish. "They’re all around us."

Dustin stood up. "You’re still screwed up from all of those pills that you took." He said dismissively. "You should probably get yourself some help."

The architect held a finger up to his lips. "Shhhhh." He said.

"Look," Dustin said, pointing behind the man towards the edge of the field. "there are a bunch of EMT’s just beyond that row of trees. Go over there and tell them what you took. They should know what to do."

"You don’t understand." Perez said. "They’re out there." As he spoke he seemed to be shrinking into himself. He was practically invisible now.

"These?" Dustin said gesturing out at the rows and rows of metal fish. "These are fake."

The architect shook his head.

"They’re metal." Dustin explained as he walked over to one and gave it a sharp rap with his knuckles. The sound rang out like a bell. "They aren’t real."

Perez whimpered.

There was another groan, this time from the direction of the beach. Dustin turned expecting to see large chunks of the field vanishing into the waters below. Instead he saw only fish. "What the hell was that?" He asked.

"Them!" The architect croaked as he tried to push himself further and further into the folds of the fish’s metal fins. "They never stopped existing."

There was another groan.

Slowly Dustin turned his back on the scared little man. There was no denying that Mr. Perez was under the influence of some sort of hallucinogenic cocktail of pills. They’d probably mixed with adrenaline during his ride through the waters causing him to see all sorts of things that were not there. Still, the low heavy noise had been real. Something big was moving around where the water met the land.

Dustin passed through the field, touching the sculptures. He put his hands on the metal marlins, sharks, and angel-fish that were around him. He walked without thought, staring straight ahead as he traveled towards the roar and the water. He walked until he was at the edge staring down at the rocky shoreline below. He walked until he could see the great beast was being chased along by the cavemen and their spears.

The End

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