Chapter 26 – Sliding Beneath the Surface

April 26, 2013

Sliding - blogThe St. Augustine Trilogy: Book I

Young adult, paranormal/historical

26

Begging for Help

Lobo’s warning sent shivers up my spine. I still couldn’t see anything unusual, but that strange sensation in my stomach I first noticed at the pyramids returned. This time, it felt like a snake sliding through my insides and wrapping itself tightly around my stomach.

When the squeezing moved upward towards my heart, I saw them in the window—two wide-open eyes and nothing more—dark brown eyes, looking all around the room. They appeared to be very real and seemed to be imbedded somehow in the glass itself—no eyelids, no eyebrows, only those brown irises set dead center in a background of white. What the hell? I wanted to say something out loud, but after Lobo’s warning, I didn’t dare.

Very slowly, a shape formed around those eyes, extended itself downward to the bottom of the window, and snapped into focus. My ancestor, Lieutenant Robert Walton, in his dark military coat with gold buttons, looked out from all that glass directly at me—not at Lobo or Carla, just me. His legs in sky-blue pants only went down to about mid-thigh level where the window ended.

Carla said nothing, but a sharp intake of her breath made me forget Lobo’s order to stay perfectly still. I didn’t move much, nothing more than a little shift of the my head and eyes in her direction. That’s all it took though, for me to find myself in deep trouble. It happened very quickly when I think about it now, but at the time, it felt like it took forever.

As soon as I made those two little moves, a sound came from the window, a sound like something … being stretched—rubber or plastic maybe. When I moved my gaze back to the image of Lieutenant Walton, I saw he had partially emerged from the glass in three-dimensional form. He stared at me even more intently than before, and tilted his head slightly like he did at the cathedral. Slowly, he lifted his hands outward in my direction with an expression on his face that looked like … I don’t know … he might be begging for help or something.

It reminded me of when he extended his hand unbelievably far in the cathedral, and I got ready to shove away from the table as fast as I could if he did it again.

I tried to focus on my breath to reduce the instant fear bubbling up inside me. It didn’t work. Not enough time. That tight, slithery feeling in my stomach and heart quickly switched to the same kind of tugging sensation I experienced when I flew back into myself on the bike ride to the cemetery—only much stronger.

Before I knew what had happened, I uh, well … felt my body … slide forward a couple of feet. Of course, that was impossible since the dining room table sat directly in front of me. When I looked down though, I saw … ah, well … just half of me, the top half, and I seemed to be sitting on the dining room table like some sort of partial statue. I mean, I couldn’t see any part of my body below stomach or elbow level—no forearms, hands, hips, crotch, legs or feet. The only thing I saw nearby was that envelope from the portrait on the table inches from my stomach. Man, I sucked my gut in so quick you would believe.

Talk about freaked out? I wanted to scream, but couldn’t for some reason. The thing is, I also watched all that happen while still seated in my chair in front of the table. Besides the horror of seeing another me emerge from myself like that, I also knew beyond a doubt that my ancestor was trying to reel that other Jeff in like a fish.

In the next instant, though, instead of staring into the eyes of Lieutenant Walton, I saw … Lobo. Somehow, he had gotten to the other side of the table, putting himself between my body, uh, both my bodies, I guess you would say, and my ancestor.

When he did that, whatever connection Walton had established with me disintegrated, and I went back to being one incredibly scared kid, sitting in a dining room chair. At the same time, it sounded like something hit the window, hard, followed by a tremendous splitting sound. Only when Lobo stepped aside did I see Walton had vanished. In his place, were maybe a dozen large cracks that zigzagged outward in the picture window from a central point—looked like somebody had smacked it with a baseball bat.

“Dear God!” Carla stared at the damaged glass wide-eyed, as if my ancestor might suddenly reappear.

Believe me, I felt the same way. On top of that, I realized my body was a rigid as a board, and I was barely breathing. I’m telling you my heart thumped in my chest so loud, I thought for sure Carla and Lobo could hear it.

“Relax, both of you,” Lobo said. “He’s gone, for now, but what just occurred is an indication of how very intense and threatening this situation has become.”

Breathing deeply and then exhaling long and loud, I slumped in my chair feeling like a balloon somebody had let loose until it ran out of air. “I thought I was toast,” I said to Lobo. “If you hadn’t—”

“Toast?” Carla asked, tearing her eyes away from the window. “What … what are you—”

“She didn’t see the separation,” Lobo said to me instead of speaking to Carla.

“Really?” I replied, startled that only Lobo and I knew exactly what had happened to me.

“Will you two stop that?” Carla protested, getting even more upset. “Separation? Somebody talk to me!”

“Uh, sorry,” I replied, and went on to tell her, in a shaky voice, about my experience of once again splitting in two. While I spoke, I found it difficult to keep my eyes off the spot on the dining room table where another terrified me had looked down to see only half a body. Carla, on the other hand, kept glancing at Lobo’s battered window with fear and worry clearly written across her face.

“Well, now at least, you’ve actually seen him,” I said to her, trying to lessen the tension in the room. Didn’t work.

“Oh, no doubt about it, I, ah, saw your Lieutenant Walton all right.” Carla kept nodding mechanically for a few seconds. I think she was in shock.

Pointing at his cracked window, Lobo said to both of us, “This attempted intrusion into the physical world is one of the most forceful I have ever seen. It tells us we don’t have a lot of time to dillydally.”

“You mean because Walton could return?” Carla asked.

“Precisely.”

“But I thought Jeff would be safe here.”

“He is to a degree, but I’ll need to take some further precautions relatively soon.”

“Like what?” I asked. That didn’t sound good. I thought I was safe too.

“You’ll see, later,” he replied. “To save time, however, we need to put a stop to the Dade battle history lesson and get to the contents of the envelope.”

“No,” I said, softly, but firmly. Don’t know where that came from, but it just popped out of my mouth. “It’s … important that I hear the basic facts. Not sure why. I can’t explain.”

“But Jeff—”

“Hmm,” Lobo said, ignoring Carla and looking all around me the way he does. “In that case, we’ll make the time.”

Surprised how easy it was to turn old Lobo around, I nodded and he picked up where he had left off. Carla didn’t look too pleased, but she kept quiet.

“As the advance party with Captain Fraser in command moved deep into the ambush site at approximately 8:00 a.m. on December 28, Major Dade trotted his horse up and down the two columns of his men strung out on the road, occasionally talking to them. Finally, he arrived at the head of both lines for the last time, his big, black beard blowing in the breeze, and shouted encouragement to his troops. He told the men that all the danger was behind them, and their long march would soon be over.

“To encourage them even more, he said that upon arrival at Fort King, he would give them three days off duty to relax and celebrate Christmas. As the soldiers cheered his remarks, he saluted them and rode off towards the advance party.

“Just as Dade got to Captain Fraser and Luis Pacheco, who were also approaching the advance party, Chief Micanopy stood up and shot Dade through the heart. As he fell from his horse, 180 Seminoles in their semicircle around Dade’s soldiers opened fire with their rifles. It was a turkey shoot. Especially with their muskets under their overcoats, Dade’s people never had a chance. Many soldiers fell in that first volley of fire, and as gun smoke filled the air, the remaining men either froze or tore wildly at their overcoats to uncover their muskets.

“In the middle of all that chaos, Captain Gardiner yelled and cursed to shock the men back to their senses. Eventually, he got them to take cover and start shooting back at the Seminoles. Soon after that, he called for Lt. Basinger to bring the cannon from the rear of the column and start firing into the pines and palmettos where the Seminole hid on the other side of the road.

“After close to an hour of battle, the Seminoles retreated for a small period of time.

“When Captain Gardiner counted his men, only forty out of Dade’s 100 plus soldiers survived that first attack in good enough condition to continue fighting. All of the advance party, except for Luis Pacheco, died in that initial exchange of gunfire.”

“Forty soldiers?” I asked, finding what Lobo had said hard to believe. “That’s over sixty men killed or wounded—in an hour?”

“It was a very good ambush,” Lobo replied in a cold tone of voice. “When the Seminoles withdrew, Captain Gardiner ordered his men to chop down pine trees and create a little triangular fort. It wasn’t much of a defensive position, but it provided the only protection they could muster at the time. You saw such a structure during your encounter with your ancestor’s living memories of the battle.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed, remembering.

“Soon after the completion of the fort, the Seminoles attacked again. One of the first shots when the battle resumed caught your ancestor in the chest, and he went down, mortally wounded. The fighting raged on again, until one by one, the remaining soldiers died, were badly wounded, or simply ran out of ammunition. When the cannon finally stopped firing, and there were no more musket shots from Dade’s men, the Seminoles and their black allies moved in and finished off those who still lived.

“Over one hundred soldiers died that day with the loss of only three Seminoles.”

While Lobo spoke, all I could think of was how Lyle turned into Lieutenant Walton in the plaza with blood soaking his chest, and his head splitting open. I didn’t want to know what caused Walton’s head to fracture like that, and even though I tried not to think about it, I imagined all kinds of possibilities.

“Out of all the soldiers participating in the battle, only two lived to tell about it. One was Ransom Clark. Shot five times, Clark played dead and painfully dragged himself the sixty miles or so back to Fort Brooke. The reason we have accurate accounts of what happened on that day, came from interviews later given by Clark and his fellow soldier, as well as the Seminole leader, Halpatter Tustenugge, known to the whites as Alligator, and, of course, Carla’s ancestor, Luis Pacheco.”

“After taking only the soldiers’ weapons, but no money or jewelry, the Seminoles went into the Wahoo Swamp, and had a big celebration. That battle began the Second Seminole War, which lasted for another seven years and took many lives. During those years, the army captured the great war leader Osceola, when he came to peace talks under a flag of truce—a disgraceful act of treachery by the Americans. He and other Seminoles were for a time held prisoner in our St. Augustine Castillo—Fort Marion, they called it in those days.

“At war’s end, most of the surviving Seminoles gave up and agreed to go out west. The few who still resisted fled to the Everglades.”

“What about their black allies?” I asked.

“Eventually,” Carla answered for Lobo with a more than a touch of anger in her voice, “most of them ended up back in slavery.”

“Oh … I see. And your relative … Luis Pacheco?”

“Luis? Well, that’s quite a story,” she replied, looking once more at Lobo’s badly cracked window with a shiver. “We don’t have time for it now. The main thing is that he lived a full life and died a free man in the Jacksonville area right around 1895.”

“Which brings us back to your ancestor,” Lobo said, putting a hand on the envelope in front of him and sliding those fiery eyes of his in my direction.

###

Trilogy Graphic - blogFor a brief description of The St. Augustine Trilogy, click here.

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© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.

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