SPG: September, Part 3/4


St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

Dakotah pounded up the stairs. Something rattled the windows. He heard screeching and barking and cold laughter. It sounded far away, but not like it was outside, more like it floated around him in space. When he burst into his room he gasped when he saw the three smooth river stones sitting on his dresser. He had been certain for one moment they would not be there.

He stuffed them into his pocket. He took the back staircase down, and left by the back door. Now he could hear nothing. The night was perfectly quiet and way, way too dark.

Dakotah circled the house but no one was on the street. Every house was dark but now the street lights were on. They illuminated almost nothing, though, and their light was a smoky orb of mist, from which barely any light could escape.

He had the strange feeling he’d left Saint Paul entirely. This place looked like St. Paul but also—wasn’t.

Dakotah walked slowly in the middle of the street. He doubted he’d see a car. Other St. Paul was a perfectly empty replica of his city.

He flipped the stones around in his pocket. That bastard.

He’d never thought that about Ike before. Ike had been a pretty serious guy. He asked Dakotah to do things and explained why and included him in the shop. He told stories in a friendly way, but never personal ones. Why hadn’t he asked?

Dakotah realized he’d thought he knew the boring basics—an old black man runs an antique shop in St. Paul. Where was his family? Who cared—even he only had his mom. Where were all the customers? Some came. Dakotah figured more came when he was gone. He hadn’t been there every second, anyway. He just tried to help out.

Why had Ike left him the shop? Why the three stones? What did he expect Dakotah to do about the goddamn monsters?

Dakotah’s steps slowed, then stopped.

He hadn’t felt scared since he entered Other St. Paul, but now something pulled at him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and he realized he was being followed. He stood very still, exposed on the street. Something else was there.

Fear doused him, his senses stood on end as he peered into the gloomy darkness. It was on the edges of his senses, the edge of his vision, but he was certain something was stalking him. Waiting.

He felt the haunting presence weigh him, decide if Dakotah would put up much of a fight at all, if the boy was even worth the time it would take to kill him.

Dakotah took a step forward. Then stopped.

“Come out!” he shouted.

All of a sudden the street blazed with bright light. Dakotah covered his eyes with he arms and lost his balance. He hit the street as a voice said, Follow.

It said it not in his ears but inside of his head and all around him. It wasn’t one voice but many voices.

Whatever dark presence had been watching him had been banished by the blaze of light. As the blaze faded, Dakotah lowered his arms and saw a pathway lined with small bright lights stretching out in front of him.

He took one backward glance and then ran up the path.

As he followed the path, Other St. Paul faded away. He didn’t feel like he was walking upward, but the houses and features of the neighborhood faded as if into clouds. No other features came into view.

“Where am I going?” he asked, projecting his voice into the gray void.

Immediately, the voice-with-many-voices answered, To secure the House.

Obviously, Dakotah thought sarcastically.

He tried another angle: “Where am I?”

The voices said, On the Lighted Way.

Dakotah rolled his eyes. “Why do I need to secure the House?”

To prevent the darkness from corrupting it.

Now the big one: “Why me?”

He thought maybe the many-voices-voice hesitated, but then it replied as dispassionately as ever, Icarus thought you worthy. But it does not have to be you.

It doesn’t? He did not know what to think of that.

The path rose and fell in gentle progression. Once, he looked down and realized he wasn’t really on a path at all, just walking on a gray space between the lights of the path.

Then, finally, he touched down again onto real dirt and grass, which within a few feet became sand, and then a lake. Around him, the lights faded.

“Wait, now what!” he called.

Cross, answered the voices, and he knew they would not answer again.

He swiveled his head. The lake faded into the distance, and the beach stretched on either side before fading away into a similar gray twilight.

“Like, swim?” he asked himself.

Even as he said it, he blinked, and there appeared a boat he was certain had not been there before. It was like a raft, flat-bottomed with low sides, and a pole to move it.

Dakotah signed. “A motorboat would’ve been better,” he said to the gray. “Something to work on for next time, guys.”

Then he got on the raft. It rocked and let in water, but soon enough he had balanced himself and taken up the pole and begun to ferry himself across the lake.

Part of him desperately wanted to hug the shore, but another part knew with certainty that that was no way to get anywhere. Grimly, he tried not to think about what would happen if he fell in.

Soon, the pole could no longer reach the bottom, and Dakotah found a paddle strapped to the side of the craft. The ferry moved with all the delicacy of an elephant but Dakotah supposed that since he wasn’t sure where he was going, a little veering side to side wouldn’t matter.

He paddled on.

He was wondering what the treasure room of Ike’s shop would look like. Would he know where to place the stones? How would he lock down the House?

Something began to take shape in the distance. He tried to paddle faster but it wasn’t much use with the ferry. As he pulled closer, he realized he was looking at an exposed room. The basement of Ike’s shop, enclosed by three walls—and the fourth left open to the lake.

The ferry glided the last few feet and bumped gently against the raised floor of the basement. Dakotah dropped the paddle and stepped up into dry land.

“Ha!” he said triumphantly.

He made to secure the ferry, but when he turned he was faced abruptly with the fourth wall of the basement, with no lake in sight.

Considering all that he had seen that night, Dakotah decided to shrug it off.

Behind the stairs, a raised pedestal sat before the cobwebbed wall. It had three impressions in it and Dakotah took out his stones and laid them one by one into the corresponding depression.

When the third was laid, he heard a click. The outline of door in the wall lit up, and then swung inward.

Inside was treasure.


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