Sirens played in cacophonous chorus behind him as he sped out of his old neighborhood. The dusty back roads were awash in the silvery light of the moon. A blur of dairy farms, cornfields, and orchards lay outside his speeding car as he sought a safe place to pull over and collect himself.
It wasn’t long until he reached the outskirts of town. Flat barren land stretched as far as the eye could see. His car jostled about as he turned off the paved road and onto the hard earth of an empty field.
Scrambling to get out of his car he spilled out onto the dirt. Laying there he stared at his trembling ghost white hands in shock and slightly in awe of the modest night black claws which shimmered in the moonlight capping each finger tip.
His clothing hung loosely about him; his once thick frame now lean and malnourished. Rising up from the dirt he stared long and hard at his dim reflection in the window of his car. The angles of his face seemed more pronounced -sharp and almost elf-like, his skin was as white as the moon, the whites of his eyes had blackened, and his irises shone a vibrant emerald. The light brown color of his eyebrows had become completely white, and the tips of his ears unnaturally turned up in sharp points.
Images of the void, the woman in the owl mask, and the tortured transformation rushed into his mind’s eye like a river breaking loose of a dam. He wondered how much of the vision had been a dream and how much of it had been real. His reflection revealed he had become something entirely not himself, but what? A monster?
“What makes a monster?” He thought aloud.
No desire to consume human flesh came over him. The idea of stealing away children in the middle of the night appalled him. Unwarranted acts of cruelty and violence found no place in his heart. He looked the part of a child’s nightmare, but in his mind he still felt very much himself.
Echo’s thoughts were interrupted by sounds of nearby footsteps. Instinctively he spun towards the sound preparing himself for whatever else the night had in store for him. He saw no one. He surveyed the barren field and saw nothing save for an old weathered tree off in the distance.
Holding his breath he listened carefully. Again the sound of footsteps moved toward him.
“Hello?” His voice was forceful and in control. The shock of the night’s events seemed to be wearing off; the instinct of fight or flight no longer dominating his thoughts.
No reply came, only more footsteps. There was an electricity in the air; a familiar charge to the atmosphere around him. He reached into the car and popped the trunk.
Rummaging through his things he found the external speaker which was wirelessly connected to his phone. A few swipes over his smartphone and he opened up an application he regularly used back home with his paranormal investigation team.
“If there are any spirits here with me, I’m about to turn my speaker on. I’m running an app which pushes sound waves into the air. If you manipulate the sound waves, I may be able to hear you. You are free to communicate with me. Please, is anyone here?”
Echo powered on his speaker. Random gibberish echoed and reverberated into the night air. He listened closely to garbled sounds until he heard a woman’s voice come over the speaker, “Death…touched.”
“Death touched? What is death touched?”
“You.” The word was crisp and clear. Clearer than any response he had received in his few short years experimenting in paranormal investigation.
“I am? What does that mean?”
“You can help us. You can see us. You can hear us.” The response was instant. Three full relevant sentences. Echo grew excited with the exchange nearly forgetting his own transformation.
“I can’t see you.”
“What is your name?”
“Cannot tell you. Forbidden.”
“Can I help you?”
“No. I help you.”
“How? How can you help me? Do you know what has happened to me?”
“You are awake, Echo.”
“Who are you?”
“What do you mean I’m ‘awake?'”
“You’re eyes are opened. Touched.”
“What do you mean by ‘touched?'”
“Wait! Don’t go! Please! What am I supposed to do?”
“Talk soon. Sleepers can’t see you. Safe for now.”
“Sleepers? Safe? No, please! Don’t go!
Gibberish flowed again through the speaker, and Echo could no longer hear the sounds of footsteps nearby.
“Goodbye, spirit. Thank you for coming through.” He powered down the speaker and the application. A clash of emotions warred within him. Excitement over the clearest exchange he had ever had with a spirit, dread over the message that he was ‘Awake’ and ‘Death Touched.’ He had no idea what any of it meant.
He sat silently in his car. The satchel was gone, and with it his father’s journal. Any answer he hoped to find was lost.
The call of an owl cut across the night sky drawing him out of his thoughts. It would be dawn soon, and he needed to find a place to stay.