“What’s the shape of the earth?” asked the teacher of Johnny.
Johnny said it was round.
“How do you know it is round, Johnny?”
Then Johnny replied: “All right, it’s square, then. I don’t want to start an argument about it.”
Walter materializes in Odin’s cave just as he was pouring hot water in a cup. Odin doesn’t look up right away, but cheerfully greets Walter, “Walter, my boy, glad you could visit. I see you brought a friend. What is your name little one?”
The Psychai answered him. Keva, Walter heard. He never did ask her name.
“That is a very lovely name,” Odin said. “Would you like some tea or perhaps warm buttermilk?”
“Yes, please,” Walter said.
“Take a seat my boy. You don’t look so steady.”
Walter took a seat in one of Odin’s wooden chairs while Odin warmed up some buttermilk and poured it in a cup and handed it to Walter.
“You don’t see many of her around here during this time. They fly north around fall and return in the spring. They are the only creatures I know that migrate for the winter. Drink up, drink up. It’ll do you some good.”
Walter sipped the warm creamy brown buttermilk. The buttermilk swirled in his cup. Maybe he was hallucinating it. He barely slept and lately he had not been able to trust his eyes to decipher the dream world from reality.
“What can I do for you, Walter?”
Walter had to find the words. “I—I have been having these dreams every time I close my eyes. It’s always the same dream. I am at the manor. I hear my father’s voice. I search for him but when I think I found him. Only it’s not him because he turns into the crocotta and before it attacks me I wake up… That’s not the worst part, lately, since I started having these dreams I’ve been sleepwalking. I’ve never slept walk before. When I sleepwalk I find myself in different places and each time it gets more dangerous than the last. If it wasn’t for Keva, I would have died. I can’t control it and I’ve been so tired. I’m afraid of closing my eyes. I came to you for help.”
“I see,” Odin mulled it over. “Did anything happen to you before this?”
“No, I can’t think of anything. Except for one time Alden and I were in the cemetery and we were almost assaulted by spooks. At least that was what Archibal and Cadi called them.”
The Psychai burbled an incident Walter had in the courtyard with a horrible shadow. Walter had forgotten about that incident. He couldn’t think straight.
“That is a terrible ordeal,” Odin said. “Fortunately, there is a cure for your symptoms. I have seen most men who have encountered the spooks to go to their imminent deaths. I believe what you encountered was more than a spook. “
“You mean it wasn’t a spook?”
“It certainly was at one time or another,” Odin sipped his tea. “Not much is known about this one you encountered with, but they call it a phantom. They are very rarer and very powerful. I knew of one many, many centuries ago. Have never seen one since. This I do know, the phantom works alone while spooks work in groups, and they are sentinels. They ensnarl you with their black wings, taking whatever energy they can get from their prey, while transforming the preys shadow into a spook. They work in numbers, the more shadows they have the larger they get. In the end, you are left meandering in a sleep-like state until you meet your death. The phantom has a different purpose. It wants something more.”
“What does it want?”
“It wants your very soul.”
“Archibal told me that they can smell my fear.”
“That is true,” Odin took a sip of his tea. “Spooks are made out of shadows and since they are blind they can only smell our fears. In numbers, they trammel a person, but only in numbers. The light in the mountain is what makes them come alive. Spooks can never alter their form. The phantom can take many shapes in its shadowy embodiment. If the sight of a phantom has caused you the same symptoms as what spooks do without taking a hold of you, you can see how powerful the phantom is. In comparison, Spooks are quite harmless.”
Walter didn’t think they were harmless.
“Oh, but they are,” Odin raised his index finger in marvel. “You see, they run away from the sun. They fear it. Any light will temporarily scare them away. I will advise you to carry one whenever you can.”
“Will it scare the phantom also?”
“As long it believes it will harm him. Drink your milk,” Odin prodded. “You will feel better.”
Walter finished the whole buttermilk and started to get light headed. His body felt relaxed and limp. He could see Odin talking but couldn’t quite hear what he was saying. He could barely keep his eyes open. The sleep he had longed for was finally overcoming him. The taxation of the being weary all the time was slowly fading from his body. His mind was no longer fretting, became free from thoughts. He had so much to tell Odin. He needed to tell him he had seen the phantom many times before. That it was following him, watching him. He falls in and out of consciousness. He wants to speak up but he can’t. His body doesn’t respond. With every blink the images before him become hazy. Odin’s form blurs into the background. When he closed his eyes, darkness envelops him. He opened them. He saw the light and then the darkness. The light and the darkness… The light… and the darkness.
Soon after, Walter manifests himself back into his room. The Psychai stayed with Odin. He didn’t blame her, she probably felt safer there than here. Whatever Odin did to him he recovered from the overwhelming exhaustion. He looks out the window where the sun shines upon the sopping land. With a clearer mind he lets it wander in thoughts. He thinks about what Odin told him of the spooks and ponders the conjunction between them and the missing hunters. He couldn’t forget Mr. Cloughs’ friend and Alden’s lost Uncle. Spooks have been around for a long time and the only phantom Odin heard of was centuries ago. Could it possibly be the same phantom? If it was once a spook how did it separate itself from the rest and why? The light in the mountain seem to revive things including these spooks.