New Year’s Eve in Conconully

A short Tale of the Unearthly Northwest

This short story takes place after Sojourn, and before Reunion.

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No good deed goes unpunished.

In a place outside of time, the magic keeping a ghost town alive is beginning to alter. Bringing two newcomers in has caused a
welcome renewal of life here. But every action has a reaction, and the consequences are far beyond what Conconully’s accidental
magician ever expected.

Chapter 1

Amy Melissa Duvall, known to all as Doc Amy, even though she’d been an EMT in her former life, not an MD, glanced around her office with satisfaction. Not that she saw many patients in this room; the good people of Conconully were used to having their doctor come to their homes instead of going to the doctor’s office or the hospital. Given that there was no hospital within reach, temporal or practical, of the town she called home, it was probably just as well. And as an emergency medical technician, she’d been used to going to her patients rather than having them come to her, anyway.

But it was still good to have an office. It was the only part of her life she managed to be orderly in. Heaven only knew her personal life wasn’t. Audrey had long since given up trying to teach Amy cooking on a wood stove and proper nineteenth century housewifery, and after only the one incident Belinda guarded her precious treadle sewing machine from Amy’s touch as if the machine would poison her.

Well, perhaps not poison her. But Amy wouldn’t put it past the monstrosity to run a needle through her finger. And then who would treat the doctor?

Her skills were every bit as valuable as Audrey’s or Belinda’s, though. Or those of young Louisa who, as part of the town’s odd barter system, came to clean and tidy Amy’s house every week. After all, until she’d arrived, Conconully hadn’t had a medical person in – years. For a long time, anyway, even if she’d never figured out quite how to measure time in a place where time didn’t exist.

Until she’d arrived. Amy still couldn’t quite bring herself to think of what had happened to her as being brought here, even though, to the best of her knowledge, it was a more accurate way of stating the sequence of events. She still didn’t know all the details, but seeing it happen to someone else had shown her how it was done, even if how it could be done was still less than clear.

Still, she was here, and she was happy as she knew she hadn’t been in the wide world, and now, with Dan’s arrival, she wasn’t the only one from Outside anymore. She couldn’t have said why that mattered so, but it did.

It didn’t hurt that Dan was handsome and had the best smile on the planet, either. That he had a great sense of humor, which was absolutely essential for anyone living in this crazy place, the skills to fall right into the vital role of sheriff, and the easygoing nature to accept what had happened to him.

Well, now he had that nature. Perhaps because he’d seen what it was like to go back to the wide world and find out he no longer fit there.

Amy herself hadn’t tried that one, and had no desire whatsoever to do so.

No. She belonged here, as she’d belonged nowhere else in her life or her world. She was meant to be here, no matter how she’d arrived.

And it was New Year’s Eve, and she had a party to look forward to. Locking her office door behind her, she turned and jumped back in surprise at the man standing on her porch.

“Are you ever going to quit doing that?” she asked.

Dan grinned. “Don’t see why I should. Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

“Around the corner? I don’t know if I can make it that far by myself.” But she took his arm, knowing he wasn’t here for her safety. Barring a few mostly predictable exceptions, Amy was willing to bet Conconully was the safest place on Earth. He was here, she thought, flattered as she was every time he did something like this, because he wanted to be with her.

It was the one thing she’d regretted when she’d first arrived, and for some time after. She’d thought she’d be forever alone, forever on her own among friends. Then they’d brought Dan to her, and then she’d gone straight from regret to guilt, that they’d jumped in and ruined his life just for her.

But when he came back, on his own, and told her that his life Outside hadn’t been worth living without her –

Well. She smiled up, and up, at six-foot-two-to-her-own-barely-five-feet Dan, who told her, “You can do anything you set your mind to. I’ve seen you do it.” They strolled along in harmony, but when she would have turned in at her own front door, he added, “Max wants to see us,” and kept going, his hand holding hers tucked firmly into his other elbow.

Amy felt her stomach clench. Her hand must have, too, because his expression changed from humor to determination. “What have you done now?” she asked lightly.

“Nothing. And if he–” Dan’s mouth shut with an audible snap.

“If he what, Dan?”

His gaze down at her softened. With an effort, Amy guessed. “He’s Max. He can do anything. Almost anything,” he conceded. “But not everything.”

“You’re making no sense.” But as they came around the corner onto Okanogan Avenue, little Philip Arngrim came tearing towards them from the opposite direction.

“Whoa, Phil!” Dan said, catching the child up in his arms. “Where’re you going in such a hurry?”

The little boy, who was about six and had been ever since Amy’d first met him, was obviously distraught. Amy pulled a handkerchief out of her trouser pocket and reached for his tear-streaked face. “What’s the matter?”

“Grandpa. He had an accident. He’s hurt bad.”

Dan only nodded, although Amy caught her breath. This wasn’t – well, it hadn’t happened before, at least not in her memory. “Where is he, Phil?”

“In the garage.”

Amy looked up at Dan, but his gaze was on the little boy. “I’ll go get my bag.”

But Dan was already striding off, his long legs eating up the ground, Philip in the crook of his arm as if he weighed nothing.

The bag was in its normal spot, on the table just inside her office door. Having an orderly office paid off, even if she had to fight her own untidy nature to keep it that way. She grabbed it, not bothering to relock the door after her, and ran.

She’d gotten to the point over time where she could predict the normal illnesses and accidents that befell the citizens of Conconully, almost as if they were marked on a calendar. She’d even been able to cure some of them with the rudimentary medicines and equipment available to her. Since Dan had arrived, though, things had been changing. She’d been told the changes had actually started with her. She had no idea which ones, or in what way.

But this was different.

The garage was an odd place inside an odd place. Amy wasn’t quite sure how Max managed to cause the affairs that happened in that garage to come to pass. She only knew what did happen there was important, that even Harry the pig’s magic worked more strongly there than it did anywhere else.

And, so far as she knew, old Mr. Arngrim had no business there. Max was very picky about who he allowed into the garage and who he didn’t. Rob, Audrey, and now Dan, and that was it. Even she hadn’t been permitted to enter it, and she wondered if Max would let her inside to treat her patient. Surely he would.

Amy was out of breath by the time she reached the garage. It was at the other end of town, along the road that led through the canyon that was their only connection to the wide world. If one could even call it a connection, given that walking far enough down that road could kill a person. Or so she’d been told.

It hadn’t killed Audrey when she’d gone to fetch Dan…

She knocked on the big tin door, listening to the echoes as they rattled away. “It’s Doc Amy. Let me in.”

No answer. She tried again. “Max? It’s Amy? Are you there?”

Another silence. No, not silence. Some sort of creaking noise, then, off to the side, another door, one she hadn’t noticed, groaned slowly open.

Amy dashed to it, only to find her way blocked by Audrey, who held out both arms. “Wait, child. They’re bringing him out.”

“Should they even be moving him?”

“They had to. Too dangerous for everyone.”

But it was too late to ask why. A makeshift stretcher, a chunk of olive green canvas fastened between and looped around two lengths of two by four, was easing its way through the door. Dan was at one end, and Rob at the other. Max ducked through the door after them and pulled it closed behind him, extremely distressed. “I never thought he would do such a thing,” he said. “I never thought, I didn’t…” His words trailed off as he caught sight of her. “Do something, Dr. Duvall. Please.” It was the first time she’d seen him genuinely anguished.

But she was already there, staring at the blood, and the damage. “What happened?”

* * *

She’d seen worse accidents, Amy thought, back in the real world. Car wrecks and mill accidents and that sort of thing. But not without access to real care, not without expectation of a helicopter on its way to carry the victim off to Harborview Hospital and its level one trauma center in Seattle. All she had here was herself, what she’d been able to reinvent and build, distill and brew. What she’d been able to cobble together on her own.

This was beyond anything she could do, and she knew it.

But people don’t die here, she thought desperately. Not like this. Not even before Dan had stepped in and dealt with the rabid wolf once and for all had anyone died, exactly, even though they’d been just as gone as if they had. In all the time she’d been in Conconully, the closest anyone had come to real death was when Daniel first arrived in his totaled cruiser, his head injury serious enough that Amy had worried he’d never wake up.

Still. “Set him down. You shouldn’t have moved him.”

“We didn’t have a choice, honey.”

She didn’t have a split second to spare for that inane remark. Dan had been a state trooper out in the real world. He’d seen accidents. He knew better.

Her patient was breathing, fast, shocky and shallow, but breathing. She had to stop the blood, somehow. She reached for her bag, for the pressure bandages some of the ladies sewed for her, to find one shoved into her hand. Peeling the blood-soaked edges of Mr. Arngrim’s shirt out of the way, she placed the bandage and pressed it firmly to the wound, holding the ragged edges of his skin together.

“Here, let me do that.” Dan’s big hand came down gently next to hers.

“Thanks.”

Mr. Arngrim moaned. Well, at least he could moan. Amy started at the top and worked her way down, searching for more injuries. Found nothing, but then anything else would have been redundant.

“All right. We need to get him to my office. I’ll take the pressure – my God.”

The bandage was soaked already, and more was oozing out from under it. She added another bandage on top of the first, and Dan moved his hand to accommodate it. “What did you do?”

Dan just looked at her helplessly. She didn’t have a split second to convey the fear she was feeling, but she knew he understood. It was one of the reasons she loved him, most of the time.

“We have to get him to my office. I can’t do anything about this here.” She couldn’t do anything at all, but she didn’t want this lovely old man to die in the dirt.

“Grandpa!”

“Get that child out of here!” The boy’s cries dropped out of her consciousness as she added her hands to Dan’s to slow the bleeding. A third pressure bandage. A third. Such a small wound to bleed so much. “All right. Let go, Dan. I’ll do this. You take the stretcher.” Then, as Dan and Rob lifted Mr. Arngrim up again, “Not so high, fellows.” She didn’t add, I need to be able to reach. It was understood.

Now available
For the Kindle from Amazon
In paperback from Amazon
As an ebook in many formats from Smashwords
From Kobo
From iTunes
For the Nook from Barnes and Noble
In paperback from Barnes and Noble
In paperback from CreateSpace