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Speak of the Dead (Gen - Horror Stories Fic)

Title: Speak of the Dead
Characters: Walt, Claire, Aaron, Locke, Eko, Hurley
Rating: PG-13
Summary: After the island, someone is stalking the survivors of Flight 815
Note: Written for Lost Horror Stories. Thanks to eponine119 for the beta!
Warning: Character deaths.



Locke was the one who called Claire, broke the news that Michael was dead. He didn’t say exactly how, but he told her he’d decided to take Walt in.

“Foster care is no place for a child who’s already been through so much,” he said firmly, old resentments radiating over the phone, and Claire murmured her agreement. “If you need anything...” she offered. “You always helped me so much with Aaron.”

Her son looked up from his scattered toy soldiers when he heard his name. Now six years old, he was still recognizable as the tow-headed baby whom everyone had doted on on the island.

When Aaron saw that she wasn’t calling him, he turned his attention back to the plastic green men, waging them against each other in an age-old game that no boy ever needed to be taught. She watched him fondly, half-listening to Locke, who was insisting that he was perfectly capable of taking care of Walt, even if he was once again confined to a wheelchair.

“You’re right, Walt’s a teenager,” Claire said reassuringly. “He’ll just need a place to stay. It’s not like he’s an infant. And even then, I’m sure you’d be fine!”

He laughed softly, knowing she was exaggerating to make him feel better. No one had seen him much since their rescue. The survivors stayed in fitful contact, the same as any group of people who no longer have the thing that bonded them in common. The news had to be big to be passed on: Births, deaths, marriage, illness.

No one had heard a thing this whole time about Michael and Walt. It was like they’d never existed.

After Locke hung up, Claire turned on the news and there was the story: a Michael “Jones” had been bludgeoned to death by an intruder, probably by someone who had no idea who Michael was or what he’d done. Here was a whole island full of people who might want him dead, but Claire didn’t, for a second, think it might have been one of them. She briefly considered how it would be different if Michael had been shot... before dismissing the idea entirely.

No, it was a random crime. Michael was just unlucky. Fate, in its own way, had finally caught up with him. She couldn’t, in her heart of hearts, feel sorry for him, but she could feel sorry for Walt. She got down on the floor next to Aaron, scooping him up in her arms and disrupting his game over his protests. She hugged him against her and made a silent wish that Walt would know no more suffering, that he’d be happy with Locke.

After kissing the top of Aaron’s head, she let him return to his toy soldiers and set to making dinner. As she broke apart spaghetti and dropped it into the boiling water, she wondered how the others were reacting to the news. At times like this, she wanted to see them all, but not all of them wanted to be seen. They’d been such a huge part of her life and now they were scattered all over the globe. It didn’t feel right.

At least Walt will be with someone who feels like family, she thought, and the thought comforted her.

Out of habit, she fingered the ring she wore on a chain she wore around her neck, the one Charlie had left Aaron. She’d give it to him when he was old enough, but for now, it made her feel better to touch it whenever she was troubled. Or when her thoughts turned towards the island, which was more than she liked.

She called Aaron to let him know dinner was ready. She didn’t have much of an appetite, herself.

----

About a week later, John invited her and Aaron over. She hadn’t seen his house before and marveled at how everything had been customized to his needs, from the spacious elevator that easily accommodated his wheelchair to the cabinets in the kitchen, which were all low enough for him to reach.

“That money bought me everything but new legs,” John said with a chuckle, but Claire knew he’d been miserable since leaving the island. Having Walt here might be doing more good for John than it was for Walt.

Walt had never been a talkative child. The only child among so many adults, he’d always had to be older than his years. And now, with the death of his father -- Claire knew she should think of it as “tragic,” but she just couldn’t -- there was a palpable melancholy about him.

She gave him a long hug that clearly embarrassed him. Aaron hid behind Claire’s legs, for some reason, he was more than usually shy, but Walt didn’t seem to take offense. He just shrugged and sat down on the couch, eyes reverting to the movie playing on the big screen TV.

Refusing all help, John wheeled in with a tray full of dishes of ice cream. He made a point of serving them all, bustling about purposefully. If anyone could bustle in a wheelchair, it was John.

Aaron had always been fond of John and he ate his ice cream on John’s lap, nestling against him contentedly as he messily spooned the dessert into his mouth. If Walt was withdrawn, Claire couldn’t blame him. He’d come out of his shell in time, she was sure.
Even though the occasion was far from a happy one, it almost felt like a family reunion. These people, they’re my family. It was a shame when they had to leave.

Walt hung back as she hugged John goodbye. His watchful, unblinking eyes stayed with her as the door swung shut behind them.

-----------

It was maybe two weeks later when she got a call from John. At least, that’s what the caller ID said, but it wasn’t John on the phone. “Claire Littleton?”

”Yes, who is this?”

“This is Officer Mike Crowe. John Locke had your name down as an emergency contact.”

Panic rose in her throat. “What’s happened? Is he okay?”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, ma’am, but Mr. Locke is dead.’

Her hand flew to her mouth. “Dead? Oh my God! What happened?”

“He had a bad fall. The elevator shaft was open, some sort of glitch, it seems. There’s a teenage boy, says he was living here...” the officer sounded doubtful. “He’s in custody.”

“Oh no, that’s just Walt. He and John’s father were friends. His father just recently died. John’s looking after him. He is ... was... like another father to him.”

”His father died? When was that?”

“About a month ago. He was, um, attacked. They didn’t find the person who did it.”

”Mmm hmm.” She could hear the scratching of a pencil on paper as the officer was no doubt jotting down that disturbing fact. “Thank you, ma’am, you’ve been very helpful.”

“But can I see him? Walt?”

“Ma’am, he’s a material witness in two suspicious deaths.”

“He’s an innocent child!” She found herself yelling into the phone. She realized she was getting nowhere and hung up and called Hurley

A top-rate lawyer was hired within the hour and he got Walt out of jail that very evening.

The forensics weren’t the least bit incriminating and Walt’s only crime appeared to be having the bad luck to be on site for both deaths. Walt would never be officially charged with anything, he assured them.

Walt was the one to hug her when he was released into her care. He held on tight, as if he hadn’t expected to see her again. He looked somewhat thinner but much the same. He didn’t break down and he didn’t cry. She was too used to Aaron, for whom every emotion played out on a grand scale. Walt was shut down, possibly still in shock, she thought, as she drove them back to her house.

She had left Aaron with a neighbor, as a jail was no place for a small child, and he came bounding out into the yard and up the driveway when Claire opened the electronic gate. “Mummy!” he shouted excitedly as she parked and waved to him. He drew back when he saw Walt get out of the car.

“Now, Aaron,” she said gently. “Remember, I told you Walt is going to stay with us for a while. He needs a place to live and since we’re his friends...”

Aaron hung back, hiding behind Claire’s legs. He just stared at Walt with enormous eyes, the way he would stare at a large dog that scared him.

“Walt’s our friend,” she said, with inward sigh. This was going to be an adjustment.

She didn’t know how much. Aaron wasn’t used to sharing his mum with anyone else and while he was outgoing and curious about all of Claire’s other friends, he stayed clear of Walt.

Fortunately, the house was big enough for them all. Walt got his own bedroom, which Hurley had outfitted with an xBox and large-screen TV and his own computer and even his own bathroom. Walt spent a lot of time in his room, which Claire thought was only normal for a teenager. She remembered being a teenager, she’d dyed her hair black and been sullen and moody for a solid two years. And that was without enduring a plane crash, a kidnapping and two back-to-back tragedies. She decided she’d let Walt be. She didn’t pry when she heard him talking to himself, trying out his new, deeper voice in the bathroom mirror. Kids needed their privacy.

After about a month, she felt Walt was finally settling in. He came out of his room and started watching TV with her and Aaron, even enduring some of the kiddie shows for the sake of their company. She started to feel like they were a real family, with Aaron curled up on one side of her on the couch and Walt, creeping ever closer, on her other.

Walt laid his head on her shoulder, just once, and then Aaron had actually shoved him away and ever since then, Claire had been unable to make peace between them. They seemed to fight over every little thing and she started to think she’d made a mistake.

It was a relief when Walt would come out and watch TV only after she’d put Aaron to bed. It was one way to buy peace, she decided. Possibly the only way.

One night, Walt turned on a James Bond film on HBO. “I can watch this, right?” he said defensively and she nodded.

“Of course.”

They watched in silence, until a scene where Pierce Brosnan began shooting up a warehouse full of bad guys, a satisfied grin on his face as his bullets hit home.

“Those people deserve to die, right? So it’s okay for him to kill them?” Walt suddenly asked, turning to look at her with all the seriousness only a child can muster. “It’s a bad thing, but he’s not a bad person, is he?”

“Oh...” Claire searched for words. “Is this about your father, honey?”

Walt didn’t acknowledge the question. He turned his attention back to the screen, but after another moment, he spoke up again. “He did bad things. Before the island, he was a good person. And then he did those bad things.”

”Yes, he did. But he thought he had a good reason, he was trying to do something good by saving you...” Claire said, unable to believe she was defending Michael to his son. But one doesn’t speak ill of the dead, she had been taught. And if this was the only way for Walt to be at peace about his father, she would do everything she could to help him.

“Locke did bad things on the island too,” Walt said. His voice was matter-of-fact, as if he were discussing a movie he'd seen. “His Dad was mean to him. Maybe that's why he did mean things too, like to Boone.”

Claire blinked. The conversation had taken such an odd turn. “Everyone makes mistakes, Walt. And everyone has moments of weakness. We should try to remember the best about those who are gone.”

”Like Mr. Eko,” Walt nodded. “Everyone thinks he was so nice. But he did a lot of bad things before the island. He was a bad man. And then he became a good man.”

”Well, Walt, I don’t know, I suppose everyone...”

”He told me,” he said confidently. “The island wanted him to apologize for the bad things he’d done but he wouldn’t do it. And so it killed him.”

“Walt,” Claire touched his shoulder so he would look at her. “We don’t know exactly how he died... what is this really about?”

The boy shrugged. “Sometimes people do bad things and no one knows about it. But He knows.”

”You mean God?”

A high-pitched cry of terror sounded close by and for a split-second, Claire thought Walt had screamed without moving his mouth. “Aaron!” she yelled, jumping up from the couch. Her son was screaming for her.

He was cowering by the wall, sheets over his head. It would be comical if he weren’t so terrified he was shaking.

“A man! A big black man was here!” he sobbed. “He was in my bedroom.”

”Hush, honey, Mummy’s here, you’re safe.” She cradled him in her arms, rocking him until his crying subsided to hiccups. “You had a nightmare,” she said. The room was on the second floor and the window was closed. No one could have gotten in, she was sure. She’d been so jumpy since her own abduction that she had insisted on a top-of-the-line security system. It had also come in handy for the random looky-loos curious about the survivors of Flight 815.

“We’re safe,” she said again but he shook his head firmly.

“No, Mummy. The man asked me if I was bad. He said he’d come for me, if I was.”

”Oh, Aaron, hon, you’re not bad. It was a bad dream.”

”He had a big stick. There were all these people’s names carved on it. And it was bloody. Mummy, don’t let him get me!”

Claire shivered. Aaron’s boogie man sounded exactly like Mr. Eko and the club he carried on the island. “That sounds a little like someone Mummy used to know,” she said carefully. “But he was a friend of ours. He would never hurt you or me. He baptized us, even. So you see, he can’t hurt you. You must have heard Mummy talking about him ...”

Aaron’s eye widened with alarm and he buried his head in her bosom. She looked up, jumping herself when she saw a dark shadow in the doorway. But it was just Walt. The light fell on his face as he took a step inward. “Hey, everything okay?” He looked around the room, as if he were looking for the reason for Aaron’s screams.

“It’s just Walt, honey,” she said softly to her son. “He won’t hurt you.” To Walt, she whispered. “Just a nightmare. I think he heard us talking and one thing led to another...”

Walt nodded, but his eyes lingered in the corners of the room. “Why don’t you go to bed, hon?” she said to Walt. “I’m going to stay here with Aaron.”

“Sure,” Walt said. He seemed even more somber than usual. Perhaps he’d heard Aaron talk about a “big black man” and thought Aaron was scared of him. She was not raising a racist, she sighed. Aaron was jealous of Walt, it was true, and Walt hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to be pleasant.

Maybe, she thought, this just wasn’t working out. Maybe it was time for Walt to stay with someone else. There was a bad atmosphere in the house, one all her mothering couldn’t dispel.

It was after midnight before Aaron finally fell asleep and she thought it was safe to tiptoe from his bedroom. She couldn’t find a flashlight, so she took a candle and crept around the house, checking all the corners. She felt foolish, but Aaron’s terror had been so real. And there was something in Walt’s glance around the room, a kind of sureness that there was something there, that unnerved her.

She felt there was something here only the children could feel, but she herself was immune to. She tried to imagine how scary Eko would be if he appeared, suddenly, in one’s bedroom in the middle of the night. She knew him as a gentle soul, but he was an incredibly intimidating man. She wondered how Aaron had happened to conjure up a boogieman so much like him, but it was maybe only her imagination that filled in the details so that it was Eko.

She didn’t recall ever telling Aaron about him, but maybe, on some deep, instinctive level, Aaron remembered him, so that just the mention of his name brought him forth, fully formed, in Aaron’s mind, only now as a figure of fear.

Satisfied at last that it was only the three of them in the house, she retired to her own bedroom. She didn’t turn on the light, still not wanting to wake Aaron, so she just put the candle on the counter. She washed her face and started doing up her hair. She’d just creep back into bed with Aaron. It was probably the only way she’d get to sleep tonight.

She glanced at her own reflection in the mirror. Her eyes seemed to not be her own, an unsettling thought that always occurred to her, ever since she was a girl. She used to think it was another her in the mirror, a shadow of herself, not entirely human.

Claire shivered again. She was spooking herself now. “Oh, Eko,” she sighed into the mirror. She wished he were here. She missed so many of them, missed Charlie’s warm laugh and Boone’s bright smile, but tonight, she mostly missed Eko’s gentle guidance. What a wonderful substitute father he’d have made for Walt, she thought, whatever his imagined past crimes were. “Eko, Eko,” she said again. It was such an unusual name, itself an echo.

Scarcely had she spoken his name for the third time when the candle blew out.

“Who’s there?” she demanded, reaching frantically for the light switch.

“It is I,” came the answer. She knew that deep, booming voice, that distinctive African accent.

Eko?” She was rooted to the spot. She was dreaming. She was hallucinating. She had to be.

“Yes, Claire. You called me and here I am. Has someone done wrong?”

”What...?” she asked weakly, unable to process that she was having a conversation with a dead man.

“I know the one who has done wrong,” Eko continued. His voice changed slightly, as if he had turned away from her. The door to the bathroom opened and she saw him at last, his massive shoulders nearly filling the door frame as he walked calmly through it.

“No!” she shrieked, running after him, certain he was going to go after Aaron. “You can’t hurt him. Eko, you baptized him!”

”No, he is not the one,” Eko said smoothly, not stopping in his slow, steady stride up the darkened hallway.

He halted outside Walt’s room.

“Walt?” She whispered and it was like she had known along. “His own father? And John?”

”He called me. And they had done wrong. I had no choice. But tonight he called me for Aaron.”

Claire’s voice was just a squeak. “You... killed them?”

”Go with God, Claire,” Eko said. In the tiny glimmer of light, she saw the fixed intensity of his eyes, saw him tighten his grip on his club, a club that she only now saw dripped blood.

She should bar him from Walt’s room. She should beg him not to do it, but Claire found her feet running the other way. She ran to Aaron’s room and picked him up, carrying him in sleepy confusion all the way down the stairs and outside.The screams coming from Walt’s room were terrible, even from the front lawn. Claire found herself screaming too.

She ran down the driveway, to her neighbor’s, shouting for help.

When the police came, she had the presence of mind to tell them she’d awoken to find a tall, black man in her house, that she’d rushed to save her son, that she’d had no time to go back for Walt.

The officer nodded as he took notes. In her fog of terror and guilt, she had no idea if any of them believed her. Walt’s bloody death was chalked up to the same maniac who’d killed his father and, possibly, John. Extra security was ordered for the rest of the survivors from the island, but Claire knew it was pointless.

No one else would ever summon Eko, she knew, certainly not her.

---

Two weeks later

The funeral for Walt had been well attended by all of the survivors, but Claire felt like a hypocrite. He’d been young, misguided, abused. He didn’t deserve to die. She hugged everyone, taking solace from none.

Only Hurley seemed to sense that more was wrong than just Walt’s dying.

“You and Aaron can move in with me,” he told her, smothering her tiny hand between his two great ones. Aaron was off with Sun and Jin, laughing delightedly at Jin’s funny faces. Aaron would be fine, she was relieved to see. He’d be just fine.

She was grateful to Hurley for the offer. “I never want to go back in that house,” she said bitterly.

“A lot of bad luck...” he said slowly and she looked at him curiously. “It’s like everyone from the island has been cursed.”

”You could call it a curse,” she said, suddenly seized with the need to tell him the truth. In low whispers, she told him about the ghost of Eko and how, it seemed, Walt had sicced him on the men who had failed him, first his father, and then, for some unknown reason, Locke.

Hurley listened to her whole story without interrupting and when she was done, he nodded. “Right, you’re definitely coming to live with me. That’s just plain creepy. I mean, he was kind of a scary dude, but I do have to think he’d never hurt you. Or Aaron.”

”I don’t think he would have, either,” she said. “Am I crazy?”

”You’re asking me?” Hurley laughed. “I was in a nuthouse, remember? Look, what do I know? Nothing that’s happened to us should have ever happened, right? But it did anyway.”

She nodded, staring back at Aaron. “How can we ever feel safe?” she asked.

“See, I kinda think you got yourself a guardian angel there. If you need one. And I think I have just the thing...”

He smiled mysteriously and it wasn’t until she and Aaron were safely ensconced in the south wing of his mansion that she saw his gift. There, on the bathroom counter was one of those religious candles like you find in grocery stores or botanicas. Instead of the image of Jesus or the Virgin on the paper wrapped around the candle, there was the face of a saint she didn’t know. She examined it carefully, finding Hurley smiling behind her.

“I didn’t know there were black saints,” she confessed, holding it up with an amused tilt of her head.

“Yep,” Hurley grinned, crossing his arms. “Figure ol’ Eko would approve.”

”Are you mad? Don’t say his name around mirrors!” Claire scolded.

Hurley held up his hands. “Hey, it’s cool. Don’t worry.”

He waited until Claire had left the room, shaking her head, before whispering, once more, Eko. He winked at the mirror. There was no way he was going to say it a third time. Besides, he had a jungle gym to build.

Loosely inspired by Candyman.
Tags: lost_fic
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