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Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.” And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” - Jeremiah 1:11-12, NLT

It was a joke. His father didn’t expect anyone to actually take his suggestion seriously. But his mother held his quivering naked body to her breast, stared into his half-open eyes and smiled, nodding her head. “Jeremiah. That name suits this boy just fine.” 


 

The problem with a name like Jeremiah was you got exactly what you paid for. It wasn’t a name like Angel; an aunt of his who’d made her home in Salem had named her daughter Angel like a fool. That girl went so dark so quick there hadn’t been enough binding spells in the world to control her power. With an Angel you were practically guaranteed to the get the opposite of what you’d bargained for.

The similarities between Jeremiah Mills and his biblical namesake were laughable if you didn’t believe in something as superstitious as the power of names. He was six years old the first time a rush of wind blew the covers off his bed, interrupting his sleep. He wandered over to close the window in a groggy haze, only to discover that it wasn’t open. He shivered and wrapped his skinny arms around his middle. ‘I’m dreaming,’ he thought. He let himself believe the lie as he crawled back into bed. Pulling the blanket up to his chin, Jeremiah squeezed his eyes shut as he trembled. “Please,” he whispered. “I’m not ready.”

Things were strangely quiet after that night. He didn’t tell his mama and daddy about the wind that could rush through walls of plaster and wood, but still they watched him closely. He caught them whispering, heads close together, mama wrinkling her brow, daddy twisting one hand in the other over and over again, more times than he could count. Every time they noticed him, they’d stop their secret-telling and plaster smiles on their faces as fake and shiny as the ones on the cover of mama’s Ebony magazine.

They were working an almond farm when it happened again. He’d been hiding from Mary Jean, the eleven-year-old girl so yellow the California sun burned her nose beet red. She’d been trying to kiss him and at nine and a half, Jeremiah would have rather kissed Mr. Uhle’s mangy hound dog. He’d climbed to the very top of one of the trees that the pickers hadn’t yet stripped. He balanced himself on what he hoped was a sturdy branch and smashed almond shells under the heel of his palm, picking out the meat and shoving the broken shells in the pockets of his overalls. Jeremiah wasn’t sure what would get him in more trouble: hiding, climbing, or eating. Since he was still small for his age, and mama and daddy’s only, he knew if he was caught he could turn on the water works and he’d probably escape a licking, but he’d still have to shine daddy’s boots for a week or help mama with the washing. He swung his feet back and forth, chewing on nuts, squinting into the bright horizon. “Jeremiah! Jeremiah, if you don’t come out, I’m telling your mama on you!” He rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue at the top of Mary Jean’s head. She was right under his perch. If he were a naughtier boy, he could spit on her. He covered his mouth and laughed silently at the thought. And then the wind picked up.

If he hadn’t held on, he’d been blown right out of the tree, smashed to bits on the ground below. One arm wrapped around a thicker branch, he peered down to see if the migrant farmers had been so affected by the sudden change in weather. No, they all kept picking and tossing. No one chased after a sunbonnet. Mary Jean’s thick, copper-colored braids hung over her ears without moving; her green skirt stayed down around her knees. Jeremiah had all but forgotten about the first time. It had been almost four years ago. He reached for another nut when the wind whipped around him, blurring his vision, and the voice began.

“Jeremiah.”

It wasn’t Mary Jean. The voice was too rich, too deep, and too ancient to be hers.

“Jeremiah.”

His arm slipped from around the branch he’d been holding. It was as if the wind was trying to throw him out of the tree.

“Jeremiah.”

The next thing he knew, he was floating on his back, his face turned up towards the sun. He wanted to squeeze his eyes shut. He wanted to whisper “Not yet, please,” but his mouth and his eyes were stilled by an unseen hand. He felt as if he were swimming in the molasses mama put on his biscuits every morning, an attempt to fatten him up. The sky was so bright and so beautiful he tried to reach out towards it, but that invisible force held him still.

“Jeremiah, I knew you before the beginning,” the voice bellowed. “Jeremiah, I have chosen you.”

And suddenly, the heavenly voice was replaced by visions, great and terrible. He saw the beginning of things and the end. He saw a man he knew to be himself wander the earth far and wide, alone. He saw the seven years of tribulation he’d heard mama and daddy’s bible study whisper about, the fear in their voices betraying them. He watched as the fire and the blood rained from the sky, the death and destruction. He saw a woman with hair like the flames, like the blood, and the false power she claimed as her own. He saw a young boy and an old man clawing at the dirt, screaming toward the heavens. He saw men rise from their graves like Lazarus. He saw two women fight with sword and shield and pistol and he knew them like he knew himself. He saw a woman with hair like a dark cloud and she offered him her hand, her eyes bright and smiling, and finally he could move his own. He reached out to her. Their fingers interlocked, her voice said “Jeremiah,” and he saw no more.

“Oh, God, Jesus, Lord, please!” That was mama’s voice. She was crying. ‘It’s okay, mama. I’m here,’ he thought, his eyes closed.

“Give him room! Give the boy some room! Where’s that damn doctor?” Mr. Uhle, always cussing. Mama would scold him about that later.

“He doesn’t need a doctor. Sarah, you know what to do. Pull yourself together, now.” Daddy. He sounded so serious. ‘Daddy, I’ll tell you a knock-knock joke, just as soon as I can open my eyes.’

Jeremiah knew he was surrounded by mama and daddy, grumpy Mr. Uhle, Mary Jean and her mama, faces he recognized but couldn’t name that always seemed to be at every farm they worked. They started out soft and low, chanting or humming or singing in a language he’d never heard before, but he understood every word. He felt the power of their voices rumble throughout his body. He felt like he did when the woman with a storm cloud of hair held his hand. But then the rumbling started to lose its power.

“Let me go, let me be. I’ve never been one for this mess, goddammit! My mama might have had the power, but I don’t, and I don’t want nothing to do with it!” Mr. Uhle, as ornery as a mule. Mama said it wasn’t nice to talk about his elders that way, that she’d spank him if she caught him saying it again, but her eyes shone when she said it. She knew it was true.

“Ezra Uhle, you and I both know that you have no trouble using your power at the races or to keep that flea-bitten dog of yours alive, so you better grab my hand and help us wake my boy, or I will cast upon you a curse that will cause everything you touch, everything you love, from this day forth, to shrivel and die if you so much as think about it.” Jeremiah had never heard daddy sound so mad before. He wondered if daddy would whoop Uhle the Mule later. He wanted to be awake to see that.

The rumbling returned, burning through his fingers and toes. The voices of his parents and Mary Jean and his extended family, and even mean old Mr. Uhle, rose and swelled and made a noise so beautiful he finally understood what a heavenly host of angels must sound like.

Jeremiah sat up, his eyes open wide, panting for breath. Mama flung herself at his feet and squeezed him so tight he started to cough. Daddy wept so hard and so loud he’d have to tell him eight or nine knock-knock jokes to make him feel better. When they finally gave him a moment, he reached his hand out towards his father and pulled him to the ground. With his mama and daddy’s arms around him, he took a deep breath and said in a voice that sounded much older than his nine and a half years, “I know who I am.”


 

“Just who do you think you are, Jeremiah Mills?” Lori Roberts cut her eyes at him, her hands on her round hips, her halo of hair as dark as a storm cloud. For a little thing hardly over five feet, she sure was tough.

“I’m whatever you want me to be, baby.” He winked at her and she rolled her eyes. He’d been chasing after Lori Roberts since he’d moved with his parents to Sleepy Hollow to work the cabbage and corn farms. It’d been the longest they’d ever stayed anywhere besides California and that made him glad, especially because of how he felt about this spitfire of a woman.

“Jeremiah, help me with this sweet corn,” his mother interrupted. Lori waved hello to Sarah Mills and whispered goodbye to him as she headed off to her job at the town’s only diner worth a damn. Good food, cute waitresses. He watched her walk away with a sigh before turning to lift one of the pallets his mother pointed to.

“Ma, I noticed something.” He fished a cigarette out of his fresh pack of Newports. His mother frowned. “Son, I wish you would give that up.” He nodded at her as he lit up and took a drag, turning away from her before he exhaled.

“I noticed that whenever I’m talking to Lori, poof! You suddenly appear out of nowhere. Almost like magic.” Jeremiah cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. Sarah blustered and stammered a bit before going quiet.

“I- I guess a mother is never quite ready to admit that her son holds another woman close to his heart,” she said, busying herself with arranging a basket of corn at their stall in the farmer’s market.

“Ma. Mama. You weren’t as jittery as you are around Lori Roberts when you and daddy saw me off to ‘Nam.” The fact that he mentioned the war at all was a sign he meant business. He never talked about what happened during his one tour of duty, though he didn’t have to with his parents. They’d seen it all.

“Jeremiah, you know as well as I do that is because I knew how things would end in that godforsaken jungle they sent you boys off to. I knew you’d hold your own and do what you could to make things right. I saw what would happen. But when it comes to Lori, I can’t see anything clearly. It’s dark and hazy and that makes me worry.” Sarah reached out toward her son, caressing his face before plucking out his cigarette, making it disappear with a twirl of her fingers.

“I told you and daddy that she was in the vision I had when I got my calling. You both knew what it meant. You told me what it meant. And now because things ain’t crystal clear, all of a sudden it’s a problem?” He lifted another pallet and dropped it on their table with more force than necessary. A leg cracked and bent to one side; he quickly looked around him before ducking down and righting the table leg with just a touch of his hand.

“I know, son, I know. But something is coming. I can feel it.” She wrapped her arms around herself and turned her gaze somewhere beyond the clouds that started to darken the sky. “And I know it involves you two somehow. Your daddy knew it too. He died trying to find out.”

Jeremiah slapped the table with his hand, his mother jumping at the sound. “Daddy died from complications after he broke his hip. Not everything is-” he stopped, offering the stranger that poked through the corn a strained smile. As they moved on towards the heirloom tomatoes, he leaned in close to whisper in his mother’s ear. “Not everything has to do with magic and the bible and the goddamn apocalypse!”

A bolt of lightning lit up the sky, thunder rolled over their heads. He glanced up; the sky was dark, but dry. He chuckled. “Okay, daddy. Relax. I hear you loud and clear.”

Sarah put her hand on his arm, her tight grip belying her age. “I just want you to be careful and be aware. Sometimes visions and prophecies change. Sometimes we need to take heed when even we can’t see clearly what’s to come.”

Jeremiah stared into his mother’s eyes before leaning in to kiss her cheek. “I know, mama. I know.”

Sarah never really forgave him for running off three months later to marry Lori at Niagara Falls. 


 

“How does Gracie spell her name?”

“G-R-A-C-E!”

“And how does Jenny spell her name?”

“G-R-A-C-E!”

Jeremiah bounced his girls, one on each knee, tickling them as they squealed with delight. Lori smiled over at them, peeling carrots for their dinner. “Baby, this trash bag’s getting full. Take it out for me, would you?”

“How much you gonna give me if I do?”

Lori rolled her eyes. “I can spare one kiss, maybe two.” He put the girls down and sauntered over to his wife. Jeremiah wrapped his arms around her waist and tipped her backwards, kissing her deeply.

Grace clapped her hands as they came up for air. “Again, again!” screeched the four-year-old. Jenny took out her binky and mimicked her sister. “‘Gan, ‘gan!”

Lori playfully pushed at his chest. “You come back from taking out that trash, and we’ll see about you getting your second one.” Jeremiah tied up the bag and slung it over his shoulder as he made his way out of the kitchen’s back door. “And don’t smoke!” he heard his wife call before he closed the door.

He made sure the lid was on tight. The raccoons had been eager to rummage as the weather grew colder. He sat on the step leading up to the house and fished out a cigarette. “Sorry, baby. Just the one.” The night was cool and clear. Jeremiah closed his eyes and slowly inhaled, the smoke filling his lungs with warmth. “Mama, daddy. Wish you could have met the babies. They’re so beautiful. I don’t think they’re like us, though. Might be better that way, right? Daddy, you would have loved Lori. Her people understood. They were watchers. Things have been quiet; she won’t have to worry herself with that, but it makes me proud knowing she has a power of her own.”

Jeremiah let his head fall between his knees. He knew his parents weren’t really gone, but he missed them. He missed connecting with people who knew what he was capable of, who were capable of strange and wonderful things too. Uhle the Mule was long dead. Mary Jean was in Ethiopia or Israel or Haiti, searching for and studying the hidden messages within tombs and relics and tomes in order to learn more about their people. The rest of his extended family had moved away or moved on or had forgotten the old ways. What reason was there to remember? Things were so quiet.

“Excuse me, friend!”

Jeremiah lifted his head. He hadn’t heard anyone come up the walk. “Can I help you?” he asked the man.

“Why yes, friend! I seem to have lost my way. I need driving directions.” Jeremiah eyed the man. His smile was forced. His voice sounded as if it didn’t belong to him. His skin was so pale, he practically shone against the darkness.

“Oh yeah? Where you tryin’ to go?”

“I am trying to find St. Henry’s parish. I hear it is a beautiful church.” The man took a few steps closer to the house. His smile stretched his mouth wide, baring his teeth.

“You want to go to a church at this time of night? And that church hasn’t been called St. Henry’s for years.” Jeremiah stared at him before continuing. He flicked an ash in the man’s direction. The ember turned black and continued to burn, black smoke rising from it instead of white, as it landed at the man’s feet. “Not to mention, you don’t seem to have a car with you, considering you need driving directions and all.”

The man stepped closer, laughing now. “I had heard the prophet Jeremiah lived. That he lived in this place that borders The World Between Worlds. That I would find him even though he would try to hide himself amongst the stench of mortal men. But I told my master that I would know him, for I met him once before, that I looked upon him as he wept while I devoured the very bodies of his fellow warriors in the jungle.”

Jeremiah stayed seated, nothing betraying his calm exterior except for the pounding of his heart. “Who sent you?” he whispered, taking one last drag of his cigarette before extinguishing it under his heel.

“My master would not show himself now. My master has such plans for this world of mortal men. My master will tear the flesh from the bones of the living and the dead will inherit the earth. My master will cleanse the land with fire and with blood-”

Jeremiah looked the man in the eyes. For the first time, he noticed they were covered in a milky white film. He reached a hand out towards him. “Reveal your true nature.” He hoped the thing didn’t notice his hand tremble.

Its scream echoed throughout the quiet streets as its human visage fell away. If anyone asked about the noise, he’d blame the raccoons.


 

“Baby, listen to me. They’re not gonna stop. They won’t stop if I’m still here. I have to leave to save you!” His hands shook as he held his wife’s face. Blue and red lights flashed outside their window, the static of the officer’s radios buzzed in the background.

“What if we move? We leave Sleepy Hollow, we go somewhere far away. You used to live in California! We’ll go to California!” Lori held on to his shoulders, her nails digging into his skin through his shirt. Jeremiah shook his head slowly. “Baby, tell me we can go to California,” Lori whispered.

“I can’t go anywhere with you and the girls. Anywhere! If these- these things know I’m with you, they’ll think I’m preparing you, preparing the girls. Lori, they won’t stop. I want you all to have a normal life-”

“How normal is our life gonna be without you, Jeremiah?” Lori was shrieking now. The girls were wrapped in blankets on the couch. Jenny slept through the madness, her head on her sister’s shoulder. That girl could sleep through anything. Grace stared up at them, her knees pulled to her chest, her enormous eyes boring holes through his heart.

“Daddy? Daddy, please don’t go. I’ll be a good girl; I’ll always eat my vegetables. I won’t pull Jenny’s hair even when she’s been really annoying. Just don’t leave me, please.” Grace’s lip trembled and tears spilled from her eyes. Jeremiah fell to his knees in front of his little girl and pulled her into his arms, squeezing her so tight that she started to cough.

They had come for his children. This time, they sent a human representative. Human bodies were harder to hide, harder to explain away. Jeremiah had not had to kill a human before, not even in Vietnam. So many of the men that had stalked them in the jungle hadn’t been men at all.

He tried to reason with the man. Spoke to him of his future, how grim it appeared if he continued to serve death and destruction. He told him that there is always another way, that he was not too far gone to be redeemed. The man laughed, the eight arrow points branded into his neck shaking as he mocked Jeremiah and his earnestness, his belief, his faith.

“Your children will know nothing but death. One will wander the earth, her mind and soul tormented by my master’s minions. The other will witness the reign of the Great King of Hell, the gatekeeper of The World Between Worlds, and he shall devour her, body and soul-”

The man’s spine was turned to ash by a spell he’d used in the war and hoped to never use again.

“Jeremiah, say your goodbyes, we’ve got to get you out of here.” The officer remained stern despite being faced with the weeping family.

“Dammit, Reyes, give me another minute!” Jeremiah held Grace’s face in his hands and kissed her forehead. “Gracie, daddy loves you. I will always love you. Go to sleep now, baby. You won’t even know I’m gone when you wake up.” His daughter’s eyes closed and he laid her on the couch next to her sister.

“What are you doing?” Lori backed away from him, panicked. “No, you’re not going to use magic on us, no, Jeremiah, no! Please. I don’t want to forget.”

He silently held his wife, breathing her in. Remembering the way she felt in his arms. He knew it would be the last time.

“Please, Lori. It will be easier this way. I won’t make you forget. I’ll just change things around a little.”

Lori bit her lip and buried her face in his chest. “Let me know when you’re ready, baby,” he said as he slowly rocked her in his arms.

“I’m never gonna be ready for this.” She took a deep breath and pressed her forehead against his.

Jeremiah pulled away and pressed his lips against Lori’s forehead. “Repeat after me. We had a fight.”

“Jeremiah-”

“Lori, please. We had a fight.”

“We had a fight.”

“Jeremiah drinks too much.”

“Jeremiah drinks too much.” He glanced at Lori and saw that her eyes were glassy and unfocused. It was working.

“He just- he just up and left me and the girls.” He started to sob again as the spell erased him from the minds of his family, replacing who he truly was with the kind of man he’d never been.

“He just up and left me and the girls.”

“He’s not coming back.”

“He’s not coming back.”

“We’re better off- we’re better off without him.”

“We’re better off without him.”

He sat Lori down in his favorite chair as the magic continued to alter her memory. He kissed Jenny’s forehead, changing the current of the memories that swam through the little girl’s mind.

“We’re gonna figure something out, Mills. You’ve taught us both so much, we owe you that much.” Jeremiah stared straight ahead as Sheriff Corbin spoke.

“Yeah, and we’ll watch out for the girls. We won’t let them forget you. They’ll know what a good man you are.” Reyes reached forward and clapped him on the shoulder.

Jeremiah nodded. “August, thank you for everything, and I’m so very sorry.” As Jeremiah’s voice broke the man chuckled nervously. “Uh, you’re welcome, I guess. And what are you sorry for?”

“Leena, you’re a real hard ass, but I know you’re gonna play an important role.” Reyes scoffed. “Come on, man. You’re talking in riddles. Let’s get you to the Canadian border and figure out our next steps from there.”

He nodded again. “Okay, okay. You mind if we say a prayer before we take off? After a night like tonight, I need all the help I can get.”

“Of course! Jesus and magic? We should all be so lucky!” The two officers laughed as Jeremiah sat silently.

“Alright, bow your heads and close your eyes. I’m gonna lead us, so repeat after me.” He reached out and placed one hand on each of their foreheads. Corbin and Reyes flinched at first, but quickly relaxed under the feel of his warm palms.

“Jeremiah Mills is a drunk and a deadbeat.”

“Jeremiah Mills is a drunk and a deadbeat.”

“I haven’t seen that son of a bitch in years, and good riddance.”

“I haven’t seen that son of a bitch in years, and good riddance.”


 

He’d hoped the Mills Family Reunion would be exciting, but this was ridiculous.

When he’d left, he’d had only his family’s grimoire, $200 in cash, and his great-grandmother’s amulet that, once he figured it out, would let him view his family from afar.

It was the amulet that showed him Lori’s mental decline. By the time he’d divined what had gone wrong, it was too late. Her life was ended by her own hand. By his hand. To alter the memories of a watcher was to gamble with their sanity. Jeremiah thought he’d been sparing her when he’d only hastened her demise.

When he saw that Jenny was in and out of mental hospitals like her mother, he panicked. He thought about calling Corbin or Reyes, make an attempt to scramble their brains once more in an effort to save his daughter. And then one day as he held vigil over his child from afar he stopped to really listen. Not to fret and pace and rage, but to see. He saw that her mind was sharp, her body strong, and like her mother before her, she was a watcher. Jeremiah wept with joy the day he saw her crush the pills under her heel and climb her way to freedom.

Watching Gracie- no, Abbie. It’s Abbie now. Watching her had been harder. He remembered the first time he heard her ask to be called Abbie. “I hate my first name. I hate it. Grace was my dad’s idea. He called me ‘Gracie.’ He’s an asshole that I haven’t seen since I was like seven, so I use my middle name instead. Simple as that.” He didn’t leave his bed for a week after that.

She had been so sad. So closed off. So angry. So lonely. Even though Jenny had her troubles, she’d carved out a weird little family among the mercenaries and rogue archaeologists and treasure hunters she’d hooked up with. But not Gracie. Dammit. Abbie. Not Abbie. She wanted to go it alone.

Until that gangly white boy showed up in his graveyard time machine.

Then every glimpse of her was peppered with “Leftenant, why this?” and “Leftenant, why that?” He didn’t feel an awful lot of sympathy for this Ichabod Crane, though he knew he should. It probably had something to do with the way he looked at his daughter when he thought she wouldn’t notice. Plus the limey bastard was married to that magical fraud and if you really thought about it, could meet some of the qualifications of a zombie.

Jeremiah was sure it also had to do with the future he saw for them both. Seven years of tribulation he could handle watching. But it was the wedding and then Abbie’s tiny body swollen with Rip Van Winkle’s yankee doodle baby that bothered him more than the demon fighting. He wasn’t ready to see his little girls grow up. Though he did like Frank Irving for Jenny. He was gonna make her happier than she’d ever imagined she could be.

With Lori and Corbin gone and Reyes ignoring her true role in the story (he’d be giving her a goddamn piece of his mind when he got the chance), he knew it was time to come back. His absence hadn’t protected them in the way it was meant to and they’d had no real training or support.

He wished his daddy could see how far things had come in weaponry, even though the basics remained the same. He pumped demon after demon full of his “special” buckshot (a unique mix of gold, frankincense, myrrh, water from the Dead Sea, and nitroglycerin). He used his staff and spells to sever the heads and limbs of the creatures that dared to attack.

Jeremiah drew the attention of the “witch” first. She tried to cast a disarming spell but his easy deflection stunned her rigid. The only sign of life was her green eyes, full of malice, turning to panic as she realized the cavalry had arrived. The old man was next. Jeremiah let out a curse, a command for him to reveal his true nature, that brought him to his knees. The gnarled demon-child that tore out of him clawed at the ground in a frenzy. He didn’t bother waiting to ask the Englishman if he wanted a second chance at raising this version of his son before pumping him full of buckshot.

There was always so much smoke or fog or mist during supernatural battles. He stomped through it, searching for his daughters, his staff in one hand, his enchanted shotgun in the other; his satchel of stuff slung over his back.

The Englishman was unconscious but alive. He’d fought valiantly in his awkward, dandy way. Though he was three years early, he supposed he could give the boy his blessing. Then Jeremiah remembered that he’d eloped with Lori and humbly swallowed his notions of tradition and respect.

Irving had survived this time, soul intact, and hobbled his way over to check on English. He spotted Jeremiah and gave him a strange look. Jeremiah simply nodded while fishing a cigarette out of his fresh pack of Newports. He didn’t want the girls to see him smoke, but there was nothing like a cigarette after taking down The Horseman of War and a bunch of Moloch’s flunkies. He’d let the girls decide what to do with the “witch”.

He had that feeling again, the one he had about 50 years ago, as though he was swimming through molasses. His heart was pounding, every nerve in his body was singing in anticipation. He would have so much explaining to do.

There they sat, almost the same way he’d left them more than 20 years ago on the couch in the living room. Abbie’s leg’s pulled up to her chest, Jenny’s head on her big sister’s shoulder. They were crying. He stopped, suddenly afraid to make himself known, until he read Abbie’s lips: “We won this one. We won, Jenny. It’s over. For now.”

He made his way closer until he could hear their whispers and sighs and was reminded of what it was like to watch them sleep when they were babies. He knew they hadn’t noticed his presence yet, and he was glad. Watching his girls be vulnerable together was lovely.

Jenny was the one who saw him first. She gasped, but there was no sign of recognition on her face. He saw fear and distrust and curiosity, but not the look of “Daddy?” he’d hoped for. That would come. Eventually.

She pawed at Abbie’s arm, whispering “Abs, who is this guy?” His oldest girl turned those big eyes on him and he almost broke right then and there. They sat there, huddled together, holding on to each other for dear life, staring up at him with no recollection of who he was. But they were alive and they were here and they were his.

“Get up,” he muttered, his voice starting to break. The cigarette hung from his bottom lip and trembled ever so slightly. Jeremiah wondered if they noticed.

The girls stared at him without moving. He laid down his staff and gun and reached out both of his hands. The tears started to fall before he was ready. That’s what you get when you name a child after a weeping prophet.

“It’s okay. Get on up now, Jennifer, Grace Abigail. It’s me. It’s me, babies. It’s your daddy.”