Once Upon a Ponderosa-Night Dreary (by Visage)

Synopsis:  Sick and home alone, the perfect setting for The Raven.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  G
Word Count:  1,090


The fire crackled in the hearth, sending golden flickers of light around the main room of the Ponderosa Ranch House. The house itself stood quietly, save for the whip of the wind outside and the occasional turning of pages inside.

Adam Cartwright sat in his favorite blue chair by the fireplace with a book in his lap and a cup of tea by his side on the table. With his youngest brother, Joe, in school and his Pa and other brother, Hoss, rounding up cattle to bring them to the lower pastures for the coming winter, he was alone for the afternoon. Hop Sing, their cook, was in town visiting relatives on his well-deserved day off.

Twenty-four-year-old Adam had caught a cold. Despite his protests, both the town physician, Dr. Martin, and his Pa had forced a few days rest on him. However, it did give him time to catch up on his reading, much to Adam’s delight. He was finally having a chance to read through his book of Edgar Allan Poe poems. The approaching late October storm set the perfect setting for a night of scary stories.

For a moment, Adam paused in his book to stretch his arms above his head, working out a few kinks. He grabbed his mug and took a long gulp. His throat had begun to move from a slight itch to a raw burn over the past few hours. After setting down his tea, he tucked his blanket around his legs a little tighter, hoping to ward away any further illness.

Adam reached over and grabbed his mug again. He brought it to his lips, only to find it empty. His eyebrows narrowed in slight annoyance. He had just gotten comfortable. With a sigh, he threw off his covers and rose to his feet. Maybe he could find some leftover cookies or doughnuts in the kitchen from Hop Sing. The Chinese cook was always sure to leave something for a sick Cartwright to munch on.

As he poured his tea, he debated raiding his father’s liquor cabinet to make him self a hot toddy. To clear his stuffed up nose, he reasoned in his mind. He shook his head to himself, not really in the mood for alcohol.

Clink Clink Clink.

Adam stopped his hand halfway inside the pantry. He held his breath for a few moments, straining his ears for another sound. After a few cautious seconds he laughed quietly to himself, dismissing the sound as something outside. He walked back to his chair and settled down again with his book. The raven was still waiting on the chamber door.

After a few moments, as Adam turned the page he heard the metallic sound again.

Clink Clink Clink.

He paused, moving only his eyes upward. It had come from the second story of the ranch house, almost directly above his head. He cautiously closed his book and set it on the table beside his tea. For a moment he thought he felt a cold draft blow gently through the house.

Clink Clink Clink.

He swallowed hard, rubbing his eyes. Maybe he was developing an ear infection, or at least he must have been sicker than he thought. The book of poems was beginning to go to his head and affect his thinking.

Clink Clink Clink.

Adam threw off the blanket once more and stood quickly. He held his breath, searching around the room wildly with his eyes. His mind was filled with visions of deep black ravens with metal shackles chained to their wrinkled talons.

He picked up one of the fire pokers by the hearth, holding it up and to the side like a club. With caution and stealth, he walked over to the large staircase that led to the upper levels of the ranch house.

Clink Clink Clink.

He hid behind the staircase landing, hoping to surprise whoever- or whatever was in the house.

Clink Clink Clink.

It was coming down the stairs, pausing slightly with each step just enough to raise the hairs on the back of Adam’s neck. He gripped the poker harder, his knuckles turning white. Sweat made the metal slippery in his hands.

Clink Clink Clink.

Adam let out a yell that could rival an Indian war cry, his club high above his head. He brought it down on the banister, splintering the wood in thousands of tiny pieces.

Another ear-piercing shriek sounded. Adam paused, the poker high above his head in mid-stroke.

“Little Joe?”

Adam’s twelve-year-old brother was huddled on the landing, his knees to his chest and arms over his head. After a moment, he poked his head out of his jacket like a frightened turtle.

“Little Joe, what are you doing here? Are you cutting school again?” Adam lowered the poker and leaned on it like a cane. His eyebrows narrowed and his hazel eyes grew darker to hide his own fright.

“A-Adam!” Joe stuttered. He unwound himself from his position and stood, backing as far away from his brother as the staircase would allow. “I didn’t see you!”

“Joseph,” Adam growled. “Answer me.”

“Miss Jones let us out early with the storm coming an’ all. She figured it be better if we got home before it hit.” Joe calmly straightened his jacket and began to walk down the stairs.

Clink Clink Clink.

“Stop!” Adam grabbed his brother’s arm. His eyes flew wildly around the room. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what, you Yankee Granite Head?” Joe asked, shaking off his brother’s grip. He walked down the remaining few steps.

Clink Clink Clink.

“That metal. Don’t you hear it?” Adam asked. Ghouls and ghosts began to invade his thoughts.

Joe stopped at the bottom and looked down at his boots. “You mean this?” He walked a few steps forward.

Clink Clink Clink.

Joe burst out laughing. “Adam! Ha-ha! You got skeered by a pair of spurs!” He fell to the floor, rolling and clutching his stomach in a tittering fit. Adam raised a quizzical eyebrow.

Joe caught his breath, but stayed on the floor. “I won ’em offa Mitch Devlin this mornin’ in a bet. Ain’t they nice?”

“Aren’t they,” Adam corrected, walking away to gather his tea, book and blanket.

“That’s what I said,” Joe protested before erupting into another fit of laughter.

Adam sighed. With a dramatic roll of his eyes, he retreated to upstairs and slammed his bedroom door on his brother’s giggles.



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