Summary: A set of four short pieces all meant to give an eerie sense of dread for the Halloween season.
Word Count: 1093
With his rifle in hand, Joe sat with his back to his large campfire looking out into the darkness trying to see into every dark shadow and up at the sky occasionally. He had felt so alone and then remembered that story Adam had told the last time the two of them had been camping up here.
“A wagon train disappeared. Nothing left except broken tools and a crude drawing in charcoal that someone had made of menacing giant eagles.”
“So you expect me to believe that the eagles carried off those people and their wagons and belongings?”
“I don’t expect you to believe anything, Joe. But those people and wagons were missing and have never been found. Some say that if you listen up here at night, you can hear them calling for help. It’s silly, I know, but the wind up here sometimes does sound a bit like people crying out.”
Suddenly Joe sensed more than saw a huge shadow cross the moon. He fired his rifle up at it and then smiled for overreacting. He leaned back and fell asleep only to awaken in the morning to find a giant eagle feather laying next to his campfire.
The Ghastly Night Visitor
“I’ll take the first shift. You can spell me about one. The windows are locked and shuttered. She can’t get in, and that tea Hop Sing got Adam to drink knocked him out. He won’t hear her calling to him.”
“Hoss, it’s eerie. Every year on the anniversary of the day we rescued him from that abandoned house where that woman kept him prisoner, he tries to go back there. Two years ago, he went out the window and it took all three of us had to stop him from leaving.”
“Yeah, and last year there was that awful whining and singing outside like some crazy woman singing yet it made all of us want to go out there. We had to put cotton in our ears.”
The night passed slowly with all sorts of banging outside with the wind howling until nearly three in the morning when it suddenly stopped. At dawn, Adam awakened, and went down to breakfast with Ben and Hoss. A short time later, Joe came downstairs looking awful.
“Son, what happened?”
“I was hot, so I opened the window a crack. I think she was in my room. I’m so cold I can’t get warm.”
Don’t Invite That Man Into Your House
“Adam, why would you knock again, and where’s Pris?’
“Ma’am, I just got here to take Priscilla to the dance.”
“My eyes ain’t what they were, but I swear you was here a half hour ago. It was funny that you wouldn’t come in until Pris invited you in, and you didn’t have your silver hatband on and your belt buckle wasn’t silver like it is now. She did look kinda in a daze. There was nothing with silver and the inside of your black jacket was red. It was kind of a dandy thing for you to do, but I see your jacket and it’s the same as you always wear to a dance. Oh, Adam, who was that man who took my Pris away from here?”
Every word Mrs. Miller said made Adam’s stomach roil and his nerves jangle. Racing outside, he fired three shots summoning his brothers who had ridden ahead thinking he would follow with Priscilla. When they returned, a search began and hearing the gunshots, more people came. As they had found women several times in the previous month, Priscilla’s pale lifeless body was found behind her house with two puncture wounds in the neck.
Riding around the ranch, Adam began noticing strange stacks of stones, always six stones stacked from largest to smallest carefully balanced so each wouldn’t topple. There were more of them in sets of six as fall progressed and he couldn’t understand it. He realized eventually that there were three sets of the stones on the Ponderosa. He wondered who was putting the stones in the piles and why. He looked for footprints around the newly stacked stones but each time found that the footprints had been carefully brushed away. He liked to know what was going on in his world and didn’t like mysteries. Thinking that eventually he would see some clue as to who was placing these stones, he watched. He even toppled over a few of the stacks only to find them restacked the next time he rode by them. Still he never saw anyone stacking the rocks nor did he ever find a footprint or any other evidence as to who was doing it.
His father couldn’t understand what was happening either with Little Joe who was in trouble at school every day. He had made a new friend but was now surly and belligerent at home. The worst infraction was the sneaking out after dark every night or early in the morning to be with his friend in the dark. Adam never mentioned all the rock piles because he thought his father had enough problems with the uncontrollable thirteen-year-old who didn’t want to attend church with them saying that he didn’t believe in all that hocus pocus. That had earned him a trip to the stable for a necessary talk but even that had done nothing to change his attitude.
Near Halloween, Joe fell ill, and nothing Doctor Martin did made any difference. Joe dropped into a coma and his fever rose. Ben sat at his side, praying and reading from the Bible because he thought God was the only one who could help. In Joe’s room, Adam noticed a small pile of pebbles on Joe’s bureau stacked like the rock piles he had seen all around the house. Suddenly he knew. Three sets of six. They added up to 666. Racing from the house, he rode out to destroy those rock piles. As he knocked down the last one, lightning flashed again and again in the clear sky and thunder rolled. Out of the darkness, Joe’s new friend emerged from the trees. His eyes glowed red. A strong wind blew and there was a horrendous shriek and he was gone. The sky was clear and the air was calm again. Adam rode home hoping he had acted in time.