Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday's Words ...

The creature had caught him by surprise.  He'd been hunting that afternoon for a whitetail buck to fill their freezer for winter.  Even though he'd had his rifle, he'd been unable to fight back as powerful arms wrapped around him and pulled him off his feet.  He had screamed in agony as he felt his ribs break with the pressure, then everything had gone black.

When he had finally regained consciousness, he had found himself deep in a dark part of the ravine that he'd never been before.  He was covered in mud mixed with blood and his clothes had been nearly shredded off of him, offering him no protection to the surrounding bushes and branches with sharp thorns that tore at his bare skin with every move he made.

He had no idea how much time had passed.  Reaching instinctively for the wrist that held his watch, he screamed in agony as his ribs moved and the broken edges grated together.  He struggled to breathe and knew that his lungs had been punctured.  Darkness closed around his mind again as he realized he wasn't alone in the brush, and the pain in his leg was coming from something gnawing on him.  His last thoughts were of her alone in the house with their son, and how he wished he could protect them from what was coming.
~*~
Her hand froze on the doorknob to Hayden's room as the shadow at the end of the hall slowly moved towards her.  She held her breath, and in the silence, she could hear the pendulum of the grandfather clock downstairs as it swung back and forth.
*~*
The children at Hayden's school continued to tease him with tales of the haunted ravine that was home to an invisible monster that ate people.  He hadn't told his mother, or his teachers, about the notes that would find their way into his desk or locker.  Instead, he had continued to hide away in the library, reading everything he could find about the history of the small town called Tingler that was on the far side of the ravine, and of the house, they lived in.  He made notes in a small leather diary he had found in the back of his father's desk that still smelled of his father's aftershave.

Hayden had overheard the sheriff telling his mom that there were five people who had been killed, but there really had been seven.  The first two were a father and son who had been hunting in the woods in the late 1800's, long before the town of Tingler even had a name or a sheriff.  They were one of the first families that had settled there, immigrating from Germany after the Franco-Prussian War with other German families who had wanted new lives.  Their last name had been Engler, and the father, Theodoric, had been the older brother of Adolf Engler, the famous German botanist.

When they had disappeared, Theodoric's wife, Ana, in her broken English and thick German accent, had tried to get help from the church in a neighboring town.  They had misunderstood her and thought she was telling them that she needed to find Theodore Ingler, and the name Tingler, for T. Ingler, had been given to the small community of German farmers when they had eventually given up hope of ever finding them.
~*~
The shadow stopped at the edge of where the light from the hall lamp ended and sighed. As she quietly and shakily exhaled and inhaled, the shadow sighed again only this time it sounded as if it said her name.

"Bethany..."

She froze.

"Andrew?"

"Yesssssss."

A tear rolled down her cheek.

"I don't...."

Hayden screamed for her again, this time louder than before, just as another flash of lightning and an instantaneous crack of thunder filled the house.  The power went off again, and suddenly the temperature in the hall dropped dramatically.  She shivered as she heard Andrew's voice whisper right next to her ear.

"Open the door."

She turned the handle and pushed the door open.  Hayden burst from the room and into her arms in the darkness.  She felt cold air rush past both of them and the door slammed shut behind Hayden.  Feeling for the wall by the stairs, she carefully carried him down to the kitchen where she found the flashlight she kept in a drawer.  Turning it on, she looked at Hayden.  One of his pajama sleeves was torn and he had deep scratches on his arm.  A pants leg was also torn in the back where it looked like something had tried to stop him from leaving the room, but his leg was fine.

Something thudded on the upstairs floor, and against Hayden's bedroom door.  An inhuman howl filled the air.  She dropped the flashlight but quickly grabbed it again before it rolled too far.  Hayden whimpered and shook with fear.

Grabbing the first aid kit from under the kitchen sink, she carried him to the door to the root cellar.  It was still the original heavy and solid oak door that had been put in when the house was new.  The root cellar was just as it had been back then, a small room lined with shelves and without electricity.  They had cleaned and dusted it, repaired shelves as they needed, but had decided it would be a good tornado shelter that could double as a cold pantry and wine cellar.  The only changes they had made were to add a vent to the outside for fresh air, and several heavy slide locks onto the inside of the door to keep it securely closed in case of a tornado.  Now she closed the door tightly behind her and slid the latches into place.
*~*
The beast had lunged towards the soul as the door opened but had missed its mark.  Before it could try again, a cold shadow had stepped between the beast and the soul and the door had slammed shut.  Suddenly the beast was flying across the room, shoved with an anger and coldness it had never felt before.

"No more!" the shadow whispered fiercely.

The beast swung blindly in the darkness, and the cold anger pushed it again, this time to the floor.  Struggling to get away from the shadow, it howled wildly as it was thrown against the door by another larger shadow that had appeared out of the darkness.  "Nicht mehr!"  The beast's breath hung in the air as the temperature continued to drop.

"No more!" the shadow whispered again, this time echoed by seven other voices.  "No more!" they chanted, pushing and hitting the beast with their fierce anger.  For the first time in its very long life, the beast felt something unfamiliar.  

Fear.  

It howled again, swinging its arms and backing to the window, trying to get away.  Suddenly it was outside the window, suspended in the air by the shadows as they pulled the beast higher and higher above the storm clouds to where the sun was just beginning to rise.
~*~
Bethany listened at the door as she heard the howling and the storm fade into the distance. The candle she had lit to save the flashlight batteries dripped hot wax onto her hand and she inhaled sharply with the pain.  Hayden clung to her leg.

"Is it gone?"

"I think so, honey.  I can see sunlight under the door.  I think it's morning."

"Can we wait a little longer just to be sure?"

"If you want, but not much longer.  I want to call the sheriff."
*~*
The K9 and equestrian search teams had found a cave deep in the ravine, surrounded by thorned branches and bushes keep it hidden.  The skeletal remains of a man and boy were found in it, along with the remains of bears, elk, and a large moose.  They had tried to identify the human remains through DNA and missing person reports, but it had been Hayden who had suggested that they might be the first two victims, Theodoric Engler, and his son, Berend.

Fire crews from both sides of the ravine had burned the brush away from the cave, and it had been sealed permanently with concrete.  A memorial service had been held for the Englers in the town of Tingler after their remains were shipped to Germany and buried next to that of Ana Engler and her other children where they had returned a year after the disappearances.  As Bethany and Hayden were ushered into a pew at the back of the church, she thought the afternoon shadows seemed darker there than they were at the front of the church.
~*~
In the spring, Bethany decided it was time to repaint Hayden's bedroom and he had picked out a slate blue color.  During the day when he was at school, she prepped the walls, putting up tape that would divide the top half of the room to be painted, and the lower half for white wainscoting panels.  She taped around the door and window frames, painted corners and around the trim so that when he came home the two of them could paint the walls together.  It brought back happy memories of when she and Andrew had painted the room a soft green before Hayden had been born.
Image Source

As she was washing out the brushes one evening while Hayden took a bath, she was startled to hear a tapping at the kitchen window.  In the dusky light, as the sun was almost set, she could make out the shape of a raven at the window, tapping the glass with its beak.  She turned off the water and went to the kitchen door that opened onto the wraparound porch.  As she stepped outside, the raven flew off into a nearby tree and Bethany stood to watch the sunset as the shadow of the tree grew longer and longer across the porch.

She shivered suddenly as the temperature dropped and wrapped her arms around herself.  The wind picked up and rustled in the leaves left from last fall.

"Bethany...."

The whisper was so faint she almost thought she was imagining things, but realized that the tree's shadow wrapped around her was darker than the rest of the shadow.

"Andrew."

"I love you, Bethany.  So much. Hayden too.  You'll be safe now.  Forever."  

"I love you too, Andrew.  I always will.  Thank you for saving our son."

"I'll be here watching out for both of you.  Always."

16 comments:

  1. This is a truly lovely conclusion to a story which I feared would end badly. Thank you.

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    1. You know I like to tie up the loose ends with a happy bow.

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  2. Wow. The beast went one victim too far. Well told!

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  3. What? OMG! Chill bumps all over me. How in the world did you come up with such a gripping tale? Wonderful job on the story and wonderful job on the prompts for October. My story is on my blog page.

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    1. Thank you, Granny Annie! This has been such a fun month I think I will have to do another one!

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  4. Lovely story. I couldn't tear myself away from it. Thankyou so much for the prompts this month..it's been a lot of fun.

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  5. Very engrossing. I enjoyed it immensely, thank you!

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  6. Well done Cindi, Both with the prompts for this month and this gripping tale today, you did a great job all around I really enjoyed this.

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    1. Thanks Jimmy, I'll be doing the words again in January!

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  7. I kept reading and reading wondering what was coming next - then relief and a big smile came on my face.
    Thank you for your words (and pictures) this month Cindi. As I mentioned earlier
    WFW can be found here
    Cathy

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  8. Absolutely wonderful, Cindi. :)

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Thank you for reading my escaped words! I would love to hear from you, but all comments are moderated since I am not paid to advertise for sewers in Riyadh, Dubai, Saudi Arabia.