My name is Albie Carlson. This is the story of how I came to ride with Crow.
Our hometown was called Pine Creek. Now I know it was on the small side; to me it was large as the world. It indeed was my world; I was five. I walked the streets freely, Rover always at my feet. Sometimes we wandered off through the forest to play, but never as far as the mine.
The day the thing appeared Rover and I had been by the river. The river, of course, was but a stream that flowed downhill and through town, but we preferred to climb up for some time and enjoy the clearer water upstream. Rover trotted before me, wagging his tail, his tongue lolling. I loved Rover.
When we reached our favourite spot, I sat down and took off my boots, and put my feet in the river to refresh them. Rover was already wagging in and out of the stream and trying to chew the water.
Rover noticed it first. He stopped and stared in the direction of the town, his ears perking up. The fur on his scruff was ruffled, and his tail was down. I feared there could be a bear nearby; it would be possible, this late in spring. But Rover wasn’t growling; he was frightened.
Then I felt it as well. It was like an evil presence hitting me, the sort of sensation the child that I was thought only a ghost could produce. I stood frozen in my little meadow by the creek, paralyzed by fear. I thought I heard screams coming from our town. Next thing I knew, my feet were taking me back, a reluctant Rover right behind me.
As I approached, it became evident that something was going on. I did indeed hear a scream, doors slamming and horses whinnying. Johnson’s barn was the first building in my path, so I decided to walk round it slowly. I peeked from a corner.
I wish I hadn’t.
There were two bodies on the ground, a man and a woman. They were obviously dead. I had never seen a burned body, but they couldn’t look much different: they were blackened and dusty. But even a part of my five-year-old brain realized their clothes weren’t burned. I recognized their clothes. Allen Smith and Dora Parish. I had seen them that morning, just one hour before.
Standing over them was the black-clad figure of Reverend Johanssen. He had his arms extended, but he was flailing. He turned around. There were people running, trying to escape, between him and me, but I felt as if evil itself stared at me. His skin was blackened, and it was flaking off. But his eyes were two wells of darkness that peered into my soul.
I was terrorized.
Then he screamed, in a voice that wasn’t his, and crumpled to the ground. As he fell, off his mouth and eyes and ears oozed a black cloud, like a smoke, that radiated malignancy and malevolence. It soared for a second and then the smoke swooped on towards the Gilmours’ hardware store.
I heard the loud cracks of shots being fired. They seemed to awaken me, and I ran home.
I came in screaming. I hadn’t realized I had been crying until now. Ma scooped me up, saying that Pa had gone out looking for me. Sobbing, I tried to explain there was some bad creature out there, and that I was afraid for Pa.
Pa never came back.
As the night approached, the screams and occasional shouts became less frequent, but they kept coming. Ma and I hid in the barn; she had the spare rifle. Ma hated guns. Rover had disappeared. I wanted him to be with me.
We stayed awake. Shortly before dawn, Ma seemed to make her mind. She readied our wagon in silence, then motioned me to climb up. She opened the barn doors and slowly led our mare out by her bridle. Ma didn’t take the road to town; she instead chose the path that ran closer to the forest. She was trying to make a wide circle and leave.
We heard a scream to our right. Our mare halted. She was terrified. A figure appeared in the path. A woman I didn’t recognize, blackened and flaking, shambling towards us. Ma jumped up the wagon and cracked her whip.
Our mare jumped ahead. Ma tried to steer her away, but the poor animal was too frightened. We crashed into the woman that was no longer a woman. By all rights we should have killed her, but instead I saw our mare become as blackened as all the others, as the wagon skidded and overturned.
Ma pushed me away and told me to run. I stared at her. She had a nasty gash on her forehead. I saw a dark cloud raise on the other side of the wagon. I turned around and left.
I hid at the Gilmour’s store. I reasoned that if the monster had already been in, it wouldn’t look there again. I tried to ignore the charred bodies strewn all around as I searched for a hiding place, but then I heard the inhuman screech.
I found a crack between two planks in the wall, and looked out. The monster was in the square, walking towards the saloon. It still wore my Ma’s body. It limped in, and again I heard screams, human this time.
And then I saw him. A man, dressed completely in black, his back to me, taking silent strides towards the saloon. He looked through the large window for a few seconds, then surprised me by crashing in.
I heard three shots, shots that were accompanied by emerald lightning, and then the man flew outside through the broken window and landed on his back. A light cloud of dark grey dust flew out with him and dissolved in the wind.
I didn’t know what to do, but then a native man strolled into the square. A Lakota shaman. I had seen him in town a couple of times, though I never found the bravery in me to talk to him. A black horse clopped after him.
The shaman kneeled by the man in black, and gave him water from his canteen. I heard them talk.
“It’s gone,” the man in black said.
“For now,” the shaman answered.
Then the man in black stood. For a second, I thought he had caught the monster’s disease, his skin was so dark. He then stared at me. Directly at me, impossible as it was. And he marched into the store.
I was paralyzed. I didn’t understand what had happened.
“Hello, lady,” he said. He had a sweet voice. “My name is Crow. Will you come with me? There’s no-one left here.” He extended his hand.
I took it.
This is my entry for this week’s Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: A Scary Story, Part One. We had to write 1000 words of a scary story. That scary story will (hopefully) be picked up by somebody else next week, so it doesn’t really need to have a proper ending.
Now, I don’t do scary. It’s not that it’s outside my comfort zone; it’s that I don’t think I’m any good at it. Therefore, I wasn’t happy with this challenge. Moreover, I couldn’t shake a previous story that was indeed scary and that I had written several weeks ago for a different challenge. That story was The Gun of Crow.
And then the idea struck me. There was a little something I couldn’t accomodate in that story, a small girl who survives: so I thought I’d tell the same story from her point of view, and so I’d be able to add what was missing.
This is the result. Now I am indeed quite happy.
But I dread next week’s challenge.