A Short Story By Luis A. Mendez
The eclipse took four hours to traverse its shadow across the full moon. Its travel began around 10 o’clock at night Wyoming time and ended about one in the morning in the same time zone. In the 1800s, Northwest America, an eclipse wasn’t something that was easy to anticipate unless a person had the proper book knowledge about how to predict such things. For most others, the eclipse arrived as an unexpected nighttime visitor. In the next four hours, the slowly closing eye watched over events that haunted those affected for the rest of their lives.
This is a narrative on the known facts of what occurred to the residents of the small towns across what some called “God’s country” during these four hours. In the dark of night, unexplained events happened that many blamed on the natural phenomenon. Whether that blame is well-founded or not is not for us to decide, as we are merely reporting the facts.
At around 10 o’clock, as the eclipse’s shadow began to darken the surface of the moon, and many people reported strange noises from the night sky. Some heard a loud boom, and others described screechy, hissing noises.
Soon, these noises were replaced by claims of missing livestock. One farmer swore to authorities the following day that he had heard his cows in danger, so he grabbed his rifle and saw that half of them were gone — vanished without a trace.
In other parts of the small towns, the people began to go missing, usually those who were out and about on the cold dark night. Early estimates were that close to a dozen people vanished from the planet while out to see the eclipse.
By 11 o’clock, the eclipse had almost covered the lunar surface. Some people began to panic as the body parts of livestock rained down onto their homes. Authorities thought the livestock might have been caught by a creature, but they had no clue what creature could then toss them down from the night sky. No coyote or similar predator could do that; and certainly they knew of no birds that could either.
In other parts of town, the wildlife got excited. Wolves howled incessantly, deer began to run around in strange circles, smaller critters like the owls and rabbits annoyed homeowners by taking refuge at their doors as if they were begging to be let in and protected from something with malicious intent.
By midnight, the eclipse’s shadow began to move away from the moon. The frightful and strange night was now half-way through its terror.
Elizabeth Collins was an extremely paranoid woman, with every right to be. At 32 years of age, she was widowed when a strange deadly unknown illness took her husband away. He left her with their young son and a newborn daughter. As their home was in the middle of nowhere, she feared it would attract ill-intentioned people.
Thinking about this, she always kept her husband’s rifle ready. To help her, her father-in-law had taken the responsibility of duties previously done by her husband. But whereas her husband had been a young man willing to take care of the farming, hunting, and other ways to provide, her father-in-law was older and needed help from her at times. Elizabeth didn’t have a mother-in-law to turn to as she had passed a year before herself and her own parents lived too far away and hesitated about traveling so far to visit.
On the night of the eclipse, Elizabeth put her two children to bed. Her father-in-law was busy chewing on tobacco next to the fireplace, and she couldn’t sleep so she decided to knit a small blanket for her baby daughter. Of course, she kept the rifle ready while trying to control her worst suspicions of possible travelers passing by.
Her father-in-law was the first to notice the eclipse. The gray-haired man with the chopped up and unorganized beard and mustache went out to look for himself. “It’s getting darker, and I think it’s one of them eclipses!” he shouted out to her.
“An eclipse?” Elizabeth replied, getting up to go out and look for herself, forgetting the rifle behind the chair where she had been knitting.
“That’s gonna darken things up good in a short while. I suggest we start lighting some more candles,” her father-in-law suggested.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit much? We already have the firewood burning,” she replied.
The old man calmly began to walk back inside, “Whatever more light we can get is a good thing, as it’s gonna get real dark soon without that moonlight.”
But as Elizabeth sat back down to knit and watched her father-in-law grab firewood and candles, she noticed something: the rifle was gone.
By midnight, residents of the small towns were suggesting a supernatural force was nearby, though the authorities scoffed at this suggestion the next day. Some claimed they saw shadows moving past their windows, and others claimed something had scared their sleeping children. Still others reported home invaders that vanished. The authorities figured some sort of hysteria was involved, but the various townsfolk were convinced the devil was at work.
It was reported by many that the most terrifying and strange moments came at midnight as the eclipse’s shadow pulled away from the moon. Strangely enough, though, some reported not having any type of supernatural occurrence, even at midnight.
The night baffled the authorities.
Elizabeth panicked when she noticed the rifle was gone, and yet she did not scream or alert her father-in-law. She went into a confusing state of shock and rationalized that she should not scare her father-in-law into thinking about an intruder. She’d investigate.
She excused herself and quickly made the rounds. Nothing seemed peculiar as the children were in bed and nothing else was missing. Perhaps she had simply just lost it?
She returned to her father-in-law as he continued to pace back and forth and look out the window at the eclipse with squinted eyes and then work on keeping the fire alight. She told herself to look back to where she had left the rifle. She gasped, but stopped before getting her father-in-law’s attention. The rifle was back.
“Maybe I imagined it being gone?” she thought, but that didn’t make sense. It almost felt as if someone, or something, had been toying with her.
Shortly after midnight, the panic started to die down a bit. The strange events began happening sparser. From what authorities gathered, some people pointed to the eclipse as the culprit. While most people dismissed it, it was very strange that the panic and subsequent events coincided with the natural phenomenon.
Someone proposed a theory that maybe the residents had hallucinated in the darkness of the eclipse that prompted a great hysteria among them. The livestock were unaccounted for because they had escaped into the darkness and creatures in the wild had caught them. The missing people were just poor souls who lost their way without moonlight to guide them.
There was no proof that any of these explanations were facts, but the authorities didn’t care as they had their excuses.
Elizabeth decided to brush off the rifle incident and returned to her knitting. To her horror, the knitting items were now gone instead of the rifle. She flinched, and her father-in-law noticed.
“Noth…nothing!” she spat out.
“What’s wrong?” he replied, this time more insistent.
“I just seemed to have lost my knitting tools,” Elizabeth explained, trying to laugh it off.
“That’s a nervous laugh if I ever heard one,” her father-in-law replied with a suspicious eye.
“Everything’s fine,” she assured him just as a dark foreboding shadow suddenly appeared. How it even got inside was a mystery to her. It traveled across the floor between them and moved as if it was conscious and intelligent life.
“What in good gravy is that?” exclaimed the old man as he motioned for Elizabeth to hand him the rifle.
The strange shadow then spit out the missing knitting tools. Then it quickly traveled towards the rifle to take it again.
“No!” Elizabeth shouted as she watched. Then she and her father-in-law instinctively stepped onto their chairs to avoid joining the rifle within this shadow.
“Is it the devil?” the old man shouted as the shadow began to rise off the floor and assume a physical form. It was a massive being, tall enough to reach the roof and wide enough to knock each of them off their seats.
The form was humanoid and muscular, had dark fish scales for skin, and its face had tentacles. Its eyes glowed dark red and its claws extended from its fingers. It screeched and flapped its small wings. For reasons unknown to her, Elizabeth sensed this was only one of many forms this terrifying being took on.
Their surroundings were affected as well. The shadow started spreading throughout the house and covering the walls. An invisible thick air strangled the occupants, who were choking and coughing. The essence of pure evil filled the air.
The strange and horrible being communicated telepathically, sounding demonic with its low and raspy voice. “Call me Lucifer, Devil, Death, Fear, Mischief, Jealousy, Lust, Greed, Darkness, Dead Lights, Cthulhu, The Havocs’ Emperor, a Man-Eating Beast, the Thoughts in a Killer’s Head, the One Who Seeks to Create Other Gods. It doesn’t matter what label you give my millions upon millions of forms. I have come for the soul of the man who took the life of James Cassidy. He specifically asked for you when I entered through the eclipse’s gate. You should be honored, as I don’t typically personally greet the new residents to my domain.”
After the being had introduced itself, Elizabeth and her father-in-law stopped choking, and the shadow began to shrink. Clearly, it had shown but a taste of its capabilities to the widow and her father-in-law to convince them to comply.
“James who?” Elizabeth asked as she coughed and recovered her breath, terrified but doing her best not to have a total psychological breakdown in her fear and hoping the children wouldn’t awake and find this evil visitor among them.
“I haven’t heard that name in ages,” her father-in-law replied as he coughed and caught his own breath, surprising Elizabeth. He then realized something, and his eyes widen as he pointed at the being now. “Oh my God, you must be the devil!”
“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth demanded to know.
“This man whose son fathered your children killed a man over a land dispute many years ago. The man he murdered is with us in my dimension, and he’s asked me to personally come for his murderer.”
“But why now?” the old man asked, his eyes continuing to grow with terror at the realization of what was before him and what it meant.
“Because your time draws near and the gate to the portal of my dimension, the eclipse, has opened to allow me to bring you home sooner. Lucky you.”
“Home?” Elizabeth replied, at shock at the being before them and her father-in-law just being implicated in a murder.
“His home is with us on the other side. To atone for his sins!” the being shouted as he opened his mouth and revealed a disturbing set of multiple and seemingly endless rows of sharp jaws. “Come with me sinner!” it shouted telepathically.
“God no! I’m not ready!” the old man shouted, putting his hands in the air as the being lunged at him.
“I’m not God. I’m not the source or the light! You’ve begged for mercy from the wrong one.” the being proclaimed as it neared.
But as Elizabeth screamed in terror, the being stopped short of munching on her father-in-law. Something had stopped him.
The being closed its mouth, looked towards the roof, and then vanished. Elizabeth realized the eclipse was now completely finished. The aforementioned gate must have closed.
“Momma?” she suddenly heard as she looked back and discovered her young son confused by all the commotion. She heard her baby daughter’s cries. She jumped into action and hugged her son before asking him to go to bed and then tending to the baby. She was in shock at whatever the hell had just happened.
She returned to her father-in-law, who had strangely fallen silent, expecting to have a conversation with him about what had just occurred: the eclipse, the being, the murder he had been accused of. She gasped as she realized the man was no longer alive. He just lay in his chair lifeless and with eyes agape in terror. His ordeal with that being was not over, it had merely shifted worlds.
She looked towards where the rifle had been, and it had been returned to her.
“Momma…,” her young son said with a whimper as he realized what his mother had discovered. “The bad thing came for him, didn’t it?”
Elizabeth rushed her son back into his room. “What did you say?” she asked him as soon as she took him away from the disturbing scene.
Her son repeated it.
“How did you?”
“Daddy came when the moon was being covered up by the black spot. He told us to stay in bed until it finished its mission.”
Elizabeth gasped and then failed to hold back tears. “You…you saw daddy?”
“Yes, momma, he came to keep us safe from the bad thing. He said he came from the light, not the gate.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help but to hug and cry on the shoulder of her son.
The eclipse ended by one in the morning. Nothing strange happened after that time. In four hours the eclipse came and went as did the panic. In four hours, the residents got a glimpse into something they did not understand. In four hours, the evil being had come for the person he had come for.