Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid-- 23, October


Fifteen miles southeast of the town center lay 25 acres of abandoned land. It was overgrown with tall grass and thorny wild flowers. Woods surrounded it on almost every side. From the road, only the narrowest path was visible leading up to where a house had once stood. The only thing breaking up the foliage was a rectangular patch of concrete. Only it was left to tell the story of the building it had once supported.

In point of fact, several houses had stood on this land. Pioneers erected a log cabin here in the early days of America. In a rare act of desperation, bravery and hunger, a pack of wolves slipped silently in through their open windows one night and devoured them all, down to the last trace of blood.

The land was forgotten about for many years, until the town itself was first established in the early 1800s. The cabin was an overgrown ruin by then. It was demolished entirely and replaced by a modest farmhouse and barn.

On a fine summer day, the weather turned sour. Heavy clouds drew over the region and a funnel cloud formed. Before the first drop of rain could warn the family within, a tornado reached down from the sky and crushed the home with everyone inside.

Towns are quick to rebuild, though, especially in those days as the industrious moved west. More families moved in, more houses were constructed. Families feuded with neighbors and amongst themselves. Houses were abandoned, rotted, rebuilt.

For the last family who lived in this home, everything went perfectly fine for 15 long years. Children were born and grew up. The oldest was ready to move out and begin a new life elsewhere. One night, the doors locked themselves. Open windows fell into place, and heavy wooden shutters blew closed over them. The fireplace blazed to life, and the flames spread to every corner of the home.

In the morning, a blackened circle surrounded a concrete square, and somewhere miles below, Old Scratch smiled. After blood spilling on the ground, human misery, misfortune and fire, the sigil etched into the ground forever by the heat of the blaze was the last step required to ready the land for his return.

As the hour passed midnight, a crack began to form in that patch of concrete. As it deepened, dust and chips of cement fell into it. The crack doubled in surface size, then doubled again. It became a fissure. Entire chunks of concrete dropped into an abyss, until at last the rectangle was a gaping maw.

Scratched climbed hand over hand, just as he had for the last 10 years. The way had been long, but he was tireless. Nothing had occupied his mind this past decade but the climb, and, rock by rock, he was now here.
His hands grasped the edge of the concrete, and he pulled himself up. One cloven hoof touched the Earth, then the other. His crooked, bent knees struggled and eventually pushed him to his full height. He looked all around and smiled at the night. Then, looking back down into the hole he had crawled out of, he spit into the abyss.

That was when the first of them made itself known. Low to the ground, the thing crawled out of the woods. It paid no mind as its belly dragged through the thorny brush. More followed, approaching from all sides. Skin dark as the night sky, they were twisted creatures whose appearance made no logical sense. Warped and mutated by the tainted land they lived on, the creatures belonged to him.

The first one to show itself, the bravest one, drew near his leg.

“My loving servants,” Old Scratch said with a smirk.

A nine-fingered hand reached out of the brush and began to caress his cloven hoof. Scratch reared back and crushed the thing's hand under foot. The servant squealed in horrified joy.

Scratch took in another lung-full of crisp air. He had a week and a day to enjoy. It was so little time, but he intended to make it feel like a lifetime.  

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