I usually write horror.
“I can't believe you have never been to Goatman's Bridge, Brittney.” Derrick and his twin brother, Darren, said in unison. “What's so special about it?” Brittney asked as they pulled into a parking spot and got out of the car. “Nothing, really.” Derrick replied. “We have been here a bunch of times, and nothing has ever happened,” Darren told the group. “What is supposed to happen?” Brittney asked. “Well, that is where the intrigue begins.” Derrick said. “It could be one of three options. One is a lynching victim that comes back for revenge, two is the wife of the lynched man, looking for her murdered children, and three is Satanists summoned a portal to Hell.” Everyone was silent as they climbed the small incline to the abandoned road. Soon, they were mere feet from the start of the iron truss bridge with a wooden deck. The four of them stood there for a few seconds before Brittney broke the silence. “What do we do now?” “We need to knock three times at midnight and cross the bridge.” Emily finally spoke up as everyone remained silent and looked at each other. “I don't remember that,” Darren said. “Yeah, you have to knock three times on the bridge at midnight.” Emily took a few steps to the metal supports and knocked. She slowly walked onto the wooden deck. Derrick and Darren were the next two to knock and walk, and then Brittney followed suit. “You know what? I like the idea of the portal to Hell the most. The other two are terrible.” Brittney shivered. “And kind of the same story, right?” Darren looked around, but when no one spoke up, he continued, “It's the wife of the goat herder that got lynched looking for whoever murdered her children. All of them were killed that night by some klansmen.” “I think the goat herder's name was Oscar Kendall, actually.” Emily looked at them, becoming more animated. “It was1899 when a group of …” “We don't need to go down that road tonight, do we, Emily?” Derrick said. Emily glared at him and fell silent. “Hey, I want to know.” Brittney said, giving Derrick a frustrated push. Emily looked smug. “Oscar Kendall was a successful black goat farmer down the way from this bridge. He put a sign that said ‘This way to the Goatman’ on the end of the bridge, and a group of angry white people decided that was worth his life. They pulled him out of his house in the middle of the night and dragged him to the bridge where they had a noose waiting. The mob put Oscar's head through the noose and threw him over the edge of the bridge, but something went wrong, and Oscar's head snapped off his body. They searched for the body up and down Hickory Creek, but it never showed up.” “Where do the three knocks come from?” Brittney asked. “That I don't know,” Emily replied. “Ha … I do.” Darren laughed before replying, “It is the rule of three.” After everyone just kind of shrugged, he explained. “Whatever you put out into the world, whether negative or positive, comes back to you at least threefold.” “So what are we putting out?” Brittney interjected. “Positive or negative?” When he only responded with a shrug, the group fell into general chatter, talking and walking from one side of the bridge to the other without moving further down the deck. A few more minutes dragged by before Derrick and Darren turned to walk down the bridge. Three “nos” instantly came from the young women. “Come on, ladies.” Derrick sighed. “Nothing is going to happen.” Darren assured them. “Fine!” Brittney huffed before she and Emily followed behind the boys, huddling together as they walked. A loud clap of thunder rumbled, but no flash of lightning accompanied it. The girls squealed as they ran to catch up to the boys. Another, even louder crack of thunder, echoed all around them, causing the girls to huddle together as they walked. There was still no flash, and only seconds passed before a third peal of thunder rang out, seemingly from the center of the bridge. A gust of wind sprang forth from nowher, almost pushing the teens to the ground. “What is happening?” Brittney cried. “We don't know,” Derrick shouted. He took a step back as a red circle carved itself out of the fabric of reality. It took less than a second for the circle to become whole, but watching the red line get longer and surviving the ear-splitting tone with which the process assaulted their human ears made it feel like the longest second of their lives. The crimson line became a red circle before the inside of the circle started to trickle down like droplets of blood, completely disappearing at the bottom, revealing a black hole wrapped in crimson liquid. There was a flash of light from inside the hole, and something slowly rolled out of it. The five teens watched as shadowy figures threw something else at the opening. The second item landed right on top of the first and shot it out of the portal to Hell. The group looked down, frozen in fear, to see the head of a goat lying at their feet. The teens all let out a series of cries as they took a few steps back. Darren reached for his phone to catch the experience on video and got recording just in time to get the shadowy figure throwing another object. This odd item had more heat on it and hit Derrick in the chest with a disgusting squish before falling to the ground. It was a human head this time, male, blond haired, with milky blue eyes that stared at them reproachfully. Derrick stumbled over his own feet to turn around and run. Emily fainted when a naked figure stepped to the threshold, haloed in crimson light. An overwhelming smell of decaying flesh invaded the teens' senses before the thing emerged fully. It was a large, muscular man with the legs and head of a goat. In its hands were severed human heads. The literal Goatman stood between seven and nine feet tall with glowing red eyes. Aside from its hind legs and genitals, the beast was hairless and covered in scars. It threw both of the heads it held at Brittney. The giant goat growled as the limber teen dodged the heads and turned to run. Derrick was back down the incline and still running. Emily was mere feet from the monster, but it paid her no mind. Its red eyes were fixated on Brittney. It growled again before lunging at the girl. She was able to roll out of the way and quickly got to her feet to run off the bridge. The demonic satyr jumped in front of her planned route, revealed a thick knife in each hand, and plunged them into the girl's chest. Then, with a swift movement, the Goatman decapitated the screaming girl with the same blades. Her head spun in the air, mouth still open, eyes wide, reflecting the red glow of the unholy portal. The beast let the body drop to the wooden deck but snatched her head out of the air. Without missing a stride, it entered the crimson gateway, the heads of his former victims following on a blast of hot wind. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the portal vanished. In the far distance, thunder rumbled like a contented beast after a meal. As soon as the hole disappeared, Emily dragged herself, shaking to her feet from where she had fallen when the wind knocked her off her feet. She was lucky to have fallen at the right angle to keep from slamming her head into the wooden deck. She finally noticed Darren standing there, recording her. “Are you going to help me or just keep recording?” Emily screamed as she put her hands out towards him. “I can do both,” Darren replied as he stepped over and helped her to her feet, his phone in her face. “What happened?” she asked, still in a daze. Then she noticed Brittney’s body. She screamed. “Brittney!” “The thing chased her down,” Darren said, swallowing hard. “I don't want to know, Darren.” Emily could barely keep the tears at bay. “I want to go home. Now!” “The car is back this way …” “Let’s go.” Her words were high pitched, but Emily stopped, took in a breath, then finished in a regular tone. Tears tracked down the smudges of dirt on her face. “Around. I will walk around,” Emily said as she took a few steps away from the support of Darren. “That's a dead end now,” Darren replied as he continued to record her. Emily stopped walking and slumped her shoulders before turning around. When she noticed Darren was recording her, she let out an angry “Stop!” and tried to walk to him. He laughed as he pranced in front of her, mocking each stumbling step before stopping and letting her catch up. When she did, he turned his camera off. “Are you sure you don't want to see what you missed?” Darren asked, teasing her with his phone. Emily walked to the other side of the bridge, keeping her eyes focused on the metal supports as she hurried along. Darren followed her, but seconds after leaving the bridge, the phone was back in her face. “How are you so calm?” Emily asked as they walked down the incline. “I kind of shit my pants.” Darren looked back at her with raised eyebrows before shrugging and almost whispering, “And I froze.” Emily could barely hold back a laugh for a moment before asking, “What was with the phone?” “He just looked through me, and I knew he didn't want me.” Darren stared at her, “And then I figured I should record it because no one would believe us.” “I can't believe the story was true,” Emily said as they stood where the car should have been. “Right, who knew the Satanists actually summoned a demon?” Darren responded as he started to fidget with his phone again. “Where is it?” “Derrick left us?” Emily leaned on the incline, “And if that was a demon, it would have killed anyone, right? I think the story about being judged off your bloodline is true.” “What?” Darren snapped. “I think Brittney had klansmen in her heritage.” Emily said matter of factly “What the hell, Emily?” Darren yelled as he shakily pointed to the bridge. Standing at the edge of the bridge was a beautiful ebony skinned woman, wrapped in an eerie white light, with her arms stretched out towards the teens. She whispered something that was then carried on the wind. “Thank you.” “You're welcome, Mama.” Emily whispered uncomfortably to herself.
Where should I start? Some would say at the beginning, but my time is limited, and there is much to tell. Perhaps the most important detail, the one from which all others stem, is that I’m a telepath. The hard part was not reading people. It was shutting them out. I quickly leaped in grades and was learning advanced practices when I was eleven. People didn't trust me not to pry in their mind's when I got close, so despite them being witches and wizards, they avoided me. It was a good thing I would only be there for two years and get my masters in time, illusions, and healing. People often called me stupid for not focusing on my natural power, but they didn't know I could fully hypnotize adults at age seven. Telepathy was easy for me, and I didn't need to know the technical names for things I had mastered. After school, I immediately got a job at a research laboratory on manipulating time. It was fulfilling until I realized that every breakthrough was given to large corporations to bastardize and sell it for a profit. I quit after I found out eight years later. A position at a startup business that made potions was available. I could speed up the cooking time on everything and was paid handsomely. Over the next 20 years, the company grew to the second largest in the world. I was ready to retire when a kingdom requested my services. They offered 3 times as much as the company, so I had to see what it entailed. I now regret taking the job. The King started me off small by having me speed up their potion making, but by the end, where I am now, I may as well have been a necromancer. I didn't bring anyone back, mind you, I just violated the law of autonomy. I sped up the lives of hundreds of babies to turn them into soldiers for the king. But I was in the King's good graces, which made me untouchable. I am not so sure where the children came from, actually, but I never questioned them. 15 long years of loyalty to the crown, and I get this for a punishment! To wander this endless desert for the rest of my life. I did everything ever asked of me. I broke the law for every member of the royal family, and they gave me the traitors death. My wrists were branded, which blocked my magic, and I have been forced to find the long lost Temple of Time to retrieve the sun disk in the center. No one has ever returned. There are 2 ways to find the temple. One is obviously with magic, but without it, you had to fast until you hallucinated the temple. Only then could you find the Temple of Time. Next, you entered a maze full of malevolent creatures meant for defense of the sun disk. If you are able to retrieve the disk and place it in the Temple of Illusions, the Temple of Time will become tangible. It could then be mapped out and eventually plundered. I was given 3 days' worth of rations and water, but I thankfully made them last for a week. I constantly walked, only taking breaks when the sun went down, and ended up nowhere. Just more sand and a bright sun beating down. I was primed to hallucinate after a few more days with no hydration, and as I topped the dune, my knees gave out, and I fell into the scorching sand and rolled down the other side of the dune. When I stopped rolling, I was on my back, and there was nothing above me but clear blue sky. The hot sand was only so deep, then it was cool, and I was now partially submerged in it with my head poking out. It took me some effort to climb out of the sand, but I managed in my weakened state. Then I just laid there, on top of the sand. The sun would be setting soon so I decided to stay there for the night. Despite being dehydrated and starving, I wasn't hallucinating. If I could just reach the temple, I would find food and water, but it seemed I would never find it. There really wasn't a temple, was there? At least, that's what I started to believe. When I tried to continue walking my legs started to cramp and I fell again. This was when my depression hit, and I was convinced I wasn't going to live for much longer. A few hours turned into a day, and I was still alive. Still starving and even more dehydrated, but alive, so I decided to get back up. I stood as tall as I could and marched on towards nothing but more sand. I was in intense pain from head to toe as my legs propelled me further into the heat of the day. I didn't know where I was going, and my body seemed to be on autopilot. I swear I passed out, and when I woke up, I was still marching in the sand. That's when I realized this was my fate. My life before was the illusion. I was never there. I have always been here, in this endless desert, marching towards nothing, forever. Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.
Hands moving quickly, My finger pokes my right eye. Now I feel stupid. This is a true story, unfortunately. I don't quite remember what grade it was 7th or 8th. I was presenting a project about Greek mythology and in my nervous stammer I made the mistake. I poked it hard, too. It wasn't a light poke, oh no! My eye not only watered for several minutes but it was sore for 2 whole days. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this haiku, please check out my profile for more. If you like horror then I got you there, too. Any interactions are appreciated.
Mistaken Master's Legion
"Fallen Father, hear our cries, Prepare our bodies for the prize. Bless our eyes to see you rise." The thirteen voices rose with the fire as it danced towards the sky, enveloping the sacrificial lamb. Matilda Madison, the last original member of the Coven of Our Father, led the spell. A spell she and many others had been working on for over four decades. Most of the coven, current, and past members went into bankruptcy trying to fulfill the requirements for this summon, but tonight was the night. As the orangish red flames became light blue, the thirteen women that surrounded the fire knew their decades of preparation had paid off. They were moments away from giving themselves to the King of Hell. Every member that wanted to be impregnated by the Dark Lord had to make an artifact out of rat bones and snake skin, then have that blessed with strength by seven separate priests. Along with the self-made artifact, the fire had to be placed in the center of a giant golden pentagram. The bankruptcies came from trying to purchase enough gold to make the pentagram, several miles all together, and buying enough land to bury it. The next required object was a crystal that had been blessed under a blood moon by the whole coven, four separate times. The very last requirement was for the spell to be performed under a super flower blood moon, which happens when a supermoon occurs during a total lunar eclipse. The fire started to grow, almost abolishing all shadows of the near perfect circular grove of trees. The blue dancing flames started to emit black smoke, which obfuscated whatever just appeared in the center of the fire. A low unearthly growl now accompanied the popping and sizzling at the center of the blaze. The growl continued in volume as the flame froze, dissipating slowly to unveil thick dark hooves. As the flames continued to fade black fur covered legs became discernible. The fur continued up as the frozen flames disappeared inch by inch. The creature's goat legs led to its exposed genitals and then up to abs, chest, and neck all covered in thick black fur. Instead of the head of a goat, a fierce, snarling, jaw chomping wolf's head appeared. The teeth were sharp, white, and all canines. The eyes were pure black, and behind its large ears, horns formed into deadly points. "Hello, disciples," the creature reached out telepathically to all surrounding him, "You have freed me for a time. What offerings have you brought me, for I crave sustenance." The hulking beast's voice was calm, but authoritative and high ending in almost an echo. "Yes fa, fa, … father," Matilda's voice faltered for a moment. "Welcome, Father. we did not know to have food ready for you." "No matter, children. I sense that you all wear the artifact. Is this true?" The echoing voice asked. "Yes, Father, we all wish to receive the prize." Matilda replied, then added, "Did we do something wrong, Father?" "Not at all, child," the calm voice reassured her. "I have never enjoyed so many before." "How is this going to work, by the way?" One of the coven asked. "Sybil!" Matilda tried to interject, but Sybil continued with, "Is it one on one, or a group thing?" "What is it that you speak of, child?" The hauntingly high-pitched echo asked. "The offering, Father." Sybil answered. "We shall see what feels right in the moment." The beast replied. The creature walked down from the embers, its hooves clatter reverberated through the small grove, and he approached Matilda. He was at least eight feet tall and smelled of burnt and rotting flesh. He placed his giant claw of a hand gently on Matilda's shoulder and asked, "What is your name, child?" "Matilda, Father." The proud answer came. "Do you lead this coven, Matilda?" "Yes, Father." "For one, I am not the Father. Lucifer is the Fallen one, not me." The beast started to walk around the perimeter of the embers and eyed the individual women. "Where did you find the book?" "A woman named Nora found the book in a dry well about sixty years ago." Matilda immediately answered. "And what havoc have you brought upon the land?" The beast asked hungrily. "We have cursed a few people with madness." Matilda answered again. "You have only caused madness in sixty years?" The beast had stopped in front of Sybil but turned to address Matilda. "Was it as widespread as the tower of Babel incident?" "No, we, uh …," "Disappointing." the beast said as he took another glance at Sybil before continuing his walk around the once tall and powerful flames turned dead embers. "I have plans to …" Matilda tried to explain but was quickly interrupted by a mental laugh that sounded almost giddy before it turned rather harsh when it said, "You plan, child! How delightful." "I apologize if I said something wrong, um," Matilda knelt and bowed down before the creature, then popped up quickly to ask, "What should we call you if not Father?" "You may address me as anything you wish, child." The echoing got shrill as the beast spoke, and all thirteen women shook their heads and massaged their ears to the internal dialog of the beast. "I have had many names over the centuries." "What would one of those names be, master?" "Vârcolac, Malphas, Marchosias, Wepwawet, Fenrir, and Cerebus among many others." The voice was crisp and on the side of irritated. "But you can refer to me as Master. It has a nice ring, child." "Of course, Master." Matilda replied. "Master!" The rest of the coven said in unison as they knelt and bowed. "Tell me, Matilda," the hulking figure, covered in black fur, kept walking around the perfect circular bed of coals, "Who translated the book?" "Nora, Master." Matilda raised her head slightly to answer and then bowed deeper than before, forehead touching the cool grass. "So, Nora, was the leader before you?" The high-pitched echoing voice asked. "No, Master. I became High Priestess over a year ago when Agatha passed away." Matilda didn't think this answer would please her Master. "Disappointing." the beast said again as he continued to eye up his new disciples and lick his lips. "Did you at least have a hand in this Agatha's demise?" "No, Master. Cancer is what took her from us." Matilda lifted her head momentarily. "Disappointing." The beast was now back in front of the bowing Matilda. "But I guess having you all murder each other for the position is so last century. Who translated my book, child?" "Um, Nora, Agatha, and a few others. It took them several years, Master." Matilda recalled. "They did a poor job. If it had been done correctly, you would not have thought I was the Fallen One. I was created by the Fallen One. I am one of his lieutenants." the beast said proudly as he stood straight and brought his right hand to his chest. "And I am sure the reason you have only spread madness is because of the poor translation. It is one of the only offensive magics that worked for you, am I right?" "Yes, Master." The thirteen witches responded in unison. "What did your poor translation say about the spell that summoned me?" The proud tone now gone from the high-pitched voice. "That you were Lucifer." Sybil answered first. "Yes, insolent child, I know that much!" The voice got deep and almost threatening. "The spell stated that we would be summoning Lucifer to impregnate everyone with this artifact," Matilda said as she lifted the hanging object in question, "and we would usher in the apocalypse at his side." "Hilarious," the high-pitched voice returned as the beast started to laugh. "How did you come up with that? I mean, summoning the Fallen One, and all thirteen of you having his child, what kind of fantasy is that?" The beast chuckled at the end as he wiped away a tear from his eye. "We will gladly have your children and add to the Fallen One's army, Master!" Sybil jumped in before Matilda could answer. "Your subordinate is quite … disobedient, Matilda." The beast quipped as he was still in front of the High Priestess. "Yes, Master, she does have a problem with authority." "Just your authority, sister," Sybil snarked from a knelt position, "You don't know what you are doing!" "How dare you," Matilda rose up, "You little bi…" "Silence!" The beast screamed in everyone's mind. "You forget where you are and who stands before you." "Apologies, Master." Matilda said as she bowed down again. "I apologize, Master." Sybil replied before bowing back down. "I am surprised you were able to make this spell work at all with how badly the translation is." The beast opened his lips to show off all of his canines in a wide disturbing smile. "It's a testament to the mortal spirit. I envy that at times." The voice in their heads trailed off for a moment before remembering where he was going. "I am delightfully surprised that all of you made the artifacts. They are a lot of work, and your offerings will be rewarded when you reach Hell. You all can proudly stand now. I am about to receive your offerings. Once you are consumed, you will be immediately promoted to Captain in Olivier's, Prince of Cruelties, army. And you will lead a company of 200 trained demons into battle against the false god. How does that sound as an award?" "It sounds …" The first two words were excited until Matilda realized what had been said, "Did you say consumed, Master?" "Of course, that is what you are offering to me, your life essence." The smile returned once the beast walked to the women to the right of Matilda and with a wave of his hand drained her of her life. Sand seemed to flow through the air from the woman's face and into the sharp claws of the beast. With each grain that left her, she aged. Starting at 32 years old, she was quickly aged to 40, then 50. At this point, the woman's face became scarred with age lines, and then the flesh cracked and broke, revealing the skull of the once young woman. When the beast finally put his hand down, the remains fell to the ground in a puff of dust and the matching robes everyone was wearing. Several of the coven screamed in terror as they tried to flee, but with a snap of the beast's fingers, fire rose in between the women and the trees. "Yes, stupid children, fear me for I am your reckoning!" The shrill voice turned into laughter as it jumped at the next in line and grabbed her before she could run. She tried to scream, but her life essence was quickly pulled from her, and her body crumbled into dust. The beast then launched itself towards the opposite side of the circle. The dancing fire illuminated the huddled women hiding by it. As he flew through the air towards them, the witches scattered, but with his superior speed, he easily caught one in each massive claw. "Please spare me, Master!" One begged while the other tried to fight. The fighter beat on the beast's black fur covered arm and chest before the beast's mouth opened and stretched, allowing for the woman, who was now screaming at the top of her lungs, to fit inside. The jaws closed with a grotesque squishing noise that was accompanied by a loud popping and bone breaking sound. The woman's cries, muffled by the closed lips around her naked chest, stopped abruptly when the beast bit down for a second time. The sounds of ingesting their sister witch caused several others to lose their lunch. Matilda, still in her spot, grew courageous and threw the only other offensive spell she knew; a basic fireball. It hit the beast square in the back, searing off the fur and the first layer of skin. It barely even fazed the beast, which was now swallowing the second half of the witch. It turned its body to look at where the attack came from and locked eyes with the High Priestess. He just smiled as his mouth opened wide to accommodate the second witch in his grasp. He turned to face the brave but stupid woman as he finished swallowing his second morsel. "Sisters," Matilda screamed as she pulled back her hand to finish the spell for the fireball, "We have to stick together! Join me!" The laughing continued, but this time, it was escaping from the open maw of the demon lieutenant, who was now walking towards the High Priestess. She was able to fire off four balls of hellfire before the eight foot tall monster reached her mid conjuring and wrapped the little woman in his claws, which cut her skin with ease. Matilda stared up into the black eyes of the massive demon and awaited her eventual horrific death in the mouth of the beast, but after several seconds the mental bridge connected again and the giggling invaded everyone's mind. "Is that it?" The giggling erupted into full laughter before subsiding as he brought her closer to his face and mentally asked, "Where is the fight, child? Did you really expect to hurt me with hellfire? You have the greatest power in this coven, even though it is still miniscule, and you squandered it. You could have been strong. You had the potential." "Th, the, uh … spare me, and I will feed you hapless girls." Matilda turned from defiant to pleading in a second. A few long seconds dragged by before the beast's mouth closed, and then he said one word, "Elaborate." "I, I … I could get young girls to join the coven and feed you one or two every few years. I could train them to be strong witches and get them to make the artifact." Matilda explained. "That is delicious!" The echoing voice returned as did the shuddersome smile. "You would continue my tradition?" "Yes, Master!" Matilda pleaded. "Interesting." The beast then brought her back up close to his face, and the wolf's nose twitched a few times while he inhaled deeply. "You have only a few years left, child. And to become strong, you need youth." "What about me?" Sybil yelled, still standing in her spot, scared for her life. "I am young, Master!" "It's the insolent one, isn't it?" The demon asked Matilda in a sing-songy echoing tone without turning to look. "Yes, Master." Matilda confirmed his suspicion. Now the beast turned around, and the huddled group of women skirted the edge of the dancing fire wall to try and get out of the demon's line of sight. The monster gave them no attention as he carried Matilda over towards Sybil. The sinister smile returned as he now loomed over the youngest while holding the oldest in his claws. He entered her mind and asked her, "Why would I want a disobedient little witch like you?" "I have never, and will never disobey you, Master." Sybil stood proudly and answered out loud. "I disobey her because she doesn't want to use the, uh, your book, Master." "Is that true?" The hybrid animal asked with the first genuine seriousness of the encounter. "No, Master. I told her I wanted to get the book out of storage so we could reexamine a few pages and try to translate it ourselves." Matilda offered an explanation. "You never said that!" Sybil interrupted the conversation. "And you think interrupting me will gain you favor for the new position of High Priestess?" The beast asked with a displeased look on the giant wolf head. "One of you is lying. I never understand you humans. I am in your mind, your thoughts, your brain, but you think you can lie to me? I am a DEMON." He then looked down at the older of the two with an accusing stare before saying, "Disappointing." And opening his giant maw that then expanded further than before and it ended with just darkness he threw Matilda in whole. The mouth closed around her, miraculously, and the jaw muscles started to walk her down the throat like a snake eating large prey. After the long process of swallowing the former High Priestess the beast turned towards Sybil. They made eye contact for a few seconds before a look of realization popped on her face, and she quickly hit the floor. The beast then looked around for the others before turning back towards the bowing Sybil. "You will do this regularly? Bring me young women to feed on?" "Yes, Master." Sybil answered without raising her head. "And what do you want in return, besides your life?" The beast asked through the mental connection. "Just give me power, Master!" Sybil cried. "I could help you learn Hell-speak so you can read my enchiridion." The beast mused in her head. "Yes, Master, I can spread your influence far and wide." "I foresee a very productive partnership." The demon said, 'And if you don't follow through with your side, you will eventually be seeing me again. I will take my revenge slowly, child." "I swear I am your devoted disciple, Master!" Sybil said, still bowing. "Stand, High Priestess Sybil." The beast echoed a congratulating tone, and when she finally stood, he put his hand on her shoulder, and she felt a weird sensation engulf her. "Now go, you can walk through my hellfire. I need you to start immediately. I will contact you through a familiar." With that said, the young woman turned and ran straight towards the flames. The other seven witches watched as she disappeared through a hole that opened once she was close to it. The beast then slowly turned around and faced the huddled group of women on the other side of the inflamed grove of trees. The beast slowly took his first two steps, watching the fear fill the faces of his prey with superior eyesight, and then he dashed over the massive bed of embers within a breath and appeared out of nowhere in front of the group. "I just love the taste of fear!" The monster screamed in their mind's before plucking two out of the crowd and opening his mouth all the way, several feet of nothing but sharp canines lined both sides of the horror hole. After the lines of teeth, there was a black void that seemed to peer back the longer you stared. One woman stared for too long and became mesmerized by the nothingness. She was the third to be thrown in and consumed. The next two were turned to sand from a wave of his clawed hands, and the last two, he just used his power to bring them to him. He threw both in his huge mouth and chewed them into sludge and swallowed. "With seconds to spare," the demon mentally screamed as the body could only howl at the dwindling super flower blood moon. With a puff of smoke, the demon disappeared while the fire around the inside perimeter of the grove dissipated. The grove became silent as an eerie breeze started to spread the ashes of the consumed.
"Great mother, hear our cry. Blanket us in the shadows of your protection. Hide us away from the wolves' detection." The group of huddled women whispered as they picked up leaves and placed a small rock into the center and then wrapped that in burnt cloth. The women, hidden among the brush of the forest, held their breath as a group of townsfolk wielding pitchforks and torches passed by them. They stayed perfectly still and watched as the armed people looked for them. The large group went from brush to brush, thrusting their pitchforks into them in the hopes of finding their victims. One man neared the hiding women and shoved his makeshift weapon into the bush. It came precariously close to piercing the eye of one of the hiding women. "Anything over there, Jeremiah?" A yell came from a few meters away. "No, Pa, nothing here!" Jeremiah yelled back. With that, the townsfolk reformed their group and walked in the opposite direction of the hidden women. The women stayed still until the light of the torches completely disappeared. When a few silent minutes passed, the huddled group stood up slowly and walked in unison towards the clearing. Once there, the youngest woman, Mary Ann, burst into tears. "We are never going to make it." The teenager cried out. "Shhh, sister." The oldest and most experienced witch, Helen, started. "We can't afford them coming back. Stay your tongue, child." Mary Ann covered her mouth with both of her hands, but the tears just flowed over them. Helen looked around again before pulling the younger girl into her arms. "We will be out of Salem soon." The cool air of the night brought the different smells of the forest to engulf the five women. The smell of pine needles and dirt mixed into a hypnotic cascade of goosebumps over the women as they started their journey north. It would be dawn by the time they reached the edge of the Massachusetts settlement, and it would be near dusk by the time they reached New France. The night was long, and the journey was arduous, but the women kept a quick pace. The first stop for a rest was a widow's barn. The hay pile smelled stale, and the dirt was moist in the dilapidated structure. The widow always left a loaf of bread, and whatever vegetables came out of her garden. The stop was brief, and soon, the women were back on the move. Helen, having done this twice before, knew exactly where to go, which trails she needed to follow, and how to slip past the last outpost for the Massachusetts settlement. The five women following their sister witch were scared, tired, and bleeding from having to jump into the thorn covered bushes at every slight noise that rang through the trees. Helen knew the people from the town wouldn't be this far out, but the people that got paid for every witch they brought to justice were roaming these parts. They rode horses and were accompanied by dogs, but instead of eating the food left by the widow, Helen had learned to use it as a diversion. The next stop was a hedge witch that hid in the woods. This was where they would actually rest and eat the vegetables and whatever the hedge could offer. Helen was leading the others down a small trail before she stopped abruptly. "Great mother, hear our cry. Blanket us in the shadows of your protection. Hide us away from the wolves' detection." The women followed Helen's lead and repeated the words, picking up leaves, placing their pebbles inside, and wrapping them in the burnt cloth. The spell immediately took effect as the women disappeared into the brush. "Helen, it's me." A tree spoke before losing the illusion, and a tall athletic woman appeared. "Abigail," Helen stood and broke her own illusion. "You're getting really good at that." "Practice," the younger of the two said before embracing her friend in a hug. "Practice is important, Helen." "Are we this far already, sister?" One of the other women, Alice, asked. "No, you are not, and the rest of you stay hidden." Abigail hissed, "the woods are rampant with those hunters. They know you're gone, and I came this way to help." "We won't make it!" Mary Ann cried out and accidentally broke her illusion. "Mary Ann, redo your protection, now!" Helen exclaimed through a whisper. When the youngest member of the group finally became covered again, the hurried whispers began. "They have three man teams patrolling the rest of the forest from here to French territory. We might have to engage to get there." Abigail said with a serious look on her face. "I have novice witches with me, and none of them know offensive magic." Helen replied, worried for those in her care. "We won't be able to sneak by them all." Abigail explained as she motioned for them to follow her. "Now let's get going. We are in for a long night." Abigail conjured shadows from the surrounding area and blanketed it over the group. Now, they could move freely, as long as they stayed close together, which Abigail led the way. Less than an hour later, they had to hunker down and apply the individual camouflage spell as they saw lights from torches held by hunters in the distance. The group of hunters stayed long enough for leadership to discuss going around, but during the discussion, the armed men just walked away. Abigail took the lead again, and they walked as quietly as possible through the dense thorn covered brush. Their pace was slow and steady, but they were behind schedule, and the sun would be up soon. The sun would render their hiding spells almost useless. Only Abigail and Helen knew this. The rest were new enough to the lifestyle that they were barely able to cast the spell to begin with, and they definitely didn't know the power they were calling on was the moon. They just did as Helen had taught them in their houses earlier in the night. The rays of the sun streamed up into the sky before the ball of fusion appeared. It was still dark, but a peek of advancing light was slowly changing that. The front of the line, Abigail, broke through the last bit of brush and found a trail that would take them towards the New France border. They were still a few hours away from that border, but it was easier terrain. No one complained about the dangerous thorns, but everyone had enough of it and wanted a break. "Stick to the sides," Abigail warned as she pulled the slowly disappearing shadows together and over the group. The group, relieved from the hard and sharp needle like foliage, stretched out and fell back in line. A few minutes dragged by before Abigail whispered, "Get down and hide, now!" The almost quiet murmurs of the new witches gathered then disappeared as the spells took effect. As the group of women vanished, a cat appeared next to Abigail and meowed loudly. "Sebastián, what are you doing here?" Abigail asked as she picked up her familiar. "Meow." The cat replied as he pawed her mouth. "Everyone, stay where you are," the leader whispered. The cat's head swiveled around towards a noise only he could hear at the moment. He head butted his owner's chin and then jumped from her arms and ran in the direction he had looked. Seconds passed before everyone heard what was coming. There was a loud hiss and meow from Sebastián and then a booming bark followed right behind it. The women could now hear a chase being played out by the cat and dog, but the cat was leading the dogs away. A torch seemed to light like magic only a few meters away before a deep voice asked, "Why are you lighting that?" "Yeah, the sun is coming up." Another disembodied voice spoke up. "Why aren't we following the dogs?" The torch lighter asked. "What are the odds we are going to come across a cat in the woods?" The deep voice questioned the two men, then stated. "It's their familiar. Now, spread out a little bit." Abigail had turned into a tree, and Helen and her group had invoked the weak shadows of the pre-dawn light. The three men were now advancing towards them when a cry erupted behind the witches that startled everyone into breaking their illusion. Mary Ann, young and scared, had cried out and then ran back the way they had come. The hunters saw her first, but as they got closer to where the dark clothed woman had been, they discovered the rest of the group. Abigail, still a tree, started to shake her limbs, which caused the fake leaves to fall, and started growling at the men. Helen started to repeat, "Bind their legs, bind their arms. Snare their mind through this charm." And at the same time, picked up some twigs and some vine off of the nearby bush. She started to wrap the twigs in the small vine as she continued to whisper the words, "Bind their legs bind, their arms. Snare their mind through this charm." The first hunter, aiming his musket at the moving tree, was quickly grabbed by a series of vines and thrown to the ground. The vines then sprouted out all along the man's sides and wrapped him from head to toe. The dark to light green vines varied in size, but all started constricting around the first hunter. His body started to crack and pop as the pressure continued to increase. His lungs were squeezed beyond survival, and the muffled screams came to an end. The bones kept breaking until every major bone was in at least two pieces. After a few more seconds of squeezing the hunter to a pulp, the vines returned to the ground and disappeared. The other two hunters just stared at the unrecognizable lump of red goo that was once their friend. The one holding the still lit torch, even though the sun was mere moments from breaking the horizon, cried out, "What just happened!" He and the other armed man turned and ran in the opposite direction, dropping the torch and their weapons. The women then turned and looked at Abigail for their next move. "We should go get her." Helen said, to which no one said anything, just followed. Abigail took the lead back after the young witch, but her reluctance was felt throughout the group. The trail was quick to follow as the fleeing girl stomped as she ran away from their position. The leader stopped again when the sound of more men caught her ear. They were talking loudly, and the group stopped to listen. "What should we do with her, boys?" A calm voice wafted in on the cool breeze. Then a familiar voice followed on the breeze and begged, "Please, don't hurt me, I am not a witch!" "Then why are you running in the forest?" The calm voice asked. "I, uh, I was … I was with witches, real witches. They could disappear and turn into trees. I can't do anything. I am not a witch!" Mary Ann pleaded. Abigail and Helen slowly approached through the brush, being as silent as possible. They could now see Mary Ann knelt in the dirt in front of three armed men. The calm voice came out of the man holding Mary Ann's hair, "You sure are a pretty witch." He then started undoing his belt while saying, "You play nice, and you won't get hurt." Helen, with a pissed look on her face, whispered, "Hell no." And started her spell by repeating."Bind their legs, bind their arms. Snare their mind through this charm." And wrapping more twigs with new vines. The leader's legs were quickly engulfed in vines, which threw him to the ground. This time, the two men didn't run but instead turned their guns towards Mary Ann. It was Abigail's turn to intervene, and she went with a wind spell that made the men tumble away from the young woman. In their rolling, both were able to pull the triggers of their muskets. One missed everything and dug itself in the soil, but the other hit Mary Ann in the shoulder, and she collapsed. Abigail and Helen rushed through the brush to the injured woman, but Abigail said, "I got them," and walked towards the men trying to load their muskets. A few quick words and her body started to emit chains of lightning harmlessly into the trees, but when she grabbed both men at the same time, the lines of plasma traveled into the bodies of the men. This ambush of electricity even traveled down into the metal muskets, turning them red hot. The blackened bodies from being fried by lightning crumbled to the ground, and Abigail turned her attention to Helen and Mary Ann. "Come Helen, let's leave this betrayer here for another group of hunters to find." Abigail turned her nose up at the injured woman. "We can't do that. She still needs protection and a safe path to freedom." Helen replied as she knelt down next to Mary Ann. "This will hurt you more than me, just stay quiet, okay?" "Okay, I'll try." "No, you will stay quiet, or I will make you stay quiet." Abigail hissed again, "There are still groups of hunters out here, and they probably heard those shots, so keep it shut." "Yes, sister." "Oh, don't you dare call me that!" Abigail almost screamed, "We heard you betray us. You can't do magic, remember? I should squash you like a bug." Helen, who was kneeling next to Mary Ann, stood up at that sentence. "You will not squash her like a bug. Now shut up. I need to concentrate on this." Helen resumed her knelt position beside the shot girl. She dug her hand into the cool and moist soil for a handful and brought it in front of her mouth. She whispered softly. "Earth mother, hear my plea, send your healing right through me. Take this soil as my soul, and heal this person whole." The dark soil began to change into the color of the alabaster skin that Mary Ann possessed. Soon, the hole was completely gone, and Helen was aged a year for her sacrifice to the betrayer. She helped Mary Ann up then whispered just to her. "Stay in the back and stay quiet. We will not save you a second time." Helen warned. "I can't believe you would do that for her!" Abigail said, "It wasn't a life-threatening wound." "The way she cries about everything, it would threaten our lives." Helen rebuffed. Abigail nodded and walked back to the coven as the finishing touches spread out over the area of Mary Ann's shoulder. Helen got to her feet, then helped the teenager to hers, and they followed Abigail through the brush. When they got to the trail, Abigail caught their eye from the left peripheral. She was standing stoically while raising her hands from the waist to over her head while speaking another language. Mushrooms started sprouting from the ground, even appearing on the trees. They grew in a large circle around Abigail, who finally jumped over the thick foot grouping of mushrooms on the back side while the front continued to grow down the trail. "What are those mushrooms?" Helen asked as they rounded up the coven and headed the opposite direction. "It's a trap for the hunters." Abigail calmly stated. "What kind of trap?" Asked Helen. "One that will maim or kill." "I really wish you wouldn't have done …" "Why not?" Abigail interrupted, "They are shooting to kill us!" "We are acting out of fear for our lives." Helen started, "They think what we are doing now is us all of the time, which is something to fear. But we don't act like this all of the time, do we?" "..." "No, we don't." Helen didn't really wait for a response, "We are peaceful people. We just want to be left alone like everyone else." After a few seconds of stillness in the air, Abigail replied, "We need to go." Without another word, the two older women gathered the small coven and headed down the trail. Their schedule had been destroyed as dawn had broken, and they were still a couple of hours away from the next stop. With the sun up, both of the hiding spells were almost useless. The tree spell didn't rely on the moon, but with more light, the color of the tree stood out. While most trees in the area were either coniferous or had few leaves and were grayish in color, the tree spell imitated both and became green instead of gray and had a lot more leaves. The next hour was long as every way they turned, there were ditches. They would just walk around them, but it seemed the barriers were leading them to a specific spot. Instead of continuing straight, they decided to go left of all the ditches they could see. It worked for some time, but the women kept feeling someone watching them. They couldn't see anything through the trees, but the feeling never went away. They finally reached the next stop and were met by no one. A certain someone started to freak out when Abigail volunteered to stay and find the next person. That's when the plan changed to venture off the trail a ways and check on the woman that should have met them. The coven was reluctant but followed anyway. After almost thirty minutes, Abigail spoke up, "We are here. Now, wait for me to give the signal." She then disappeared through the last line of trees and into the open. "See guys, I told you they would come to us." A worn voice calmly called out. "Where are the rest of your kind, sweetheart?" "I don't know what you mean." Abigail tried a French accent. "We aren't going to play games." The older gentleman raised his right arm as a signal for two of the men to pull out some kind of metal like contraption. "I have played my fair share of witch games. Yes, I have met your kind before, witch!" With that last word yelled, the man threw his hand down, signaling his two men to fire. Both fired at the woman with what turned into nets, but she cartwheeled to the left and out of the way. Next, she said something in another foreign language and threw her arms out at the older gentleman. What followed was a build-up of red energy, and then that energy rushed forth, looking like fire and dancing towards the man. Unfortunately, both of the odd gun wielding men jumped in the way and were instantly dissolved. The energy then dispersed harmlessly into the air. "I have met your kind before, too, hypocrite." Abigail yelled as she threw another wave of energy at the man. "You use magic to hunt us!" While Abigail taunted the leader of a group with at least nine people left, Helen to try and teach the coven a new spell, an offensive spell. She had them all, Mary Ann included, grab a few sticks and some vine from the ground and in the bushes around them. She then had them recite the spell a few times before interjecting with, "You have to mean it. And it helps to have eye contact with what you wish it to grab. Now, each of you pick a different person out there and do the spell. On 3. 1, 2, 3 go." Now the seven person coven plus Helen were concentrating on boots as Abigail continued to taunt the old man. "I am far from a hypocrite, you disgusting creature!" The man screamed as he cocked and shot his pistol at Abigail, who sidestepped it, "I am a purist, witch. I only use man-made objects!" "Oh, I am sorry the hypocrite doesn't like being called a hypocrite!" Abigail yelled before charging up her red energy again. This time, she overshot it, and the man was able to pull another loaded pistol from his side and shoot at her. It missed, by a mile. That is when the rest of the men tried to rush Abigail with their numbers, but only three could move freely. When the stationary men started to slam to the ground, the three still up right ran away. The only one left was the older gentleman. "I will never surrender to you, witch!" The man said as he pulled two more loaded pistols from under his jacket. "I don't want you to!" Abigail replied loudly before sticking her hand as far apart from each other as she could. Her eyes were closed, and she started to emit pure white plasma from her fists. She then brought them down together, which was quickly followed with a thick beam of plasma going through the old man, frying him in an instant. His guns fell to the ground unharmed from the lightning. In the second after the lightning hit, the thunder boomed above them. The novice witches, including Mary Ann, were awestruck at the power Abigail just held. As the victors rounded the house that was the home of another stop along their trail to freedom, they saw what happened to the woman that had lived there. Her lithe body swung in the wind from a tree she had probably played in as a child. Her face was blank, and her eyes were frozen in place as she swung. As they passed the tree, Abigail cut her friend down and used her cloak to cover her face. Abigail and Helen wept for their fallen friend, and then they walked down the trail that wended its way into the first of many small French villages. They were safe now. They could start over. Helen hugged each of the coven members, but when asked why she wasn't coming with them, she just replied, "I have more sisters to help."
The rough gloved hand barely missed the brown haired drunk it was thrown at. He reciprocated with a blow that landed on the opposing man's left cheek. A few feet away, the burly barback hoisted a man into the air, off of the female bartender, and threw the man like a rag doll towards the door. Next to the door, undisturbed by the flying individual, were twin blond men beating on an even larger fella, who seemed annoyed with the feeble assault. The giant of a man grabbed both twins by the heads, with hands almost bigger than their heads, and slammed them into one another. The duo, knocked out, fell onto the giant man, and he just shrugged them off of him. The owner, George, was washing a dish and watching over his spirits in case someone tried to take them during the fight. Another couple of fighters tumbled into a chair, which contained a man losing his money in a game of poker. This interruption caused the table to move, and the four seated players got up yelling at each other and the pair fighting. The card players soon joined the fray after collecting their money and fighting over what was in the pot. Soon, the majority of the room was engaged in some form of fighting, including the female bartender that now had a club made out of redwood. A few customers were still mid conversation, with one in the corner. George was finishing the collected dishes in the sink. The noise must have wafted over to the Sheriff's office as he walked in with his six shooters in hand. He tried hollering for them to settle down, but they kept fighting. BANG BANG The room stuttered before all turned to look at the man holding one of his revolvers in the air, pointed at the ceiling. When there was complete silence, the Sheriff spoke up. "Settle down, or I am throwing all you in a cell or a coffin. Whichever is easiest." Everyone looked around at the room, but when the giant blond in the back apologized and sat down, everyone followed the action. The Sheriff holstered his guns and walked towards the bar. George immediately grabbed a shot glass and poured the Sheriff a whiskey. As he looked around, he noticed a familiar hat in the corner. The Sheriff took his shot, asked for another, shot that, and then walked to the middle of the room. "Is that you, Travis?" "Unfortunately, Sheriff." "What are you doing back?" the Sheriff asked as he walked towards the corner. "More business." the shadowy figure replied. "Business here?" the Sheriff asked, voice breaking slightly. "Yes, Sheriff, here." The middle-aged man quickly made the rest of the distance and whispered, "What is it this time? Is there another dire wolf?" "No more wolves, Sheriff." The man dressed in all black finally looked over at the one with the badge. "Well, what is it?" The cowboy hat came off his combed over white hair as he almost shuddered at the thought of another attack. "I don't know yet." The dry reply seemed to slap the other man in the face. "What the hell does that mean?" the Sheriff, taken aback, finally got out. "Whatever is to happen, hasn't yet." Travis replied as he took a drink from the mug in front of him. "How do you know it's going to happen here?" The Sheriff, now calming down, asked. "I have my ways," Travis said, "And it happens," he pulled a gold timepiece out of his black vest pocket, "around 2 hours from now." "What happens in 2 hours?" the Sheriff asked again. "No idea, Bernard," the man dressed in all black offered, "Now, let me drink my beverage." "Can't you give me a hint?" the Sheriff asked, "I can't just sit by and wait for my citizens to get hurt." "All I know is a large surge of energy is going to originate in this town," Travis told the older man. "In 2 hours." "OK, I will leave you be, for now, but in 2 hours, I expect to be seeing you. I need to know what we are fighting this time," Bernard said as he stood up, brushing a speck of dust off of his Sheriff's badge, "You ain't pulling that lone wolf crap with me again." "I promise," Travis said with probably the first true grin of his life as he continued, "If you can fight it, all the better." "That's better." Bernard turned his body before his head as he left with a reminder, "See you in 2 hours." Travis returned to the worn book he had been reading under his black jacket and waited for the hours to pass. He kept an eye out for the patrons of the bar, too. They were just in a whole room brawl, after all. The hours flew by as Travis read his book. Travis pulled the golden pocket watch out again and checked the time. It was a few minutes before whatever was going to happen, so he stood up. His long strides took him outside quickly after he paid his tab to George. He looked around for the Sheriff, who was leaning against his office wall, and was looking straight at him. They both stepped into the dirt and met mid street. Travis, the taller of the two, stood silent until Bernard thrust out his right hand and said, "Well met, good sir. It is good to see you again despite this …" Interrupting his rehearsed salutations was a bright green light that erupted in the night sky. The light grabbed everyone's attention on the street as it lingered for a few long seconds. Coming from Travis' right and Bernard's left the men looked at each other, one with a look of surprise and the other with a look of another Tuesday, and before either moved the Sheriff said, "The mine!" in almost a whisper. The duo turned west and started running. "What was that?" Bernard asked loudly a few feet behind Travis. "The surge I told you about.," Travis replied as he kept up his pace. "Where is mine?" "Just down this trail," Bernard said, exhaustion already in his voice, "There is a sign a ways down." "See you there," Travis said as he picked up his pace and left the Sheriff in his dust. It took Travis only 10 minutes to run to the mine entrance, 25 for the Sheriff. When Bernard finally caught up, the younger man was holding some sort of contraption with multiple colored pieces of glass that he was shuffling through. A loud footfall and heavy breathing alerted Travis to the arrival of the Sheriff, but he kept looking through the pieces of glass. "What's that thing?" The Sheriff asked as he got closer. "It helps me identify different magics," Travis answered, "And it looks like an old magic, maybe natural." "What is natural magic?" "Magic pertaining to nature," Travis said as he flipped through the pieces again, "Growing trees, making water, or in this case, expanding the earth to create hills or mountains. "What does that mean?" "Bernard," Travis turned towards the man, "I can't answer all your questions. I need to concentrate." "Sorry …" Before Bernard could continue with his apology, a guttural sound seeped out of the mine entrance. The men looked at each other again when another gurgling noise echoed out of the dark hole. The sounds were getting closer, and the little light the half moon provided on the clear night illuminated the hole perfectly. Travis then asked an important question, "How many people were down there?" "Around 45. Why?" "If I am correct, we are dealing with evil spirits. The light was the seal being broken, and now they have bodies to possess," Travis explained as he started to back away from the hole, "Did you only bring your six shooters?" "Yeah, why?" "Because we need something more than bullets." They both continued to retreat slowly as the noise grew to a roar just seconds before the first possessed body exited the entrance to the mine. Its eyes were glowing a dull green, and Travis could now see the glowing of a mass of eyes coming towards the moonlight. He and Bernard picked up the pace of walking backward as the first of the horde emerged. Bernard was quick to pull his guns, but Travis lowered one of his arms. "We need to get some supplies for a more permanent solution," Travis stated. After seeing the horde sticking close to the entrance, he motioned for Bernard to follow him. They, almost in unison, walked backward as silently as possible before then turning around. The Sheriff kept looking back at the group of glowing eyes of the miners, scared they could hear his steps. Travis kept his smooth stride and headed forward as he started to speak. "Those possessed can be saved, but it's going to take more power than I have alone. To be safe, we need a group of people to help reinforce my power. Better yet, is there a healer or shaman in town? Is there anyone with magical aptitude?" Travis asked. "No, well, maybe." Bernard said as he removed his hat and scratched his balding head before elaborating, "Some woman moved into that creepy old Simpson house on the other side of town. The townsfolk seem to think she might be a witch." "We need more than might," Travis replied as he pulled a book out of a different vest pocket and started to flip through the pages as he walked. This book was much smaller and emitted a white glow as it was opened. It didn't require flipping of pages, apparently, as Travis would swipe his hand, vertically, over the open book, and the glow would stutter. Bernard was dumbfounded as he watched his acquaintance, but he kept his mouth shut and continued to walk. After a few minutes walking, Travis folded the pageless book and returned it to his pocket. He then added, "I need some ingredients, and you need to round up 10 people." With a snap of his fingers, the man in black disappeared into thin air. Bernard had questions, but he was left without answers the last time he saw Travis 9 years ago. Now alone, the thought of that horde of possessed miners made goosebumps form all over Bernard's body. So he took off at a jog towards town. It took 30 minutes to get back but he got lucky, there was a crowd outside. "What in heaven do we have here?" the Sheriff asked no one as he approached the crowd. On their faces, in the mud, lay the two blond men that were fighting the giant blond man earlier. The huge man seemed to take no pleasure in the win as he tried to stop everyone else from applauding. When he realized he wasn't going to win that fight, he walked through the crowd towards the bar. Bernard took a quick head count and yelled in amazement at there being 10 people left outside, not including the 2 laid out. He straightened up and, with his most authoritative voice, got the group's attention, "Ladies and gentlemen, if any of you were outside earlier, there was a bright green light …" "We know, Sheriff." "Um, right … well, I need you 10 people to help me deal with something related to the light. It, um, it seems it was the release of some powerful spirits that have possessed the miners," Bernard saw the look on people's faces as he explained the situation, "I have a friend that is very competent when it comes to these things. He is collecting whatever he needs to deal with the spirits. He just needs some help." "What do we have to do?" "I am not sure." came the Sheriff's response. "What kind of spirits?" "Yeah, are they good spirits? "He already said evil spirits, dummy!" "No, he said powerful spirits!" "Powerful spirits that possessed people! "Focus, please," Bernard begged the small drunk crowd, "I can't stress enough how much we need your help. I know that my friend will be back soon. Please, stay here while I go and see about another person helping. Okay?" The crowd mumbled in agreement and watched as Bernard walked through them and headed towards the Simpson house. It was a longer walk than to the mine, so he picked up his pace. The hour it took him to jog and run his way there crept by with his beating heart in his throat. When he finally reached the fenced-in home, there was Travis, now carrying a black bag. "How long have you been here?" the Sheriff still had his authoritative voice booming. "A few minutes," was all the response Travis gave him as he closed the book he was reading and put it back in his vest pocket. "Have you seen any movement inside?" Bernard asked as he opened the gate on the 4 foot fence. "She has the curtains drawn, but there is a slight bit of light coming from one of the large windows on the side," Travis answered as he walked behind the Sheriff. "Guess we will see in a moment," Bernard said as he reached the wrap-around porch. The gentlemen stood on either side of the door, and the Sheriff knocked. Then, in his Sheriff's voice, he yelled out, "It's the Sheriff. I need to speak to you immediately!" Bernard knocked louder. Before Bernard could utter a word, the metal clinking sound of locks disengaging found their ears. A sliver of light became a flood as the person inside opened it all of the way. "How can I help you … Travis Walker? Is that you?" The soothing voice of a woman which was now framed in the doorway wafted in the air as the men's eyes adjusted. "Winifred?" Travis looked surprised. "Great, you know each other!" "You know it's Winny, Walker." The auburn haired woman in her early 30s said. "Fair enough, Winny," Travis corrected himself. "So what brings you to my humble abode, Travis?" Winny asked as she eyed her callers up and down. "We have a situation …" the Sheriff started but was interrupted by Travis. "Evil spirits headed for town," Travis said, "Got any scales of a dragonfish?" "You mean to trap them in a cursed crystal?" Winny asked as she motioned for the men to follow her inside. "Yes." The woman began to dig through a drawer she opened. She quickly found a white bag that was knotted at the top. After handing it to Travis, she added, "Consider us even for that thing in Paris." "No, you owe me more than some scales," Travis replied as he opened the bag to inspect the contents. "Then, how about I help you with these spirits?" Winny smiled as Travis looked up from the white bag. "You think this small job will cover your mistakes in Paris?" Travis stoically asked. "It could be a start." the woman replied. "What happened in Paris?" Bernard interjected. "It would be a start." "Excellent," the woman exclaimed, "Let me grab my bag, and we can go." "What happened in Paris?" Bernard asked again. The two men stood on the old worn-out porch as they waited for Winifred to return with her bag. She reappeared, and after closing the door the 3 of them walked off the porch, Bernard taking the lead and Travis at the back. Once out of the open gate, they turned toward the city and kept walking. "How many people were turned?" Winifred asked as they neared the halfway point. "I am thinking up to 45 miners," Travis replied, "But who knows now." "Did you lock them up somewhere?" Winifred asked, hope in her tone. "No, we didn't." "Hey, don't blame me. I barely know what's happening," Bernard retorted. "I should have sealed the mine." Travis admitted. They continued to talk as they walked. Travis going over the plan and the other 2 asking questions. The plan was finally nailed down by the time they could see the lights of the town, but they could soon hear screams. They all picked up their pace, each grabbing their weapon of choice. Bernard had his six shooters at the ready, Winifred's hands were glowing a bright white, and Travis had produced a long staff out of thin air. They didn't have to get to the center of town before they realized the horror taking place. As they came down the main street, they could see bodies scattered everywhere, a few being crowded over by ravenous groups of blood covered people. A woman came running up to them, blood quickly pouring out of the side of her face. There was a hole in her left cheek, and as she grew white from the blood loss, her eyes started to glow a sickly green color. Within an instant, the hole sealed itself, and her plea for help turned into a nightmarish gurgling sound erupting from her throat. Bernard immediately popped off 3 shots into the woman's face, but those holes healed themselves as well. He shot 3 more from his second gun, but again, the holes healed themselves. That was when Winifred stepped forward and pushed the woman back with her magic. Travis then did the same, which caused the possessed woman to tumble backward. They walked a few feet forward, Travis still pushing the woman in the dirt before they got the attention of a few other possessed people. "What am I supposed to do? Bullets don't work, remember!" Bernard yelled as one of the possessed ran at him, and he emptied his left gun into the oncoming man's chest, which promptly healed. "Here," Travis replied as he threw a coin that magically turned into a plain staff of about 6 and a half feet long, "Try pushing them!" "Thanks," Bernard said as he started smacking the healed threat in the face, causing it to stumble. "Come on, Bernard," Travis exclaimed, "We don't want them to come back with fractured skulls." "But they instantly heal," Bernard yelled back as he put the staff against the chest of his enemy and pushed with all his might, which resulted in the thing falling backwards and getting caught up in the magic user's unified magical push. "They only heal so much," this time Winifred interjected, "The spirits are not infinite. Beat them up too badly, and they won't instantly heal. You can only destroy the vessel, which would make the spirits go dormant for a few years or decades. The longer it takes them to come back, the stronger they will be, and I am not staying to wait for them." "Neither am I," Travis added to Bernard's dismay, "Let's get them all this time." The trio advanced down the street, pushing 5 possessed bodies in their magical push. Bernard would gently point the new interested possessed towards the magic with the staff, but it only worked until they came upon the first corpse. The guts were strewn around the body. Everything had bites taken out of it. The man could be identified by his blond hair, with everything else having been chewed off, leaving his face bare to the bone. The pushing stopped advancing as they looked at the carnage at their feet. Seconds passed, and the eyes began to glow. Bernard, free for the moment, turned and waited for the blond man to rebuild himself. When the once eaten body got to its feet, Bernard used the staff to pull and then push it hard towards the magic. "Why are the dead becoming possessed and healing?" Bernard asked as he pushed the possessed man one last time. "That's their nature," Travis replied, "Don't get bit." The turn seemed to take some time as they walked up to 2 more bodies completely torn apart. Their arms were laying next to them, and their ripped open stomachs. These victims still had their faces, but little else. One was the second blond, and the other was George. This pissed off Bernard as he knelt down next to his friend and shed a quick tear before getting ready for the few possessed that were now advancing towards them. Travis recognized the miner uniforms and stopped pushing with his left hand. His hand then went brighter white, and a pure energy tentacle started inching out of his palm. He then whipped the long protrusion towards the 3 miners and wrapped it around them. The energy soon began to drag them into the collection of possessed people being constantly pushed backward. His hand then dulled to a wispy white, and the push wall widened by 3 feet. "You could do that all this time?" Bernard asked incredulously as he watched the remains of his friend start to reanimate. Travis ignored the Sheriff's question but asked, "Are we putting them in your office?" "Hell no," Bernard answered, "My place is too small. Let's put them in the bar." "Which one is that?" Winifred asked "The next building on the right," Bernard said as he engaged with his friend George and the second blond man, both possessed. They were lucky enough that the bar had a regular door instead of the well-known saloon door, and it was currently open. The 3 of them then used their magical push and the staff to corral the possessed into the building. Travis then whispered into his fingers as they did a weird dance before waving his extended fingers over the frame of the door, thus magically sealing it in a blue lingering light. "We can now push them through the door, and they can not get out," Travis said as his hands turned bright white and tentacles escaped them once again. A few possessed had crept up from around the corner, and Travis threw his hands out, which caused the beams of energy to fly towards them and wrap them up. They were then picked up and hastily pushed through the blue enchanted door. "How many do we have left?" Bernard asked with an exhausted sigh. "You tell us, Sheriff," Travis replied as he scanned the open streets, "You know the people better than us." "We only have 14 in the bar," Bernard said, "How are we going to get all of them?" "Well, I have a spell that might lure the evil spirits here," Winifred finally spoke up, "But I am going to need some nightshade, I have the rest in my bag." "I needed nightshade too," Travis explained, "And I grabbed a bit more than I needed," he then handed Winifred a few of the purplish flowers. "That's perfect," Winifred said as she hurried to the middle of the intersection while removing a bowl from her bag, "Watch my back for about 5 minutes." Fortunately for them, the streets were bare. The men stood and watched as Winifred knelt in the dirt and removed things from her bag. She would pull something out, crush it, and drop it into the bowl to be mixed and set on fire. Out of the bizarre blaze came a small red light that started to increase incrementally when Winifred began lightly chanting, which also increased over time. "What is she doing?" "She is summoning a higher demon," Travis replied, "The spirits will be drawn to it because it is top tier for their kind." "What if the demon shows up? This is worse than …" "He won't show up," Travis stated confidently. "And how could you possibly know that?" Bernard asked. "Because I killed him." Bernard just stared at the taller man for a few seconds and then asked, "What?" "I killed Mot." Bernard stared at Travis again before asking, "What do you mean you killed a higher demon?" "Story for a different time, Sheriff," Travis answered and motioned to the end of the street, "It's starting to work," then he yelled at Winifred, "Get up, Winny, they are coming." Winifred retreated to the porch, and the red light faded. Pulling and pushing the zombie like creatures through the magical door was rather easy and didn't take much time. Soon, the bar was full, and the street was empty. After trapping the last one, now numbering at 67, Travis took his ingredients and threw them into his own bowl and lit them on fire. The mixture turned an odd orange color before Travis dipped the 6-inch crystal into the glowing substance up to the leather handle. He held it in the bowl as it seemed to suck in the contents. When the crystal was removed, it was shining a brilliant orange. He held it up and approached the sealed door. His other hand swirled in place, and the dull blue lit frame vanished, and the door busted open. The trio took a few steps back, and Travis lowered the weapon at the green glowing eyed people and whispered a few obscure words under his breath. There was a piercing orange light, the sound of something falling, the light started to flicker, and when it died, the horde was laying on top of each other unconscious. 2 of the trio jumped into the air and celebrated, but the one in all black just turned around and looked down the street. "Looks like y'all celebrated too soon," Travis said with a sigh, "And the crystal is full," he showed the crystal, which was completely black. The trio stared down the street and watched as a sea of green eyes slowly walked towards them. These people, including nude to almost nude men and women, trampled everything that was in their way. When they came upon a covered walkway, they would stumble, bump, and crash into the posts, which caused the roof to collapse down onto them. The spirits inside would then fix the exterior, and the body had to climb out of the broken debris. "What do we do now?" Bernard asked.
Sitting with his back to the wall with a clear view of the large bar, Travis sipped on his coffee. hile taking glances of the room after reading a few paragraphs in the book on the table. A commotion caught his attention on the other side of the room. The five guys playing cards were now standing, pointing, and cussing at one another for cheating. The one wearing the blue gingham style shirt poked the guy next to him, who was wearing a brown shirt and matching cowboy hat. This, in turn, caused the latter to punch the former in the face. After that, the whole table started fighting. Travis watched with little interest as a blond man still wearing work gloves crossed the room and backed up the man in blue, who turned out to be his twin. The largest man Travis had ever seen stood up after the twins knocked the man in the hat out, and he fell onto the giant. Without hesitation, the twins jumped at the man, and he easily swatted them out of the air. The other three from the poker game got so caught up in arguing that when one of the twins knocked into them, they too started taking swings at one another. Soon, another argument broke out between a couple of people at a different table, and they, too, resorted to violence. The man wearing a well-worn white cowboy hat threw his empty mug at the gentleman in the brand new black hat and hit him in the chest. The black hat reciprocated with a punch to the white hat's jaw. Someone from behind the white hat came to his defense and flew through the air at the black hat, knocking him to the ground. Another person came to back up the black hat as he was being double teamed, and from there, the whole room, save Travis, chose violence. George, the owner of the bar, did his best to calm the room but was relieved when the saloon doors opened and the Sheriff walked in, holding his six shooters. BANG BANG The room stuttered before all turned to look at the man holding one of his revolvers in the air, pointed at the ceiling. When there was complete silence, the Sheriff spoke up. "Settle down, or I am throwing all you in a cell or a coffin. Whichever is easiest." The room kept silent and started putting chairs and tables back where they belonged. Travis went back to his book. It wasn't too long after that that Travis heard, "Is that Travis Walker? As I live and breathe!" The Sheriff approached Travis' table in the corner and lowered his voice. "What sort of hellish nightmare have you brought this time?" "I didn't bring the Dire Wolf, Bernard." "But you got rid of it?" Bernard asked, worry on every word. "Yes, the wolf is gone." "Then what brings you to my crossroads this time?" Bernard turned carefree in an instant and sat down. "I am not sure." "What the hell does that mean?" Bernard blurted out. "All I know is that a strong magical release is going to happen around 2 am." Travis nonchalantly replied while picking up his cup of coffee to take a sip. "What the hell does that mean?" Bernard repeated. "It means that in 2 hours, there will be a release of magical energy. I don't know why. I don't know how. All I know, Bernard, is that when things like this happen, all forms of magical creatures can be released." Travis tried to explain. "So it could be more wolves?" Bernard's voice caught in his throat with the last word. "No, that Dire Wolf being here was a fluke." Travis said as he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Then what is it?" Bernard now looked confused. "I. Do. Not. Know. Will you, please, leave me alone now. I would like to read in peace." Travis said, frustration now over his face. "Yeah, sure, no problem." Bernard seemed hurt by the bluntness but got up from the table before adding, "I expect to see you at 2." With that, the Sheriff turned and walked away. Travis returned to his book. The following hours flew by, and soon Travis was pulling his plain gold watch out of his black vest pocket. Just a few more minutes before whatever was to happen happened. He placed his book in his back pocket as he stood. He then fished out a few gold coins to throw the owner as he walked towards the door. When he stepped out of the saloon doors, he immediately saw the Sheriff sitting on top of a beautiful black horse, staring at him from across the street. Travis climbed onto Butter, his trusted steed, and both of them approached the middle of the crossroads. Just before Bernard could say a word, a bright green light flashed to the north. It lit up the right side of Travis's face and the left side of the Sheriff's. Bernard, with a shocked look on his face, said, "The mine!" And took off down the trail on his horse that headed north. "How far is the mine?" Travis asked as his horse easily kept up with the older man's horse. "About a fifteen minute ride on horseback. There is a sign." Bernard replied before Butter took off with a shot, leaving him in their dust. At a full sprint, Butter made it there in under ten minutes. Travis could immediately hear screams and the sounds of fighting echoing out of the hole. Travis stood still, put his forearms at a 90-degree angle from his body, palms up, and began to chant one word in a different language. Nothing happened, and Travis sighed. He opened his jacket and pulled out some kind of key ring from a pocket, but instead of keys, there were different colored pieces of glass. He cycled through them one at a time before he found one that showed a different scene. Instead of being in front of the large hole that was the mine, he was now looking at a wall of green through a glass made of pink. "Damn it." Travis said as the sounds of horse hoofs announced the Sheriff. The Sheriff got down from the horse before asking his question, "What's going on?" "An ancient evil has been unleashed." "Can you elaborate?" Bernard asked. "Not until I see what's coming out of the mine." Travis answered, "How many people are in there?" "Around 45, maybe 50. Why?" Bernard asked again. "Because it sounds like they are fighting whatever they let out." Travis explained. "And we are next in defense, so get ready." "Gotcha partner," Bernard replied as he pulled his six shooters out, still two bullets down in his right gun. The cacophony that enveloped the pair grew in intensity as whatever was released grew closer to its freedom. There were no longer screams coming from the hole, so Travis figured the magical beings had killed everyone and were marching towards domination. The creatures were in the mouth of the hole, but only their green glowing eyes could be seen by Travis and Bernard. The Sheriff shot off a couple of rounds at what was quickly becoming a sea of glowing green, but the bullets did nothing. The first few stumbled into the half-moon lit opening, and Travis immediately recognized what he was up against. Bernard put both of his guns up and emptied them into the emerging horde of miners. These miners, however, were far from normal. Instead of standing up right, they were slumped at the shoulders, almost like marionette dolls hanging on loose wires. They were moving so slow it was as if they were dragging their feet. But after the shots got the green eyed miners' attention, the light growls turned into almost screams of hunger as they clambered into the light. Bernard was halfway through reloading his guns when Travis spoke up, "Bullets aren't going to work, Bernard. They are possessed." "So we need to exorcize them?" Bernard asked. "Yes, but we can't just say a prayer." Travis replied as he opened his jacket and pulled out a bag of something and threw it at the horde, "I have a crystal that can essentially suck the evil spirits out of the miners, but I need a few ingredients." The small bag exploded on impact, and the three people the yellow dust enveloped stopped. The glowing green eyes began to fade, and the others in the horde noticed, causing them to start grabbing at them Travis threw his hands out in front of him, fingers fanned out. He then pulled his pinkies in forming fists, which then rocked out and opened into claws. He pushed his hands forward more and closed his fingertips, which caused the three freed people to be draped in an aura of white. When Travis then pulled his hands back, the people teleported to his side. "Run!" Travis yelled at them, and they took off towards town. "How many of those bags do you have?" Bernard asked as he started to back away from the group, gaining speed. "Not enough," Travis answered before his fingers began to glow a bright blue as he now whispered with his eyes closed. He opened them wide, and they, too, were glowing blue. His arms did a quick few movements and then extended out at their sides. Travis crouched, touching the ground with his fingers, and swiped out towards the walls of the small cliff the mine was cut into. This caused lines of blue to run towards the wall of dirt, then the blue climbed the malformed structure, and after reaching about ten feet off the ground, it jettisoned itself back towards Travis. When the blue lines collided, the entire interior of the outline became a solid blue wall. "So we are good now?" Bernard asked as he took a few steps forward. "No," Travis started, "It will only last a little while. We need to go and find some ingredients." "What do you need?" Bernard wondered out loud. "A couple of normal things like berries and roots, but also something a bit harder to find here; scale of a dragonfish." Travis elaborated. "I know of a woman that is rumored to be a witch. She lives across from the old train station." Bernard offered as they quickly walked away from the blue wall. "We need more than a rumor." Travis replied, "And I can make it work with a little magic." Bernard laughed as they got up on their respective horses and took off. The rest of the trek was silent except for the sounds of their horse's footsteps. They followed the trail south and soon saw the first building on the outskirts of the town. The structure was on the left side of the trail. On the other side of the road, hidden by trees, was the barbershop and then the general store. As they kept riding, the crossroads came into view, and there was a crowd in front of the bar. "What's going on here?" Bernard, in an authoritative tone, bellowed over the group. For the second time that night, the group from the bar stuttered to a stop. No one spoke up, so the Sheriff added, "We have something coming through here, so y'all need to get off the streets." "What's coming through, Sheriff?" An anonymous person in the group asked. "It's not good, and y'all should clear out." Bernard tried again. "We deserve to know." Yelled another anonymous person. "Yeah!" "We want to help!" The giant of a man from earlier, who had been kneeling next to two knocked out guys, stood up. "Hey, I appreciate the want, but …" "We can always use the help, Sheriff." Travis interjected. "But …" "They can help move the rest of the townsfolk towards the train station to the south." Travis steered Bernard towards a solution. "Oh, right!" Bernard finally caught on. "We do need help with that." Travis took over directing people, but he had misjudged the time it would take for the slow-moving zombie-like possessed people to reach town. Instead of the townsfolk heading south, they were still in town when the spirit possessed miners started to show up. The first victim was an older woman who assumed the miners were on break and welcomed them to help her with her bag. She didn't see the green glow of the miners eyes until it was too late. Accompanying the glowing eyes were chomping teeth that penetrated the woman's skin of her neck. It drew a bit of blood at first, but as the miner continued to bite, the blood was soon running down her clothes and pooling on the ground. In an instant, another miner lunged at the old woman as her screams reached the rest of the townsfolk. "They are here! Run! Run to the train station!" Bernard yelled from the middle of the crossroads. The living started to scream and run without thinking. Travis and Bernard did their best to help along the stragglers, but there were dozens of them. Everyone was still in town, and the miners were hungry. The miners, once slow paced, were now advancing with incredible speed. The next person to get attacked was a young man who worked first shift at the mine. He was tackled by two rabid humans, and once on the ground, two more came in to help rip his stomach open. The various organs spilled out, and each kneeling vile being grabbed at it like candy out of a piñata. The miners, many already soaked in blood, started lunging and jumping towards the regular people. One such victim was about to be a new mother and her infant, but the lunging green glowing eyed rabid human was suddenly enveloped in a white aura and thrown several meters north. It landed without injury and made its way south once again. Travis approached the woman, who recoiled in fear before he said in his calmest voice, "Let's get you and that baby to the station." She relaxed as much as she could with possessed neighbors attacking and followed the man in black. Before she knew it, she was rushing down the trail alone, with her baby, in a group of other fleeing townsfolk. Travis, having regrouped with the Sheriff, turned his attention to the miners still flooding into the packed streets of the small town. A handful of bystanders were already lost to the evil spirits. Only time stood in the way of them becoming the flesh hungry monsters that ate them. The spirit inside will heal what it can, and they will get to their feet and follow the lead of the possessed in front of them. The next couple to endure the horror of being eaten alive were the blacksmith and his wife. She lagged behind a second too long and got grabbed up by the blood coated fingers of one of the miners. The blacksmith, armed with a sword and several axes, was more than able to cut off the red painted arm, but two arms replaced the one as two previous townsfolk joined the assault. The blacksmith, skilled at making and using many different weapons spun and used the momentum to cut off the new appendages. They were replaced with the other arms, while the severed ones quickly grew back, which were then cleanly chopped off again. With all of his attention on the ones trying to get his wife, he failed to notice the two miners approaching from his back. When he went down, his wife was seconds behind him, both being shredded by numb fingers and deadly teeth. Their eyes started to glow behind the dead stare they both now had, and after their bodies rebuilt themselves, they too joined the feast. Travis noticed the miners were winning and decided to repeat a trick. With movements as quick as he could possibly do correct, he shot his blue light between the two closest buildings, ironically enough, the bar and Sheriff's office, and sealed the street. Unfortunately, he trapped more than a couple of regular people behind the blue wall with the hungry monsters. The screams were heartbreaking to listen to, and the family and friends of the ones trapped started their own cries. "You need to find me a few minutes to get my crystal ready." Travis said as he removed a bowl from a bag Bernard hadn't noticed before. "How?" Bernard asked as his wide-eyed stare focused on the blue wall that was being beaten on by dozens of zombified miners. "Get some people to help you hold them back for a few minutes." Travis said as he pulled more from the new bag. "How are we supposed to hold them back?" Bernard yelled, "And where did that bag come from?" "Get some other people to help you literally hold them back. Here," Travis stopped what he was doing and handed over 3 little bags similar to the one he had thrown earlier, "take these, but don't waste them. Throw them as hard as you can." With that, Travis hurried away from the blue wall to complete the ritual. Bernard did as ordered and started grabbing men and boys to fight as the line. He was relieved when the giant, Brady, stepped through the crowd, having gotten his family on their way to the train station he was ready to help. With him on the team, more men joined the defense. Everyone watched as cracks started forming in the blue material in front of them. The cracks grew and grew until there were only small shards of blue. Instead of breaking and falling to the ground like the glass it mimicked, the shards turned into dust and evaporated. The fight was on. The green eyed mass lurched forward, and it was immediately clear that the defenders were outnumbered 3 to 1. This resulted in a few of the townsfolk being grappled and tackled to the ground before the miners started biting through clothes and skin to get to the meaty parts. Brady, however, had picked up one of the possessed by the neck and trousers and was using him as a barrier. He was knocking back half a dozen at a time with his improvised weapon. Bernard was grappling with one and would slam it to the ground when another came his way. He was having trouble with his strategy when Brady, having thrown his makeshift shield, picked up the one Bernard was having trouble with and threw him several meters south. They exchanged quick pleasantries and turned back to the growing number of possessed. Brady punched one in the face, grabbed it by the throat and crotch, and threw him into 3 advancing miners. Bernard punched one in the face, tried to pick him up by the throat, but failed and tried to retreat only to stumble over an eaten body, moments from rebuilding itself, and falling to the ground. Bernard was down for half a second before he was jumped on by 5 different possessed people. The rest of the second ended, and a yellow dust erupted from the group and quickly exorcized the 5 possessed. Another second dropped, and Bernard, alive and unharmed, yelled at the confused miners, "Get to the train station, now!" The miners got up and ran. Bernard got to his feet and watched as Brady continued to mow over the possessed. There were only a few getting by Brady, and Bernard decided to try and push them together and hit them with a second bag. He was able to push the first two into the wall, which resulted in them falling to the ground. He then grabbed the third and, with all his strength, slammed the miner down on top of the two, struggling to get up. A fourth and fifth rushed Bernard, and he was able to steer them into the pile. He brought the bag back behind his head and aimed at and threw it towards the pile of miners. The yellow dust wrapped itself around the hill of flesh, and soon, the miners were back to themselves. Completely confused, but human. "Run!" Bernard yelled, "Run to the train station!" The miners hightailed it south without another word. Bernard went back into the fray. He watched as Brady continued to deal with quite a few of the green glowing eyed miners and now more than just a few townsfolk. Bernard intercepted a straggler, trying to sneak up behind Brady and tackled him to the ground. As he put his weight on the would-be assassin, he watched as one of the crowd leaped at Brady and latched on to his arm. The bite was instantaneous, and Brady dropped the two miners he had by the throats and grabbed the biter by its head. Brady whipped that head back and threw it, and the rest of the body followed it like the tail of an asteroid. Brady stuttered for a second but picked up another advancing possessed miner and swung its legs out to redirect an old woman from approaching any closer. He stuttered again when he swung the lower body of his temporary weapon at 3 more possessed townsfolk. He continued to wade through the sea of possessed, knocking them back with his human nunchuck. Unfortunately, his breathing became deep breaths, and his movements began to slow. His eyes went blank, and a small green glow popped up. With a loud yell, the hulking man grabbed up another possessed by the throat and fought off the glow and the next line of hungry monsters. His power trip didn't last long as after throwing the two bodies he had been using as weapons, he fell to his knee. He tried to exert all his strength in an attempt to fight off the spirit within, but the possessed surrounding him took the second to leap towards him, open mouths first. Their mouths collided with the muscular giant's arms and chest and easily scraped through the fragile skin of the powerful man. He tried, in vain, to regain control, but 7 zombie-like creatures ripping meat and tendons out of his upper body left him paralyzed to their continued oral assault. In one last push, the possessed got Brady on his back, and 5 more evil spirits joined in. Bernard, still on top of one, couldn't watch and got to his feet. He looked back at Travis and noticed he was still putting things into that bowl. He turned back and noticed he was the last one defending the town. He took a step back but found something other than just dirt and fell backward. He had lost his balance on someone's lost bag that had probably been left when the horde hit. He did his best to scramble back, but he wasn't moving fast enough. He yelled in one last attempt to get Travis's help, "We need that crystal, Travis!" After the last syllable left his mouth, he felt hands on his feet. He looked down and knew it was too late. Brady had gotten back up, completely healed and eyes glowing, plus there was a sea of glowing eyes slowly surrounding the Sheriff. The Sheriff was lunged at from all sides. He was soon covered in them, and all were biting down. Bernard took his last breath as pain racked his body from the mouths and hands ripping at his flesh. Travis finally fired up the contents of the bowl, which created a bright orange light erupting from it. The light faded, and Travis dipped a white crystal into the mixture until it reached the decorative leather handle. The crystal seemed to suck in the orange liquid until the bowl was empty. He lifted the now orange glowing crystal into the air and turned just in time to see the surge of possessed people in his direction. That was when he saw Bernard, on his back, and being devoured by more than a few townsfolk. He used his free hand to push everyone back. With a quick flick of his wrist his hand was wrapped in white and a 3 foot wide barrier forced everything but Bernard's body back a few meters. When Travis finally reached the consumed corpse of his acquaintance he knelt down next to it. Something caught his eye and he saw the last little bag he had given him. Travis immediately grabbed it and stood up. He looked at the horde now bypassing his barrier and ended the spell. There was another surge towards him, the possessed Brady pushed to the front, and the hungry bubble that was collapsing in on him almost closed when a yellow dust exploded on the giants chest and dispersed over the first two layers of possessed individuals. They came to and Brady immediately knew what to do. He picked up 2 evil spirits by the necks and started his nunchuck assault which backed up the horde. The others that were now free ran. Travis yelled to the giant to retreat and he followed his lead and retreated. The crystal, still in the air, began to increase incrementally in intensity as Travis started whispering, "Spirits from the depths of sin, Leave the house you dwell within, In this crystal make your home, That you never again may roam." As his voice grew, so did the light. They both kept growing until everyone including the possessed had to shield their eyes. The light went pure orange in a 30 meter range and hid the occupants from view. When the light faded the residents of the town were a little worse for wear, but alive. All of them gave Travis an odd look as he was still standing there with his hand stuck in the air with a pure black crystal attached to a leather handle. He lowered his hand and looked down at his acquaintance. Bernard was looking up at him with a look of horror. "You couldn't have done that before I got eaten?" Bernard asked with a scared look on his face. "I went as fast as I could." Travis answered, "I am sorry you had to endure that. I know how unpleasant it is." "You … you got eaten too?" Bernard asked, dumbfounded. "Yeah, that's a different story, Sheriff."
- Top Story - August 2023
Greg's Big DayTop Story - August 2023
Greg had just won the lottery. He jumped as high as he could with the ticket in his right hand. His mind turned to people trying to steal his millions and shrank to the floor. He eyed the windows, looking for any sign of a potential thief, and quickly went around locking and shutting the blinds on the windows in the living room. He went from window to window all through the one bedroom apartment to check the locks and blinds. After all were thoroughly checked, he fished the ticket out of his front pocket and sat back down in front of the television he had paused with the numbers on the screen. He had just won 300 million dollars. He could barely breathe. His vision was blurry, and his knees were weak. He stayed sat until everything seemed to fade, and just his heart was beating fast. He took in a few deep breaths and kept rereading the numbers. Was this actually real? After several long minutes, he took a few more to just stare at the winning ticket. Greg's mind went blank as he tried to decide what to do now. He settled on figuring it out in the morning. He had to drive a few hours to redeem the ticket, and he would be able to think about it on the road trip. Greg had a sleepless night and started his day around 3 am. He had taken a shower, dressed in his nicest clothes, and got behind the wheel of his yellow Yugo. The old car shuddered as he pulled away and started to smoke halfway down the street. The journey seemed to fly by in the dark, and he arrived at the building before anyone else. He was the lone car for well over an hour before the people that worked there began to show up. Greg was the first nonemployee in the building. He read the signs and happily walked to the right suite and signed in, receiving a ticket. After taking a seat, he waited patiently as the staff got their computers up and running. "A001," an automated voice rang out in the large lobby, "report to window 1." Greg got to his feet, walked up to the window, and presented his ticket. The woman behind the glass congratulated him before putting a stack of papers through the small slot on the bottom of the window. The 20 long minutes dragged by as Greg filled out his personal and financial information in great detail before returning to the counter with the papers. He was instructed to get another ticket, which turned out to be A031. The lobby was now packed to near capacity, and Greg was lucky enough to get his original seat as no one had taken it. The minutes turned into dozens of minutes, and he was finally called back to the first window. The woman took the paperwork and silently went through them before typing his answers into the computer. This took a few more minutes, and Greg started to mess with the cup of pens and the trash paper someone had left up there. His eyes were practically bulging out of their sockets as he stared down the woman nonchalantly typing away at the computer. His patience was waning. Sweat started to collect into beads on his brow as he continued to watch the woman intently. The woman was taking her time, and it was causing Greg's anxiety to rise. A few more excruciating minutes, she finally, in a monotonous tone and facial expression, congratulated him again and handed him a paper through the slot. She then, still with the bored tone, explained how the process would go before the money was deposited into his bank account. Greg's excited thanks as he left to follow her directions and seemed to annoy the woman. Since he had already filled out how he wanted the money, lump sum, and that he wanted to remain anonymous, all that was required of him was to wait. So, Greg jumped back into his Yugo and headed home. The ride was even quicker, despite the traffic, and all he could think about was quitting his job. It finally dawned on him that he hadn't even called his job. It was quickly approaching 10 am, and he should have been at work 3 hours prior. Just as he reached for the phone, it rang. It was his boss. Greg answered and let the curmudgeon know he would no longer be working at the establishment. The exchange was one-sided after that, which resulted in Greg hanging up. The phone rang again from the passenger seat, but it was ignored. The rest of the ride after that went smoothly, and he decided to spend the day coming up with what to do with this new money. His eyes rolled over his old and junked out car. He had enough money to purchase whatever he wanted, now, and he thought about which expensive car he was going to buy as soon as he got his money. His first thought was a Lamborghini, but he also thought about a Bugatti. He looked up the specs for each, the price, and the different colors. Through all of the websites he combed through, he kept coming back to the Lamborghini Huracan. The two days that dragged by as he waited for his money were hell. He had told no one about his new wealth and was now wondering how he could break it to his family and friends. They would, undoubtedly, ask for a handout once they learned. Maybe he would keep it to himself for now. Greg's heart almost jumped out of his chest when, on the third morning, he looked up his account information, and millions of dollars were there. He went through another panic attack as he read and reread the newest balance, but as soon as it passed, he was back in the shower and then putting on his clothes. Once back into his Yugo, he planned out his next 45-minute drive. The ride, like the one 3 days before, went by quickly, and he soon found himself sitting in the local Lamborghini dealership. The man that sat across from him wearing a jet black suit with a red tie, Jerry, had taken him all through the dealership to see how it all operated and let him test drive a few different models. There was a huge difference in the way he was being treated now, compared to when he first drove up in his Yugo. After showing the many zeros in his bank account, Jerry declared he would help him, much to the others' chagrin. After test driving the Huracan for the second time, Greg made his decision. He would be purchasing a new Lamborghini Huracan, blue exterior with a leather interior. The paperwork was a breeze. He was buying it outright, so there was no need for a bank to get involved. Jerry was very charming, almost enough to make Greg forget about the looks he got as he pulled himself out of the small car. Almost. But Jerry was quite charming. After some quick words, Greg was about to sign over a lot of money for his new car. The opulent gold pen Jerry had handed Greg was light and warm to the touch. As Greg signed his name on the line, there was a slight change in temperature of the pen. He didn't feel his life force leaving his body as he wrote. He was unaware of the gray hairs popping out and the wrinkles growing, but he was satisfied when he caught his new keys. There were no worries on his mind as he put the pen down and got up. On top of all the things Greg was unaware of, the man shaking his hand as he put the golden pen back into his jacket pocket was the devil himself. Greg just signed away 10 years of his life.
There was black smoke filling the cabin. Bright orange erupted out of the sides of the plane as the front was engulfed in flames. The gauges were fluctuating uncontrollably, and the pilot was frozen with fear. The plane dipped forward more as it plummeted towards the ground. Samantha couldn't even see the gauges this time as the smoke had concentrated inside the cabin. She was coughing up a lung as she tried leaning as close to the dashboard as possible to see the altitude, but it didn't work. A small pop caught her attention, and she leaned back quickly. She was then engulfed in a blast of fire that came through the console. It singed her hair and clothes, but didn't last long enough for major damage or burning. With a quick look in the back, behind her chair, she found a parachute. Samantha struggled to get her arms through the straps but finally succeeded. Next, she pulled on the handle to open the door of the plane, and it was ripped out of her hand from the strength of the wind. She got in the open doorway and looked down. Between the wisps of smoke, she could see the ground approaching quickly and jumped out. She was way too close to the ground, so she immediately pulled the ripcord. The bright red nylon shot out of the pack and fully opened. Samantha was still descending too fast and knew the impact was going to hurt. She held on for dear life and came to a sudden and painful stop. Her legs buckled instantly, and her head slapped the snow-covered ground, knocking her out cold. ***** Samantha came to and was discombobulated. She was covered in the nylon parachute and couldn't see anything. After scrambling to get it off of her as fast as possible, she could now feel her body hurting from the collision with the ground, but she knew she needed to get up. Her eyes took a few moments to focus, but they didn't need a crisp outline to understand that the snow-covered ground was a bright red, pink in some areas, with her blood. She checked her body for wounds but only found dried blood on her upper lip and in her nostrils. After that, she got up and looked around for the plane. She could see a thin black line floating towards the sky in the distance and immediately started walking towards it. She was unaware of how far out it was, but it had to be the closest thing to civilization as she could get out here. There were supplies she could use if they weren't already burned. There was even food; her cargo to a town in the middle of nowhere. Her trek was slow because of the deep snow, plus she was limping. It took all of her strength to keep walking. After walking for close to an hour and nowhere near the smoke, she took a moment to sit on the convenient chair the snow provided. She tried, to no avail, to warm herself up as she had started to shiver. The scenery was white on gray, with no blue in sight. Nothing but snow. Samantha couldn't sit still for long and decided to start walking towards the smoke again. The line had not gotten any bigger as she made her way through differing depths of the frozen powder. Her right leg had gone numb, but with the difficulty of trying to traverse the snow, she couldn't know if she was still limping. Her pace remained slow, but over the following hour, the smoke had inched closer. Another forty-five minutes, and the smoke was over the next hill. In her excitement and relief, she picked up her pace. It was more a moral benefit than a physical one because she was still moving slowly. She didn't even pay attention to the timepiece on her wrist, as she struggled to climb the hill. Once at the apex of the hill, Samantha saw what she had been working towards. A small … something was layered in the unknown depth of undisturbed precipitation with a pitch black plume of smoke billowing out of an invisible hole. Samantha, relieved with the sign of civilization, tried to pick up the pace, but there was no measurable increase in speed. The seconds turned to minutes, and she finally reached what appeared to be a small wall. It tripped her, and she fell towards the house. Instead of falling into a deep pile of snow, she landed on hard ground. Someone had cleaned out the majority of the snow and left just a few inches of it behind. Instead of a clean-cut grass yard, this building had a defined space between the structure and the wall Samantha tripped over. Once she got to her feet, she started walking to find a door to the building. The hut or house … whatever it was - was circular in shape. As she rounded the structure, her eyes fell on a gruesome sight. There were two bodies strewn all around, viscera and other things splayed haphazardly, with odd patches of red or pink here and there. She froze once again. Was whatever attacked these people still around? She didn't know. Samantha wanted to run away, but this was the only sign of life in over, at least, the three hours she had been conscious. Her survival was dependent on this being a safe harbor in what was quickly looking like an incoming blizzard. In her haste, she was forced to step in several spots of scarlet, but when the buildings wooden entryway came into view, she almost lost her balance from her sudden dash forward. Samantha had to step over a severed arm and accompanying red circle and through an even darker slush of snow and blood to get to the sturdy door. Once there, the door itself caught her by surprise. It bore the claws of a bear with dried blood in the grooves. She was standing completely still, gently caressing the splintered wood, when the familiar sound of snow crunching reached her ears. Again, Samantha froze but quickly came to her sense and with all her might slammed the door open, stepped through, and slammed it shut. She looked for a lock and quickly found one she could slide over the door. She turned around, leaned against the door, and prepared for the imminent attack. And she waited. Her eyes were closed, but when a few more seconds passed and nothing happened, she opened them. She sighed in relief when the attack didn't occur and looked around the room. It was full of burners, glass containers, a stove, refrigerator, some kind of crystal-like substance was thrown everywhere, and there was a bed in the corner. On the bed was what looked like bloody snow until it moved. Her eyes focused on the now moving red and white object that started to turn around. When a black nose, the size of a fist, emerged, Samantha knew she was in a locked room with a human blood covered polar bear. When the animal moved, she could see another dead body in the corner, clearly bitten and mauled. The polar bear had open wounds from his obvious fight with the two people torn to shreds just outside. His eyes were strange, and the roar that rang out of his throat was … strange, to say the least. Samantha turned as quick as lightning and started to unlatch the lock. One second: The bear is screaming like a banshee. Two seconds: The door is open. Three seconds: Samantha runs toward the open door. Four seconds: The polar bear jumps towards Samantha and slaps her across the back. Five seconds: She is jettisoned out through the door, and the red and white death follows. Her plan to trap the bear inside failed. The massive specimen of polar bear stopped and stared Samantha down. She side eyed the area and only saw an ax. Her foot slightly moved towards the ax when her foot hit something. Next to her foot was the arm she had to step over mere minutes ago. Samantha slowly crouched down and picked up the severed arm. The bear made a low and short growl as she stood back up, man arm in hand. She eyed the ax again and made up her mind. Her right leg moved up in the direction of the ax, while the left was, hopefully, going to get her there before the bear. If not, she was going to swing the arm like a bat at the real-life monster's head. It couldn't hurt, right? The polar bear jumped into a quick dash unheard of for something weighing around two thousand pounds and sliding at his prey. Samantha tried her best to land a devastating blow, but the arm just seemed to bounce off the bear's face, causing no damage. The bear, in the few seconds he took to slide over the frozen ground, made no discernible change in his expression and just slapped her with a backhand. He was playing with her. She once again took flight from the strength of the backhand. Instead of landing on the hard ground, she was slapped back at the house. Her back smacked the side of the building, which caused some of the layered snow to fall on top of her. She stayed down, hoping the bear would leave, but soon, a massive paw shot through the thick snow and landed on Samantha's right shoulder. The claws pierced her back before retreating to be replaced by the sharpest teeth filled mouth she had ever seen. She was then pulled out of the snow by the strong jaw that clamped down on her shoulder. Once again, in the air, Samantha twisted and turned until she hit the ground. Samantha looked at the ground as the bear turned around. She was within reach of the ax and scurried over to it. The bear, not caring what she was doing, stayed back a few yards just watching her. With the weapon in her right hand, she stood up. Her left shoulder was bleeding from the claws and teeth, but she mustered up all her courage and stared down the huge beast. With the ax in her right white knuckled fist, she prepared for the next attack, which the bear just yawned in response. Instead of rushing her again, the bear nonchalantly walked towards her and stopped three feet in front of her. Now, the bear stood on its hind legs and let out the loudest sound Samantha had ever heard. It caused more snow to slide off the side of the structure. She gulped her heart back down in her chest as the behemoth slowly got back on all fours. It crouched back, like it was building up speed, and then launched itself at the small woman. All four paws left the ground, and the bear took flight towards Samantha. She brought the ax down on the beast's neck and successfully landed a blow, but the bear didn't seem fazed as it collided with Samantha. Its large paws wrapped around her arms, picked her up, and threw her through the air once more. This time, she landed on one of the dismembered bodies. Trying to crawl off of the body exposed a gun in a holster. It was covered in blood and pieces of meat, but it was clearly a gun. Samantha grabbed at it while the bear continued to slowly approach. The gun felt right in her hand. She flipped the safety on the 9mm and emptied the eighteen rounds at the bear. The first few collided with his head, bouncing off its huge skull and just pissing the bear off. It then got back on its hind legs, and the majority of the rest of the bullets barely passed through the thick hair of the gigantic creature, let alone deep into its flesh. This caused the bear to let out another loud scream, raise its right paw back, and slap Samantha's hand, still clutching the empty gun, completely off her forearm with ease. Samantha let out a pained scream of her own and looked for the ax she had dropped. It was too far away for her to reach, but she decided to try and dive for it when the bear dove at her again. It didn't take long for the bear to crouch down again. The bear jumped at her, and she jumped towards the ax. She managed to get away from the bear for a moment, but it didn't pause this time. It chose to quickly slide around on the frozen ground and launch right back towards her. Samantha jumped away again as the bear flew through the air. He swiped his paw at her but missed by mere inches. She landed on all her limbs and slid towards the wall that surrounded the domicile. The bear snarled and started running at her from where it had landed, closer to the building, while the prey made a quick jump over the short wall. She immediately started crawling under the snow in an attempt to get away from the hole that she made. Samantha couldn't see her stalker. She could only listen as it attacked the wall with all its might, causing the wall to explode outwards. If she had been there, she would have been dead. Then the bear backed off. She froze. Again. Then, a few feet in front of her, the wall exploded out just like the first explosion of energy. She didn't know if the bear knew where she was, but she didn't trust herself to continue to crawl unnoticed. She was glued to the spot. Seconds turned into minutes, and Samantha grew paranoid. Was the beast waiting for her, or was it searching elsewhere for her. She had to know. Her head popped out of the snow. Unfortunately, the bear had been waiting for her. The last thing Samantha saw was the bear's claws heading straight for her head.
The Cursed Temple
Philip Kimborowicz's brow furrowed, his eyes stinging from the sweat that crept into them. The tall vegetation of the Brazilian jungle he was cutting a trail through towered over his 5'5" frame. Attempting to clear his stinging eyes with his fingers just made it worse. He shrugged, wiped his forehead, and continued chopping away at the thick brush. After a few more feet p, the discovery of a lifetime fell upon his sweat stung eyes, though now they filled with tears of joy as they beheld the ancient temple laid out in front of him. The walls, statues, and every decoration were covered with big, dark green tentacle-like vines. Philip felt a humid breeze roll over him with every step towards the unmistakable columns of Greek inspired architecture. This was a major discovery that could make him world famous.
"The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own," Joseph said to his friend, Benny, "It wasn't even my bedroom." "What was it a reflection of?" Benny asked. "It was a portal to somewhere other than Earth." "And how do you know this?" Benny asked another question. "Well, for one, the trees were bright colors. Blues, reds, and purples," Joseph started, "The vines were ugly yellows and greens. But when I stepped through …" "You stepped through the portal to an exotic and poisonous sounding jungle?" Benny asked, incredulously. "That's what I said, and I explored it. I stepped through and immediately felt the gravity increase. I don't know by how much, but I do know standing up was more difficult," Joseph continued with his tale, "And it was a lot hotter there, like sauna conditions. Clouds of sticky purple goo hovered under the exuberant canopy of the trees. It was hypnotic. I started to walk through the giant dark red leaves of the bushes that hugged the blue trunks all the way up. It was a slow go, but I could hear what I thought was water, right? Maybe fifteen minutes later, and I am coming to a clearing." "How long were you there, Joseph?" Benny interrupted with yet another question. "I am not entirely sure," Joseph immediately answered before picking up at the next sentence, "I had found water. A small river moving rather quickly. I tried it, and it was crystal clear and delicious. Most pure water ever. I decide to follow it, right." "Of course." "Yeah, and I came to a lake I couldn't traverse. No matter where I tried to go in, it knocked me backward, like there was a wall." Joseph kept talking. "I walked around and around the lake, looking for a spot I could walk, and ran into a bear." "A bear?" Benny asked. "It wasn't a bear like our bears. First it was yellow. Then instead of a face that came to almost a point they had wide flat faces. Their teeth were sharp and numerous. It was terrifying to look at. When it lunged at me I didn't know what to do." Joseph shivered as he spoke before starting again. "The thing had a tiny and sharp twig stuck to its fur. I grabbed at it and started to stab at the hairy yellow thing." "What happened after that? How did you get back?" Benny asked, once again intrigued. "I killed the damn thing," Joseph exclaimed with a devilish grin, "It let me go, fell to the ground, died, and I ran home. I got away. And just in time, too, because the portal closed when I came back through it. Almost died, but I learned a valuable lesson." "And what is that, Joseph?" "I love the violence." Joseph said with another grin. "I want to do it again, but you know …" There was a long pause as they stared at each other. "Do you know where you are now, Joseph?" Benny broke the silence. "No." "Where do you think you are?" Benny asked. "I don't know." "I think you know." Benny said with a flat smile. "Where are you and why?" "Like I said, Benny, I don't know where I am. I definitely don't know why." Joseph laughed. "Come now, Joseph, it is Ben, not Benny." Ben replied, "Or should we stick to Doctor?" "Okay, Doc, I guess I am in a hospital." Joseph laughed again. "I didn't know you could physically restrain free men." "Would you think someone that attacked a janitor should be a free man?" The Doctor asked. "No." "Well then, you know you deserve to be restrained." Doctor Ben reasoned. "What?" Joseph began to struggle in his tightly wrapped jacket. "I didn't kill a janitor. I fought for my life against a bear. An alien bear! I didn't kill a person. It was a bear!"