The Village

A Short Story

The Village

Luke Watson gave a sigh of satisfaction as he surveyed his little village at the back of the garden . It was pleasingly correct in every detail. Little people paraded in front of stores displaying wares of every kind. Some waited on 1ine for a commuter bus. One patient Lilliputian stood by as his tiny dog contemplated a fire plug. There were lamp posts, phone booths and all the familiar sights of a bustling rural community. The day was warm and balmy and Luke was ecstatic in his enjoyment.

"Luke!" yelled his wife. "Come in here. There's a pipe leaking in the basement . That is -- if you can stop playing with your toys for a minute."

Suddenly Luke’s dream world collapsed like a punctured balloon . He was back in the mundane world of leaky pipes, broken household appliances, bills and the like. He took a last look around and slowly dragged himself indoors.

Edna Watson found it hard to understand her husband. His brother Charles was a prominent business man who had accumulated a small fortune. He traveled extensively, maintained a staff of servants and in every way lived up to his income. As might be expected, he was eternally under pressure with the resulting stomach trouble it produced. On the other hand, Luke was content and for the most part healthy. As Edna washed the dishes she realized that it was easy to see which one enjoyed life the most.

Later in the gathering dust Luke sat among the fireflies with his young friend Joe Wilson who lived next door. Joe was a kindred soul who enjoyed the evenings in the peace of the garden.

"I had a great idea yesterday", Joe blurted out. "I think you should have a little church here. Something with a steeple like in the town".

Luke warmed instantly to the idea of an addition to his king d om

"Gosh! That's a great idea. I could put it right in the middle of the village on a little hill. I'm going to do it."

For the next month Luke was in his workshop working on his church He proudly demonstrated to Joe the way he could light it up to display the stained glass windows.

One weekend brother Charles came to visit. Predictably he prodded Luke about his hobby. "If you'd put half the energy into something profitable instead of monkeying around with that collection of junk - you'd be a rich man".

Edna decided to put in her contribution. "Even in the 12th century St. Anselm warned it was spiritually dangerous to sit in a garden because it was so pleasant to the senses."

Luke was too polite to tell his brother to mind his own business so he mumbled a few words and sat back in his favorite chair. What did he care what anyone else thought of his hobby as long as he was content? At last he didn't have to take medicine for indigestion four times a day.

Slowly the happy summer passed as Luke and Joe relaxed in the soothing atmosphere of the garden and it's miniature village. The leaves slowly changed color and darkness closed in earlier each night.

It was during this transition that brother Charles paid another visit. His aim was to mend fences and to bring about this desired result he had a gift for Luke. "I'm sorry for what I said", he mumbled . He reached into his pocket and brought forth a little black statue which he offered. "This is a souvenir I bought from a dealer in India . It represents the Hindu god Kali. I'm sure you can find a use for it in your village. This should show you that I'm really interested in your hobby".

Luke glanced at the object with skepticism. It wasn't at all what he would have placed in his carefully crafted rustic community . It was ugly, it was foreign and it didn't belong "I'll find some out-of-the-way spot for it rather than offend brother Charles ", he thought.

Edna gazed glowingly at this reunion since her fondest wish was that the affluent brother Charles might in some way change Luke into a more ambitious type.

It was late September when Luke sat in the gloom of the autumn night and finally gave Joe a look at his prize.

"I can't see much detail in this shad ow", commented the youngster, "But it looks spooky. Look at the skulls on the girdle. I think it's an old woman".

"Who cares what you think?" barked Luke. "I'm trying to think of a place to put it where it won't be out in the open".

"If it was me, I wouldn't put it anywhere. I don’t like it one bit . It's getting chilly so I'm going home".

Luke watched his friend disappear into the darkness.

Why did he snap at Joe? It was uncharacteristic to say the least. Besides, examining the statue more closely, he had to admit his friend was right. It seemed to depict a horrible hag with bloodshot eyes and matted hair. One of her hands held a rope, while from the other dangled an iron hook. Luke shuddered and decided to find some place to hide it.

The next morning Luke found it wasn't going to be easy to get rid of the statue. It stood out like an ugly sore thumb wherever he put it . Finally he decided to put it in one of the buildings. He swallowed his frustration as he discovered it was just an inch too high to fit. "Darn it", Luke muttered to himself, "If I can't find some place to hide it, I'll just have to give it back even if it does hurt old Charles ".

Then his eye fell on his new church. It was just high enough to accommodate the statue under the steeple. With great re1uctance , Luke unscrewed the roof, inserted the ugly piece and replaced the roof.

One night in early October, Luke woke out of a troubled sleep. He glanced out of the window at the shrouded garden and noticed a strange misty glow in the area of the village. Try as he might, he couldn't even see the houses. The glow seemed to be in the air. His first thought was to walk down to investigate the phenomena, but a strange dread made him climb back into bed . The clock struck three AM .

The next day Luke walked the length of the garden to see if he could find any reason for his restless night. He was dismayed to find the charm had left his beautiful little creation. An early fall had worked its blight everywhere. Garden soil had drifted over the walks and streets , dead leaves were e very where. Depressed, he walked back to the house and sat on the steps.

Edna was watching him . "Why don’t you take car e of that mess back there. Here it is almost Halloween and all your houses and figures are still there. Last year they were in the basement by this time".

Get off my back ", yelled her husband. "I’ll get them in when I'm good and ready, and not before." He stormed off to take a walk . The truth of the matter, he knew, was that he couldn't bring himself to take anything out of the village . Strange as it seems , he was afraid to do so.

A week later young Joe turned up. He sat on the stairs next to Luke . "I don't know why I'm even talking to you but you're my friend so I'll try again" he began." Ever sin e you put that statue back there things have been happening . I heard chanting the other night and it smells like dead things".

Luke put his hands over his ears. "You're making a big thing over this . It's where no one is even going to see it. I put it inside the church."

"That's the worst place you could have put it ," snapped Joe. "It's a statue of Kali - the evil Hindu goddess of death and destruction . they used to worship her, not out of love but out of terror. She inspired blood sacrifices and even had a group of professional stranglers who killed travelers to please her. For Pete's sake , Luke , get her out of there.

"I'll show you a strangler", hissed Luke, seizing Joe by the neck. Joe, by now thoroughly terrorized, ran off into the night .

Halloween night arrived in a gloomy drizzle of rain. Luke had been dreading this night because of a premonition that it was the night of the climax. Wandering aimlessly all day had worn him out, so that he dozed off in the early evening. The clock was striking three AM when he jumped up from an uneasy dream and heard faint voices calling him. “Come to us Luke Watson . Heed the call of mother Kali. Come to the village of Evil."

Unable to resist, Luke dressed and tiptoed to the door. A relentless cold wind was blowing rain in all directions as he walked outside. He peered into the inky blackness of the night. Everything looked vast and alien to him . A profound silence prevailed, broken only by a mournful chanting up ahead. Luke began his walk up the garden path that looked as wide as a highway in the gloom. "Can it be that I'm shrinking?" he muttered to himself. Somewhere up ahead he could see a bloody red glow. He longed to go back but an irresistible force drew him on.

Suddenly he saw a huge form looming up ahead of him in the rain . It was the church he made and the doors were opening. Luke stood transfixed as he saw cowled figures on each side of the church holding flaming torches and at the far end towered the demonic presence of the evi1 goddess Ka1i, the terrible b1oody bringer of pestilence and death, her distorted hag's face a study in hate. At her feet stood a huge figure in a black robe holding a sword, and it suddenly came clear to Luke that they were about to perform a human sacrifice.

With the last bit of will he had left, Luke forced himself to turn and run. Something, or someone caught him by the ankle and he could feel himself falling. Then the night closed in on him like a blanket. Peace came at last.

On a cold clammy morning, Sheriff Dan Nash stood glumly over Luke’s prone form wishing he was home with a hot cup of coffee . "Broke his neck , looks like ," he opined to his deputy Pete Bogs. "Must have been running and caught his foot in that there root. Only thing is, what in hell was he running for in the middle of the night?"

Pete was on his hands and knees, looking at the little houses of the village . "You know Dan", he observed, "If it wasn't so darn ridiculous, I'd swear there were tiny 1itt1e footprints a11 over the ground around this church."

fiction
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Doreen Bartholomew
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