A Beautiful Place To Stay
It wasn’t a true autumn yet. It was that strangely warm time of season, when the last drops of the summertime boil dripped into the peak of the October days. The skies became grey with the colors of change, and the fried shades of orange and yellow lay sleepily on the grass, their fate resting under the eager heel of a child. And as fall rose from its pumpkin-littered cavern, something sinister rose with it.
The mess at the edge of the woods.
Something about that shack, that chaos, felt powerful. Awkward and irresponsible in its dominance, like a young child that takes to his father’s blade. But powerful, nonetheless.
It didn’t take long for John, Jack and I to place a bet: whoever could stay a full midnight with that creature got no chores for a month.
John went first. He wore a silver bell with a purple ribbon around his neck, so when he arrived in the morning, we would know he was safe.
“See you tomorrow, fraidy-cats,” he jeered with a smirk, and he was off.
That night, when everybody slept, I thought I heard the cackle of an old hag. A high, menacing laugh that caressed my heart and seized my breath.
And that morning, when our hopes of a bell’s song were met with silence, our souls fell.
“It’s a trick, I’ll bet,” Jack said, with pride on his shoulder. Jack wore a copper bell with a yellow ribbon around his neck so I would hear him in the morning.
That night, that piercing cackle came. And that morning, the same eerie silence taunted me.
I never even got my turn after that.
Mother went that next night. Then father, then the neighbors, then the priest, then the butcher, until I was the only living soul in a grave of forgettables.
As I felt the shovel in my hands rise, I grinned with a sense of hope. For I would never go hungry. I would never go unheard. I would never be lonely, surrounded by the decaying bodies of my victims.