Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
It was the small black hours of the nineteenth of April, mid spring 1932 when yellow seed planted days before had turned green, peeking from between broken clods hungry for sunlight. I had just eaten a stack of pancakes and was rinsing the dishes in a bucket of cold water. A light breeze began in the trees and then hid from some nameless sidling horror. Feathery branch tenants had already begun their restless flutters … soft talon clicks on new bark … an avian orchestra tuning before a concert. We were all waiting … plants, masters and animals … but morning never came.
In my mind, night had lightened somewhat to dim … but now I’m not sure. The hands of the windup clock on the wall, a birthday gift to Emma a year before she passed, had moved well past six under the crowing chicken’s ceramic wings. There was what we called dry current in the overhead wires leading to the farmhouse, but not enough power in the lines to make the electrics glow. Where there should have been light from the windows at sunrise there was only a creeping black beyond the lamp on the table. I opened the front door but could see nothing. In vain I listened for the rumbling of the storm clouds that had surely thrown a dark blanket over my farm and the town of Cloverdale a half-mile away. When the oil-flame sputtered out I searched the house for more matches. But no matter how many I struck, each one refused to create more than a flea-sized spark.
I was half convinced that it wasn’t the lamp but my eyes and that I’d gone blind when the bell on the new-fangled telephone sounded - six times before I managed to find the dang thing in the darkness, and that was only because I tripped over the wire leading to the empty barrel the crank box sat on. Sarah Porter scolded me for not answering quicker as she had the sheriff holding on another line and a dozen more calls to transfer. I heard Walker’s too-damn-calm voice when Sarah transferred me to his line.
“Hank, as you probably know we ain’t got any light in town today, natural or otherwise. Some strange dark cloud is covering the city and the state police have the highway blocked a mile out on each side of town. If people find their way out then that’s okay but they ain’t letting anybody in to cause accidents. We’re on our own and we want the Emerson family to help lead some of us through the darkness.” Jack and Gloria Emerson and their three teenage children were all born as blind as bats, through some chance defect of meeting, mating and a rare genetic eye disease that was passed on to their own unlucky generations. They operated a dairy with about thirty Holstein cows and were my closest neighbors going into town.
Since blind farmers cannot legally operate teams of horses let alone automobiles they walked everywhere. The town’s only blind family knew every stone and blade of grass in Cloverdale like a mouse family knows the dark foraging passages under a granary.
The sheriff asked if I thought I could make my way there as them people had no phone. I told him I figured I could just by walking straight out my front door until I touched the fence then turning right and sliding my hands (with gloves on) along the barbed wire that ran between my farm and Jack’s a quarter mile south. The sheriff said to have all five Emerson family members report to his office in town and he’d tell them what he needed done. I hated to let go of the phone but Sarah cut me off after she said she had at least a dozen people waiting to complain to the sheriff.
It was while I was searching for my gloves that the grinding sound started … like some hungry animal chewing through the wood on my porch. Darkness is a kind of fear but being alone in it is worse. I heard the screen door bang open and felt something like broom bristles bush against my leg just below my knee. Icy fingers ran up my spine. It was a full two seconds before I could breathe. I first thought of my dog Rufus but he had died a year before Emma. Thank God I found my gloves a few moments later. They lay next to my grandfather’s old single action Remington. I couldn’t remember the last time the pistol had been fired or if it was even loaded. I jammed the gun in my overall pocket, no longer feeling safe in my own house.
It wasn’t so much wind as it was things moving through the air, like bits of rotted fabric that dissolved when you touched them. I tried to keep going in a straight line after I exited my front door but reaching the fence seemed to take forever. It was so dark I began to wonder if I’d gotten turned around and perhaps wasn’t even going in the right direction. Another of the bristly things brushed my leg and I decided they had to be tumbleweeds … but how could they be moving without wind? Finally the glove on my outstretched right hand caught on a barb and a second later I was gripping the wire fence. I wanted to run but I knew that was impossible.
I’d never noticed how wide the irrigation canal was that went under the fence and crossed beneath Canyon Road until I tried to step across and got both legs wet up to my waist. There was a vile smell of death that caused me to gag. Something floating in the water rubbed against the tips of my fingers. Another frosty jolt struck me as I realized it wasn’t a piece of wood but a floating corpse covered with hair, from what creature I didn’t know. I had to get away from the smell and I tore both gloves to shreds on the barbs as I ran.
I could hear the mooing of the cows when I was perhaps an eighth of a mile away. The sound was strangely comforting. Dairy herds must be milked every morning and every night come wind, blizzard or fire and I knew blind Jack and his sightless offspring would be leading the cows into the barn.
People who have come back from death have reported seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel. I thought I might be on that same path when I noticed a glow in the distance. Fear became awe and then fear again as I approached the Emerson house. A glowing, egg-shaped object larger than the milking barn radiated greenish blue beams of light which created other glowing egg shapes around the house and several outbuildings. The glow wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the darkness completely but I could see the ground and other objects about ten yards out from each building. I was right about the morning milking. I watched Jack’s blind son David and his sister Nancy lead about twenty cows into the barn, unaware of the strange glow that covered the outside and inside of the buildings and the beams of light that led to the glowing egg. Just before the last cow ambled through the double doors, Nancy turned and cupped her hands around her mouth as she called. “Sparrrrks! Here boy. Here boy! Saaaaaatan! Here boy! Where the hell are you two mutts?”
I thought I knew where at least one of the dead dogs was.
“When we finish the milking I’ll go look for them,” David told her. “Someone on one of the nearby farms must have a bitch in heat. I trained them too well.”
“You should have had them both fixed when the Vet was here giving vaccines, then you wouldn’t have this problem,” Nancy grumbled. “It was only an extra two dollars.”
“Ouch!” David laughed. “That’s why dogs are man’s best friend and not woman’s”
I was ready to shout and make my presence known when several dark shapes passed through the light’s glow. My tongue felt like a block of ice and my voice fled into the darkness. They were at least seven foot tall, walking on broomstick legs and balancing with broomstick-like arms. The huge round heads attached to cylindrical bodies reminded me of pumpkins except for the greenish blue color and the lifeless large black saucers where eyes should have been. A wide slit halfway down each cranium opened to reveal double rows of teeth that looked like white finishing nails pounded through a thin board of flesh.
Obviously both David and Nancy were unaware of their monstrous visitors as the creatures gave them thirty seconds and then followed them inside.
I pulled the Remington from my coat pocket and started toward the barn. But I quickly stepped back into the shadows when I heard more voices.
This time it was the youngest son, Leroy herding another dozen cows toward the barn. About ten steps behind him more of the strange creatures followed. One of the broomstick monsters carried a bundle of dead chickens; over twenty orange feet were bound together with bailing wire. Another led the Emerson’s stock breeding-bull, Twister, by a short rope. Every animal on the farm large and small was being guided into the barn.
I wanted to believe Gloria Emerson was in the farm house cooking breakfast. I could smell frying bacon mixed with the starchy smell of crisp hash-browns as I crept through the doorway. Despite the grave situation, my mouth watered and my stomach rumbled. But then I suddenly lost my appetite. The countertops the floor and the kitchen table were all covered with blood as if the local butcher had set up shop in their kitchen. Strips of fatty pork still sizzled in a large pan on the woodstove unaware that it would never be eaten by humans only consumed by maggots in the months to come.
I thought I’d reached my limit of terror when I spied something flesh colored in the dust next to a table leg. Like a fool, I picked it up for a closer examination. Flaming red nail polish on the manicured end of a finger-tip caused my vocal cords to go into a kind of convulsive dance. I was screaming out loud and hurled the finger away as I lurched from the farm house.
The doors to the barn were closing as I bolted toward them. The beam, slanting from the barn upward, was filled with objects flying through the translucent tube like the vacuum capsule pipelines in a large office building. I watched in horror as disjointed arms, legs and other body parts, human and animal, were sucked upward into the egg.
I made it to the barn before the door closed and then wished I hadn’t. A mechanical ramp of some kind led to a metal platform situated about where the barn’s hayloft has previously been. A dozen of the broomstick creatures lined both sides of the ramp as people and animals were fed into a kind of shredder. Blood spattered across the inside boards of the barn and the wooden beams holding up the ceiling.
I don’t remember aiming at anything. I was mesmerized by the huge flame that came out of the end of the barrel each time I pulled the trigger. The glowing beam of light and the broomstick creatures all disappeared just as the last body part was sucked inside the egg. The bottom of the egg looked like the open door of a blast furnace. An immense heat shriveled the stubble on my chin and I dashed outside with seconds to spare. The barn, the farmhouse and all the other outbuildings whooshed into flames.
I emptied the gun into the glowing egg rose as it rose into the air pulling the darkness with it. I remember seeing sunlight for the first time in sixteen hours as a final beam of light shot downward. My right hand felt like it was on fire and the pain was incredible. The egg got smaller and smaller until it was barely a speck disappearing into the sky. Then to my horror the darkness came again!
“Bravo! Bravo!” Richard Chapman from the Montana State Police stood up from his chair and applauded. “That’s got to be the best flying egg story I’ve heard all year. His face turned from exuberant to ugly. He walked around to my side of the table, jerked me out of my seat and slapped me against the wall. “What the hell did you do with the Emerson family after you torched their farm and made off with their livestock?”
I stared at him, bemused. Thankfully the second wave of darkness had been my own mind, trying to protect me. On regaining consciousness, I’d staggered into town, headed for the Sheriff’s office. Now it seemed I was back in a nightmare.
“I told you the truth,” I stammered. “Ask Sheriff Walker … he’s the one that sent me there.”
“Let him go Chapman,” Sheriff Walker entered the room holding something in a plastic bag, “unless you want to explain this in court!” He dropped the bag on the table. “You were with the other cops at the roadblocks. You know something dark was keeping any sunlight from reaching our town!”
“That don’t mean I believe in flying eggs,” Chapman sneered as he opened the bag.
“You’ve been on the state force for what … six months? You might be a big city cop from back east but you know nothing about Cloverdale or the unbelievable things that go on in my small town.”
The look on Chapman’s face was priceless as he pulled what remained of the ancient handgun from the plastic bag. A severed finger with flaming red nail polish dropped and rolled across the table. The Remington serial number on my grand pappy’s gun as well as the black walnut hand grips looked almost new. The metal cylinder, barrel and trigger parts had turned into hardened pools of liquid steel.
“Hell fire!” Chapman gaped. His eyes bulged like two practice cue-balls with large black-painted dots.
Completely unruffled, Sheriff Walker guided me around the table and toward the interrogation room door, careful not to bump my bandaged hand.
“I don’t think the man under the ground had anything to do with this,” Walker said with a smile as he closed the door behind us, “… unfortunately there are far worse things outside our world.”