“WHAT HAPPENED TO ELSEWHERE, KENTUCKY” and 1 More Fictional Horror Story! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Two tales of fiction, one from Weirdo family member and professional author T. Lee Harris called “Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck”, and Redditor XYLonex brings us creepypasta titled simply, “Elsewhere, Kentucky”.
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“Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck” by T. Lee Harris: http://www.tleeharris.com/
“Elsewhere, KY” by Reddit user XYLonex: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/362cil/elsewhere_kentucky/
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The real reason the small town of Elsewhere, Kentucky disappeared from all maps, according to locals is because people who entered the old school house there went missing. There are several reports of explorers just disappearing after they saw a child in the doorway. The last two college students to visit found bones and decay in the school house and its cellar. Things got out of hand, and one female ended up unconscious, supposedly due to a ghost attack. The curious college kids reported the findings to the authorities, and not long thereafter, the area was bulldozed. All remnants have been destroyed, but why go to all that trouble for something that wasn’t true?
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode of Weird Darkness…
It’s a special Creepypasta SUNDAY edition… with two tales of fiction from the dark archives. One story is from Weirdo family member and professional author T. Lee Harris called “Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck” – but first, Redditor XYLonex brings us creepypasta titled simply, “Elsewhere, Kentucky”.
While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, 24/7 streaming video of Horror Hosts and classic horror movies, you can find my other podcast, “Church of the Undead”, plus you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide. And you can also shop the Weird Darkness store where all profits go to support depression awareness and relief. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
You won’t find Elsewhere, Kentucky on any map. The overgrown gravel road leading the abandoned settlement doesn’t even connect to a main road. As with most places you shouldn’t go, even the Google satellite images have been scrubbed with what looks like a bad use of a blur tool in an otherwise detailed area. It was located in south-eastern Calloway County just off the shore of Kentucky Lake, Elsewhere sat surrounded by forest. Until recently, several buildings remained.
I’d heard stories about Elsewhere growing up. Being a Calloway County native, I’d heard most of the local folklore and ghost stories. I’d spent several nights in Asbury and Old Salem cemeteries looking to verify stories of creepy ghosts and various monsters. The most I ever got was spooked friends and a bad case of the willies. I was volunteering at the Senior Citizen’s center when Earl, a man of about eighty years old, told me a story about the fall of Elsewhere.
It went like this:
“When I was a boy my pa and I went to the Elsewhere General Store to get some rock candy and chicken feed. I stood outside while pa talked to Mrs. Ellison the shopkeep. Pa loaded the feed into the truck and handed me the candy. Right about then there was this loud scream from the schoolhouse. I don’t know right well what happened cause pa told me to stay in the truck, but after that we never went back to Elsewhere.
When I was a few years older I went back there with some friends. We were just dumb kids foolin around. My friend Jason went inside the schoolhouse and I never saw him again. We spent the rest of the day looking for him and later the police did a search but found nothing. Shortly after that the county disconnected Elsewhere road from HWY 280. It’s been about sixty years and you’re the first person to mention the place in half a century son.”
I did some digging after that. The Calloway County Public Library has a pretty good archive of town history and folklore. I had read every book on the subject, but I’d never seen mention of Elsewhere. I ended up at the Waterfield Library up on the Murray State University campus looking through old microfilm when I found reference to Elsewhere in the Louisville Courier-Journal. A single paragraph story covered how the unincorporated town was being abandoned for health and safety reasons. It was dated April 2nd, 1953. There was one detail that stood out.
“Located two miles north of New Concord just off of HWY 280”
I waited until Saturday morning and I made sure to charge my cellphone before parking roughly two miles north of New Concord just off the side of the road. I moved about a fifty yards past the treeline and hiked back and forth until I found the remnants of Elsewhere Road. I followed it north-east for about a half a mile before coming to a clearing where several dilapidated buildings stood over the tall grass and broken pavement.
I moved closer to the center of the town when I saw a sign to my left that read “Elsewhere General Store.” The windows were boarded up and the door was nailed shut, but after pulling at the boards for a few minutes I was able to pry open the door. The wood was weathered and brittle, it popped right off leaving the nails in place.
I was surprised to see that the goods on the shelves had been left in place. Old canned goods sat rusted on old wooden shelves. An old timey cash register sat on a counter to my left and several burlap sacks lay tattered across the floor. I pressed a few keys on the old mechanical cash register and then pulled a lever to reveal several tarnished coins and some paper money. I had a sandwich in a Ziploc bag I’d brought for lunch and I decided to have a sandwich before putting the old money in the bag and stuffing it in my backpack.
I moved toward the back of the store when an unexpected noise caused me to stand at attention. I caught the distinct sound of footsteps on the wooden porch of the general store. I turned around and peered out the door only to see nothing. I called out, “Hello? Anyone there?” There was no response. I crept towards the door slowly with my hands out in front of me, just in case. I slowly peeked around each corner before verifying that no one was standing outside and then made my way back out to the street.
I was sufficiently creeped the fuck out at that point.
I decided to pack it in and comeback later with friends. It was just about then that I heard the crack of thunder. The weather app on my phone said zero chance of rain, but lo and behold the clouds overhead were moving in fast. I thought about hoofing it the half mile in the rain, but the rain came fast and not wanting to go back into the general store, I darted to the nearest building, an old house.
The front door was unlocked and the door opened on the second pull. Standing in the parlor of this old house I looked around at the old furniture and dusty floors and decided to sit for a second on an old wooden chair that seemed sturdy enough. The storm raged outside and I could see water coming in from the ceiling. There were several old papers sitting on the coffee table in the living room and after a while I got up to go look at them.
The yellowed papers were single page editions of an old periodical called the Elsewhere Gazette. The stories covered church events, pie recipes and an advert for the Elsewhere General Store. One of the papers in the stack bore the headline. “Tragedy In The Schoolhouse.” The article told the story of a hysterical school teacher who had poisoned the cake she had prepared for the students. The one surviving student ran out of the schoolhouse screaming when the woman tried to force him to eat some of the poisoned cake. It was dated August 12th, 1936.
Earl’s story put him there nearly twenty years later. I was curious as to what would have happened some twenty years after the tragedy, but not entirely willing to continue investigating. When the rain let up a little a trudged back to my towards my car. Around the time I got halfway down Elsewhere Road the sky cleared up and the rain stopped. When I got back to 280 I marked the spot with with a couple of fallen branches propped up against a tree and drove back into town.
That night I was sitting at Mary’s Kitchen nursing a cup of coffee when Jerry came in and sat at the table adjacent to mine. Jerry and I didn’t talk much but we would often find ourselves sitting there through the midnight hours drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You look like you saw a ghost kid.” I shook my head and said, “I didn’t see one, but pretty sure I heard one.” He got a confused look on his face and I continued, “I did some hiking out by Elsewhere this morning.”
Jerry’s face went pale and he said, “Bullshit.”
I showed him a couple of the pictures on my phone and he replied, “See that building right there…” he said pointing at my phone, “Don’t go in that building, ever.” I replied, “I take it that’s the schoolhouse.” He nodded. I continued, “What’s the big deal about that place. Earl up at the Senior Center said he didn’t know what happened. I found an old newspaper article from about twenty years before Earl was there but it didn’t explain the scream he heard coming from it in the fifties.” Jerry shook his head and said, “’Round here we don’t talk about Elsewhere in polite conversation. It ain’t one of those things that needs discussing. But I can tell you’re all curious so I’ll tell ya, and then leave it be.” I nodded.
Jerry continued, “I was born in fifty-nine, about six years after they abandoned the town. It was the seventies by the time I was a dumb teenager lookin for a thrill. My buddy Tom Blankenship found pictures of Elsewhere in a book up at the library saying the town was abandoned in a hurry. We drove his truck out there and found everything boarded up, save for the schoolhouse. Tom went inside the schoolhouse and I stood by the truck. You could still get to Elsewhere road if you didn’t mind driving over some saplings at that point.”
Jerry lit a cigarette and took a drag before continuing, “Tom let out this wail like he’d been bit by a snake and I rushed up to the schoolhouse expecting to see god knows what. The single room schoolhouse was empty. I looked all over for Tom but I couldn’t find him. I ended up goin to the cops and that was when they told me about the ghost.”
Jerry took a long drag and stood up from his chair and moved across from me. There was this somber look in his eye that told me everything I needed to know about Tom’s fate. He said in a hushed tone, “So the deputy tells me that every couple of years some idiot goes out there and goes in the schoolhouse only for nobody to see them again. Thing is, the county sheriff’s department knows about the ghost. He told me that back in the fifties this kid came to school with a machete and hacked a couple of the kids up. The school teacher ran out screaming. They questioned the kid and he said this pretty lady that stood outside the schoolhouse from time to time said it would send them to heaven. They ended up putting him under the jail.”
Jerry put out his cigarette and looked at me with a stern face. “I don’t know what happens to the people that go into that schoolhouse and I don’t want to know. Don’t go back there. The county should demolish that place.” Jerry left a five dollar bill on his table and walked out. Despite his heartfelt story I was even more curious about Elsewhere at that point. I paid for my coffee and headed out.
By the following Saturday I had been able to wrangle a friend to come with me back to Elsewhere. Katie was a local college student who was obsessed with ghost hunting and abandoned towns. It wasn’t very hard to rope her into coming along. I told her the stories as they had been passed down to me and that was all it took for her to wake me up at 5AM on Saturday morning with coffee and a camera ready for a hike.
Katie and I strolled into town a little after seven in the morning. The sky was bright but the sun was still barely over the trees. We decided to open the doors to the schoolhouse and look inside from a few feet back. I opened the door and shot back off of the stoop and back into the grass. It was dark inside and we couldn’t make anything out. Katie produced a flashlight and shined it inside the doorway. I could make out a few upturned desks and a chalkboard in the back. We stood there for a bit when the sun crept over the trees and started heating up the morning dew resulting in a thick fog. I turned to my left for a moment to look back at the general store and Katie darted past me into the schoolhouse.
I ran right behind her and we both stood in the dilapidated building as I begged her to go back outside. She responded, “I could’ve swore I saw a kid standing in here.” I said, “Yeah that’s great. Spooky kids. First time I was here it rained out of nowhere. Now its fog. Let’s go.” Katie walked a few steps forward and let out a yelp as she fell through a hole in the floorboards to the cellar down below.
I laid flat on the floor and reached my arm down for her to climb up. She grabbed my wrist and I grabbed her with my other hand and tried to roll back and pull her up. She wouldn’t budge. I looked back down and saw this halfway transparent woman holding on to her legs and pulling her into the darkness. I pulled harder as Katie started screaming. The ghostly woman looked up at me and smiled in the dim light of the morning shining from the door.
Katie was pulled quickly into the darkness and in the struggle I was pulled down into the cellar. Katie’s screams fell silent as I pulled a couple of glowsticks from my backpack and cracked them open. I tossed one in Katie’s direction and one towards the other end of the room and brought up the flashlight app on my phone. Katie sat slumped against the wall on the far side of the room. There were bones all over the room in various states of decay. I walked over to Katie and checked her pulse at the neck, it was faint, but it was there. I turned towards the back of the room and that is when I noticed a small sliver of light coming from two wooden cellar doors about twenty or so feet from me.
I crept past the scattered bones and over to the cellar doors. I pushed at them only to hear chains rattle on the other side. I pushed harder and kept banging at them until one of the hinges broke and soon after another. I pushed the doors open and went back for Katie and threw her over my shoulder. As I was walking towards the opening to the outside I felt a sharp pain across my back. I didn’t look back. I bolted for the light. I tripped over one of the corpses and fell to the ground. My cellphone slid across the floor. I looked back and the ghostly woman was almost on top of me. I grabbed Katie by the wrist and took off for the stairs leading to freedom dragging the young co-ed behind me.
Just as I crossed the threshold into the light I felt a tug and looked back to see the woman holding Katie by the leg. I tugged and pulled and cursed and fought. This otherworldly voice came from the apparition saying, “LET HER GO TO HEAVEN!” I shot back, “Go to hell!” The woman’s grip on Katie loosened and I fell back onto the soft grass with Katie landing on top of me. I didn’t wait around. I fireman carried her back to my car and she came to about halfway through the ride to the police station.
In my report to the deputy I mentioned all the bodies I had found down there. He would later tell me that they recovered sixteen skeletons and one corpse that had only been there a few years. The county board voted to demolish the town shortly thereafter. It was kept hush-hush. Elsewhere road was tilled with a backhoe after the remaining buildings were bulldozed and the cellar of the schoolhouse filled with concrete. I went back out there one last time just to make sure it was gone and I didn’t make it five feet toward the treeline before a deputy sheriff flashed his lights and told me to get back in my car.
Katie won’t talk to me anymore. Last I saw her she pretended she hadn’t seen me and scurried away. Of all of the things that I experienced in that town, I regret not grabbing my cellphone. I had some pretty decent pictures. There’s no record of Elsewhere, Kentucky. Now there’s nothing left of the town. I haven’t been back and from the way the county has been handling it, I don’t think there is anything to go back to.
But just in case…
Don’t go to Elsewhere, Kentucky.
Our second creepypasta story, “Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck” is up next when Weird Darkness returns!
How would you like to see the very first episode of a horror host’s show? If your answer is YES, then join us for our next Weirdo Watch Party as horror host Professor Will Shivers from the Staying Scared Show brings his kooky concoctions of creepiness with the 1962 horror film, “Carnival of Souls”. “After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.” (Because that’s completely normal!) As always, the Weirdo Watch party is always free, and while you watch the film you can jump into the chatroom with me and other Weirdo family members to trade snarky comments about the film – sometimes the horror hosts get in on the chat too! So again – join me as horror host Professor Willie Shivers presents 1962’s “Carnival of Souls!” Again, the Weirdo Watch Party is Saturday August 8th at 9pm Central Time – that’s 7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain, 10pm Eastern on the Weirdo Watch Party page at WeirdDarkness.com.
The icy wind blew Floyd Kaetin through the door of the McMonigle Trading Post, dusting powdery snow across the floorboards and ruffling the feathers of the brace of wild turkeys he carried over his shoulder. He shoved the door closed against the cold and stamped snow off his boots. The big, slightly smoky room was dark after the outside glare.
George McMonigle looked up from shelving canned fruit. “Mornin’, Floyd. Mite nippy out there today.”
“That it is, George. Some might even go as far as to call it brisk.” Kaetin made his way across the comfortably crowded store to lay the birds on the counter. “Can you make use of these?”
“Sure can,” McMonigle said, moving over to inspect the birds. “With Christmas so close, folks over to the Army post will give us good money for them.” He turned and called toward the back of the store, “Hey, Nancy! Floyd brought in a bunch of turkeys!”
The heavy blanket that served as a door between the main store and the storage area twitched aside and a short, matronly Nez Perce woman stepped through. Dark braids emerged from her headscarf and flowed over the shoulders of her beaded deerskin dress. She clutched a box that was almost as large as she was. Her Nez Perce name translated roughly to Two Bears Running, but George never could quite get his mouth wrapped around those words. They’d settled on Nancy.
“Hey, Floyd.” She plopped the box onto the counter next to the birds. “That sheepskin coat you order outta Olympia come on the freight a few days back. Still don’t know why you want it. That greatcoat perfectly good.”
“It will be kind of like losing an old friend.” Floyd lifted his arm, displaying a fraying cuff. “Me and this coat went through the War of the Rebellion together. Served as pillow and blanket many a time — couple times, I even considered using it as a tent.”
“One of these days, you’re gonna have to tell us about that,” George said. “We was out here during the fracas. Not much of it got this far.”
Floyd shook his head. “That ain’t likely to happen. There’s not much about that time I care to remember. Far as I’m concerned, the best thing the Army ever did for me was to haul me out here to the Territories before they cut me loose.”
“I don’t much care what happened in no white man’s war,” Nancy said. “Still say that coat don’t look so bad to me.”
He shucked it and handed it to her with a flourish. “Then, it is yours to do with as you like, Ma’am.”
Nancy held it up and eyed it critically. “I fix it . . . little bita deerskin here an’ there . . . you might need it again.”
George laughed. “That’s Nancy. Can’t throw nothin’ away, but what she snags it and makes it good as new.”
Nancy beamed. “Better.”
As Nancy spread the coat out on the counter to examine the seams, George turned back to the turkeys. “Fine birds. Best game I’ve had come into the place in weeks. I won’t even talk about the furs — or the lack.”
“I hear you. Took me two days to find these turkeys. Saw traces of a few deer and found an old, busted beaver lodge downstream a piece, but I didn’t actually see anything.”
George pulled out the ledger, recorded the turkeys, then ran his finger down the entries. “Been real slim since that gully washer blew through middle of October.”
“I’m thinking of trying a little farther north tomorrow. Higher ground. Maybe what got washed out in our neck of the woods moved up there.”
“Worth a try, anyway, but be careful, that’s rough terrain. That’s the way Louis Nicolet was headed when he disappeared last month.”
Kaetin frowned. “That is worrisome. Nicolet might have been a horse’s rear, but he was one of the best voyageurs in these parts.”
Nancy nodded thoughtfully. “That’s a bad place. The People call it the Place of the Light That Calls.”
“Why’d they call it that?” Floyd asked.
“Dunno,” she said with a shrug. “It’s an old name. Flathead call it that, too. People jus’ don’ go there.”
Floyd frowned, then snapped the binding string off the package. “Best to be prepared then. Let’s get a look at this coat. Catalog said it was extra heavy with the fleece left on as a liner. That’ll likely be needed with the hard cold we get here.” The coat was everything the ad promised. With the box lid off, the sheepskin spilled over the pasteboard edges, the exterior leather shone golden brown in the flickering lamplight and trimmed fleece poked through at the seams like shaggy piping.
“Now, that’s worth the twenty dollars!” He lifted the heavy garment out of the box and gave it a shake. As it unfolded, three objects clattered to the floor. Coins. A worn quarter and two large copper cent pieces.
“Would you look at that!” George leaned over the counter. “Heads up, too. You just got yourself two cents worth of luck, Floyd.”
Floyd scooped the coins up. Fresh from the cold room, they felt like ice against his palm.
“Them coins are lucky?” Nancy asked.
“Pennies are, anyway,” George said. “See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck . . . or somethin’ like that.”
“Some folks say pins, some folks say pennies. Me? I’ll take pennies over pins any day.” Kaetin grinned and closed his fist over the coins. “Way I see it, a quarter is twenty-five pennies. This here is twenty-seven cents of luck.”
“Then you gonna need the right thing to keep them in so the magic doesn’t run out,” Nancy said. With a decided nod, she turned and hurried back through the curtains. Floyd shot a puzzled look at George, who simply shrugged. Among her many skills, Nancy was an honored shaman to her people and one of the few healers in their neck of the woods. Neither man understood shamanism, but neither would argue with what worked, either. Moments later, she re-emerged holding a small, white pouch. “Made this when you brung that doe in last summer. It’s been waitin’ to be used.”
The bag was beautifully worked with a geometric pattern picked out in beads and quillwork on the front. Kaetin recognized the decoration as the Nez Perce symbol for the sun. A mussel shell button held the flap closed and the soft fringes along the bottom edge terminated in tiny conical shells. Beads also decorated the long, sturdy thong meant to go around the wearer’s neck.
Nancy held the bag open and thrust it toward Kaetin. “Put them in. You must do it yourself. No one else should touch them. They’re your magic.”
Bemused, Floyd dropped the coins in and Nancy deftly tucked the tiny button through the loop. She stood on tiptoe to drop the thong over his head and patted it against his chest with satisfaction. “There. The sun and your lucky coins will protect you.”
Kaetin examined it. “That’s mighty fine work, Nancy. I’m not sure how I can thank you for it.”
She beamed. “How about a haunch of venison from the game you bring down with all this luck?”
He laughed. “You got it!”
Lead-colored clouds hung oppressively low and the daylight filtering through painted the landscape with a faint blue sheen. Not for the first time, Kaetin wondered if he should just head home. Two days out and, if anything, he’d seen less game up here than he had back home. The weather was holding, though, still only cold and windy. No, he needed to push on. Anything he could bring back would help to feed their little community when the weather really turned hard and snow filled the pass.
The bay horse shifted beneath him. Kaetin leaned forward to pat its neck. “I know, Jasper, you’re anxious to get moving. Can’t say I blame you. It ain’t getting no warmer us stopping here.”
He glanced at the sky again and found himself fingering where the medicine bag rested against his chest. Laughing at himself, he said, “We could use a bit of sun right about now, but looks like all we’ll get is more snow. To hell with it, Jasper. North it is.” He wheeled the bay toward a break in the trees and headed deeper into the woods.
Kaetin had been seeing boulders dotting the landscape for a while. They looked new-fallen with moss-clean faces and stark white scarring. As he traveled higher, their numbers increased and large chunks of jagged slate poked up through the snow crust. He dismounted and brushed snow away for a better look. “Looks like George’s gully washer hit up here, too.” He straightened and followed the line of debris. “Might as well head that way to see what happened, Jasper. Not like we’ve found anything the way we’ve been traveling.”
Turning the sheepskin collar up and seating his hat more firmly, he took the horse’s lead and carefully picked his way up the slope. The trail of debris led him to a place where a cliff face had sheared away and carried part of the mountain with it, opening a long-closed passage. Trees along the slide path leaned at crazy angles, both completely and almost uprooted by piles of rubble tumbled against the trunks. Small scrubby bushes and grasses poked up through the white. Nature was healing the wound. In a couple years, it would be hard to tell it happened.
Floyd led the big bay into the sheltered path. It was still tricky footing, but both welcomed the protection from the stinging, wind-blown snow. On the far side, the path opened out into another section of woods where undisturbed snow lay heavy on the ground and the air was much calmer. It was a beautiful sight, but at the same time disheartening.
“Damn me if it don’t look as sparse up this way as it was back there. C’mon, Jasper. We might as well push on for a bit. We come a long way for a lot of nothing.”
A few yards beyond the pass, Jasper suddenly got skittish. There was nothing that Floyd could see, but that didn’t mean much. Probably a mountain lion, he thought. No game for him also meant no food for them and they tended to get a bit testy when they got hungry. Quietly, he eased the rifle out of the scabbard and edged toward the thicket the horse was rolling his eyes at. Kaetin couldn’t see anything behind the scrub but a larger mound of snow. Moving the undergrowth aside released a dump of snow from the overburdened pines. Floyd jumped back, managing to avoid most of the fall. As he stood spluttering and brushing powdery flakes from his shoulders, something dark against the white caught his eye. It was a saddle horn.
Digging deeper revealed the rest of the saddle, then the bags, then the ravaged remains of a horse. Kaetin silently regarded the familiar punchwork on the worn saddle, then said, “Guess we know what happened to Nicolet’s horse.”
He spent a little more time searching the area, but found no sign of Nicolet, himself. “Well,” he said, settling Nicolet’s saddlebags on Jasper. “At least we can get these back to the post. If he don’t come for them himself, maybe the fur folks can ship them back to his kin in France.”
As they traveled, the woods became denser. The ground cover was pristine as a new fall. He was just considering turning back when the trees abruptly ended at a clearing. Kaetin paused just inside the trees and stared. He’d never seen anything quite like it. The cleared area looked to be perfectly circular and everything just stopped at the edge of it — even the snow. A rounded hill rose in the center; small stones were scattered around the sides and there was a big pile of larger ones at the top. It looked deliberate and would have taken someone a lot of time and effort. Even more curious were the bodies of deer and other animals lying on the rocky ground.
For a while, Kaetin stood motionless, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Then a glint of light, like the play of sun on metal, caught his eye. He looked for the source. Nothing. It seemed to have come from the mound, near the cairn at the top. Deciding to look closer, he took Jasper’s lead and stepped forward. The big bay took a larger step back.
“Now what’s got you spooked, you four-legged lump of stubborn? Dead horse I could understand, but you’ve seen plenty of dead deer before.”
He tugged again on the lead. The big horse ducked his head and shied farther back. Exasperated, Kaetin looped the reins over a stunted-looking tree and snatched the rifle. “Have it your way, damn you. I’m going to go have a look with or without you.”
He wheeled back toward the hill and froze. The tug of war with the bay had taken them around the edge of the clearing. From his new angle he could see a man’s leg and boot protruding from a tumble of stones about half-way up. “Is that what’s spooking you?”
It felt odd as he stepped across the line where the snow ended and the barren ground began. It was like pushing through a curtain. Felt warmer, too — although not necessarily comfortable. He wondered if it was some kind of hot spring. He’d seen similar when his mounted company passed through the Wyoming Territory.
Rifle at the ready, he edged around the rocks and found Louis Nicolet slumped against the stones. He was just as dead as the deer on the other side of the hill and looked like a layer of dust had settled over him. Nicolet’s coat was nowhere to be seen and his shredded shirt revealed a large blackened patch covering most of his chest that was like no wound Floyd had seen before.
“That don’t look like a bullet hole. Don’t even look like a proper burn.” Baffled, Kaetin knelt beside the body and moved the tattered shirt aside for a better look. At his touch, Louis Nicolet dissolved into dust, bones crumbling, as if he were years dead rather than weeks. Kaetin took a startled step backward onto loose gravel that sent him pitching headlong down the slope, hat and rifle flying in different directions. He bumped painfully down the hillside and came to a hard stop against a rock near the edge of the clearing. A short distance to his right, the rifle skittered into the carcass of a buck which fell into dust just like Nicolet.
Floyd unfolded painfully. As he did, he saw the flicker again. No doubt about it this time. Just above the topmost stone there was a brief glint as from sun on metal. Only problem was, there was neither sun nor metal. Looked like Jasper had a point — again. This was definitely a place to leave alone. One of these days, he’d learn to pay attention.
He took a step backward, expecting the familiar crunch of snow. What he got instead was a sudden stop as if he’d backed into a wall. But — there was no wall. Kaetin pivoted, shoving against the invisible barrier. No good. He still saw nothing, but it felt like he was pushing against something solid.
Behind him, there was a sound like fat dropped onto a hot griddle. Slowly, Floyd turned toward it. Light oozed from every chink in the rock pile. Shafts of color rose into the air as if a chunk of the Northern Lights had been ripped out and dropped onto the barren pile of dirt. Back in the trees, Jasper whinnied in terror.
Kaetin stared, fascinated. A long way off, on the other side of his mind, something primal waved and tried to get noticed.
The light danced and flowed, at once beautiful and terrifying. After a moment it moved out over the bare soil of the mound and wavered. Hovering as if uncertain. As if searching.
With a shock, Kaetin knew that whatever this thing was, it was indeed searching. It reminded him of a spider waiting until it was sure where the prey that had disturbed the web silk was. Finally heeding the primal part of his brain, he stepped quietly away from the edge of the circle. Instinctively, his hand fell to his revolver. Reassured to find it still in the holster, he thumbed the guard off and waited.
The dancing light lazily circled the central cairn. The shifting color and the motion, tugged at him. He took an involuntary step forward, then shook himself and forced his eyes away. The Light That Calls. Well, now he knew why the Indians called it that. If he survived, he’d have to let Nancy know.
Just at the edge of his vision, his rifle lay half-buried in the dust that was once a magnificent buck. He chanced a slow step toward it. Then another. A third put it almost in reach, but the fourth loosened a shower of pebbles that bounced down and into the barrier. Heart leaping, he checked the hovering light. It hadn’t moved, but Kaetin was certain it knew where he was now.
Slowly, it drifted down until it touched the ground. It heaved, flowed and contracted into a pillar, then coalesced into a human form surrounded by a blinding glow. Kaetin lifted a arm to shield his eyes and the light winked out, leaving Louis Nicolet in its place.
Stunned, Kaetin darted a glance to where he’d found Nicolet’s corpse. The slightly mounded dust there shifted in a breeze he couldn’t feel. The new Nicolet’s coat tails blew in the same unfelt breeze. It lifted its head and smiled. There was nothing human in the eyes that met and locked onto Kaetin’s. Floyd tried to scream, to dive aside, but he couldn’t move. His brain and body felt utterly disconnected, as in a nightmare. The thing that wasn’t Louis moved silently forward, still smiling. As it neared, Floyd felt the dust stir around him and a prickly feeling moved across his skin. It reached out toward Kaetin’s chest. Floyd clamped his eyes shut and steeled himself for whatever was about to happen.
Closing his eyes had an unexpected result. As soon as he broke the inhuman gaze, control over his own limbs flowed back. Without wasting a moment, he twisted and threw himself toward the rifle. It wasn’t a moment too soon. As he fell, the thing’s outstretched hand caught his sleeve. He felt the touch on his skin like a whisper of bitter cold. He hit the ground, rolled and came up. Damn! He’d overshot the rifle. On the upside, his movement had been so unexpected, the fake Nicolet seemed uncertain what had happened.
Kaetin dodged back farther. At least he still had his pistol. He had no idea if it would help against whatever this was, but he was not adverse to experimentation if the need arose. He became aware of an odd sensation along his arm. Looking down, he saw the reason. Where the thing had touched it, the sheepskin sleeve was darkening. Aging before his eyes. It suddenly crumbled away leaving blackened edges. The hairs on his exposed flesh looked singed.
Swearing between ragged breaths, he looked up and found the damnable creature turning toward him. He slid his gaze off the face and concentrated on Nicolet’s silver belt buckle–one of the real Louis’ prized possessions. Ignoring legs that threatened to fold, he dodged to the far side of the clearing.
“Good move, Floyd,” he muttered. “You put distance between yourself and the Bogeyman. Now what? A critter can only run the fence line so long before it gets tired out.”
The thing knew where he was, anyway, so why not simply trace the fence? Splaying both hands against the unseen barrier, he moved along pressing and probing for something — anything that felt different. On the other side of the clearing, the creature paced him; watching, but making no move of its own. He wondered briefly if none of the thing’s other prey had tried to fight back before. That thought was banished from his mind by a rush of excitement as his fingers encountered a place in the wall that gave under his touch.
Maybe there was a gate after all. He pressed harder, but though it gave slightly to pressure, it didn’t completely give. Tracing the area showed it was a narrow spot that reached from the ground to as far up as he could stretch. He scuffed along the ground and discovered there were actually more stones along the perimeter. A stone ring sunk into the soil. Time had covered it with a layer of dust on his side and soil and leaf litter on the other. In the spot where he stood, there was also a heap of broken shale and tumbled stones. Brushing away the concealing dust revealed a large crack in one of the stones. The same stone that was in line with the weak place.
A noise behind jerked him to his feet. The thing was moving now. Not real fast, but it was closing. There was nothing else for it. He hauled back and kicked hard at the broken stone.
The shock of the impact telegraphed all the way to to his teeth. A flash of green knocked him sprawling several feet from the barrier. Answering sparks and flashes flowed along, following the stones, briefly turning the barrier into a ring of whirling emerald. The Nicolet-thing recoiled and darted farther into the circle.
Abruptly, Kaetin realized that the creature was a prisoner in the clearing just as much as he was. The thought stopped him in his tracks. Looking again at the cracked stone, he wondered if the same storm that dislodged the rocks that had blocked the pass, also washed this from further up the mountain, cracking the stone and weakening the wall.
He heaved himself to his feet and dusted his hands. He didn’t know squat about magic, but he’d lay odds that’s what this was all about. Had to be. Nothing else made sense — if magic made sense. He kind of wished Nancy was there. She’d probably know what was going on and would know what to do. Kaetin was just scared witless.
Still, he took a resolute step back from the weakened barrier. Freedom for him, would also mean freedom for that thing and Kaetin had no doubt that would be a very bad idea. He turned his attention back to the creature. The green shimmer along the stones was fading and he figured it would be back to looking for him before long. There wasn’t any place to hide on the blasted knob, so he might as well confront it. Who knew? He might get lucky and win. Yeah. He never won at poker, either.
Squaring his shoulders, he called out, “What the hell are you anyway?”
The thing tilted Nicolet’s head as if puzzled. It moved toward him with a drifting gait.
“A shaman I know says folks up north hold that the Northern Lights are spirits of ancestors,” Kaetin said, maintaining distance. “That what you are? You a ghost or something?”
It stopped and stood still.
Floyd altered his path toward the pile of big stones that crowned the hill. The thing still didn’t move, but Floyd was pretty sure he had its undivided attention. As he drew closer, he saw pictures carved into the rocks. He’d seen similar things pecked into rocks along the river near the farm he grew up on back in Pennsylvania. These particular images bore a strong resemblance to the symbols Nancy used in her ceremonies. He looked up from the glyphs and was startled to see the ghost just on the opposite side of the cairn. He avoided looking into its eyes and moved back, this time being careful the ground was solid before he stepped down. He might not be the brightest lamp in the chandelier, but Floyd Kaetin learned from his mistakes.
“Well, whoever you were, I know you aren’t Louis Nicolet–” Without sound or warning, the thing lunged. Instinctively, Kaetin pulled his revolver and fired into its middle. The image of Louis Nicolet wavered as the bullets passed through, revealing just for an instant, a twisted and blackened skeletal form before the illusion flowed back. It happened so fast it left Floyd wondering if he’d actually seen it.
“Now, that was downright unfriendly.” It took everything Kaetin had to keep the fear from his voice and hold the revolver steady. It probably made no difference; he’d lay money the thing could taste his terror, but it helped him stay focused. They were keeping pace, now. Moving in measured steps around the perimeter of the clearing as if in parody of a dance. Floyd kept his weapon leveled and the ghost followed with hands extended, fingers splayed. About the same time the thought crossed Kaetin’s mind that this was getting them nowhere, it must have also occurred to the ghost. Abruptly, Louis Nicolet was gone and the black and twisted creature stood in his place, looking like a hellish cross between a human and a spider. Empty holes gaped where eyes should be and a whip-like tongue flicked in and out of the cavernous mouth. The sight made Kaetin recoil in horror. The creature leapt forward, digging a claw-like hand into the breast of Floyd’s coat. Sheepskin and the shirt beneath fell away in a shower of dust.
Then the ghost screamed.
It wasn’t so much a sound as a violent force that cut to the center of Kaetin’s soul. He dropped to all fours gasping, head buzzing like he’d been poleaxed. Glancing in the direction of the ghost, he found that instead of the monstrous human-spider the hunk of Northern Lights was back. It was again directly over the cairn, color and light swirling and flashing like a lightning storm.
Made no sense at all. He moaned and put a hand to his ringing head. His fingers tangled in the leather strap swinging from his neck. The medicine bag. Now it made sense.
Standing slowly, he lifted the medicine bag over his head and carefully wrapped the thong around his fist. He made an experimental snap toward the thing. It shied back.
“Don’t like this, huh?” he said, swinging the pouch freely. “Wonder if it’s the coins, the symbols or Nancy’s hocus-pocus?”
He snapped it again. The swirling lights dodged farther that time. “Don’t much care, really. Long as you don’t like it.”
Kaetin pressed forward, snapping the medicine bag like a whip, herding the thing until it backed into the invisible barrier. At the touch, the wall flashed green. The creature reacted violently, its shape elongating and flattening. Insane colors swirled. It again compressed into a column. Then it took on the form of a deer, then an eagle, then shapes appeared and shifted so rapidly, one seemed to melt into the next. The sight was dizzying. Finally, the melting forms slowed and a young Indian woman in an elaborately beaded dress crouched in the dust.
Floyd stopped swinging the pouch. “You killed them all, didn’t you?” he said. “Every single creature I just saw. You killed them and took everything that made them what they were.”
The maiden dropped to her knees and opened hands in supplication. Floyd watched in stunned amazement. He wondered if he was seeing a re-enactment of this woman’s last act in life. Did she die begging this horror to spare her? How many others had begged the same way? The medicine bag strap, tight against his straining fist, cut into his flesh.
At last he said, “Mercy. You want mercy.”
The creature looked up. There may have been hope on the face.
“I don’t goddamn think so,” said Kaetin and swung the amulet with all his strength.
Kaetin awoke to something warm and soft nudging him in the ribs. He opened his eyes to a close view of Jasper’s long face. A branch from the stunted tree was tangled in the reins. Seeing him stir, the bay nickered and shook his mane.
Pushing the velvety muzzle away, Floyd remained sprawled on the rocky hillside until the world stopped spinning. About that same time, he realized he was cold. Snow.
Levering himself to his elbows, he looked around. The cairn was gone. Chunks of it lay scattered over the clearing, quickly and silently vanishing under a dusting of white.
“Ain’t that just the way my life goes?” Floyd said, pulling himself to his feet against Jasper’s warm solidity. “Have to blow the hell out of a beautiful girl and wake up being horse-kissed.”
A few minutes and a fresh, unshredded flannel shirt later, Kaetin secured rifle, pistol and hat. He shrugged into the remains of his new coat, took Jasper’s reins and trudged in the direction of home. “Dammit. Hope Nancy’s managed some magic with that greatcoat. Looks like I am gonna need it again.”
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“Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck” by T. Lee Harris
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If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you can find a link in the show notes.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Psalm 141:4 = “Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.”
And a final thought… Who you allow into your life, mind and heart are among the most important decisions you will ever make. – Bryant McGill
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.