Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fare Thee Well



Ahoy mateys. Brandon here, with a bit of a deviation from the usual post. I’ve just been sitting here at my desk, sipping a cup of two-day-old coffee that hasn’t seen nearly enough microwave time, and wondering what sort of post to write for Thursday. And it’s finally dawned on me: I want to tell you a Hallowe’en story. It’s one without comics, but don’t worry. It’s short. Short enough that you’ll be able to finish reading it and still have time to catch tonight’s mind-blowing new episode of Glee. Or wash your hair with sulfuric acid. Not that I recommend either of those things, but hey, some of you, dear readers, are incredibly odd.
Anyway, here we go. I call this short-short story “Fare Thee Well.”

***

It was the day of the digging.
Dell stooped low, lifted free a spade full of moist earth, and heaved it atop the pile. The exposed dirt was dark with the wet of recent rains and it filled the air with the pungency of decay. Dell planted the blade of the shovel, took a leaden breath, and hefted it again with a grunt.
He had been digging for almost thirty minutes, but still the hole was not deep. Not deep enough, he knew. His body was covered in sweat, and the light breeze which made the overhead leaves dance brought gooseflesh to the skin of his arms. Summer was ending, and therefore the weather was no longer comfortably warm.
Dell paused, stood fully upright so that his entire torso protruded from the hole.
The entire town had turned out for the event. Such a thing was customary. There were nearly two-hundred of them: men, women, and the young ones. They were all in attendance. And all of them Dell knew well. He could see the Leighmans, dressed all in black, standing nearest to him at the crowd’s perimeter. Their family had brought animals to be butchered by Dell’s for more than three generations. And beside them, Dell saw the widow Laura, also dressed in shades of midnight pitch. Her lacy veil did not conceal the tears she wiped away every few seconds. There were others. All of them, really. And every face began to blur into the next, melting into a sea of sorrow as hot tears streamed down Dell’s own red cheeks.
Dell dragged a shirtsleeve across his face and gulped hard. The air was silent, save for his own heavy breathing and the sound of the rustling leaves. He did not want to, but could not keep himself from looking at the thing. It demanded his attention, a fishhook pulling at his heart. He stared down at the long pine box. It was the first time he had done so since picking up the shovel. A black dread filled his chest and for a moment Dell thought he would be sick. And he would have been, but he had not eaten in days. The guilt bore a hole in him, one far vaster and more deadly than the one he’d made in the ground.
Even through the layer of carefully nailed wood, Dell could see her lovely face staring back up at him. He imagined her smile, remembered how her kisses always tasted of sweet nectar after they had returned from a day picking grapes for wine. He saw her hair, that curtain of rich chocolate, and recalled the way it framed her high, lovely cheekbones. She was perfection, his one and only. She was his life.
Dell collapsed then. Half of him leaned against the edge of the partially dug grave. The other half lay splayed across the top of his wife’s simple coffin.
“I’m so sorry, Ana,” he wheezed between sobs. “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t have seen it coming.”
After a moment, a hand nudged Dell’s shoulder. He raised his head to see Father Medson looking down at him. Without saying a word, the holy man made a solemn gesture toward the hole.
Dell sniffled and nodded slowly. He rubbed the pinewood casket once more, softly, and returned to his work.
He dug. He strained and lifted until his hands were raw. White blisters had appeared, even on his toughened palms, and had torn open to expose burning skin beneath. Finally, he knew it was done. When he stood upright, only the very top of his head poked out the top of the plot. He gave the pain in his battered hands no consideration, because he knew what happened next. He knew that he would have to say farewell, that he and Ana would be parted forever, each doomed to their own paths.
The town Sherriff, Paul Twine, appeared at the foot of the grave. His bulky frame blocked out the sun and washed Dell in shadow.
“Come on up, son,” Twine said. “Let’s get done what needs to get done so this woman can rest in peace.”
Dell’s throat had choked up tight, so he simply nodded at the Sherriff and began to climb. When he emerged, the townsfolk were closer. They were within ten feet of him. He could see the Andersens, Chip and Nona, watching him with pained eyes. Their son Pete, probably almost ten now, dropped his eyes to his muddy shoes when Dell looked at him.
“Thank you all for coming,” Dell managed. His eyes were running freely now and he made no attempt to stanch their flow.
“Come now, son,” the preacher said quietly, “you know it is custom.”
Dell turned and half-stumbled into a kneel at the side of the casket.
He ran a hand across its surface, pretending in his mind that he could stroke his lover’s face again. Bloody smears stained the wooden lid. He wanted so badly to feel her soft hands upon his cheeks and hear her tell him that she loved him, and only him, forever and always. But he knew that she could not do that. She hadn’t.
“Please forgive me, Ana,” he said. “I miss you so bad.”
And then the Sherriff cleared his throat. “Alright, Dell. It’s time.”
Dell began to shake uncontrollably, quivering as he regarded Twine. “B-but, I’m not done yet. I haven’t said goodbye. Can’t a man at least say goodbye?”
The Sherriff hoisted Dell to his feet. He could hardly stay upright, but somehow managed to stand there beside the gaping earthen mouth. His nerves were the only thing keeping in place.
“You already said goodbye, Dell.” Twine drew his pistol and let it rest at his side. “You got your last request. The talking’s all done, now. Nobody here wants to hear it. Least of all, that poor dead girl.”
“I love you,” Dell said, stammering at his wife. “I always did.”
Sherriff Twine took aim, thumbed back the hammer of his revolver. The crowd stood silent. And when the sound of thunder exploded through the trees, birds scattered.
Dell toppled, lifeless, into the empty pit.
After a long moment, two young men with shovels began filling in the hole again. And the gathered mass of townsfolk dispersed, carrying Ana’s coffin with them.

***

There you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed that Hallowe’en tale of sorts. And if you didn’t? Well, sorry, no refunds. But at least I didn’t put a piece of cat poop wrapped in a Tootsie Roll wrapper in your trick-or-treat bag. Or did I?

Cheers!

-Brandon

Beer: Left Hand Milk Stout
Music: Waylon Jennings

52 comments:

  1. This was a great read for sure, even though I feel a bit lost. Why did he get shot? Did he kill her? I demand to know why!

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    1. Sorry, brother. I have no answers to any of those questions. I just write 'em as they come. Cheers!

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  2. Bloody good and the ending creeps up on you!

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  3. Awesome story. I wonder what Dell did to her? Does he have a brother named Hewlett Packard?

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  4. I'm with Addman, left wondering what Dell's original crime was. Am I wrong in assuming it was the Old West? I was wondering why the townsfolk were watching him dig a grave, well, I got my answer on that one.

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    1. In my head, I saw something imperfectly Old West-ish, so good call there. Cheers!

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  5. I got worried when I read the title and started reading the first paragraph but overall it was a pretty good story. Bit of a weird ending. It fits though.

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  6. Reminded me of something out of one of those hick towns that worship a god and such, then they smite people for their evil ways. Great write, he dug his own grave literally and due to some plight haha

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  7. I'm finally out of hiding and finished with my exams and back to the blogging world! And this is a great post for me to come back to. I absolutely love anything in the horror genre - the creepier the better! Thanks for this Halloween story and don't stop here....give me more!

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  8. And I thought this 'hole' time (I'm sorry) that Dell was the good guy of the story. Unless he was gravely apologetic for whatever crime he committed. I'm certainly digging deep for these puns. Alright I'm done. Fantastic story, though! It was a fun read.

    Off topic: Oddly enough, Dell was to be the original name of the main character in my slow work-in-progress.

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  9. Wow! Did not see THAT coming! Well, maybe I did but not really.

    Well done. You leave us gasping and guessing.

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  10. Good story - messed up ending! That's one that'll stick with ya for a few days...

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  11. I've been missing out badly, I can't believe how good this is, I didn't see that ending coming at all, it won't be leaving my mind any time soon!

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  12. Why is everyone asking for a reason? Reverse of Sati practice that existed in India is what you had described here. The wife would dress in white sari, carry torch of fire and burn herself in the pyre of her husband when all the men of the world watch it including the wife (yep no woman shall be allowed near graveyard).

    If you hadnt mentioned poop and tootsie roll in single sentence I would take this work as Bryan's.

    Brandon, news for you, every year during halloween chicago suburbanites take the candies from their kids to policestation and scan them before they give it to their kids. Why? Every year one pyschopath distributes candies with needles inside them to kids and cops havent found that guy yet.

    Yep, I am one of that weirdo readers or "incredibly odd" as you put. :)

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  13. Ooh that was unexpected! I love tales with twists, great job, really didn't see that one coming. I'm so curious now though, I wonder what he did...

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  14. I love when I can make my own reasons. For me - he accidentally killed her although he loved her deeply. Great story!

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  15. Brandon- There was an eerie, old time, creepy feel to this story. The scene you set here grew more and more chilling as I read on. Great build up and tension. Loved it.

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  16. I have questions :(

    Part 7 is up today, just so y'all know. Free day and all.

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    1. That's exactly what I wanted. Cheers!

      Will go to download the new chap ASAP.

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  17. Great story! And I'll have to remember that cat poop/Tootsie Roll trick for Halloween . . . that'll teach the little buggers!

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  18. I like it. It was definitely not what I was expecting and I love that. It's so hard to be original these days, that's why you guys always impress and entertain so much. Good job! Can we get more scary stories for the spookiest month of all?!

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    1. thank you so much for the flattering comments. I really appreciate it. I do plan on writing some more shorts in the weeks leading up to Halloween, but I probably won't be posting them here. Doesn't fit the post schedule, sadly. Thanks for reading, though!

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  19. Awesome! We better not get any cat crap in our candy! ;)

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  20. Is it odd I saw it coming. Maybe I'm just cynical and twisted. The way it was written kind of reminded me of the short story "the lottery". Good read.

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  21. I didn't see that coming but I am terribly naive. Dell, must have been a bad boy that got some street justice. Guess he might not be separated from his dead love all that long, after all. Cat poop in a Tootsie Roll wrapper??? That is so wrong!!

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  22. That really wasn't what I was expecting but wow. That was amazing. However, I can't figure out what Dell did that was so horrible. I assume he killed her but I'm not sure.

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  23. Wow, I didn't see that coming! A great read!

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  24. As long as the poop was wrapped in a wrapper with an indian shooting a star....that's still a prize...those wrappers are good luck! ;) Great story. Crazy...but good. Reminded me of The Lottery,

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  25. Great story!! I ciuldn't figure out why no one was helping him dig, and then I thought maybe he was burying his wife alive. And then it turns out he was digging his own grave! Creepy!

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  26. Geez! That's creepy. Very well-written, bringing up more questions that don't have answers, which I suppose is the idea :)

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  27. Loved it! And I NEED to know what happened! Did he kill her? He kept saying he was sorry. Why was he digging what ended up to be his own grave? Why were they watching? Why did they take the body?

    I HAVE TO KNOW!!

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    1. The only answers I have are the ones you think fit best. Sorry:)

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  28. That was awesome. Really creepy and awesome.

    For the record...I do not watch Glee. I watch The Vampire Diaries. My reasons should be obvious.

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  29. It took a bit of an M. Night Shymalan twist there didn't it? Half expected that to happen.

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  30. I read it twice. And then I read all the comments. I think the what isn't necessary, the how and why doesn't change the feeling. Brilliant.

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    1. I have no answers for any of those questions anyhow :) Thanks mucho for reading, my friend!

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  31. Just brilliant. Perhaps should not have read it before bedtime.
    Loved it

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  32. Very nice! Wheels are turning; definitely touched me. Thanks for the tale!

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  33. Nice story, didn't really expect him to get shot! Why exactly did he? Was he the reason his wife died?

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    1. I wish I knew the answers to any of those questions ;)

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    2. Part 2: Dell comes back from his own grave as a zombie. Then can we know why he died??

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  34. Boy, you two are versatile. Great story!

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  35. I think the widow Laura was was a widow for a good reason. "and hear her tell him that she loved him, and only him, forever and always. But he knew that she could not do that. _She hadn't._ ...He caught Ana and Laura's husband together, and killed them both. Just my take. Super-chilling read; thank you!

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