This Week’s Prompt: 33. Determinism and prophecy.
The Resulting Story:Fates and Fancy
My brother was born when the moon wasn’t out. He was born without mama getting big either. Just one day, in the middle of the night, when no one was expecting it, he was born. Well, not no one. Ms. Lester or Lichster, the old lady that walked with her herd of chickens past our farm every morning, she’d known. She’d walked up to mama one day, her big eye looking her over, and the pronounced that Mama would have another child. Mama laughed, and moved on. But my brother was born the next day.
Ms. Lester was like that though. Pa says that folks like that back east are called ‘cunning folk’. And back east, some of them ride with wampus cats or speak with Indian ghosts to learn their tricks out in the hills. Ms. Lester, though, she’s just a little kooky Pa says. And a little lucky.
When my brother was born, he didn’t cry. Mama nudge him awake every now and again, but he never cried not even when we bathed him. He’d sqaull, but it wasn’t like any baby Mama had heard. But Mama insisted he’d just grow into it. She named him Duron, after the mute in her Book of Saints. And that was it for Duron for a while.
A few weeks later, though, Ms. Lester was walking with her chickens again and stopped in front of Pa while he was plowing. The cow wouldn’t move it while she stood there, feeding the chickens. When Pa went around to yell at her, she just stared at him for a bit. Then she said back.
“The boy’s going to go back to where he’s from. And they’re going to burn the whole of you down, you wait and see, before that boy is eighteen.”
Pa just stared at her for a bit, and she walked off like she was bored, smiling like Pa had said some dumb joke as she teetered off. Pa just went back to planting and told me and Mama about it when he got home. Duron didn’t care much, he just stared around space like normal.
Ms. Lester never talked about Duron again, and I kinda forgot about it for a while. After a bit, around when he started walking, he’d stagger around, like he was following something. Pa and Mama figured he probably was just exploring like some kids do. But then I saw him talking his first words, when I was ten and him three, up into the air. Not only that, but he was bobbing his head like he heard someone talk back.
Mama and Pa were not happy to hear that.
Durgon, or Dug as we had started to call him, had to stay inside from now on. He wasn’t to wander in the fields, in case something snatch him. And he was to stop this nonsense about invisble friends with tall hats and long jackets wandering around the house. Pa nailed a cross over the door just in case.
I was little, so I didn’t mind much. I liked having a brother who was as smart as this, and quiet most of the time. Back then, he’d only talk in quick whispers. Usually stuff like “no” or “yes” or “want” with some feeble gesture of his little arms. Being a few miles from an other kids my age, I figured he was a decent enough playmate.
We’d play ball, and as he grew older he got quite the arm on him. Mama said we had to stop eventually, after we nearly hit her as she came in the door. The ball was for outside, and Dug was an inside boy now. So instead I taught him dress up and we played house. Except he always, even as he got better at talking, wanted to be the preacher.
“He’s got nice clothes,” Dug would say, his face doing it’s best attempt at a pout. His lips didn’t move much, so it was quite the struggle. But he managed.
“But they’re all black and borning. Come on, why not be a cowboy? Or an outlaw.” I’d say, putting my hands on my hips like Mama did. Goodness knows, I still want to be a cowboy or an outlaw. Or even a marshal. Ride around with a gun and horse, fighting and drinking.
But no. Dug had to be boring each time. Except he wouldn’t even be a preacher right. He’d forget his Bible everywhere, he’d just babble jibberish or Indian instead of preaching like Pa did or like the minister at the church did. Made just as much sense as the minister, with his Latin and all, but wasn’t the right sounds. To many ‘k’s and ‘z’s.
But all was fine. When he got big enough to work the fields with Pa, there was talk again of him going outside. He hadn’t told them that he still saw things, mainly because he thought Mama would lock him up and Pa might try and beat them off with his Winchester. So they thought they were gone. And personal, I thought it was wrong having him stay inside, so I kept my lips shut about all the things he’d tell me about. After all, if he went outside, he could become a proper little brother. His muscles looked like they’d wasted with only candle and windowlight on them. He was quick and smart, but quite. Sometime under the sun would do him some good.
Dug had grown tall and lanky, a chest too small for his limbs and head. He had big old teeth, an extra set of pointy ones beneath the rest. His eyes were big and brown and his hands were too big for his arms. He nibbled on his nails, because if he didn’t they grew fast into almost claws. He walked with a hunch and still stared out into space at times. He was five years younger than me, but was head and shoulders taller than Pa. With all that, they figured he’d be good on the farm.
Still, Dug had rules. Pa was going to show him around and he’d work within eyesight of Pa the whole time. In case something went wrong, Pa said. He never said what that something was, granted, but something was a good by word for Pa. There was always something. Something ate our grain stockpiles, so we barely scrap through winter. Something spooked the cows, so the plowing took three more hours. Something was messing with the fences.
But Pa kept working, and with Dug helping him, the farm started to make some money back for once. Pa stopped swearing up a storm everyday, and started smiling.
“They said nothing would ever grow here, that it was bad lands only fit for the redskins. Well, wait until they see all this golden wheat. Nothing grows here my boot.”
Dug was happier too. Always wanted to go out farther, out of the fields and into the hills and plains. Out to see the great Missouri, or east to see the marvelous Missippi. I guess that’s what happens when your locked up so long. You get filled to the brim with wanderlust. But Pa was clear: no leaving the farm, unless coyotes or the Lakota or Blackfeet took him away to the badlands up north. And as Dug approached eighteen, there was no arguing with Pa. The fields went sour again on us, the heyday of golden wheat was gone. So Dug stayed on the fields, pining for those far off hills where Ms. Lister once lived.
Until one night. One night dug shook me awake, his lips still not quite wokring right. His eyes were bulged a bit, and his smile was bigger than normal even for him. Not long, more tall. His teeth were real big.
He told me then and there he was headed over the hills. He wanted to see where the men in tall hats and black cloaks went. Wanted to know what they knew. Where he was from.
“Your from here,” I said, barely awake. “Go back to bed.”
He shook me awake again.
“But why’s Pa always keeping me away from the hills? What’s up there?” he asked, biting his lip.
“Indians.” I said, rolling over. “Go back to sleep.”
He shook me awake again.
“But how come they never come over the hills? I’ve never seen an Indian my whole life, and their right there?”
“Look, Dug, just go to sleep.”
I felt something shaking me again, and nearly bolted up to give him what for…only to find the room empty. Except a long shadow against the wall, a looming shadow of something tall with a long head. It was there for a while, almost floating. And then, slowly, it slipped down the wall and out under the door. I stared, I couldn’t move. It was gone.
A rightful scream began to bubble up in my throat. It started as loud sputters, trying to grasp what I had seen. Trying to put the shape to a face or a face to the shape, as to what kind thing had snuck in. Then it started to flood out of my mouth, a loud hoarse scream across the farm…that echoed into my door and bounced around my room.
I got up and ran out to see if the… whatever that shadow was, was still there. I ran out and saw Dug loping off in the distance, off to the hills. And I remember what old Ms. Lister had said. I turned to shout for Pa, to warn him about what happened.
And then I saw that shadow again, much closer now, cast on the air. A big shadow, floating like clothes on the line, tall and with a thin head. A long limb came out from it’s chest and pushed me to the ground. I couldn’t move after that, just stare as it dragged me away to the hills and left me on the side facing the farm. It’s grip wasn’t real. Or, well, I couldn’t feel it as it moved me. It was like I was gliding on the ground against my will.
From where I was, I saw great black shapes as tall as trees, riding on the wind. The wind was cold, colder than it had ever been. Most of them were missing their feet, and the one at their head towered over the farm house. He was the biggest, with gleaming red eyes and long limbs like Dug’s. Even from the hill, frozen as I was, I could see that he had no feet, and his mouth was full of teeth.
And I watched as they rent the farm apart. I saw them, shadows of men with great horns, devour Pa, tear him apart like he was a pig. I heard Pa scream for a moment, before passing on. I couldn’t close my eyes as they smashed apart the house like a twister. As the big one lifted Mama, and tossed her in his hand like he was weighing a sack of potatoes before tossing her out of sight. And with a howl, the others looked up at that chilly creature. Slowly it turned it’s red eyes towards me.
Next thing I knew, I was far away, lying in bed. And someone had put a child in my arms, swaddled already, a newborn babe. There was a woman, a nurse there. And she smiled, told me how they found me out in the cold. How lucky I was, because a bit later me and my child would die of frost bite. I stared at the babe, as she told me how well behaved it was. It didn’t even cry.
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