Sarah's Halloween Story A Carbons Creek on line short story
The yellow and orange colors in the tree leaves mixed with the still green trees were beautiful. Sadly they were already starting to fall. I wonder, is that why autumn is called fall? Somehow a ride in the country seemed compelling. I decided that the Carbons Creek Sentinel needs a Halloween story.
I packed a picnic lunch and got the buggy ready to go. Buddy, my little dog, jumped into the buggy with me. He rides next to me and knows to keep out of the way if I need to get at one of the guns, a rifle and a shotgun, I have stashed in the buggy.
A truly wonderful day to be enjoyed before winter sets in. The air was dry, the temperature around seventy degrees. Maybe I was just trying to escape some stress from the paper, but I looked forward to a nice day, a lone picnic, and a lighthearted fun story for the feature page. I told John, the typesetter, where I was going and to keep a slot open for a story. I figured to be back in time to get a story in before the holiday celebrations.
The day was even more enjoyable as I stopped and chatted with some of the local folks and ended up with all sorts of produce in the back of the buggy. Harvest this year was apparently bountiful. I had corn and pumpkins and I’m not sure what all. Nobody would take no for an answer. People were just pleased that I had stayed in Carbons Creek and continued the newspaper that my uncle had started. The community needed the paper, they said.
I’m afraid I was so entranced with the beauty of the day and the friendliness of the people that I’m afraid I lost track of where I was. Ahead was what appeared to be a town, albeit a ramshackle one. I don’t recall any towns out here, even an abandoned one. Buddy seemed to be nervous, as we got closer to it. The street was windblown and didn’t look like anyone had been here for some time. Some of the building appeared to be sagging like the foundations were weak. Those that had any paint were peeling. Windows were broken. I looked for a sign to tell me what town it was, but the only one I saw the paint was all faded and I couldn’t read it. It might be an old mining town, but I don’t recall any mining in the area. Some building further down looked like they were ravaged by fire. Then I spotted what looked like an old newspaper office. I could barely make out the faded letters spelling “Gazette” above the window. The rest was too faded out.
Buddy still acted nervous but I didn’t know what was causing it. I tried to calm him and let him follow me to the door. A rusty old hasp held the door closed. I found a heavy stick to put behind it and force loose the nails holding it. With a raspy noise it came loose. I pulled it the rest of the way by grabbing the rough, rusty bit of metal and braced myself against a small tree growing up by the building. It gave way suddenly almost throwing me off balance. I got inside ok but breathing was hard with the dust and stale air. Spider webs got tangled in my bonnet and I hated to touch anything because of all the dust. Puffs of dust went up whenever I touched anything. The press had type in it and appeared to be partially set up. Like the work had been interrupted before it was finished. I found a cleaning brush laying around and knocked the dirt offagainst a table. Then I used it to get the dust off the type pages so I could read what the stories were about. I got a somewhat unpleasant view of the last days of the town.
The paper was dated right at the end time of the Civil War. The story told of the town being raided by disgruntled rebel soldiers like those of Quantrell who burned down Lawrence, Kansas. Rumor had been spreading and many residents were leaving town. Another group of residents had fled to the mine and hoped to defend themselves there but they were all killed. It appeared that nearly everyone had fled or was killed before the panicked printer finished getting out his story.
I turned to see how Buddy was doing since he didn’t seem to be whimpering anymore. He was gone. I shouted his name. He doesn’t usually wander off like that. Where could he have gone? I called him and went back outside to check the buggy. The buggy wasn’t there. Now I was ready to panic. An empty town, my dog gone and now my horses and buggy had disappeared. The only weapons I had with me were in the buggy. I consoled myself that if I were up against a ghost the guns probably wouldn’t do much good anyhow. Figuring I didn’t have much to lose I walked around the town to look for Buddy. It apparently had been a mining town, although I was stumped as to what they had been mining. Certainly not gold or silver. Coal? Lead? There were a couple of small houses that escaped being burned. A saloon was still recognizable. I didn’t suppose there would be any kind of food around, as all of mine was in the buggy. I don’t think any food in the stores would be fit to eat. I did find some berries growing in the yards of houses and snatched a few to eat.
When I was about to give up on buddy he came trotting down the street like he was looking for me. I was startled to see he had a bone in his mouth and he was bringing it to me. The thing is it looked like a human bone. With all the killing that went on here, that wasn’t too surprising. I didn’t like the idea of desecrating the dead so I urged Buddy to show me where he got the bone. He led me to the store building and wanted to go down into a cellar. I found some candles and Lucifer matches on a shelf and lit a candle to light the way down. There has no rail going down so I felt along the rough, damp stonewall to keep from falling. The steps were rotting out so I had to be careful of every step I took. The candle flame went from nearly snuffing out in the stuffy air or we would hit a draft that would nearly blow it out but then it would grab onto the air and throw light over the rough crumbling walls.
It was in one of these cycles when I almost tripped because the flame was flickering out. When I got my balance back the flame came back to light up the grotesque sight of a skeleton in the full dress uniform and a sword raised over its head like he was defending himself against an intruder. I was so startled that I lost my footing and tumbled down the rest of the stairs. I must of hit my head because everything went blank.
When I woke up I was outside and John was there with me. He told me that when I didn’t return on time he decided to look for me. It was easy enough to follow my trail, he said, because the people I talked to along the way all told him which way I was going. Buddy showed him where I was. I asked him about the ghostly soldier with the sword but John said he didn’t see him. We found my horses which had wandered off to a grassy area nearby and were hidden by some trees. On the way out I looked at the store building and swore I saw the soldier in uniform watching out the window.
Copyright 2011 Don A. Hoglund
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund