WHEN DEATH COMES KNOCKING

 

On a foggy evening infiltrated by a dense cover of mist, a desolate landscape with the crests of the small mounds of earth and the troughs of the valleys in between them gently illuminated by the glow of a pale moon, low in the sky; the tiny hills standing as dark silhouettes against the cerulean blue night sky while the muted glow of the moon reflects on the moor rendering the nightscape different tints of the same tranquil hue. Towering wooden fences surround the moor, woven together in rows of unmoving figures by a long thread of barbed wire bearing a resemblance to the weary eye to be an infantry marching over the hills, perhaps holding their crooked rifles with their bayonets projecting sideways in a horizontal position across their fronts. They might have been commanded to stand still in the aforementioned formation, pausing perhaps, to listen to the cries of imminent threats beyond, for all one could fathom. Clouds of fog stream in with the occasional gust, barricading the dim light of the moon and enveloping the entire landscape in darkness – a frame of time in which the casual night stroller’s most profound trepidations about vague beasts lurking in the shadows are resurrected. A relatively deep puddle of water stands somewhere in between the embrace of those miniature hills, with water having pooled in from the previous day’s rainfall to the already filled trench, resembling a millpond filled with glimmering waters with the moon mirrored on the surface of the silent façade of the trench as if it were a reflection of the water ditch in the sky… and not the other way around. The utter silence of the solitary night was broken by the remote sound of a horse’s hooves clacking against the narrow trail of scattered pebbles embedded on the sheer stretch of the moor a little off course from where the dark form of a lean, rigid  man lingered. A hansom rides down the hills on the course of the trail accommodating two persons in the back, while a drives rides in the front. The series of sounds accompanying the hurried tread of the horse, the revolution of the wagon’s wheels against the earth and the urgency in which the driver’s lashes aggressively commanded the poor animal  to send it darting forwards held the clandestine man’s curiosity as he watched the events slowly unfold themselves before his then alerted senses from his hiding place in the shadows of the trees, close to the base of the hills that lined the far-off edges of the moor. The wagon plunged straight into the little trench between wild grasses and in the same instant rode out again, dampening the sides of the banks with a spray of the rain water. Though the inadequacy of the light rendered it difficult to separate the murky shapes from one another, but against the backdrop of a softly illuminated sky the distorted shapes became somewhat distinguishable. In the moments of the man obscured in the shadows contemplating the events, the hansom ceased its flight in its path abruptly, sending the man in the shadows rushing further into the shade of the tress for fear of discovery. Quickly dashing behind a giant tree, he fell silent, waiting in panic for the people from the strange wagon to approach him with their malice for his underhanded spying. The people riding inside the hansom– a man and a woman– indeed did disembark the wagon but much to his further bewilderment, they did not approach him. The pair stepped off for no apparent reason, with the man quarreling with the driver as it appeared to be, while the driver who was in earnest refusal to ferry them any further shook his head incessantly, lashed at the horse’s back once and rode away again into the night leaving the people stranded behind with the man cursing in an angry tone in the direction of the vanishing wagon’s trail. The echo of the horse’s comparatively rhythmic tread, less hurried than before, hung in the stillness of the night until it completely faded away. The pair appeared agitated with the progress of their present circumstance, hopeless of the direction in which they were to head. After another round of yelling and throwing harsh accusations ─ at perhaps each other or perhaps the reason they were stuck in such a situation─ they at last seemed to have reached an accord for the pair of them resumed walking hurriedly down the trail, with long, quick strides, disappearing after the ghost of the presence of the hansom and its apathetic driver. So deeply immersed was the eerie man in his reflection of the unprecedented events unraveling themselves in the haunting night’s wake that he had unconsciously commenced walking in the direction of the trail, having decided on an impulse to follow the unusual people whose shady discretion he had just unintentionally witnessed. It hinted at some larger design in his mind, their strange behavior, and he could not help but want to investigate the mystery more intimately. Pulled in by the strong gravity of adventure that clung to the air in the wake of the trio’s departure, he approached the narrow trail of pebbles weaving through the moor but kept a safe distance from the actual path for unintentionally alerting his subjects of his surely unwanted, prying presence. It seemed that they were completely oblivious of their silent pursuer and he had every intention of not breaking their notion. He continued his pursuit in the plaintive hush of the moor’s unearthly landscape along the endless chain of the infantry sentinels that seemed to follow him across the raw earth of the moorland as he quietly followed the tracks in the mud left by his predecessors. A little farther down the moor’s rugged terrain, the man stumbled upon something sitting in the middle of the trail. He warily looked in the direction of the path ahead of him to look for any signs of the man and the woman and upon being assured of his solitude he bent down to pick up the article which he then proceeded to examine under the little luminance granted by the pastel moon. The article was in fact some folded sheets of paper that seemed to be part of a larger document: a person’s will, some identification documents and a newspaper clipping of an article of a murder that took place the day before. Assuming the papers to be accidentally dropped by the agitated pair he had encountered previously, he ransacked his brain for possible explanations that could account for the intricate thread with which the documents apparently interwove that night’s sinister series of events together. With the revelation came the horror at the possible meaning the implicating thread held. His eyebrows shot to his hairline, his mouth became dry and drops of perspiration trickled down the nape of his neck. While standing there in the midst of the trail, he became aware of the clacking of hooves against the stone lined path his predecessors had taken, paradoxically, approaching him not from the direction the pair had headed but from the direction they had come.  His reflexes alerted him of imminent danger, as his feet carried him forwards in a hurry, perpendicularly across the trail upon which arrived the anonymous source of threat. He ran towards the sheltered recess in the groves, senses alive and overwhelmed.

 

Hiding in the shadows, he waited, panting, for the revelation of another new piece in the already baffling mystery. Instantly, the distinct figure of a horse galloping through the night emerged on his right on the path, surmounted by a man, seeming desperate to reach their destination. The steed and his rider rode through a puddle, spraying the surrounding earth, in a hastened fashion not dissimilar to the agitated pair he had stumbled upon many minutes ago. Although at one instant, as the silhouette of the horseman upon his steed aligned with the progressively darkening sky, the man could not help but notice the determined rider holding something erect in his right hand. The lean shape of the object and its narrow tip told the man it was a hunting rifle with its bayonet pointing upwards, resembling the shadows of the infantry-like fences I had compared them to – poised and ready to kill. The ominous form of the two disappeared into the night, like the hansom driver and the pair had, leaving the man of the shadows with a rising trepidation in the pit of his stomach. He had never seen an incident stranger than the one he had witnessed tonight and he thought of the mysterious rider that had gone galloping after the two people’s rushed trail. The dim reverberation of the horse’s hooves still echoed in his ear as if it had cut across the night air like a knife through a piece of fabric…more than just once. Not many minutes later, everything else fell silent. The man craned his neck in the direction everybody seemed to head in that evening to listen to the blood-curling scream of a woman emanating from the very route in the distance. The prolonged cry of the night pierced his ears as he felt every other sense muddling, followed by the earsplitting echo of two gunshots. Horror seized his senses, as he became paralyzed with fear at the malignant situation he had brought himself into.

He looked down at the folded sheets of papers that might have been the reason behind the man and woman’s agitation, as well as the ominous rider’s urgency, and the proceedings of that horrendous eve. Remembering the horseman’s determination, he feared for his own life as the air reeked with the pungent stench of cold-blooded murder, only to be broken by the sound of a horse’s hooves retreating.

Image: The Galloping Hessian of the Night, The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Adt Patel says:

    You write real well too. My writing stands nowhere compared to yours!
    The description you give plunges deep, helps the readers to actually visualize the story, see the story rather than read it. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, now you’re just being way too nice.

      Like

      1. Adt Patel says:

        What? No!
        Okay, do something. On one screen, take a writing of mine which you like the most. And on the other, take one of your best writings. Now compare them both.
        I don’t even need to point out which writing would look better.

        Like

      2. Thank you so much. You’re being exceptionally kind.

        Okay, now don’t underwhelm your writing or overwhelm mine too much. It creates a disbalance you know. ( :p )

        You are you because of the way ‘you’ write. And that difference is unique…but I’m sure you know that.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, and remember: simplicity, at times, is more charming than big words.

        Isn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Adt Patel says:

        Sometimes, yes. But in the end, big words steal the show, win the game.

        Like

      5. That just made me smile.

        Liked by 1 person

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