“The Dread”
Wrightsville, Pennsylvania
Monday, March 28, 2011

iPhone 4
Plastic Bullet Camera App

(story cont’d from Fiction Day 36 and Day 37)

But getting to the shack would be tricky business.  Jonas had to sneak up to it without being noticed, if he was to take the violator by surprise.  And he had to act quickly, for the ridge above the farm would not hold back the morning light for long.

Jonas reached deep down into his overall pocket and pulled out a pocket knife.  The blade snapped to attention eagerly, being well oiled and cared for.  That’s one thing he and his buddies always carried.  “Every good farmer keeps a good blade on ‘im–from sun up to sun down, “ his Pa always said.  And Jonas stuck to that advice like honey to a spoon.  Then, with a quick glance to the sky, as if waiting for a heavenly posse to rescue him, and a quick and uneasy prayer, “Sweet Jesus be with me,” Jonas leaped to his feet and raced to the shed.  Maybe a quick and fast attack would put the unknown presence off kilter, enough for a teenage boy to over-power him.

But as Jonas passed the old Strickler house, he felt a strong dread begin to over-take him.  The house loomed dark and mysterious, like a living, sinister presence.  The windows appeared like forbidding eyes watching his every movement.  It was hard to imagine any happiness ever having existed in a place like this.  And even though Jonas knew why the family had left this farm, he couldn’t help but wonder.  For he had heard the rumors whispered by the women folk about “somethin’ shameful” that happened here that sent the family packing.  And although the public story was about “moving to greener pastures”, the private story was only spoken under secrecy, with shaking heads, tsking tongues and exclamations of “mercy me”.

But Jonas had to shake off this dread like clothes yanked off after a skunk spray.  He had that happen once and he couldn’t rid his clothes of the acrid stink for weeks afterwards.  And although he couldn’t smell the dread in the air, he could feel it pressing down on him, and he didn’t want whatever it was to get inside him.  So he resisted and pressed on towards the Workman’s Shack.

Nothing else moved in the second story window as Jonas stepped onto the shabby porch.  All was silent, except for the first whistles of birds awakening in the woods.  Jonas turned the doorknob, paused, and pressed the door inward.  It creaked, but only slightly.  Apparently the carpenter who set the door and hinges so long ago had done his job well.  And just as Jonas began to step inside, there was a rustling above his head–forcing him to lurch backwards.  Silent once again, he stood perfectly still.  Nothing moved.  So he decided to be forceful and sound courageous.  “Who’s there, “ he commanded.  But there was no answer.  “Come out right now.  I got a knife!”  he said with perfect confidence.  Even though his life appeared to be in danger, he didn’t want to lie and say he had a gun.  That would be a sin, and Grandma always said that hell was full of liars and heathens, whoever they were.  But Jonas knew he didn’t want to be either, so he tried to always tell the truth.  Except when it meant he might be punished.  Then he felt God would understand if he told a little white lie.  Besides, he had read stories in the Bible where people lied and God seemed to be okay with it.  Even reward them in some way.  Anyway, he did his best to be truthful, so he stood before the doorway with his weapon thrust in front of him

But still there was no answer.  So he called out again, “I said, come on out now!”

Silence.

So Jonas picked up a board in one hand, and with the blade in the other, carefully and slowly stepped into the doorway.  Then with swift feet, he lunged across the room, turning back around to face the door as fast as a cat dropped from a barn window spins around to land on its feet.  He now faced a small, dark loft above the door, but he couldn’t see anything or anyone in the shadows.  So he picked up a stone on the floor and threw it into the loft–and something rustled, momentarily.  He picked up a rusty tin cup from the floor and threw it into the loft.  This time something with apparent weight shuffled on the floor boards.

“Come down here, right now–ya hear me!” Jonas demanded.

And with that, the shadows deepened and appeared to flicker.  Then with a flurry of air, Jonas backed away with wide eyes.  For out of the darkness, with wings expanded and fluttering wildly, was an angry turkey buzzard.  It’s beady eyes and red-skinned head, made its presence appear even more devilish.  But it landed on the floor in front of Jonas, cackled once, as if to warn and chastise him, and flew out the door with a perturbed air.

Jonas breathed deeply.  So, nothing was here after all.  He smiled.  “Why do I always make things outta nothin’, “ he thought. Relieved, he stepped to the door and breathed in the cool morning air.  “Still time to get home in time”, he thought.  But just then he was stopped dead in his tracks.  For across the yard, two men cloaked in long overcoats, appeared from the wooded thicket and sprinted into the backdoor of the house, each carrying a heavy sack.

Jonas starred, frozen by utter dread.