Pt 1 – The Harrower of Souls

I have walked among darkening shadows, down windswept lanes resplendent in their late autumn fare. With night falling quickly, the bare trees that line the path reach out with spindle fingers, to quicken my step and hasten me on. Even though I profess a scientific mind, for no sum would I dare stop, in the distance between the crossroads and the cemetery, where it is rumored amongst the local farm folk that demons dwell and witches congregate to weave evil magic against the good, Christian folk of Bayler County.

Silver moonlight has on many nights, been my only guide and comfort. Deep in the wood, the road winds through the dominion of the owl and the raven, the fox and the rabbit. Dry leaves carpet the ground, so every sound is a cacophony of forest beasts that pursue my trail from the dark. Far more fearsome things than wolves exist upon this Earth, or so I have recently been favored to learn.

Clutching my coat and scarf about me, my swift pace carries me into a chilling wind, that hints at early winter snow. The village I seek nestles itself down along a creek bend just over the next hill, but the sense of supernatural pursuit is heavy on my shoulders and drives my legs to carry me faster towards my destination.

Then, atop the hill, I look down upon the small collection of buildings known as “Morgan’s Creek”, named after the slow, snaking watercourse that gave the village its purchase in this hard land. Lights burn in several windows, smoke rises in wispy columns from the chimneys of homes by now well girded against the coming winter and as I begin to descend the hill towards the town, I breathe a long sigh of relief, that catches in my throat when I first hear the sound.

Behind me, where the well worn path first finds itself without it’s forest sentinels, at the foot of the hill, the other side of which I now descend towards the town, I hear a cry unlike anything that I have known.

 Fighting every primal instinct that is telling me to run, I stop and turn to look, and there, bathed in the pure light of the full moon, stands a creature that bears a shape not unlike that of a man. Easily a head taller than myself, with long, sinewy arms and legs, lean and bony torso that slickly reflects the pale moonlight. Even at our distance, I can make out the features of its face, and that is where all human semblance ceases. A vile light burns like red fire, deep within large, smooth onyx eyes and it cries out again, the sound from its mouth a dreadful harmony of eagle cry and lion roar. I can almost count the long teeth, that gleam from within the gaping nest of knives, set in the unnaturally wide mandible, but as those black eyes settle on mine, I am filled with the most unholy terror and I turn and run, down to the village below.

Oddly enough, when I reach the edge of the village, I perceive that the creature gives no chase and I am accompanied at my arrival only by the quiet that lays upon the settlement. I chance one last glance back towards the forest, but I see only darkness and moonlight on the path that brought me.

Shaking off the deep fear as best I can, I seek the home of my colleague, whose letter prompted me upon this night time journey and on finding the two-storey stone structure, dim lamplights burning in the window, I knock upon the large oaken door. For a tense moment I wait, until I hear the sounds of latches drawn and locks undone and the door swings open, revealing warm light and the smiling face of my old colleague. He reaches out his hand to clap mine and upon beholding my face, I know that the pallor of fear is evident, for his grasp fails and his smile fades. His handshake becomes a fierce grip, and he pulls me inside the door, pushing me past him into the house and behind me shuts the door tight and applies varied locks and latches and a large iron bar. He leans briefly against the door, then his smile returns as he looks at me, for he was always my better in times of tension. Walking me forward into the house, he claps me on the back and proclaims in a loud voice; “So, my old friend, now that you have seen it for yourself, do you finally admit these things are real?”

I am, of course not able to provide coherent argument. I have long maintained my empirical mind in such matters and while my friend, the eminent scientist, Dr. Donovan Green , has long entertained these local tales of supernatural presences in this world, I have always debated on the side of reason that these things cannot be true. After tonight, must that all change? Can I believe what my eyes have beheld? The conclusions are staggering to my mind and I gratefully accept a glass of brandy when Dr. Green thrusts one towards me.

“It is called ‘The Harrower of Souls’, or so the older members of the Farmer’s Circle, tell it. The full moon, the autumn season, all these are prime conditions for it to reach through to this plane.” Donovan has struck up his pipe and eased himself into his favored chair in his study. He looks at me with an eyebrow cocked and smirks in the way he knows infuriates me. “So, the question I put to the newly minted, Inspector Nathaniel Hawes, is this: How do you hunt a supernatural monster?”

 

HG – 08/01/16

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