Friday, November 01, 2013

Night of the Cauldron: Part VI, The Scarecrow's Lantern

Night of the Cauldron
Part VI
The Scarecrow's Lantern

Henry watched the headlights of the cars blur as they passed in the firetruck.  He could already see the green glow of the Woodsboro subdivision from the highway.

"Where's this at again?"  He asked Seth, the driver.

"Near the corner of Elm and Myers."  They sped up the exit ramp.  Several cars before them moved quickly into the emergency lane.  Henry double checked his coat and helmet.

Henry wasn't sure what they were going to find at the site.  The dispatcher's relay of the emergency calls had been confusing.  Some people had called about a column of green fire and other calls reported animal attacks and dangerous Halloween pranks.  Animal control had already been alerted and paramedics were on their way as well.  His truck and the one following would arrive first.

Henry leaned in as they took a sharp turn into the subdivision.  He hoped that this wasn't another meth lab.  He'd almost quit being a fireman after that blaze.  He had been part of the crew checking the debris after that fire and had discovered the bodies of three children in what had been the laundry room.  Their tiny ashen bodies were huddled in the remains of a corner, clinging to each other.  He dreamed of the children at least once a week.

He could see it now at the back of the subdivision, a column of sparking green fire.  As they moved closer, it twisted like a tornado.  There was a dense haze surrounding it.  It made that end of the sky a solid neon green.  The electricity within the subdivision had gone out and the houses and trees were dark against the toxic green sky.

The air was suffused with fog the same color as the sky.  It floated in languorous thick patches throughout the streets of the subdivision, flashing red from the lights as the truck bore through it.  From his open window Henry could not find a smell to it.  There should at least have been some residual smell of saltpeter if fireworks had been ignited.  There was nothing.

At the turn, they passed a police car.  Parked on the curb, it was empty, lights flashing, one door hanging open.  They slowed slightly as they passed.  The officer from the car was nowhere to be seen.  The dark houses flashed blue then red.

In the next yard, a man in a scarecrow costume was waving at them.  He carried a bright lantern in one hand and seemed to be motioning them closer.  Behind him on the next street over, the green tornado twisted and burned.  The lights from truck bathed the scarecrow man in deep red as they approached.

As they slowed to meet the Scarecrow man Henry noticed that he held something in his raised hand.  It glowed and was smoking.  Another lantern?  Was that a dog crawling at his feet?  A flock of birds flew in the air beyond the scarecrow, dotting the green with flecks of black.  The tornado pulsed.

Once they were upon the scarecrow, Henry saw that the man carried a glowing skull raised high in his left hand.  Something like a huge spider crawled across the mans feet towards them.  Above him dark skull faced shapes fluttered, cawing like birds.  The scarecrow man stumbled slowly toward them.  His lantern bobbed with the motion.  He had no head.

"Seth, don't stop."  Henry barely had time to get the words out.  Something hit the front of the truck on the driver's side.  It sounded like a large rock.  The corner of the windshield laced with cracks.  Seth hit the gas.  The first rock was followed immediately by a barrage.  The windshield caved quickly, sending small glittering bits flying.

A host of the skull faced birds swarmed into the cab of the truck and lit upon Seth.  Seth released the wheel and struggled against the onslaught.  Henry tried to grab the wheel, but the truck immediately turned hard and hit the curb. The Behemoth vehicle raising up and into the adjacent yard and flipped unto the drivers side.  Henry bellowed and braced himself for the impact.  The world flipped.


Henry came to quickly.  He hung from his seat belt.  Below him the skull faced birds were busy.  Seth's face was gone and there was a large cavity in his chest.  The birds moved with a nauseating motion that made his stomach turn.  He'd known Seth his entire career as a fireman.  Seth had been with him on his first fire.  Tears poured out involuntarily as he struggled against his seat belt.

Henry's helmet came loose and fell, clattering amongst the skull birds.  One of took notice of him, it's bloody teeth grinding as it worked its black wings open and closed.  It jumped and fell down again.  Its bone tail writhed and it angled its wings but kept its beady eyes upon him.  It flapped several times, then flew up at him.  He threw his arms up to protect his face.

It latched onto his forearm.  His thick coat saved his arm, but the pressure of the things bite was like a vise.  Reflexively, he smashed his arm against the back of the cab.  The skull bird squealed.  He hit his arm again and again until he heard a loud crack.  The skull bird's jaw hung loosely as it went limp.  It slid off his arm like wet laundry.  Henry vomited.

The release gave him clarity.  He swung himself around and propped his foot against the frame of the windshield.  He clicked the seat belt release and climbed out of the cab.  The skull birds circled in the fog.  He could see the other firetruck had stopped across the street.  It's drivers side door hung open ominously.  The skull birds swarmed over the truck like ants.

Equipment from his truck was scattered across the lawn.  He saw a small axe nearby and picked it up.  A skull bird flew at him.  He swiped at it with the axe and took off one of its wings.  It fell to the grass and stretched it remaining wing, trying to fly.  He hit it again with the axe until it stopped moving.

He reached back into the cab and knocked the skull birds off Seth.  A couple cawed loudly and flew away.  Henry took several minutes to dispatch the ones that remained, taking great pleasure at the sound as each one cracked loudly and shattered under his axe.  He pulled Seth out from the cab and covered him with a thick tarp he'd found.

Though the engine had stalled, the lights still rotated, bathing everything in flashing red.  He tried the radio, but there was some kind of interference.  Voices came sporadically through the static.  Perhaps it had been broken when the truck crashed.

Suddenly the scarecrow man rounded the corner of the truck.  Henry leapt to his feet and swung the axe wide.  It lodged under the scarecrow's arm, sending the skull he held flying.  Henry couldn't get the axe loose.  He backed away, nearly tripping over a large sledgehammer.  He quickly grabbed it and swung hard, smashing the lantern and knocking the scarecrow backwards.  Henry held the creature down with the hammer and pulled his axe free.  He bellowed and screamed, hacking at the creature until there was only pulp and straw.

He stood over the mass that had been the headless man, his breath coming is deep ragged gulps.The spider thing moved into the light and jumped at his face.  He roared and brought the sledgehammer up in a wide circle, tossing the the creature towards the road.  It bounced several times on the asphalt and shattered against the far curb.  Several skull birds came at him again, but he easily crushed them.

Henry smiled grimly and glared at the green tornado.  He leveled his grip on his weapons and trudged steadily towards the maelstrom. 

{8x5.33  Sharpie and Uni-ball Vision Elite Pen with color added in Adobe Photoshop}

Enjoy all the stories from Night of the Cauldron


Eddie said...

GAH!! Story-interruptus! I just got caught up on this and I am totally sucked in! Was waiting for a hero to emerge from the chaos, hehehehe!!

Can't wait for the next chapter! Great great stuff :D

Jesse Campbell said...

I promise, It's coming.

The last two chapters of this story have been super challenging to complete. I've really had to earn my keep with them. I'm putting the finishing touches on the last one as I type.

I'm glad you're enjoying The Night of the cauldron. Heck I'm grateful that you took the time to read it at all. :-)


Eddie said...

Once I read the first chapter I was hooked, no joke. And the escalation that each subsequent chapter brings is just wonderfully maddening!

Btw, the skull birds smashing through the windshield and devouring Seth was brutal. I'd love to see that whole sequence, from "Seth, don't stop." to Henry trudging towards the tornado with an axe in one hand and a sledge hammer in the other on the big screen. That would be just WAY too much pulse-pounding fun!

Jesse Campbell said...

Once all is said and done, I'm thinking of maybe compiling everything into a digital publication. We'll see.

I needed to make Henry lose his mind a little to become the hero the story needed and Seth's horrible death while he was trapped in his seat belt just a few feet away seemed like a good way to accomplish that. Henry is a far stronger man than I.

Yeah on the pulse pounding. There is something about a large vehicle upending that messes with my nerves. That scene from Dark Knight with the semi gets me every time.

This chapter was also a bit of homage to first person shooter survival horror games. Use what's available. Get out alive. Sane is optional. That's kind of horror in general I guess. LOL.

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