Walt Dennis reluctantly swam back to consciousness. The pain had not lessened. He found he couldn’t open his left eye. Something, a rag perhaps, was stuffed into his mouth. He was lying on his back on a stone slab in a clearing in the woods. It was well past midnight.
He tried to move, but found his arms and legs were chained to the rock. Over the sounds of low chanting he could hear sobbing coming from behind him. His daughter Ashley. To his right was an unconscious woman tied to another slab, struggling to draw breath. His wife Lisa. A bonfire was raging to his left.
When they’d forced his car off the road Walt had assumed it was a race thing, but it wasn’t. He could see the attackers clearly now as they wore robes and busied themselves with gathering small stones into a pile somewhere behind him. There were black men in this crowd as well as white. Whatever was going on, it was not racially motivated. He recognized several of the people from town. He didn’t know any of them well, but they were people who had been recurring parts of the backdrop for the last five years spent living in Carltonville. This one guy was a bus driver, he thought. Another worked at the bank. And the couple who owned the Chinese restaurant on Main Street were there.
He tried to call out, to plead through his gag, but they ignored him. His mouth was dry and his throat sore. When his car had been pushed into the ditch he had reacted quickly. He yelled for his family to run into the woods and though they’d hesitated, they’d done it when he yelled again. Walt had turned to face the crowd that was coming for them.
There had only been two cars when they’d rammed him, but those were joined by three more. Each seemed to be full of passengers. After the crash they began to get out and approach on foot. As his family fled Walt raised his fists and shouted something confrontational at the crowd. There were too many for him to stop them from going around him to follow the family into the woods, but he tried to get their attention. But one had hit him in the face with a baseball bat and the world had briefly flashed white, and then gone black.
Now, on the slab in a clearing, the chanting was getting louder. A single voice separated from the other intoners to speak.
“L’Kanerth, you who dwell between the Earths
please accept this sacrifice of flesh
and hear your servants make a small request.
Help us to do your bidding in this sphere
that we can work to bring about your reign.
Remake our humble forms into your tools
and we shall spread the glory of your name.”
The speaker was somewhere behind Walt and by arcing his neck he could he could just make out a pair of hands held toward the sky. He tried again to say something, but was immediately silenced by his daughter’s voice.
“No! No! Go away!”
Walt writhed against the stone. He could not position get into a position that would allow him to see what was happening. Muffled curses escaped his lips. He kicked his feet against the few inches of give the chains allowed.
“No!” Ashley’ voice broke as he cried out. “No!” And then her screams we silenced with a thud.
“For L’Kanerth!” all the robed figures shouted in union.
Then the figures moved to the stone where Lisa was unconscious. Walt could see them now. He could see the man whose hands had been raised. He wore a robe that seemed to reflect the firelight. It was silver perhaps. Though Walt recognized still more faces from town, a mall security guard, a grocery store cashier, he did not recognize the man in the silver robe.
Walt thrashed again as the silver robed man raised a wooden club above his head. A pale green light began to fill the clearing. Walt found he could not look towards the source of the light. It was as though it shone from some direction that could not be looked at with human eyes.
Walt looked at his wife of seventeen years. Her breath was labored, but she looked peaceful. On some level Walt was thankful that Lisa wasn’t awake. The club came down on her head and caved it in.
“For L’Kanerth!” they shouted again.
The sickly light grew stronger. The crowd gathered around Walt and looked down on him. He looked only at the man in the silver robe. At no point did the man’s eyes meet Walt’s. The man did not seem focused on anything at all. Walt did not bother to struggle as the man raised the club.
The club came down and Walt Dennis was no more.
The robed figures packed their supplies and left the bodies behind. The fire died down and the air grew colder. Hours passed and the sky grew lighter as the sun approached the horizon. Though none would approach the clearing, birds could be heard singing in the distance.
Day broke. A reluctant figure crawled out of its hiding place in a bush. Sam Dennis. Walt’s nine year old son. When his father had told him to run, Sam had been the fastest. He’d run without looking back. Even as his father shouted at the strange men, even as he heard his mother and sister scream when they were caught, Sam had not looked back.
He’d found the clearing and the large bush and he’d crawled under it. When the men brought his family and chained them up and started a fire, Sam had struggled, tears in his eyes, to keep from making a noise.
When the pale green light had shone on the clearing, it had touched Sam even under the bush. He’d felt a weight come over him and he could not take any more. He’d passed out.
Sam stood and looked at the remains of his family. In the center of the triangle formed by their bodies was a pile of small rock as tall as Sam. He stared at it for several minutes, then ran into the forest and wept.
Originally posted on AbwatwaX on Sunday, March 6, 2011