Return from Cripple Creek

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Henry returns home to tie up loose ends.

Submitted: July 28, 2017

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Submitted: July 28, 2017

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Henry leaned against Shadow, resting his arm briefly on the saddle. He fumbled through the saddlebag and found his pipe, the rock and the note from Louise, crumpled up because of the previous week's events. He was pleased both at how quickly he’d traded the gold for supplies, found a judge for the marriage and come back so quickly to tend to his claim.

After the long trip from Cripple Creek, though he needed a smoke. Smiling to himself, he unfolded the note and read it again, making his heart beat faster and his blood rush. It had been a long time since a woman pleased him so much, and he was eager bring her back once his preparations were complete.

He patted Shadow, who made a noise that sounded like a sneeze, then seemed to smack her tongue. Apparently, she needed water more than he did. 

Henry let down the bucket as a spider watched Henry's movements with caution, having built a web just out of the handle's reach. He imagined the spider trying to decide if or when to run, but it seemed intent on having a staring contest, so he continued. 

He peered into the blackness, the light still being enough to illuminate the top part of the brick and mortar he had built not long ago. Just last week he had climbed down, and now he just felt spooked, and tried to hurry. As the bucket disappeared into the shadows, he could almost swear he heard a voice sounding like Clara's whisper, “Henry...” 

He started, finding himself answering back. “Clara!? Clara?!” As he listened for an answer, he heard a bird and crickets answering back. They seemed to say, “She's gone! She's gone!” He paused and moved toward the trough, noticing the gaze of the bird following him.

As he poured the water, Shadow lurched forward to quench her thirst. Henry reflected that she'd been a good specimen, sometimes saving him at least an hour or two on his journeys. She'd been by far Clara's biggest gift during their marriage, and he reminisced about her as he watched the water slosh in the trough. 

When Henry finally made it inside the house, he managed to surround himself several comforts and a warm fire, which was helpful because the sun was quickly disappearing. Nursing his tiredness with whiskey and smoke, he began to drift when a noise from the outside awakened him from his trance. Glancing at the window, he thought he saw movement but he couldn't be sure. 

He clumsily grabbed his gun, whiskey in hand and began scouting the perimeter. Seeing nothing but a slightly restless Shadow, he ventured to the opposite side On the other side of the house he noted the mound of dirt where Clara was buried, the dirt still fresh. Tomorrow he would make sure the remains were beyond discerning. He didn’t want Louise or anyone else asking questions. 

Cursing the whiskey for playing tricks on him, he nonetheless took a swig and returned to the well, which seemed to draw him. He fetched a lantern from the inside and slowly approached the opening again, staring into its darkness. He managed to hold up the light inside, and shadows danced seemed as it swung back and forth. Henry started and almost dropped the lantern as a voice moaned more loudly this time, “Henry!”

He didn't see anything, but his heart started to beat faster and he spoke, “Clara!? Is that you?!” He tried to listen more carefully, but his mind felt blurred from the whiskey. 

In a few moments, the voice cut through his clouded thinking. “Henry!”

Now he wondered if was going crazy. He panicked and raised his voice, “Clara!? Is that you!? Are you alive!? What happened!?”

He heard nothing for a few minutes, but instead wondered about the gold. Had someone followed him from Cripple Creek? Was someone trying to get in on his claim? Was Louise really taking him for his money? Had she and Clara been in-cahoots all along? He shook his head, now regretting the drinking.

Henry looked at the trees angrily, searching for an unknown conspirator, “Who's there!? Come out from hiding, you piece of shit! Clara!? Louise!?”

He pulled out his gun and cocked it, then heard the voice again from the darkness below, “Why did you kill me Henry!? I loved you! Why did you leave me here to die?”

Now he was positive he had lost his mind, but he couldn't help himself. He looked pleadingly down into the darkness and answered, “I didn't want you dead! You were going to kill me when you found the note.” Clara had found the note in his saddlebag. When she learned, he'd been seeing another woman he'd found a gun pointed in his direction. 

Henry struggled to think. This wasn't possible. He thought about digging up her body, but he dismissed that. He remembered burying her as sure as he remembered making plans to leave her.

The voice pierced through the darkness again, this time louder, “Henry! You're a murderer! Murderer!”

He defended himself before he even realized it, “I didn't mean to! I was just gonna go, Clara, but you were gonna' kill me first!” Impulsively, Henry attempted in one move to try to latch onto the rope and slide down with the lantern and gun. Instead, he landed with a thud on the ground below, shattering the glass on the lantern and spilling oil on himself and the ground. Henry, the bucket and the rope quickly began to light up as the flame ignited.

Shadows again danced as the flame grew, but all Henry noticed was the apparition in front of him. Clara poised herself, bullet wound in her chest where he had shot her a week earlier, and pointed the same gun at him. “You murdered me Henry! That's not nice to do to your wife!” She was crying bitterly. 

Yet again he defended himself, crying as well, “I didn't mean to! You were going to kill me first!” He fumbled for his weapon, which was lying beside him and preemptively shot again. This time, metal ricocheted and hit him in the throat, with a spurt of blood ensuing. 

The apparition lowered her weapon and finally said her farewell, “Goodbye Henry.” What was apparently an image of Clara was now just a stone wall. Henry cried out and gurgled in pain.

Outside, the well flickered,  illuminating the dark for a few minutes.  In the dark, the smell of smoke remained, and the sound of galloping hooves could be heard in the distance. 

 
 


© Copyright 2017 Christopher Patrick. All rights reserved.

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