Three witches are known in legend for the disaster they brought upon a house, a loyal subject, and a king. Three witches who will now bring their lunacies and prophecies upon a house in the new world and the West. The house of Barkley and one loyal man … a Barkley son … will be the subject of their spells. That Barkley son is…
A bitter cold wind filtered down from the hills and filled the valley with an unseasonably cold chill. Wind swept leaves rustled in the night air as they blew across the dark dirt road. At times the wind carried them up into the air and they resembled a flock of birds as they moved as one on the chilly current of air. Falling back down, they blew across the hard packed earth in search of something unseen but not unknown.
The dark clouds that hung heavily in the night sky blocked out any light the stars and moon above them could give the lone rider as he forged his way through the darkness. As the wind whipped the dead leaves once again into frenzy the rider used his free hand to hold onto his hat as the wind tried its best to steal it from him. Feeling the winds icy fingers dig deep into him, the rider pulled up the collar of his coat around his neck and urged his horse on faster.
Looking up as he rode under a small grouping of trees, the bare branches overhead resembled the fingers of a giant skeleton's hand as they moved back and forth in the cold air. As the wind picked up in intensity the branches creaked and groaned as they moved around reaching their bony fingers down towards the rider and his horse. Whinnying nervously as a sudden gust of wind washed over him and his rider, the horse picked up his head and looked around. Something was lurking out there in the cold darkness, something that had the potential to do great harm to him and his rider, something evil.
"Come on boy; don't tell me yer scared of a little wind." The rider stated as he leaned forward slightly and rubbed the side of the horse’s neck. As the wind howled through the trees once more, the rider suddenly had the strange feeling he was being watched. Urging his horse into a gallop, pictures of his home and his family flooded into his head. He could picture his family sitting in the living room drinking brandy as a roaring fire in the fireplace took the chill out of the air and replaced it with welcoming warmth.
Thinking about his family his thoughts were suddenly interrupted as a black shadow crossed the road in front of him causing his horse to stop and rear up. Holding on, the rider soon had his faithful mount once again under control as he looked around for the cause of the disturbance. The horse continued to prance around nervously as his rider eyed the dark landscape around him, something wasn't right. Something was out of place, but what exactly that thing was he couldn't say. The small hairs on the back of his neck stood out in attention as the uneasy feeling penetrated his body as the wind once again curled its icy fingers around him.
The trees surrounding the pair creaked and moaned as the wind whipped them around at will; their bony fingers slapping each other as they scratched at the dark sky above. Thunder rumbled off in the distance as both horse and rider resumed their journey down the dark path towards home. Each one carefully scanning the featureless landscape around them as they cautiously rode on.
Three almost shapeless figures watched as the pair rode by. Their green eyes laughing and sharing secrets between them that were hundreds of years old; secrets that only they were privy too, secrets that had destroyed lives and devoured many a man.
As the rider moved further away, the three dark figures stood up and walked out into the road to watch as horse and rider crested the top of a hill and disappeared. Huddling together they laughed and danced around in a circle as the wind whipped the dead dry leaves around them onto a frenzied tornado.
"My but he's a pretty one," cackled one of the figures as they continued to dance around with the leaves.
"A might tasty too I imagine," laughed another.
"I get his beautiful eyes," stated the third as laughter filled the cold air around them.
Thunder rumbled ever closer as horse and rider raced towards the warmth they knew lay just a few short miles ahead of them. The uneasy feeling that had been with them a few short minutes ago, had yet to leave. Both continued to glance around nervously as they drew ever closer to their goal. The smell of rain hung heavily in the air as the cold wind filled their nostrils and tried to freeze their lungs.
The night sky exploded in bright white light as lighting sliced through the dark clouds directly overhead and thunder shook the very ground they rode over. Feeling his very bones shake as the wave of thunder reverberated through the valley, horse and rider pushed on ever faster.
The rain began to fall and quickly turned from a few large drops into a torrential down pour. With the uneasy feeling still permeating the air around them, horse and rider continued on through the blinding storm. They both longed for the safety of home, and for the rider especially the safety and warmth that family brought.
A high pitched scream echoed through the air around them as lighting crashed down next to them splitting an ancient oak tree in two. As the riders horse reared up a large piece of the old oak tree fell and slammed into the rider driving him from his mounts back. Landing on the hard wet road on his back the rider only had a moment to collect his thoughts before the large branch that had snatched him from his horse’s back came crashing down on top of him.
The air was forced from his lungs by the heavy branch as it landed on top of him pinning him to the wet earth below; as he lay struggling with the weight of the heavy object on top of him. His rain blurred vision watched as three dark figures appeared out of the darkness and knelt down next to him. The green eyes that peeked out from underneath their dark hoods chilled his heart. As his vision began to fade the last thing he saw was a black snake like tongue slithering out from under one of the figures hoods heading straight for his face...........
The unearthly howling of the wind through the trees over his head is what finally awakened him. Feeling his body tremble as the cold wind cut into his bare flesh his teeth chattered uncontrollably as his body tried to warm itself. As he became more aware of his surroundings he could feel rough tree bark rubbing against his back as his arms were pulled back around the tree and tied securely behind it. His shoulders ached terribly from the unnatural position he now found himself in and his hands had long since gone numb.
Opening his eyes as the rain fell in full force all around him he couldn’t see a thing. Shaking his head to try and remove some of the rain water from his face he blinked his eyes repeatedly and tried to get his bearings. Through the inky blackness he could just make out a dim violet glow coming from somewhere behind him. The violet light grew slightly in intensity as he struggled to see his surroundings. As the trees around reflected back the strange violet glow all he could tell was that he was now somewhere deep in the woods.
Shivering as another gust of wind raked its icy fingers across his bare flesh, Heath moaned slightly as the shivering caused his already sore shoulder joints to hurt even more. His chest ached as his lungs were forced to expand more as his body continued to shiver. Feeling something furry touch his bare icy foot he instinctively tried to draw it up towards him. Unable to move his legs he looked down more closely at them. Through the driving rain and the constant chattering of his teeth he could just barley make out the vines tethering his ankles, knees, and thighs closely together. Wet leaves blew in the cold wind and stuck to his exposed flesh as his body continued to tremble.
“How did I get here?” His sluggish brain tried to figure out as his body shook from the cold. “What happened to my clothes?” He thought as the cold rain beat down on him. Closing his eyes he tried to will himself away from the terrible place, if he could just get warm he’d feel so much better.
Feeling something furry touch his foot again his eyes shot open. Seeing a large rat illuminated by the violet light sniffing around his feet made his stomach churn. Trying to pull his feet away he managed to move them slightly which only startled the rat.
Lunging towards the movement in front of him the rats teeth sunk into the side of Heath’s left foot. Grunting in pain, Heath could feel the rat’s claws hold onto his foot as its teeth sunk in deeper.
“Leave him be he’s ours!” Shouted a hooded figure off to Heath’s right. A bony hand appeared out of the dark folds of the robe the figure wore and shot down grabbing the rat off of his foot. Looking up at the hooded figure as the rain pelted his face, he heard the rat screech as the bony fingers sliced through its body like knifes.
Heath watched as the hooded figure brought the rat up to its hood. Loosing sight of the rat in the darkness created by the figures robes, Heath began to hear a terrible sucking sound. Seeing the figures arm move, Heath followed it’s path and watched as it dropped what remained of the rat. The once plump and rather large rat now lay withered and shriveled to more than half it’s original size just inches from his feet.
Shaking from the cold and now something new, fear, Heath looked back up at the hooded figure. “Who are you?” He asked as his teeth chattered making speech difficult.
The hooded figured turned at the sound of its captives voice and knelt down next to him. Reaching out it’s bony hand it stroked the mans cheek leaving a bloody cut in it’s wake. “You’ll find out soon enough,” the figure cackled as its green eyes looked out from under the hood and straight into the terrified blue ones across from it.
The stench as the creature next to him spoke made his stomach roll. The bony hand that touched his cheek leaving its burning mark behind was like nothing he’d ever seen before. The creatures’ skin was as pale as the moon and stretched so tightly over its bones he was sure they would break through the surface at any moment. The fingers were twisted and the knuckles enlarged as they snaked their way towards him seemingly with a mind of their own. The only other distinguishable feature had been its eyes, they were green. Not just an average green but also a bright green that had a light all their own. The creatures eyes and it’s foul breath reminded him of death, something rotten and ancient was hidden under those dark robes and Heath was terrified he was going to soon find out exactly what evil lay underneath.
Holding his breath as the creature stood back up, Heath watched as it floated away and out of his view. Hearing a strange laughter coming from behind him, Heath watched as the violet light grew in intensity for a moment and then dissipated back to it’s original glow. The wind blew and more leaves swirled around him coating his wet body with their dead lifeless forms. The cold wind hurt his body as it whipped around him chilling him further. Closing his eyes he moaned inwardly as pain engulfed his entire body from head to foot.
“Not feeling well are we?” Asked and elderly woman’s voice off to his right.
“Poor creature, he’s ice cold,” said another elderly voice off to his left.
“Let us bring him closer to the fire,” stated a third voice directly in front of him.
Opening his eyes, Heath’s breath caught in his throat. Three pairs of bright green eyes danced around him as they peered from beneath their dark black hoods. “Who are you?” He asked as he blinked to rid his eyes of the rain water dripping down his face from his wet hair.
“Who aren’t we,” laughed the figure to his right.
“We are everyone and yet no one,” said the figure in front of him as it reached out and touched the bloody bite mark on his foot with its long withered finger. Heath readied himself for the pain he thought was to follow but was surprised when his foot actually began to feel better.
“What do you want from me?” Heath asked as he wearily looked from figure to figure as the rain continued to blur his vision.
“Oh my but that is a good question. But I think a better question yet is what don’t we want from you.” Laughed the creature to his left as it leaned in closer to him.
The smell coming from the hooded figure made his stomach roll. Dead rotting flesh assaulted his nostrils as he turned his face away from the haunting green eyes. Laughing the creature reached out a bony hand and ran it through her captives hair. “Does thou find me unappealing?” Asked the creature as she laughed and grabbed the mans hair turning his face back to her own. “Shall I show you more?” She questioned as she looked into the mans frightened blue orbs.
“That’s enough for now sister, no need to spoil our fun for later.” Said a voice behind the figure hovering close to his face.
“Yes our fun,” laughed the creature in front of him before moving back slightly. “I shall taste you later my sweet.” It said as it withdrew its fingers from his hair.
Feeling his arms being freed from behind him his shoulders protested as they were finally released from the terrible strain they had been under. The moment his hands were freed, bony fingers wrapped cruelly around his upper arms and hoisted him upright. As his body moved from the unnatural position it had been forced into for so long, the muscles in his arms, legs and back began to spasm painfully as his circulation was once again restored.
Crying out as he was carried away from the tree the bony hands on his arms tightened their cruel grip. Clenching his eyes and jaw shut as the pain in his arms grew with each step the figures took, he was almost certain at any moment they would break his arms in two.
Feeling them release his arms, Heath felt his body falling. Hitting the cold wet ground he immediately curled into a fetal position and listened to the noises around him. The wet mud he lay in chilled his naked body even more as he listened to the hooded figures moving about.
Opening his eyes he watched as the hooded creatures walked in a wide circle chanting something in a foreign tongue. Slowly pushing himself up into a sitting position his body shook as the wind continued to blow all around him. His arms and legs were so cold they were slow to obey his commands.
Crawling on his hands and knees through the cold wet mud and leaves, Heath looked for away to escape the creatures holding him. Knowing his body would soon succumb to the freezing cold temperatures his bare flesh was being exposed to he knew he had to get away while he could still move.
Crawling away from the creatures the wind and rain seemed to increase the further he journeyed from them. Shielding his eyes from the wind swept rain with his left arm he tried to see where he was. A cold chill ran through his body as a hooded black figure stood directly in front of him.
A hand as strong as that of ten men shot out from beneath the ratted and worn black cape and grabbed him by the throat. Holding onto the creatures arm with both of his own Heath struggled to breath as the creature picked him up by the throat effortlessly.
The steel like grip the creature had on his throat let nothing in nor out of his lungs. Kicking his feet as he fought to free himself from its grasp, Heath heard the creatures high pitched laugh.
“So full of life this one,” it said as it brought Heath’s face down closer to it’s own. As darkness began to dull the edges of his vision he watched as the creature used it’s other hand to remove the hood covering its head.
As his lungs screamed for air his mind screamed for release. As the creatures hood was lowered, Heath looked into the face of a witch. Her rotting flesh had fallen away in spots leaving nothing but bare bone. Maggots and worms crawled in and out of the rotten and rotting flesh feasting upon their host. Strands of long black hair hung here and there off what remained of the witches scalp. Most of her hair had long since fallen out taking her scalp with it leaving nothing but per bone behind.
As she drew his face closer to her own, Heath wished for release. The stench as she opened her mouth was fouler than anything he had ever smelt before. As a black tongue snaked it’s way out of her mouth and towards his lips he was sure death was close at hand. As the last of his vision was swallowed up he felt his body drifting away, then nothing.
Standing in front of the living room window, Nick swirled his drink around in his glass as he peered out into the darkness. The clock in the foyer chimed once as he continued his vigil by the window. A chill past over him as a cold icy wind blew hard against the glass between him and the outside world. Hearing a slight noise behind him, he turned to find his mother dressed in her robe standing a few feet behind him.
"Nick why don't you go on up to bed," she said as she walked over and hugged her son.
"I can't Mother," he replied quietly as he rested his chin on the top of her head.
"He's probably just holding up in one of the line shacks until the storm blows over." Victoria said quietly as she tried to ease her sons fear over his missing brother.
"I'd like to believe that Mother," he replied as he held her out in front of him and looked down into her eyes. "But I can't."
Victoria clearly saw the worry in her son's eyes as she looked up at him. The worry in his eyes caused warning bells to ring in her head and her heart. A sudden sense of loss filled her heart as she thought about her son. The young man that had walked into their lives over a year ago was struggling to find his place in the world. He'd not only found his rightful place but he'd found a place in all of their hearts as well.
When her husband was brutally taken away from her she'd thought him gone forever. It wasn't until this young man, a piece of her husband, entered their lives did she realize a piece of Tom would be with her forever.
But now as doubt to her sons well-being crept up into her head and surrounded her heart, she began to fear for his life. "Oh Nick you don't think something happened to him?" She questioned as her son held her hand.
"I'm not sure Mother, it's just not like him not to come home. Something's wrong I can feel it." Nick replied before finishing off the rest of his drink. "I can't sit around here and wait any longer, I have to go out and find him."
"Nicholas please be careful," she replied as she gently touched the side of his face.
"I will Mother," Nick replied as he kissed her cheek before leaving.
Riding down the dark hard packed road away from the mansion, Nick pushed his hat down further on his head as the wind and rain blew at him from every direction. The rain slicker he wore flapped behind him as a gust of wind swooped up from the ground and tried to peel it off him.
The unearthly sound of long dead leaves as they danced across the road both in front and behind him and his horse made him uneasy. The incessant howling of the wind as it raced across the valley to destinations unknown didn't ease his edginess at all. Something was out there in the darkness, something he'd never seen or even knew existed.
The further he ventured from the ranch the more he could feel the temperature drop around him. The constant howling of the wind drowned out all other sounds. Try as he might to see what lay ahead of him in the road, the rain beating down on him made it virtually impossible.
Hearing a horse whinny, he quickly stopped his mount and called out to his brother through the driving rain. "Heath! Heath! It's Nick, where are you?" He shouted as he tried to shield his eyes from the rain. Hearing the horses cry coming from his left he urged his mount off the road.
Seeing a large black form in the bushes directly in front of him, Nick jumped down from his horse and rushed over to his brothers horse. "Charger, where's your master?" He asked the large horse as he untangled his reins from the bushes.
Seeing a large cut on Charger's rear flank, Nick's heart dropped. "Where is he boy? Is he hurt?" Nick questioned as fear suddenly raced through his system.
Charger still sensing the evil surrounding them reared up and tried to get away from Nick. Coco hearing his stall mates cry and sensing the same evil pulled away from her master and raced back towards the safety of the ranch with his stall mate.
"Damn horses!" Nick shouted as he ran back to the road after them. Holding onto his hat as a large gust of wind scattered dead wet leaves all around him, Nick realized the horses were gone. Turning around in the road he looked for landmarks so he could pin point his position. Seeing something laying across the road about a hundred yards in front of him, his knees grew weak. "Heath!" he shouted as he forced his body forward.
Reaching the downed branch, relief surged through his head. It wasn't the body of his little brother, as he had so feared. As lightning flashed in the distance and illuminated the area around him with its eerie white glow, something caught Nick's eye.
Walking around the downed branch and up next to the old oak tree it had obviously fallen from Nick picked up Heath's hat. The relief he'd felt just a moment ago was gone in an instant. As his hand gripped his brother’s hat tighter his eyes scanned the dark area around the tree for any signs of Heath.
As the wind wiped the branches above his head into a frenzy Nick paid it little mind. His sole focus was on that of finding his brother. Walking out and away from the tree he tripped over something in the tall grass. Pushing himself back up he reached down and picked up the item.
The muddy cowboy boot he held in his hand made his heart stop momentarily. As his brain struggled to grasp the meaning behind the empty boot his heart all ready knew it.
"Heath!" Nick screamed into the wind as he let the boot fall from his fingers. Rushing forward in a blind frenzy to find his brother, Nick stumbled across the rest of his brothers clothes. Picking up the soaked sage green winter jacket his brother had worn out of the house just this morning, Nick was horrified at its current condition.
The jacket had been torn into eight large pieces, reaching down and picking up his brothers rain saturated shirt and pants he noted they had been torn in a similar fashion. Searching but finding no blood his heart relaxed slightly, but the big question still remained, where was his brother?
Shielding his eyes from the wind driven rain, Nick looked around the darkened landscape for any signs of Heath. Turning slightly to his left he saw a faint violet light flickering through the trees off in the distance. Starring into its flame its light was unlike anything he had ever witnessed before. Its eerie glow somehow called out to him drawing him towards it.
The wind pushed at his back driving him towards the light as he slowly climbed over fallen trees and dodged bushes on his way towards the light. Catching his right foot on a fallen branch, he fell forward landing hard and jarring his body on the cold wet ground. Shaking the fog from his head he slowly sat up and collected his thoughts.
As he slowly remembered where he was and why he heard voices chanting in a foreign tongue just a little ways behind him. Remembering not to look directly into the violet light, Nick carefully crawled over to the edge of a large tree and looked around it.
There chanting with their heads facing up into the wind and rain where three hooded figures walking around in a small circle. As Nick watched them they continued walking in a perfect little circle, the leaves around there feet danced in the air around them.
Their voices sounded ancient and very old but the way their bodies moved as they chanted he didn't think them too old. Looking away from them and into the small clearing surrounding them, his heart stopped. Hanging from the trees all around the small clearing were bodies in various degrees of decay.
Some were mere skeletons while others were bloated and rotten with flesh sliding off their bones. Some of the corpses appeared only to have died a few days ago. Most were suspended up by their wrists while a few hung from their feet. Even fewer had ropes around their necks.
As he looked up higher into the trees he was amazed to see how high up the bodies went, there had to be hundreds even thousands of them. They swung back and forth in the wind as if dancing to an old tune only they could hear.
Scanning the tree line around the three figures he saw something that made his blood run cold. Hanging by his wrists just a few inches off the ground was his brother.
As the blood rushed through his head and his heart thundered in his chest, Nick Barkley struggled to take a breath. His fingernails dug deeply into the tree his hands were on as he peered around it at the form of his brother hanging on the other side of the clearing from him.
The violet glow coming from the strange little fire the figures had burning in their camp flickered back and forth across his brothers still form. Heath hung naked suspended by his wrists, his long lean body stretched out as his toes dangled just inches from the cold wet ground below him. His head hung forward and his chin rested on his chest. The eerie glow from the violet light made him appear waxen almost ghost like.
As a strong gust of wind blew through the clearing, Nick heard more than just the rustling of dead leaves. Bones suspended high over his head clinked together as ancient rope squeaked, as its precious cargo swung to and fro. Nick watched as Heath's body moved ever so slightly and spun slowly sideways leaves raced with the wind beneath his unmoving feet. As Heath's body turned towards Nick he noticed the long red lines
crisscrossing his brother’s stomach, chest, and upper arm area. There were also small black marks spotted across the same areas.
"Dear God how can I help him?" Wondered Nick as he looked at the horrors all around him once more. Turning his face away from the horrid scene in front of him, he sat down in the wet grass with his back against the tree and brought his hands up to his face.
As the cold icy wind washed over him once more Nick Barkley shivered. A feeling of dread from somewhere deep down inside him tried to grab a hold of him and pull him under. Pushing it back down form whence it came, Nick tried to think of a way to save his brother.
He knew the creatures in the clearing couldn't be human. But what exactly they were his mind could not begin to comprehend. He only knew there intent and that was to make his brother another trophy; to make him the newest addition to their macabre forest of human bones.
Removing his glove he took off his hat and ran his hand through his wet hair. Combing it back away from his face he snuggled down his hat once more and readied himself. Taking a deep breath he slowly started to crawl on his hands and knees around the perimeter of the clearing towards his younger brother. The dense brush made the going slow but the wind and rain hid any noise his body made as he crept along. The closer he drew to his brother the more his heart sank.
Heath hadn't moved or made a sound since he'd first spotted him. The red lines crisscrossing his brother’s chest, stomach, back, and upper arms were more pronounced now that he was closer. He could tell they were deep cuts and not just welts as he had dared hope.
Feeling something squish under his hand as he crept along he stopped suddenly and looked down. The remains of a human leg oozed up through his gloved hand as it pressed down on it. Pulling his hand up pieces of the leg remained attached to his glove as the smell of rotting flesh made his stomach roll. Shaking his hand in disgust he looked at the ground around him. Much like the trees over his head the ground was littered with body
parts. Arms, hands, feet, legs, heads, and chucks of torsos lay scattered about. Most were black and rotted crawling with beetles and maggots. Tearing his eyes away from the grisly sight he focused on his brother. Knowing he had to help Heath, knowing he had to save his brother forced him onward.
He was only a tree away from his brother when he heard the small moan. Stopping and sitting up he watched as the three hooded figures stopped their chanting and stood perfectly still. Using his gloved hand to wipe the rain water away from his eyes his body began to tremble as three sets of green eyes stood in a line in front of his younger brother staring at him.
"Our precious one awakens," laughed on of the hooded figures.
"Oh my he has slept for quite some time now," another figure spoke up.
Nick watched as the figure standing directly in front of Heath raised its arm and a white bony hand shot out from beneath its robe. As the skeleton like hand touched his brother, Heath let out another moan.
Horrified Nick watched as the figure that’d just touched his brother placed a blood soaked finger into its mouth. Laughing the figure looked between the other two and cackled, "my he's the best I've tasted in years."
As the other two figures advanced towards his helpless brother, a rage built up with in Nick drowning out all reason. Standing up as the rain continued to fall through the trees and over the rotting corpses all around him, Nick shouted and drew his gun.
"Leave him be!" Nick shouted as he stepped out into the small clearing with his gun trained on the figures in front of his brother.
The three sets of green eyes that peered out from beneath the ancient black robes gleamed a little brighter and laughed silently at the foolish man walking towards them. Unheard words past between the ancient creatures as the man drew closer. Their black rotting tongues caressed long dead lips in anticipation as their new prey drew ever closer.
"My another tasty treat," laughed the creature directly in front of his brother.
"Just as delicious as this one I imagine," laughed another as she drew her finger across Heath's chest soliciting a moan from him.
"I said leave him alone!" Nick shouted as the raised the gun higher and aimed it at the creature that’d just touched his brother.
"Oh my but this one is brave," said one of the creatures as it turned and looked at the other two.
"Yes like the knights of old," laughed another.
"He will be a fine addition," laughed the third as all three creatures took a step back from Heath and turned their attention to Nick.
Stopping a good thirty feet from the hooded creatures, Nick swallowed hard. Their green eyes seemed to bore a whole straight thru him as they stood staring at him. The wind made the long robes they wore roll and flutter as if something alive were crawling about under them. A feeling that he made a mistake quickly took hold as the three creatures began to advance towards him.
As the three creatures stood about thirty feet in front of him, Nick felt his palms grow sweaty. Gripping the gun tighter in his hand he tried to steady his nerves as the wind howled through the trees and bodies hanging over his head. The stench of rotting and rotten flesh hung in the air like a wet blanket trying to smother him as he stood and faced the creatures.
Hearing his brother moan quietly once again as a strong gust of wind caused his body to sway slightly as he hung from his wrists, Nick turned his attention away from the creatures for only a moment as he glanced over at Heath. As he looked back at the three hooded figures his heart leapt up into his throat. One of them now stood only six feet in front of him. "How could they move that fast?" His brain wondered as he stood and looked at the creatures green eye. "That's close enough," Nick said in a shaky voice as he leveled his gun at the creatures chest.
"Oh but there is so much I can show you," cooed the creature in front of him as it's eyes grew brighter.
"Something tells me it's all no good," Nick replied as he lifted up his left hand and pointed to the bodies hanging around them.
"They are not you," the creature replied in a soft voice.
"Not yet," Nick replied as the three creatures laughed at his response.
"Not another step," Nick stated cocking his gun, as the creature in front of him drew slightly closer to him.
Laughing as it's green eyes glimmered with glee the witch took another step forward. The report of gun echoed loudly in the small clearing before it was quickly taken away by the howling wind. As the bullet tore through the witch’s chest where her black heart should have been, she stopped and laughed along with her sisters.
With his gun still leveled at the creatures chest, Nick watched as a pair of bony white skeletal hands reached up from the creatures sides and grasped the front of its robe. As the creature pulled the robe open Nick was not prepared for what lay underneath. Gray bare ribs covering a mass of rotting intestines and other internal organs greeted him in a ghoulish display as the creature laughed. As it laughed the contents of it rotting mass moved around and jiggled, small maggots and beetles fell to the ground at it's rotting feet.
Nick couldn't breath as the site in front of him was beyond anything he could comprehend. As the hellish creature took another step towards him it was a moment before he could react. Firing his gun again the bullet was sucked straight into the rotting mass as the creature continued to advance and laugh. It's green eyes grew brighter as it reached one bony hand out towards it's prize.
Firing three more shots into the hideous creature in front of him, Nick couldn't phantom why the creature was still walking. Just as it's hand reached up for him, Nick adjusted his aim up a little higher and fired at the creatures’ head. As the bullet from his gun tore into the creatures left eye extinguishing its light, everything stopped.
The creature stopped only a foot away from him as a deathly silence enveloped the clearing around them. The wind and rain both suddenly ceased as did the laughter coming from the other two creatures.
A moment later a black stream of rotting blood shot out of the creatures ruined eye and splattered down the front of Nick's jacket. He didn't even have time to comprehend what was happening before the creature in front of him let out a scream unlike anything he'd ever heard before. Nick watched as the creatures’ insides started to liquefy, black rivers of rotten organs and flesh seeped through the creatures’ bones and pooled at its feet. The smell of rotting flesh filled his nostrils and made him gag as the creature continued to scream.
The two other creatures who only moments ago had been laughing along with the one in front of him now also started to scream. Their unearthly wails filled the small clearing as pieces of rotting flesh continued to plop down into the rotten pool at their sister’s feet.
As the hood fell away from the creatures face Nick's eyes grew wide. The witches’ forehead was solid bone, whatever skin had once been there was long gone. One green cat like eye shown brightly against the gray rotting flesh of its socket. Holes where once cheeks used to be oozed a black substance filled with maggots. Worms crawled out of the holes that used to be its nose and joined the rotting pool of organs at its feet. Clumps of long gray hair stuck here and there to shards of skin scattered across its gray skull.
As it's legs melted away the witch began to sink into the pool of its own rotting flesh. In a last effort attempt to take Nick with it to hell, the witch lunged forward and tried to grab him. As he stepped easily away out of its grasp, the witches head hit the ground in front of him and broke open revealing a skull packed with maggots.
Hearing the screaming stop Nick looked up to where the other two creatures had been. Not finding them he quickly spun around searching for them. A cold icy wind swept through the clearing almost knocking him off his feet as it washed over him. As it raced around the small clearing dragging dead leaves behind it, the wind washed over the strange violet fire extinguishing it.
As the area around him went dark the hairs on the back of Nick's neck stood out. He could hear the rustle of the leaves as they continued to race behind the wind. Reminding himself to breath he kept his gun pointed straight ahead and ready to shoot. Hearing a small moan in front of him, Nick remembered his brother.
"Heath," he said as he ran forward in the darkness. Seeing the out line of his brothers hanging form before him Nick took off his gloves and reached out to touch him. Feeling the cold tacky skin beneath his hand, Nick knew Heath was in trouble.
Unsheathing his knife, Nick wrapped his arm around Heath and reached up to cut the rope suspending him. As the rope gave way Nick caught his brother and carefully eased him to the ground. Using his knife he carefully cut the ropes so cruelly cutting into Heath's wrists. As the last of the ropes fell away, Nick took off his coat and wrapped it around him. "I've got to get you out of here Heath," Nick said as he laid his hand on Heath's forehead. "You're so cold," he mumbled as he struggled to lift the unconscious man.
Maneuvering Heath over his should Nick headed away from the clearing. Wading through the mounds of dead bodies discarded outside the clearing he hurried along as fast as he could before the creatures decided to return.
As the dead leaves crackled and crunched underneath his feet, Nick barely heard them. With his eyes scanning the dark forest all around him he searched for the road. His heavy burden was cold and still as he continued on through the darkness. Stumbling over an unseen log he landed hard on the ground with a grunt. Getting up on his hands and knees he turned to look at the prone form of his younger brother lying next to him.
Heath lay on his side with nothing but Nick's own coat wrapped around him. Not hearing his brother utter a sound as he too landed hard on the ground unnerved Nick. Checking Heath's still cold body for a pulse he was relieved once again to find one. Rubbing his own arms as the coldness around him tried to seep into his bones, Nick picked Heath back up and laid him over his shoulder once more.
Trudging on through the leaves and low hanging branches Nick finally reached the road. The dark lonely stretch of wet hard packed earth cut through the countryside like a black river. As the wind once again began to howl around him whipping up the dead leaves and scattering them down where it may, Nick trudged on. His wet hair hung down in his face obstructing his view at times before the wind lifted it up and blew it around.
After carrying Heath for about a mile he finally had to rest. The muscles in his thighs just wouldn't allow him to go on any further. Gently lowering his brother to the ground, he tried his best to keep the jacket secured around him. His brothers pale face and limp lifeless body had really begun to worry Nick. He had hoped that by now Heath may have started to come around. As he rubbed his shoulder and watched his still brother, a huge gust of wind swept over him almost knocking him backwards. The bone chilling wind caused him to shiver as it wrapped itself around him stealing his breath. The tree's on either side of the road rattled and groaned as the wind bent them and twisted their branches at will.
Hearing a small moan, Nick immediately looked down at Heath. Seeing his brother beginning to stir caused a renewed hope to burn deep within his stomach. "That's it, come on Heath." Said Nick as he bent down close to his brother’s face and urged him on. Nick watched as Heath's eyes began to flutter underneath their closed lids, another small moan escaped his lips before Nick was finally rewarded with two very small slits of blue looking up at him in the darkness.
"Heath," he said as he reached down and pulled his brothers head up into his lap. "You’re gonna be OK boy," Nick added as he smiled down at Heath.
"Cccooolllddd," Heath mumbled as he began to shiver in Nick's arms.
"I know you are, just hang on we'll be home soon little brother." Nick said as he rubbed up and down Heath's arms trying to warm him.
"Nnniiiccckkk... I... feeeelll...sick," stated Heath as he stomach started to heave.
Turning Heath's head away from him, Nick watched on in horror as Heath began to throw up. A black syrupy liquid ran from his brother’s mouth as wave after wave of nausea swept over him and made him hurl.
"It... hhuurts... Nick," Heath managed to spit out before another bought of nausea caused more of the dark foul smelling liquid to come out of his mouth.
Unable to help his brother, Nick began to panic. The amount of liquid coming out of his brother alone was enough to cause the alarm bells to go off in his head. But the black foul smelling syrupy mixture was unlike anything he'd ever seen before.
"Caann'tt... bbreeaath," whispered Heath before more of the foul smelling mixture spewed from his mouth. Nick held onto Heath as he began to buck in his arms. Nick's fear for his brother's life ate a hole straight into his sole. He knew Heath was in trouble yet there was nothing he could do to help him.
As Heath slumped in his arms, Nick quickly turned him over and looked at him. His eyes were partially open but lacked any clarity what so ever. His face was stark white save for the few small cuts on his cheek and forehead. As he reached a shaky hand to his brother’s neck, Nick had a feeling of what he would find.
As his trembling hand met the cold flesh of his brother’s neck, his heart stopped. Holding his breath as he waited to feel the pulse of his younger brothers heart under his finger, a pain unlike anything he'd ever felt before began to build up from his stomach towards his heart. "Don't do this Heath!" He shouted as he shook his brother. "Don't you do this!" He
screamed as he felt Heath's neck again for a pulse.
Feeling nothing, darkness crept across his soul stealing his breath away. Pulling Heath up tight against his chest, Nick rocked back and forth as he cried. As the wind swept over him once more, Nick turned his face up towards the night sky and cried out a single pain filled word, "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
The wind swept leaves stuck to the side of the white mansion for a moment before the wind released its hold on them and they fell harmlessly back to the earth. The great house was dark and quiet as the bitter winds rattled windows and seeped in through the cracks causing a strange howling noise to fill the other wise quiet house.
Dust swirled in the cold dark air within the grand foyer as the wind swept in under the magnificent oak door standing guard over the house and its occupants. As the wind raced up the grand staircase, the quietness of the house was shattered as a scream filled the night air.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Nick screamed as he sat straight up in bed and screamed up at the ceiling.
Hearing her son call out, Victoria was up in a flash and racing down the hall to his room. Throwing open his door she was at his side as he sat on his bed breathing hard. His black hair was hanging down and stuck to his sweaty forehead and face. His nightshirt was plastered to his chest with sweat and she could see his chest rising and falling rapidly.
"Nick was is it?" She asked as she quickly sat down next to him and grabbed a hold of his arms. His eyes looked around the room blankly before finally gaining some clarity. As he turned his flushed face towards her, she absently brushed his hair back out of his eyes and back across his forehead.
"Heath?" He finally managed to say his brother’s name as his heart thundered in his chest. "Where is he?" He questioned more urgently as he began to look around the dark room.
Victoria saw the pained look in her son’s eyes as he searched the room for his brother. "He's asleep Nick, you found him. Don't you remember?" Victoria questioned as she cupped her sons cheek with her small hand.
"Found him?" Nick asked as he looked into his mother's eyes.
"Yes dear, you went out in the storm looking for him when he didn't return on time. Don't you remember?" Victoria answered as she watched Nick look at her in a confused way. "You found him wandering on the side of the road. The wind blew a tree branch down and knocked him off Charger injuring his ribs. By the time you found him he was completely soaked to the bone."
Nick looked at his mother as she told him what happened with Heath but all Nick could think about was his brothers battered body hanging in the clearing as the three creatures danced around in the eerie violet light. "I'm sorry mother; guess I just had a bad dream." Nick replied as he forced a smile to cross his lips.
"Would you like some water?" Victoria questioned as she stood up from the bed and walked over to his dresser.
"No, no thanks. I think I'll just try and fall back to sleep." Nick said as he lay back down in bed.
"All right, let me know if you need anything." Added Victoria as she walked back over to his bed and kissed his cheek.
Watching his mother leave his room and close the door, Nick stared up at the ceiling. The dream had seemed so real, he could still smell the foul sickly sweet smell of the black syrupy substance his little brother was throwing up. He could hear the bones rattling in the trees as the wind blew them back and forth banging them together. He could feel the rotting flesh and bones squish under his feet as he carried his brother away from the
monsters that had taken him.
Closing his eyes the creatures face came into view once more, its forehead was solid bone, what ever skin had once been there was long gone. One green cat like eye shown brightly against the gray rotting flesh of its socket. Holes where once cheeks used to be oozed a black substance filled with maggots. Worms crawled out of the holes that used to be its nose and fell into the rotting pool of organs at its feet. Clumps of long gray hair stuck here and there to shards of skin scattered across its gray skull.
Bolting straight up in bed, Nick ran a hand over his sweaty face. Throwing back his covers he slipped into his slippers and grabbed the robe hanging on the back of his chair. With his heart beating rapidly in his chest he walked over to his bedroom door and opened it.
The hallway was dark and he could feel the fingers of the leading edge of the wind as they crept up the grand staircase to meet him. Turning towards his younger brother’s room, he walked down the hall as the wind rattled the downstairs window in its effort to gain entry.
As he stood in front of the closed door to Heath's room, his stomach started to churn. "What if it wasn't a nightmare? What if Heath had actually died?" As the muscles around his heart contracted squeezing it tight he reached a shaky hand out and grasped the cold brass doorknob.
Turning the knob he held his breath as he pushed open the door. Nick was a little startled by the coldness of his brother's room, as he walked further inside he noticed the window opposite Heath's bed open slightly. Walking over to it he closed it and turned around to face the bed.
As his own heart beat thundered in his ears he reached forward and touched the slumbering figure of his younger brother. Watching him move slightly under his touch, Nick sighed in relief. Sitting down on the edge of Heath's bed, Nick tried to calm down his racing heart. Hearing his brother snore quietly, he actually managed to smile.
"It all seemed so real," he thought as he sat and shook his head. Deciding to wake Heath to check on him, he reached over and gently shook his slumbering form. "Heath... You awake?" Nick asked trying to wake him.
"Go away Nick," mumbled Heath still more than half asleep as he pulled the covers up over his head.
"I had the strangest dream," Nick replied ignoring his brother’s request as he stared out the window into the dark night beyond.
"Nick it's the middle of the night," Heath replied as the bed covers muffled his voice slightly.
"There were these creatures... I think they used to be women." Nick began as Heath tried to pull his pillow over his head. "They were old, really old, ancient even. They took you and... well they did things... awful things. I thought...," Nick stated before trailing off deep in thought.
"You thought what?" Heath questioned as he uncovered his head and listened to his older brother.
Remembering Heath's partially open unseeing blue eyes, a shiver ran down his spine. "I was nothing Heath," Nick replied as he shook the image from his head.
"Nick you didn't come in here in the middle of the night just to chat, what is it?" Heath asked as he kept the covers pulled up tightly over his shoulders.
"I thought... well I thought they'd killed you." Nick replied as he turned to look at Heath. Looking at the dark form of his brother, Nick thought he may have fallen back asleep. "Heath?" He questioned as he reached out and touched his brother’s shoulder.
"They did Nick," stated Heath coldly as he kept his back turned towards Nick.
"That's not very funny Heath!" Shouted Nick as he stood up and swatted his brother’s shoulder.
"Wasn't supposed to be," Heath replied in the same cold manner he had previously.
"Well I can see you don't like to woken up in the middle of the night!" Nick exclaimed as he started to walk towards the door.
"Nick," said Heath stopping his brother’s progress to the door.
"What!" Nick shouted as he turned back towards Heath's bed.
"Thought you might like to see what they did," Heath replied as he threw back the covers and stood up.
The anger that Nick felt only moments ago at what he was certain was his brothers way of repaying him for waking him up, vanished in an instant. In its place was the same anguish and pain that had filled his dreams a short time ago.
In front of him stood his younger brother or rather something masquerading as his brother. His skin was as pale as the moon; dark blood red slashes crisscrossed his upper arms, chest and stomach and oozed a dark sludge like substance.
As the corpse, masquerading as his brother opened its eyes, the color drained from Nick's face. "It can't be," he mumbled as he took a step backwards.
"Oh but it is," grinned the corpse as it took a step forward.
Haunting green eyes like those he had seen in his dream stared back at him. The light that shone from them was brilliant but still frightened him to his very core.
"You failed me Nick," stated the creature as it took another step forward. As Nick's eyes remained glued to the creature in front of him the smell of rotting flesh assaulted his nose. "I was your little brother and you didn't protect me." Said the creature as it smiled and took yet another step forward.
"I... I didn't know," answered Nick as he looked on in horror at the creature walking towards him. His brain told him to run but his heart told him to stay and help his brother, his best friend his partner.
"Where were you when I needed you Nick?" Stated the creature as it cocked an eyebrow and closed in on his prey. "I was dieing and you were home having a drink with mother."
"Heath...," began Nick before cutting himself off.
"They showed me things Nick, horrible things. Things you wouldn't even imagine." Stated the creature as it finally reached its prey. "Things I want to show you Nick."
As his brain finally won out over his heart Nick lunged forward and pushed the creature away from him. Racing out into the hallway he headed straight back to his room. "This has to be a dream!" His clouded brain screamed as he slammed the door behind him. Resting his back up against the door he tried to catch his breath.
"It's not a dream Nick," the Heath like creature stated as it stepped out of the shadows of Nick's room its green eyes shinning brightly. As fear and disbelief surged through Nick's body he turned around and ripped his door open. Falling backwards at the sight before him, Nick looked up at his little sister as she stood over him.
Her normally perfect blonde hair fluttered in the breeze now coming from somewhere down the hallway. Her skin was as white as a ghost as she floated over him and into his room to stand beside Heath. Her eyes now green and cat like caused his heart to stop.
"Audra?" he asked weakly as he sat on the floor and looked up at his siblings.
"Join us Nick," stated Audra as she smiled down at him.
Her smile could light up a room, but now it only made him want to vomit. The same smell of rotting flesh that had invaded his nostrils in Heath's room was now here in his own as well.
“NOOO!” Nick shouted as he scrambled up to his feet and bolted out his bedroom door. As both fear and adrenaline pushed him forward he raced into his mother’s room. Seeing her standing next to an open window he rushed up to her and placed his hand on her should. “Mother we have to leave now while there’s still time.” He said as he feared for their lives.
Victoria stood still looking out the window as she replied, “there’s lots of time Nick. We have all the time in the world.” She said coldly and calmly.
“Mother you don’t understand we need to leave now!” He shouted as he turned her around. As he gazed into his mother’s green eyes the world that he had always known and loved shattered around him.
“We have so much to show you,” Victoria said as Audra and Heath gathered around him. “We’ll be together for ever.” The last thing Nick Barkley saw before his brain shut down all together was a black snake like tongue slithering out of his mother’s mouth and heading straight for his own.
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