Halloween Challenge Honorable Mention
Diary of Annabelle Desmond
–June 8, 1870
Pa blames the Fergill family for waking the devils in the mountains. We moved into the valley in the crook of the Sierras two winters ago. We found four abandoned cabins and no people. Most of their belongings were gone, but no signs anything dire happened. It promised fertile ground for farming and our animals. Pa decided they must have headed to the coast. Parson McConnel declared it a miracle and a sign from God the place was meant for us.
Seven families in all, the first year felt like a gift from God. Plentiful lumber built three more cabins and fences for the goats and cattle. The seeds took root and it promised to be our own Garden of Eden.
Til Thomas Fergill found the cave further up and started mining. I remember seeing the small gold nuggets he carted down. He claimed he broke through a wall, his pickaxe cutting through a thin layer of stone. Going deeper in, he found the stones. Some of the others wanted to go with him but the parson and Pa said no, that digging down into Satan’s domain wasn’t the work of the Lord.
–June 13, 1870
Pa said Thomas brought God’s wrath down on all of us when he headed up on the sabbath day after worship. He had the gleam in his eye to find more ore though the parson reminded him of the oath not to toil on the Sunday.
The winds blew down from the mountains on us that night. They started in as soon as the sun dropped.
Woken by a scream, the winds swept through our valley. Behind closed shutters I heard their whisperings outside my window and I pulled my blankets tight over my head, repeating the Lord’s prayer. In the morning I told what I’d heard but Pa sent me back to my room with the family bible after a lashing and told me to ask forgiveness.
I kept there for the remainder of the day til I heard the thump of Pa’s boots on the floor, returning after his labors. Through the door I listened as he told Mama the Fergills were no more. Thomas never returned from the mine and when no one emerged from their cabin the next morning Pa and the parson knocked on their door only to find the entire family dead in their beds. Mauled by some sort of animal was Doctor Tremmely’s declaration.
–June 15, 1870
Pa and the other men climbed their way to the mine and boarded it up. They lay a wooden cross at the entrance and Pa told us Parson McConnel gave rites banishing the devils back to Satan’s realm. He pronounced God’s sacrament and declared us safe.
It must have worked because the winds stayed above and bothered us no more. I do wish God would summon me to service, but Mama said women don’t get the call to serve God in that manner.
–June 27, 1870
Last night I heard the winds again. Late in the evening as if stealing into our small village to take us unawares. This time I kept the knowledge to myself lest I earn another day in solitude and another whupping.
Douglas Thayer never rose to weed his crops or feed his hens. Rapping on his door led to no response, much like the Fergills. Investigating further led to summoning all of the men folk.
Down to five families now, the Thayers ended up like the first. Dead and gone within their home, apparently suffering the same plight as the Fergills though Douglas was not found at all.
I rushed to the cabin to catch a peek, curiosity overcoming Pa’s revulsion and later I got the switch for not being a proper girl. Still, I managed to spy Mrs. Thayer through a crack in the shutters before being caught. Her expression looked stricken as if she’d stared into the eyes of the Devil himself and had her soul sucked clean from the bones. Her torn dress and dried blood all about her torn corpse will haunt me to my grave.
Discussion broke forth as to how it could be and led to another foray up the mountain.
–June 28, 1870
I gleaned bits and pieces of conversation through my bedroom door after Pa returned. They found the entrance to the cave desecrated and open though it looked like someone pried the boards loose. Our hunter, Solomon Ford spied a boot print in the dirt at the entrance, though no one would enter inside to find the source. Pa and the others replaced the boards and the cross and again Parson McConnel pronounced his claim on the seal.
Upon returning it led to another search of the Thayer home. This time, beneath Douglas’s bed they found a sack of gold gleaned from the mines. Pa cursed, something I rarely heard from him, as he lay God’s wrath upon Douglas Thayer for sneaking up their to take up where Thomas Fergill had left off.
Mama asked if the gold should be returned but Pa said no and they boarded up the Thayer house and the Fergill’s, pronouncing them unholy ground.
–July 4, 1870
I wish to tell Pa what I have discerned but I fear the switch for ungodly talk. I noted a pattern and know true and well that devils indeed walk among us for I heard the return of the winds from the mountain again last night. I heard echoing of wind, almost like heart beats as they passed outside my window, whispering in garbled tongues preventing me from deciphering their words. Pa and the others have not figured out what I realized, huddled under my blanket during the night.
The winds mock our Savior and our God for they only descend upon us during the remainder of the sabbath day after the sun dips beyond the horizon. Every evening the winds have slipped among us, it has been at the end of the Sunday.
I still dread at pointing this out to Pa but I may slip the truth to Mama. I fear for the rest of us.
I know the truth of it because we are down to only four families to make due in our valley now. During the night, the entire Jones family including Joseph were found dead within their premises. They met the same fate, torn to shreds by heinous claws and so Pastor McConnel declared they must have had some dealing with Devil otherwise no harm would have come to them.
Pa and the others searched their cabin from top to bottom but found no gold.
Worse, all of the chickens and the Morgan’s goats disappeared, only blood stains left upon the ground. Two of our cattle lay maimed in the pasture.
–July 5, 1870
Another trek to the mine but Pa returned and this time I saw fear heaped in his eyes. He told Mama the boards and cross were gone, no sign of them anywhere, save drag marks leading into the cave. Solomon found new tracks though these looked queer; oddly shaped and only bearing three toes.
Fear stole through me thoroughly enough I opened my door and told Pa and Mama my theory. I expected a sound beating for my blasphemy, but Pa and Mama only exchanged looks and told me to return to my room.
That scared me worse than the switch.
–July 10, 1870
Even after attending church at the Parson’s home, I felt no comfort.
The remaining families met before the end of the sabbath to discuss what needed to be done. I wasn’t allowed to attend, being only sixteen, but I watched the glow from our small church where the parson and his wife perched, watching over their small flock. The meeting lasted well into the night, and I heard shouting several times.
I woke in the folds of night to the sounds of the beating winds again. They violated my theory this time, my first inkling that God may have abandoned us. In the morning, the Samerson family lay sprawled similar to the Thayers, their front door torn asunder. Papa exited the premises along with the Parson arguing about what could have killed them in such a way.
–July 12, 1870
I saw them.
The screams of Parson McConnel woke me and though I ran to our living room, Pa clamped a hand to my mouth and hunkered down near the hearth, shushing me as he loaded his rifle. We sat, wide eyed until Pastor McConnel’s wails ended and many long minutes after.
Pa ushered Mama and I to their bedroom but Pa kept watch on the door.
Outside the wind rattled against the shutters several times, but the locks Pa made held firm. Though greatly afeared, Satan’s curiosity took me over and I crept to the windows. Peeking through the cracks in the shutters I dared look though God punished me for doing so.
I saw a ghostly shape creeping low to the ground, opal white against the darkness and it was surely a demon. I saw a second next to the first and it raised up on hind legs and spread what looked to be membranous wings. A hiss escaped its drawn lips, sounding like our tea kettle, and it took to the air. I heard the rush of air and I only suppose it returned to the mine where Thomas Fergill desecrated its den.
Parson McConnel, God take pity on his soul, once told us the Devil could smell the weak of purity. Surely this was the case because the remaining godforsaken creature turned in my direction and before I ran and hid under Mama and Pa’s bed, it cast its red eyes at me, glowing like the hottest embers in our hearth.
God pity me..
Pa and the remaining men laid Parson McConnel’s family to rest next to the others but they found nothing of the parson himself other the grisly stains on the ground in front of his porch.
Like the Holy Trinity, only three families remain. The Morgan family packed their things, intent on leaving for good after the death of the parson. Benjamin Morgan had three sons and a babe along with his wife and had no intention of sending them to God so soon. James Harrison agreed though he only watched over twin girls and his wife, Mary.
After much deliberation Pa agreed, so much was his love for Mama and I. They agreed to pack and head out on the morning of the sabbath so that God might watch over us as we departed.
I reminded Pa of the demons intent on the sabbath day, but he only shook his head and told me to pack.
–July 14, 1870
The Devil’s work is awful indeed.
I lay down fearing the coming sabbath day, afraid the mountain devils would catch us before ridding ourselves from the valley, but they’ve outsmarted us. I barely closed my eyes and I heard the winds settle upon us though I knew it was not wind but the beating of their awful wings.
I heard a rifle report beyond our walls and then screams. Pa ushered me from my bedroom to the hearth while Mama tended a roaring fire. Tears dribbled down her cheeks as she threw on the last of the wood and huddled between Pa and I. Pa kept a firm grip on his rifle and Mama read from the Bible as we heard crying and yelling from Rebecca Harrison as she called to God for salvation.
“Put your trust in the Lord, Annie. He will not forsake us.”
I write these last words in the hopes to warn passersby not to settle here even though when we first arrived, Papa declared it had to be a taste of Eden.
Growing up, Craig Crawford read constantly. After being wowed by so many great novels he wondered if he could do it too. In the last two years, he’s published thirteen short stories including a novella with five more due out in 2022 including a serial. He writes in fantasy, sci-fi, YA, horror, humor—whatever his imagination gives him. You can learn more about his writing and what makes him tick at craiglcrawfordbooks.com His twitter account is: @CraigLCrawford