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Thursday, August 11, 2011

The hunter in the darkness

    A neglected dirt road led to a deserted town where the creaking, weather worn swinging board at the entrance said Welcome to Indian Wells and it showed a barren land where the harsh winds refused to die down. A coyote let out a lonesome howl somewhere in the distance. The moonlit town seemed deserted except for the stray dog that was asleep under the front porch of the towns’ lone house that stood out like eyesore on a barren landscape. It seemed to be lost in some fleeting dream as it let out a growl and then a bark before quieting down once more.

    It was a lonesome Sunday night as the white shirt man sat on the porch, smoked the last of his cigarette and finished off his beer. Looking upwards, one could see nothing but a few stray clouds as they floated past the full moon and seemed to mesmerize the viewer with its light. Tilting the hat back and wiping the sweat off his brow, the man looked down the valley, heard the rumble, rattle of some vehicle that sounded like it was about to fall apart and saw a dust cloud approaching. It might either be the hired help that was overdue or someone who might be just passing thru this barren landscape. Hardly anyone ever stops at this place as it seems all but forgotten unless it was hired help or if they wanted something from the Smith folks over at the other side of the hill.

    The seasons had flown by and it was already early spring. Age had not taken its toll as the youth had slipped through the tightly clutched hands like swiftly flowing grains of sand and an ageing man now stood in the young mans place. His only faithful companions now were the moon and stars which lit his path. The coyotes had gone quiet as they had their fill and would the farm alone this night. Looking down at the field now overgrown with weeds, wild grass and shrubs, he wondered if it was possible to keep on farming in these inhospitable lands all by himself.

    The shrill cry of the winged creatures which circled over the fields ebbed and rose seemed never ending, yet seemed to break the deadening monotony of the silent field. The over grown field needed to be plowed, leveled, seeded and fertilizer spread evenly so that another bountiful harvest could be harvested, yet the hired help hasn’t arrived yet. Shaking his clenched fist at the sky while squinting his eyes, the aging man grumbled about the slim chance of rain and how it might ruin the harvest if the drought continued much longer. Looking across the field and into the barn, he decided to check the harvester, tractor and the trucks to see if they were up to the task.

    Firing up the harvester was easier than the tractor which refused to cooperate. The starter coil needed to be replaced and pistons were worn out. After loading the truck with drums for diesel, he hollered at the man sitting in the shadows that the hired help might arrive at time soon and that he needed to head off to town to see what can be done about certain expected guests. Grunting back an acknowledgment, the giant beast hobbled down the dusty path to light the lanterns near the entrance of the farm and wait for the hired help to show up. Driving down the road towards town excited him since trips down there were rare and it gave him an opportunity to stock up on essentials and get in touch with what was happening in town. Time flew by and the huge farm fields came to an end and the truck soon started to follow a lonesome river. Looking over his shoulder, Ralph Fiennes realized that the river looked so cool and refreshing and he wanted to walk barefoot on the green grass. The river looked so free and untamed and it seemed to call him out so strongly that truck seemed to hesitate for a moment.

    Time started to move on ever so slowly like thickening molasses in a cold winter day. The meandering river throws him back in time to an era long forgotten. Gasping for breath he started to drown in time. One after the other, memories start to sweep past her. The dark thoughts flowing like a raging thought sweeping him into the hunt looking for the fish for whom the net is cast.

    The sound of a truck horn barreling past like demon on a hunt drew him out the dark thoughts he was floating in. He slowly came to them senses like a snake waking up from deep sleep. The bone deep weariness fell off him and he slowly started to felt refreshed. She slowly drove on and on and the remaining part of the journey was uneventful as the town grew nearer. Electricity poles, town lights and small houses started to dot the moving landscape.

    It was getting late, the moon would soon start sinking lower into the horizon and the sun would follow behind and it was time to get ready before the town appeared. Ralph found his way to the edge of the stream and took a moment which seemed like an eternity to wash off all the dust, grime and sweat off. Looking at the reflection in the water while the water dripped off his head and face made him realize where once stood a young man now stood a white haired wrinkled man who had the haunted look in his eyes. He sat awhile under the outstretched limbs of the tree and realized how lonesome his life was and wondered where he had gone wrong. Time flew by and by the time he started to look around once more; countryside replaced the dry dusty lands. The river had disappeared off into some other direction and heavily populated roads were seen running near the dusty road from which the lonesome traveler emerged. The sounds of long haul trucks were heard humming nearby and a lonesome train horn went off somewhere in the distance reminding her how far from home she was.

    This old mans life seemed like one of those never ending journeys which had been long and hard. The gentle swaying lulled him down the oft travelled memory lanes and all she could see is a dusty winding road broken every so often by an oasis. The hard journey has taken its toll on him as he tried to carry the burden which seems too much for it. Sometimes he felt like he was another one of those mules which people sometimes run across in some nameless town whose inner fire had died while navigating this parched land.

    A town square emerged and the dusty truck pulled into the only rest stop. Emerging from the shadows, a large burly man stepped up to the cab door, yanked it open and started to drag the wildly thrashing man inside. A soft hiss and then a cough from one of the kitchen guys who was taking orders for dinner brought him out of the thoughts he was in. Light spilled onto his face from the high intensity torch as one of the gargoyles who had occupied this timeless eateries stomped impatiently once more to hiss at him that the slop was ready and asked if he was heading off to the eating section or not. With a loud curse, the infuriated man headed off down the hallway and into the eating area.

    Ralph was pacing back and forth across the train platform waiting for the new arrival which he had requested. The train finally arrived though very late. The train was dead empty as none of the boxes had any passengers in it except the very last one. Realizing that they had reached their destination, the boys started to dismount the train and made their way to the exit near the side. The small group checked their bags once more to see if everything was unloaded from the train before it was put them in the trunk of the car. The constant chatter of the boys kept the old mans mind away from the grim thoughts. The oldest of the boys introduced himself as Tom who talked just about everything under the sun and everyone really seemed to enjoy the monologue which consisted of how awful the town was doing, the mysterious disappearance of people, the food joints, who bashed whom last night at the bar and how his girlfriend always gave him an ear full for coming home late. Pretty soon, the wandering group fell asleep one by one and the only sounds heard was the occasional snore or some deep sleep mumble as if someone was plagued by some bad dream.

    The passing trucks horn made Ralph realize that they were well out of town and nearing the farmlands once more. The old abandoned boarded up farmhouse located next to the meandering river loomed ahead and it seemed no different than the others in the area. The moon was lazily moving through the sky, yet it seemed like the old man’s hunger was growing stronger by the mmoment. He tried to shrug it off till she reached her own farmlands, yet its hold on hi was getting stronger with each passing moment. He sat awhile gripping the seat tight, yet the vortex was dragging him deeper into itself. A strange hypnotic trance was overtaking him and he felt the urge grow stronger with each passing moment while darkness grew upon the land.

    His malevolent eyes roamed around till it focused on the blood soaked driver seat. The eyes started to rove around the small front area until they suddenly stopped on man who seeing the gaze fixated upon him started to hyperventilate and become wide eyed. The deep red stains on the floor in the far corner of the left hand side door made him slowly let out a long throaty growl and the hunger grew in him stronger with each passing moment. Squirming backwards, the only surviving boy kept begging him to let him go while he started looking for an escape till he reached the very edge of the cab while his fumbling hands tried to unlock the door. The only response he heard was harsh laughter, a snarl and a swift slap which snapped his head around till it slammed into the windshield. Not being able to back any further, he started to push himself up with his back towards the windshield while grimacing in pain. The last sounds that were heard before abandoning the cab after pushing it into dense undergrowth was the gasping breath of a man on his last leg. It was only a matter of time till they came home and he’ll be waiting like he did for the rest.

    An old pickup truck slowly rumbled past the wooded area as if searching for something. A giant beast of a shadow leaned out and whispered the old mans name. A few leaves rustled as a shadowy figure emerged from the woods and rushed into the waiting vehicle. A moment of silence and then the rumbling truck switched off its headlights, backed into the wooded area. A door was heard opening, truck swayed a bit and grunting sounds as if something heavy being lifted and dropped. A door slammed shut and the engine roared to life once more. Without a sound, the truck wound its way around the bend and into the dusty hills.

    As the truck slowly wound its way back to the farm, a shadowy figure on the passenger side whispered “Have they arrived yet?” A momentary silence and then “Yes master. I’ve lodged them in their rooms and I’ve put their luggage in their as well. They are waiting for you to return and then they’ll start their work.” Was the reply. Fiercely glowing lantern lit the entrance of the farm and the truck took a turn into the barren farm and finally stopped in front of the porch. Yellow light spilled out of the partially open door and in its light revealed not the stooped aging man but a vibrant, youthful man who had seen it all. “Back the truck into the barn and dump it all in the back. Make sure you tie them all down to the pole in the back. Don’t want them wandering off till they are ready” barked the man. The night was drawing to a close as the moon was sinking deeper and deeper into the horizon. Walking inside, the man shut the door waiting till the darkness covered the land once more.