Flash Fic Challenge – Witch

This is the latest writing challenge , and I got haunted house/Weird West. So here’s that story.

Witch

The Waterford Ranch radiated evil like fire gave off heat. You could sense it as soon as you stepped on the property.

Everyone in the Waterford family was slaughtered one night, in a grisly display of violence, but no one was ever caught for the crime. It was considered especially baffling since there were seven guns in the family, and none were fired, even though the oldest boy was strung up in the barn and bled out like a slaughtered sheep, the baby was thrown down the well, and the patriarch of the family was somehow impaled on the weather vane on the house’s roof. The violence was spectacular, and in most cases, impossible. Bandits were blamed, then Indians, and then some combination of both, but there wasn’t enough evidence either way. But everyone knew it was haunted.

Relatives came from the East, taking over the homestead, and the next day they were found murdered by the local parson, who was going to offer to bless the house and lands. He did, even though it was too late.

Other, farther relatives didn’t come for the land, but they refused to sell it, so the house and its large swath of land sat empty. Occasionally people would come, to loot any remaining treasures, and they too would turn up dead. Townsfolk even tried to burn it down, only to find their livestock – and in one instance – a child dead, for no obvious reason. The Waterford Ranch was considered a plague upon the town, and not even the preacher’s meager attempts at cleansing could do any good.

So that’s when I got called in.

They call me the Witch, because no one seems to have any goddamn imagination. All anybody seems to know is the Bible and tall tales, which are pretty much the same thing. There seems to be some confusion about my gender, because I dress like a man, and according to some I act more like a man than a woman too. It doesn’t bother me what they call me, as long as they don’t expect me to change. I live the easiest way for me, and let me tell you, being a woman is one of the hardest things you can be. Men have it easier, and worse yet, never seem to realize that they do. The work of women is expected, and invisible.

Also they don’t know what I am. They assume I’m Indian most of the time, which is an insult to most of the tribes. I’m from farther down South, where desert becomes Mexico and goes on to become more desert. It’s as hot as hell, and nobody but the “touched” people live there, or so I was always told. Down that way, they call me El Escorpion, which feels closer to the truth of everything than Witch, but what the hell.

For whisky, bullets, and a handful of silver, I took on the Waterford Ranch. Stepping over the split rail fence, I could feel the malevolence like a cold breeze, a sour feeling that curdled the air around me and left a taste of copper in the back of my throat. The air got thick, and the farther I ventured on to the property, the more I could feel it trying to fight me.

I still didn’t understand how normal people, who were unaware of this, couldn’t feel it. It was like screaming in a crowded saloon. How could anyone not know about it? But they were the lucky ones, right? Not born with the sense of the other world. Lucky bastards.

The door opened as soon as I approached, the hinges creaking like a coffin lid. And I wondered if that was supposed to scare me. Parlor tricks even an errant breeze could pull off? They obviously had no idea who they were dealing with.

Doors continued opening for me inside the house – so many doors; why did they have so many fucking doors? – but I ignored them all, and headed for the root cellar.

It was a cliché, sure, but they liked the darkest, lowest place they could find. They were creatures of habit, just like people.

The access door was in the kitchen, and she headed down a small, narrow set of stairs into a cramped, place that smelled of dirt and death, with a hint of sulfur.

It was dark, except where a fire glowed in the center of the floor. Only it wasn’t a true fire, as it gave off no smoke or flames, at least not as people knew it. It was like jellied embers, still glowing and moving, yet a static object you could pick up and move with your hands, if the demons let you. From what little I could tell, it was some kind of homing beacon.

A demon materialized out of the dark. He looked like a grizzled cowpoke of dime novels, with stringy hair growing out from beneath a cowboy hat, and leathery, wind chapped skin. He looked mostly human, save for the rows of thin, needle like teeth crammed in his mouth. “I think you’re lost, little girl,” he drawled, his teeth glinting like steel.

“And here I was about to say the same to you.”

He smirked, showing more improbable teeth. “You’re the one they call the Witch, right? I thought you’d be taller.”

“Size isn’t everything. Which I’m sure you know from personal experience.”

His storm gray eyes narrowed. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

I scoffed, aware that the strangely writhing shadows were actually formless demons, waiting to take a shape. Possibly upwards of a dozen. They liked to surprise with numbers; they flocked like birds. I had no idea why. But in all my travels, I had yet to tangle with a demon all by his lonesome. “I’ve seen my share of demons. In your natural form, you’re not much of anything, are you?”

He sneered, letting me know that he was one of those demons who cared how he was perceived. Not all of them did. “You think you’re anything, meatbag? You’re even missing one of your eyes.”

I touched the patch over my left eye, like I cared. I didn’t, but why give it away so soon? “So, you’re slaughtering people to open a portal. How many you got left to go?”

“Countin’ you? Just two more.” He pulled out a long boning knife, tarnished with blood. He’d probably used it on a couple of people. “Maybe you shoulda come with friends, Witch. Oh, wait a sec – you don’t have friends, do you?”

The shadows coagulated behind him, some starting to adopt forms as they got ready to move in for the kill. Demons almost always wanted to create stable portals between this world and the other, only they weren’t easy to create, or humanity would have been overrun by their kind long ago. But the ritual did require human blood. Lots of human blood.

People were right when they claimed the Waterford Ranch was haunted, but they were wrong about the what. It wasn’t haunted by ghosts – it was haunted by demons, who wanted to go home, or bring their home here. Either way, it wasn’t going to be any good for the humans.

Demons started adopting human shapes and closing in on me, as the old cowpoke demon stalked closer, smiling like he’d just struck gold. “I do have friends. We have a mutual one. Death.”

The corner of his mouth tugged upward, like he was snagged by an invisible fishhook. “I know you’re lyin’, girly. Your kind run into Death, they die.”

“No, we made a wager. If I lost, Death would claim me. But I won.”

He barked a laugh, and his demon minions mimicked the sound. They didn’t know what it was, and never would. “Nobody wins a bet against Death.”

“No one but me. C’mon, ask me what I won.”

The demon hesitated now, smug grin collapsing. He could tell I wasn’t lying, and he was starting to get an inkling of the shit he was in. The minions continued closing ranks, ‘cause they were too stupid to know anything. “What did you win?”

“Her eye,” I said, flipping up my eye patch.

My death eye saw everything with crystal clarity, and devoured everything living or undead thing that crossed its path. The demon had a split second to see it before he curled into ashes, the knife embedding itself in the floor. The minions screamed as I gazed upon them, disintegrating them into dust.

As soon as they were all ashes, I put my eye patch back on, and stomped on the still glowing beacon until it became nothing but fragments of stone.

The demons were never as scared of me as people were. Which proved, for all their faults and stupidity, that humans were smarter than demons. It was probably the only thing we had going for us.

Well, that and me.

In Absentia © 2017 All Rights Reserved. | Login