2018 Thomas M. Malafarina
“Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home” – Henry Alford 1844
The wind and rain pummeled the sides of the house as hail was suddenly added to the mix clicking relentlessly against the windows, threatening to shatter them. The home sat at the end of a long sparsely populated dirt and gravel road, the interior dimly lit by a few candles scattered throughout. The electricity had gone out several hours earlier.
“When do you suppose we’ll get our power back?” Abby asked her husband.
“Not sure.” Arthur replied. “I suppose nothing’s gonna happen until this damned storm decides to relent.”
“Yes, you’re probably right. It’s a shame the storm had to hit on Halloween night.”
“Gonna mess things up for the kids this year for sure. I’ll bet none of them will try to go out in this mess.”
“I heard the township cancelled trick-or-treating and rescheduled it for Friday night. Everything should be pretty well cleaned up by then.”
“I certainly hope so.” Arthur glanced toward the kitchen window and the darkness beyond, “There’s gonna be a real mess to clean up for sure.”
There was a loud banging at the front door, so loud the couple jumped in their seats.
“What the hell was that?”
Abby gave a nervous chuckle. “It’s probably someone at the front door.”
“I know it’s somebody at the door! I was wondering why they’re out in the middle of such a horrible storm.”
“Well, why don’t you see who it is?”
“I’m getting there. They’ll just have to hold their horses. Galldang pests would probably bother me in the midst of Armageddon!” He grabbed one of the emergency candles from the table and shuffled into the living room.
Arthur walked toward the front door, ceasing his grumbling when he had a strange feeling of dread. He’d never experienced any sensation like it and couldn’t explain why he was having it now. Perhaps it was the blackout or the storm causing his unease. Whatever the reason; he put his hand on the doorknob and hesitated for just a moment. Then he turned the knob.
He lifted his candle and opened the door far enough to see out without the wind blowing his candle out. A tall figure in a long hooded black robe stood in the shadows. The roof did little to protect the man – at least Arthur assumed it was a man – from the gale force winds and rain.
“What in Sam Hill do you want on such a God forsaken night? Are ya daft, man?”
The figure stood in silence. Arthur tried to get a look at the stranger’s face, but couldn’t.
“I asked what do ya want?” Arthur tried once more. “Well the Hell with you, then. I ain’t got no time for none of your Halloween pranks, young man. You best be on your way home.”
Arthur slammed the door and began to grumble his way back to the kitchen.
“No good fer nothin’…” he started but the front door exploded, practically flying off its hinges. Arthur saw the hooded figure standing in the doorway. All the emergency candles flickered and only the glass coverings on some on them kept the flame burning.
Arthur turned to face the intruder who floated across the threshold into the room. The door lifted and slammed behind him seemingly on its own, dampening the sounds of the raging storm. An aura of crimson light showed round the stranger’s long black robe, giving him the appearance of being illuminated from behind. Then Arthur realized the aura was actually being emitted by the man himself.
“Arthur? Who… what is that thing?” Abby was standing in the open doorway. “Something’s not right about this, Arthur.”
“Don’t you worry none, Abby. He’s just some young troublemaker who’s about to have his butt handed to him.” Arthur grabbed a poker from the fireplace and approached the intruder. “Look, you little wise ass. I don’t know who you think you are or what you’re trying to pull breaking into my home in that ridiculous Grim Reaper Halloween getup, but you’re in for a very unpleasant surprise. I may be an old man but I ain’t no pushover. Back in the day, I fought my way through the jungles of Nam. Do you honestly think I’m afraid of the likes of you? Not likely! I was killing Charlie when your old man was still filling his diapers. Now this is your last chance. Tell me what you want and maybe I’ll just call the cops and if you’re lucky they might get here before I break too many of your bones.”
For a moment the creature did nothing, appearing to be contemplating what, if anything to say. Then both Arthur and Abby felt a strange pulsing in their heads and heard a crackling, hissing sound, but not with their ears. It seemed to be deep in their skulls; in the very center of their brains. The sound began to change, to morph into some strange, at first unintelligible form of speech. Abby thought, if a snake gained the power of speech, this might be what it would sound like.
Then the words, if this thought transference could actually be considered words, began to clarify and both Arthur and Abby understood what the creature was communicating. “I have come for the harvest.”
Abby said, “Harvest?”
“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Arthur questioned. “This ain’t no farm. There ain’t no harvest here.”
The creature repeated, “I have come for the harvest. I have come to bring the harvest home.”
The hooded figure slowly reached its skeletal hands to the hood, revealing a bleached white grinning skull. It began to glow red in the mysterious crimson light and its eyes burned with firelight brighter than any candle in the room. It reached inside its long coat and withdrew a glimmering curved blade, a sickle on the end of a long wooden pole. The blade glowed with an impossible ruby luminescence.
Arthur raised his poker to strike but before he even had a chance to swing, the creature’s scythe sliced through the air so fast Arthur never saw the movement. He screamed in pain as his ear was severed, landing with a sickening splat on the floor. Arthur dropped his poker and fell down, one hand pressed to his skull as blood streamed through his fingers.
Inside Arthur’s confused brain he heard the serpentine voice of the stranger saying, “First the blade and then the ear.”
Abby screamed from across the room and ran like a woman possessed toward the demon invader, swinging a knife. When she got within a few feet of the stranger, his sickle once again flashed through the air. Abby’s arm was severed just below the elbow and it, along with the blade, thudded harmlessly to the floor. She fell to her knees as her life’s blood pumped from the wound.
In her mind, Abby heard the hissing invader say, “Free from sorrow, free from sin.”
They struggled to maintain consciousness but the creature swung the scythe back up, simultaneously decapitating them both in a single swipe. Their bodies flopped as their heads rolled into the dark corners on each side of the room.
For the first time the demon actually spoke aloud to the now lifeless room, its raspy snake-like voice whispering, “I have come for the harvest. I have come to bring the harvest home. The harvest of souls.”