Photo by Sandy Morrison
A howl ripped through the air. His eyes flew open. The hounds barked and growled, fighting to get free of their pen; the chains banged against the iron bars.
John ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the back door he slipped on his boots and coat and snatched his rifle from the wall. He raced for the pen and released the dogs. They tore across the open field behind the house heading straight for the woods beyond. Marching through the high grass, John’s eyes darted back and forth, wary of a hidden enemy. The moon spilled light across the open meadow, nothing stirred, but the breeze.
A yelp jerked his attention to the woods. A low moan followed, then silence. John rushed ahead, but slowed as he slipped between the trees. Rifle ready, he crept forward. His breath came faster with every heart beat. His chest heaved against the butt of the rifle tucked against his shoulder. A breeze whispered through the branches, shadows writhed at his feet. He scanned left then right, inching his way into the woods.
Hooves pounded the earth behind him. He swung and shot. The horse galloped passed. The rider struck out with a blow that sent John spinning through the air, landing with such force, his body went numb.
The rider circled around him and he looked up at the impossible scene. A man knelt in the woods, a long black coat billowed around him. Beyond that, the horse reared up and the moon shone clear against the broad, empty shoulders of the rider, a flaming pumpkin clenched in his fist.
John watched in horror as the rider approached. He tried to move, but his limbs failed. His mind screamed and his vision blurred as he watched his own body crumple to the ground, ten feet away.