Monday, April 4, 2016

Ghost Town, Katy Comber

Hope and Perrish
By Katy Comber


An iridescent haze swept slightly above the ground as loose gravel crunched under the traveler’s boot. His feet felt heavy and his back burned in the smoldering sun, and yet he kept strolling by the abandoned town’s buildings, storefronts with dusty displays and a saloon with swinging doors that creaked and swayed if the wind ever decided to whistle on through. The traveler stopped. That noise. It sounds like… It can’t be. The traveler followed the impossible sound in the direction of the town center.
The town consisted of ramshackle buildings along a short dirt road with a chipped Welcome to... sign on one end and a Now Leaving… sign hanging lopsided off its post on the other. The straight road only curved and parted around a small crumbling stone pillar surrounded by a circle of benches and posts for tying up horses. Something else was tied there. The certainty of this thought made neck hairs raise under the traveler’s dampened white t-shirt. The pillar was capped by a large wooden disk and a clay ladle hung from its side. The sound, a throaty giggle, echoed from this direction. Someone, something, lay inside of the well.
The haunting chuckle grew every time the traveler’s boots hit the ground. Louder and louder it rose and called. The traveler was curious and knew no fear. He approached the well and his muscles strained as the lid, solid and weighted, gave way. A wave of a familiar scent washed over the traveler as the lid crashed to the dirt. For a moment, the traveler was a boy climbing fruit bearing limbs, fallen apples rotting into the ground as he reached for the best. The sunlight seemed to tickle the creature below as its cackles rose in delighted screams. The shallow well was just deep enough to trap its creature, but not so that the traveler could not see its prisoner.
The prisoner’s toothless grin was black as night and its eyes had long since gone. Hair hung gray and matted and its shoulders pointed underneath a tattered bag of pale blue skin. Somewhere a metronome ticked away. Its beat, steady and patient. The traveler squinted and noticed the creature’s bare boned feet tapping up, down, up… marking the time that had frozen once the sunlight came bearing down.
“Tell me something good.” The voice that called sounded of a young woman, the voice was strong yet dry and cracking.
Mesmerized by the sight of the creature, its scent, its sound, the traveler obeyed. He pulled a book from his back pocket and began to read. The stories the traveler read were tales told and retold for thousands of years. The book was freshly bound, but its insides were ancient. As the traveler read, the creature began to hum. The traveler looked down into the well once again. With every good word, with every Selah, the creature grew. Its skin wove back into flesh: plump, smooth, and gleaming brown. As the traveler read, those wretched pitts of black, filled and beaming hazel orbs replaced horrid emptiness. Teeth grew and sparkled up from the depths of Its bastille. As the traveler reached the end of the book, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen floated up and out of the well.
The woman fell into the traveler’s arms on her way down. She grinned up at him as she latched her arms around his neck. Laughed at his shock. Her breath cool and fragrant. Apple blossoms. “I’m Hope.”

“Perrish.” The traveler’s throat caught in a sob. His response a whisper. Hope snuggled deep into Perrish’s chest for a moment, wiped his cheeks with her delicate hand, and hopped down. Then, off they went. Hand in hand they walked out of the ghost town; a trail of flowers bloomed under every step.

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