Primal SmokeWaves of fog rolled across the sea of wheat, saffron in rows of undulating harmony, except for the fog. The sky was a thick cloud, impenetrable by the mists that churned and roiled above Rankin Whiskeys head. “Damn, it’s as thick as pea soup.” he said aloud to the empty field of white. Rankin pulled out a pocket watch, his grandfathers embossed with the scratches and tarnished lines of an ancient piece. It was 2:37 p.m. and there was no sign of the sun or the rich cobalt horizon.
In the distance a flock of crows screamed and squawked, faraway and forlorn with the rolling tide of white. Rankin turned and moved back retracing his steps to the front porch. Somewhere in the distance an owl hooted and Fern alsomes dogs barked, “Probably Nothin.” he said aloud to himself, “Probably Nothin.”. The tethers of a cautious farmer bound him to the front porch, he could have sworn he had heard something else, something long forgotten and alone with the fog. Maybe he was just being superstitious, “Probably nothing.” he said again in a whisper.
He had sensed that something was off balance in the yard but he wasn’t sure what. The moan, what about the moan, he had heard a moaning sound coming from the edge of the yard nearest the field. Standing on the worn wooden planks of the front porch he squinted into the fog toward the sound, there it was again, a moan, he knew it was someone moaning. Rankin rubbed his chin feeling the stubble against the tips of his fingers. There it was again, a moan. “Who’s there?” he shouted into the dense fog. The mists parted for an instant and Rankin saw a flash of red and blue. What’s that he thought, it had looked like the bloody face of a man, dressed in blue coveralls.
He thought back for a moment to the curse, it couldn’t be. The curse had been Cross Corners answer to all of the strange happenings that go with any small town. The Curse, they had blamed Leonora Hapscans pregnancy on the curse and a myriad of other incidents that had gone without explanation in Cross Corners. There it was again, his face in the fog bright red and torn to reveal bone and muscle. Was he seeing things? Was this the curse come to life. He heard the moan again then silence, an eternity of silence and waiting. “show yourself ghost!” he knew it was just a ghost, it had to be.
About two years earlier two men from Castings International had come into town. They had been unwelcome visitors and the town had challenged them to get their asses out of the Cross, but they had persisted wanting to buy up the fields of wheat that made up the terrain of Cross Corners.
Evan Wigstan had said that they were trespassing on his property when he shot them both dead and no one in town had questioned it, but things started happening after that. The local sheriff had been killed in a multiple car pile up a week later and Angel Contern had hung himself the following Tuesday. The local bar and grill burned down two months later and the next years crop had been a bust for the first time in seventy years. The credited all of these things to a curse poor old Evan and his hot temper.
There it was again, a moaning sound then heavy plodding footsteps through the yard. “What do ya want?” he shouted into the thick fog. The answer came back in the form of a gravely rasp.
“We want yer property Rankin, we want yer property and what belongs to us is for us to take!” The figure in blue overalls moved into view.
Rankin gasped, his face was a leaking series of torn flesh, bleeding and leaking the graveyards rot. The front of his overalls were stained a bright red and maroon, trails of intestine lay in tangled heaps about his feet. “We Want what is ours Rankin and we aim to take it by force if need be!” Rankin inhaled a deep breath of air, sour and full of decay. “We aim to take what rightfully belongs to us!” The other man moved into view and Rankin screamed. His face had been blown almost completely away and a tiny spurt of blood spayed from what was left of his jawbone as he pointed at Rankin, “What is our, what is ours Rankin!” sounded more like “aaaahhhhaaat ith ourrssssss.” as his shattered jaw moved at an angle.
Rankin stepped back and fumbled for the doorknob, “Yer only ghosts, yer only ghosts!” he said as panic began to overwhelm him. The door fell open behind him and he stumbled backward into the house, “Yer only ghosts!”
The two men moved up onto the porch after Rankin, “What is ours Rankin, What is ours Rankin!” Rankin slammed the door shut in the first mans face. Looking down to the edge of the door he saw a small knot of intestine closed in the door frame. “Oh Jesus god!” he gasped. The door smashed inward and the two stumbled in grabbing Rankin by the hair and hauling him out into the rows of wheat.
The next day they found Rankin on a pole in the midst of his wheat, waves of saffron and clear blue skies calling out gods name. He had been tied to the pole and his eyes were missing, as if he had seen something too terrible to convey. The coroner for Cross corners noted the blood on Rankings cloths as an unusual happenstance. Other than his eyes he was free of wounds. They had tested the blood at the labs in town and it had come back as belonging to something that had been dead a long time.
Ultimately they gave credit to the curse and the ghosts that seemed to haunt Cross Corners.