Season of Mists

Jefferson Lake threw himself down behind the dry-stone wall, his breath coming in short, laboured gasps. The wind had picked up, rattling the bare branches like the clatter of dry bones, obscuring the sounds of his pursuers. He reached into his waistcoat pocket and began to thumb cartridges into the empty chambers of his revolver, the harsh reek of cordite stinging his nostrils. Six bullets. Six bullets left – all that stood between him and a potentially grisly end. He prayed it would be enough.

On the surface, it had seemed like a simple ‘job’ – some flyspeck township in upstate New York, apparently plagued by ‘demons’. Nine times out of ten, this sort of thing had a more prosaic explanation, usually a bunch of enterprising locals using a bit of ‘supernatural’ mummery to conceal their illegal activities. The trick with that kind of job was to go in loud, making enough of a show that it became more profitable for the perpetrators to buy his silence, thus allowing them to continue their activities after he had left, pocketbook more healthy than when he had arrived. Of course, there were occasions when they felt his permanent removal was a better option and that was when they found that his guns were not just for show.

But there was always that slim chance that whatever superstitious claptrap the townsfolk had been peddling was all too real. Whilst he had managed to pick up enough lore over the years to escape with his hide mostly intact, he knew it was just a matter of time before he was out-matched. He just prayed that this was not that time.

He risked a glance over the top of the wall. Luckily for him, his pursuers had no concept of the art of stealth. But then again, he reckoned they had no real concept of anything – other than hunting him down and cutting him into chunks. As he scanned the moon-lit pumpkin patch, the first of his pursuers lurched into sight.

An emaciated frame, whether a moss-encrusted skeleton or a body conjured from the vines of the patch, was unclear at this distance. However, the grinning Jack O’Lantern the creature bore as a head was, sickly green light spilling from its eye holes and falling on the rusty scythe grasped in what passed for its hands. It was joined by a second figure, then a third, all armed with farming implements that had seen better days, scavenged from where they had bern abandoned by their previous owners.

Lake stood, raising his Colt and sighting carefully at the nearest of the pumpkin-headed apparitions. At his sudden appearance, each grinning visage had swivelled in his direction, accompanied by the creak of joints put under unnatural pressure.

“Eat lead, yer grinnin’ freak,” spat Lake and fired.

The Colt bucked in his hand, shattering the silent approach of his pursuers, followed by the sound of the bullet richocheting off the raised scythe blade, scoring a silver streak in the rusty metal. Lake cursed and lined up his next shot. The Colt boomed once more and he was rewarded by the sight of his assailant’s head exploding, chunks of gourd pattering to the ground, followed by the slow fall of its body.

Four bullets left.

Lake watched the jerky approach of the two remaining scarecrows, then calmly raised and fired his pistol once more, grinning savagely as a second went down in a shower of pumpkin shards.

Three bullets left.

With a rustling of vegeatation, a fourth pumpkin creature tore itself free from the ground, joining its unnatural brethren in their implacable pursuit of the beleaguered Lake.

Shaken by its appearance, Lake’s next shot went wide…

Two bullets left.

The two remaining figures lurched forward and Lake could hear the pounding of his heart growing louder in his ears. Or was it his heart? No…it was the sound of hoofbeats, increasing in volume as the rider drew closer.

The rider burst from the treeline on the far side of the pumpkin patch, the flanks of the coal-black steed steaming in the moonlight.

“Holy mother of God…” swore Lake.

The Horseman was here.

Spurred on by the appearance of their master, the unholy constructs surged forward. Lake fired convulsively, taking down the nearest scarecrow with a lucky shot.

One bullet left…

The Horseman cantered forward, sword raised high. Lake considered his options – two enemies, one bullet. 

“It was a good run…” he muttered, then pressed the barrel of his Colt to his temple, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger…

*Click*

Goddamn it!” He swore. Casting the now useless revolver to the ground, he reached for his Bowie knife, ready to sell his life dearly. The sound of furtive movement behind him caused him to glance over his shoulder. Two further scarecrows had used the approach of the Horseman to creep up behind him, their grinning faces inches from his own.

Sinewy arms whipped forward, avoiding the frantic slahes of his knife, pinioning his arms and forcing him to his knees.

The Horseman dismounted and strode forward, unnatural light spilling from its empty collar and rested the razor-sharp edge of its blade against the back of Lake’s neck.

It would be a simple thing to take your head,” the deep, sepulchral voice echoed around the pumpkin patch, reverberating through Lake’s bones, “and who would mourn the great ‘Jefferson Lake’?”

The Horseman slid its sword across the back of his neck, drawing blood.

No-one,” continued the Horseman, “for there is no such person…’Jefferson Lake’ does not exist – it is an artifice, a facade – but what does it conceal?” Rough fingers encased in leather gauntlets grasped his chin, forcing his face upwards untl he regarded the empty collar of the Horseman.

I know all your secrets, ‘Jefferson’, and just what depths you are prepared to sink to…” The Horseman thrust Lake’s head away. “I am inclined to let you live, on this occasion. However, there will be certain…conditions.”

The Horseman pulled a roll of parchment from the folds of its cloak.

How much is your life worth?”


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8 thoughts on “Season of Mists

  1. Another great instalment Jez, Great use of the lights you got, and enjoyed the use of the headless horseman and Jack O Lanterns.
    So what is Jefferson Lakes life worth ? I guess we’ll have to wait and see

    Like

    • Thanks Dave. I’d just set up the table when my daughter wandered past, stopped and came back for a closer look, then exclaimed “That is so sick!” – which apparently means that she approves…lol

      My Headless Horseman was purchased last November at Warfare and cost a massive £3.00 from Rapier Miniatures and my Jack O’Lanterns were made from GW ‘skeleton horde’ bodies and some of the beads I had left over from building my pumpkin patch.

      As for ‘Jefferson Lake’…you’ll just have to wait and see what impact he, and his ‘baggage’, will have on the denizens of Blackwell…

      Like

  2. This is….. is……. is…… oh JEZ this is amazing. The green lighting, oh my goodness, the photography is… is…. oh gosh its masterly, it really is. Like you`d expect from a magazine standard production. In fact I would not have blinked or batted an eye lid of doubt had I seen this in a top quality magazine such as Wargames Illustrated or some such. True mastery of light and colour.

    four bullets left…

    I`m sorry (because I don`t want to lessen the brilliance of the earlier episodes) but this IS the best yet. I don`t know how, maybe it`s the sudden unexpected change of pace, but this one grabbed me and wouldnt let go until I had read the last word.. and I suddenly remembered to breathe again, coffee cup in one hand poised but un-sipped.

    three bullets left…

    And set in New York too, WHAT a cool surprise that was, and strangely apt. You may remember Stevie and I have a deep love for old American culture and especially horror themes (typically from the 17th and 18th century… occasionally even into some of the stranger Pulp Fiction of the 1920`s and 30`s).

    Two bullets left…

    I had totally forgotten you had been searching for a headless huntsman for a long time, and I also forgot you mentioned finally having found the ideal one you wanted. It totally slipped my mind as it was quite some time ago I seem to recall.

    WOW the luridly green lighting IS sensational, and works like a dream, and makes the macabre subtly elusive image of the headless huntsman all the more dangerous and disturbingly horrific.

    One bullet left…

    This could almost be a scene from Penny Dreadful with that strange American were-boy, and his devilishly alluring, piercing dark eyes. I wonder if this will tie back in with Blackwell and those gaslight dealings of a sinister and unnatural nature.

    Click…

    So what is Jefferson Lakes life worth.. I want to know. I want to know?

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Hils, that’s very kind of you to say. THIS was my cunning plan when I realised my cheap Halloween lights were green – it was just a case of getting my scenery and actors together and taking the appropriate pictures.

      As ‘Jefferson Lake’ was always intended to be part of my ongoing tale, I thought it might be fun to give him a little back-story before he was formally introduced to the main tale. Given that he’s American and I’d already built my pumpkin patch, it seemed an obvious choice to intertwine his back-story with the legend of Sleepy Hollow, although MY Headless Horseman is a little bit more than just a murderous ghost, as we will find out.

      The change of setting was deliberate, both to contrast the fog-bound streets of London AND because I knew you’d appreciate a bit of Colonial gothic horror.

      It’s almost as though I had an actual plan, rather than just making it up as I go along… 😉

      Like

  3. Without doubt the very best of the best, and entirely perfect for old Sowan and the galloping in of the weird and wild hunt. Jack O Lanterns and the headless….. what more do you need to make an all hallows story come more alive.. or even un-alive. A master at work here, a masterpiece in the making, and I bow with respect one writer to another at such fine, FINE wielding of the pen

    Tops old boy, absolute tops.

    Like

    • Thanks Steve. I had a feeling you’d appreciate it, given your love of ‘Gothic Americana’.

      I’m kind of letting the characters dictate their own personalities, which is quite fun, as they never turn out quite the way I was expecting. Lake was initially conceived as a heroic American adventurer, but it turns out he’s not quite as clean-cut as I’d thought. Certainly makes him a LOT more interesting, though…

      Like

    • Thanks Andy. I felt that I had to acknowledge the time of year appropriately, and who doesn’t love murderous pumpkin=headed scarecrows? Plus it also introduces a new player and a new thread to my ongoing tale. Where Lake goes, the Horseman can’t be far behind…

      Like

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