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By summer the Marbury road is a pleasant passage between Yatesville and Fort Cromner. It’s used by many civilians and soldiers alike, to make easy the travel across the harsh terrain that encompasses most of the area. During the winter months though, the road changes from a haven for travelers, beautiful trees and small wildlife, to a cold and isolated unforgiving path. Most of the townsfolk, natives, and even a few of the soldiers believe this road to be cursed. The Obijuan natives who used to occupy these parts claimed that the spirits mingled with the living world here.





Most men would not consider traveling this road during the winter, let alone at night. It’s not that I am more courageous than other men are, on the contrary. It is simply the fact that I am a stupid man. Oh, I am not stupid due to lack of intelligence. No, I am stupid because of judgement. You see a smart man weighs both sides. They take into consideration all options, and then prepare for any outcome. A stupid man will blind himself with pride and ignorance. I am of course not saying that all stupid men are brave and all smart men are cowards. No. I am saying that a smart man will know when something is beyond their control. I look back and realize that I was a coward with bad judgment. Had my judgment been better, things would have certainly turned out differently. Hindsight proved my judgement was very, very wrong.





When a man makes a decision, be it right or wrong, there is always a force or result that validates his choice. On the Marbury road, the Devil himself must have decided to validate my choice.





I was confident in my skills as a woodsman to safely make the journey. I knew what supplies would be needed to make the six-hour trip. To think, with all the preparing I did, I was still helpless against the true dangers. I had packed enough dried food to last me two days. I had rested my horse to make sure she was fresh and strong. I packed my rifle and enough rounds to bring down an entire herd of game. I cloaked myself in two thick wool blankets and covered my horse with a third. I also made sure I carried a three-day supply of water for both my horse and I. My tinderbox was well stocked and I had folded a small piece of wool in to keep out the moisture. By my accounts, I was prepared.



Jacob Shank had suggested that I just stay in town until morning. I figured he was less concerned about my well being and more concerned with the money in my pockets. He offered to give me his finest room, which regretfully declined. As tempting as it was I reminded him that I needed to be at the Fort by sunrise, and there were no exceptions.



As I mounted my horse the sun began to set behind the mountains. A cold breeze picked up and let me know that it was going to be a long ride. I spurred my horse and made my way toward the edge of town, then through a small clearing and the entrance to the Marbury road.





For the first half-hour or so, I was able to keep my mind occupied and off the thoughts of wild animals, the cold, and rumors of spirits. I sang to myself. I thought of what I would do when I finally returned back home. But mostly I thought of Sarah. Sarah was my light in a dark world. She lost her mother when she was young and I fought along side her father in the war. I was with him when he died. During our time together he told me of his daughter and that she would need someone to look after her should something happen to him. I gave him my word I would find her and look after her should fate choose so. Little did I know that she was a young woman, and that I would find her to be my love. I promised her that after this trip I would return back and we would marry and start a family. Sarah. What will she do now?





After a time, the songs became old, the dreams of back east, and even thoughts of my love, were overshadowed by the stinging cold, and the quickly darkening wilderness. Sounds that were easily identifiable and benign during the daylight hours suddenly became unearthly and terrifying in the pitch black. I opened my bag and pulled out the lantern that had lead me through many a darkened place. I felt for my tinderbox and pulled out a match when my horse came to an abrupt stop. She lurched back, but I was able to keep from falling. I had however, dropped my match. I quickly dismounted and knelt to the ground feeling for the match with one hand, while trying to maintain control of my horse’s reigns with the other. Something ahead had spooked her but I stayed focused on finding my match.





My fingers raked across the matchstick and in one motion I grabbed it and struck it on my saddlebag. It was at that very moment, the moment in which the match burns brightest for but just a second, that I saw what had startled my horse. There in the road ahead of me stretched a large furry carcass. I grabbed my lantern and lit the wick. As the light grew stronger I realized it was not the only creature in the road. Now hear me when I say this. And believe me for this is truly what I saw. There, not more than ten feet in front of me, lumbering over the carcass stood a creature the likes of which I never could have imagined. At least eleven feet tall its, head was as high as the oaks. Its eyes; its eyes were as black as the swirling darkness. Not even my lantern light reflected in them. It stood upon two legs but its arms appeared long enough to carry it on all fours. Its fingers were elongated, and claws burst forth from their tips. Its jaws still had the flesh of the corpse hanging from them. It set its gaze straight at me and I felt my blood run cold. Then it stretched its neck forward and opened its maw and let forth a howl that must’ve come straight from the bowels of hell.






As the howl cut through me I was overcome by an unholy terror. I began to scream uncontrollably as though my very body knew it was facing its end. Suddenly, as I was screaming, the creature’s body tensed and its hair stood on end. Then at once a freezing wind bellowed across the road and extinguished the flame of my lantern. I sat there paralyzed, waiting for my death. I could hear the beast moving through the trees at what seemed like incredible speeds, but the sound was getting farther away. After a time I heard nothing. I was able to muster enough courage to reach for a match. As I lit the match, I kept staring into the blackness for any signs of the beast, glancing down only long enough to light the wick of my lantern. The flame rose, and much to my relief, there was no creature.





I did however see what the beast was feeding on. I was shocked. Horrified to be precise. What lay on the side of the road was the still moving, but badly mangled body of a large grizzly bear. “What manner of beast can devour a grizzly?” I said aloud. I wanted to turn back and ride as fast as my horse could carry me back to town. But then I thought of something. This creature could have easily attacked me. It could have killed and devoured me much easier than the grizzly. I began to question whether the beast was truly evil or vicious.


“Did it save me from the grizzly?”




Had it not been there, the bear would have likely killed me. But then I thought back to its face. Those eyes, and that howl. I thought about animals I was familiar with and how they reacted in different situations. I thought about how it had tensed and raised the hair on its back. I realized then, that it too was scared. Maybe I had startled it. Maybe it had never seen a man before. Or perhaps the light from my lantern was enough to send it fleeing. As the thoughts ran through my mind, my courage slowly returned. I looked at the dying bear and chuckled to myself “It was I, not the mighty grizzly, which has warded off the largest creature to walk these lands.”





All at once the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I slowly turned holding the lantern high. The light pushed away the blackness, just long enough for me to see…


...what had truly scared off the beast.








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Comments

The following comments are for "The Marbury Road"
by rancidsauce

Interesting...
...almost archaic narrative voice. Nice throw back. Other thoughts:

- Second paragraph seemed overwrought and did not advance the plot. I'd remove it, but you're the boss ;)

- When you called the carcass 'furry' I immediately though of a dead Care Bear or something equally cuddly. While Care Bears ARE annoying do-gooders, somehow I don't think that that was the intended effect.

- I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. Seen it done over and over, but the story had a nice feel to it in spite of what could be construed as a 'cop-out'.

I enjoyed reading, particularly because your narrator's voice is so unique and retro.

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: February 16, 2005 )

Thanks!
Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you on the second paragraph. I actually told myself it felt long winded and I never felt like it served the initial purpose.

I've rewritten this story many times with different endings and different moods, but I felt as if somehow I lost track of what I was attempting to achieve. And yes, "furry" is quite harmless in the middle of a menacing situation.

Overall I have never been completely happy with this story, but felt it had potential burried within it. I was hoping to recieve comments such as yours to help refine it perhaps.

Though now I keep picturing a towering Tigger devouring a Care Bear in the Hundred Acre Woods. Which could be is a story in itself.

( Posted by: rancidsauce [Member] On: February 16, 2005 )





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