HL Keeley has received a Bachelors degree in middle grade education. She is currently teaching middle school.
The streets were bare as the sound of hooves clambered down the road. A mist of rain had just sprinkled the ground leaving a gleam in the shine of the moonlight. The horse trotted up to an abandoned house with a yard still covered in weathered down toys. Bodies lie with baseball gloves still on hands. A frail body with skin sagging off the bone sat in a chair on the porch as if still watching over the bodies in the yard.
The rider dismounted from the horse walking calmly over to the two bodies in the yard picking up the baseball inspecting it as if the sight of a common baseball was less common than the sight of decomposing corpses. Then again, the house next door had a body slumped over a lawnmower that had jammed on another corpse in the yard. The smell of death perfumed the town warding off any visitors who would surely meet the same result.
The rider, however, was not afraid of the town. No, he was more curious about how a whole town just stopped and the world did not notice. The world did not notice, yet any car or wanderer ended up steering clear of this town. No planes nor birds flew over the town. The only living beings in the town were the flora and the insects that were feasting on the previous residents. The rider tossed the ball around in his hand before deciding to keep it. He placed the ball in his bag before continuing up to the house.
The two corpses in the yard were in their teenage years and African American. One was a female and the other a male. The corpse that sat in the chair was a Caucasian woman, maybe in her 50s. The rider strolled into the house noting the pictures on the wall revealing the identities of those that had lived there. They were a family of four. A caucasian woman with dark brown hair and light brown eyes and an African American man with dark brown eyes and a bald head. The children were a mix of their parents both with brown eyes and curly dark hair with a lighter complexion than their father, but darker than their mother. The rider walked into the house seeing the family’s accomplishments and accolades. The teenage girl was an accomplished gymnast and the boy was an all-around athlete with trophies in football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.
The father was an accountant based on the paperwork in his office while the mother was a local school teacher based on the bag full of ungraded papers. She taught high school history classes based on the papers to be graded. The rider read through the common misconceptions and assumptions that her students had shaking his head in disgust. Ignorance was a common theme in tragedies such as these. Maybe history would have prepared them for their fate.
In the kitchen, the rider found what he truly was searching for: canned food. Their expiration dates are not for a couple more years. He placed them in his bag completely bypassing the refrigerator. He learned from the first house that the town has been without electricity for some time. Those stored in coolers, freezers, and refrigerators have come to spoil and the only use is to burden his nostrils.
Once out of the house, he walked over to the next yard to inspect more of the lawnmower incident. A caucasian man in his thirties had been mowing the lawn that fateful day. A young child must have been playing in the yard. Based on the injuries the lawnmower had struck the young child after the child had died. Based on the anatomy of the child, the child was a boy with a freckled red complexion. No wait, that was dried blood. The rider walked past into the house to find that those two were the only occupants of the home. The rider had a fleeting curiosity about what happened to the mother, but he was not here to tell their stories. Ah yes! He found a prize for him indeed: beans. He placed them in his bag before strolling out of the house.
He never looked back at the corpses being destroyed by the elements, the bugs, and time. He did not put them to rest. He did not care what had happened to him. While he was curious about this town and the mystery surrounding it, he did not want to get involved. What fortune that allowed him to find this gem of a town. The rider was not meant to save the town, the town was meant to save him for he will not be hungry for the next few years.
He rode to a house of his choosing. After all, he had any that he wanted. There was a huge mansion that overlooked the town. It had its advantages tactically, but the rider did not fear those who wandered into town. They would not concern themselves with him, for he would be gone soon. He wanted a small house with a fireplace to keep him warm. He also wanted the occupants to be outside of the home completely. The day the incident happened must have been a weekend because many were home. Yet he found a bungalow on the edge of town that had no occupants in or near it. He would be able to pretend somewhat that this could be home, aside from the stench of death in the air.
The rider tied the horse to a tree in the yard giving it enough slack to eat and rest. Walking to the door, he found a locked door. There were many solutions to this, but the simplest solution for him was to find the key. There were four spots: around the edge of the door, under the mat, a false stone, or in the vicinity of a flower pot. This key, he found with glee, was in the mailbox. That was not creative, but not something he commonly encountered.
The bungalow had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The rider walked through the red door into the living room that was furnished with leather couches. The walls were lined with taxidermied animals. There were no personal photographs around, but there were cards on the refrigerator in the kitchen. There was definitely not a woman living here based on the lack of feminine touch. However, the rider had learned not to truly know until he checked the closet. There were few female clothes, but mostly male. They were two sizes larger than the rider, but he can make the shirts work. The water had been turned off much to his dismay, so he will need to find water in the morning. For now, he just wanted to eat and sleep. Lucky for him, there was wood placed near the fireplace. He built himself a fire heating the beans over it. Once done, he went to the master bedroom where he found the clothes and fell asleep in the queen sized bed.
Morning came quickly as the sun woke him from his stupor. He changed into pants from yesterday and a fresh shirt from the closet. The horse was chewing on the grass in the yard when the rider walked out of the house. The rider untied the horse guiding him into town at a steady pace. There was no need to ride the horse at this moment, especially when the rider planned to use the horse’s strength for transporting the water. The grocery stores should be still stocked if what plagued the town was what the rider believed. Everyone would have gone down at the exact same moment. There would have been no mass panic. No one knew what hit them.
Stepping over corpses of employees in their vests, the rider made his way to the section that supplied water. He had grabbed the eco friendly bags from the front putting water into the bags. He brought the bags out in trips trapping them to the horse. He also looked through the food leaving some for later. He did not need to worry about the store being looted by anyone other than himself.
Loading up the horse, he brought the supplies to his temporary home. He sorted out the food before turning his attention to his bag. The bag was full of trinkets found at the various cities along the way. First was the baseball from this small town followed by a snowglobe of the Eiffel Tower. Ironically, this was found in the corpse covered city of New York. In Paris, he found a small doll with blonde curly hair that was still tightly clutched by the small girl. He pulled out the rooster figurine and the salt and pepper shakers shaped like s’mores. Last to be pulled out of the bag was a silver sword sheathed in its scabbard. The sun glinted off the sword through the window. The sword had intricate designs along the sides of the silver blade. The golden handle appeared to be golden vines that wrapped around each other to hold the silver blade in place. Placing the sword back in the scabbard, he walked out without the horse examining the former residents of the town.
No burials or commemoration ceremonies will be held for these people. The only mercy delivered was the tip of the sword meeting the side of their necks. The sword’s engravings moved toward the end pulling out a strand of silver from the neck of the deceased. The gravings moved back onto the sword changing its shape with the addition of new souls. This town would take only a couple days unlike the big cities like New York and Paris that took the rider a month or two to collect.
At the end of the collection, the rider took a couple new outfits and only a couple cans of food. He needed to carry light. The next town will have the essentials. All the towns look like this. There was no mass hysteria, no survivors. Only Death and the Rider.
© 2020 HL Keeley