Summary: This story is my contribution to the 2012 Michael Landon’s Birthday Literary Challenge to write a spooky story. On a foggy All Hallows Eve, Joe has made camp by himself. What possibly could be out beyond the fog?
Word Count: 1,686 Rated: K+
A Night On His Own
Michael Landon Spooky Story Birthday Challenge
October 31, 2012
A thick fog rolled in with the setting sun. On this October night, All Hallows Eve, a full moon shone bright in the sky, but even that was blotted out by the impenetrable mist.
Joe Cartwright sat close to his camp fire seeking its warmth and illumination. Looking out into the heavy cotton blanket that covered the land a shiver of trepidation ran down his spine when the only thing he could see was the swirling, cold vapors that were all around him. Off in the distance he could hear a wolf howling. It was a sad, lonely sound, one that made Joe scoot closer to his fire. He threw a couple more logs on, hoping a bigger fire would add more warmth and a measure of security.
A twig snapped somewhere in the trees beyond his camp, and Joe could hear something moving around, causing him to jump to his feet and pull his gun from his holster. He slowly turned in a circle, trying to figure out where it had come from. The young man knew that the dense fog could distort sound and a person would have no idea where it originated.
Off to his left—or he assumed it was to his left—a feral growl drifted through the fog, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand up on end. Swallowing hard, Joe continued to turn slowly in a circle, his gun ready for any attack that might come his way. Yet there wasn’t anything visible.
I should have stayed home. What was I thinking? He silently chastised himself.
Another snap in the distance echoed around Joe.
Taking a deep, steadying breath and slowly releasing it, Joe holstered his gun and sank down by the fire.
It’s just your imagination, Joe, there’s nothing out there.
Grabbing the coffee pot from the fire, he poured himself a cup of coffee, and just as he sat the pot back on the fire there was a loud snap and shuffling coming from the trees.
Not even noticing the hot coffee washing over his hand when he dropped the cup, he flew up from his seat and drew his gun in one fluid motion.
“I know you’re out there, show yourself!”
A strange grabbled growl could be heard from beyond the profuse fog. At the same time there was more shuffling coming from what seemed to be the opposite direction, causing Joe to spin around. Trying to control the slight tremor in his hand, he tightened his grip on his gun.
“Wwho are yyou?” he stammered.
Joe turned in a circle, his gun steady in his hand—well, as steady as possible considering the circumstances. As he listened and waited for the inevitable, the shuffling from both sides started to recede into the distance until they were gone.
“Hello?” Joe’s voice echoed around him.
Tense, ready to take action the eighteen-year-old stood where he was and waited . . . and waited.
A good fifteen minutes had pasted without a single sound or movement from beyond the fog. Allowing his body to relax, Joe sat back down by the fire.
Quit being such a little kid, there’s nothing out there. If Hoss or Adam knew about any of this I’d never hear the end of it.
Picking up his cup, Joe cleaned if off and poured himself another cup; warmth spread through his body as he drank the hot, strong brew.
“One good thing about this, there ain’t anyone around to complain about my coffee,” he said with a nervous chuckle.
Releasing a long, slow breath that seemed to come from the tips of his toes, Joe calmed himself, threw some more wood on the fire, leaned back against his saddle and pulled a blanket over him.
Pleasurable fingers of warmth spread through his body as the coffee and heat from the fire worked its magic on the young man and his eyes started to drift close. He was just on the edge of sleep when his eyes snapped open and he bolted upright in a panic. Joe looked around trying to find the source of the noise that had abruptly awakened him.
Don’t be an idiot, Joe, he silently berated himself. Closing his eyes again, Joe drifted off to sleep.
Jumping to his feet, Joe’s legs became entangled in his blanket causing him to stumble and fall. He was back on his feet in an instant. His breath caught in his throat when he saw an eerie glow penetrating through the fog and something fluttered in front of it then was gone.
Whirling around the frightened youth saw another spectral figure floating through a reddish-gold light.
“This isn’t funny anymore! Whoever you are, show yourself or I swear I’ll start shooting!” Joe yelled with as much bravado he could force into his voice, hoping he didn’t sound as panicky as he felt.
There was no response, just the eerie glow coming from two directions with figures floating in front of them.
“I mean it, I’m going to shoot. I’ll give you to the count of three.”
Swallowing hard, Joe began his countdown.
“One . . .”
“Two . . .”
“Three . . .”
Raising his hand, Joe took aim at one of the ghostly figures in front of him and pulled the trigger.
Joe’s eyes widened in surprise and pulled the trigger again.
“No,” moaned the young man, then he pulled the trigger four times in rapid succession.
Click . . . Click . . . Click . . . Click . . .
With a shaking hand, Joe flipped open the cylinder on his Colt .45. The gun was completely empty.
“Can’t be, it was loaded when I left home,” he whispered.
Finding his gun empty, Joe dove for his saddle bags and quickly found his hunting knife that he had packed as an afterthought. It may not be a gun, but it did provide some protection.
“I wish I wouldn’t have left my rifle behind.” That was just one more mystery on this bizarre night. Joe could have sworn his rifle was in its scabbard when he had saddled Cochise.
There’s nothing out there, Joe told himself. Do you hear me? There’s nothing out there!
Joe didn’t know what to do. He really didn’t want to stay, yet there was no way he could head home, especially since he couldn’t see anything through the swirling fog. Again, he threw more wood on the fire. The bigger the better he reasoned.
“All Hallows Eve . . . Hoss said it’s the night the dead walked among us. He—he was just joshin’ me, knowin’ I’d be out here tonight. It’s just any other night; there ain’t anythin’ special about it.” He shivered as a preternatural cold penetrated his body.
Come on, Joe, It’s only October 31st, nothing more, nothing less.
Wrapping his blanket around his shoulders, Joe huddled close to his fire and made sure he kept it blazing throughout the long, dark night.
Slowly, the dense, all-consuming fog started to lift as the first rays of the sun crept over the horizon.
Hanging his head, Joe took a deep breath and released it. He had made it through the night.
Pouring the remainder of the coffee over the fire, he stood up and kicked more dirt onto it, making sure it was completely out then he packed his gear. Before heading over to saddle Cochise, Joe looked out across Virginia City’s cemetery and a mischievous smile lit his face.
“Two hundred dollars. That’s a pretty good take for one night.”
Cochise had been tied close to camp and as Joe threw the saddle blanket over the horse’s back, he froze and looked at Cochise suspiciously.
“You were darn quiet all night.” Not once during the terrifying ordeal had Joe given his horse a single thought. Normally, when things were unsettled, Cochise was as nervous as his master, but his silence was just one of the many mysteries in a very peculiar night.
Joe swung up onto his horse and putting his heels to its sides, headed for home.
Back in the dense trees behind the cemetery, Hoss and Adam stood looking at each other in dismay.
“That dadburn, stubborn, cantankerous, pigheaded mule!” Hoss spat out.
“I guess we’ll be headed for the bank later today. I really didn’t think he would have lasted half the night, especially when that fog rolled in,” Adam grumbled. “I would have thought that story you told him about it being the night of the dead would have done him in.”
“Yeah, watchin’ Little Joe’s face as I told it, you woulda thought he was ready to crawl under his bed and hide until the first.”
“The kid has guts, that’s for sure,” Adam said with a hint of pride in his voice.
“And now he has two hundred dollars of our money,” Hoss moaned disgustedly.
“Well, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. We did everything except exhume a corpse. I hate to hear Hop Sing when he realizes what we did to his sheets.”
Hoss moaned at the very thought of the tongue lashing they were bound to get. “Yeah, there’s more money we’re going to be out when we have to replace them.” Hoss looked around one more time. “No use hanging around here any longer. I’m hungry and I want to eat before Hop Sing finds out about them sheets and refuses to feed us.”
Putting his foot in a stirrup on Hoss pulled himself onto Chubb. “’Sides, Little Joe will probably be sound asleep without eating, so there’ll that much more for us.”
“You want to make a bet? He’s going to be sitting at that table waiting for us so he can gloat.”
Hoss glared at his older brother. “I’ve done enough bettin’ to last me for quite some time.” Hoss put his heels to Chubb’s sides and headed for home, as Adam’s laughter rang in his ears.
Chapter End Notes:
As always may deepest gratitude to my beta reader, Cheaux. Thank you for all your help and support.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Night In San Francisco (by frasrgrl)
- Springtime Memories (by frasrgrl)
- No Coffee (by frasrgrl)
- Morehouse (by frasrgrl)
- Terror of the Night (by frasrgrl)