Well, it took longer than I expected to crank out this little piece, but here it is for Ralfast’s May Flash Fiction Challenge.
He never should have been there. He should have believed the old stories.
The old lady had died, and the reading of the will would take place the following afternoon. He packed hurriedly for the journey to the family homestead; he would need to present himself if he was to inherit. Only he and his cousin Mary, a woman he had never met, whose existence was surrounded by whispers and innuendoes, would be there along with the attorneys. ‘Soft’ they’d called her, and worse. Stories of strange behavior and unnatural occurrences followed the mention of her name.
He arrived on the train just past four o’clock. The wan sunlight of early winter and the wind blowing across the open prairie lent a sense of desolation to the already bleak landscape. He hurried to the carriage that stood waiting and introduced himself to the ancient driver who looked at him but did not climb down to help with his bags.
The house stood by a stream with a stone bridge linking the two banks. A woman he took to be his cousin stood wrapped in a dark gray cloak in the middle of it, gazing north towards the hills. She took no notice as he ascended the steps to the front door of the old manse. After an hour with the attorneys, he ventured out to meet his cousin but she was gone. He glanced around the area, the flat plains gave no concealment, but there was no one.
He stood on the bridge where she’d been, and turned at the sound of a footstep behind him. It was her, but where had she come from? She was muttering quietly, not looking at him. Next to her he saw a dark shape moving towards him. He looked across the bridge, thinking to run away from her and the dark thing next to her which had started gliding towards him. The moon was rising, casting shadows, barely lighting the ground. The thing was still coming, closing, and he could see now it was a large black dog with glowing red eyes. The air seemed to be growing colder by the minute. He turned to run but his legs felt like lead, nearly frozen. He tried to take a step and tripped, falling headfirst into the stream.
In the morning when the attorneys came back to finish some paperwork, there was no sign of him. Mary was in the front parlor, gazing out the window at flock of vultures on the ground by the stream which were pecking at the last little bits of something. The old carriage driver entered the room behind the attorneys.
“Will there be anything else, Miss Russell?” the attorney asked.
“You’ve burned the papers he signed?” she said.
“As you instructed. The copies with your signature will be filed today.”
“That’s all then, gentlemen.”
The attorneys bowed, gathered up the papers, and left.