Friday, July 27, 2007

Prologue: Bought with Blood, Part I

Dawn painted the sky in hues of blood. Sunlight had started to wash across the land, but lacked the strength yet to penetrate thick shadows huddling beneath the stand of pecan trees. A campfire at the grove's center pushed the darkness back a little ways. A man dressed in ripped and tattered clothing crouched well inside that small circle of light, hunkering nearly on top of the flames despite the summer morning warmth. His blue eyes, unblinking, remained fixed on the diminishing blaze as if it were the last source of light in the world. rumenia webradio

The man's legs trembled. He grimaced and tried to settle to his knees. The motion dropped him to his butt. He caught himself with hands flat on the ground. A whimper escaped his throat as he caught sight of his right hand half in the shadows. His shoulder jerked, but the appendage remained still, as if nailed to the earth. Then it began to slide, away from the fire and into darkness.

Grasping his elbow with the other hand, the man leaned back and heaved. His right arm quivered like a tent rope. His feet dug furrows in the dirt. His wrist slipped into shadow. Cords stood out on his neck as he pulled harder. While he struggled, the sunlight grew and shadows lessened slightly. He fell back, just stopping himself from landing on the fire. He sat up, locks of greasy, black hair quivering as he shook. He ignored the long, bloody scratches that covered his wrist and hand. Similar injuries marked his arms and face and peered through rips in his dinghy wool shirt and pants. Tears cut tracks through the blood and dirt on his cheeks.

Just like little Abigail, Matthew thought. I should have kept her closer to the fire. I was so sure we were safe. His fingers traced patterns in the dirt where his six-year-old daughter had lain wrapped in her favorite green-striped blanket. She had looked so peaceful, watching her lifted some of his sorrow. He stared so intently he barely noticed when she kicked one corner of her blanket into the night beyond. Besides, her foot remained in the light. Abigail wore a small smile that never left her face even when the blanket grew taut and slid her into the darkness. Matthew had leapt over the fire and tried to grab his daughter. He never found her, no more than he had her brother or mother. But something cold had snatched at him, ripping flesh and cloth alike in its eagerness to have him. Somehow, he managed to pull free and fall, shaking, back to the campfire.

He stayed there the rest of the night, staring at the flames. Nothing you could have done. That's what he tried to tell himself, but another voice spoke louder: You should have known better, Matthew. Hadn't he heard his wife scream out there? Should have been me. He'd refused when she asked him to go get her brush, complaining he was tired after the long haul in the wagon. It took them all day to journey the twenty miles north from Paris, the last leg of a long, exhausting trip from San Antonio. Of course, they were all tired. Martha nagged him from the time he got up to hitch their old, scrawny horses until they stopped near sunset in this stand of pecan trees just south of the Red River. Abigail whined the entire way, and Jonathan, so sure of himself and the experience of his fifteen years, kept glancing sideways at his father and making little comments about how he should have left the family in San Antonio and traveled up here to build the house first. As if the boy could have talked Martha out of coming. If he was going to drag her away from her kin to settle some homestead the Republic had granted him for his service in the war with Mexico, by Heaven, she was coming along to make sure he did it right. All told, it made for a perfectly miserable day. Only rain might have made it worse, and the August sun beating down on him more than made up for the lack.

Somehow, he managed to keep his silence. He didn't want to spoil their new beginning here, even if it meant sore teeth from clenching his jaw all day. When they arrived, Matthew slid off the wagon seat and straightened with a grunt, fist pressed against his spine as he stood. Martha stepped up beside him. She smiled slightly as she scanned the stand of pecan trees. "Pretty enough, I suppose, and the shade will be welcome until you get our house built." She turned and wagged a finger under his nose. "Don't you go cutting down all those trees, either. You've got plenty of land here to farm without taking those down."

He scowled and unhitched the horses. It had only been a passing thought. No telling how she had guessed, but he'd long since stopped trying to figure that one out. So far as he could tell, all women could read men's minds. Even Abigail had started showing signs of it. He rubbed the horses down and tied them on long leads to the wagon, then grabbed his bedroll and cooking gear from the back.

Matthew marched into the middle of the grove and dumped everything on the ground with a loud rattle. He breathed deeply and smiled. The sun still hung above the horizon, but already shadows lay thick under the trees. The shade cut the heat to a surprising degree, although something here set him on edge. Shadows seemed to shift and stretch when he wasn't looking, although they remained still enough when he looked straight at them. He shrugged and set about gathering firewood, glancing at the wagon every now and then. Martha stood between their children, arms folded and foot tapping. All three stared at him working. Finally, they took the hint and gathered their own things. What did they expect after their attitude today? He shook his head. They probably expected I'd keep doing everything like I have this entire trip. Well, not any more. We've all got too much to do. The sooner they learn that, the better.


Part II coming Monday!


rumenia webradio


At July 26, 2007 11:38 PM , Blogger Jodi Lee said...

Wonderful start, Jeff!rumenia webradio  

At July 27, 2007 7:35 AM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

Looks like your kicking it off with a bang, Jeff!rumenia webradio  

At July 27, 2007 1:19 PM , Blogger pat.jan said...

Maybe a budding Stephen King. I've gotten the first 2 sections and they will keep me readingrumenia webradio  

At July 29, 2007 7:18 PM , Blogger Dale L. Murphy said...

Jeff what a great start. I can't wait to read more of this story. Oh did I tell ya I love that name Jennings Grove? If you don't believe me just ask Bret. :-)rumenia webradio  

Post a Comment rumenia webradio

rumenia webradio

<< Home rumenia webradio