Mark of the Shadow Part 6: Touched by a Devil
Miss the beginning? Start with part 1.
I sat on the porch with a jug’a water to keep me cool as I waited for Uncle Carlson’s return. The sun was beaten down, so I grabbed one of them straw hats to keep the sun outa my face. The sun made me mighty tired, and I didn’t wake till they was back.
I heard someone talkin.
“You sure? She looks normal enough.”
“You’re right, this was a mistake, I’m sorry boys, bring news back to town for me.”
I heard of couple horses neigh, and I shook my head. I found the hat had sunken down and was covering my face. I pried it off to see what was going on.
Two men on horseback were sayin something to my Uncle, and started to trot off. One of um decided to look back at me.
“By all thats holy, Johnson look at that,” he said.
The second man, Johnson I presumed, turned around and nearly fell off his horse just by lookin at me. I looked at my Uncle who gave me a look of pity, and then turned away.
Johnson hollered, “Man, Carlson you weren’t lyin, thats one ugly sombitch.”
The fear of confusion over what was happening, turned to anger as I realized that Carlson was afraid of me. His own niece! And he’d brought some people from town to share his misgivings with. At least thats what I thought, up until the first man pulled out a rifle from his bag, and started to load it.
“I said this was a mistake Tom. I’m calling it off,” yelled my Uncle visibly disturbed by what was happening.
“Listen man, I aint lettin you get soft for her OK? The Devils seen her. Round here,” said Tom turning to Johnson, “we don’t find the Devil as one of our friends,” the man laughed and aimed his gun at me.
I’d closed my eyes and started to cry. Guns, worst thing in the world from what I could tell. Anybody could pull the trigger, and far as I could tell, they’d do it for any reason, any chance they got. Oddly in this moment I thought back to Rolph back on the train. He’d not shot anything, seemed he knew what a gun was for.
Bang. A gunshot in the air, and a scream. Though to my surprise it was not my own.
I opened my eyes and began to sob openly. Through my tears I saw the man called Tom, had fallen off his horse, and that Johnson was kickin his horse, just as hard as he could trying to flee. I fell off the bench I’d been on, and curled up into a ball, mixing my tears with the dirty floor of the porch.
A long time later I heard, “Get up.” It was Rolph’s voice so I did. I got up.
I wiped my eyes, and nose, though it didn’t do much but smear everything around.
Rolph held Carlson by the collar, with a long hunting knife in the other hand. He threw Carlson, who I couldn’t bring myself to think of him as family now, onto the bench.
“The hell did I just see? You bring people here to hurt Anne?” yelled Rolph, who I now noticed had procured a gash the size of Texas on his forehead that oozed a mighty Rio Grande of puss.
“I just,” he paused, perhaps realizing his mistakes, “the people in town told me of a devil child. They said the town is cursed till she’s dead. I, I didn’t think she was it, but a few men offered to come look…” he trailed off.
I couldn’t follow the conversation. I was still reeling from learning that my own Uncle had tried to kill me.
“Oh, she’s been marked by the Devil alright, but she’s aint the one that I just saw to apply cold murder to a child,” Rolph said disgustedly. He bent down and picked me up, taking me to the bed, and laid me down.
“Don’t hurt him OK,” I whispered to Rolph as he set me down.
He looked into my eyes, then nodded. Rolph spent the next half-hour looking the scar on my face. He brought in Carlson for assistance occasionally. He asked me what had happened like he already knew. I told him all the same though.
“Things are progressing fast. Though truth be told, you’re showing signs of resistance uncommon in folks who been attacked twice, still you won’t be able to fight it much longer.”
“You can’t stay here,” said Carlson. “Johnson will bring back more people, maybe even get the army involved once he tells what’s happened.”
“Then you can’t stay either, unfortunately. What the hell are you good at besides plotting murder, might as well get some use out of ya,” said Rolph, grinning.
“I have been practicing my cartography skills.”
“Wonderful,” said Rolph, “Can’t wait to see those come in handy.”
In two hours we were gone. I rode with Rolph, and Carlson rode in front of us. We were headed to the Great Salt Lake.
According to Rolph, he’d been researching a cure to the mark of the shadow. He thought we were on the right trail. He told me that a map to whatever the cure was, was sunken in the Great Salt Lake around when the City was founded. All we had to do was dive to the bottom of a the biggest lake in the west, and bring this map back up.
We kept out of the city, and we made sure to keep out of the way of the Army’s camp. We set up camp shoreside, and sent Carlson into the city to buy a boat. Carlson never made it to the city.
He showed up about a half an hour after he left, with nothing to show.
“The city’s closed,” he said crashing down on the ground exhausted.
“The city can’t just be closed,” I said. “Right?”
“The army’s not lettin anyone in or out…somethings going on in there,” explained Carlson.
I shifted uneasily, not liking where I knew this was headed.
“Guess this means its time to visit the Union’s boys,” Rolph said. “Carlson…watch the lake, I guess. Anne, it’s time we put on our best bib and tucker, you’re not leaving my sight, and my sights are set on whoever’s commanding this bunch of coffee boilers of ‘soldiers’.”