Sunday, October 30, 2005

We Are Six, I Guess


As previoulsy mentioned, over at Dark But Shining they had a contest to reconfigure some classic lit with a horror bent. I didn't place but I'm sure fun was had by all. They've been posting the top 3 over the weekend at the site, but here's my entry anyways!

The old stage coach was rumbling along the dusty road that runs from Maplewood to Riverboro. The day was as warm as midsummer, though it was only the middle of May, and Mr. Jeremiah Cobb was favoring the horses as much as possible, yet never losing sight of the fact that he carried the mail. The hills were many, and the reins lay loosely in his hands as he lolled back in his seat and extended one foot and leg luxuriously over the dashboard. His brimmed hat of worn felt was well pulled over his eyes, and he revolved a quid of tobacco in his left cheek.

There was one passenger in the coach -- a small dark-haired person in a glossy buff calico dress. She was so slender and so stiffly starched that she slid from space to space on the leather cushions, though she braced herself against the middle seat with her feet and extended her cotton-gloved hands on each side, in order to maintain some sort of balance. Whenever the wheels sank farther than usual into a rut, or jolted suddenly over a stone, she bounded involuntarily into the air, came down again, pushed back her funny little straw hat, and picked up or settled more firmly a small pink sun shade, which seemed to be her chief responsibility -- unless we except a bead purse, into which she looked whenever the condition of the roads would permit, finding great apparent satisfaction in that its precious contents neither disappeared nor grew less. Mr. Cobb guessed nothing of these harassing details of travel, his business being to carry people to their destinations, not, necessarily, to make them comfortable on the way. Indeed he had forgotten the very existence of this one unnoteworthy little passenger.

The second thought of his charge for the day came unexpectedly to Mr. Cobb when he imagined the presence of another person next to him at the reigns. He turned his head slightly to see a delicate, gloved hand flip open the blade of a barber’s razor and bring it against his neck. The blade was so finely sharpened that Mr. Cobb could hardly notice the cut being made across his throat. The horses began to slow their pace as his grip on the reigns faltered, he tried desperately to regain hold but the sickening sensation of lightheadedness mixed with a perplexing fear prevented such a simple exercise. He gave a sputtered cough and spit up a portion of his tobacco, the unsightly trail of spittle made its way down his chin and onto his neck to mix with a surprising volume of accumulating blood. Mr. Cobb’s last thought was that it would be a most difficult stain to remove from his collar.

The coach had rolled to a slow stop, the horses now standing still with indifference. The body of the driver fell limply to the side and then clear off the coach onto the road with a dull thud. Standing at the dash holding a razor in a casually outstretched hand was the dark-haired girl in her calico dress, not a spot of blood on her person nor expression on her face to suggest her part in the events of minutes past. The razor was wiped clean of its crimson blemish on the felt hat that remained on the seat of the stage, and was then folded and placed ever so carefully back into the small bead purse. While Mr. Jeremiah Cobb’s story would appear to have come to an end, the one for the sole passenger of a stranded coach was just beginning.

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