Red Rains Down

📅 Published on October 27, 2020

“Red Rains Down”

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.50/10. From 6 votes.
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Is this thing on? I see the light blinking, so I guess I’m good.

My name is Roy Harrison, and I was Sheriff of Bush County, Texas for nearly forty years. I suppose I’ve got a story to tell. A story about a city named Ashwood Heights, Texas and why it doesn’t exist anymore.

Bush County is a quiet place. Not a whole lot of crime. Teenagers would race down the long stretches of highways. Sometimes one would flip a car and get themselves killed, and you’d have their parents placing a wreath on the side of the road the next day. I saw too many of those wreaths in my time, sitting out in the sun, fading, being bleached by the light and scoured by the wind. And of course, you had your domestic disturbances. Everywhere has got ‘em. Especially during the summer, when the heat settles over the county, and the wind feels like somebody blowing a hairdryer right in your face. The heat…the heat does things to a man. Turns ‘em mean. Women, too. If a cheatin’ man was gonna meet his end by his wife’s hand, well…you could bet money it’d be done in the summer.

But when the weather turned cool and the wind brought the chill with it, things always seemed to calm down, you know? People were generally friendlier, more apt to have a church bake sale than to ‘cause some kinda ruckus. Kids ran around outside, footballs were thrown in damn near every yard, fire pits shined in backyards as neighbors got together and tossed a few back on the weekends.

I’m not a superstitious man, nor do I prescribe to astrology, seances, or any other horseshit. I believe what I can see, what I can hold in these old hands. I’m not liar either, except for the occasional white ones that we all tell from time to time. So, when I tell you in 1986, on Halloween, I saw things that I can’t rightly explain, believe me, they happened. Dear Christ, they happened.

* * * * * *

I’d parked on the side of the highway that morning, probably ‘round eleven. I was sipping my coffee and enjoying the Fall breeze comin’ through my open window. Something about the quiet highway and the breeze relaxed me right to the core, and I put my head back and closed my eyes for a bit.

I dozed off, only to be scared awake by the radio squawking.

“Sheriff?” Deputy Silva said over the air. “You there, boss?”

I grabbed the receiver while my heart did jumpin-jacks. “Yeah, I’m here. Christ, Silva, you scared the shit outta me.”

“Sorry, boss,” Silva said. “I need you over on Quincy, off Route 12. We got a twenty-seven over here and… it’s bad, boss. Real bad.”

I swallowed hard. “Say again, Silva? Did you just say you found–”

“Yeah, boss,” Silva said. “A twenty-seven.”

“Goddamnit,” I said. “I’m on the way.”

I pulled the cruiser out onto the highway and headed west.

Fifteen minutes later, I turned on to Quincy, stopping just in front of Silva’s patrol car. The deputy had parked his car longways across the street to prevent anyone else from getting by. Quincy Avenue was empty, and I was damn sure there wasn’t nobody coming through anytime soon, but it was standard procedure. The only building on the street was a derelict trailer that used to serve as an office for a used car company some ten years ago or more. The rest was just overgrown lots with grass pushing up through cracks in the concrete.

I opened my door and got out, adjusting my belt as I walked over to where Silva stood.

“Gracias a Dios,” Silva said when he saw me. “That was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.”

“Okay, calm down,” I said. “What we got here?”

Silva motioned for me to follow him and I did. We walked around to the side of the trailer and I could already see the blood runnin’ across the old concrete.

“Holy…shit,” I said, suddenly out of breath.

It was a woman, and I do mean ‘was’. What was in front of me was a pile of busted flesh and ripped clothes, bones poking up in places like accusing fingers pointing at the sky. She wasn’t just torn up, she had ruptured.

“Goddamn, Silva,” I said, leaning over and peering down at her. “How did you find her?”

“Just luck, boss,” he said. “I was driving around slow, had the windows down, nice breeze and all. And out of nowhere I hear screaming. So, I start searching around, you know? After a few minutes, I see the blood. Probably would’ve missed it, but the sun had caught it. I see that red glare and ran over, found her, then got you on the radio.”

“I’m gonna be real honest here, Silva,” I said. “I’ve seen some awful shit in my time. Teenage kids crushed in cars; people trapped in housefires. I once saw the aftermath of a bobcat attack back when I lived in canyon country. Shit, I was first on the scene when Harriet Winston chopped her husband up with a machete. But this…I ain’t seen nothing like this.”

“I have,” Silva said. “But it ain’t gonna make any sense.”

I looked up at him, squinting at the noon sun shining under the brim of my hat. “Tell me, son. Don’t keep me in suspense here.”

Silva’s expression was dark. “When I was younger, barely a teenager, I went to work with my father. He was still undocumented, so all his jobs were under the table. It was summertime, I was out of school, and mi mamá wanted me out of the house. Didn’t want me being lazy all summer, but I really think she didn’t want me hanging around the other neighborhood kids. Wasn’t a very good neighborhood. I was born here, legal, and she wanted me to be something, you know?”

I nodded. I was gettin’ impatient, but I let Silva go on because it seemed important to him to get it out.

“That year my father was working construction in Dallas. I’d tag along, and the foreman would pay me a little too for some smaller jobs around the site. Taking bags of concrete in a wheelbarrow from place to place, picking up trash, stuff like that. One day I hear people yelling, and…and I look at them, and then look up at where they’re pointing.”

“Go on,” I said.

Silva nodded. “There was a man, falling. He’d jumped from the building across the street, and it was a long way down. I watched him, and it felt like forever. Finally, he landed…and he looked like that.” He pointed to the body at our feet.

I glanced at the trailer, up at its roof. “That ain’t more than nine, ten feet. And not even a tree within a hundred yards of here.”

“I know,” Silva said. “I told you it wasn’t gonna make any sense.”

I stood and brushed the dirt off one knee. “Nothin’ here does. Go get his highness the medical examiner on the horn, and if he gives you any lip let me know. And get some of the other guys out here to get pictures. We’re gonna be awhile. Thank God it’s cool out today.”

I walked back to my cruiser, sat down inside and reclined the seat back. The paperwork could wait. I just needed a few minutes to not think about the woman on the concrete. And truth be told, I needed my nap.

Sometime later, I woke to Silva knocking on the roof of the cruiser.

“M.E. is here, boss,” he said, pointing his thumb over his shoulder.

“Alright, let me deal with the bastard,” I said.

I walked back over to the scene. Silva had put up some cones and yellow tape. Another deputy, Smith, I think, was circling the body and snapping pictures. I took a tall step over the tape and approached the body.

Don Lester was an unpleasant man, and we had a long history of buttin’ heads that don’t have nothing to do with this story.  Let’s just say that he didn’t like me, and I couldn’t stand his ass.

“Don,” I said, as cordially as I could manage.

“Sheriff Harrison,” he said. “Did you enjoy your nap? I know how much men your age need their rest.”

I wanted to remind him that we were the same damn age, but I held my tongue. If Don got his feelings hurt, he’d button up and make me wait on his damn report to get any info.

“Yes,” I said with a smile. “I did. You have any ideas about what went on here?”

Don wrinkled his nose, and his eyebrows did that thing I hate where they’d bunch together and form one long line of wiry hair.

“Ideas that could feasibly happen here. No. But if I were you, I’d be working under the assumption that it was a hit-and-run by a steamroller. But even that isn’t right ‘cause she’s only flat on one side.”

Honestly, any other day if Don told me he didn’t have a clue what was going on with a body I’d feel giddy at the thought of bustin’ his chops. But not that day.

“Okay,” I said evenly. “Is there anything you can tell me about her?”

He reached over with one gloved hand and picked up what remained of one of her arms. “Got a tattoo here. Could help identify her at least. Some kind of design with an arrow pointing–”

“Oh shit,” Silva said. I hadn’t even heard him walk up behind me. “That’s Emily Palmer. She lives like two streets over from me in Ashwood Heights. Folks call her ‘Emmy’.”

“You know her well?” I asked.

“Yeah, boss,” he said. “And you met her too. She’s Wayne Palmer’s wife. Remember in the summer we had to ride over there for a domestic disturbance?”

“Wayne’s a wife-beater?” Don asked.

I shook my head. “Nope. We had to stop her from hitting him.”

Don chuckled.

“What?” I asked. “You think domestic violence is funny?”

“No,” he said. “It’s just–”

Information be damned, I’d had enough of the prick already.

“I’m going to talk to Wayne,” I said, turning to leave. “Silva, stick around ‘til this asshole is finished bein’ useless.”

“Now wait a damn minute–” Don started, but I wasn’t listening anymore.

I got in my cruiser and headed for Ashwood Heights, preparing myself for the worst part of my job.

* * * * * *

By the time I pulled up to the Palmer residence it was getting’ close to five already. The surrounding neighborhood was all done up for Halloween. Scarecrows on porches, plastic skeletons hanging from nooses and swinging in the breeze. Cotton was spread thin across bushes, with fat rubber spiders lying in wait across the makeshift webbing. And the strangest house by a damn mile was the Palmers’.

The house had two windows that faced the street, and each had been boarded up with plywood. They’d been painted with a coat of orange so dark it was nearly red, and on top of that someone had painted long, black masks.

I hadn’t ever seen nothing like it in my life. The design was intricate, symbols and lines all flowin’ together like…shit, I don’t know. It’s as hard to remember now as it was to look at it then. All those lines, intersecting patterns. Like that fancy writing on wedding invites. Calligraphy, that’s it. Looked like calligraphy done in a made-up language, painted on masks by a goddamn psycho.

I got out of the cruiser and made my way up the sidewalk to the front porch, dead leaves cracklin’ beneath my feet. Nearly jumped out of my skin when the door swung open just as I was about to knock.

Wayne Palmer stood there in the doorway, his face pale, one hand still on the doorknob.

“Sheriff! Thank God. Is this about Emmy? She left last night, and I haven’t seen her since. When I heard your car, I was hopin’ it was her–”

“Mr. Palmer–”

“Please, call me Wayne.”

“Wayne, could I come inside?”

Wayne’s face hopeful expression collapsed. “Oh…oh no, please.”

There wasn’t going to be an easy way to say it. There never was.

“Wayne,” I said softly. “We believe we found Emmy on Quincy Avenue. She…she’s gone.”

He shook his head sharply. “No, can’t be.”

“Deputy Silva recognized the tattoo on her arm. Now, you of course have the final say in identifying her, but…yeah, Wayne. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s her.”

“You don’t get it,” Wayne said, a silent tear rolling down his face, tracing the line of his cheek. “If Emmy’s gone, then it’s over. It’s all over. She went too soon.”

I nodded. “She did, Wayne. She sure as hell did. Is there anything I can do? Maybe call somebody for you? Any relatives that can uh, help?”

Wayne shook his head again, his eyes vacant. “They’re all dead now.”

“Oh, okay then. Well, I’ll call you as soon as we get her ready for you to identify. Once again, I’m sorry for your loss, truly.”

Wayne nodded and started to close the door, but then stopped, a sliver of his face showing through the crack.

“I can make this right, Sheriff,” he said. “If I hurry.”

I’m sure I looked puzzled. What else would I have looked like? He wasn’t making any sense. But grief does strange things, so I just nodded, tipped my hat, and walked back to the cruiser.

My ass had barely hit the seat when Silva came over the radio.

“Boss? You there?”

I thumbed the button. “Yeah, Silva?”

“The clean-up guys got here, and the M.E. got a better look at her other side.”

I rubbed my eyes with one hand and pinched the bridge of my nose, readying myself for whatever craziness was about to land in my lap.

“Alright, Silva. Tell me.”

“Well, it’s kinda hard to describe, ‘cause the damn things in pieces, but it looks like she was wearing some kind of mask.”

My gaze immediately landed on the boarded windows on the Palmers’ house.

“Let me take a wild stab in the dark on this one,” I said. “Orange, maybe red, with black lines and shit drawn all over it?”

It took a second for Silva to respond. “Yeah, that’s it. How’d you know that?”

“Lucky guess,” I said and sighed. “I’ll meet you back at the office. We can talk about it there.”

“Okay, sounds good, boss. Let’s hope the rest of Halloween happens without any more crazy shit.”

I started the cruiser’s engine. “Your lips to God’s ears, Silva.”

Yeah, we hoped. But sometimes hope don’t amount to shit.

* * * * * *

By the time I pulled into our parking lot, the sun had dipped below the tree line and the sky was purple in the twilight.

I headed for my office, hopin’ to relax for a damn minute, and was surprised to find Silva already waiting on me, along with Don Lester.

“Ah, Don,” I said, and sat down in my chair. “So nice to see you again so soon.”

“Listen, Roy,” he said, his lips almost fightin’ his next words. “I… I’m sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have laughed. It wasn’t funny.”

“Holy shit,” I said to Silva. “I got a dead woman splattered in the middle of nowhere, and Don Lester just apologized to me. This day is chock full of surprises.”

I thought I’d at least get a smile from Silva, but his face was stern.

“Give him chance, okay, boss?”

I turned in my chair and faced Don. “Alright, shoot.”

“I don’t know why it happened,” Don said. “And it’s pretty damn obvious how she died. Don’t need my report to tell you that.”

“Then why are you here, Don?”

He licked his lips and leaned forward in his chair. “Something is wrong here, Roy. She had on that mask thing that I can’t even look at without my head achin’. And that tattoo wasn’t the only one neither. Her whole torso was covered in them, everywhere a shirt would cover too, like she was hiding them.”

Now I know we’re a bit more liberal about things nowadays, but a woman with a lot of tattoos tryin’ to keep ‘em a secret really wasn’t a shock to me at the time.

“Well, I’m sure she had her reasons,” I said. “What else? Gotta be something else that’s got you this spooked.”

“She had frostbite, Roy,” Don said. “I couldn’t tell ‘til we turned her over and got a better look, but it’s sure as shit there. Her face, her fingers, toes, you name it.”

I laughed, not because it was funny, just because what the hell else was I supposed to do with that information?

“Let me think this through: Emmy Palmer was freezin’, still alive enough to get frostbite, then exploded like a dropped watermelon all over a parking lot?”

Don shook his head. “I don’t know what to tell you, Roy. The frostbite is there. I don’t have any idea why, but it’s there.”

“Noted,” I said. “Silva, would you escort Don here out. I’m sure he’s got paperwork to do or something.”

Don stood, his chest puffed out and his hands shaky. “I can see myself out. Think about what I said, Roy. Something funny is going on here.”

And with that said, he left.

“What in the hell?” I said. “Frostbite? I ain’t seen frostbite in… maybe never.”

Silva leaned against the wall and looked up to the ceiling. “It’s like we’re getting further away from the truth the more info we get.”

“Sometimes that’s just the way it is,” I said, nodding. “Ain’t nothing more to be done about it tonight. Why don’t you go on home? I know your girl is gonna be chompin’ at the bit to get out there and get some candy. What’s her get-up this year?”

“Red Riding Hood,” Silva said with a smile. “Going with a classic this year. I was going to walk around with her with a wolf mask on, but I don’t really feel like wearing a mask after today.”

I laughed. “Ain’t that the damn truth. Go on home, Silva. I’ll start the paperwork.”

“Thanks, boss,” he said. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Have a good one,” I said.

He stopped at the door. “Oh, and Happy Halloween.”

“Get the hell out of here, Silva,” I said.

He laughed and left. I pulled a new folder from my desk, grabbed a pen, and wrote “Emily Palmer” across the top.

* * * * * *

I was about finished with the initial report when the phone rang.

I picked it up. “Bush County Sheriff,” I said, looking at my watch. It was after nine already.

“Sheriff Harrison? It’s Sheila Baker, in Ashwood Heights. Have you got a moment?”

“Yes, Mrs. Baker. Everything okay?”

“Well,” she said, then hesitated. “I ain’t sure. My son, Bradley, went out around six with his friends for trick-or-treating. Now the other boys have all come home, but ain’t nobody seen Bradley. They swear they was with him the whole time, but he’s just gone.”

I grabbed my notepad from my pocket. “I’m sure he’s fine, but I’ll come drive around and see if I can’t spot him, okay? What was he wearing tonight?”

“He dressed like a vampire. He’s got a white button-up shirt, black cape. His face is painted white. Oh, and he’s wearing jeans ‘cause I wouldn’t about to let him run around with his good church pants on.”

“Probably a good idea,” I said. “Alright, Mrs. Baker. I’ll be ‘round there shortly to take a look.”

I stood and grabbed my jacket off the hook. I didn’t even get both my arms in the sleeves before the phone rang again.

I picked up the receiver and held it between my head and shoulder. “Bush County Sheriff.”

“Hey, sheriff, it’s Pete Stanfield.”

Now I knew Pete. Him and his wife ran a diner that was a favorite haunt of mine.

“Hey, Pete. What can I do for you?”

“Now, I might be blowin’ this out of proportion, but Lila was supposed to be home an hour ago and we ain’t seen hide nor hair of her.”

“Huh,” I said, my wheels turning in a direction I didn’t want to go. “I’m gonna head that way, Pete. Tell me what she was wearing.”

“It’s that cartoon warrior woman, uh, Shera. No, She-Ra. It’s like a white dress and red cape outfit. With a blonde wig. Got on a gold crown, too.”

I wrote it all down. “Okay, Pete. I’ll get back to you as soon as I know somethin’.”

“Thanks, Roy. We really appreciate it.”

I pressed the button to get a new line and dialed Silva’s number. His wife, Maria, picked up.

“Hola, Roy,” she said. “If you’re looking for Julio, he’s still out getting candy with Jessie.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured. Will you tell him to get me on the radio when you see him?”

“Sure,” she said. “Everything good?”

No, I thought. Everything is not good.

“Yeah, just had to ask him somethin’. I gotta get on the road. Thanks, Maria.”

“De nada,” she said. “Bye, Roy.”

I didn’t run out of the office, but I damn sure was doing more than walking. I jumped in the cruiser and pulled out onto the highway. I flipped the flashers on, staining the night in pulses of blue, but I left the siren off. Didn’t want to panic nobody, or maybe I didn’t want to panic myself. All these years later and I still ain’t sure which.

* * * * * *

I made it to Ashville Heights in record time, but slowed down in the city proper, wary of kids still running around the streets. I cruised at a crawl, scanning from side to side, looking for any kids that matched the descriptions their parents had given me. I saw plenty of ghosts, a few witches, some cartoon characters whose names I couldn’t tell you then or now. But no She-Ra, and no vampires wearing blue jeans.

About ten minutes into my search I found Silva, still in uniform, and standing stock-still on the sidewalk.


I stopped the cruiser next to him and got out. “Silva!” I said. “What are you doing?”

He looked at me like he’d just woke up. “Boss? I… I don’t know.”

“Where’s Jessie?” I asked as I walked over to him.

He looked down, confused. “She was right here,” he said.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “Julio, wake up, son. I got calls about two missing kids and now you’re telling me you don’t know where Jessie is?”

“We were walking,” he said. “And we came up to this house and knocked, but…I don’t know what happened next.”

I looked up at the house, somehow surprised and unsurprised in equal measure. The black masks painted on the boarded-over windows seem to look right at me. Some people were stepping down from the porch, all adults, and all confused.

“Stay right here, Silva,” I said and approached the group.

“Hey folks,” I said. “I’m Sheriff Harrison. Have any of you seen–”

The man closest to me suddenly cried out. “Where’s James?! James!”

And then he fell silent again, blinking and continuing to trudge to the sidewalk.

I turned and yelled for Silva. “Silva, come with me.”

He continued to stand, swaying with the breeze.

“Deputy Silva, that’s an order!”

He shook his head. “Right, boss. I’m with you.”

We stepped on Palmer’s unlit porch, and I thumbed the leather strap from the top of my revolver. Silva looked at me, alarmed, but he followed suit.

I knocked twice. “Wayne? It’s Sheriff Harrison. Mind coming to the door? I just have a few questions that need answerin’.”

The knob turned and the door creaked open. Wayne stood there, backlit by six burning candles on a table. Sweat ran from his head, down his neck, and over his bare chest. Tattoos covered most of his torso, running from his clavicles down to his navel.

“Sheriff,” he said weakly. “I was hoping you’d come later, but that’s okay. Everything is okay now.”

“Wayne,” I said, then hesitated, looking over the whirls and lines drawn into his skin. “We’re looking for some missing children. Have you seen any…unaccompanied kids around?”

Wayne nodded. “Yes. I took six in all.”

I don’t know if I can describe what I felt then. Adrenaline flooded my body and my stomach seemed to fall right through the ground.

I drew my revolver.

“I’m gonna ask you to step back and turn around now, Wayne,” I said, trying to sound calm. “Let’s go ahead get your hands behind your back.”

He did as he was told, turning and placing his hands at the small of his back.

“Silva, cuff him,” I said.

But Silva didn’t move. “Wait, I remember…you bastard!” he cried.

He blew past me and tackled Wayne Palmer to the floor. All of Wayne’s breath came out in a rush of air as he hit the hardwood.

“This pendejo took Jessie!” Silva said, pinning Wayne’s arms down. “He fucking drugged me or something! Shit, I don’t know, but he took her, boss!”

I knelt beside Wayne. His head was against the hardwood, his cheek pressed flat, blood running from both nostrils.

“Where are the kids, Wayne?” I said. “Don’t make this shitty situation any worse. Just tell us where they are.”

“They’ve ascended,” Wayne said.

Silva pressed his knee into Wayne’s back. “What the hell does that mean?!”

“I told you earlier, Sheriff,” Wayne grunted. “Emmy went too soon. It had to be tonight, I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen.”

“What had to be tonight?” I said.

Wayne looked at me like I was the dumbest man on planet Earth. “Do you even know what Halloween is? It’s a ritual that all of us take part in, even if most of us never know it.”

“I’m gonna ask you again,” I said slowly. “Where are the kids?”

“Every year, millions of people camouflage their children, hide their faces from the vengeful dead that won’t rest,” Wayne said. “And they go door-to-door, taking offerings to appease them. It’s all there if you’d only pay attention. But that isn’t the end of it. Six children, chosen at random, are masked and sent in front of the gates to make offerings: memories, emotions, feelings. Everything the jealous dead have forgotten.”

“You got three seconds to stop the bullshit and start making sense,” Silva said.

Wayne sighed. “When the children come back, they’ll be the only ones to remember, but not until they’re adults. They’ll grow up, move away, and become the ritualists themselves in whatever city or town they settle in. Emmy thought she could perform the ritual herself, give up a lifetime of offerings, before the thinning between worlds began. She didn’t want more kids to end up like us, performing the ritual year after year. Centuries of successful rituals should have shown her she was wrong. That’s what we were arguing about over the summer, when ya’ll showed up. I tried to convince her, and she went crazy. Doesn’t matter now, she’s gone, so I finished the work without her.”

Silva pulled his revolver and shoved the barrel into the bunched skin at the back of Wayne’s neck.

“Silva!” I said. “Put it away! We ain’t gonna learn anything if he’s dead. I’ll stay with him; you search the house.”

“They ain’t here,” Wayne said. “I already told you that.”

“Then where, Wayne!” I yelled. “Enough of this crap! Tell us where they are!”

“Just be patient,” Wayne said. “All you have to do is wait, the ritual will end, and the children will be back, safe and sound. Just wait until midnight, and this will all be over until next year.”

“Go ahead and search the house,” I told Silva.

“Don’t move, asshole,” Silva said, and snapped the cuffs over each of Wayne’s wrists. He got up and started for the front hall, his hip bumping the small table. The candles wobbled; their flames wavered but soon stilled.

“Careful!” Wayne screamed. “Don’t touch them!”

Silva looked down at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“The candles!” Wayne said, panic creeping into his voice. “They’re a sympathetic link to them, it keeps them warm and safe from–”

I didn’t have time to say anything, don’t really know what I would’ve said anyway. What did I care about the candles? All we were focusing on was finding the kids.

Silva leaned over, looked Wayne in the eye, and blew one of the candles out.

“No!” Wayne screamed. “Stop! If the ritual fails, this city is gone. Everyone, and I mean everyone will forget it ever existed. The dead will consume the memories for just a taste of life again. It will all crumble–”

“Where’s my daughter?” Silva said. “Tell me, or I’ll blow them all out like it’s my goddamn birthday.”

“Please,” Wayne pleaded. “She will be back, I swear. Just be patient–”

Silva went down the row of candles, blowing them out one by one.

Wayne’s lip trembled, and he began to sob.

“Jesus, Silva,” I scowled. “That didn’t help anything. You think he’ll talk now?”

Wayne said something between sobs.

“What?” I said. “I don’t understand you.”

Wayne lifted his tear-streaked face. “They… are all… dead. And you won’t even have a memory of them to mourn.”

Outside, someone screamed.

I jumped to my feet and headed for the door, Silva followin’ on my heels.

People had come out of their homes and were looking around to each other. Costumed kids and their parents stood still, each as confused as the other.

Somebody, no idea who, yelled “Look! Up there!”

And we did.

Dark shapes were speeding towards us from the sky, screaming and screeching. For less than a second, I believed Wayne Palmer. I was convinced that ghosts, or demons, or some otherworldly shit had broken through. And they were coming for us.

But then I remembered Emmy Palmer, and realization struck me like lightning.

“Go back inside, Silva,” I said.

“What? Why?” he said. “What’s happening?”

“Julio, please go,” I cried. “Get away from here!”

But it was too late.

There were no demons descending from the clouds, just six costumed children, screaming in terror as they fell from God knows how high up in the sky. High enough to get frostbite, I knew. High enough to where the air was thin and cut like a blade of ice.

I… I’m not going to describe what happened. If you’ve listened this far then you can imagine. The fate of Emmy Palmer and the fates of those children were one and the same, right down to the masks on their faces.

The world erupted in screams. Parents screamed and grabbed their children tightly, children screamed at a mixture of their parents’ terror and at the horror that was spread out in the street before their eyes, still spreading. Blood… blood was everywhere.

I couldn’t move, not an inch. I didn’t move when Silva walked over to the crushed heap of bodies. I didn’t move when he lifted the red, hooded cloak to see what was beneath. And I didn’t move when he walked past me, up the porch steps and back into the house, and shot Wayne Palmer six times.

I tilted my head up to the sky, and up above, way up above, was a face. A face of clouds and moonlight, of stars and the thin spaces between stars. Where reality was pulled taut by the hands of the idiot dead who will not rest.

I stared at it, and it stared at me. I finally looked away, unable to stand its gaze any longer.

Things get…fuzzy, from there. I don’t remember much of the rest of that night. Truth be told, I didn’t remember any of it until this morning when I woke up shivering and tangled in my bed sheets.

I remember driving home, and feeling like there was a weight, some oppressive force bearing down on me.

I remember forgetting.

The next day, Silva showed up to work like nothin’ had happened. At some point I asked how much candy Jessie ended up with.

“Who?” Silva asked, one eyebrow raised in confusion.

I took another sip of my coffee. “You know…” I started but couldn’t finish.

Because I didn’t know. Not anymore.

Over the next few months or so, people began to move away from Ashville Heights for all sorts of reasons. Sick relatives, better school districts, new jobs. But I know now those weren’t the real reasons. The city was just over and done, like it was slowly bein’ erased. I stayed on as sheriff, and even though I didn’t live in Ashville Heights, I did move farther away from it. Couldn’t have said why, just that I didn’t want to be near it. Even the buildings had begun to disappear, one by one.

Now that I think on it, I don’t believe that Wayne and Emmy weren’t alone in the world. I think there’s people everywhere that prepare for when things are at their thinnest, when the door is open just a crack. And when it’s time, they perform the ritual, and everything goes right back to normal. And if everything goes sideways, if some anxious father blows out the wrong candles…then it’s over. The memories fade, the place withers and dies.

I know it’s true. Because why, after all these years, am I remembering this shit now?

I’ll tell you why: because it’s Halloween today, and somebody fucked up.

Whoever’s on ritual duty here is going to fail tonight. I can feel it somehow. And come tomorrow this city, my city, will start to wither, then blow away like dust. How many cities have been lost over all the years? How many civilizations?

Christ, why am I just realizin’ this now? ‘Cause I needed to tell the story first? Did I have to remind myself?

I don’t know, but I’ve got about five hours to figure out who’s in charge of this city’s ritual, if they’re still alive. I need to know what I can do to help.

Check the map tomorrow, and if there’s an empty spot where Green Creek, Texas used to be, well…you’ll know why. But you won’t, will you? No one will. We’ll just become part of the vast emptiness far above our heads, forgotten and lost between the stars.

Rating: 8.50/10. From 6 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ryan Harville

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