Posted on Fri Aug 11th, 2017 @ 7:03pm by Stormwolfe
The Long Road Home
Location: Blackbird Lodge, Lost Lake Ranch, Kalispell, MT
Timeline: Early July 1875
Thunder shattered the night and lightning lit up the world briefly. The old house shuddered under Mother Nature's onslaught, but beyond a few moans and groans, it stood solidly against the raging storm. The boy huddled beneath the covers on his bed, praying for the storm to pass and for the night to be still although stillness brought its own kind of terror. Still, it was better than the maddening assault on one's senses by the storm.
Until the second day of June, Cody had not feared the storms, had not been frightened of the night and its sounds. All that changed in a matter of minutes. Even now, he could hear the terrified screams of his older siblings, Beth and Grant, the sounds of gunfire and the cackles and calls of the men who had attacked them. When it had all ended, his parents and siblings lay unmoving and covered in their own blood. He had huddled in the rocks nearby, watching in shocked silence as men dismounted their horses, dragged the bodies of his family into the wagon, doused it with kerosene and set it ablaze. It had been due to Grant's bravery that Cody had survived. His brother had dropped him out the side of the wagon nearest the rockfall and bade him run and hide.
Late the next day, the driver of a passing stagecoach had spotted the smoldering remains of the wagon and investigated. Cody, still wrapped in shock and fear had staggered from the rocks holding a stick, determined to protect what remained of his life. The driver, a kind man that knew Cody and his family from their occasional journeys on his coach, had gathered up the boy, wrapped him in warm blankets and given him into the safe keeping of a man and his wife who were journeying to Kalispell. In the days after, Cody had overheard how the driver had notified the officer at Fort Kalispell and Marshal Cory in Kalispell. They had tried to question him, but those memories had been buried deep and only surfaced in the night, usually after the Skinwalker visited the house.
Cody cautiously pushed the covers off his small body so that he could peer across the shadowed room. Tucked into the other bed was the form of his twin sister, Nettie. She had not been with the family on that horrible day. They had left her at home because she was sick. Nettie had not seen the horrors he had and could sleep sound even with the storm. Cody eased out of his bed and crossed to stand beside Nettie's. In between the howling of the wind and the sound of thunder, he listened intently, only relaxing when he heard her sigh softly as she turned over. Cody no longer counted the number of times that he got out of bed at night to check and make sure Nettie was still alive, still breathing. He pulled the covers back up over his sister and returned to his bed.
The storm passed and gradually the usual night sounds resumed. In the distance, Cody heard a coyote bark and then the baying of a wolf. Closer to the house, he heard the eerie sound of an owl hooting as it hunted the darkness. But those were normal sounds, and he accepted them for what they were.
Cody was only five years old, but he had a decent understanding of death. He lived on a ranch where the cycle of life was unavoidable. Besides, last summer, his puppy had gotten sick, and his father had had to put it down, so it wouldn't suffer. He'd explained to Cody that the puppy's soul, like a person's, went somewhere else when the body could no longer serve it. It was supposed to be a better place. Cody hoped so since his parents, brother, and sister were now dead too.
Then, there was the matter of the skinwalker. At least, in Cody's mind, that was the only explanation for the man. He had come a few days after the White Indians had killed his family. Ezra and Kate Hale, the ranch's foreman and his wife, had introduced him as Carson Tyndall, a family friend. Cody had seen him come and go on occasion, but his parents had never introduced him. Cody found that he was glad for that because he was sure the man was one of the creatures that Noni and Cass, his Blackfeet cousins, had told him about. Skinwalkers were one thing on the outside but something else on the inside. They looked human but were really monsters. The man's eyes looked like the eyes of the fish his father used to catch in the lake. There was nothing in them, no life there, only something that the boy was too young to identify, infinite evil.
Cody huddled back in his bed, pulling the covers over his head once more. The soft, sibilant sound of his sister's breathing finally lulled him back to sleep, but he was restless as dreams and night terrors that he did not know how to explain stalked him.