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Everything was Well

Story ID:11139
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:New York New York United States
Year:2016
Person:Contest entry
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I entered into the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short story Contest this weekend.

This is the topic and word count I received. Below that is my entry.

The dark water racing under the bridge contrasted sharply with
the yellow and orange leaves riding atop the ripples. Balding
maple trees shadowed the riverbank while the remains of a
cornfield rustled violently in the cold wind. Standing on the
cobblestones by his trusty wooden cart, he shivered. It was going
to be a bad winter but they were well prepared. Suddenly, a
strong gust brought the sound of maniacal laughter. He stepped
quickly to the back of the cart, and threw back the burlap
cover...

~~~~~

**IMPORTANT NOTE!! We have added a list of "common themes"
to this notification. Please read that now to avoid
submitting a story that will be too similar to others.**

**WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 940


Everything was Well

It was their favorite time of year. The colors of fall always thrilled them. They
got into their car, drove down the street, turned left and merged onto the Palisade Parkway.
The Parkway followed the cliffs on the west side of the Hudson River.
For the next sixty miles, they drove through a tunnel of color. Leaves of red, yellow,
orange and too many other colors clung precariously from the branches of their parent tree.
A soft breeze created a colorful blizzard. The leaves swirled in the drafts created
by the cars ahead of them.
They arrived at Bear Mountain, New York a few hours later.
They walked the trails. The trees, decorated in their fall finest, towered over them.
They approached a small lake. Leaves floated on the surface. The calm water reflected the trees
on the far shore.
She raised her camera to capture the beauty.
After two snaps of her camera, they heard maniacal laughter.
They turned and saw a man dressed in black, throw back the burlap cover of his horse-
drawn wagon. They both heard him say, “Be quiet girl!”
His eyes scanned the surroundings. He didn’t see the couple standing at the edge of
the lake.
The man in black climbed onto his seat, snapped the reins and moved on.
She felt the hairs on her neck rise, as the man in black passed by. The horse’s hooves
clip-clopped on the stone path.
He turned to her, “What was that?”
“I’m not sure, but it freaked me out.” She paused. “What was that laughter?’
“It didn’t sound right to me.”
She gripped his arm hard enough to make him wince. “We need to follow them.”
He pulled his arm free, took out his phone and wasn’t surprised to see, that in this
remote area, he had no signal. “We obviously can’t call for help. We’re on our own.” He looked
into her wide and frightened eyes. “Come on!”
The horse-drawn cart was slow. They were able to follow at a distance without being
detected and not falling behind.
The cart made a turn to the left. They were on a trail they haven’t noticed on there
many fall excursions to the mountain. He brushed a leaf that fell from a tree and stuck to
the sweat of his balding head. It was very quiet. All they heard was the horse’s hooves
on the trail, their own breathing and the occasional snap, as another leaf completed its
life cycle and fell to the ground.
The trail was clear, except for the soft blanket of leaves they waded through. The trees
became thicker. The sun blocked, by the foliage, barely touched the ground. In a week or two,
all the leaves would be on the ground, and the sun’s winter-weak glow would start the next
cycle of life. The leaves would rot and create new material to feed the next year of life.
They heard the rustling of leaves. When they looked up, they realized they were
surrounded by men dressed in black.
She gripped his hand. “What the heck?”
“Just be calm.” He said. “Let’s see what they want.
Deep down, he wanted to take her hand and drag her back down the trail to safety,
but they were surrounded. They had no choice.
A large man, his black hat canted on an angle to the left, approached them. He looked
into his eye. “Where do you think you are going, brother?”
“Um …we heard a girl scream in the back of that cart.” He pointed in the direction
the cart had gone, but it was out of view now. These men allowed it the time it needed to
get away. He felt sweat roll down his face. “We thought there was trouble and wanted to help.”
“Your help is not wanted here, brother. This is our land.”
“We heard the girl scream.”
“They always do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Every year we select a young woman, who is coming of age.”
He paled, “A sacrifice?”
The man’s black hat almost slipped from his head, as he double up with laughter.
The other men joined him. “Sacrifice? Oh, that’s a good one.”
Once their laughter ended, the lead man looked at him, “Come! You’ll see.”
Against their better judgement, they followed.
They came to a clearing. The cart sat in the middle of a circle of an excited group
of all ages. The back of the cart popped open. A girl of about thirteen stood up and began
handing out apples, potatoes, squash and a variety of other fruit and vegetables.
The man with the tilted hat leaned closer. “This is our harvest celebration. We always
chose a girl coming of age to share God’s gift. Sometimes they get scared closed up in the
dark of the carriage.”
Everything was well in the forest.
On their way home, they reflected on the simplicity of the people in the woods.
They appreciated what nature provided.

Michael T. Smith

Word Count: 829