Dan Holden's Creative Writing
Not because the crow flew over his shoulder…that happened every day. He’d sat on the stairs of the abandoned desert house every day, and crows few over all the time.
Nor was he worried that nobody ever drove down the remote desert road in the distance. He kinda liked his solitude.
And it wasn’t because he’d accidentally stabbed himself in the foot with a pitchfork in the barn. Bear was just naturally clumsy that way, so he expected aches and pains now and again.
What really had him worried was the red dress draped over the chair in the house.
It wasn’t there the night before.
Bear didn’t like sleeping in the house, it was too old and creepy for his taste. He was especially creeped-out by the 100-year-old beetle collection in the cellar. Some of the beetles were so large and so well preserved, they looked like they could take themselves off their pins and walk away at any moment.
Bear preferred to sleep in the wide open barn, with boards so old that he could see between them, even in the dead of night when starlight filtered through, illuminating the entire barn in a cool blue glow.
But this morning, after Bear stabbed himself with the pitchfork, he set his fears aside and went into the house to find something to dress his wound. That’s when he noticed the dress.
The breeze through the open door set the cotton slipover blowing gently on the high-backed chair, giving it a life that dresses simply shouldn’t have. It was a completely new addition to the house; he could smell the owner’s fragrance all over the faded calico pattern.
So rather than foray further into the house, Bear simply turned around and left as swiftly and silently as he could, not even closing the door behind him.
Bear thought about leaving this place entirely, hiking back to the cabin he had occupied all that long winter before. It was on much higher ground, where he could see for miles, but it was considerably colder at night, even in the middle of summer. He really wasn’t anxious to return to that.
So he crawled up to the loft of the barn and sat there, his foot raised on an old straw pile to reduce the swelling. He could see the house clearly through the slats in the barn. He lay there for a while, thinking nothing about nothing, until he dozed off in the cool morning air.
He woke with the hair on the back of his neck shooting up like there was a wolf at his ear. But it wasn’t a wolf, it was the snarling, whining sound of the old water pump down by the house. Bear squinted into the blinding light at the dusty yard below. The red dress was at the water pump, and this time the dress was occupied.
She was a tall Mexican-looking woman, with long wavy brown hair and tanned skin adorning a softly curving, toned body. Her face was at once stunning and earthy, with a strong jaw and a broken nose that attested to a hard life. Her deep cleavage defied the blazing sun as she pumped at the well.
He looked around to see how the woman might have gotten there. There was no car, no horse, not even a recent track in the sand but his own.
And yet she seemed so perfectly at home, like she had been there the whole time.
It was kinda creepy. Bear decided to stay in the loft and watch for more developments.
As the sun rose the temperature in the barn began to soar. He could hear wood expanding and splitting in the heat. But he dared not come down from his vantage point.
For some time now, the woman in the red dress stayed in the house, seemingly cleaning it up. He occasionally heard dishes clanging and chairs scraping across the floor.
When she came out with a bucket for more water, he shifted slightly for a better view. She filled the bucket and then tested the water with her hand, wiping it on her dress. Then she unbuttoned the front of her dress, and crossing her arms, pulled it up slowly over her glorious body, over her perfect face and thick brown hair, and tossed it aside, onto the porch.
Bear inched closer to the barn wall. The woman was gorgeous, in a strong, voluptuous, richly tanned way. He imagined himself lifting her heavy breasts and beautiful brown nipples to his waiting lips…
She dipped her hand into the water bucket and pulled out a smaller cup, which she proceeded to pour over her hair and face, letting the gleaming liquid cascade down the entire length of her body, dripping into little explosions of dust on the parched ground below. She rubbed each cup of the cool water all over herself, caressing with abandon, and then wiped herself dry, though the blazing sun made short work of it.
Walking slowly to the porch, she tossed the steaming towel over a rail, pulled her hair back over her shoulders and slipped the dress back on. It clung to her smouldering body all the way into position, soaking up water and attaching itself to her like an adoring kiss.
She turned around and sat on the porch, where Bear usually sat, and raised her face to the sun. Her full lips and wide face were glorious to Bear.
She sat there humming and swaying gently for a couple of minutes, her dress slowly sliding down her thigh. He dismissed the urge to believe she was baiting him, like a hooker on a Vegas side street.
After a while she stood up and made toward the door of the house. Then she turned around, her upper body blending into the shadows of the porch roof, and said loudly, “Are you gonna stay up there all day or are you gonna come in for a glass of lemonade?”
Bear was stunned. He was sure that she didn’t know he was there. Perhaps she saw his footprints, and realized they were new.
Or maybe she was talking to someone else.
Bear looked around through the walls of the barn. Daylight blasted through every recess, but he could see nothing beyond but the scrub grass of the desert and rocks.
He decided not to respond. It wasn’t like he wasn’t interested in the lady…every muscle in his body wanted to get up and go to her…but he was still unsure of the situation. Was someone else there? Did she have a husband who would be home soon? Where did she come from?
Bear decided he needed answers first. So he sat there, unmoving, as day turned into evening, and evening into night. The woman came out to the porch a couple of times, looking nowhere in particular, at times tugging her dress from her hot body, leaning against the porch upright. Then she sighed and went back into the house.
As night fell, Bear realized that he was hungry enough that he had to do something. He couldn’t stay in the loft and ignore his stomach. He had to get some food.
Rather than go into the house, which was now lit by a single candle in an upstairs bedroom, Bear decided to hunt for food in the desert.
Bear had lived in open country for nearly 20 years, learning survival skills from an old hunter who had lived in the same uncharted territory for many years before him. The man had disappeared several years back. Bear always assumed he slipped into a rockfall in the hills up above, but he never could find him.
Bear went behind the barn and uncovered the shallow hole along the back wall. Inside was a weathered canvas roll, including a compound bow and arrows and a shotgun. Bear took the bow and arrows and an extra bag, leaving the shotgun behind. No sense in waking the desert flower up, he thought warmly. It was the first warm thought he’d had for another person in a very long time.
Bear crept further behind the barn, toward the low foothills, scanning the ground for jackrabbits. It didn’t take long to find one. Bear drew an arrow into the powerful bow and let it fly; it hit the rabbit mid-hop and sent it flipping backwards into the sand.
“Betcha didn’t expect that!” he said to the rabbit, picking it up by the arrow. He kept walking until he was far enough out of range of the house to make a fire without being noticed. He pulled out his old box knife, skinned and gutted the animal, and skewered it over the low fire to slow cook.
“You must be proud of yourself,” called the woman from the darkness behind him. Bear shot to his feet and turned to see her. She was still wearing the red dress, only now her body was glowing golden in the light of the fire. Her huge dark eyes sparkled and her full hair blew back behind her ears, revealing twinkling earings that made her look like a goddess who had just stepped out of a time capsule.
“Umm, yeah,” said Bear, looking down at the rabbit, and then back at her. “Do you want some?” he asked, gesturing toward it.
She laughed in a familiar, welcoming way. “No,” she said, stepping forward carefully, “I don’t like rabbit. Too tough.”
He detected her Spanish roots in her words, which had a noticeable Mexican drawl.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked, and then, sighing, he corrected himself. “I’m sorry, is this your land? Do you want me to leave?”
“Well this is as much your land as mine,” she said, with a gleam in her eye and a wide smile. She sat on a log beside him and said nothing for a few minutes.
“I come here sometimes, but not often,” she said finally. ” Did you like what you saw?”
“Pardon me?” he said, blushing in the firelight. She laughed again.
“You saw me washing today. Did you like?”
“Yes,” he stammered, poking at the rabbit with a stick, “yes, I liked that very much. I mean, you are gorgeous.” He didn’t dare look to see her reaction, but at least she didn’t laugh.
“When you are done cooking that rabbit come with me to the house,” she said, standing. “I might have something to complement it.”
He watched her walk into the darkness, her curvy ass and long legs like golden honey.
He finished cooking the rabbit and wrapped it in the canvas bag. Then he set out for the house.
A distant thunder storm sent up brilliant flashes of lightning far beyond the farm, beyond the glaring lights of the dusty old Walmart-infested town that he called Hell, casting the old house in an earie black shadow. It couldn’t have looked creepier if there was a ouiji board sitting on the porch table.
As he approached, the front door opened and the lights came on inside. He had never seen lights on in this house, he had never bothered to turn them on when he went in. But now the house looked suddenly alive, and the music that flowed from the kitchen gave it the feel of a real home.
Bear had long ago dismissed the notion of ever having his own home, or even finding someone who did. He was a loner, a desert drifter. It was his chosen path, but he couldn’t tell you why. He just felt like the desert was home and everything else – the city life, the little desert trailer parks — were just fake, plastic, arranging lost people in little compartments like the beetles in the display cases downstairs.
Bear stepped to the front entry and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” said the woman in a sing-song voice.
Bear walked slowly back toward the kitchen, scanning the house as he stepped forward. There was something oddly different about the place, like it was suddenly newer, cleaner than it had been just the day before. Maybe it was just the light, he thought.
Down the hall, the woman was humming and dishes were softly clattering in the sink. He thought about what he would say. Maybe he would start out with a question, perhaps asking her name, or where she came from, or how she knew of this place…his mind was suddenly a confusion of thoughts, each toppling on top of the last, till he couldn’t figure out what, if anything, he could possibly say.
Reaching the end of the hall, he rounded the corner into the brightly lit kitchen. The woman was still singing and the dishes were still clanking, but he was startled to find that no one was at the sink.
He was scanning the room for her when a powerful blow to the side of his head knocked him across the room. He grabbed the kitchen counter for support and looked back. A large black object popped him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He stumbled to his knees, gasping for breath, reaching for a chair to steady his dizzying senses.
Another sweeping blow from the side sent him crashing through the chair and sliding under the kitchen table.
At this point, Bear felt a moment of protection. Whatever it was that was attacking him, it was much larger than the table, so it couldn’t get underneath with him. But it could take the table –
Just as his mind went there, the table was suddenly swept away and sent crashing into the glass-plated cabinets at the other end of the kitchen. He wondered for a moment where the woman was, why he hadn’t heard her screaming, but he was too busy saving himself to dwell on that for long.
Scrambling on all fours, Bear made a bee-line for the back door of the house.
Suddenly bear felt an intense searing pain jam its way through the center of his body, from back to front. Looking down, he saw a gleaming silver object, dripping with blood, protruding from his stomach. The blow was so forceful that the spear was stuck fast to the floor. The sight was sickening; it made his head dizzy and he felt completely nauseous. He realized that he was impaled by the rod, that he was completely stuck to it. His legs flailed wildly but they weren’t helping him get anywhere.
In a panic, he grabbed for anything he could find. His fingers looped around the handle of a draw so he pulled on it, spilling its contents on to the floor below him. A flashlight, a pair of scissors, tape…nothing. Reaching with all his might, he was able to grab the light, but nothing else. It was futile.
His body slumped pathetically. It was at that point that he heard the lady laughing. He lifted his head to look at her, but she wasn’t there.
“What -?” he started, his voice gurgling through the blood flowing from his mouth.
“Betcha didn’t expect that!” said her voice, but when he looked up again all he could see was a bizarre alien black head with huge eyes, like a giant beetle. The beetle face pushed right up to his face and her laugh emanated earily from it.
“You people creep me out!” said her voice, and the spear suddenly swayed wildly, ripping through his flesh and twisting him around like a stuck bug.
“But,” she continued, “I have a place for you. You won’t be wandering in the desert anymore, I have just the place for you!”
The beetle picked up the spear and carried him deftly through the doorway, like an olive on a swizzle stick. She moved swiftly into the darkness, practically gliding over the sagebrush and desert grass, up the hillside until she came, mercifully, to a stop in front of a small, dark cave, barely visible in the moonlight.
Still the bug moved on, crawling low into the back of the cave, which seemed to open beyond. Then finally, she jammed the spear into the ground and moved off, red and black, swift and silent, into the dark desert night.
Bleeding profusely and wracked by the pain of broken ribs and shattered nerves, Bear was at the edge of death. He shouted and squealed as the terror of darkness and death overwhelmed him. He thrashed around wildly, trying to knock the stick down or lift himself off. But it was stuck fast, and so was he. Every move was searingly painful.
Bear realized that he was still holding the flashlight in one hand. He had just enough presence of mind left to turn it on and look around.
There, all around him, were other spears, with other people stuck to them. The old man who had taught him to hunt. A rancher. A couple of kids. Some tourist types, some locals, some Mexicans.
All dead, all skewered in neat rows in the ground like a grotesque bug collection.
Bear’s life was fading fast. He watched as his own blood pooled in the cool dark sand at the bottom of the spear. He wondered if there was anything he could do to save himself.
He wondered what he had done that was so wrong as to deserve this. After all, he wasn’t the one who collected the bugs. If it was up to him, he would have taken those bugs off the pins while they were still alive and –
Or would he?
No, he thought dejectedly, I would not have. Bugs creep me out. I would not have let them go.
He looked around one last time at all the other humans on the stick pins. The flashlight dropped into his own blood, casting an oddly familiar and inviting red glow.