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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1097342-The-Aterra
by lee49
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Gothic · #1097342
A Goth-Western I'm making for a contest.
         The mountains are open in the view of a great expansive sunset. The humming of meditation is ringing solemnly in the ear. A soft heart is slowly thudding in time as a whistling desert wind brushes past a strong lock of black hair. Slowly the moon rises as hours pass and a howl as tremulous as an earthquake sets the tone for the night overlooking the vast canyon. Miles below the small town of Los Antigya sits silently at the bottom of the canyon walls. Lush green trees line the major cotton plantation run by Aldarnenanio Sentora. Eyes are darting back to the old missionary and the thud increases. A small light is burning in the mission walls adjacent to the cemetery. The mind focuses in on a faint sound within the cemetery bounds. A girl, frail and small, is looking over a grave. She throws down a ring, tarnished with age, and runs through tears as a dark entity, unbeknown to her, approaches the grave. It seeps into the soil and dwells within the ground then mysteriously vanishes from sight. A bright light goes off and the world goes black!

         The man slowly gets up after falling from the mental impact of being forced out of a vision. He is a Sioux by blood moved to this town in Texas as an effect of rivalry in his homeland. The Americans had forced his tribe out to begin looking for paths through the wilderness. He was split from his family when Spanish soldiers took him as prisoner as he went to scout ahead for his father. They brought him to the old mission, now abandoned. He was raised there as a child and became accustomed to the town and stayed.

         He was having an ancient traditional vision quest he had learned from his grandfather, the tribe elder. He was supposed to have been the next medicine man before he was captured. The quest is to lead the beholder in the path of his life. Lakota only saw what he already knew, except for the girl of whom he never saw a face. Lakota clambered down the steep canyon edge to a path that leads to the outskirts of Los Antigya. Lumbering on his thoughts he nearly tripped over a rattlesnake hidden in the bushes of the path; a very bad omen.

         Still dazed from his encounters he aimed his way to the saloon. As he got to the door he sensed something peculiar but familiar as if he had just seen it. He turned around and saw a young woman striding across the street to an odd shaped shack. He decided to shake it off and turned into the bar. Inside he was consumed with the roaring of drunken laughter and pipeing of an aged piano. He sat down for a small drink, not long enough to get straggled into a game. Fern was also there at the seat across the room. He seemed to be begging to the masses again.

         Fern was an orphaned boy being brought up in the missionary only a few years younger than Lakota. He was very poor and should have been miles away at the new settlement for Americans. Of course he never made it; when he was 15 his mother and father died while stopping in the town after they were stricken with cholera from drinking putrid water. Fern had never left the mission even though it retired, and stays there in the abandoned buildings.

         Lakota leaned into his tall glass. He was to find the meaning of this vision but first he needed an answer. The answer was one that only a woman can give. Lakota finished his drink as though it was a shot glass and walked off to the plantation. On the porch was a blur of beautiful orange and pink in flourished patterns. Casandra had been working with the flowers again.

         “Lakota! Hurry, sneak around the back!” Casandra was pleased to see him although still weary of her father since last week when he saw her kissing a man. Fortunately he didn’t see Lakota’s face.

         He was rushed into an old shed behind the main house. She ran in kissing him and falling into his broad arms. He stopped her and began to make out what seemed like gibberish. She understood what he was going to say so she said it before he could continue in Dakota.

         “I ha’nt told Daddy yet,” Casandra drew back, “please wait a bit longer, Lakota, we can’t rush into this!”

         Lakota folded his hands over his face, “We must tell him or he will never let us leave,” He said calmly. “I know this is difficult…”

         “No, you don’t! I can’t talk to him about this. Please Lakota, don’t make me do this!” Her voice quivered making it obvious that she had been crying just minutes before. She fell onto the ground in sobs. Lakota kneeled down and held her and began singing a soft Dakota nursery rhyme to calm her.

         “Lakota, you talk to him. Even if you are an Indian I’m sure he’ll understand,” She folded her arms around her chest, “He won’t listen to me, you know that.”

         “I know,” He looked up to the sky through the hole in the shabby roof, “but how do I tell him”

         “You’ll think of something,” she said encouragingly, motioning to the door.
They left, her to the kitchen within the main house and him to his work in the plantation field. You could literally smell the sweet fragrance leave with Casandra as she walked away revealing the hard coarse mud and sweat all over Lakota. He waited to watch her stroll into the magnificent house. He then continued along the small ground path to the fields where he picks cotton for five hours since Aldarnenanio Sentora hired him as a field and ranch hand a couple years earlier.

         Lakota meticulously picked the seeded cotton plants and threw them into the cotton gin taking only seconds for him to get a row done. There were a few other people working the field but many of them were young boys that lived with Senor Sentora as servants. Lakota was lost in his surroundings, listening to the sound of humming bees and wasps. He could go through the hole five hours in the trance and still make perfect time.

         After Lakota had picked the last seeds out of the field he is sent to the small horse and bull ranch and tends to the stalls and tames the horses brought in from the wild plains. As a Sioux he learned when he could walk how to take care of a horse and so excelled at this and also loved being with the animals. He’d spend another five hours here grooming and feeding the cattle and livestock. He walked around the fences to check for any coyote holes where they tried to get in and harm the livestock.

         On his way to the end of the fence he heard one of the horses shriek with pain. Running the pen he could just barely make out the infamous Aterra, which literally means to terrify. The Aterra is a black figure that can take form of a disfigured shadow of a person. It has been on the town for only a few months but has already managed to eat all of the wild game and destroy many of the smaller hobbles along the town.

         It jumped into the sky and swarmed itself into millions of dots firing into the sun. By the time Lakota got within a few feet of the animal all that was left was half of the carcass. Lakota yelled for assistance to pull the carcass away from the other horses. He and a few of the servant boys took the body in a wheelbarrow to a giant raveen just a mile off from the ranch.

         When they got back Senor Sentora was furious and had already rallied up a band of militia to go destroy the Aterra. Lakota joined in the search, which lasted only long enough for them to get their guns. When they met in the town square, armed for combat, a handful was missing. They went to find the others but once they left the town square they could see torn pieces of human flesh and clothing where the men had stood before they left to get the guns.

         Lakota saw a grimace of light within the cemetery. He moved in closer to inspect the inkling of suspicion that spawned in him. He saw the girl, Tomescena, rotate to the same grave in his vision; she was creeping with an eerie sense of being. Suddenly, he felt the maniacal presence careening out of the sunken pit. It was the Aterra, and it was swerving in fast at the woman. Right as he was going to bolt in and save Tomescena her appearance changed; it was Casandra! Stunned in his disbelief, the monster made it’s way to the female in increasing fury. In an instant she was engulfed in the darkness that possessed her body. She was lifted feet off the ground as the entity took control over her fragile person. In a fit of light they vanished!

         Lakota was without words and tears whelmed to his eyes but time encroached faster and amplified with tremendous velocity. He was in another vision! What did this mean? Were Tomescena and Casandra so similar in reality? Is the Aterra such a threat to these poor women and why? As he thinks time passes with unbounded ferocity. A whirling torment turns into a cold blur and he goes black.

(indent}He stands up as if he had awoken from a killing hangover. Looking to a faint voice he saw Casandra at his side feebly moving her arms to and fro in search of herbs to calm the nightmarish dilemma. Startled at his harsh voice, she was taken aback but quickly reeled herself in through a convulsion of tears and worry. Lakota could move only his right hand enough to hold her shoulder. As the tears flowed in streams, his mind focused on an ensuing shadow outside the window. He leaned up excitedly as the robed figure disappeared.

         Casandra spent the next few minutes calming the alarmed man down but once he was settled she told him that the one that brought him here was Tomescena. He jumped even more at the news and marveled at all of the mystery. Who was this girl? Then to even more of his surprise she approached the exact spot where the ghastly creature disembarked, directly outside his window.

         She stood in suspended animation and met his gaze only long enough for him to spring out of bed and catapult out the door to what he expected to be a shadow when he got there.
Tomescena stayed there, awaiting his spontaneous arrival. She says only two words, “I’m sorry,” and slowly walks away. Lakota screams to her to wait though she is only a few feet away. A sorrowful look places over her placid face as her eyes motion to the old church. Lakota stands in silence, unsure of this foreboding message. She begins to walk again, towards the mission’s infirmary, and he shakily follows her dusty trail.

         Lakota is lead through the old halls to a room in the far back. It was covered over with a thick warm fog and had a visible luxurious bed in the middle, as if it were used for a special patient, like a president. Tomescena floated to an only window and stared into the dark desert for minutes. She was in a long black cobweb dress that cut short at the neck and flowered at the hands. A lone leather tie held her hair back and she wore black leather heels, barely seen to the end of her tail.

         Lakota traced her frail body with his sinewy hands passing at her shoulders to her thin thighs. She didn’t move for a few seconds then, as if she had finally made up her mind on something, turned with her head sunken into his chest. She slowly eased herself and him into the marvelous bed. Lakota knew what she seemed to want and out of an unknown need to comfort her, understood. The last thing he could remember, as he began to undress her, was the soft sounds of someone crying.

         Lakota woke at the plantation house, uncertain of what had happened the night before. He got out of bed and ventured down the small hall of the regal place, dressed only in a slight set of undergarments. He passed pictures of the centuries old family making way to the main quarters. Once in the lodge, a surprised servant came up to him and told him that he needed to go back to bed that neither he nor Casandra were in the right physical state to be walking around.

         Shocked at what he heard he immediately asked where she was. “What has happened to her? Where is she?” the more he spoke the louder his voice became, “I must know if anything has happened to her!”

         The servant woman was nervous and very uneasy. Afraid of him hitting her, she said, “Senorita Casandra became ill late at night with fits of hysteria”.

         Still dazed he asked, “Well, has she eaten or said anything; is she even conscious?”

         “The Senorita only screamed in pain and at near twelve in the morning a doctor heard her say someone was rapeing her”, seeing his distraught expression she quickly ran from the room to continue her duties.

         Lakota was devastated and highly confused but certain enough on what had happened. He ran out of the plantation house without the least thought and made intense haste to the mission in search of Tomescena. In his bare feet he ran over thorns and bushes leaving him in immense pain but didn’t halter in his endurance. The doors were busted down as he pushed through each in search of that room where she had taken him. He traveled into the black fog surrounding the room, yet as he entered there was nothing there but a beaten out wall showing a full eclipse of the sun. He screamed in enraged hatred out in the desert air.
Fern rushed in at the sound, “What’s going on Lakota?”

         “Tomescena, where is she? I must find her; I know she visits this place enough that you could not help but notice her presence!”

         “Please Lakota calm down, what could the girl have possibly done to you to get you so aggravated? The last thing I heard of her was last night when the men disappeared. She was crying in the cemetery over that forsaken grave.”

         “That was last night! No, no, then what has happened since. Tell me please all that you have heard. My mind has become delirious and I must know all that has happened.”

         “Lakota, nothing has happened other than the Aterra eating that calf, the men dissapearing, and you and Casandra falling ill. Please go back to the house and rest.”

         He wouldn’t listen to Fern and bolted out of the mission to the grave in his vision. It was a small grave and seemed to be of a child! He began to dig into the shallow dirt with his hands throwing into the air. The grave was only four feet deep and he pulled the small crude casket to the surface. Gasping at the smell of a rotting corpse, after he had pried the thing open, He tumbled to the nearest stone to lean on. Once he could stand sight, he looked at the shrunken body within the dogwood box. The child had nothing left but bones.

         He was about to return the casket to the ground when out of the carcass a ghostly figure rose up. The Aterra! Lakota couldn’t move even though he tried to reach the next stone it was impossible. The entity was whirling up to the sky and dived fast to Lakota. Suddenly Tomescena screamed at the monster, “No, I never asked for you to hurt him! Please leave him be!” The fiend slowed enough for her to jump in its way. The Aterra absorbed into her and she was lifted a foot off the ground, with her arms outstretched and her head thrown back, then she was flung madly onto Lakota.

         He grabbed for her and was himself tossed back into the wall of the mission.
She was completely silent and only convulsed her whole body every number of minutes. He carried her to the canyons and covered her with a mass of blankets he kept in a small lean-to there. When he got back to the town the men where once again around Aldarnenanio. As he sat passively on his porch, he proclaimed that each time the Aterra appeared Tomescena went missing and as it flew away she was always found at the cemetery shrouded by a colossal darkness. He stated, “With all of these facts in mind I find no other order than that of saying that this girl is indeed a witch of the most heinous kind and must be burned at the stake.”

         At that moment the Aterra slammed down on the men in a giant cloak of shadows. Each man screamed and ran only for the sheet to extend and swallow him and his yells. In a quick instance the Aterra vanished and all of the men where gone. The only one left was Aldarnenanio who was on the porch and out of reach of the threatening dimness. He was completely stunned and hurried cowardly into the house.

         As soon as the ghoul had gone a banshee screech ran out of Casandra’s room. Just before Lakota moved to the house, off of the hill where he stood, he caught a glance of Tomescena on the mount adjoining him. He paused at the view however he swiftly returned to his senses and proceeded on an assist to Casandra. He dashed into the house and, without stopping, witnessed Aldarnenanio in full fetal position at a small corner of the den. Lakota rushed up the flights of stairs to Casandra’s quarters. Once there he kicked down the door and hurried to her bedside. She was screaming aloud as if something was torturing her that instant. Lakota held her close until she abruptly stopped and said one single word, “Benjamin”.

         That was the name on the child’s gravestone. She looked to the room’s corner then fainted. Lakota bent his eyes to the same corner and there, standing, was the Aterra. It didn’t move but kept looking straight at Casandra. Lakota drew up and ran at the beast. He punched at it and at that second saw only Tomescena’s face except there was one difference, it wasn’t in this time but a memory of the Aterra, and it was happy.

         Casandra awoke and jolted out of her bed to the opened window. “It’s me you want, isn’t it? Then fine you can have me but leave him alone!” she riled at the Aterra. Lakota fell to the floor in a disoriented haze although he saw clear enough to notice Casandra plunge herself out of the small window. The last thing he thought he heard was his own voice yelling to Casandra.
© Copyright 2006 lee49 (desperation at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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