Winner of the SCREAMS! Contest
The strange supernatural occurrence was not talked about in the village. The only ones not terrified by its appearance had already been taken by it.
It didn’t kill them. Not really, but once the smoke came to them, they were never the same again. His friend, Bob had been taken last week. Now, when he saw him at the grocery store, Bob no longer stopped to chat. Now, he behaved mechanically, his eyes looked like shiny, colorless marbles, as he walked robotically down the aisles. Bob’s shirts looked neater like he’d stayed up late pressing them each night, and he had a strange decoration on his finger. Something shiny and foreign.
This was not the same Bob that John grew up with. The two used to party late into the night out at Jim Brown Bridge east of town. Bob was the messiest, laziest person John had ever known. It saddened John immensely to see his friend this way. He felt like it would almost be better if the smoke did kill those it afflicted.
That night, John trembled alone in his room as he watched the tendrils of gloomy smoke creep ever closer to the home he shared with his widowed mother. Tomorrow was his twentieth birthday. Wasn’t last week Bob’s twentieth?
John stifled a scream. It was coming for him! He prayed to whatever deity that might be listening for the safety of his mother downstairs. Would it hurt her? John doubted it. Looking back he realized that he’d really only seen boys affected.
The smell filled the house. The foggy grayness snaked through the home, reaching into all the recesses and secret places. There was nowhere to hide.
John burst from his bedroom and flew down the stairs. He must get his mother and flee from the house. Just as he was about to cry out to his mom, and warn her of the danger, she rose from her chair, laid her knitting aside and answered the door.
“NO!” He shouted, but it was too late.
She welcomed the visitors politely and moved aside for them to enter.
“Hello, John,” greeted the elderly, mysterious village shaman. With him was a young woman, about John’s age. The smoke, which had come from a large bunch of weeds the ancient clergyman used for smudging filled the room with an intoxicating fog.
“Your bride is here. May your marriage be blessed.” The old man walked away, down the front steps and into the night, taking his smoke with him.
John understood everything.
Where there’s smoke, there's…
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