Two hunters, Boyd, and Glen Beckett sat on the hood of their truck as the sheriff’s patrol car pulled up in front of them. They both had a can of beer in their hand, what was left of a six-pack sat on the hood between them. They were uncle and nephew out hunting deer. Sheriff Curtis stepped out of his patrol car and put his hat on.
“What’s the emergency, Boyd?” Sheriff Curtis walked around to the front of his patrol car and put his hands on his hips, thumbs partially in his gun belt like an old west sheriff. The two men slid off the hood of the truck and the older one, Boyd, walked over to Sheriff Curtis then shook his hand.
“Afternoon, Sheriff. Boy, get over here and say hey to the Sheriff.” The young hunter, Glen, stepped up behind his uncle immediately.
“Hey,” Glen took his cap off and held it down in front of him, “Afternoon, Sheriff.” He was seventeen and a big country boy of six foot, slightly taller than both his uncle and the sheriff.
“Glen, how’s ya momma?” The Sheriff asked.
“Fine, sir, we gotta new calf yesterday, a jersey. She’s happy we got another milker.”
“Well, that’s good, tell her I’ll buy weekly pints when she’s ready. So, what brings me way up here? It’s almost supper, Boyd.” The hunters walked back to the tailgate of their truck.
“Take a look at this.” Boyd gestured to the back of the truck and nodded for Sheriff Curtis to follow. The Sheriff paused a moment and tipped his hat back on his head then joined them at the bed of the truck. There were two large bucks that filled the back of the truck. They were the biggest Sheriff Curtis had seen in a long while.
“Boyd?” Sheriff Curtis gave him a curious, annoyed glance, “You call me all the way up here just to show off? I ain’t got no time for foolishness this late in the day. I told you its damn near suppertime.” Sheriff Curtis walked along the bed of the truck inspecting the two large bucks as the men made their way to the tailgate, “I hope you plan on sending me over some of this here.”
“Well Sheriff, I ain’t so sure you’re gonna want any of it.” Boyd replied adjusting his hat with concern in his voice. Glen looked on, slack jawed, as the two men talked.
“And why not?” Sheriff Curtis folded his arms over his chest. Glen walked to the woods and Boyd turned his attention from Sheriff Curtis, to his nephew.
“There’s more over here, Sheriff.” The young man called from deeper in the woods, ten feet or so from the truck.
“More? More what?” Sheriff Curtis looked curiously at Boyd who nodded his head over to his nephew. The two men joined Glen where there were more deer lying dead. They were scattered around the trees of the forest. They looked like they just dropped dead while foraging. Sheriff Curtis knelt examining another large buck.
“Ain’t a mark on ’em?” Sheriff Curtis looked up at Boyd, then over at Glen.
“Ain’t all,” Boyd took his hat off, “Come on, ya gonna wanna see this too.” he walked further into the woods leading Sheriff Curtis and pointing out the variety of dead animals in the area along their way. Birds, a racoon, several squirrels around the bases of the trees.
“Jesus Christ, what the hell could’ve done all this?” Sheriff Curtis asked, mostly to himself. He took his hat off and ran his hand along the bald spot on the front of his forehead through to the hair the hair that was left on the back of his neck.
“Sheriff, come look at this.” Glen called. They walked through brush between the trees, making their way over to him. He looked up in the tree at a bee hive with no bee’s in it, then he pointed down at his feet. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of dead bees all over the ground.
“Boyd, you two get them deer out that truck. Then you get on outta here fast as ya can, ya hear?” Sheriff Curtis ushered the two men back to the vehicles. “Try not to touch nothin else round here. Head over to docs and tell him what we seen up here. Don’t touch nothing or no one til doc says ya alright.”
“What you gonna do, Sheriff?” Boyd asked as he opened the driver side door of his truck.
“I’m a need to make some calls up to the state police, get some help out here. See if maybe anyone else has this here problem.” Sheriff Curtis watched as they emptied the truck of the bucks.
“Sheriff, ya think we gonna get sick?” Glen asked fearfully, standing in the open passenger side door.
“Ya just get on over to the doc, just to be safe. Don’t know what happened here, best we not take any chances.” He noticed it was eerily quiet, other than the three men. He looked around at the ground and spotted dead bugs of all kinds he didn’t notice when he first arrived. After the two panicked hunters left, Sheriff Curtis got into his vehicle and radioed back to the station. He was very conscientious of every little ache and pain in his body. Wondering if they were already there or a symptom of what killed the animals around him. “Sheriff Curtis here, Beverly, you there?” Sheriff Curtis asked into the handset and then paused, “Beverly,” Sheriff Curtis called into the handset again. He stepped back outside his vehicle and started over to the deer to take another look. He made two steps before the radio squawked and crackled a response.
“Sheriff, I read ya, I’m here. What ya got for me, Bob?”
Sheriff Curtis leaned back into his vehicle and retrieved the handset still standing outside in the driver side open door looking around the forest.
“Bev, I need you to get me a number for that wildlife preserve over in Ten-town. Then get a hold of Emmett and have him meet me at the office. I’ll be in directly.”
“Sheriff, Emmett’s with the Mayor over at the diner, remember? They’re waiting on that fancy racehorse comin’ in for stud today.”
“Well, call over there and have him head over to the station anyway. This is an emergency. Might as well have the Mayor come too.” Sheriff Curtis tossed the handset back into his vehicle, then walked over to where the other men had dropped off the deer and knelt next to them to get a better look. He didn’t know what he was looking for, so he shook his head and took off his hat then again ran his hand over his head before replacing his hat. They looked perfectly fine. Almost like they were just sleeping, “Damn shame.”
“Sheriff… Sheriff?” His radio squawked through the open door of his patrol car. Sheriff Curtis walked calmly back and sat down in the driver’s seat ready to drive back down into town before he answered.
“Go ahead, Bev, I’m here.” He answered after taking his hat off and setting it in the seat next to him. “Well, come out with it, Bev, what is it?”
“Sheriff we just had ourselves an accident right here in front of the station.”
“An accident? What kinda accident?” Sheriff Curtis shut the door and started the engine.
“You’re not gonna believe this, Bob, but here come a young girl walking right down the middle of town with nothing on but a dirty ol’ skirt!”
“Say what?” Sheriff Curtis put the car in reverse then slowly turned around to head back down the way he came.
“She’s the reason them two fellas ran right into each other. Oh lord!”
Sheriff Curtis picked up the handset again once he straightened himself out and was on his way.
“What? What is it Bev?”
“Sheriff, you better get down here quick, them Fowler boys just come out the drugstore and are hootin’ and hollerin’ at that girl, making a big ol’ scene. Drawin’ a crowd round that poor thing.”
“I’m on my way now. Head on out there and try to cover that girl up, and let them boys know I’m coming before any trouble starts.” He set the handset back in its cradle and hit the gas. It took about fifteen minutes for him to make it back to town. The main street was full of people and traffic was at a standstill. Sheriff Curtis flipped his sirens a couple of times to get people out of the street so he could get into town. There were so many people on the street and lining the sidewalks it looked like a town fair. The whole town seemed to come out for some reason. Sheriff Curtis eventually had to get out of his patrol car and walk to get to the center of the commotion. Everyone was talking about the topless girl in the street. When he arrived at the scene, Beverly had a blanket in her hands and was trying to talk to the young woman in the middle of the street. The young woman kept everyone back, wielding a small paring knife. To the side of the crowd, one of the Fowler boys was holding his hand, covered in blood. Most of the crowd were pointing and laughing at the young woman in the street. Some of them were recording her on their cel-phones. A lot of the guys were calling out to her to move her hair so they could see her breasts.
“It’s gonna be all right honey, just put the knife down. Nobody wants to hurt you, darling.” Beverly inched closer to the young woman. Beverly was a large well-dressed woman, wearing a brown pantsuit, her black hair was up in a bun on top of her head.
“Shoot that bitch, she cut me, Sheriff!” The young man with the bloody hand yelled when he saw the Sheriff come through the crowd, “I wanna press charges, Sheriff!” He yelled again when the Sheriff made his way to the front of the crowd that surrounded the young woman.
“You hush, Jesse Fowler!” Beverly said looking over at the young man with close cropped blonde hair, “You shouldn’t have been trying to put your hands on that girl like ya did. Can’t you all see something’s wrong with her?”
“Everybody just back up now, ya hear!” Sheriff Curtis said to the crowd. They all backed up a few feet when the Sheriff barked his orders at them. Sheriff Curtis stepped next to Beverly and put his hand on her shoulder, urging her to also step back and let him take over. “Young lady, can you tell me what happened to you?” He asked with his hands up, palms facing her, trying to calm her. She twitched, and jerked, unnaturally. She looked and moved like she suffered from cerebral palsy and was unable to control herself. She was dirty, with waist long, brown hair, that almost covered her like a shirt. Sheriff Curtis quickly surmised that the young woman had been through some sort of ordeal. She wore only a long dirty skirt, that went down to her ankles. She was filthy, her dirty face was streaked from tears, or sweat. Sheriff Curtis’ first thought was that someone dragged her off somewhere and messed her up pretty good. He couldn’t help but think to himself how young she was, and that someone had to be looking for her.
“Bob, this poor girl is in some kinda trouble, she’s been screaming for you by name.” Beverly whispered to Sheriff Curtis from behind.
“Go get the doc. She looks to be in a bad way, Bev. Then head over to the station and check missing persons, see if we can’t figure out who she is. Someone has to be looking for her.” He said over his shoulder. Beverly made a bee line back through the crowd. Delilah put her hands to her forehead and grunted, then screamed. She stood up straight and tall, suddenly, in a moment of control. Hearing the thoughts of people in the crowd confused her as to which thoughts were hers, which way to move was her choice. It made her twitch, struggling to control her body. She started to repeat what she heard in different accents and voices, mimicking what was in her head. There were so many voices she couldn’t stop herself, all of them awash with her own, already crowded mind. She stepped toward Sheriff Curtis and her head jerked hard to the left then back again looking at him. Sheriff Curtis was at a loss, he couldn’t tell if it was drugs that made the young girl act so strange, or if it was a result of whatever happened to her. Whatever it was, this girl needed help, desperately.
“You be da law what’s givins da justice round heya now, Bobby Curtis?” The woman of the woods asked, speaking out in a moment of control, hunching over as the little old woman with a bad back. She dropped the paring knife when her hand spasmed, causing her whole arm to lurch straight out to her side. It was Delilah, struggling to wrestle away control from the old woman. McDonalds was right down the street from where they were. Melissa thought about their menu, and how hungry they were. Maybe Kevin would be there. “Has anyone seen Kevin?” Melissa suddenly asked. “Oh, my god look at her, so dirty and gross!” She blurted out then twisted her head violently. Delilah grabbed her head with both hands and staggered back. There were so many people, so many voices, her head spun. She couldn’t stop them from invading her mind. Delilah controlled the body of Hummingbird dominantly, but she could do little to stop the outbursts the others inside her vocalized, especially since now that the crowd was in there too. Sheriff Curtis moved in quickly and retrieved the paring knife from the street.
“Miss, I need you to calm down now, and let us help you. No one wants to hurt you, you’re safe now. You know who I am? Then you must also know I’m the Sheriff, let me help you?” Sheriff Curtis moved toward the Hummingbird. She straightened up and walked toward the crowd on the sidewalk in full control of herself and then turned back as if an afterthought came to her. The crowd backed away from her as she moved erratically toward them, then away again.
“I wonder what she has on under that skirt!” Delilah yelled at the Sheriff in a different voice, yet again. “Why isn’t someone doing anything for that poor girl, she’s definitely not right in the head!” Delilah said straightening up, talking to her side, like she was whispering to someone, “You reckon my momma gonna see justice iffin I ain’t heya ta reckon it fo her!” Hummingbird yelled at Sheriff Curtis, overtaken by the woman of the wood’s memories, and her promise to her after recognizing Bobby Curtis. When Hummingbird realized so many voices were screaming at her, inside her mind and out. She started to buckle at the knees in fear, “I wanna go home, I’m scared.” She cried, Delilah took over and straightened up before her knees could hit the street, “I gots ya now, lil girl, you go on ta sleep, til I calls ya. I make good on ya promises.” She stood tall seizing control. Delilah started to twitch, struggling to maintain that control.
“All right,” Sheriff Curtis made his way closer to her, horrified for the young girl in such a volatile state, “What happened to your momma, miss? Can you tell me?”
“Ya know da haps ta me now, don’t ya, Bobby Curtis? All grown and da law now!” The woman of the woods cackled, pointing at Sheriff Curtis and took a few wobbly steps toward him, battling Delilah for control, her eyes on her paring knife in his hand, “Spect dem friends a yours round here some ’eres too.” The woman of the wood’s hatred for this man forced the others to relinquish control of Hummingbirds body to her, all but Delilah, who continued to struggle with her. “What did she say to the sheriff I couldn’t hear her?” She blurted out staggering toward the sheriff. A stray thought that entered her head from someone in the crowd. The invading minds of the crowd around her were gradually becoming a cacophony, and harder to deal with. She could not tell her own thoughts from theirs. Only the anger of the woman of the woods focused her, giving her some semblance of control, but that was slipping.
“Who are you, young lady?” Sheriff Curtis didn’t recognize her, but it was clear she knew him.
“We Rachel Harris!” She screamed, as all her personalities at once, then hunched over pointing at him with a crooked finger, twisting her body, ready to fall over sideways. He knew Rachel Harris and thought her long since dead. “You don’t memba me, Bobby Curtis?” She squared up to him, letting him get a good look at her, face to face, “Ya memba pushing my face in da dirt whiles ya friends ride me like some cowboys?” The woman of the woods thrust her hips mimicking the act she described. The crowd became a mix of shock, from the accusation, and laughter from those who could only see her and not hear her words. She spun away from him to her knees, dropping her face to the street, leaving her ass in the air, like she was being forced down. She played out her own rape for him in front of the whole town, “Memba me now, Bobby Curtis!” She yelled as she lay in the street acting like someone was entering her from behind. Delilah gained control and scrambled back to her feet, then spun, turning to the crowd, lashing out at them with her hand, as if she still held her knife. A feeble attempt to quiet their intrusive minds. The crowd was one, in awe and shock, no longer laughing at the young girls display in the street. Some wondered if it were true, did Sheriff Curtis rape that little girl? It became too much for Delilah, battling herself and the deafening town for control. She could feel she was about to spasm and lock up, again. Delilah couldn’t allow the darkness to take them, not then. She searched deep in the mind of Hummingbird, finding her ability to be one with her entire mountain of animals. She took that power and twisted it, becoming one with all the people in the town of Paradise Falls. Delilah fell to her hands and knees looking up to the sky, her eyes rolled back in her head. She growled a scream, her angry mountain lion that lived inside her. The townspeople all started moving even further away from her. The sky darkened as birds larger than a man, descended upon the town. Thousands of them, blacking out the sky. They dove at the people around Delilah, picking them up and ripping them to shreds, then dropping them to rain down body parts and blood on those below. People scattered, fleeing for their lives, screaming in horror as loved ones were mutilated before their very eyes. From the outskirts of town, wolves came in from every direction, corralling the people fleeing the giant birds, finishing them with the same ferocity as their avian counterparts, ripping them limb from limb.
Sheriff Curtis didn’t understand what was happening. He could not see what was happening in the minds of the terrified people around him. Delilah spared him from her mental attack. He watched, as for no reason he could see, people started running around, screaming, fighting some unseen foe, then finally, falling prey to the horrors they witnessed in their minds. Delilah had not moved since she began her attack on the people around her. To Sheriff Curtis, she just suddenly stood still, looking right through him like he wasn’t even there. Delilah’s eyes glazed over, and her mouth hung open, saliva slowly dripped down her chin. Her twitching and jerking had stopped completely. She looked catatonic, as inside her mind, the slaughter raged on, between her and the town. Sheriff Curtis reached for his gun. He didn’t know how, but he knew the young woman before him was the source of the crazed actions of his friends and neighbors, it was no coincidence.
“You can’t move.” Delilah whispered, suddenly cocking her head sideways. Her eyes focused on Sheriff Curtis as she came out of her trance. She furrowed her brow at his audacity, knowing his thoughts before he could act. Delilah was inaudible over the screams of the towns people. One by one, they fell dead. Sheriff Curtis was frozen in place unable to act. She seized control of him easily. He could only watch as the townsfolk around him flopped on the ground, with their eyes reflecting some horror all but he witnessed, until each died. Delilah said nothing and stood staring at Sheriff Curtis until she completed her task and every living thing in town was dead. Even the birds fell from powerlines, cats and dogs in the homes of the townspeople died, all manner of pets, even farm animals. Delilah wanted nothing to live when she walked out of Paradise Falls. She would keep Hummingbirds promise to the woman of the woods, because she alone was strong enough to do so. With every death, more control returned to Delilah. Then, with a sure footedness she had lacked at her arrival to town, free of the intrusive minds, she marched over to Sheriff Curtis, taking her paring knife away from him. The voices and thoughts of all those around her were gone, she was in complete control of herself once again. “That old woman dream uh doin dis herself someday, but I standin’ in fo her, cuh she dead.” Delilah said, eye to eye with him. She undid Sheriff Curtis’ pants and gun belt, dropping them to his knees. “I’m a make it so ya can’t feel nuttin.” She smiled, then reached down and castrated him with a quick jerk of her paring knife and a hard yank of her hand. She amplified his pain before she released her hold on him, dropping him to the street screaming. “You die like a dog in da street, Bobby Curtis. Now, you member Rachel Harris in da after. Maybe, say ya sorry?” Delilah threw his member still attached to his testicles on the street in front of him to look at, as she walked away, “Iffin she believes ya, ya might get dem dere back!” She flooded his mind with all that the woman of the woods had suffered. Her whole life after he and his friends raped her, then killed her husband and child. “Dat was for you, old woman.” She whispered to herself, “Dat was for you, fo raisin’ my lil Humminbird good.”