Word Count – 2,011
Halloween Challenge 2021
Thanks to Chris for the beta
All mistakes are mine
Shivers ran down his spine and crawled into his brain while tentacles of fear wrapped their skeletal fingers around his heart and constricted, sinking its bones to pierce the soft flesh. He could only sit and watch as the hooded, black-caped demon grabbed the infant in claw-like hands and spirited the child away. He never had the chance to see his son, and now the babe was gone.
“NOOOOO! Bring him back; he’s mine!” He struggled against the bonds that prevented him from rescuing the son he’d never held in his arms, the son he would never see again. Gone! Unbearable pain shattered his heart, sending him into frozen hell. Instantly, hot mixed with cold— rage and grief. The sweat beaded on his face turned to ice, tiny pellets that burned his skin and left bloody pockmarks to fester and drain, putrid, repulsive. Hot and cold, burning and freezing.
The only sound in the black void was a madman’s cackle, brittle and raspy in retaliation, a child in exchange for the cold body of the deceased daughter. Never will he get this child back! Not after what he’s done! Never! But the demon did not leave, not yet. He kept to the shadows, out of sight. No, he wouldn’t leave, not until he exacted more revenge. He would let the child cry, yes! That was good; the cries would be torture, and the more torture, the better! The lad would scream as if flames blistered its skin! Oh, yes, that would be perfect, and the bastard that stole his daughter would suffer listening to those bloodcurdling shrieks as he had suffered when his beloved only child was kidnapped and taken away from Boston, her home, forced to go with this… this no account immigrant!
He will suffer! And as if by sleight of hand, the child began to wail. The tiny lungs pushed out the air in a terrifying scream as if he was the victim of a violent attack sending those that heard into an unspeakable and hideous vacuum, helpless to do anything.
“No! My son! He needs me! He’s crying, bring him back; he’s not yours!” The innocent child shrieked in the arms of the demon, needing the warmth and love of his parent and not finding that love.
Low, hollow laughter came out from nowhere, from everywhere. “Oh, but the lad is mine, Murdoch! And you will never have him; he is lost to you, you bastard! And you will suffer for eternity for killing my daughter! And your son will hate you for killing his mother! Forever, Murdoch, forever!” And the evil laughter faded into nothingness.
Murdoch Lancer bellowed in the dark; he pleaded for the hooded villain to bring back his son, back where he belonged, but there was only deafening silence.
“I’ll get him, Harlan; he’s mine!” Murdoch struggled to loosen the knots of the stiff, coarse rope that held him tight and shredded his wrists raw and bloody. There was nothing… Harlan Garrett and baby Scott were gone, and Murdoch Lancer’s heart splintered into a thousand pieces. He cried, he screamed, and he raged, but he was still alone.
Suddenly he was blinded by blazing light from above him that illuminated him and only him with black all around. It sliced through his brain with a dull serrated blade, making him gasp in mortal pain as if his head was torn in two, ragged and bleeding. Then, the howling and cries of tormented souls echoed, swirling close and brushing against him; vibrations of screams shook his body in a disorienting storm, screams of the damned, the haunted. Ghostly spirits curled around him, reaching out; they grabbed his hair and pulled, his shirt, torn to ribbons, hung around his shoulders. Then, as quickly as it started, the assault stopped, and the light went out, plunging him into total darkness.
Murdoch closed his eyes and wept. What had he done to deserve this torture? Why?!
It was quiet, and Murdoch dared to open his eyes. He found himself standing by a bed. The bed of a child, a toddler, but the bed was empty. It looked like… No, it couldn’t be! Johnny? He was standing in Johnny’s room, and the bed was empty! No! Johnny should be here! Where was his son? Where was the little jewel-eyed whirlwind that had become his reason for living? He was gone!
His heart began to pound, and his breaths came in shallow pants; breathing was near impossible! What happened to his little boy? Murdoch raced to the door and into the hall, then skidded to a stop. There, at the end of the corridor, stood a woman, a petite woman with long black hair; her back was to him, and she carried the toddler in her arms. Over her shoulder, the baby saw his Papi and laughed, holding out his little arms, tiny hands fisting and opening, reaching for his father.
“Maria? What are you doing? Where are you taking Johnny?” But he received no answer. “Maria!” He called louder, no longer a question but a demand that she stop to face him. She didn’t. She kept walking.
“Wait, Maria! Please, stop. What are you doing?”
A wicked laugh filled the hallway. Maria slowed her pace, then slowly turned around to face Murdoch. Before his eyes, the once silken black hair turned coarse and scraggly, shot through with dull gray; the smooth olive features grew wrinkled and deathlike. But it was the eyes that held Murdoch captive. They blazed red, fiery, deadly. It was no longer Maria.
And this woman had his son!
“Give me my son!” Murdoch challenged, and the woman laughed. And when she laughed, Johnny began to cry- his son needed him! “Stop! Give me my son!” He tried to go after the woman, but his feet melted into the floor, he couldn’t move! He was anchored to the spot and helpless to rescue Johnny! And then, Johnny screamed.
“Papi! Papi!” His little hands continued fisting and opening as he reached for his father. The brilliant blue eyes filled with tears and ran down his cheeks; tiny twin rivers cascaded over the woman’s hands as she held him.
“Don’t take him! Please don’t take Johnny away!” Murdoch begged desperately! He couldn’t lose this child, too! First baby Scott, now little Johnny! NO! He couldn’t let it happen again!
“Maria! Please wait!”
She looked Murdoch in the eyes and watched, humored when he had to look away, knowing he burned from her red glare. And she laughed again, witnessing his futile struggles to gain his freedom. “Why, Murdoch, why do you care so now? You’ve made your mistakes, and now I am leaving, and I’m taking the niño with me, and there is nothing you can do about it! You will pay the ultimate price, Murdoch. I’m going to teach my son to hate you!”
Murdoch fought against the invisible tangle that anchored him to the floor, it was useless, and he watched the crone, with Johnny screaming in her arms, backing toward the stairs. Her cackle echoed through the hacienda, a gross duet mixed with little Johnny’s screams! She was backing up… wait!
His heart pounded in his ears! “Maria, stop! You’ll fall, the stairs, right behind you! Stop, please!” But his pleas went unanswered as Maria took the last few steps, then, off the landing… hovered in mid-air and faded from his sight, taking the toddler with her. Johnny!
They were gone. He pulled in massive amounts of air but couldn’t catch his breath! Shock flooded his body, and he couldn’t accept what he had just witnessed— they were gone!
And Murdoch Lancer hung his head and cried for his lost boy. Where did Maria take Johnny? How would they live? If she was unhappy, she could have left, but not with little Johnny!
A sob tore from his chest as he realized his baby boy was gone. His grief paralyzed his heart, his brain, his will to live. Murdoch Lancer wanted to die— Oh, please take me away from this pain!
What? What was that? Murdoch lifted his head and forced his eyes to open. What had he heard?
“Who’s there?” He whispered.
It was softer now, and Murdoch turned toward the murmur, a child’s murmur. He sat stunned when his eyes focused on them, for there sat little Johnny and in his arms was the infant Scott! Murdoch gasped; his head was spinning, and he could not grasp what was before him. Two-year-old Johnny, holding baby Scott!
The bright blue eyes held volumes of heartbreak, sadness so profound Murdoch began to cry.
“Papi? No love us?” The little face, red from crying, peered at him in confusion.
“Son! Te amo! Te amo!”
He held out strong arms, beckoning his sons to him, pleading for them to come to him, to let him soothe them; then, they dissolved into thin air.
“NOOOOOO! Don’t go! Please don’t go!” He collapsed on the floor, unable to move.
How many hours had passed, Murdoch couldn’t say. He sat in despair, beaten, broken. He didn’t want to go on and would gladly accept death. He begged for death.
A gust of cold air cascaded over him, cooling the sweaty, tattered shirt that clung to his shoulders and sent a chill through his body. He shook his head in a desperate attempt to gather his scattered wits and know what was happening. He couldn’t give up on his sons!
Voices began to fill the air, angry and accusing.
“That ain’t the way I heard it!”
“I don’t care what you heard!”
“I’d do alright if ya just didn’t push so hard!”
“Murdoch, I think we need to have a little talk…”
And he screamed, long and hard. “Help me!”
A noise, then a soft light, and Murdoch tried to open his eyes. Focus, man! But did he really want to? Were his demons waiting to pounce again? He fought against the torture he knew was waiting for him, fearing the pain it would bring, but soft voices were there instead and didn’t go away, wouldn’t let him slip back into nothingness.
“Murdoch? Are you alright? Wake up now.”
“Hey, ol’ man, what’dya tryin’ ta do, scare us ta death? Murdoch, open your eyes, Papi.”
Scott and Johnny had heard the cries, the pitiful wailings of petrified terror stoked by the lonely dark of night. They bolted from their beds and raced to their father’s bedside to find Murdoch in the throes of a horrible nightmare. The old man was pale as death and soaked with sweat, terrifying them both. And they were chilled through at the sight of their father.
Scott poured water into the basin, dampened a towel, then gently began to wipe Murdoch’s face as he struggled to focus and slowly opened his eyes, knowing there would be more demons to battle. Bit by agonizing bit, he saw two faces above him, and he hoped these were friendly spirits, not like those of recent memory.
Scott and Johnny exchanged worried glances. Murdoch had had an awful scare. Could they help him?
“That’s it, Murdoch, it’s alright. It was just a dream…”
“Hey, ol’ man, now you’re having nightmares like me an’ Scott… but we’re here ta help; just take it easy.”
He heard their voices— could it be? Scott— Johnny? Yes, they were there!
Murdoch focused, finding his sons, both of them, by his side, and he drank in the sight of them. He sighed in great relief, then went limp; the tension left his body, and he slid into exhausted sleep.
“That’s it, Papi, sleep. Me an’ Scott’ll be here for ya in the mornin’.”
And with a chair on either side of the bed, they settled down, neither wanting to leave their father— anchors to keep him steady.
It was muttered quietly. Did he even hear it himself? “Te amo, Papi.”
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14 thoughts on “The Haunting by Buckskin”
Good story, and I loved your descriptions. They were very vivid. Poor Murdoch; his past haunted his dreams too. Often writers explore Johnny’s and Scott’s nightmares. You are one of the few to take on Murdoch’s. Great job!
Hey there, Sherry! Thank you for your comments on this story. Yes, Murdoch needed to have his nightmares explored just as we have explored Scott’s and Johnny’s. Lord knows he was haunted by these things just as his sons were haunted. Glad you liked this one and thank you for reading and sending feedback!
oh this was good. poor Murdoch
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Thank you, Char. Yeah, Murdoch had a difficult time dealing with all his losses, so maybe this could have been similar to his nightmares. I can’t imagine how that man suffered!
Thanks for reading and sending feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.
Great love reading it. Thank you for writing it.
Hi, Rita! Thank you for reading The Haunting, and the comment. And you are welcome! Murdoch was sure to have his nightmares and e deserved a story about his fears and trying to cope.
Hi, Diana! Your mastery of the English language was really on display in this story. I really felt Murdoch’s fear and pain. Great Halloween story!
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Hey there, RonD! Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate it very much. Sometimes I think we as authors do Murdoch a great disservice. The relationship with his sons ad to be rocky at first, but we tend to pick on Murdoch in our fanfic stories. He suffered the loss of both wives and both sons- and survived. So, I thought a little explanation of his ‘haunting’ was in order. I’m glad you liked the story! Thanks again for commenting!
So vivid, so strong, so convincing! Murdoch’s “haunting” was realistic enough to cause him and his sons great pain, and your readers anxiety as well. Very nicely written!
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Hey there! Thank you for reading The Haunting. Murdoch suffered such loss between two wives and both sons torn from his heart, that he had to be plagued with nightmares at some point. Throw in Halloween, and this one almost rote itself! Thank you for the feedback!
Thank you for this. I’m pleased you have focused on Murdoch’s pain. So many stories in fan fiction portray him as a very unpleasant character.
I see him as a a good, honourable man doing his best and loving his sons. This story brings that out.
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Hey. For a moment my heart beat fast, like I was caught up in Murdoch’s nightmares.
The fast pace and vivid descriptions gave the story an almost real aura of terror.
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Thank you, JKM. I have to admit that I have portrayed Murdoch as ogre a time or two, and it’s easy to do. It fits into the clash of personalities. But, yes, the man suffered as much as any of them with the losses he endured. If he didn’t have nightmares, he would have been super-human!
Thank you for reading and commenting!
Thank you, Silvia! Murdoch’s nightmares needed to be explored, as I’m sure he had them. The losses he suffered were many and the pain, deep. I am happy this story conveyed his feelings but didn’t mean to cause you any discomfort!