A Dark & Stormy NightbyFflow©
The small plane shook briefly. Kurt seemed tense, and Judy simply turned pale and held on.
"I think we should find a place to land, sweetie," Kurt said in his nicest, everything-is-ok voice.
The weekend getaway was spur of the moment. It was easy to hop in Kurt's 2-seater single prop plane and go to Napa, Tucson, or New Mexico in a few hours. Often, when time allowed, Judy and Kurt would fly to little, out of the way places just for fun. That was the plan they had for today.
The summer storm came upon them quickly and, seemingly, from nowhere. Kurt, a seasoned flying veteran, lowered his altitude and started looking for a place that could accommodate his plane....
Judy, not wanting to look down, was still drawn to the window. Below her the lovely green countryside of the Central Valley was in full bloom. Rain and irrigation had turned the typically brown hills verdant and alive. Above, roiling clouds seemed to coalesce into a tight mass, ready to deluge the valley below. Off to the far right, a small farm seemed to grab her attention.
"Kurt! What about that," Judy asked, pointing.
"Lets take a look," Kurt replied.
He banked the plane sharply, turning toward the small farmhouse and flying ever lower until he was just above the ground. Judy held her breath, and gripped the door handle, as the plane began to drop the final few feet onto the road below. The plane bounced, lurched, and finally began to roll slowly toward the farmhouse.
When the engines cut, both tumbled out just as the sky opened and the rain began. It wasn't merely a sprinkle, or even what some would call a driving rain... It felt as though someone, far away, was angrily throwing buckets of water at them. In an instant, they were soaked to the skin. They both ran to the small house and pounded on the door. Even under the extended eves of the porch, the rain still assaulted them. They knocked, pounded, hollered and, just as they were about to resign themselves to drowning, the door creaked open.
Standing there was a tall, ruggedly handsome, and muscular young man. He wore a thin tee shirt that looked as if it would disintegrate with the flex of a single muscle. His jeans were worn and too short, revealing oversized boots that appeared to be from the 20's. It was obvious that his attention was drawn to Judy, her aerobically toned body, light eyes, and shoulder-length light brown hair.
"We're stuck here until the storm blows over," Kurt explained, trying to draw the stranger's attention away from Judy. "Can we stay here tonight," he asked.
"Um... Well, I reckon you got no choice seeing as the rain's not gunna let yall fly outa here t'nite." Judy restrained herself forcefully from laughing. This muscle-bound Adonis sounded like a real yokel. "Even by Central Valley standards, this is a bit much," she thought to herself.
He stood aside, holding the door open, and ushered them into the front room. They stood there, dripping.
"Hello there! I'm Kurt," said Kurt, holding out his hand.
"I be Zeke," said Zeke. Kurt glanced at Judy, who was surreptitiously biting her lower lip to keep from laughing. Zeke seemed unable to tear his eyes from Judy. It was as if he'd never seen a woman before. Judy felt flattered at first, but soon began feeling slightly uncomfortable.
"You follow me," Zeke said, moving to the stairs that led to the 2nd floor of the quaint house. Up they all went, and soon were in a small but cozy bedroom. Zeke opened the closet and pulled out two heavy terrycloth robes, tossing them on the bed. "Till yer wet clothes dry, wear these. Then come down and I'll fix ya somethin hot."
"Thank you for your kindness, Zeke," said Judy, trying to be friendly.
Zeke nodded, backed out of the room, and closed the door.
Finally alone, Judy started laughing quietly. "Jeez, Kurt! Zeke sounds like someone from another time and place!"
"He's got the hots for you, though," Kurt replied. "Don't tell me you didn't notice!"
Judy, tilting her head to one side, said softly, "He is kinda dreamy... NOT!" Both of them laughed as they stripped down, hanging their wet clothes over the brass footboard of the old fashioned bed. When both were naked, they picked up the heavy robes and put them on. They were soft, warm, and felt wonderful.
A warm glow came from the potbelly stove in the kitchen, and steam bellowed out from the black cast-iron kettle. Kurt and Judy sat at the dining room table, watching as Zeke poured the boiling water into a beautiful vintage teapot. The smell of brewing tea rose up into the room. Zeke replaced the delicate teapot lid, and slid a tea cozy over the pot. While the tea steeped, Zeke brought out two cups and saucers.
"Tea be ready soon," said Zeke.
"Are these our guests, Zeke?" A strange voice came from behind them, compelling both Judy and Kurt to turn quickly. Walking toward them was... well, it had, at one time been female. It seemed that this ancient woman had been freeze dried and thawed about a million times. She seemed to be paper-thin leathery skin draped over a frail skeleton. She moved easily, though, stood without stooping, and her eyes were dark, but shining. Her gaze seemed to pierce Judy's body like a laser beam.
"What's your name, sweetie," she said to Judy.
"Judy, ma'am," said Judy.
"What a perfect, pretty name for such a perfect, pretty girl."
"Why, thank you," said Judy, blushing. "What, may I ask, is your name, ma'am."
"Well, you can call me Ma for now," Ma answered. "But your hair is a mess... All tangled from that nasty storm. Let me comb it for you," Ma said, producing an antique comb, ornately carved from bone.
"It seems like such a bother, Ma," Judy said. "I can do it. Why don't you sit with us?"
"Nonsense, girl," Ma replied forcefully. "I haven't had much call to comb my own hair, and yours is so pretty." Ma moved behind Judy, and started pulling the comb through Judy's hair with amazing force.
As Zeke began pouring the tea, Kurt said, "We're really thankful for your kind hospitality, Ma."
"Oh, think nothing of it, dearie," Ma replied, still loosening Judy's tangled hair. "We was about due for a visit, wasn't we, Zeke?"
"Yes indeed we was, Ma," said Zeke, laughing nervously, glancing at Judy. He placed the tea in front of Judy and Kurt.
"Drink up while its hot," said Zeke.
"Yes," Ma said, "drink it all up!"
Judy came suddenly awake, disorientated in the country darkness. The heavy covers of the bed pressed down against her naked body, and she could hear Kurt's breathing next to her. Suddenly, she realized that her body was stiff, and she couldn't move at all. She tried to turn her head, to wiggle a toe, to open her mouth... all without success. Judy's mind raced wildly. She forced herself to stay calm, knowing that, in a few hours, Kurt would wake and help her.
Suddenly, she sat up. It felt as if she were a puppet, a marionette, being pulled and manipulated into turning her body, standing, walking, opening the door. In her mind, she screamed! Terror flowed through her as her body moved itself, quite naked, down the stairs. The soft light of candles illuminated the kitchen, and she saw Ma wrapping hair from the bone comb around her bony finger.
"That's my hair," Judy thought.
Judy stood there, immobile. Ma turned, and walked over to her.
"You're a fine specimen, sweetie," Ma said, running her bony finger across the soft skin of Judy's arm. "You'll do just fine!" From within her blouse, Ma withdrew a long hatpin. Judy felt herself take the hatpin in her right hand, and jab her left thumb sharply. Pain shot up her arm, but she could not cry out, or even shed a single tear. Ma squeezed a drop of blood from Judy's thumb, wiping it on the hair wound through her fingers.
Ma turned back to the candle burning near the stove. She whispered and muttered words in some undistinguishable language. It sounded like an incantation.
"Fourva coolet caloova iltie fidish jupik elt." Ma wound Judy's hair through her fingers, and Judy felt Ma's control of her strengthening.
"Oh please," Judy thought, "please let me go!"
"Fourva coolet gelaga efret fidish kapey elt!" Ma's voice, dusty and dry, seemed to grow stronger.
"This must be a terrible dream," Judy hoped, silently.
"Fourva coolet etabrah nortu fidish petek elt!" The candle's flame grew brighter suddenly.
"Why can't I wake up," screamed Judy, in her mind.
"FOURVA COOLET FORTUVA NETAH FIDISH CILSET ELT!" Judy realized that her voice was speaking the words now. Suddenly, everything went black.
Judy awoke gently, feeling tired, stiff, and a bit sore. She opened her eyes and realized that she was outside, lying naked on the grass. She gazed down at her body, and it was gone. In its place was a desiccated shell, skin and bones. A scream began deep in her chest but, as it rose from her mouth, it was quiet, like dust.
She heard a noise, and turned her head with great effort. There was Zeke, and Ma.
"Ma has my body," Judy thought in terror!
Zeke was working hard, sweating in the morning sun, as he shoved a spade into the soft, moist soil, broadening and deepening a rather large hole. Judy began to crawl toward the hole and, at the edge, recoiled in horror at the sight of Kurt's lifeless body lying in the cold ground. Judy began to crawl away desperately, but the frail body wouldn't work for her. Ma, now young and strong, walked over and picked her up easily.
"This is a nice body you've given me. I'll be sure to make good use of it."
Carrying Judy's frail frame easily, Ma walked back to the edge of the hole and threw her in. Looking up, she saw Ma slip her arm around Zeke.
"Thanks, again, for the body, Judy," Ma said, smiling. Giving a nod to Zeke, he raised the shovel and brought it down hard on Judy's head with a loud metallic ping.