Monday, October 3, 2016

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day the Third - "The Other Half of the Story

For each story, there's another,  secret half which nobody knows. Today we'll take in an American classic.

"The Other Half of the Story"

As we near Hallows Eve, it amused my Katrina to rename our home The Boneyard, after that old nickname of mine. It's not a bad thing to indulge the little lady, but this one bugs me. Not so much the name, but the winking not at how we got together, about how I got rid of him. Everyone's guessed at the story, everyone's in on the joke.

I love this time of the year, love sharing the joke with the rest of the town. What the schoolteacher doesn't get is that my winning means we won. All of us. It's our down, not his. The seasons have since turned, brown leaves covering the grounds as the air grows chill.
Image from Rosaarvensis

Deep in the leaves I saw another one. A cpumpkin, half-buried in the leaves, carved into a mocking face. Looking up at me. I swiftly stomped it, the orange flesh of the shattered gourd spattering across my black boot.

Somebody here knows the real story.

Everyone thinks they know what happened that night. Hell, I never out and said it, but gave 'em enough of a nod and a wink that even the folks here could put two and two together. It's not like it's hard. For all his booksmarts, the schoolmasterer has the wrong kind of booksmarts, the kind without the common sense to know what's real, what's the word of the lord, what's just old wives' tales. They all know we told him the one about the Hessian. Folk like the the schoolmaster, they think we're the simple oneAdd captions because we don't read as many books. We put one over on him though.

That's what everyone thinks.

I've never told the truth of that night. Not like I'm telling it today.

Most of it is just like you thought. He left the party late, I followed. I can handle a horse. Everyone knows that. Riding with my coat up past my head, with one hand on the reigns so the other could hold a head-sized pumpkin? That's easy. Even keeping a riding cap on top of that stupid pumpkin. That's also easy for me.

Everyone guessed at all that.

It was growing dark, and a light mist obscured vision just enough for my purposes. It's true that as I crossed the bridge I held the faux-head aloft, that I even called his name.

It's true that his eyes were wide with terror.

What nobody's guessed, what I've never even hinted at, is that those terror-struck eyes were fixated on a spot behind me, over my shoulder.

I'm a good enough rider to see behind me, with one hand on the reigns.  Easy enough to see over my head the mounted figure, the severed head in its hands still wearing a tall iron helmet. Easy to see its half-century old armor open, the bit of spine peaking up from the severed neck.

I'm a good enough rider to outride a rider who keeps his eyes in his hand, good enough to get back quickly and with my horse appearing fresh.

The schoolmaster was never really one of us. It's easy for everyone to think I'd driven him off. Somedays I even think that myself.

But as I rode away I know I saw, over my shoulder, the headless rider examining the pumpkin I'd left behind before its horsehoof shattered it.

A pumpkin that bore the same face as the one I found on the grounds.

But that will remain my secret.

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