The sun was just beginning to set as I crested the hill, and as much as I would like to say it was the sight that took my breath away… it wasn’t. It was the hard gust of cold wind that managed to do that. Not that the sight wasn’t beautiful to behold, and I never grew tired of sunsets on an open range, but the air was crisp and biting cold. It was the kind of cold that seeped down deep into your body. The kind of cold that made your bones ache, and I was tired of it, but I could see salvation in the distance.
A small town lay nestled in the valley between the hills and after a week riding in the cold, I was past ready for a little taste of civilization. Of course, there’s something to be said about being on your own, especially when you didn’t care to mix in with the drama that comes with civilization. However, at this point, what I really desired was a hot bath, a fire that I didn’t have to build myself and the company of a member of the fairer sex.
Turning my horse in the direction of the town, I made my way down the hill slowly. As much as I wanted to get to that hot bath, my horse had been run enough over the last week. He was probably even worse off than I was, and was definitely in the need of some rest, preferably in a stable.
“That’s a good boy,” I said, patting him on the neck. “We’ll have you eating some oats and hay soon enough. Just a little bit further to go.”
I know it seems crazy, talking to a horse, but he was the only constant companion I have had for quite some time. In many ways, I think he understands me better than most people do. Then again, I never stayed in one place long enough to allow people to understand me either. I just never saw the point in it.
By the time I made it to the town, the sun had managed to set completely and I was thankful for the buildings that managed somewhat block the biting wind. I could barely make out the sign on the post as I rode into town, “Welcome to Hell’s Furnace,” I read aloud, and chuckled to myself. I just couldn’t shake the irony of riding into a place called Hell’s Furnace when it was so cold outside.
The smell of smoke coming from woodstoves was the first thing I noticed as I continued my slow stroll through the town. If it wasn’t for that, and the sound of music coming from somewhere in town, I would have sworn the place was deserted. There wasn’t a soul in sight to be seen.
That in itself wasn’t strange, given how cold it was outside, but I expected to at least see one person on the road. While I could see oil lamps burning through windows I passed, there was no one on the road, nor out on the porches in front of the buildings. Yet, I had the feeling of unseen eyes watching me from the darkness. I could feel their eyes on me, taking me in, and it caused the little hairs on the back of my neck to raise.
It was an eerie feeling, and I didn’t like eerie feelings.
© AC Elliott, 12-Apr-18