Darkness Comes to Obscurum
The horror arrived a few weeks ago turning the town into complete darkness. Established on the eastside of Oregon Territory before statehood by Jedidiah Hatch, a Bible thumping preacher who used the Latin name for darkness when he named this place in 1844. His luck ran out when some of the native tribes took exception to his extensive land claim and tortured and killed his family as they were gathered around the hearth praying.
The land was believed to be cursed by both native and settlers until 1889 when a traveling snake oil salesman pulled his wagon into the clearing. Even though the land was rocky and the grass was brown from lack of rainfall, Seth McAlister saw the potential of this tract of land. His vision was for a town where the Pacific Coast railroad ran through the heart of his nirvana. His vision was so exclusive, not even God, could duplicate his vision of a euphoric community.
In 1919, however, the Spanish Flu wiped out the fledgling town, claiming the life of its founder among over half of the citizens. The plague ran through the town like wildfire. Some of the people moved out either heading west to the coast near Portland or east toward Idaho or Wyoming. The mines were closed and the buildings were boarded up.
Darkness had come, leaving many citizens buried on the hill. Talk of ghosts and strange lights from the cemetery, dominated the gossip and the barbershop banter from the few that stayed.
During the town meetings many of the citizens moved to change the name to something less dreary and somber. Obscurum was a dreadful name that reeked of hopelessness. In 1922, they voted to rename the town Duncan after the man who started the petition. Mayor Jenipper did not wish to challenge the petition since he lost his son and wife during the epidemic.
“I feel that the time has come to move in a more progressive direction.” He announced after he banged the gavel on the podium. The citizens cheered.
The Great Depression ended the progressive hope of the citizens as the cash assets dried up like the brown grass in August when tumbleweeds were the only things that moved in the entire town.
Darkness had come again. By the start of the war, Duncan was nearly a ghost town.
Again the strange lights began to appear again up on the hill where the cemetery was located.
When the war ended, a land speculator had a vision of suburban bliss and a planned community in the middle of nowhere.
“Over there we could put in a sewage system.” He pointed to a hump of hand where the grass was dry and brown.
“Are you sure Mr. Reeser?” Mr. Lester, the lawyer, put his hands on his hips as the wind blew steadily across the nothingness.
“As sure as the day is long.” He sniffed.
“I have heard some of this land is haunted.” Mr. Reeser glanced around and saw nothing in all directions.
“Haunted? Are you superstitious?” He was aghast at the thought.
“No, but the people in Duncan do.” Mr. Lester took a step and a cloud of dust rose up from the dry dirt.
“People in Duncan? Do people still live there?” Mr. Reeser waved his hand in derision. Reginald Reeser was a huckster by nature, but with the right motivation, he could turn this dust patch of earth into a suburban paradise. The sparkle in his blue eyes told the story. Mr. Lester had his doubts about the future.
Large earth movers arrived a few months later and began to lay the groundwork for the community of the future.
Stew Roark rode his mule to watch what was going on. He just shook his head when he saw the two of them discussing wearing fine clothes giving Stew a clear indication these two were not from the local area.
"Howdy." He waved as he rode his mule up to them as he tipped his straw hat.
"Hello." The tall lanky man returned his greeting, "I'm Hank Reeser."
"I'm Stew. I live just over that hill." He pointed.
"So, you know about this place?" Hank squinted against the persistent sun.
"Ah-yup." He sniffed, "And I'm here to tell you that the devil may not live here, but he shares the zip code."
Dave Lester chuckled, but Hank did not see the humor.
"Even though we renamed the town Duncan, it did not change the fact that folks who put down roots here wind up occupying space in our cemetery after a spell." He dismounted.
"Why is that, Stew?" Hank smiled, but it was more of an empty gesture than a friendly smile.
"Not really sure." Stew wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve, "But some say there is a darkness that hovers over the town."
"Stew, I don't give much credence to local superstition." His smile seemed frozen in place.
"Mister, you believe what you will. I'm just saying there are things that happen which can't always be explained." He removed a bandana from the hip pocket of his overalls and wiped the back of his neck.
"Like what?" Dave asked.
"Some believe this place is cursed." He put the bandana back in his pocket.
"Haunted, really?" Hank laughed.
"I don't make up the stories, but I do know folks that have seen it with their own eyes." Stew glanced at Hank. He had seen his kind before, the doubters and the skeptics, but when the darkness came, they would believe that much was sure. It never failed.
"I'm sorry, but I don't have room in my business for spooky stories." He raised his hands like some Hollywood rendition of a B rated actor doing his ghost impression.
"I hope you're not around when the darkness comes." Stew kicked the flanks of his mule after mounting him again. The mule snorted and then lumbered away.
"What the hell is this darkness anyway?" Hank threw his hands up In the air in frustration.
"" Sounds like something out of a HP Lovecraft story. The Dunwich Horror." Dave shrugged.
"The what?" Henry glared at him.
"Read it when I was a kid. scared the crap out of me." Dave chuckled.
"You read too much," Henry shook his head.
A month later the construction crew arrived. They set up a makeshift camp since there wasn't any available lodging to be found in the immediate area. As soon as the shovel went into the dirt and rocks, dust rose up covering everything. The workers wore bandanas around their mouth and nose and goggles to keep it out of their eyes. Even with all that protection, they could not keep it out of their lunch and dinner prepared for them in the mess tent.
Most of the men were veterans of the war where conditions were often much worse, so there wasn't much complaining and griping. Henry stayed in his trailer where the dust wasn't as bad, but when he peered out the window he could see the endless nothingness of the east side of the Cascades which seemed like nothing but a wasteland.
Every now and then a few of the citizens from Duncan would wander by and gawk at the houses that seemed to rise right out of the dust. Henry would leave the sanctuary of his trailer and talk to the rubberneckers.
"The future is coming." He would boast.
"So is the darkness." Some of them would lament.
"What is this darkness I've been hearing about?" He would ask in a cordial tone.
But they would just shake their heads and move on.
Jasper Graden went to talk to Reverend Gunther Kockmeir about the construction taking place just over the ridge.
"My daddy told me about when the darkness last come." Gunther held his hat in his hand as he spoke to Reverend Kockmeir. The young clergyman told Gunther to have a seat in a vacant chair. Gunther sat in the chair, "Told me it got really dark right at noon. Ain't supposed to get dark then, but it did. He said there were voices chattering in the wind. He said it were the voices of the dead."
"Easy Mr. Gradin, I was here then. I did not hear any voices." The reverend with the crystal blue eyes and a crop of blonde hair shook his head.
"My daddy would say you weren't listening then." Basket said sharply as if it were an admonishment.
"I came to Duncan twenty years ago to spread the word of God and I feel I have done that." He had been wounded by Jasper's critical remarks.
"Sorry, didn't mean to offend you." He coughed into his hand, "I was just saying that the darkness ain't been sent by God. It is a premonition from satan."
"Satan does not have power over the Almighty." Reverend Kochmeir pointed his finger at Jasper.
"Then what is it? What is the darkness?" His question would go unanswered.
Legends originating from the Coquilles spoke of a shapeshifter who was selfish and did not want to share his hunting grounds with others. Learning how to turn day into night, he became a very powerful being. In the darkness he would murder those he felt had come to take his land. When the settlers came, he would bring forth great pestilence, but the settlers were determined to stay. Waving his arms, he would produce plagues, but even facing extermination, these stubborn people would only defy him with their determination. He brought forth the darkness. And in the darkness would come horrible things beyond their wildest imaginations. Creatures would come forth with carnivorous appetites to rend these stubborn settlers limb from limb.
When the darkness first came, one of the survivors named the town Obscurum, the Latin word for darkness and obscurity. From the terrors wrought in the darkness, those who survived left a ghost town behind in search for a better settlement.
French fur trappers would speak in whispers of the creature who inhabited the area. They would tell the newer arrivals to stay clear of the haunted place. Some of the newcomers did not heed the warning and would later be found ripped to shreds in the forbidden area. The legend would grow.
The citizens of Duncan knew about the darkness and would warn anyone who felt that the legend was just some superstition to keep newcomers out. But every now and then someone would turn up murdered who did not heed the warning. Under the banner of a cross, some good hearted citizens would retrieve the remains to be buried at the cemetery on the hill.
Dave Lester was having a small party with his clients when he had a distressing vision after a few vodka shots with his brother-in-law, Marvin. In his hill retreat in Santa Barbara, Dave saw his reflection turn into a black eye less face with just a mouth, a ragged orifice ready to suck the life force right out of a living being. The reflection had no teeth, but the intent was obvious.
"Hey dude, are you alright?" Marvin knocked at the door after he heard Dave gasp.
"Fine." Dave suddenly felt as if knees were going to buckle. "Just had a moment. The vodka went straight to my head."
"Okay." He heard Marvin chuckle, "I won't call you a light weight or nothing like that, but I can't stop myself from thinking it."
Tommy Fulton was a foreman on the project who had to take a whiz in the tall grass. He heard something moving through the dry grass as he got ready to give the dry grounds its first baptism in months. He heard it again.
When he saw it, all he could do was scream. It was all he had time for.
When one of the guys found Tommy, he vomited as soon as he saw his boss folded like a bed sheet with bones protruding from various places.
"What happened?" Henry asked as his body was put into a body bag.
"Something very powerful did this." Yuri explained. Yuri Grennovich was an experienced foreman who had seen his share of horrendous accidents, but this one topped anything he had ever seen since Tommy Fulton was not killed in an accident, no, something else had done this. Something that had deliberately done this. Something that was still out there waiting.
The next morning, some of the crew had left the site. Henry Reeser was outraged, "Superstitious morons!"
"Mr. Reeser, there have been some strange goings on." Abe Bergman said calmly.
"Like what?" Henry snapped.
"Tommy Fulton for one." Abe shrugged.
Henry paused. The whole Tommy Fulton affair was unnerving, the way his body had been grotesquely bent and bended in such an unnatural way in what must have been a matter of seconds. Even now just thinking about it caused him to shudder.
His mood did not improve as he went to the mess hall and Saw Stew Roark who chanted, "The darkness is coming. Unless you pack up and leave, it will be here soon."
Stew walked away without saying another word. His face seemed frozen in an expression of foreboding doom. His eyes had no white as his brown irises filled his entire eyeball. His voice was automated, nearly robotic like one of those B science fiction movies he liked.
"What darkness?" He asked, but Stew Roark walked by as if he had not heard a word.
Henry did not think anything more about it until noon.
The crew working down near a small creek which Henry had planned to redirect the water flow away from the section he planned to construct seventy units, disappeared. Chuck Bennington, the foreman in the adjacent unit radioed in that the crew had vanished. Jumping into the pickup, he drove down to the section.
Henry parked the truck and got out. As soon as he put his feet on the ground, he got the feeling he was standing on another planet. The crew had vanished without a trace. The radio came to life once again.
"This is Grant Darmon. We got a dark cloud that is..." The radio went dead.
"What is happening?" Henry pressed the button on his two-way radio. There was nothing, but static.
When he looked, those who were left were on their way off the site. From his vantage point, Henry could look down on the deserted construction site where a darkNess loomed over the area. He dropped the radio as he felt a strange sensation running through him..
In the darkness that appeared to consume him, his last impression was seeing his boy turn into a beacon just before the plug was pulled and the substance that once was his body was pushed out into the atmosphere as unbound free molecules mimicking the Big Bang.
A day later, Dave Lester got the news of what happened. Some of the details were sketchy, but his overall impression was the darkness had come. In his research, he saw that the Coquille had discovered the magic of the land and warned the other local tribes of the darkness. They believed there were certain places in the world that were to be avoided and treated with reverence. This was one of those places.
Decades later, scientists would explore this natural phenomenon, concluding the area had remnants of the origin when matter and antimatter existed together as the rules of physics were being established. Even as these rules were being established, there were places where these rules were not as cut and dry.
One of the scientists even suggested that the arrangement of this darkness might even be energy left over from a black hole this mass had once traveled through, concluding as the Bard of Avon had, "There are stranger things of heaven and earth."
You don't have to tell the citizens of Duncan or Obscurum about such things, they are already well aware.