|Note: This story is a part of a larger series of short stories and flash fiction. You can find these stories on the Oubliette home page.|
Griswold found himself standing in the middle of a field. Amber stalks of grain surrounded him as they swayed gently in the midsummer breeze. The sun beat down upon him as he scanned the horizon for a clue as to where he was. In the distance, he saw a tree line and he saw a plume of smoke at its edge. He walked to the trees in less time than he expected and he did not have any memory of the journey.
He followed the smoke plume through the woods to its source; the smoldering remains of a house that had caught fire. The destruction of the house was complete and all that remained was a foundation in which he saw glowing embers of burning wood. Within the wreckage, he saw a charred baby crib with the blanket still burning inside it.
Griswold saw a well at the edge of the wheat field in the distance. It compelled him to walk towards it and he complied. He could tell that there was something unusual as he approached. Something heavy pulled the rope tight as it dropped down into the well. It would make an occasional unnatural intermittent jerk.
He reached the well and looked down into the darkness. His eyes followed on the rope as it disappeared into its black depths. Without warning, something lunged at him from the darkness. It looked like Grease except it was bloated and pale with colorless eyes. It shrieked as it grabbed his arms and tried to pull him down with it. He struggled against it until it lost its grip on him and Griswold fell backward onto the dusty earth.
Griswold laid on his back staring at the azure sky and breathing heavy. He rolled onto his hands and knees and crawled to the well. He grabbed the smooth stones to help pull himself up. A sudden sharp burning sensation hit his back. A snapping sound accompanied this unexpected bolt of pain. He screamed in agony and rolled on the ground to better protect himself.
Four figures stood over him. They wore simple solid colored clothing that resembled what farmers wore in photographs from the Civil War era. Each of them held horse whips and they stood there ready to attack again. He did not try anything that would provoke them as he sat.
Griswold recognized the faces; they were of his supposed friends: Pete, Linda, Grace, and Chris. Their expressions were blank and emotionless. An unseen fifth figure walked in front of him. The fifth figure squatted before him and when Griswold saw its face, he recognized it as Grease. The fifth figure looked at him with sad eyes and shook his head.
The fifth figure stood back up and hit Griswold with his horse whip. As if on cue, the other four figures took turns assaulting him with their horse whips. Cracking and snapping sounds alternated with sharp burning wounds on his body. Griswold did not know how long it lasted but to him, it lasted forever. He tried to protect himself and begged for them to stop.
Just as sudden as the attack started, it ended. He uncovered his face and saw that he was back in his bedroom. It was the middle of the day. He examined the room and everything was as it should except for his wallet on the floor next to his bed. Looking inside, he found it was empty.
He scowled and cursed under his breath and marched into the living room. Grease was smoking one of his “stogies” and he threw his wallet at Grease.
He demanded, “What happened to my money asshole?”
“I don’t know, dude.”
Griswold rushed Grease and grabbed him by the shirt. Grease took a defensive posture as Griswold raised his hand.
“What did you do with it? Buy drugs?”
Griswold threw his fist at Grease’s face and it struck something soft that gave way. He punched again and found himself in his bed pummeling his pillow as hard as he could. The room was dark and it was silent except for his heavy breathing. He cocked his head as he looked around. The clock on his dresser said 4:00. As he continued to kneel on his bed, he noticed that he was in pain and it felt like the horse whips from earlier. He reached around, found a wound that caught fire when he touched it, and saw blood on his bed sheets.