The author had this to share about this piece: “Gothic rural horror and the amorphous disposition of evil have long preoccupied me. Moral and spiritual diffidence have weighed on my mind more recently. The troubling and self-reflective atmosphere of this past year, 2020, seemed a fit time to stew these themes together, to prepare us for whatever fresh plagues may descend. Keep well and be kind in the meantime.”
by Dan Fields
- Let the Day Perish
Lightning had started the fire. That was plain to anyone with sense. Who or what had called the lightning down was another question.
Just after the setting of the moon, a snake of blue fulmination struck the mill which, being made of and fairly stuffed with dry timber, lit the town beneath it. The blaze churned through the valley, jumping narrow bends on Beverly Creek. By sunrise, half the community was cooked and consumed.
The survivors faced ruin on the heels of grief. The dead became objects of suspicion, general opinion holding that the destruction was God’s judgment on some unconfessed evil. Dark speculation first fell on the character of Robertson the barber. Crushed under falling beams and burned alive for his neighbors to hear, he fell in death under scrutiny for his coarse morals. Young women gave damning accounts of him. Others affirmed that he’d spoken profanely in their hearing and was altogether “never a godly ‘un.” Most men kept silent on the point of the barber, whose regular company most of them had shared, yet they were keen enough to speak against the late Mrs. Beaudoin who’d worked one husband to death and worried a second into his grave with incessant ghoulish talk of the first. Cooler philosophical heads proposed a cause more obscure than common impiety, unwitnessed and thus requiring divine retribution. Never did grim conjecture fall on the hoary brows of the ancient or the children’s tousled heads. Only those of prime age for worldly iniquity went before the court of neighborly gossip. The rumors played out swiftly, for after a few perfunctory town meetings and bleak stock-takings, the unburned populace dwindled in a ghostly westward migration. (Continue Reading…)