Raven’s Rage – Order of the Claw
It was one of those bitterly cold evenings in mid-December, the kind of steel-blade could that slices through your skin and seems to encase shivering bones within a block of ice. Puffs of white steam exploded from the horse’s nostrils like a prehistoric steam locomotive trudging up the tracks of a long hill, coughing and sputtering painfully “I think I can, I think I can…”. The steady clip-clop of hooves on the lonely pavement possessed a staccato-like beat of apprehension, accompanied by a nervous whinny now and then. The horse’s acute senses were on high alert for something dangerous. The animal was just not aware of why, or for what terrible reason, simply that death was out there in the darkness waiting to strike violently from some unsuspecting direction.
Inside the small, one-seat buggy, tightly clutching frigid hands with a warm woolen blanket covering their legs, rode Adam Yost and Hannah Klinefelter. They were quite tired, yet still beaming over the wonderful day spent at their closest friend’s wedding. The adoration this young Amish couple had for each other was strengthened even more after seeing the happiness of newly found wedding bliss displayed by their long time friends, Jacob and Abigail Neff. Their own special moment could not happen soon enough with Hannah already planning the loving dinner she would prepare on some future Sunday for Adam. They would then announce with great excitement their plans for marriage when the family returned from the normal Sunday gathering of families. It was traditional for the Amish, ‘plain folk’ as they call themselves, to make their intensions known in this fashion and then have it broadcast to the entire community during church services. They had talked in hushed tones all throughout the day, giggling and whispering their own versions of sweet nothings, proud parents looking on with fondness, aware that in the near future their children would be starting a family of their own.
Hannah squeezed Adam’s hand and smiled, staring up into his strong but soft, very dreamy, brown eyes with a love she had never felt for anybody else. He was a wonderfully considerate man from a good, well respected family. It seemed as if they had been together already most of their lives, meeting each other as young children in school and then spending a number of amorous, exciting moments in the barn hidden amongst the shadows in the hayloft. Hannah had been interested in a handful of other boys her age, but none ever compared to her Adam, tall with a strongly chiseled face, compassionate and always so concerned for her happiness and well being. He would be a deeply devoted, honorable husband and such a loving, thoughtful father.
Adam leaned down and kissed her lightly on the forehead, gazing into her azure blue eyes sparkling in the light of a full moon, doll-like porcelain skin shining with just a touch of crimson on her cheeks, in some ways from the December chill, but mostly from the love she felt for Adam. He knew, and rightly so, he was without a doubt the luckiest young man in their surrounding Amish community, though at the moment he realized he shared that right with his best friend Jacob, soon to spend the first nervous night with the woman he loved.
“I wonderful luff you,” Adam whispered softly as his lips brushed hers.
Excitement streaked through her body as she murmured back, “You’re my Adam, I luff you so much too,” her heart beating madly with the feelings she held for him.
Staring out at the long expanse of empty road, clucking a few times at the seemingly nervous horse and gently snapping the reins, he surprisingly felt an edge of concern. Adam thought it was nearly light enough under this brightly shining moon that the street lamps along this lonely stretch of Route 322 were not even needed. He also noted how sparse traffic was and then realized it was in fact close to midnight. Both of them had decided to spend a little more time with Jacob and Abigail, revealing their plans for the coming year. He knew their parents would be extremely worried that the young couple had stayed out so late, scolding them both after they returned home and making them promise they would not be so inconsiderate in the future.
Yet as warmly glowing as Adam felt inside, he was also aware of a very evident nervousness in his horse, a trusting animal he had painstakingly raised from a spirited colt with the loving care and patient tutoring that was his normal course of action. It took a long while to get a horse to become fearless enough to pull buggies and trot along these busy roads, all the time being passed by roaring trucks, diesel-smelling buses, and honking, inconsiderate drivers encased within their cars, too damn impatient to get nowhere fast. Unfortunately, all the roads in the area had claimed lives, Amish as well as their horses. The shoulders and road-side fields were scarred with shattered debris from splintered carriages just because too many drivers were careless and stupid.
Tonight would be no exception. Death was hovering mere seconds away and it would not come from a careless driver, but rather an evil which Adam or Hannah could never have come close to imagining even in their wildest nightmares.
The horse suddenly shied to the left with a wild snort of fear, veering from a dense thicket of bushes off the road to the right. Adam frantically tugged hard on the reins, trying to straighten the horse out and calm him down with a few soft whistles, as if a whistle could abate the panic which now nearly paralyzed the frightened animal.
“Adam, vas is los?” cried out Hannah, clutching his arm in alarm with both hands.
Adam, however, was too concerned in attempting to control the crazed steed and keep them from tipping over. He was just grateful there was no oncoming traffic to try and avoid. But it was not a vehicle he had to be alarmed about as a huge shadowy form leaped from the bushes accompanied by an ear-splitting roar. The nightmarish apparition struck the frightened horse with the force of a tractor trailer, raking the screaming animal’s neck open as easily as a hunter slices into the underbelly of a slaughtered deer.
The horse was dead before it hit the ground, its’ nearly severed head lying at a most unnatural angle. The momentum of the attack spun the buggy around in a violent, hair-raising slide on two wheels where it tipped over completely, breaking free from the dead horse and then tumbling several times in a mad, dizzying, grinding crash. Black pieces of wood and shards of glass were flung in an exploding shower of debris as was Adam’s body. Striking the ground with a loud, sickening thump, arms and legs bent at angles only meant for a Raggedy-Ann doll, his damaged body slid across the pavement where it violently struck the post of a road sign that claimed ‘No Passing’. Even then, his only thought was for Hannah’s safety as he peered through a veil of blood streaming from a horrible, ugly gash across his forehead.
The buggy was upside down, crushed and broken, wheels spinning crazily in the dark, chilly, midnight air. Hannah’s stunned and broken body was securely pinned underneath the smashed vehicle, her screams still echoing across the empty fields, praying that somebody would hear their plea before she and her beloved Adam were dead. Surprisingly, she was still conscious, though in terrible, agonizing pain from a fractured leg and a broken back. She could see the horse lying crumpled on the pavement, two legs reaching up towards the nighttime sky in silent supplication, surrounded by a pool of blood appearing like a dark, ebony pond under moonlight’s severe glare.
Another terrible roar split the night asunder as Hannah let her frightened gaze peer between several openings in the destroyed buggy that surrounded her. Suddenly, through one of the holes she saw a shadlow slither across a thin shaft of light, praying it was a passing motorist who had stopped to give assistance. Prayers aren’t always answered.
“Help please, I beg thee,” she croaked, unable to move, surprised that the initial pain was now succumbing beneath a grateful blanket of numbness.
But sadly, help was nowhere near, only a violent death which neither young person could ever have imagined. Hannah felt the buggy being angrily lifted, dumping her to the pavement in a broken heap where her head struck the ground in a sickening thump like an overripe apple falling from a tree. Thankfully, her prayers of assistance were answered, because she would be unable to realize the nightmarish evil that had befallen them. The concussion was such that she gratefully did not notice the long, hairy feet which had moved up to straddle her body. Even though she was still somewhat quasi-conscious, the ground and surrounding landscape had a surreal, alien feel to it, as did the dream-like motion of floating above the ground, like she was levitating.
Adam saw the entire, horrifying scene transpire through a nearly black, crimson curtain of blood that still flowed from his badly lacerated head, total surrender of life mere seconds away. He was able to slowly slide his arm towards his beloved Hannah as she was lifted off the ground, held in the massive claws of a devilish beast, whispering her name for nobody to hear but himself. He watched in horror as the young Amish girl he dearly loved was raised towards a nightmarish, wolfish head and then saw that monstrous mouth open to unveil huge, slobbering fangs, horrid teeth which no living creature should ever possess.
The last vision Adam had, before blessed oblivion swept him away into a darkness that he wondered if he would ever escape from, was the beast placing Hannah’s thin neck within his vile jaws and crunching down. Thankfully, Adam did not see the creature crawl towards the barren, empty field, dragging his beloved Hannah behind, her dead feet bouncing roughly a top the skeletal remains of broken corn stalks, tattered long black skirt flapping in the icy breeze, her blood-splattered bonnet lying alone on the pavement.
The horror continues……