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Comes the Crawlers: A Miniature
– May 9, 2013.

This story was published in the now defunct Flesh and Blood (#15) in 2004. It is the only horror fiction I have ever written (that I will admit to); though, I have played around a bit with horror poetry; and perhaps one day an idea will arise. The story is not character driven, and there is no character development. Nor is the story narrative driven. But, then, neither of those are actually necessary to horror, however much people might claim otherwise. In this story it is ideas that are developed, and narrative is wholly subservient to the point moment of the tale's temporality.

I say that in the spirit of my Poetry Daily Critique blog: that, after enjoying the story, you have something also to think about, as you venture on your own creative endeavors.


Old man, listen. Listen to what I’m telling you.

This day I did see an owl, fallen from the sky, be a meal to rats. I counted seven fish dead in Eldin Creek. I saw the earth fall back beneath a rotting birch and waited for what would emerge but was chased by nauseating odors and foul spirits.

This day I put my ear to the sounding rock and heard the discordant voices.

What is there now to do?


I remember.

The first snow had fallen and melted away. As had the second. And all knew when it snowed again it would last the winter.

And old Heth stood at the end of the porch and pointed, wind carrying what leaves had latest given in and orange lights off the embers under the spit and her voice what never crossed nothing without its pushing: “One has come who will call the crawlers.” – she who is most bent when the sun is high and white and oppressive but when the moon climbs the sky softly watching runs though these woods in a younger woman’s skin, mud splattering strong calves and body hard and demanding and sometimes strangely cold.

I am now quite old.

And I have forgotten many things. The counting of the bones in her back.

What I remember I would cut from me and burn if I knew where to dig the knife.

“The crawlers always come when they are called.”

And there was nothing to do but wait for the breaking.

Dead man carrion swinging from a tree R - O - T - T - I - N - G.

To the day he died McCreely Senior said he had never heard screaming so.

The next day, snow.


Listen to me.

I have put my ear to the sounding rock and heard the songs of the eyeless.


I remember.

Edie Baker’s youngest, Bethany, woke up in a furious sweat eyes tight shut and talking crazy three nights running before the day they found enough of her cousin to know he wasn’t coming back. Then the fits stopped but not the crazy, and she wouldn’t sleep with sheets on her bed, or her bed beside the wall. Doc couldn’t make heads nor tails of her chattering ‘til after Coog went missing and Edie had to call him back (and called me so quiet I pressed the phone painful to my ear) and we found Bethany standing naked on her bed with Travis Baker nursing his mouth and Philip out cold propped against the wall and her fists tight and bloody and bruised. Then Doc could catch the words but not their meaning. That not ‘til later, when he put the dried bones together and helped find poor Matty Patterson.

No one could coax Bethany down ‘til old Heth came.

I have forgotten many things. The way the far valley looks after a new snow.

What I remember is Matty’s voiceless stare.

Heth came in behind a gust of cold and left with Bethany’s hand in hers, Bethany’s hair carried by the wind pushing her voice before it: “He has come to call the crawlers.” We had all seen the tracks crossing and crossing and crossing again the graveyard. “The crawlers come when they are called.” Some of us would see the trails of blood that bound and chained the Dunn’s farm. And most saw the thick smoke when we burned the house – no one would ever live there knowing.

Dead men rotting.

Her skin was tight, pale in the cold, her bare feet crunching the snow as she walked into the wood alone.

The wind carried the grey smell of ice, pushing Heth’s voice: “Promises will be made. Promises must be kept.”

Dead man swinging.

Edie said Bethany always had been sensitive to the bleating of the sheep, even when she first came to her. And she said she always knew deep down there would be a day when Heth would take her hand.

Even, Bethany had been but six months in the city before she came back with bruises on her body and on her face.

The crawlers do much calling themselves.


I know well these things, old man.

But, I have heard the songs of the eyeless, and they sing of reds.

And I am alone for a time.


Where did he come from? Why did he come here?

Why are there wolves in Dry Well Wood? Why has lightning seven times burned the oak on Baden Hill? It is only that he did come. And after Matty and Grady Lee went missing they found the place in the woods where he had been. And Heth took from that place a charred stick, and small bones, and fists full of soft earth.

Then Heth at the end of the porch: “Do not go out this night.”

And wolves howling. And wolves snarling. And wolves’ eyes pocking the darkness.

And in the morning Heth raising a hand.

The crawlers do not choose sides. “There are costs to everything.”

Dead man rotting. Swinging like a stuffed scarecrow hands and feet and prick hacked off. Hacked deep to get it all. She took his tongue and maybe his eyes but it’s hard to say the black birds got at it quick.

Hack deep ‘cause if you get it all there is much that can be done.

McCreely Senior said he had never heard nothing scream like what he heard coming from the hill where they strung him up. Never heard nothing scream so, living or dead.

When they looked where she pointed they found him. And when someone looked high up they found Grady Lee. But not Matty.

I have forgotten many things. Why I chose that girl’s name.

What I remember is Matty’s ma wailing, and his laughing even as they dragged him up the hill. I remember her pleading, and his speaking, as they hanged him from that tree. Speaking words of bloody fingers and bloody throat and screaming that can not be heard.


The eyeless sing of reds. What is there now to do?


I have forgotten many things.

What I remember is the knowing, and nothing to do but wait for the breaking.