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After Dusk

Part One

    The wolves always howled late into the night, along with the metallic screeching of wayward trains, carrying their cargo out west. The trains always moved a little faster, with a bit more conviction around these parts, for reasons that were entirely known to the locals. The closest railroads were actually quite far, but the trains still whistled as loudly as if they were right next to your ear. There weren't too many outsiders that came to visit the valley, and those who did never took a good word back to their kin. Some of them didn't go back at all. Some settled into the countryside for one reason or another, and sometimes it was not by choice. Regardless, anyone who stepped foot into the town down by the river left knowing all about the plagues of the people who seemingly thrived in the area.

Some families were entirely unconcerned with the myths and the rumors that always circulated in such a small, secluded town, as they were the only ones who were safe. Some great sinister spirit seemed to sing in little whispers that sounded all through the forest in the night, starting at dusk and slowly fading into a deathly silence by sunlight.

There were no streetlights. The night stayed black as pitch and that's how they wanted it. Streetlights gave young ones and adolescents alike an excuse to be out when the sun was at rest, and that couldn't be had. It never cared about the pseudo lighting that humans had created to try and protect themselves, for it was far older than humans or any ingenious invention they could ever come up with, and it was significantly more intelligent. The sun was its only rival that posed a threat. Some would say the sun is it's only rival at all.

But it wasn't the sun that kept it down. A force far more powerful, with far more influence, kept the spirit at bay, but it should not be assumed that that force was benevolent. The difference between the two was that what stalked the fields at night was far more mischievous, frequently seeking out foolish folk to sate it's appetite for entertainment, while the spirit that walked among the townsfolk was disguised, refuting any kind of attention from the humans it protected.

The townsfolk had names for these two forces, both names of biblical origin, thanks to their deeply religious roots. Good old Lazarus was the name of the neutral spirit that walked around among them during the day, for the fact that he was nowhere to be found at night, and no one could ever follow him to where he had disappeared to- only for him to somehow reappear out of nothing the very next morning, just as the bright sun began to blaze over the fields of barley. Many believed that he spent nights chasing Lucifer through the cornfields.

Lazarus, however, did not stay hidden as a meek old man who laid up in bed all day. In fact, he was quite the opposite. Lazarus was a young man named Samuel who had committed nearly every crime the townsfolk wouldn't hang for, which included the killing of non-locals, and a bit of adultery. His stomach stayed full of rye whiskey and his eyes stayed full of wonder. Not one soul in the town had he trusted with the information that he was the force that kept death on a short leash, and he encouraged the Lazarus myth, and had been the one to come up with the idea that the thing that slaughtered sheep and sly children at night was the devil, because the truth would have been far too much for the simple folk to handle.

Samuel was known as an alcoholic outlaw who was only still allowed in town because he was the Sheriff's son. If not for that bit of lineage, he'd be gone, leaving the townsfolk to fend for themselves. This town was called Dusk Valley by visitors, and home by those who were born and raised, and to God, it was known as absolutely nothing. The Lord had long since abandoned the people of Dusk, leaving them to fend for themselves due to the immense amount of sin that would rival Sodom and make Gomorrah seem like a wonderland. The residents were hostile and paranoid, rejecting any help from the outside world and considering evil to be any man who didn't speak with an accent. Over half of the men in town had an alcohol problem, and even more of the women, though that was kept a 'family secret,' as many in town claimed to believe there was nothing more unbecoming on a woman than the smell of whiskey. Of course, this was mostly a lie. Reputation was important.

Samuel made it obvious, however, that he did not 'give a single lick about reputation,' and he proved it every single day of his life, smashing bottles and slamming doors since he was only twelve years of age. Now that he was twenty-three, it only got worse.

"Samuel, if you don't put that man down, so help me great lord above I'll skin your ass like a goddamn rabbit and hang it over the fuckin' mantel!" Shouting echoed through the bar, and for good reason. A tall, dark-haired man currently had another man pinned up against the wall by the back of his shirt collar, pressing the barrel of a revolver into his jawline.

"I'm not puttin' this man down 'til he says sorry, pa, he was threatenin' the honor of that lady over there and if I ever see him do it again his nuts are gonna be the only thing up on that fuckin' mantel, I swear." His hand shook with anger as he took his eyes off the man in front of him and looked over to the Sheriff, also his father, and narrowed his eyes.

"Boy, unless you just took that woman to the chapel and made her your wife you ain't got no fuckin' right to be defendin' her honor. You ain't her goddamn daddy. You ain't her husband. Pick your fuckin' battles, fucknuts!"

Samuel narrowed his eyes further, pulling back the hammer of the revolver, inciting a small shriek from the man being threatened before he dropped him with a loud thud as the man began to scramble to his feet. Samuel then looked to his father, holding up his hands in a mocking way.

"Sit your ass down, smartass. For God's sake." The Sheriff began to walk out of the bar when he saw Samuel take his place on a stool at the bar, ordering a whiskey and lighting a cigarette. He looked around at the onlookers, blinking slowly before looking back to his drink. He was used to the stares at this point, he even expected them.

He took in a deep breath, flicking ash onto the ground and taking a sip. A man approached, sitting next to him at the bar and looking him straight in the face.

Samuel thought, considering the nerve that this man might have to look him in the eyes after the spectacle he'd just created.

He blinked at him for a moment, speaking only when eye contact had been held for more than just a moment.

"You from around these parts?" Samuel spoke in his slow, Southern drawl, taking a drag from his cigarette and the man spoke.

"Maybe a bit up North," Said the other man, an obvious foreign accent curling in the air.

This man looked odd as well- odd as in the type of man that could be hanged in this town for so much as stepping on another man's shoe.

His skin was a darker shade, but still Caucasian, reminding Samuel almost of the whiskey in his glass.

"You talk funny. Real funny. Don't you know we're a bit selective about your, uh, kind around here? You better have some damn good credentials to be waltzin' right up into my pa's town like that."

"Well, luckily for the both of us, I do. What those credentials entail are none of your concern- I'm just here to ask a few questions about how things work here in your, uh, pleasant town."

Something akin to a snarl crossed Samuel's face as soon as the word 'questions' reverberated through his thick skull.

"We don't appreciate your kind, especially not if they're nosy. I won't be answerin' no questions you spit in my general direction, and neither will the townsfolk, so you best get your city-slick in' ass out of our bar, else you might lose a tongue or two." He grinned with intense malice, only for his eyes to widen when he saw the small, brightly colored patch of fabric that the man had drawn from his coat pocket.

For the first time since Suzy threatened to tell the pastor that he'd looked up her skirt when he was seven, he felt fear.

"W-where the hell you find that?" He managed to stammer, eyes wider than the mouth of a great canyon.

"If you aren't willing to answer, you shouldn't be willing to ask." The strange man smiled slyly, his eyes lighting up with a twinkle that could only be called 'victory.'

"Name's Samuel Abel. I'll rephrase what I said. I won't answer no damn questions in public."

"Well, what's an ideal setting for you?"

"You best come with me. I won't kill ya. What ya got in your hand is too valuable for me to kill ya." Samuel's typically fearless demeanor was replaced with frantic, childish eyes, and a nearly trembling bottom lip. Samuel took his gun from its holster and handed it straight to the man, looking him right in the eye as he did so.

"You determine the way, sir. It's your town I'm in." He smiled with false hospitality, and the two men fled the bar. Samuel was a rack of nerves, and the strange man was a showcase of satisfaction.