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After Dusk

Gone?

Night had fallen. In the vast fields of grain, something began to stir. Wolves could be heard howling in the distance. All of the townsfolk were already tucked away inside their homes. Quiet enveloped the land at long last.

Samuel, after instructing the man to meet him after dark, was nowhere to be found. The foreign man paced back and forth behind the barn where they had planned to meet. He waited. He waited for so long that he had begun to think that Samuel had tricked him. But no, he wouldn’t do that, would he? Samuel couldn’t risk tricking him. Then, the town's secrets would be getting out. The strange man thought he had leverage.

But one does not gain leverage on Samuel Carter. Samuel thought of a man with evidence as just another loose end, and when a loose end walks right into his home and throws himself around, he’s got to be tied up. Samuel didn’t do unfinished business.

The strange man, whose name had been revealed to be Jonathon Beckett, had started to become paranoid as he stood in almost complete darkness, surrounded by farmland. He had begun to watch the cornfields closely, his heart jumping fast at any sound or rustle. He tried to convince himself that the rumors weren’t true. He knew they were fake, had to be. The only reason he’d indulged that superstitious man in the bar is because he thought he could get cash out of a gullible hick. His plan had been simple: go to Dusk, threaten to expose their so-called secret unless they paid up. Just because the townsfolk believed it didn’t mean he did.

So Mr. Beckett kept on waiting, right up until he heard a much louder sound than he had ever heard before that night. He scanned the rows of corn, his hand quickly shifting to his holstered gun.

From between the rows of corn, Beckett could see it now. His body froze in place, and his eyes had become the size of dinner plates. He could no longer breathe out of fear. He kept watching it as it came close to him. The only thought that ran through his head, was that those rumors he mocked so harshly in his mind, were all true.

It was about that time that Sherriff Carter, father of Samuel, was headed on to bed. He’d just finished off his nightly fifth, and the usually dignified man stumbled to his bedroom, collapsing on his bed as soon as he’d removed his boots. He began to pray as he stared up at the ceiling, hands clasped together over his chest.

“Dear Lord, I hope you’re still with us. I pray that you still watch over your devout people, sinful as we are. And please forgive my son, Lord, for his stupidity, and forgive me for not being able to teach him. I pray that you soon bless this town, and vanquish the evil within us all. Amen.”

His eyelids began to droop until they were shut, and he blissfully drifted off into sleep. He could sleep easy with Samuel around, stupid as he was.

In the morning, the townsfolk all gathered around Mary Ellen, who was a widow who owned a farm to the east of town. She had found the blood of a man, splattered onto the side of her barn, and a trail of it leading into the cornfield. Of course, everyone knew that there was a serious consequence for staying out by the fields at night, but nobody had actually done it in years. There had not been a single victim in decades, and this was the first real proof many of the younger citizens had ever seen of the myth that was deeply ingrained into their minds. Some of the young people were horrified. Some of them confronted God. And some of them simply took it as a cautionary tale, reinforcing what they’d been taught ever since they could remember.

Some of them knew the myth better than others and wondered where their defender had been. Where had Lazarus gone? Had he abandoned them? He was what kept the murderous creature called Lucifer at bay. If he was gone, doom was sure to be upon them.

And they were horrified.

Samuel was awake early that morning. His father was investigating the recent death. He decided to stay away from that.

Samuel had just lit his first cigarette when he remembered the events of last night. He wondered why the townsfolk thought that something had to be malevolent in order to be capable of killing. He wondered why they all thought you had to be a monster to be murderous and vice versa. He mused at how ignorant they were to the truth of the matter—that all beings were capable of killing. You did not have to be evil. You did not have to be something inhuman. Killers blend in plain sight all the time.

These were the reasons that Samuel would never be brought up as a suspect. He was too stupid. Too debaucherous. Too drunk and cared too much for women to be interested in killing. Of course, the man had only died because he was trying to exploit the townsfolk. Samuel was only doing his job and protecting him by eliminating the man.

The investigation wouldn’t go very far. This man was an outsider, and so his life did not matter to the townspeople. They were not interested in his identity, and they figured it was stupidity that had gotten him killed. They believed it was for the best that he was gone.

There was only one problem. Now, the townsfolk doubted their Lazarus. They blamed the murder completely on Lucifer, and thought that it happened only because their Lazarus had abandoned them. They thought the victim was an innocent man. And with every despairing thought, Samuel grew weaker. He did not know how to prove himself to the townspeople again. He needed a plan.

And he needed one fast.