Several months ago, I was privileged to be a part of an anthology with twelve other authors called Dreams are Stranger than Fiction. The idea was to take a dream we’d had and turn it into a story.
Here’s the link on Amazon.
And also, the Prologue from my story, It Brings the Wind:
Old man Jefferies reclined on his front porch and filled a pipe with tobacco. He didn’t smoke often, but when he did, it was usually during the summer before September’s harvest. To say he was anxious would be an understatement. The season had been unusually dry and the impending rain was much needed. After lighting the pipe, he inhaled and closed his eyes. The breath was deep enough to make him cough, but when the smoke circulated through his lungs, he relaxed.
Today had been a hard one. Most of them were, but today’s work was grueling. He’d been in the field at sun-up, cutting a water furrow in preparation for the inclement weather. The afternoon was spent in another field, loading and unloading hay for his cattle. Though it was back-breaking and tedious, that was a job he enjoyed. Had bovine farming been a lucrative business in the little town of Rouler, he’d sell all his tractors and combines and trade them in for another five-hundred head of cattle. But in Rouler and throughout the entire South, cotton was King as was sugarcane, soybeans, and corn.
As usual, his wife had prepared an outstanding meal. Pork chops, squash and butter beans they’d grown themselves, and a pan of cornbread. Mrs. Jefferies was known throughout four parishes for her home cooking. They’d met and married as high school sweethearts, had four daughters, and at least a dozen grandchildren. Three or four great-grands too. Their life wasn’t without hardships, mostly financial, but overall, Jefferies thought it had been a good run.
“Want a cup of coffee?” Mrs. Jefferies’ head poked through the screen door.
Beads of sweat lined his forehead, but he couldn’t refuse the bitter chicory flavor he’d grown accustomed to having every night. “Only if you’ll join me, hon.”
“I’d love to.”
Seconds later, she kicked open the screen with her foot and passed the cups to him. Closing the wooden door was not an option. Not if they wanted to sleep cool tonight. The sun had been down for hours, but the temperature and humidity remained high. Having lived Rouler their entire lives, they should’ve adapted to it, but both still complained daily.
“This heat, I swanee to the Good Lord it gets hotter every summer.”
“Don’t I know it,” he agreed. “Supper was exceptional tonight, hon. I don’t know how much better you’re gonna get at makin’ that stewed squash.”
“You flatter me.”
In the pasture in front of the house, the cows bellowed and snorted, indicating their irritation. At first, their displeasure was limited to only a few, but soon, the entire herd seemed to be bawling at the same time.
“Wonder what’s got them stirred up?” Mrs. Jefferies asked, her head tilted to one side as if she could hear the culprit over the cattle’s distress.
“Not a damn clue, but I swear if it’s those kids comin’ to tip ‘em over, I’m gonna pump ‘em full of lead.” He stood and went inside, his footfalls heavy enough to be heard on the porch.
“They’re kids,” she called out. “Don’t you remember what it was like to be fifteen?”
After he returned with his shotgun, he clicked off the safety and tramped down the steps. “Barely. Have the phone ready to call the police. If I can’t shoot their asses, you can bet I’m havin’ them hauled off to jail.”
“I’ll be waitin’.”
Trudging through the gate, Mr. Jefferies entered the pasture, certain the herd was closer to the fence. He hadn’t brought a flashlight because the full moon had been enough illumination, but a dark cloud appeared in what he thought was a cloudless sky. The cattle’s grunts and groans grew louder. So loud that he wondered if they were in pain.
Mr. Jefferies started to call out for his wife, but as soon as he opened his mouth, the bellowing stopped.
With uneasy steps, he edged back towards the dim light of home, still unable to see his surroundings until he felt something warm and wet pool around his feet. Had he stepped in manure? The cloud disintegrated above him, and offered the full glow of the moon. Mr. Jefferies glanced down and his voice caught in his throat. He hadn’t stepped in manure, but the intestines of a cow, and around him lay the herd. The entire herd. Five thousand dead, disemboweled cows.
A bitter wind blew through the dry grass and froze it solid. Mr. Jefferies had never experienced air this bone-chilling cold in his entire seventy-seven-years, not even when he went elk hunting in Alaska and especially not in Louisiana in the summertime. His boots stiffened and when he tried to move, he couldn’t. Desperate, he fired off a warning shot, but it was too late. A grey mass hurled towards him, leaving nothing but a pool of blood and the gun.