The essence of foliage ablaze on that chilly autumn evening was strong
enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. The time of day, where daylight
mingled with the darkness of night, introducing the brilliant pinks and
blues of a late autumn sky. The gloaming. The most perfect time of day
to be sure.
He only emerged at this time of the day, and this time of year. When he
felt his most comfortable. Raising his eyes to the stratosphere, the
figure cloaked in black walked alone. Fallen leaves crunched under his
boots, the only noise heard for miles around. He knew this place well,
it had become his home since the incident that had forced him to
withdraw from the life he had lived before.
Noticing smoke arising from the mountain top he paused only for a moment
before determining that this was a situation screaming for his
attention. Trespassers on his mountain was a violation that he would
soon remedy. His pace quickened, and it would seem that all of nature
bowed to his command for silence. The leaves had no sound now. No
crackling under his feet, only the eerie silence lingered heavy in the
Tishy and Jeff watched the daylight slip silently into evening. The
past few months had been grueling. They took a much needed and
deserved break, camping in the magnificent splendor of the mountains.
"Do you know what they call this time of day?" Jeff asked.
"Dusk?" Tishy offered back.
"The gloaming. And I have heard that on this mountain, at this time of
year there is a soul that walks alone. He only appears during the autumn
gloaming. Looking for souls to steal. It has been said that he is a
grotesque figure of a man. Huge, with the face of a demon. He preys on
young girls and steals their souls to supply him with youth." Jeff
sat back waiting for Tish’s reply. He loved kidding his lover like this.
She was superstitious by nature, and folk lore scared her to no end.
"Come on baby, don't do this to me. You're joking right?" Tishy curled up
closer to her young lover, taking his hand.
"Of course I'm joking, you think I'd bring you to a place that would
steal your soul? That's best left for me. Bouahahahahaha." The faux
menacing laugh coupled with Jeff holding his arms out Frankenstein
style made her giggle.
"Well, don't do it again. I hate being scared, you know that." Tish
caught the gaze of her dazzling rainbow haired sweetheart, imploring him
with her eyes to stop the teasing.
Seeing the frightened look of his little lover, Jeff’s face grew
serious. "I'm sorry babe I was just kidding. It was a scary story I
heard from the locals when I was buying our supplies. I'll stop now. You
know there is no such thing as the gloaming man." Ruffling her
blonde hair, he leaned in for a quick kiss.
"I'll be right back. I'm going to go and gather some more wood for the
fire. It's going to be a cold night and as warm as you keep me baby, a
fire will keep any animals away from our campsite." As Jeff walked
into the woods he mentally castigated himself for scaring Tish, but it
had just been a joke. Sometimes she could be so, so, baby-like. Oh
well, he thought to himself. That's what I love about her I guess.
The wide brimmed hat the huge man wore hid the icy green eyes
underneath. Those eyes were fueled by hatred and near insanity. A
protective man, he had always kept to himself.
The only job he had ever held was that of the local undertaker. He had
been run off in scandal when there was a rumor started that the bodies
of the dead were never really buried. When bodies were exhumed, those
that were residing in the grave had never been embalmed, yet they were
intact perfectly. There was no sign of decay and if cut, still bled.
Horrified cries of vampire and monster flooded the town. While it was
true that this man had superior skills that allowed the embalming
process to be disregarded, those skills were learned over the years. He
was a genius, not a monster, until now.
When Jeff arrived back at the camp they had made, his love smiled
at him. All thoughts of wild animals and monsters were long since
forgotten, because when Tish smiled at him in that way, nothing else
mattered. Dropping the brushwood on the cold ground before him,
Jeff took his young lover in his arms and led her to the tent they
had set up earlier. Tish had taken the time to sprinkle the sleeping
bags with wild rose petals and as Jeff set her gently on the floor
of the tent, he heard her sigh in contentment.
"Love me baby." Tish whimpered against Jeff's chest. Trailing a
finger over her cheek he whispered back, "It would be my
Thanking God and anyone else who would listen, Jeff was grateful
that they were out in the woods where Tishy’s loud screams would not have
been heard. Cooing and taking her into his arms once again, Jeff
whispered, "I love you baby."
"And I you." Was her reply.
The young couple fell asleep like that, neither of them noticing the
hulking shadow that was cast on the walls of their tent, shaking with
Turning back towards the blackness of the timberland, the Undertaker
realized that if it was the last thing he did, he would get these lovers
to leave his woods. His enraged mind bellowed at him to demand that they
take their leave now. But, he could wait. It would be better that way.
Hearing a slight snapping noise, he turned back towards the camp site.
When Jeff awoke, he looked down at his sweetheart, with a gentle
smile and a cherished memory of last night. Placing a tender kiss on
Tish’s temple, he chuckled when her response was to swat at him in
his sleep, murmuring something almost inaudible about sky diving and
Twinkies. Pulling his pants on Jeff had to wonder what on earth
she was dreaming about now. Sometimes her youthful exuberance was one of the strangest things about her. But it made her
that much sexier in Jeff's eyes.
Stepping outside and inhaling deeply, Jeff noticed that the fire he
had built had burned down to almost nonexistence. A fleeting thought
flashed through his mind. What were the chances that he could get Tish
to go and collect the wood this time? As he thought it, he realized how
laughable it really was. He was expected to be the big strong one in
this relationship and that was just fine by him. Brushing his hair back out of his eyes, he decided the morning was warm enough to go
bare chested. He just needed some shoes and an ax.
When Tish arose from her slumber, she saw a note lying next to her. She
smiled lazily when he saw that Jeff was tending to the firewood
situation. She thought for a moment about making her lover breakfast, but
figured if they needed wood, she couldn't build a fire anyway. Dropping
her head back on the soft pillow, she decided to simply stay right where
she was. Jeff would be back soon enough.
Jeff hummed as he walked. He was feeling so good, he knew this was
the perfect time to bring Tish here. When the two of them got together
and had some alone time it always...Wait....What is that?
Jeff abruptly stopped humming and felt a tingle crawl up his spine,
its icy fingers gripping his voice, rendering him mute. He started
shaking, sweat beading off of his brow. Bones everywhere. Some partial,
some full human skeletons. Few were fully decomposed and the stench of
death lingered in the air as if he were standing in a slaughterhouse.
Hanging from trees, lying on the ground, propped against rocks.
Everywhere he turned there was more carnage to be discovered. Trying to
scream out, he was quickly frustrated and turned to run. Stumbling over
rocks in his path, he felt himself fall towards the rocks and when his
jaw hit, he heard the unmistakable sound of bone breaking. In his pain
he forgot his fear and managed to cry out, "Shit!" Opening his eyes, the
same familiar paralyzing fear rushed back to him in waves when he found
himself face to face with a decaying human skull.
Tish stretched luxuriously, wondering when Jeff was going to
return. She was really starting to get hungry now and she started to pout,
wondering if Jeff was really worth all that she put up with. She
sighed when she thought that if her love was here he would tell Tish that
she was in 'One of her moods' and inform him that perhaps a Midol was in
When Tish decided to see if perhaps there was one last Snapple for her
in the cooler, she didn't bother to put any clothes on. She looked
gorgeous with or without clothes, that's what Jeff told her anyway. She bent over the cooler and fished in the icy water, her hand starting
to numb slightly as she tried in vain to locate a pink lemonade tea. Standing
up, pretty irked by this point, she turned away to go back under the
covers and not come out all day long. That would show Jeff. How
dare he not bring enough supplies? Mumbling something that sounded like,
"Jeff, piece of shit, what am I a cheap whore? The least you could
do after bringing me to this God forsaken place is to have..." The words
stopped quickly and Tish felt her breath catch in her throat. She felt
something behind her. "Jeff? Are you playing with me again?" She asked
in a timid voice.
Tishy’s scream echoed throughout the mountains. Jeff heard it and
was jolted out of his gore induced trance. Jumping to his feet and
running as fast as he could he made it to the campsite in less
than three minutes. He found his beloved Tish sitting next to the long
since dead fire, sobbing. "What happened " He asked. As soon as the
words exited his mouth, he felt the miserable throbbing of his jaw. It
was broken in at least on place maybe, more.
Tishy’s words were nonsensical and her lover gently swept her into his
arms, trying to ignore his own pain as well as fright over what he had
"Take a deep breath baby. Hold on a second." Jeff didn't even look
as he dipped a hand into the cooler and pulled out a pink lemonade tea.
"Here baby." He cooed. "This will make you feel better. Now tell me what
Tish stared at the lemonade for a second before looking at her love.
"The gloaming man was here Jeff. He was here baby. He was huge and
evil with dark hair and dark eyes and a really big hat!"
Jeff pondered what Tish had just told him, coupled with what he had
just witnessed himself. Grabbing his jaw when the pain became too much
he said to Tish "Get your things, we're going to get the hell out of
here." He bent over and started to pack. He froze to the spot he was
standing in when he heard a voice ask, "Where are you going?
Jeff turned slowly when he heard the voice behind him. Tishy’s
horror was visible as she buried her head in her lovers neck and
whimpered softly, fearing her own demise. Stroking her hair Jeff
bravely raised his own terrified eyes to that of the dark figure half
hidden in the shadows of the golden oak trees.
"We are not intimidated by you, whoever you are." Jeff managed to
announce, horrified when Tish squeaked pitifully and sniffed. Yeah we
look courageous now, the terrified man thought. Thanks babe.
His relief was immediate when he saw the old timer from the quiet
country store he had visited earlier.
"You look as if you've seen a ghost." The old timer observed,
clutching his weathered double-barreled shotgun.
Jeff tried to pry Tish off of him and when he was successful he
smiled at the elderly man and replied, "We have to be going. It's time
to get back to work."
The man nodded knowingly, "Ya saw him, didn't you? You saw the
monster I'm trying to catch."
"I...I saw him mister." Tishy sniffed. "He was big and looked really mean
and then I screamed and he ran back into the woods." Gesturing towards
the mountain range behind them she finished with, "He was taller than
bigfoot, I swear."
Jeff informed the others of what she had witnessed in the woods
as well. He noticed the old gents eyes narrow with anger. "You saw
skulls ? And skeletons?"
When Jeff nodded in affirmation the old man bustled past them and
indicated that they should follow.
"I'm sorry to say this but I don't think it's safe for you to
leave now. I'll put you up in my cottage until the coast is clear. That
maniac will not get out alive."
Gratefully Tish and Jeff gathered up their gear and accompanied the
man to his abode.
"You stay here. Eat anything you want, make yourselves at home.
I'll be back when I can." As he left out the front door Jeff heard
the loud click of the door being locked and thanked God that this man
was here to help protect them.
“Baby, are you ok?" He asked.
Tish stood looking around the darkened room. There was no electric wired
to the cottage and the entire dwelling was covered in an inch of dust.
"Rainbow I can't see anything, don't we have some candles or anything?"
Tishy beseeched her lover.
"Don't worry baby, I'll take care of it." Jeff fumbled in his bag,
searching for the lantern he always brought with him on camping trips.
When he found it he felt relief for a moment as the illumination filled
The Undertaker sat alone near a stream. His mind was clouded with
thoughts of the boy he had seen by the mountain. A young boy who
reminded him of his assistant back in his home town. The town had
incarcerated the boy after he had fled. The only crime that the lad had
committed was loyalty to him, he would not reveal Taker's forensic
secrets or his whereabouts. His eyes narrowed to slits. That boy on the
mountain was not his lad, he was an intruder, and Taker needed to get
him off of his mountain. Throwing a pebble into the stream, Taker sat
back and watched the ripples flow throughout the water. The crystalline
waves mesmerized him, lulling him into a state of tranquility for just
a moment. A sudden searing pain ripped through his head rendering him
immobile for a moment. There was big trouble on his mountain, and he
needed to remedy the situation at once.
Jeff stiffened at what he saw when he looked around him. Staring
back at him were the heads of many animals obviously killed in the hunt.
From their perch on the walls where they had been mounted, they stared
back at him with detached disdain. Holding his throbbing jaw, he
tried to reason with himself. At least these weren't human skulls, like
he had seen on the woods. People hunted, that was ok by him. He didn't
choose to do it, but many people did and he needed to stop freaking out.
Tish wasn't quite so sure.
"Rainbow, there are dead animals heads all over the walls. This is just
scary, let's go home baby, and snuggle."
"It's ok baby, it's ok. The old coot is a hunter, that's no biggie. Just
sit here by me and we'll hold each other until he gets back."
Tish and Jeff sat grasping each other close. The feeling of having
someone near made the fright reduce just a tad. An eerie squeak
announced door being opened and Jeff and Tishy jumped apart.
As they saw the 7 foot monster in the doorway the horror was paralyzing.
He walked in slowly, his gait a bit off step as his heavy boots hit the
ground with a dull thud.
"You need to leave this place." The man in black commanded taking one
more menacing step forward. "There is evil here...." Taker never
finished his sentence as a heavy object crushed his skull. He dropped to
the ground with blood seeping from a gaping wound near his left temple.
The old timer stood behind the gloaming man, his face a mask of pure
unadulterated abhorrence. In his hands was the shotgun, the butt of
which perpetrated the assault on Taker's head.
The alleviation of fear in Jeff's heart was short lived as the old
man cocked the hammers of the shot gun with a menacing click, pointing
it at the two young lovers.
"Sit." He ordered them. Wordlessly he tied them back to back on two
chairs. Tishy grabbed Jeff’s hand behind his back trying to
desperately not to cry. Rubbing his lover's hand for comfort, Jeff
looked defiantly at the old man.
"Why are you doing this to us? We mean you no harm. Our only wish is to
leave here." He hoped he sounded braver than he felt. Looking around
Jeff finally figured it out. All of the heads on the wall were mere
trophies to this man, humans being the final and most perfect reward his
demented soul could ever desire.
"The skulls in the woods. They are all from you." Jeff said
"They are and now with yours, my collection will be complete." The old
man replied, his eyes cold and menacing. Stroking Jeff's colored hair he
finished, "I'll need to find a way to keep this hair intact after death
however. This plume will be the...."
Crawling out of a puddle of his own blood the Undertaker's retaliation
was swift and brutal. He staggered to his feet and grabbed the man by
the neck, snapping it as if it were a dried up twig. Just another
casualty of the autumn gloaming. The old man fell to the dirt floor of
the cottage, comparable to a limp rag doll.
Untying the two he managed to mumble, "Leave now and don't return."
Lunging out the door of the cabin, he was never to be seen again.
ONE YEAR LATER-THE AUTUMN GLOAMING
"Jeff, do you ever think about the gloaming man and what he did to
help us out?" Tish asked as she was sifting through her dried fall leaf
"I do, sometimes I feel like helping us made him feel more human, ya
know?" Jeff answered, smiling at his sweetheart.
The old timer’s death was the talk of the town for the next year. All
talk of the gloaming man had ceased, his secrets buried with the corpse
of the demented soul that had collected skulls of the unfortunate.
The Undertaker sat beside his favorite stream. It was his favorite time
of day and year. It was the autumn gloaming.