The Murder of Alacht | Teen Ink

The Murder of Alacht

December 9, 2021
By Devin_surless BRONZE, Louisville, Kentucky
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Devin_surless BRONZE, Louisville, Kentucky
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Author's note:

I was given a task to write a four page short story. I instead wrote an eleven and a half page story that I can't get enough of. This world this story takes place in is very interesting to me. What is this "thing" that terrorizes our characters? What is the government hiding? I would love to revisit this world that I have crafted here. 

The author's comments:

There is technically only one "chapter" as I never intended this to be written in chapters. It's meant to be digested as a whole, an ongoing story with no pauses in between.

The Murder of Alacht

    Up in the foggy mountains, there once sat a sleepy mining town, tucked away from civilization. The year was 1954. In the town of Alacht, there lived six people. Fred and Cass moved there because the government promised them better working conditions. Antwan moved there with Stacy, after his family disowned him for being a coal miner. He had heard of the government’s promises of better working conditions in Alacht, so he convinced his best friend, Stacy, to move out with him. Chad and Harley came to Alacht because of the promised work conditions as well. Chad and Antwan had history with each other, as they grew up as best friends, but grew apart in their later years. Harley was Chad’s wife, and she was ready to work for a living. Things started out positive for everyone. 

    Alacht was an old town, built in the early 1800’s. Wooden cabins, three in total, sat around the town square. Each cabin was separated from the other, for privacy. Each cabin had one bedroom and one bathroom. Each was identical to the other, all having the bed situated on the right side of the room, hugging the wall. The bed sat just below a big, four paned window with red and black checkered curtains. Each cabin had a fireplace built into the wall. The bathroom was across from the bed, on the right side of the wall. It was small and cramped. Just a small mirror and sink to brush your teeth in. The outhouse was a minute jog from the back of each cabin. The cabins sat around the town square, each with a path covered by the trees. Each path led to the town square. The town square was a large circular area, built in stone. There was a lone “shop”, where the residents could get an excess of canned goods that lasted for years. In the center of the square sat a fire pit, with rough, lousy logs to sit on while roasting canned beans together. Parallel to the shop stood a tall, beat up, faded wood sign. It read “WORK THIS WAY”, with an arrow pointing down to the path below. This cobblestone path led to the least desirable place in this wind swept town. The caves in which the residents do their work. Three caves with rusted railroad tracks leading down into them. Dirty and rusted carts sat next to the rails, empty. Three caves in total, all next to each other. A small lantern sat at the entrance of each cave, waiting to be lit by its worker. 

    The town remained foggy year round, as the mountains were so high up. It took newcomers time to adjust to the thinness of the air around them, not understanding why even a slight jog would send them panting. Winter was harsh, as blizzards would send harsh winds and feet of snow, along with bitter cold temperatures. In the summertime, it never got excessively hot. It always felt like it was winter or fall. This contributed to the residents losing track of time. There were no clocks in Alacht, only the sun and the stars, all covered up by the dense fog. It was always tough living in Alacht, with the canned food, harsh weather, and lack of society. There had been three groups before the present one, each not being able to handle the awful conditions. But alas, the government still advertised this as a “paradise” for coal miners across the country. Somehow, word never got out about this government cover up, as the families of the other coal miners swore their loved ones came back and said it was a great time. Many different conspiracies float around the town of Alacht. 

    “Well that was a f*cking lie.” Fred said as Cass arose from her uncomfortable slumber. 

“What are you on about this early in the morning, Fred?” said Cass, whose back started to ache from the poor supports of the wooden slab she slept on. 

“The government, Cass, they lied. They always lie. Lied to me about my wages, then sent me off to this hell hole for six months. It’s been like three months and I’m ready to leave!” Fred said, his anger rising. It had been almost three weeks when Fred said this. 

“Fred, I get your mad, but you say this every morning. Let’s start our day off positively, instead of being negative. I’m tired of constant negativity, and the baby is tired of it, too.” Cass looked down at her belly, smiling at her baby, excited for the future. 

Cass had struggled to get pregnant for sometime, but just before she and Fred moved out to Alacht, they had success, and life was great. Fred had this great paying job and was going to be able to support the family. It was only after they got to Alacht that they realized that money didn’t matter up there. They were the only ones here. It was going to be a while before they could leave. 

Fred packed up his work supplies, consisting of his lunch, a pickaxe and a lantern, ready to be lit when he descended into the caves. “Well, I guess I’m off to work, honey.” Cass was up and fixing some soup, humming to herself and the baby. Fred walked over to Cass and embraced her, kissing her on the forehead before walking out the door. 

“Don’t stay out too late.” Cass said with a wry smile.

“You got it.” Fred said. He walked out onto the porch of the cabin, and down the stairs onto the makeshift dirt path marred by tree branches and leaves. 

“Same sh*t different day.” Fred mumbled under his breath as he started the long walk to work. 

Antwan was already late. Just like everyday, he woke up just a tad late, and would end up clocking into work late. “How am I supposed to tell the time when the sun is blocked out by this f*cking fog the whole day!” The yelling woke Stacy up, who was not pleased at all with her friend's tone to start the day. 

“Shut the f*ck up Antwan, I’m tryna sleep!” Stacy said. Antwan took Stacy’s advice, grabbing his things and slamming the door shut, rattling the whole cabin. Antwan ran down the path to work and heard a faint ‘F*ck you!’ from Stacy, but he would have time to apologize later. Now was the time for work. 

Chad woke up to the sound of screaming. He would hear the swing of an axe, then a blood curdling scream. Chad rushed out of bed and out the backdoor to find Harley chopping wood with her trusty axe. “DIE YOU PIECE OF WOOD, AHHHH” Harley yelled.

“Good morning to you.” Chad said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. 

“What are you so prissy about, puss boy? You afraid I was hurt? You know I can handle myself.” Chad smiled as he heard these insults laced with love. 

“You’re right, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Anyway, I’m off to work now.”

“Don’t forget to shut the door, b*tch boy!” Harley yelled.

“That was one time!” Chad smiled as he kissed Harley, then walked out the front door and made sure it was shut. He couldn’t make that mistake again. Chad set out on the path to work. 

As the three men converged onto the work site, the fog cleared a little. It revealed a dark gray sky. “Man, always f*ckin’ gray in this place, can’t we see any other colors, like a nice blue sky? Maybe a nice orange sunset? I would love to see that beautiful sunset just once.” Antwan said.

“I feel ya, Ant. It’s just so hard to wake up everyday and see the same damn thing. Deja Vu everyday.” Chad said, as Fred and Antwan shook their heads in agreement. 

“Hey, at least we are away from the women. I think we can all be happy about that.” Fred said, and everyone beamed in excitement. 

“Yessir, finally, away from the ladies!” Antwan said, smiling ear to ear.

“I can’t be with Stacy in the morning man, she badgers me about everything. But later in the day, she cheers up. I think it's got something to do with her mom and how she treated her when she woke up. I dunno.”

“What do you mean, ‘You don’t know’ Ant, she’s your best friend. How don’t you know this?” Chad asked.

“Look, she was my best friend, but ever since we got here, she been acting weird, man. She’s pushing me away, man.” Antwan looked down at the ground, thinking about his situation and deteriorating relationship with Stacy.

“You can’t just avoid her, dude. You live with her now.” Chad said. He walked up to Antwan and put his arm around him.

“She cares about you man, maybe the mornings just leave a bad taste in her mouth, make her remember bad memories. But she cares about you, Ant. We can all see it.” Fred shook his head, as he saw this too. 

“Look, I know this is a hard situation for us all, we were lied to, and it's tearing us apart from each other. We can’t let that happen. We gotta stay together. I know we all want to leave and go home. Just think, we got a year at this place. It’s already been like three months. We can do this, we just need to hold each other accountable.” Fred said, the others perking up. 

“Yea, we got this, it’ll all be over soon!” Antwan said as a smile ripped across his face. 

“We got this, guys, let's stick together. It will be over soon.” Chad said, energized by Fred’s speech.

As the three men finished their morning bonding time, they clocked into work. At the entrance to each cave was a time card. On the time card were pictures of the sky, displaying the time that they got to work. After they punched out the picture of their sky, they put it in the box. Each card they had put in previously lay there at the bottom of the box. “Why do we even do this, not like the government knows when we work, because the cards are all still here!” Fred said as he dropped his time card in the box. 

Each man lit their lanterns with the lighter that was with the time cards. They each descended into the dark cave and started to mine for coal. Each man had a pouch they would fill up with coal, and when it was full, they would bring it up to the surface and deposit it into the massive tin that sat in the middle of the cave's entrances. This tin held the previous coal from the previous work days. The men did not understand why they were told to place the coal there if it was never collected, but they each felt the need to deposit it. Inside the caves, the temperature rose to well over 100 degrees, so each of the men were sweltering. It was miserable and dangerous in the mines. The men would mine until they couldn’t anymore. They felt compelled too, no matter how difficult it was. Once finished, the men would punch out, with a picture of the sky. This is how things went every single day in Alacht. 

By sundown, the men were beat. Mining coal all day was taxing physically and mentally. The men arose from the caves with smiles on their faces, excited that the day was over. 

“Listen, Chad, man, you’re the woman in the relationship.” Antwan said this to break the ice, as all three men were dead tired and quiet as could be. Fred cackled and smiled when he heard the joke. 

“Shut the f*ck up, Ant.” Chad said, as a small smile started to creep across his face. He had heard this joke thousands of times before, so he couldn’t help but laugh. The three men turned into boys that night, laughing and making fun of each other during the walk home. 

After the men had gone off to work for the day, the three women got together. They gathered in the town square with their hunting supplies. It was time to hunt for their food for the week. Cass had a bow and arrow, Harley had an ax, and Stacy had an attitude. “Why are we out here today, it’s freezing outside.” Stacy whined.

“Stacy, please stop talking, you're scaring the animals away. If you want to eat, you’ve gotta help us catch the food, unless you wanna eat that canned garbage in the shop.” Cass said. Harley nodded in agreement, as they got up and started into the forest. 

“I’m gonna get it this time, I just know it.” Harley whispered.

“Just be quieter than last time, you scared it and missed your throw, Harley. You gotta be more composed.” Cass said, understanding that the deer around Alacht were very fearful and easy to scare off. A breath too loud would send them running. 

“I got it, I’ll be in the trees scouting out where they are, and I’ll flush them towards you.” Harley said, grabbing onto the tree bark, starting her ascent. 

“What are you going to do, Stacy?” Cass asked. 

“I guess stick with you.” Stacy said. 

Cass grumbled under her breath, not excited she had to babysit this time. 

The fog lay thick in the air, making it difficult to see much of anything. Harley bounced from tree to tree, trying to spot a deer, but it was impossible with the fog. She dropped down, giving up, as she couldn’t see anything. She was useless in the trees. She dropped down next to Cass, getting her ax ready. 

“I see one. Hang one, be right back.” Harley whispered, crouching and approaching the shadow she saw. She disappeared into the fog. 

“She’s crazy, I don’t like her. What do you think of her, Cass?”

“Shut up, Stacy!” Cass whispered with a sharp tone. 

They heard Harley scream. This wasn’t out of the ordinary, as Harley screamed as she would kill deer. Or do much of anything, really. The women heard a ripping sound, then silence. 

“Harley, you get the deer?” Cass announced into the fog. 

Nothing. Silence.

“Harley, what’s happening?” Asked Cass, a little louder and more urgent this time. Still, no response as the two women started yelling for Harley.

Fred felt a raindrop hit his head. “Ah, as if it couldn’t get any better, a storm is coming.”

“Huh?” Asked Antwan, who was clueless, as he walked with his eyes glued to his feet. 

“You dipsh*t, look up, Ant.” Said Fred, smiling as he made fun of his friend. 

“Man, shut up, I gotta make sure I’m stepping in the right direction, make sure I don’t step in a pothole.” Antwan said. As Antwan said this, something large fell out of the trees and knocked Fred down. Fred dropped his lantern, and it shattered, lighting the ground around him ablaze.

“Oh sh*t, Fred, you okay man?!” Antwan called out, yelling over the roar of the flames.

“Yea, I’m okay, just real wet. It’s like a water balloon hit me!” Fred was drenched from the object that fell from the tree. Fred still couldn’t discern what it was, as it was so dark, the only light source being the flames around him.

“Fred, how we gonna get you out of there?” Chad said.

“It’ll go out in a minute when it starts raining, right?” Said Antwan.

“You felt raindrops, right Fred?” Chad asked. As Fred got up, his eyes adjusted to the scene around him. He looked around him as the fire engulfed the trees, turning into a full on forest fire. 

“All from a little lantern, impossible!” Fred muttered to himself. Fred looked down to see what it was that fell from the tree. He witnessed a horrifying, grotesque sight. It was Harley, or at least, some of Harley. Her body had a spear driven through her throat. Her stomach was ripped out, blood dripping everywhere. Fred looked at his hands, and it wasn’t water he was drenched with, it was Harley’s blood. 

“HOLY F*CK!” Fred screamed. The fire around him formed a tight perimeter, growing closer to Fred. It started to touch his skin. Fred let out a blood curdling scream as he started to burn.

“What the f*ck is happening, Fred!?” Antwan called out, fear gripping his voice.

“Fred! Stay calm, we’re gonna help you!” Chad said as he tried to stay calm. Fred continued to scream as every cell in his body exploded. His skin was burning off, exposing his bones to his own horrified face. Fred melted like wax, until there was nothing left to burn. Fred was gone. Reduced to ash. 

“Fred, Fred!” Antwan and Chad cried out. There was no response. Harley’s corpse was burnt to an unrecognizable crisp, taking the secrets of her death to the grave. 

“We gotta go in after him, man!” Antwan yelled as Chad held him back.

“Ant, listen to me! He’s gone man, he’s f*cking gone!” Chad couldn’t hold back the tears as they streamed down his cheek. 

F*ck man, what the f*ck happened!” Antwan yelled, his anger lifting his voice above the trees. 

“C’mon Ant, we gotta go before that fire spreads and gets us, too.”

“Where the f*ck are we gonna go, huh?! What big idea do you have to save us!” Antwan yelled. 

“Calm down, Ant. We have to stay level headed and figure something out.” Chad turned to run, and as he did, he felt something grab him by the neck and lift him. 

“Ant, help me!” Chad screamed as he was hoisted up into the trees. 

“No, not you too. What the f*ck, man!” Antwan didn’t know what to do. He ran as hard as he could. The glow of the orange fire lighting his way. As he ran, he got knocked out by something that was caught in the trees. As he looked up, he saw Chad’s decapitated head on a stick hanging from the tree above him. He heard scurrying all around him. He accepted his fate. As he made peace with the situation, a spear was driven through his throat, and his body thrown into the fire to burn with Chad and Fred. They carried the secret of their deaths to the grave. 

As Cass and Stacy looked for Harley, night fell upon them. “I can’t see a damn thing, Cass.” Stacy said, irritated. 

“We have to find her, Stacy, let’s keep looking.” As Cass said this, Stacy noticed an orange hue coming from over by the work site. 

“Hey, is that a sunset? I see an orange glow, Cass. What do you think it is?” Just as Stacy said this, the orange glow turned into a roaring fire, engulfing everything it touched. 

“Oh my gosh Cass, we have to see if the guys are okay, that’s a massive fire!” Cass looked up and saw the flames. She instantly understood the situation. A single tear fell down her cheek.

“It’s over.” She muttered to herself. They two women heard screaming, distress from within the fire. It ended as quick as it started, and Cass knew Fred was gone. 

“Don’t you wanna go save Fred, Cass?” 

“He’s already gone.” Cass said, holding back more tears. 

“I’m going to go be with him, Stacy. You need to go. There may still be hope for you.”

“What are you talking about, Cass?”

“Antwan and Chad are also gone, it’s over!” Cass screamed. Stacy’s heart sank, as she too knew it was a lost cause, going towards the flames. Her lip quivered as her words became scarce. 

“I love you, Cass. I’ve got to go now, try and find help.” They embraced each other as Stacy ran off into the night, calling out for anyone, even though she knew she was all alone. 

“I’m coming, Fred.” Cass said calmly, as she walked towards the flames. 

Stacy ran as hard as she could, screaming for help. She heard a noise in the trees above her. As she looked up, there was nothing there. Just the branches. She continued to run. Up ahead, she saw the path led down the mountain. This could be her escape. As she reached the end of the path, she looked down at the huge drop. The fall would surely kill her. 

“Oh f*ck me.” Stacy said, realizing what little hope she had was gone. Stacy sat down, sobbing. She laid down on the ground, and as she looked up, she saw it. Stacy stared into its eyes. It looked deep into her very soul, and began to feast. It tore Stacy apart, limb for limb, stripping all the hope out of her with every bite. It wasn’t natural nor unnatural, only terrifying and otherworldly. As this thing finished it’s food, it kicked Stacy’s corpse into the canyon below, getting washed away by the river, gone for good. 

Cass approached the flames, the heat and smoke making her eyes water. The ash in the air floated around her, embers lighting her on fire. As Cass trudged into the fire, the burns got worse. She screamed in pain. 

“We are going to be with Daddy now, okay Harper?” Cass spoke to her baby as the flames engulfed them. She and Fred had each come up with a name for the baby, but she never heard his name for it. As Cass reached the center clearing of the fire, she found Fred’s ashes. She knew it was him as it called to her. She laid down as her bones were exposed by the flames. Harper screamed and cried as she was burned alive. Cass cried as she felt Harper die inside her. Finally, Cass took her last breath, and she joined Fred. 

To this day, nobody knows what started the fire that led to the destruction of the town of Alacht. The government keeps that place and it’s troubling history a secret from everyone. The government refuses to speak on this incident. All that’s left is ash in the spots of the three cabins. Alacht is no more. 

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