A Horse of a Different Color, by Edward Taylor
I took the last train I could from Wilmington to Philadelphia, and then jumped aboard another to New York and finally on to Boston where I bed down for the night in a cheap hotel somewhere offs the Back Bay. In the morning I was to find a coach to the Holyoke area at the base of the Mount Tom Range and to visit with Mr. William Street, the proprietor of the Eyrie House. Forgive me for speaking without introducing myself, my name is Hubert Jones and I work for the US Patent Office as a file clerk. I know it’s not a position of any prestige in these modern times but the salary is good and I make my wage with much ease. I have been sent from the Patent File Office in Wilmington, Delaware to beautiful rural Massachusetts to take notes and sketches of a new genus of flower that Mr. Street would like to have named and such. Why he could not send a sample to Boston or New York to be analyzed by a botanist, which I dare confess I do dabble but am not learned, but I was told there was some special characteristics of this breed of plant that he did not want to be seen until he could secure the patent rights on it. After my superior spent time consulting the head office in Virginia, I was sent up from my small space in Delaware to see this item as he insisted someone of a learned skill set but sadly only I was employed by the government in the entire northeastern United States and thus why I am here. I will no doubt be spending much of my time on the trip as I have previous: on the road seeing the sights that this great country has to show during this time of year. The cool autumn air and the sweet smell of wood smoke are always welcome to me and I look forward to spending my time in quiet contemplation and reading.
The next morning I awoke, took my watered down tea and stale biscuit on the veranda, packed up my small bag and set out to locate a coach to take me out to Holyoke some three hours away from the Back Bay. Finding one to Holyoke had not been an issue, but finding one willing to take me beyond it was proving to be most troublesome since everyone insists that the Eyrie House burned to the ground more than 2 decades prior and William Street had not been seen since. I had shown my writ of service from my office and then the letter from this very town’s own postmaster stamped but three weeks prior but again all refused to waste their time taking me into the middle of nowhere on a “fool’s errand”, despite plentiful offerings from my modest coin purse. I walked from shop to saloon but was unable to find anyone willing to take me along the verdant path out into the foothills surrounding the town proper and allow me passage to the location where the Eyrie House once stood so I could try my best to locate Mr. Street. It was not until an odd man, polite and courteous, yet strangely attired and lacking what we people in the metropolitan areas refer to as “common sense” He introduced himself to me as Michel Deschenes, a former fur trader from Quebec who has been stuck here because he lacks money to travel back home yet from what I can see he spends his money on cheap hooch and whores by the smell of it. He offers to take me into the woods on one condition: I must trade him my shoes which he has become quickly enamored with and stares at intently despite attempts to dissuade him. He claims to have been to the location many a time, so the choice I have is his rank self or none. I take his deal, trade him my best pair of saddle shoes and put on a quick pair of Dickerson’s I purchased from the local 5 and 10 store and a few extra pairs of socks to hold them up while we get ready to make our way from town. I meet my guide on the edge of town where he has two horses ready for our journey.
Deschenes is mad, I have no doubt about it as in our first hour on the path he has asked me the same questions no less than 3 times each but with every iteration he goes from English, to French, to a pigeon hodgepodge of the two previous that makes not only my head ache but my blood heat to near boil. His queer tone is enough to drive one mad but the incessant questioning is followed up by more of the same. No matter how I answer his inane and not to be put to page questions about how I feel about god or Negroes, or even the copulation habits of esquimaux in the dead of winter, he just starts again a few minutes later in his broken record fashion. I begin to ignore him in the second hour; this leads him to simply either try speaking louder or stopping along the path until I answer his inquiries. Once this is done we move onto a different and even more obscene series of questions that defy even my proper upbringing to contemplate let alone answer how I feel of them. By the third hour I stop along the path and explain that in no certain terms am I willing to answer anymore of this insane inquisition and if Deschenes would just kindly either end this line of questioning or give me a quick map to my destination as my feelings about our “business” arrangement are now sorely regretted but all he does is smile and point off into the distance. “We are here, my friend.”
True to his word and in spite of my near meltdown, we have indeed arrived on what Deschenes believes to be the outskirts of what had once been the farmstead that housed the Eyrie House, but all around us is nothingness. I had been so preoccupied with the ramblings of my French-Canadian guide that I was unable to see the land fall away into a blasted heath that not only seems devoid of anything but a fine gray ash, it stretches as far as the eye can see. Our horses, the sensitive creatures that they are stop at the edge of the clearing that has defined the path ahead of us and begin to slowly back away from the downy ash that falls like snow through the air. I had never seen nor heard of anything like this previously reported but here it was like a fanciful snow globe set before my eyes. “Here is where we part my friend, the horses nor I will go any further than this and if you value your life, I say the same should be of you.” I quickly dismount my failing ride and move to the very edge of the heath; its outline against the colorful forest behind and to the sides of me is awe inspiring and I can almost can feel an energy fluttering through the air like the ashes. I bid Deschenes a final farewell, held my breath, closed my eyes and stepped into the cloud of gray which changed my life forever.
I believe that was three days ago but there is no way for me to tell as there is no signs of neither sun nor the moon and yet the entire area is lit with a glow from outside that I have never seen before nor can I comprehend its origins now. I have yet to find anything living within this desolate gray waste save an odd equine creature that no doubt was once a horse but now instead of a skin it wears a scary juxtaposition of matted feathers and serpent scales whose colours are that of pure chaos itself and no doubt the original point of my quest in these disgusting flowers that seem to defy the ash with their tendrils. I attempted to get a closer look at what I can only label as the “horse of a different colour” just to have it run off into the fog away from my presence. The flowers though I am giving as wide a berth to as possible due to their intensely disturbing ability to follow my every movement despite having no visible sensory organs that I can see. All of my wanderings have yet to lead me out or to the Eyrie House location in which I am hoping to find Mr. William Street so that I might find a way out of this desolate place. I am so very tired and need to rest my head for a few moments but have yet to find a place free of theses ubiquitous purple and green vines that are crawling through the gray silt even as I stop to write this passage. My only hope now is to walk in a single direction and see if it leads me…
That was the last entry in the journal of Hubert Jones, my great-great-uncle who disappeared in the woods just outside of Holyoke Massachusetts in 1926 while searching for a man named William Street who was thought to have died close to twenty years prior to his trip into the wild. My twice great grand uncle’s body was never found, only his journal and a pair of Dickerson style galoshes that he references in the story of his final moments. I have tracked where the journal was to have lead him and found the ruins of the Eyrie House, their old store bricks have not moved since the house burned to the ground in 1901 and is now an off the beaten path tourist spot in the Mt. Tom Range portion of the Connecticut River Valley. I see no serpentine horses, gray ash clouds nor indescribable “colours” but there is an inordinate amount of the flowers he described growing all over the crumbling structure. I am going to camp here for the night and try in the morning to retrace his final moments in time and see if there is some truth to his tales.
Hailing from the small college town of Newark, Delaware, Edward A. Taylor splits his time between writing and raising his two shoggoths with his thankfully understanding and patient wife Kelley. He has appeared in Morpheus Tales #’s 21-22-23, The Were-Traveler #11: The Day the Zombies Ruled The Earth, and Rivets and Rain – A Steampunk Anthology. Tales of his exploits and other stories can be found on his blog: http://mylongroadoutofhell.blogspot.com
Posted on January 20, 2014, in Issue 12: The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters: Poe & Lovecraft Tribute and tagged e-zine, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, horror, monsters, short stories, The Were-Traveler, Tribute. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.