American Fiction Horror

Jacob Fielder stamped his foot. When that seemed insufficient to express his frustration, he kicked the tire of his old Chevy pickup truck, splitting the toe of his worn out boot, scraping his big toe, and making his sad life even worse.

“Dadgummit!” He swore like a man thrice his age and brought his wounded foot up to his waist, hopping about like a cartoon character until he lost his balance and fell against his disabled vehicle. The awkward angle of the truck bed pushed him off, and he fell onto the broken wheel that had completely snapped off its axle on this remote backroad. He sat on the bald tire and leaned back against the rusty carcass of his truck. The familiar hitch of a sob wiggled in his chest, but was so frequent a visitor that Jacob just left it where it was.

“Same ol’ same ol’. Always in luck. Always in bad.”

The ivory moon was a perfect circle illuminating Jacob’s misfortune. He wrapped his Carhartt coat tighter around his chest and reflected on his situation. It was happening tonight. As the great-grandson of the founder of the Order he should be there, but they couldn’t wait. The others had explained to Jacob once about the cosmic alignment of stars, planets, and other space stuff but it all went over his head. All he knew was that tonight was the night. They had the Well of the Depths, and they had the sacrifice ready. They wouldn’t wait for him.  

Any respect being the sole descendant of Obediah Fielder might have brought was lost in Jacob’s youth. He wasn’t a handsome man, for starters. His great-grandfather’s granite rock chin, imposing stature, and piercing eyes were visible even in the primitive photographs of his era. Jacob had a round, doughy face that suggested kneading and baking more than spiritual awakening and Ancient Gods. He wasn’t tall by any standard, and a minor case of scoliosis curved his spine into a permanent grovel. Even if his self-esteem were high enough to allow him to make eye contact, his stooped shoulders made it more trouble than it was worth. Add to this the fact that he dropped out of school after he failed the eighth grade a second time, Jacob had a hard time in life, and he wasn't even old enough to drink yet.

Being kin to Obediah Fielder is what kept Jacob alive, though, and he knew it. The Order wouldn’t let the Founder’s heir starve to death, so they dropped off groceries every week. They never came in to talk and usually just left a box of food on his dilapidated porch with a quick rap on his splintered door to let him know it was there. A plain envelope usually tucked between the white bread and blue box of instant macaroni and cheese always had some cash in it. Sometimes it was twenty dollars, sometimes as much as fifty. It let him put gas in his father’s truck, go to the movies once in a while, and buy an occasional nudie magazine. Even though he lived alone and no one ever entered his aging home, he still hid these glossy-paged indulgences under his bed.

Jacob’s parents both died when he was twelve. At least, he assumed they died. They were doing something big for the Order one night and just didn’t come home. They had gone away for a few days at a time before, so Jacob hadn’t worried. He just made cold cereal and bologna sandwiches to take care of himself and watched cartoons. But after a couple of days, there was a knock on Jacob’s door.

“Elder Lightfoot?” The head of the Order had never come to Jacob’s home before. Jacob’s parents had always conducted Order business elsewhere.

“Jacob.” No hellos or how are yous. Just his name.

“My folks aren’t here. Do you wanna come in?” His handful of dirty fingernails reached for the latch on the screen door.

“No. I’m here to tell you your parents are gone. They won’t be coming home.” No I’m sorrys or I’m sad to says. It sounded like he was reading a listing in a newspaper.

“Where did they go?” The boy’s slow brain started racing toward the days of loneliness that awaited him, brewing into a budding panic.

“The Order will see to your needs. Stay here and you’ll be taken care of.” Elder Lightfoot turned and left, dipping his silver-haired head to avoid the beam of the porch roof. He was a tall man and it was a low roof, but nearly-hunchbacked Jacbob had never really noticed just how low until he watched the silk-suited figure walk away.

That same feeling of abandonment, loss, and helplessness came flooding back tonight as Jacob sat on his broken wheel on a dirt road in the countryside. Thinking as quickly as his uneducated mind could muster, Jacob rose to his feet and resolved to take care of himself for a change. He dug through the accumulated junk on the floorboard of his truck and found a roll of duct tape. He sealed his broken boot and looked to the sky. It was cloudless, and every star he could imagine looked down at him from above. The moon looked enormous, lighting the road, the fields, and the distant forest like a spotlight. Jacob knew roughly where he was in relation to the Well of Depths, and looking that way he was pretty sure he could see a pillar of green light rising up above the trees.

“That’s gotta be it,” he said to no one but himself. Jacob often talked to himself for the sake of nothing more than hearing a human voice. He stuffed his black ceremonial robes into his old school backpack, threw the one good strap across his shoulder, and crossed the road in the direction of the green beam. He failed to account for the ditch on the side of the road and fell into the tall grass and weeds, scraping both hands and his miniscule chin. “Dad blast it!”

He dusted himself off and wiped his hands on his pants. He crossed the barbed wire fence in front of him more gracefully than he did the ditch, and set out confidently across the grassy field toward Frank Hoffman’s property and the Well of Depths.

Jacob stumbled through that field for half an hour, tripping on the uneven ground more than most other people probably would have. After the green beacon disappeared, Jacob relied on the soft yellow glow of Mr. Hoffman’s house lights to navigate. The moonlight kept him from running into scrub oak and an old truck left to rot and rust, but only the constant incandescence of that house gave Jacob a sense of direction in the night.

He approached the well from the backside, opposite the house. A beautiful gazebo had been built around it with an elaborate stone foundation. The green and blue gems in the cement reminded Jacob of a Bedazzler he got for Christmas one year. He attached so many rhinestones to his denim jacket that his mama said he looked like Elvis Presley himself! Naturally, when Jacob proudly wore his Elvis jacket to school after Christmas break, he was ridiculed and bullied so harshly by the other students he wadded it up, threw it into the bottom of his closet, and never wore it again.

The gazebo had chains hanging over the well, and it looked like someone left their gloves hanging in the rings at the end of the chains. The rings looked bloody, so maybe this was the sacrifice the Order was talking about. Jacob looked over the low stone rim of the well, but he didn’t see anything. “Echo!” he shouted into the darkness, and his brow furrowed with disappointment when his echo didn’t return the greeting.

It wasn’t until Jacob looked up from the well toward the house that he realized anything had gone wrong. Black robes were scattered all over the yard and along the pathway between the house and the well. “Those shouldn’t be on the ground like that. We have to take special care of these robes,” Jacob admonished no one in particular. He dashed to the closest robe and snatched it up from the wet grass, only to discover it wasn’t empty and discarded as he believed. He jumped back and dropped the garment with a yelp, fearing a raccoon or possum had crawled inside.  

The bundle of dark fabric didn’t move, so Jacob cautiously approached it again. Shaking it by the hem, the young man untangled the robe until its contents shook loose and plopped on the ground. It made no sense to Jacob why someone would put a whole ham in one of the Order’s robes, so he flipped it over with his good boot. Seeing the red silk shirt wrapped around the meaty remains of the robe’s owner, the fly of Jacob’s understanding finally hit his mental bug zapper.

Everywhere he looked, robes, arms, legs, torsos, and an occasional head lay strewn in the grass. It looked to Jacob like pictures he’d seen on the news of tornadoes tearing through towns in Oklahoma and places out east. But this tornado didn’t tear up Mr. Hoffman’s house or his gazebo. It didn’t flip any of the cars and trucks lining the driveway. It just tore through the Order and ripped them apart.

To his credit, Jacob didn’t scream. He didn’t vomit, fall over, pass out, or any of the other reactions he reasonably could have expressed. He looked rapidly from body to body, from piles of pieces to partial corpses, hoping it wasn’t a complete loss. Hoping there was someone left to tell him what to do and that it was going to be okay. Praying someone would still take care of him and bring him groceries, keep his power on, and say hi to him sometimes.

“Jacob.” His own name crawled through the air. He stopped looking at the mutilation and searched for the source. “Jacob…” It was a woman’s voice, coming from the vehicles at the driveway. Jacob dashed over to a shadow on the ground leaning against Elder Lightfoot’s BMW.

“Miss Maggie?” Maggie Barnhardt owned the bowling alley in town and would let Jacob play for free sometimes when it wasn’t too busy. The employees at the Star-o-ama Lanes eventually quit wondering why Maggie gave the misanthrope an exclusive “friends and family” discount since he wasn’t family and didn’t have any friends, and just did as they were told. Maggie was one of the few who would stop to talk with Jacob when she made a food delivery. She never came into the house, but she would chat for a few minutes, and that always brightened Jacob’s day.

Maggie’s hood was pushed back onto her shoulders, revealing her disheveled, graying brown hair. Jacob guessed the dark spots splashed across her face were probably blood. Her left arm was gone above the elbow, but she had tied off the stump with a belt. Jacob had heard of doing that to stop you from bleeding to death, but it had a fancy name he could never remember.  

“Miss Maggie, what happened?” Jacob whispered loudly, like a child who doesn’t grasp the point of whispering and practically shouts in a hissing voice.

Dehydrated, Maggie’s voice clicked and rasped. “It was you…”

Jacob immediately freaked out. “I didn’t do it! This wasn’t me! I wasn’t even here!”

She waved her remaining hand in his face to get him to shut up. “You weren’t here…it had to be you…I warned him…”

“I don’t understand, Miss Maggie.”

“Lightfoot said… we didn’t need you…I told him…I’m Librarian…I know…had to have… a Fielder in the circle…couldn’t hold it…without you.”

Jacob’s eyes welled up with tears as he surveyed the carnage. “All this was because of me?”

Maggied grabbed his jacket and yanked him close. “No! This was Lightfoot…wouldn’t listen…it escaped into the woods…you have to…” Her eyes began to unfocus and swim in their sockets. “You have to get it.”

“I have to what now?”

“It will listen…to you.”

“I don’t know what to say, Miss Maggie! Miss Maggie?” He patted her face like he saw people do in the movies, but her eyes were closed and wouldn’t open again. He leaned in close to listen to her chest, but she wasn’t breathing, either. The last person on Earth who showed Jacob any kindness was gone. Jacob finally did cry. The frustration, fear, exhaustion, and anguish of the night came up all at once in barking, chest-shaking sobs that fell flat to the earth.  

After only a minute of cathartic, emotional outbursts, Jacob wiped his dripping nose on one sleeve and rubbed his weeping eyes with the other. He arranged Maggie’s robe around her to look nicer, more orderly, and rose to his feet.

“Good-bye, Miss Maggie. Thank you for everything you done for me.” Jacob stepped carefully through the remains of the Order, but he couldn’t recognize anyone else. He knew only a few of their names, anyway, but it would have been nice to say good-bye to them, too.  

He returned to the well and dropped his backpack at his feet. He extracted his own robe and shook it out like a tablecloth, filling it with fresh night air. Jacob had been to only a handful of meetings with the Order; he had never been allowed to speak or participate, and no one ever explained what had been going on, but Jacob knew how to don the robe. He had practiced the way his parents taught him, checking himself carefully in the mirror on his sliding closet doors. With a novel sense of purpose, Jacob wrapped himself in his robe’s inky folds and looked out into the night.

Maggie didn’t say what it was that came out of the well or where it went, but Jacob could see a wide trail of matted grass leading towards the woods. Not knowing what he would do when he found it, Jacob mustered his courage and tromped off after it.

March 30, 2023 15:41

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


3i Writer
17:30 Apr 06, 2023

I am pretty sure you are going to write a novel out of it cos there are so many things left unexplained, like what is the Well of the Depths, what does the Librarian do, what relation does Jacob have with Frank Hoffman, what is the it that came out of the well ... But I like the setting. It somehow had a Harry Potter feel to it. I also like the approach you have taken, like how the rest of the cult members treat him with indifference (No hellos or how are yous) when in fact his role in the ritual or whatever that is is far too important.


John Lente
19:09 Apr 06, 2023

Thanks for the feedback! If I can tie enough of these prompts together, the novel may write it self. :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Alex Fischer
07:02 Apr 06, 2023

The occult elements are an interesting choice, and the way that you slowly introduced it actually gave me second thoughts, as if I thought "He's in a cult? No way." to "Yeah, he's in a cult." What was most interesting was that you didn't show the event and instead the aftermath. With the first-person perspective through Jacob, the reader would be investigating and postulating what happened around the Well of Depths with him. I can feel what Jacob felt through and through, making this journey feel more personal to the reader. Although, I th...


John Lente
19:08 Apr 06, 2023

Thanks, Alex! I appreciate your feedback and insight.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply