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  Table of contents Issue Seventeen BEACON FALLS AR, SPRING 1955


I. Deputy Tate


never know what to say to them that’s lost someone or fearing same. I been doing this some months now and the words they still don’t never come easy. The Sheriff thinks folks round here have a likin for me cuz I ain’t been on the job long and still got some innocence about it but even if that’s true it don’t do no good at times like these. Ain’t nobody likes anybody else when they’re stricken with the grief.

Poor Mrs. Springer. Her daughter Charlotte who’s a junior at the high school went for a walk last Tuesday night and never come back. You think Mrs. Springer cares if I still got some innocence? Shoot. She don’t hardly talk to me cept to holler. But you shrug it off cuz you know it’s the grief that’s doin the hollerin. Anyhow Mrs. Springer she thinks we’re doing a subpar job and I can’t say that I strictly disagree. We do our best but we don’t have much in the way of resources out here in the sticks. Her notion is that the disappearance has something to do with the Meadows which is this stretch of land that the more superstitious folk round these parts think is haunted. But that’s just the grief again. When you’re as stricken as Mrs. Springer you latch on to whatever’s handy. It’s an uneasy place though and I stay clear of it myself and I know I ain’t the only one.

II. Myrtle Springer

Before, I liked dang near everyone I knows. These days, hardly none of em. Least of all Sheriff Dunn and Deputy Tate. Lately the Sheriff’s calm ways don’t seem like reasonableness so much as icy-cold indifference. I sware, if he tells me once more that everyone is doing what they can and that I should relax myself, I’m gonna snatch that pistol from his holster and give him a bellyful of hot lead.

It’s been two weeks now since my Charlotte went missing. My sweet girl, my little baby doll. I still can’t hardly sleep, or hold down my suppers. My husband Robert keeps sayin that maybe she done run away, but it just don’t track.

Deputy Tate talked to all her friends including her boyfriend Mike and her best gal pal Cindy Lynn and they all says she was struggling with the Geometry but generally was just as happy as a lark. That leaves all sorts of possibilities, but the particulars don’t matter to me cuz it all amounts to the same. Someone’s done something evil and unchristian to my baby. Oh, that girl and her dang late-night walkin! We tried to cure her of it but we didn’t stick with it like we shoulda. But what reason did we have to worry? This is a nice town and bad things don’t never happen, except if you count that Meadows place. The old-timers like that newspaper feller Henry Grable say it used to be a place of devil worshippin or some such, and I believe it. Something about that place just don’t feel right. Cuz of the stories, the high schoolers are drawn thare like skeeters to skin. They wander round, drinkin and smokin, trying to spook each other. Never my Charlotte, though. She’s a good girl. Still and all, I got a feeling that the Meadows got something to do with all this. But when I brung it up, that cold-hearted Sheriff just sassed me, saying that he can’t base an investigation on a feeling, and that he can’t very well arrest a place.

III. Sheriff Dunn

Lord God, but I cannot wait for this infernal storm to run its course. Everywhere I go, all I get is, “Hey Sheriff, any news?” I just grunt and tell them to talk to Tate. Cuz there ain’t any news and there ain’t never gonna be none, either. It’s been almost a month now, and I expect that in cases like this, things come to light right soon or not at all. “Any new clues, even?” Not hardly, and no old clues, neither. That girl clean disappeared like if one of them space saucers on the radio shows done zapped her up and stole her away. And the lack of clues ain’t for lack of looking. Me and Tate worked till midnight or later every night that first week, interviewing people and scouring the town on foot for any kind of physical evidence. “You reckon she’s dead, Sheriff?” That, or else run off to California with some fool-headed notion of being the next Teresa Wright. But most likely dead. Nobody knows cept me and Tate, but a few weeks back we even went round to the Meadows to see if there was anything to see there. But there wasn’t nothing but some empty beer cans and a scrap of pink ribbon that coulda belonged to anyone. No vagrants about, and weren’t no ghosts or bloodsuckers neither like Grable and some of his cronies at the paper believe. It’s just a nasty place, is all. Everyone’s all hepped up about it, but that’s all it is and all it’s ever gonna be.

And the real hell of it is, people think my brushing em off means that I’m unfeeling. But lord darn it, it’s the exact opposite! This is my town. I ain’t got no family of my own; these people are like my kin. And that Springer girl was a real peach, just as smart and sweet as they come. If I was unfeeling, maybe I could talk to people without getting so snarled up inside. My town! But there ain’t nothing to be done. Hold tight to each other, is all we can do. Hold tight and wait for this storm to pass.

IV. Henry Grable

Now don’t be making no mistake about it: we’re a fine, God-fearing people. Not too learned, most of us, but not just a pack of dumb hicks, either. And Beacon Falls is a safe and right lovely town, despite this terrible Charlotte Springer business. In fact, I’d wager that in the past five years there hasn’t been anything more serious than a fistfight.

All right, I know. The Meadows. Not a place to be proud of, I’ll confess it, but on the other hand I’ve heard about Arkansas spots with much stranger stories. Curious thing is, most folks round here don’t have even a clue as to its actual history.

Back in ’06, there were two farmsteads there, one being occupied by an eccentric young widow named Hannah Swift, the other by a family by the name of Granger. Hannah’s cattle got sick and died that year, and she got so poor and hungry that she took to sneaking cross to the Granger’s fields at night and stealing corn and such. The father, not what you would call the forgiving kind, warned her the first time he caught her and shot her dead the second. He was arrested and convicted, his wife took their children and moved out of state, and both houses were torn down by the county. That’s it—that’s the whole story. A troubling tale? Yep, indeed. But enough to warrant all the fuss? Not hardly. Oh, there was talk of other things, of course. One rumor had it that Hannah was an unholy creature who didn’t eat the family’s crops but in fact drank their blood. Another, kind of a reverse on the previous, was that the family supped on Hannah’s dead body. And also there was the story that in her dying breath Hannah vowed to haunt the Grangers and the land they lived on. But in time not even the rumors were remembered right. Some folks have the idea that I have my own self remarked that the place is ghost-ridden, but in truth I’ve only ever said that it has an eerie aura and an unfortunate history.

V. Charlotte Springer

When Victor and Katherine return to the dark tunneling beneath the Meadows, they bring with them a small boy, tasted and unconscious but not emptied or dead. Usually the ambushers drain dry and kill upon capture, Charlotte has learned, but sometimes, like tonight, they save some to share with the rest. They pass him around and when she takes her turn, sinking her fangs into his neck, the boy wakes. She places her hand over his mouth to muffle the screams and rocks him gently in her arms until his kicking body goes limp. She slurps quietly, not wanting to seem greedy. The others have decided to turn him rather than kill him, she senses. No one ever speaks but somehow she knows things.

VI. Mike Bristol

It’s been over a month now and I reckon that things are getting back to somewhere near normal. We’re all still pretty shaken up, especially Mrs. Springer, but I guess life has to go on. I miss my girl pretty bad, and it’s hard not to wonder what happened to her and to hope and pray that she’s still alive, but Pa says to concentrate on school and chores and on picking the colleges I’ll apply to next year. And so that’s what I been trying to do.

I did go talk to old Mr. Grable at the newspaper when a kid from a nearby town went missing. We did some researching and discovered that, though there ain’t been many disappearances in Beacon Falls, there’ve been plenty in surrounding areas. Mr. Grable said maybe there’s a wolf among us clever enough not to pluck too much from his own henhouse. But we decided it didn’t really prove much and wasn’t worth bringing up to Sheriff Dunn or Deputy Tate. So it’s back to studying and chores. No big whoop, but it keeps me busy. So long, beautiful girl, and may God bless on you wherever you are.




Mark Benedict is a graduate of the MFA Writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. He has previously published in Bird's Thumb, Catch & Release, and Swamp.

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