The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Headless Horseman Needs a Head
by Naching T. Kassa
The smoldering pumpkin lay at the schoolteacher’s feet, smoke billowing from its eyes and mouth.
At the opposite end of the bridge, Bram sat astride his black mount. The horse reared beneath him as he waved his sword in the air.
“You cannot c-cross the bridge,” the teacher cried.
Bram let loose a malevolent laugh. He jerked the reins and the horse surged forward. His iron shoes clanged against the river rock, sending sparks in all directions. Bram made for the bridge.
The schoolteacher screamed and bolted.
Bram pulled back on the reins and the horse halted. He removed the false torso from his broad shoulders and grinned as he threw it to the ground.
“There now, Samson,” he said, patting the horse’s neck. “That’s the last we’ll see of old Ichabod. Though I must say, he was a damn sight easier to be rid of than that cursed blacksmith.”
Bram’s gaze drifted toward the forest on the left. Somewhere, among the brambles and tangled undergrowth, lay an unmarked grave. Bram had dug it with his own hands.
He turned the great horse away and headed back to the hollow. On the morrow, he would bring Katrina the sad news of Ichabod’s demise at the hands of the dreadful Headless Horseman. Then, he would offer her comfort. Perhaps, this time, she would give in and accept his proposal of marriage.
The hoot of an owl brought Bram back to the world and the road ahead of him. Moonlight silvered the path. A shadow rushed across it and down the left bank.
Samson whinnied. He stopped, ears pricked.
“’Twas naught but a deer,” Bram said. “Move along now. I want to get home before daylight.”
The horse continued on. When they passed the spot the shadow had traversed, something scrambled through the undergrowth. Samson shied to the right and reared.
Bram grasped a handful of mane before he slipped from the saddle. “Damn you, Samson! ‘Tis an animal, nothing more.”
He dug his spurs into the horse’s side and forced him down the road.
Something rose from the brush. It stood on two feet and lurched forward in the stilted way of marionettes. A torn shirt and breeches hung from its skeletal frame, and a hammer swung from its left hand. It stopped in the middle of the road, barring Bram’s way.
A shiver went through Bram, one which shook his very bones. He recognized the thing though it had no head.
He almost turned, almost fled. But the image of Ichabod Crane entered his mind. He was Bram Bones, strong and brave, not a weak and gangly schoolteacher.
He charged and, drawing his sword, aimed a blow at the thing’s chest.
The cadaver stood unfaltering before the charge. At the last possible moment, just as Bram’s blade fell, it stepped out of the way. Bram glimpsed the hammer as it came down on his right shoulder. Bone crunched beneath the hammer’s head. The sword fell from his nerveless fingers and he tumbled off Samson and into the dust.
Bram lay in the road, the world spinning about him. The cadaver approached. Bram watched as it picked up the sword. It raised the blade in the air.
“No! You can’t! I’m going to wed Katrina. I will—”
Metal sang as it cleaved the air. Blood spattered.
The cadaver picked up the head of Bram Bones and placed it atop its own shoulders. Sinew and muscle threaded over bone. Skin covered the skeletal body. The New Bram flexed his fingers, stretched his revenant arms.
Samson stood a few feet away and he whistled for the horse. The horse trotted over and nuzzled his new master.
“It’s been a long time, my Samson,” New Bram said. “He thought he’d take everything from me. You, my life, Katrina…”
He glanced down at the headless body and the fine, dark clothes. It didn’t take long to strip it. When he’d finished, he threw everything into the ditch.
“Back to the Hollow, boy,” New Bram said, mounting the horse. His neck cracked as he stretched it. “This Headless Horseman finally found a head.”
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.
Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring sixteen stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.