This is a short story I wrote in my spare time for my writing club. They seemed to like it well enough. So I thought I'd share it here on Reddit. Tell me your thoughts, and I'd be happy to hear any criticism.
-This story, Enza, follows an unwelcome visitor who arrives in the city of Mathas. Making the city go from a regal paradise to a ghost town overnight. I hope you enjoy.
I consider myself a man of reasonable composure. Sometimes I get a little antsy. But that’s to be expected in the grave digging business. Most people get ‘the Runs’ or ‘the Worries’ when around the dead long enough. Me, I got numb to that feeling a while ago. Or I thought I had. Until Enza, decided in his infinite wisdom, to visit the noble city of Mathas in the East.
I was there when Enza came for Mathas. Mathas, the First City of the New World; and once a beautiful city. I visited Mathas once when I was barely old enough to walk. Simple was the city of Mathas, rows of wooden homes, plenty of farmland, and the people were noble as well as faithful. It was just the right size for a city as well. Small, but not undermanned. It stood on its own but was far from isolated. Mathas stood tall and proud on its own for generations. Keeping with the times but retaining its own character. The people would go to Church on time. The neighbors were chatty. Unlike Aran, it didn't smell of rotting fish and wood chips. The children would play come morning or night. Yes indeed, Mathas was a little piece of paradise.
Then one humid summer day, Enza came to Mathas.
Most of my friends remember Enza. My own blessed family remembers Enza. I refuse to forget Enza.
Enza stalked into the countryside, while the day was hot and blistering. Everyone in Mathas acted without care, as they always did. He crept past the town watch, into the center of town. Hey, stuck his fingers all manner of things. That curious figure, Enza took an interest with the doctors, the church, the police, the government and above all the people. With his hands, bony and damp, his touch would make your skin crawl. His breath was cold as the North Wind. Enza had a craft you see. One that he shared with everyone he met. Nobody could say exactly what it was. If you thought to much about Enza's business, you’d get a headache. Perhaps even a fever.
The longer Enza stayed, the worse things got for Mathas. Every business shuttered their doors. All the children were forced inside. Every happy couple became soggy and feverish. Eventually they had to shut down the whole bloody town. What’s worse was when Enza declared his prolonged stay in Mathas. Something about the air or the people. It made a perfect home for Enza. No matter how much the townsmen clamored or begged him to leave. Enza stayed right smack dab in the center of town. Unyielding, unmoving, unwilling to vacate.
Mathas would survive Enza’s torment, the outsiders clamored. From Kingsport to New Hamon, the word even reached me in Aran. All the papers claimed it’d be over soon, that Mathas would be right as rain. Clear as a bell. Clean as a whistle. Even the Aran Herald claimed ‘That Enza would leave with the Changing of the Seasons’. Then I was called to go to Mathas.
I worked for the morgue in Aran, I drove a Coroner’s Car. Or the company who ran the mortuary called it the Coroner’s Car. Everyone I ever talked to called it the ‘Death Wagon.’ They always complained about the stench. It wasn’t that bad, I recently got air fresheners. I remember Joshua, my boss. He came up to me one day about a job in Mathas. Told me it paid well, and that nobody else in the company would accept it. Like the innocent idiot I was, I accepted it. Especially when he told me I’d be heading to Mathas. Only somebody with a half a brain would pass on the opportunity to visit that regal city.
Before I even set out for Mathas, four soldiers from the army invited themselves aboard the ‘Death Wagon.’ A captain and his grunts. The captain had that shimmer of Aranese Nobility about him. High class, disciplined, college educated, no nonsense. You know the type. His grunts were a little bit more my speed. Working class folk. The kind of men you could see having a drink with. They wore masks that covered their faces and were armed with modern rifles. M1 Cheshire’s, a slick and accurate bolt action rifle. Only the finest for the Aranese Military.
Without hesitation, they gave me a spare mask and politely encouraged me to wear it. I wasn’t about to argue with armed guards. This I expected, Enza might still be in Aran after all. Couldn’t be too careful these days. The thing that terrified me though was the barrels of kerosene they insisted on storing in the back of the car. I didn’t say anything, I wasn’t about to trifle with the army, you know, because they had guns. But I did raise my concerns about putting thirty gallons of the stuff in the backseat of the ‘Death Wagon’. They shut me up with a few dirty looks. One of the grunts let it slip why so much kerosene was needed. Enza had crippled Mathas.
The ride to Mathas was oddly quiet. It was a few skips away from Aran. I expected to see at least a few farmers or millers along the way. Instead, I saw miles of fallow fields. What was going on? The farmers wouldn’t be able to make a profit with a work etiquette like that.
When we finally got to city limits. One of the soldiers told me to stop. I did next to the old wooden signpost that still stood after all these years. It read in bold black letters.
Mathas, Established 1596 A.R.
One of the soldiers, the Captain, stepped out of the car. He strapped his rifle to his side and approached the city. From his belt, he pulled out a long brass speaking trumpet. The Captain held the speaking trumpet up to his lips and shouted.
“Is anyone out there? Come out of the shadows if you can!”
The Captain put down the speaking trumpet. We waited for a few moments. Nothing happened, nobody came out. I guess everyone was entertaining Enza. Enza was always keeping everyone tied down. As we waited, my gaze turned towards the beautiful city of Mathas. It still shined in the sunlight of the late evening. But something quickly became apparent, nobody was around. Not one person was attending the afternoon mass. No children played in the streets. Not a single happy couple danced in the town square. Eventually, the Captain shouted again, making good use of his handy trumpet. Still no answer. He did this about two or three more times, still no response.
The Captain put away his talking trumpet and ordered us to march into the city. One of the soldiers even gave me a gun, or a rifle to be exact. All five of us advanced in as a group. As we stepped into the city, I remember only hearing the caws of crows. Enza always brought the crows with him, they were like brothers in arms.
It did not take long for us to come across the first house on our journey into Mathas. A charming cabin really. The kind you would see in an advertisement before a moving picture. If it wasn’t for the crows perched overhead watching us with their beady black eyes, I’d almost want to live in a place like that. We slowly marched up to the door of the house, the Captain knocked on the door three times. He was about to tap again when we heard a coughing fit on the over the side of the door. In an instant, the Captain opened the door to investigate. He slammed it shut and backed away. His eyes wide with terror.
“Give me your gun!” The Captain shouted to one of his subordinates, who handed it nervously to the captain.
I watched as the Captain smashed in the front window. He took aim and rapidly shot into the house. That first shot scared away the crows. Enza’s brothers in arms, fleeing from the noise. The Captain fired another shot. This one made the soldiers and me back away. I forgot how loud those Cheshire’s could be. The third shot made me wonder if the Captain was trying to scare away Enza? This continued for another six shots, the Captain was out of ammo. Then, the Captain turned to us and handed the rifle back to his subordinate. A visibly shocked look in his eyes.
“Give a good dose to every square inch…for the love of the Lords do not miss anything…” The Captain ordered, and without hesitation, his men began to pour the kerosene around the square.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing? They were gonna burn Mathas to the ground? I hesitated for a moment and dropped my rifle. The Captain grabbed me by the collar of my jacket and raised me a foot off the ground. That Captain gritted his teeth, as I strained against his grip
“A-are w-we left no choice b-but to burn Mathas to cinders?” I stammered, sweat pouring down my forehead.
The Captain trembled a bit before he forced my head through the broken window.
“Take a look to see what Enza did to Mathas…” The Captain mumbled, my heart throbbed as I continued struggling in the Captain’s grip.
My struggling ceased when I focused on the inside of the house. I saw an image that would haunt me for the rest of my waking days. A dead family with bullet wounds each in the head. That wasn’t the part that had frightened me though. I had seen dead bodies before, grotesque cadavers and murder victims. But nothing like that. It was their bodies and flesh. Painted purple with strange liquids pouring out their mouths and eyes. It felt like a lead weight had been placed deep into my stomach. I wanted to swallow my own tongue.
After seeing that putrid portrayal of life, the Captain pulled my head back out the window. I got a good look at his eyes, I vividly remember the panic. It’s not often you see that look in a soldier. Let alone a Captain. Without saying a word, I nodded, I understood now. The Captain dropped me, shifting his gaze. He then handed me the kerosene and pointed to the cabin. I did not hesitate to follow the Captain’s orders, and I never talked back again. It took the whole afternoon and well into the night for us to drench the entire town of Mathas. When we finally light the dead city ablaze. We drove out shortly thereafter. I remember the image from the rearview mirror. Mathas was so bright, and orange. The flames wouldn’t spread that far. The sea breeze and the coming rain would snuff out the fire. I expected to hear screaming, regret, fear, or a whimper at the very least. Enza didn’t have the decency to even give Mathas that.
But I heard nothing from the once vibrant city of Mathas. Just like that, we left. I never even learned the names of me of those soldiers. Part of me didn’t want to. In less than a year, Enza had come and wiped out a whole town. Leaving nothing but death in his wake. In Flew Enza, and just as quickly that madman left. Taking with him all of Mathas. I wondered if he’d ever show his face in Aran. Perhaps pay me a visit? I dread that day, and pray it never comes.