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Tales & Wails: The Preacher of Antares, Arizona

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Entry 5: Keep your children close as you immerse yourself in this atmospheric story of a sinister preacher

The Preacher of Antares, Arizona

Wyatt Bond

When the Preacher came, the children of Antares, Arizona sat in the front. When He came to town, everyone went to see His sermon and sat at attention, regardless of whatever god they believed in on their own time. When the Preacher strolled in from the scrubland, his snakeskin boots kicking up small puffs of ancient alkaline dust, the mothers of Antares would corral their children and weep, dressing them in their Sunday best, no matter what day the Preacher came to preach.

When the Preacher walked down the cracked asphalt of Antares, fathers would clutch their steering wheels and think to themselves, 'Lord, maybe this is the visit we string him up. Lord, maybe this is the visit we fill him with lead.' They’d think until the blood had departed from their faces and the rage gave way to the fear underneath. Then the fathers of Antares would put away their brave words and drive to the homes of their neighbors, let them know the Preacher had come calling. They’d sit apologetically as families were gripped by the same fear and rage each man had felt only minutes before. They’d drive away from the home before the family emerged, dressed and ready to walk.

When the Preacher sat out on the Church Stone outside of Antares, all the families would walk together, quiet except for the children who did not know why they were dressed Church-fancy on a day with no church. Boots and heels would click on the asphalt and then into the baked dirt of Antares, Arizona and mothers and fathers would hush the children who complained about the heat, would carry the old timers who fell on their march, would check every house they passed to make sure no fool had hidden themselves under a bed or deep in the back of a closet.

When the Preacher stood before the Church Stone outside of Antares, he would smile. His thin lips would spread and split and show too many teeth, dark with rot and then his smile would keep on splitting, widening into a gash across the lower half of his jaws. His black-clad lash thin figure would cut a hole of darkness into the blue sky and his wide flat-brimmed hat would shield his eyes from the sun, but not from the congregants who could see small flashes of ember there. His preacher’s collar didn’t rest around his neck so much as it noosed him, tighter than any man should have been able to breathe through, let alone speak. His tan skin looked like it had been left out under the sun since before the world began.

When the Preacher began to preach outside of Antares, the congregants would stare like headlight-blind deer as the embers of the Preacher’s eyes surveyed the children sat before him. The congregants would amen, hallelujah, shake, and speak in tongues as the Preacher directed, they would nod along to his fiery pronouncements and promises of damnation, damnation, damnation. They would pray! They would scream their prayers as the Preacher exhorted them! Tears would fall! Clasped hands would drip blood as nails cut into them!

When the Preacher said in his raspy voice Let us close our eyes and thank the Lord for this fellowship, the people of Antares would hold their eyes tightly closed until the sound of the Preacher’s footsteps disappeared into the scrub. They would cry. One family would wail louder than the rest as they discovered it was their child who was chosen.

When the Preacher came, the children of Antares, Arizona sat in the front.

About the story

I'm a writer and poet with a love for scary stories. Horror is my genre of choice for short stories and I feel like I tend to include horrifying moments in my poetry as well. Beyond writing, I'm an avid reader, video-game player, and DnD nerd.

My favorite thing about Autumn is the quieting of the world, the way the leaves slowly turn, and the strange smell of decaying vegetation that accompanies the fall.

I chose this story because I'm an Arizona native and think it's by far the freakiest place in the world. The desert is full of spooky things and that's before we're even talking about the supernatural. I wanted to write about the strange, near ghost-towns that exist along old routes in the west and have them visited by something monstrous that, for some reason, they choose to not escape. It is in some ways a metaphor for the people I knew from those small towns, people who lived in old dusty buildings and waited as the dry wastes came to swallow them whole.

Follow Wyatt

Twitter: @WbWrites

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