Friday, October 03, 2014

The Albertville Black Bear

     With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to have a guest, post one of their stories for your enjoyment. Living here at the New Jersey shore area, there are many tales and legends related to the pine barrens and surrounding areas. This story has been provided by Todd Serad a local writer whose scary tales are worth your attention. Please enjoy, this wonderful tale.
     I will post it in three parts, starting with this Friday. The next two segments will be posted on the following two Fridays.  I hope you enjoy it and will share your comments.

  The Albertville Black Bear
Part I
By Todd Serad

     The three horsemen dismounted in the middle of the small town and quietly surveyed the surroundings.  The brothers Ben, Seth, and Zach provided quite a contrast to the white snowy environment.  They were covered in jet charcoal soot from their day of work at the furnace from their home town of Ong’s Hat.            
     Layered in clothing with thin coats, their attire for the most part was tattered with age and wear.  All three carried rifles, shoulder holstered pistols and leathered sheathed buck knives.  
     Albertville was a small town of Piney's that lived off the land.  Eight or nine homes equally spread out within an open acre of land, with a tavern situated in the middle.  One lonely off shoot of a road cut through a portion of the Pine Barrens and bogs that led to the town.  The town was founded roughly fifteen years ago in 1825.
      “Awfully quiet around here, don’t you think?” said Seth who was a touch portly and had a head of short curly red hair.
No one answered the question.  The three men just stood turning in slow tight circles with eyes in close examination of the surrounding town.
      “You two know what I’m thinking, right?” said Seth.
     “Fresh snow, pure fresh snow and not one set of footprints in the entire town,” said the stout black haired man known as Ben, which was short for Benjamin.  The hard wrinkles in his face determined him to the oldest of the three and around thirty.  
     The wind blew through the open town with a grimacing bite.  Seth, in his late twenties, felt his cheeks burn.  They displayed a bright red hue that nearly matched the color of his hair.  
     Zach was the third brother, and the youngest, began walking to the shack nearest to him.  With each step, he sank several inches into the powdery white substance.  He felt the coolness of the snow within his boots.  As he approached the front door he noticed a snapped five foot leather strap, and then over the door itself several planks haphazardly nailed to it in an attempt to keep it shut, for good.  He looked off to the side of the house and into the thick woods.  For a second, he admired the beauty the tree limbs possessed with fresh snow clinging to the branches and how they hung stretched out and bearing the weight of their fluffy companion.  He turned toward his two brothers and motioned for them to come over.
     “See anything?” asked Ben.
     Zach spewed off a long line of unintelligible information that prompted the usual look of confusion on Ben’s face.  
     “Seth, what the hell did he say?” asked Ben.  Seth grinned at his older brother as he was well aware that Ben could not understand Zach’s mumbling.  No one knew exactly why Zach mumbled, but it you paid attention, like Seth did, you could begin to decipher the code.  Zach for some reason created his own way to speak.
     “He wants us to come over and see something.”  Ben began immediately to stride over to his younger brother while Seth tied the horses to a hitching post in the middle of the town.  
     “He also said that there are no signs of any animals.  No dogs.”  
     Ben stopped for a second to digest that information.  He stood quietly starring off into the whitish gray skyline above the treetops.  It was late in the afternoon and the ground and sky had a similar hue.  If it were not for the trees both would blend together like the ocean and horizon at times.  
Ben and Seth made way to their younger brother.  Ben stood alongside Zach and placed his hand on his shoulder.
    “What is it?” Ben asked.  But his voice trailed off as both he and Seth immediately noticed the planks nailed across the front door.  
     “I’d say that is a little odd, don’t you think,” said Seth, “if you’re scared of someone, wouldn’t the boards have been on the inside?”
     “I guess unless you wanted to keep that same person trapped inside,” said Ben.  Seth inspected the leather strap that blew in the wind with no mission other than to constantly tap at the old dark rust and gray boards used in building the shack.  
     “Torn straight through,” said Seth, “either this was one big dog, or he was angry as hell.”
     “Perhaps scared,” said Ben, “come on, let’s go over to Abe’s place, it has been several years, but if I can recall he lives over in that far corner.”  The three men quietly made their way over to the Abe’s shack.  Once there Zach held up a foot long wood burned sign that hung from a nail by coarse twine.  It was rocking back in forth in the chilly wind.  It had several letters burned into it.  Zach mumbled while looking at the other two with a quizzical expression.  
     “What does it say?” asked Seth.  With no formal education, only Ben was able to read.  
     “Our last name, Hagemann,” said Ben.  The three stood silently for a few seconds.  Then Ben provided Zach with a nod.  Zach slowly opened the door and peered inside.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he walked in and was followed by the other two brothers.  They quietly walked about the small cabin.  Nothing seemed amiss.  Two beds were there, one unmade.  The table looked clean, with one chair party askew from the rest.
     “Two beds,” said Seth.
     “Abe had a son.  I imagine he would be around seven or eight years old now,” said Ben.  Zach mumbled again.
     “What did he say?” asked Ben.
   “No one has been here for several days, perhaps weeks,” said Seth as he examined a small iron stove with cold wood remnants and ash.  Ben walked back outside and the other two followed.  Ben took several steps turned in a circle and yelled out Abe’s name in a loud cry.  
     “Go away,” was heard screamed from a disembodied voice located in the shack directly across from Abe’s.  The stunned men wheeled about quickly.  Ben and Seth glanced at each other for a second and then the three of them ran across the snowy midsection toward the only sound of life.
Ben gently tapped on the front door and was greeted with another scream of “go away” from inside the shack.  
     “We only want to ask you some questions,” said Ben.
     “You step one foot in here and I will most certainly blast a hole through you,” said the man inside.  Ben looked over at Seth who only shrugged his shoulders.  
     “I’m coming in real slow,” said Ben.
     “I will shoot you, mister,” said the man.
    “We’re only here to ask what happened, and only to help,” said Ben.
   “Yes, help.”  Ben slowly opened the front door a few inches a first, just wide enough to peek inside.  He saw an elderly grizzled man sitting with his back against the far wall with a shot gun pointing directly at the door.  He was extremely agitated and nervous as the gun shook wildly with weary arms.  
    “Like I said, we’re only here to help, that’s all,” said Ben again as he cautiously entered the shack.  As he came in he held up a hand to his brothers to stay put outside the door.  The elderly man spied Ben with a nervous uncertainty.       His index finger was caressing the trigger, waiting to press down on it with any sudden movement from his unwanted house guest.  As Ben neared him he began to notice the smell.  He had soiled himself, repeatedly, for days it seemed.       His clothes were grimy, yellowed, and stiff-like.  His balding gray hair was clumped and disheveled and his eyes yielded a sense of hysteria.  He had a deathly pallor to him.  Ben kneeled down on one knee in front of him and with one slight move he gently pushed the gun barrel away from him and to the side.  
     “I’m Ben, what’s your name?”
     The old man choked for a second.  His eyes seemed to clear as he thought about the question.
     “Nice to meet you, Jasper,” said Ben, “I’m going to take this gun and bring in my brothers if you don’t mind.”  Jasper nodded with a weak resignation as Ben effortlessly pulled the gun out of his hands.  He then stood and walked over to the door.  
     “Come on in guys, but be prepared for the smell, and certainly do not make any quick movements,” said Ben.  The two followed their older brother.  Ben resumed his former spot and position next to Jasper.  
     “Do you know Abe Hagemann?” asked Ben.  Jasper looked up at him, and then at the two brothers standing in the middle of the room.  His eyes looked even clearer.
     “I do, or rather, I did,” said Jasper.
     “Tell you what Jasper, me and my brothers were planning on staying here for the evening.  How about we get you fixed up a bit, get you some water, some food, what do you say?” said Ben.
     “I’d like that,” said Jasper.
    “Zach, can you run out to the horses and get the bedding, water, and jerky,” said Ben.  Zach, nodded while mumbling, and went out on the errand.  
     “We’ll get you fixed up Jasper.  We’re here, and you’re safe,” said Ben.  

     Darkness had fallen over Albertville.  The white snow reflected upward to the emotionless gray sky as well as illuminating the woods and surroundings.  It provided additional light inside the shack that accompanied the lone lit candle.        The wind every few minutes carried frosty bits of the powder fresh snow through the air.  Inside Jasper’s home, the three brothers did their best to make the old man comfortable and to put him at ease.  New clothing and old bread were found at a nearby abandoned residence.  A well-provided fresh water for cleaning, although Jasper refused to step foot outside.  He had an impromptu shower with a bucket of ice water in the far corner of his dwelling.  Jasper sat at his small wood dining table with Ben and Seth.  Zach stood near the front door with his arms leisurely folded in front of him.
     “Feeling better?” asked Ben.
     “Yes, yes, thank you,” said Jasper.
   “Good.  I need to ask you a few questions,” said Ben.  Jasper nodded accordingly.
    “We came here to check in on our older brother Abe, Abe Hagemann.  We rode over from Ong’s Hat after work this evening,” said Ben.
     “You work at the charcoal furnace?” asked Jasper.
    “Yes,” said Ben, “I’ve been looking after my brothers here since Abe left years ago.  We are not close, but he is family.  I received a letter from him a few days ago, but it must be at least two weeks old.”  Ben yanked out a yellowish parchment folded in quarters from his front trouser pocket.  
     “He writes this crazy story about how first the dogs went missing, then two of the town children, his son Abner as one,” said Ben.  Jasper bent his head down and looked upon the table.
     “He was a good kid, and Abe was a good man,” said Jasper.
    “You say that as if they are gone.  Have they left the area?  Why did everyone leave?” asked Ben.  Jasper looked at the three brothers while carefully plotting his next set of words.
    “I imagine they’re all dead,” said Jasper.
    “What?” said Seth.
   “Every last one of them.  Dogs too,” said Jasper.
   “Who did it, why,” asked Ben.
   “Oh no, not a who, certainly not a who.  More of a what,” said Jasper.  The wind howled a little outside.  The strong wind created a slight whistling sound inside as air was forced through the board slats that created his walls to the outside world.  Jasper began to lose a little composure as his bottom lip trembled ever so slightly as he gazed out of one of only two windows in his cabin.  Zach walked over to the door, opened it and viewed the town landscape.  It was beginning to snow again with large fluffy flakes.  He looked down at the snow directly in front of him.  Their early footprints were already nearly covered, erasing any evidence of their arrival.  He looked to the side and saw that the horses were still hitched.  Zach closed the door and turned toward his brothers and mumbled.

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As a recently married 46 year old I am in the process of finishing my degree. Working to take care of my family and live my life.Blogging, working, writing, and chugging along like most of us.  Who am I ? I am you, I am me, I am your mother, friend, the best and worst that we each have inside of us. I am a different perspective and find myself fascinated by the interesting moments in life.

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