There is something about an October moon and its ghostly glow that stirs shadows of the long forgotten. Tonight, it hangs just above naked limbs whining in the mournful breeze. Milky white, it is bright enough to read these words by; words written by someone from the long ago. Sad and frightful, these words will forever haunt the memory of those who read them.
For sad and frightful stories never die; they just live on and on, throughout eternity, waiting to be whispered on nights like these when the moon is full.
I knew something sinister was making its way through the night even before the screech of a night owl filled the darkness surrounding the cabin where we lay waiting for the far off daylight of tomorrow. With the fingers of frost reaching, out trying to get at us under the quilts where I had hidden myself and my babies, we listened.
There were voices and the sound of horses. It was soldiers and in no time they broke through our cabin door like the cold north wind. Sometimes on nights when a chilling breeze decides to stir, I can still hear that old door creaking on rusted hinges, hinges better suited for a coffin.
Lantern light spilled in every direction, and my youngest started to cry. I hushed him, and covered his eyes to keep out the meanness of eyes glowing red as pokers deep in dark sockets from which they watched. With grizzled faces and yellow toothed sneers, they asked were there any Rebs about and didn’t I have no husband.
Already killed in the war, I told them. That was the first time my babies knew their father wasn’t coming back like I had been promising them every night since he went off to fight. In tattered once blue uniforms, they looked like wolves hiding behind their beards and their stench and pistols which they waved about when shadows moved.
Shadows were always moving in that old cabin, and they still are, I suppose even though it’s long since gone, crumbled away by time and sorrow. I go there hoping to find it, on nights like this, when the moon is big and bright — bright enough to read by. I never find it though I keep looking, forever following the light of my lantern through the swamp behind where that old cabin once stood.
With a rope around my wrist, which the soldiers tied behind my back, not able to wave goodbye I called out the names of my babies as I disappeared into the dark shadows of that swamp. They watched from the sagging porch where I once rocked each of them and sung to them the songs my mama sung to me.
Once I guided them through the swamp and their horses were on dry land and pointed north, the soldiers promised to let me go, back to my children, who would wait for me the rest of their lives and their children’s lives too.
The soldiers kept their promise, but death was waiting for me a thousand times over in that swamp. Still, with a mother’s courage, I followed my lantern back into the shadows.
Heaven’s light shining down though the tall cypress trees, watched over me as it still does on nights like these when my soul stirs and I feel the cold dark water gather about as I wade through time to where my babies once waited for me under an October moon long ago.
Now, whenever traveling a lonely stretch of back road under an October moon and the glow of a ghostly light peers out from the shadows of a dark and forgotten swamp, remember me.
This a work of fiction. Edward Reed 2019