The Collectors

by James A. Ford

Two men stood in the shadows of the doorstep of the small farm house.

They carefully shut the door behind them. No lights burned in the house and no sound came from within.

One of the men, tall and thin and looking every inch an undertaker, noticed something on his sleeve and wiped at it muttering. Satisfied, he turned his sallow face toward his shorter companion.

“Next house?” he asked.

The shorter man nodded crisply and the two walked briskly down the driveway toward the road.

“Quarter mile, half at most, give or take,” the short man stated, looking straight ahead.

Though not as tall as the first man he was much heavier in build. His face was a shadow covered in a scrub of dark beard. Raised white scars ran up out of the beard and disfigured part of the left side of his face.

Both men wore tattered brown overcoats, collars up against the chill of the night. Their heads were topped by odd looking black hats that sat high on their heads and could easily have sat on the heads of Puritans two centuries before.

As they walked up the road the heavy man started to sing, “Je- suss – loves – me … this – I – knooww… ”

“You have a strange sense of humour,” the tall man said.

The bearded man smiled and continued singing. In the moonlight his smile looked painful.

“Cause – the – bi – ble – tells – me – sooo…”

“Strange, real strange,” the tall man continued. He attempted his own smile, displaying a sickly green array of crooked teeth to the moonlight. The configuration of his mouth in this effort appeared so strained that any witness to the event would have believed this was the first time he’d ever tried it.

The shorter man scratched at his beard as he walked.

“I happen to like the tune, ok. Sue me!”

“Watch for lightening bolts.” The tall man said pointing a rapier thin finger toward the sky.

They continued along the dirt road, moonlight alone guiding their way. Except for them, the road was deserted; no cars passed as they walked along side by side. The quiet forest surrounded them, a cloaking veil hiding their progress from the night. Both protecting and pushing them, tightening around them as if to squeeze them out.

“It feels us again,” said the bearded man. “It knows we are here.”

“Yes,” the tall man answered, “let’s finish up quickly tonight. Tomorrow we’ll go elsewhere.”

“It always finds us… eventually.”

“Yes. Always, but that is the way of things, we both know that.”

“Everything in balance, yes?”

“Yes, everything in balance,” said the tall man flashing his sickly smile again. “Everything,” he whispered.

They continued on, finding the next house despite the pressure of the very atoms of the air around them. It was a large farmhouse sitting well back from the road. They entered the yard and a large German Shepard came towards them on stiff legs staring intently, not barking but in full stealth mode preparing to attack.

“Better take care of fido before he starts barking.” The tall man said, pointing his sharp chin towards the menacing shadow.

The bearded man nodded and walked forward emitting a weird low pitch growl as he did. The Shepard reacted as if struck with a whip and ran off down the road without making a sound.

“Let’s finish up for tonight,” the bearded man said, looking towards the farm house; lights burned bright in several rooms.

“They are still awake. It might pose a problem,” the tall man said. The comment was not made from fear, but a simple statement of a fact.

“They are on the list and we are here,” the bearded man responded, shrugging his shoulders. “It must be done.”

“Yes, of course,” the tall man conceded.

They turned and walked the last few steps toward the house. Soon after their silent entry, one by one, the lights of the house went out.

The End