Barren Lands – 1

They called him the Bee-Killer, the Darkling, the Turning Shroud. He wore a wide hat and his face was leathery in the dust of the sun. He lived in the desert and found horses to kill in the fields. He ate their hearts, wrenching them from their chests with long fingernails, blood and a tangle of wiry black hair. Farmers with improvised weapons followed the wake of hooves and steaming entrails across caked earth. There they dug trenches for war, which were later abandoned and made into irrigation ditches. The sheriff made inquiries with eager eyes and a six-shooter, but never found enough evidence. Soon the old windmill was the only witness left, but his sputtering groans proved inconclusive. The full moon shone down as he labored into the night, spitting water into a rusted tank, the shadow of fat blades whirling in the breeze. When there were no more horses left, the farmers declared famine, packed up and left, leaving behind lonely barns. The water dried up and left the tank empty. Everyone assumed the animal who preyed on horses had long since starved. They were right.