Red Sky at Mourning

The sky was blood-red, tinting the faces of everyone in the crowd. It should have been beautiful. It should have felt warm.

But those faces — cold, hard, sharp faces — sucked all the warmth from the air. Extinguished all beauty. They’d had a job, a duty. Some did it more enthusiastically than others, but we all did it. Thing is, some of us did nothing. And that was worst of all.

He was already beat to hell the first time I saw his face, fear evident in his eyes even by the flickering torchlight. They asked me was he the guy. Was he the one that had attacked the lady?

I shrugged. I never really saw the guy. I couldn’t say he was. I didn’t say he wasn’t.

I want so much to believe I couldn’t have stopped them anyway. They were too angry, too hungry for blood, too anxious to bring the whole situation to an end.

A light breeze skittered through the branches. Probably a storm coming. Maybe not as bad as the one just past. The rope and its morbid cargo bent the sturdiest branch, which swayed with a distinctive creaking noise.

The sun, low on the horizon, found the face of the dead man. The first dead guy I ever saw. Then we all turned away and slowly made our way home.



  1. That’s what happens when you get a mob mentality – this piece was sad and frightening all at the same time.

    • Thanks, Helen. This piece was inspired by the 1943 Henry Fonda movie The Ox-Bow Incident, which I rewatched recently.


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