The heavy scent of sulfur filled his nose when he walked into the barn. An icy chill slid down his spine as he raised his lantern. A figure stood in the center of the barn. The farrier moved toward it. “You sent for me, sir?”
The figure in black let out a breath from the stump of his neck. Once there was a head there surely. Now only gore and bone, the creature gave off an odor of decay mixed with rose petals. He raised his arm and extended a long finger toward a stall.
The farrier nodded with a half bow before moving to it. He never knew how to address the coachman. The thing must have some kind of supernatural sight to guide The Black Coach on its nightly collection of spirits.
The beast in the stall raised its head as the farrier stepped into its domain. Its muscles flexed under the onyx skin as a hoof stomped and scraped the wood floor.
He reached out a hand and stroked the nightmare's neck. It turned a blood red eye to meet his. The farrier looked away before it could see into his soul. Those eyes could make a man relive his deepest pain.
He set down the bag of tools and pulled on the thick heatproof gloves. They were cumbersome at times but better to deal with the discomfort and aggravation of the gloves than to have his hands burnt with the heat the beasts gave off.
Perhaps it was the heat of their bodies that caused the metal to twist and warp on their hooves. Their manes and tails looked like hellfire dancing as they ferried the coach. Fables have said they were fallen souls such as him. Others guess they were created from hellfire in the great pit. Or perhaps it was better not to know. His soul knew too much of this place already.
He lifted the hoof between his thighs to examine the warped metal shoe. As he worked to reshoe the demon horse his mind recalled the night the coach came for him. Not to take him to the next life, that would have been a blessing.
He stood over the corpses, his hands dripped in blood and gore. The last victim had taken their final breath and he stood over the body, to watch the eyes fade as the soul left the body. It was then he heard the thunder of hoof beats.
He turned and ran down the alleyway, turned corner after corner until the sound faded. When his lungs started to burn he stopped and leaned against a trash bin to catch his breath. He was sure he’d escaped his fate. Until he felt the darkness around him move.
The farrier looked down the alley and there sitting at the end, waiting for him. The Black Coach, the nightmares stomped and shifted impatient to get on with their task.
The Coachman walked headless over the cobbled ground toward the farrier. What happened next was too much for his mind to bare remembering.
The Coachman’s cold fingers sunk into his body and tore out his coward’s spine.
The dark creature now used it for his whip. The farrier was cursed to serve The Black Coach until his soul paid for his evil deeds.
He finished with the last tack and dropped the hoof with hands that trembled. He gathered his tools quickly to go back into his abyss until the next time he was needed. This would be his fate for a long time to come.
Part of the A to Z Blog Challenge for the letter F