Part 1 – The Testament of Nahum Colley, as related by the Angels through Nahum Colley unto those that would have ears, on the 27th day of march, in the year of our Lord, 1963
• I, your humble narrator
• The story of Joash Colley
• The calamity upon Rebekah Colley and the Great Decampment thereafter
• the miraculous birth of Ephron Colley
• The Days of the First Great Tribulation
My name is Nahum Colley. In this Year of Our Lord, 1963, I declare that I am the descendent of the Great patriarch of our family, Joash Colley, by a line of seventh sons extended back 8 generations now to the Year of Our Lord, 1762 when the Great patriarch brought forth my ancestor, Ephron Colley, as his seventh son.
I do not know why I, with barely a month of schooling in my life, who cannot read and cannot write, has been compelled, today, to pass my family’s story to you, more learned strangers. I do not know for where it is these words come, but that they come in many voices – some in mine, some in the voices of my long dead kin and some in tongues of devils or angels, I know not which. Nor is it I know how you come to be reading my strange tale. These are mysteries which are beyond my ken to contemplate. But I will tell it, true and plainly as I can, the story of The Great Tribulations of the Colley clan and The Everlasting Coming and Wonderment which was to redeem us – even though most all of what I am about to tell is as beyond my understanding as the reasons I must tell it.
To tell the story of The Great Tribulations of the Colley clan and The Everlasting Coming and Wonderment, I must first tell my story of how I was called to prophecy. To do so requires I tell you the history of my family, as it was related to me and to my daddy before me and his daddy before him.
So, dear reader, dear cousin, dear companion, if you have eyes to see or ears to listen and sense with which to ken my story – sit with me through this tale of horror and wonderment, of murder and rebirth, of tarnation and eudemonia, of depravity, the cruelty of saving grace and of the abominable nature of man – and of a night when fire came from the stormy skies, and an angel died to bless and redeem our clan. I pray I can be brief in the telling….
In which is described The Great Patriarch, Joash Colley – his birth, religion and personal characteristics.
Little is known for certain about the origins of our family’s patriarch, Joash Colley. It is told he was born in the North of the Carolinas, in the Year of Our Lord 1732 and was apprenticed at the age of 12 years to a blacksmith. Later, after leaving his indenture, we are taught earned his living as nailer, travelling the Carolina Coast hawking nails and, where possible, salvaging them from the ashes of burned outbuildings or ships. Industrious and serious of temperament, he commenced his rites of initiation in the Freemason temple of New Bern in the Year of Our Lord, 1755.
We are told that Joash Colley was a man of a peculiar religious persuasion. It would be incorrect to say he was a man of Christian faith for, as a deist, he had a vision of a God who was at once all powerful, cruel and directly interventionist in earthly affairs. He felt that man was invariably bound for Hell’s fire and that life was a Great trial which proved that to enter the Kingdom of God one had to amass a Kingdom of God on Earth. This is the doctrine which has been taught in my family since the time of the Great Patriarch and our failings to amass such worthiness proof of the depth of our sin and the unconquerable nature of the Tribulations which has beset us.
Of the nature and character of my ancestor, little else is known – legends say that he was deaf in one ear and that when he was not fulminating on the awe of God and the unworthiness of man, he was taken to strong liquor and given to not infrequent rages. Despite his failings of the flesh and his religious contraorthodoxy, our Patriarch prospered in ironmongery and, in the Year of Our Lord 1752, took a bride.
The origins of our Great Matriarch, Rebekah Colley, are mysterious and obscured by many diverse stories – some say she was a witch, others, the daughter of a merchant who was disowned upon her union with my illustrious ancestor. It is said she was of similar age to Joash Colley and some stories tell of her Great beauty. What is known is that, for her, the marriage brought nothing but tragedy, disappointment and, all too soon, death.
In which is told the despoiling of Rebekah Colley and the vengeance of Joash Colley, Great Patriarch. The arrival of the First Great Tribulation.
Children came quickly to the union of Joash Colley and Rebekah Colley – a son, Joshua, in the Year of Our Lord 1753 – a sickly child who was to perish in the later tribulations which consumed the family, The next year, a daughter, Mara, who died before she could see her second year. Twin boys, Repheal and Samuel, followed in the Year of Our Lord 1755. Repheal barely drew breath and Samuel, again sickly and weak, lingered until calamity overtook our family in his sixth year. A second daughter, Penniah, died the winter subsequent her birth. Little Issachar lived but a day. Tobiah and Simeon followed, but they succumbed, along with Joshua and Samuel, to typhus it is said, in 1761.
Thereafter, further tragedy consumed Rebekah Colley. Woe!, it is told that, one spring’s afternoon, during a violent thunderstorm, while her husband was travelling with his wares, a Moravian Preacher came knocking, seeking shelter. The story speaks such that the Preacher, either so overcome by the witchery, or the beauty of Rebekha Colley, or simply giving into the evil yearnings of his base and depraved heart, made advances improper and, rebuffed, turned to violently laying his hands on Rebekah and he outraged her in the vilest manner imaginable.
Upon his return and finding his wife near beaten to death by this beast, The Patriarch Colley swore vengeance on her despoiler. Again, the true facts of this vengeance are lost on the mist of tall tales and hagiography, but one fact not in dispute is that sometime thereafter, the body of the debaucher was found, neck broken and nailed, upside down, to a birch tree on the road from New Bern to James City.
The governor of the colony himself signed out the warrant to hunt down and drag in our beloved Joash Colley. Our Patriarch, presentient of disaster, snatched up his wounded wife and what provenda he could muster and fled with her in country, wandering for many months, some 400 miles, to the welcome dark of the deep hills, at the place we know now as Balsam Ridge.
Rebekha Colley never recovered her strength, but did carry to term one final child – a miraculous seventh son, my ancestor Ephron Colley, born the high summer of the Year of Our Lord 1763.
And with that, Rebekha Colley, Great matriarch of our clan, gave up the ghost and went to give her account to God.
In which is briefly entailed the fruitfulness of the sons of Joash Colley. The coming of the Second Great Tribulation.
The tales are told that after Rebekah passed of her injuries, Joash and, later, Ephron, married up with Cherokee women up in them hills. Some say it was Turkish women – whatever they did, the Colleys were a numerous and warlike clan by the time my 5 times granddaddy Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley was born. Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley was the first of our family to restore the mark of the seventh son and to carry the burden of the prophecy of The Great Tribulation and Coming, which he spoke in the Year of Our Lord 1830, the year our Great and venerable Patriarch, Joash Colley passed duringg a long and bloody feud with the clan Cluskey of Cathloochee valley – 13 years of inhumanity and murder in the laurel slick and heath hells of the ridges. Our Great patriarach, despite having lived the lives of two men, did not live to see the days family had been driven off lands they had lived on 40 years on the Balsam Ridge, to down by Colwell Fork. Evil days were on us in the hardest of scrabble when, unto Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley came the vision of a woman not of our blood, dressed in white, in a robe sent from heaven, with feet of gold, bearing the blood of angels. She came borne on a star that came to earth without fire, descended to hell and then from the vaporous soil of hell itself to gave up a white robe. He saw her come to us in the days when our blood was lost, in our lowest depth, in the smoke of our torment. And he saw her restoring the family blood and the union her blessed by the white robe and the then standing seventh son of the line of Joash Colley and would remove the curse from our family and return to the righteous fortune in their rightful lands.
And from that day forth, as our family laboured from generation to generation, the prophecy was handed down, as we were pushed from lands to lands, across the border into Tennessee – always assumed by a seventh son of the seed of Joash Colley – to the seventh son of Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley ,Manasseh Colley, unto his seventh son, Esau Colley, unto his seventh son, Elihu Colley, unto his seventh son, my Gramddaddy, Zephron Colley.
Part 2 – The Testament of Nahum Colley as related through the voices of ancestral kin, the Angels and the recollections of Zephron Colley and Kin, to Nahum Colley and unto those that would have ears, on the 27th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1963
• the pitiable fate of Zillah Colley
• the sins and wickedness of Zephron Colley
• The migration to Fatty Bottom and the Final Great Tribulation begins, the Year of Our Lord 1938
• the madness and cruelty of Nun Colley
• The birth of Nahum Colley
It was my gramdaddy’s daddy, Elihu Colley who brought the clan into Benton country at the turn of the 20th century. They clan got by as croppers, harvesting imphee sorghum for a portion of what they reaped and running a sugar press for the rich, sticky syrup. This improved the family’s fortunes, but his seventh son, my gramddaddy whom he named Zephron, an improvident inheritor of the prophecy, felt a darkening in his soul as the hill blood was sullied up as the family began to marry outside and the plains blood began to seep in. He felt the loss of blood deeply and felt the prophecy draw closer.
In which is told the story of the tyrant, Zephron Colley and the coming of the Final Great Tribulation
My gramddaddy, Zephron Colley married his cousin, Zillah Colley, when he was but 15 years old and her, a year younger. Grandma was a high strung and flighty girl, but she grew mean tempered and weary as one by one, she saw babies come forth and die either in or barely out of the crib – my Uncles Kemuel and Ezra, twins, in the Year of Our Lord 1916, a daughter Jecholia in the winter of 1917 and another boy, Malchiel in 1918.
Children did, however, arrive eventually – my uncles Zibeon and Hiram in 1919, Ajah in 1920 and my daddy, Nun Colley, also in that year of jubilation. Another daughter, Joanna, arrived in 1922, but no more children were born alive to Zillah, while four more perished in her womb. The disappointment, coupled with my Gramddaddy’s growing wickedness and depravities, saw her grip on her sense slowly being to falter in the following years.
The years saw my Gramddaddy burdened by increasing terrors. Terror of flooding out on the flatlands, floods both of water, biblical fire and poisoned blood. Terror of his wife, having banished him from her bed – declaring his seed unworthy of her womb and the wailing ghosts of the children it had killed echoed with the wails of the hungry children it cursed her to bear. Terror that he had betrayed the prophecy by submitting to his carnal lusts and marrying, therefore disqualifying himself if the woman not of our blood did come. And terror that, one day, it may well be up to his seventh son, the withdrawn, moody and cruel Nun – or whatever cursed, bad blooded seed he brought forth – to forewarn of the coming of the family prophecy and to be groom to the bride in the white robe of heaven, and restore the family. He became obsessed with restoration the family blood and forbad marriage outside the family and marriage within the family only with those untainted by plains blood. The fear and dark dread began to manifest itself as wickedness of an almost unspeakable nature. There are stories that he, driven by uncontrollable urges stoked by his wife’s rejection of his advances, he conducted vile and lascivious practices and initiations with his own children – their howls on the nights of such acts ringing through the shacks of the camp and driving Zillah to a living hell of torment.
In which is related the woeful fates of the sons of Zephron Colley
The Year of Our Lord 1938 brought disaster for our family and commenced our Great Tribulation. Just after the New Year, our clan mourned the loss of our Patriarch Elihu Colley, who was taken to account unto the Lord on the 8th day. But Greater calamity came in the early Spring. For the previous almost 20 years, our family had been pressing sorghum syrup as part of its bounty for cropping them fields – and most all that syrup had gone directly to the pine woods for Gramddaddy Zephron Colley’s still. The still, secreted in an the shaft of an abandoned copper mine produced unrectified busthead which uncles Hiram and Zibeon would run down to Nashville in Gramddaddy’s DeSoto Eight. One day, in the spring, a posse of state revenue men came sneaking up through the forest while Gramddaddy and Uncles was fixing up to run. Ain’t no one will say with any certainty what transpired when Gramddaddy and my Uncles found upon them, but soonly thereafter one of them Revenue men was dead, his head blown clean through from my Uncle Zibeon’s .45
Zibeon took to running and living out in the woods, but it weren’t more than a few weeks before the hounds ran him down and the Sherriff’s men hauled him off to gaol. Weren’t nothing for it then but to try him and find him guilty – he wasn’t denying it leastwise. A month after they sentenced him to die, they tooked him up to Lauderdale County Gaol, put a sugar bag over his head and kilt him in the ‘lectric chair up there.
They say the night they kilt Uncle Zibeon, my grammomma lost he last vestiges of her mind and she went walking sometime after the midnight hour, wailing piteously and drowned herself all up in Sulpher Creek.
And these signs shall follow them that believe:
In my name shall they cast out devils;
they shall speak with new tongues.
They shall take up serpents;
and if they drink any deadly thing,
it shall not hurt them;
they shall lay hands on the sick,
and they shall recover.
Losing Uncle Zibeon also afflicted my daddy’s mind mightily. Daddy was 18 years old then, married up with my momma, Abigail Colley, eldest daughter of his cousin Elishaphat, and they’d had 4 children – my oldest brother Jepthath, my sisters, twins Miriam and Elisheba and lil’ Lud, an idiot who died in kerosene fire afore I was borned. Folks say that was when my daddy’s cruel streak became his manly nature. He just got mad and mean, especially when he was drunked up – which was most of the time. He was all ‘et up by what happened to Uncle Zibeon and how he didn’t or couldn’t do nothing to stop it. Some say he was whoring in Camden, after running a load of turpentine down to market others say he was drunk-blind from drinking canned heat with nigrahs in the camp out on Country 1753. Whatever, an’ where ever he was, that day and the killing of Uncle Zibeon lit a tragic anger in him that lasted all his days. And he took to preaching a gospel of hell and fire for anyone who would listen and put out the eyes of many men who backslid on him. He took to handling vipers– copperheads, pigmy rattlesnakes, hognoses and timbersnakes and would lay fevered and speaking in tongues from their bites, seeking to find relief in death from the twin burdens of the guilt over his brother’s death and the prophecy he was terrified to fulfil.
Uncle Hiram died next, all mangled up and burned in the DeSoto on Route 191 and with that, uncle Ajah just up and disappeared. Some folks say he just lit out for Nashville and parts beyond that fall, others say worse. They say that in a rage, my gramddaddy Zephron kilt him when Ajah got drunked up and started ranting to him about the depredations upon his manhood Gramdaddy committed all them years ago. My gramddaddy was an evil, wicked man.
In which is described the character of Nun Colley, seventh son of Zephron Colley. The birth of your humble narrator.
My daddy settled us in Fatty Bottom when the Valley Authority flooded the hills around Sulpher Creek and made Kentucky Lake. Shortly thereafter, in the Year of Our Lord, 1944, I was borned on a freezing night as the seventh son of Nun Colley. My momma, Abigail Colley, believed I had a twin with me in her and that somehow he had been swallowed up by God in order to assure my fate as the seventh son. And it came to pass I had ten brothers and sisters afore my momma passed from a fever when I was 7 years of age. I won’t say I know why God chose to take my momma at the end of her labors, but I do know I foresaw it one night, in the dream of an angel reaping high sorghum, the month afore she passed. An’ I know the Angels took her to a better place than this holler down in Fatty Bottom.
When I was borned, the burden of prophecy passed from him to me. It is no easy burden to be a prophet. As it is told, the seventh son of the line of Joash Colley is to marry the woman chosen by the Angel of the Nightcoming Fire, who will bestow upon her a nuptial gown of white. To be chosen means that the prophet must resist all of the callings of the flesh and not take to marrying when he years he should, but to wait the Angel. To ever wait the Angel. An’ each and every one of my fathers, they could not wait and they married up and ten it became a race against their bestial natures to bring forth a seventh son to take from them at least some the weight of guilt for betraying the prophecy. An as I moved through my yearnin’ years, it became a sore vexation to me to carry the lonely burden of the prophet. But carry it I did, haunted as I was by the ghostly shame of my drunken hearted father and mad-brained gramdaddy, driven to their dooms by the shame of abandoning their blood.
I began, from that age, to have disturbing presentiments of times to come. My Daddy, thus relieved of the possibility of failing the prophecy, dropped the snakes and most of the preaching and supplanted it with more drinking, more brawling and more whoring. His cruelty, it seemed knew no bounds – to women, to his children, to the addle-brained and infirm who littered the camp and his heart was barren as a stone. I didn’t need no prophecy to know he was going to die and when he was going to die was always soon enough.
Part 3 – The testament of Nahum Colley, as related by Nahum Colley unto the Sherriff and Medical Examiner of Benton County, Tennessee and unto those that would have ears, on the 27th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1963
• The death of cruel Nun Colley
• The Descent of the Angel of the Nightcoming Fire
• The fulfilment of the prophecies of Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley and a description of the hellish visions of Nahum Colley, bringer of the light.
My daddy, Nun Colley, died when I was 14 years of age, in a mighty rainstorm – he knocked on the wrong door and someone done cut him down with a possum gun. His body lay in the mud, just festerin’, an’ bein’ eaten at by critters, for all of five days afore we found him and dragged him off for burying under a boxelder tree up by Sandy Ridge. Ain’t no one in these parts loved that man but us and, like I said, we feared and hated him much as we loved him. My oldest brother, Jepthath, who had had some learnin’ in a schoolhouse out by Big Sandy that weren’t there no more, read for him from Ezekiel:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman
unto the house of Israel:
therefore hear the word at my mouth,
and give them warning from me.
When I say unto the wicked,
Thou shalt surely die;
and thou givest him not warning,
nor speakest to warn the wicked
from his wicked way, to save his life;
the same wicked man shall die
in his iniquity; but his blood will I require
at thine hand.
Behold, all souls are mine;
as the soul of the father,
so also the soul of the son is mine:
the soul that sinneth,
it shall die.
An’ the 7 of us, my brothers Jeptath, Ishmaiah, Uriel, Salmon and Jubal and my widdered sister Elisheba, we tossed in Great clumps of peat and mud and sod and moss and vines and leaves in on him and we stomped it down good and rolled a big old sandy stone over him to make sure he couldn’t rise up. And weren’t none of us could look at each other as we slunk away, back into the darkening trees, because each one of us knew that while we prayed for God to take him and keep him away from us, it was just as likely the devil would claim him and set him loose on us to torment us over again.
I arrived back at the tar and clap shack I now shared with my evil Gramddaddy Zephron Colley an’ found him slumped at the roughly hewn table in the main room, a mason jar once filled with busthead rolled under his chair. A stink of piss coming from him, almost unbearable. In the bright yeller light of the kerosene lamp he looked framed in hell’s burnstone. I slapped my palm on the table as to wake him. Much as I feared him, I figured he may be grateful to know his last son was dead and in the cold ground.
The table shook from my blow, but he remained unconscious. A second pounding failed to rouse him and a third, no more than a drool and a murmur. I determined to strike upon his person in order to rouse him and, searching for a weapon which would be forceful but not injurious, I came upon my mother’s bible in the rear room. I stood squarely beside my terrible kin and brought the bible down hard on his shoulder.
He woke with a spultter and a roaring howl, fartin’ and wailin’ in rage. Bewlidering, he swung his head around, his eyes no doubt taking some time to come to keenness in the dim light. Soon enough, though, he fixed on my with his evil eye and slurred “you, boy”
“Aye. Gramddaddy Zephron, I have news”. He glared at me, stupefied and ferocious.
“My daddy, your seventh son, is dead. We buried him up on the Sandy Ridge this afternoon just gone”
“Dead? Dead you say? Did you pray over him?”
“We did, we all did.”
“It’ll do you more good than it will do him. Hell ain’t near full enough yet to pitch him out”
“maybe so. Is that what you got to say”
“yer a boy. Y’ don’t know death. I seen nothin’ but death in this life. Death, hard luck and trouble. Nun Colley dying don’t mean no more to me than a River Cooter or a Woodchuck or a Housefly dyin’. Everything dies, boy. Where’s muh jar?”
I eyed him for what seemed like a very long time. I had visions flash before me of him in this room, on all fours, like a dog, foaming at the mouth, gouging at his own eyes and begging to die. As I calmed from the ecstasy of this vision, another came to me of him lying on my father’s bed in the back room, surrounded by fire but shivering as if snowbound. “You’ll sleep out here tonight. If you come through that curtain” I said, gesturing to the back room “I’ll shoot you dead with my Daddy’s model 29”. And I meaned it, too.
The Coming of the Mighty Angel. The Prophecy of Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley is fulfilled.
The Angel of The Nightcoming Fire came just after sunset, in a rainstorm, of a cold Tuesday evening, now some days past. We was huddled in the tar and clap shack – me , my brothers Jeptath and Uriel, my sister Elisheba and my ancient and irredeemable Gramdaddy, Zephron. The violence of the storm had receded, leaving only a black, blindin’ rain – which sounded akin to the devil whuppin’ on a sinners back ‘gainst the canvas sheet over the rear rooms.
My Gramdaddy was sickenin’, he had been for some days and but for his sheer meanness woulda died during the last night. But there he lay, sweating and muttering curdling curses at us, unwanted by God and feared by the demons – too afraid or maybe too proud to go to give account for his sins.
All us was sittin’ there, not speakin’, not darin’ to think nothin’, just listenin’ to his rasp of breath, his curses, and the rain slappin’ down. An’ then, I heared it… a buzzin’ sound, like but not like a hornet. And somethin’ in me jes’ knew.
It was the coming of The Angel.
I stepped outside the shack, fearful and uncertain, into the rain. Outside, in the cold and driving rain, I could hear it more clear – a whine and a growl, coming over the trees to the north and the west, back toward Ramble Creek. I took off running toward it, Elisheba hollerin’ after me.
‘bout half a mile, maybe a littl’ more on, I heard the thundercrack as the Angel descended. A mighty shellbark was spilt in two with a terrible violence and, at the same time, the earth heaved and shook and I was thrown from my feet and into darkness.
In which a vision of Hell and the bedevilment of Nahum Colley are described.
I woke surrounded by smoke and ruination. The ridge at the northern end of the holler had been torn away and a burning pit to Hell had opened in the wake of the Coming Angel. Scattered all around was wreck and ruin, and what I took to be the mangled bodies of sinners dragged up from Hell in the Angel’s path. Riches were rent from the Devil’s storehouse along sundry twisted abominations, but my eyes, stinging from the smoke, were lookin’ only for one thing – a white gown for my long prophesied bride.
As my ears cleared from the ringing of the crash, I became sensible to the voice of men coming through the woods from all sides and my sister Elisheba. I hollered to her to come to me, knowing that when the folks from up the holler arrived they would pick clean the treasures and abominations and I could not chance them ruining the appointment of prophecy.
Elisheba and I descended into the crater, the mangled bodies of those cast out of heaven around us. It was then I saw it, almost shining through the stinking smoke – white, pristine and, if any word could be said of it more than any other, angelic. I move towards it, and as I did, I realized – she, The Angel – and I knew this as she was the only unmarked body in the pit, was still clad in the gown.
This troubled me mightily, dear Cousin, dear Reader – for it was not how it was told it would come to me and I was uncertain in my heart if indeed Angels could die and if all the dead were the same, how could I tell the Angels from the Iniquitous and Bedevilled?
I had no clarity but action. My hands guided my heart. Aided by Elisheba and spurred by the oncoming howls of my wicked kin rising across the ridges and thickets, I took the gown, soft as snow, from the crumpled form of the Angel and covered her, for she was naked, with a grey woollen blanket which lay in the ashes. Elisheba bent for to take her shoes, which were of gold, but I scorned her. And then my brother Uriel and cousin Zophar, and others, came over the rim of the crater and descended on the burning tarnation below.
My kin are not a righteous peoples, but soon their blood was to be restored. For so it had been foreseen by my ancestor, the venerable Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley. Praise be unto that Great Prophet’s name.
Part 4 – The testament of Nahum Colley, as related by Nahum Colley unto his unborn children and those that would have ears, on the 27th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1963
• The days in the wake of the Great Coming
• The death of Zephron Colley
• The espousal of Nahum Colley.
As I sit here, in the hold of my enemies, those on whom my Uncle Zibeon made war and who did destroy him, I conclude this testament with my recollections of my marriage, what righted the blood of my kin and the birth of the child what by my reckoning restored the line of Joash Colley and reseeded the fruit of his loins. And while my trails and the trials of my ancient kin are over I fear with some prescience but no measure of prophecy that the trials of my descendants have only begun.
My story will be short, so I pray your forbearance.
In which strangers and bushwhackers come to Fatty Bottom. The Final Tribulation worsens.
The night the Angel came I crept back to the shack as my kin swarmed and bickered over the site, clutching to me the instrument of prophecy. My accursed Gramdaddy, Zephron Colley lay on his pallet, his arm hanging hideously from beneath him like some inhuman caw. He wheezed and muttered curses in odd tongues but I paid him no mind. I had in it my command to consign him to antiquity – he and my wicked father, and all them that betrayed the call to prophecy – their ilk would play no more part in the destiny of our family. I had nary a thought as to whom my bride would be. I fell to the floor in the back room, soaked to the skin and stinking of smoke and blood, sleep in an instant. And I dreamed nothing and I dreamed of nothing.
The next day, I worked to pale sunshine and the sounds of men hollerin’ names. My Gramdaddy had dragged himself across the front room floor, leaving a trail of his own filth, to peer out the crack of our door. I stepped over him, into the little clearing around out shack.
City Folks were walking through the woods, shouting and looking aggrieved. My Cousin Hosea, a man by far dearer to me than my own unlamented father, was talking to a fat man in a coat of many colours, who was waving his arms like a lunatic. Hounds were baying in the distance.
Mah curiosity got the better of me and I wandered, slowly and carefully, up towards the holler where the Angel came to earth, but before I got there, I heard the Great hue and cry come up over the ridge, for the cold, dead hole had been discovered. And there in, picked over and torn as it was, was the full horror of the devastation left in the wake of the Angel of the Nightcoming Fire.
There stood on the ridge a stranger in city clothes who was weeping. I stood beside him a short while, gazing into the blackened pit. Here, in the dawn’s strengthening light, it seemed more uncanny to me that it was in flames and darkness and icy rain the night before.
“What wus it happened here?” I ask the man. He turned to look at me as if I had spoken to him in the tongues. His face seemed bewildered and angry, as if I had asked him a dishonest question. I had not.
After a time, he spoke slowly and quietly “An airplane came down”
“An airplane you say?”
“Yes. Are you from ‘round these parts?”
“Well, I’ll be. I have heard of such wonders, but I ain’t never seen one. Did y’know them people down there?”
“Three of ‘em”
“Friends of yours?”
“They’re with the Angels, now”. He looked at me most sorrowful, and then dropped his eyes to the earth.
“They are the Angels, now”.
I let him in silence for some minutes, just gazing on the horror below. “What’ll happen next?”
“Po-liss’ll be here soon enough. County, State. I imagine the Federals’ll be here before too long, being that it’s an airplane and all. Newsmen, too, I imagine”
“We don’t take kindly to Federals in these parts”. The killin’ of my Uncle Zibeon would be remembered long in the holler and them that killed him were forever accursed.
He turned and looked at me with a face half pity for me and half for himself. “You don’t have a choice, Mister. The world is on its way to yer holler”. And with that he left me and stumbled down in the pit, to keen for his lost friends. I contemplated his worrisome news.
In which death has no pity for Zephron Colley. A telling of the death of the inveterate fiend. An arrangement for a marriage is made.
A short time on, Miriam, the oldest daughter of my Cousin Hosea, came running through the thicket calling my name. I turned to her as she hared up breathless.
“Cousin Nahum, it’s….” her words were arrested by the site of the terrible wreckage below
“Yer, yer Gramdaddy – he’s fixing hisself to die. You gotta run!” And run I did – not for any concern for his comfort in his passing, but to satisfy myself, for the only way I could be truly sure that evil man was dead was to watch it with mine own eyes.
Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth,
though he hide it under his tongue
Though he spare it, and forsake it not;
but keep it still within his mouth:
Yet his meat in his bowels is turned,
it is the gall of asps within him.
He hath swallowed down riches,
and he shall vomit them up again :
God shall cast them out of his belly
I arrived back in Fatty Bottom to the awful sight of my father’s father, Zephron Colley, on his knees in the small clearing outside our shack. He was retching with ferocious violence, bile and what appeared to be the content of his bowels strung through his beard and in a Great pool before him. No curses came from his lips, merely a strangled cry halfway ‘tween a growl and a scream. Not one amongst his kin raised a hand to help him. Not a one.
And this it was, Zephron Colley, the denier of the prophecy, enemy of every man, raper of his own children and blasphemer before God died, there, in the ash and the mud and a pool of his own filth, on the 7th Day of March, in the Year of Our Lord, 1963.
After the croak of life subsided from my Gramdaddy’s lungs, and he fell face down in the bile and the blood and the shit he spewed in his last minutes, I looked over to my Cousin Hosea, who was watching, like me, without pity as what was surely God’s judgement on iniquity and improvidence was handed down. I walked over to him and asked him a low and serious tone
“Cousin Hosea, where you at the site of the wonderment last night”
“So was I. They tell it was an airplane, but I know better. I saw it. I know it was the Angels come”
Uncle Hosea fixed me with a keen stare and said nothing for some time. “How do you know?” he whispered.
“The white gown. I have the robe sent from heaven which we were told the Angel would be clad in”
Hosea stared ahead, his jaw clenched hard. A cold wind came in and I could smell rain on it.
“We have to move quickly, Cousin Hosea. This thing, this miracle, it will bring strangers tomorrow, the next day – Po-liss and Federals. To the holler. We gotta make things right.”
Hosea said nothing. He ground his heel into the mud and ash, until he came to a knowing in his mind “How will the blood be righted? They talk of Angel blood…”
“I don’t know, rightly, I don’t know nothing I jes’ believe.” Hosea nodded.
“My Miriam turned 14 this past January”
“I reckon she’ll be a fine bride, Cousin Hosea”
“Amen, Cousin Nahum”
“So mote it be, Cousin Hosea”
The night, some kin came and drug my Grampappys carcass out of the clearing. I hear tell they buried him up in Cat Holler. But that was of no concern to me. His life ended this day and his world would end tomorrow.
A Rainy Day in Benton County, Tennessee and a brief account of a wedding in Fatty Bottom
It rained on the 8th of March, in The Year of Our Lord 1963 – the day the outsiders came and the day I was married to Miriam, daughter of Hosea and the terrible curse of the clan of Colley was, we believed to be lifted. The facts of the matter are meagre to relate, as the marrying was done with little ceremony, as these things invariably were. The nuptials themselves took place on a small landing afront of Cousin Hosea’s shack, my bride dressed in the gown bought to us by the Nightcoming Angel and clutching a posie of Showy Orchis, my Cousin Naphtali speaking the ceremony and pronouncing us wed.
There was little time for celebration – most of the menfolk were away at the stills and traps lest any nosey Federal men come by and the inclement and bitter weather meant few cared to linger. My bride, barely 14 years old, wed in a gown far too big for her and bearing the stains of the unspeakable horror which delivered it to us, seemed to think it all a game as we repaired for victuals in her father’s shack, crowded cheek to jowl with well wishers. She didn’t realize now she was a visitor at this house, not a dweller, and that, in sooner than an hour, we would leave for the other side of Fatty Bottom, to the miserable shack lined with paper where Uriel, Jubal and Elisheba lived with me – as a wife and the custodian of the righted blood of the clan Colley.
Meanwhile, up in Colley Holler, outsiders were combing the site of the conflagration. The mystery of the plane coming to earth seemed unsolvable so they turned their eyes to more mundane questions – missing money, missing wristwatches, missing shoes and a missing white chiffon gown – the latter spirited away from an angel left naked under a scrap of blanket on the burning earth.
Part 5 – The testament of Loye Furr, as related the records of the Court of Benton County Tennessee and those that would have ears, on the 11th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1963
Let the record note that, on March 8th 1963, the recovery of and investigation into the crash which occured at 6:20 p.m., March 5th 1963 of Piper N-7000P, at Big Sandy, Tennessee was completed. Investigation conducted by Benton Country Sherif’s Office, Benton County Medical Examiner. Specialist investigators from the Civil Aeronautics Board assisted. Dr AT Hix, County Medical Examiner provided autopsy services in consultation with Civil Aeronautics Board Medical Examiner Dr. J.S. Butterworth. Cause of the crash is filed as mechanical failure due to inclement weather conditions. Four victims recovered – Hughes, Ramsey, of Nashville, Copas, Lloyd, of West Union, Ohio, Hensley, Virginia of Goodlettsville and Hawkins, Harold, of Nashville.
Evidence of looting of the crash site was apparent to investigators. A search of indigent encampments around Fatty Bottom and Colley Hollow revealed items including wristwatches, a cigarette lighter and other personal effects belonging to the victims. On March 10th, 5 persons – Colley, Nahum, Colley, Jubal, Batchelder, Hiriam, Coade, Jeconiah and Coade, Judith were arrested. Charges arrayed from stealing and possession of goods known to be stolen to attempted murder of a Sheriff’s deputy. Full details are contained in subsequent reports. Two Sheriff’s deputies suffered minor injuries in effecting these arrests.
On March 11th a deputation of local volunteers, supervised by county deputies, removed the indigent camps on the basis of multiple violations of State and County health codes.
Prosecution of the persons arrested and charged with offences as detailed above has been handed to County Prosecutor.
Part 6 – The testament of Nahum Colley, to the ghosts of dead kin and to those that would have ears, on the 29th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1963
Woe! Woe is upon your humble narrator
Woe is upon us today. Dear Cousins, dear Readers, I thank you for your kind attentions thus far. My tale now is a tatter and I feel that I invite only mockery, but if you have but a crumb of pity and patience for me, your tragic narrator I would favor it with all my heart.
O! I languish, on this terrible day, in the Benton County Gaol, far from my kin, far from the hills which brewed my blood and far from the woods and hollers that raised me. Far from my new wife, far from the songs of birds and the sway of the Blood Root and the Blue-Eyed Mary. Far from home and with no home to return to. Well may the blood be righted and the clan Colley reborn, but that is only because the clan Colley has been scattered, murdered and burnt out of its land in the Final and Greatest of Tribulations
Disasters have been visited upon us, a river of miseries has washed us away.
In which the clan Colley is bushwhacked and murdered in the most heinous fashion.
Three days after my marriage to Miriam, daughter of Cousin Hosea Colley, the Federal men retuned to Fatty Bottom and Colley Holler. Without a word of reason, all our dry goods were turned out into the cleanings and burned. Our shacks and cabins all set to the flame. The men folks were rounded up by Sherriff’s Deputies and brought up to Colley Holler, bound at the wrist and made to kneel in the mud. I myself was dragged out of the woods while tending my traps and taken, at gunpoint, up the holler. I could hear the cries and keenin’ of the women and the report of a trench gun across the ridge.
Bloody cries came down to the holler and the whoop of the younger and wilder Batchelder boy, Charlie. Huge clouds of smoke hung low overhead in the cold, rainy air. Shots and screams came from the way of Fatty Bottom. My brother, Jepthath, rose to run but four Federal men beat him down with clubs and shotgun sticks until he was a hideous mess. I myself near had my head stove in moving to help him and woke later, half sensible from shock and half drowned in the mud I lay in.
They shot down Charlie Batchelder after chasing him through the brush and thicket for hours. Four other kin perished that day – my Cousin Rueben Colley, son of my father’s sister, Jecholia, who fired on Deputy who was burning out his home. My nephew, Ebal, son of my sister Miriam, who was shot down when he ran from the Federal Man who came for him. Hannah Clinch, who died from a blow to the head as she stood in her doorway refusing entry to the Federal men and little Ehi Tute, barely a year old, kilt when a stray bullet passed through the paper walls of his shack and into his belly.
That afternoon, as the sun moved low through the threes, the deputies moved through the bound men of clan Colley and horsewhipped each one of us. We were told never to return to Fatty Bottom.
Even now, near three weeks on from this day of murder and black hearted brigandry, no one from the side of the law will mention these dead of the clan Colley and there is no hint of justice in this world for the cruelly and callously murdered.
They found some tokens scavenged from the fireball in the camp, but they never found the two things they wanted most – a sum of money they were carrying – my brother Uriel was too clever in hiding it and it now pays for the lawyers for we imprisoned and the dingy boarding rooms for those kin we need to keep closest and the dress. They never could and they never will find the dress. That is my secret and one I will keep, Dear Reader, Dear Cousin, until the cold earth swallows me.
In which the prophecy Maher-Shahal-Hash-Baz Colley is realized.
And so, we reach the sorry end of my tale. Again, how it is I came to tell it and how it is I found words to speak these things I do not know. I know now, that I sit here in a prison, waiting to be judged by a world that rejects my people and wishes to see them obliterated, without a home for myself and my young wife, who sleeps in a room bought with hell’s money itself, without my religion, with my kin either dead, scattered or incarcerated with me and the sad and angry knowing that my life has been led to serve a lie misread and mis-served by time and that all I had and could ever had has been lost to this.
The prophecy is fulfilled, but in a manner far more terrible than we, inured to hard-scrabble and suffern’, could ever contemplate. Truly, we hoped for too much in the angry words of a mad and frightened ancestor, handed down to equally mad and frightened ancestors who, every day, had to deal with a world a little more beyond their ken. Until they came to me, barely out of my youth, unable to comprehend the events before my birth and those of that fateful night in early March, 1963.
We expected to be delivered, much like the suffering Israelites, from a desert of poverty and brutality and shown all the fruits of this world. Our blood would be righted and our family restored. But the fruits of the world were bitter to our tongue, bringing death and extinction – for us and, in time I see, all peoples like us – The Spooner clan in Vick Hollow, our neighbors the McMurtys and the Willis farther north. The Turkish folk of the high hills who, if they even exist today do so only as shadows and haunted voices of a gone past – all will be consumed by this world and their histories will be no more.
As to the restoration of the family, it is restored – to that of my venerated ancestor, Joash Colley – who was once as I am now – an outlaw, bearing a Great injustice, wandering in a new and strange world cast out of his home. It is as simple as that. It is destroyed in the Tribulation and restored in the prophecy. The dead and the wandering in the wind have no bearing on that. God is cruel and his signs are few. What is a simple man such as me to do?
These are the facts of my story as best I can tell them.
My name is Nahum Colley. In this Year of Our Lord, 1963, I declare that I am the descendent of the Great patriarch of our family, Joash Colley.