This is from an October Flash competition I didn't finish in time. Always a fan of banished pilgrims.
Each time it happened Joseph had to travel deeper into the woods to find the right stone: soft enough to chisel yet durable enough to withstand the harsh rain and wind of their new frontier claim. Wood didn’t work for the grave markers as it quickly took to rot and fell apart after two seasons. This afternoon he happened across a large block of limestone that would make a fine marker.
After dragging it back home, he took to hammering the boy’s name in to it. What did she decide again? Ezekiel? “That’s the one,” he sniffed.
He wouldn’t want to check in on Maria just yet. She was still in a tempest after delivering the child into the world on a Thursday and, if past experience were to hold true, she’d be pouring over her astral charts to determine where she made her mistake. And start plotting out their next attempt at a Sabbath born child.
A small row of grave markers cataloged their other attempts to fulfill his wife’s efforts to summon a proper demon into their plane. Maria had a lifetime of revenge to extract. Starting with all of those folks in Cow Ford who chased her out of town. They would soon learn what kind of heretic she truly was.
At first, Joseph secretly welcomed the banishment. It allowed him to live a quiet life and offer his wife a chance to study her arts, no matter how dark they were. Over time though, his heart ached more with each new gravestone he made. He’d already outlived his father, yet was denied fatherhood himself. He’d given up on his wife long ago, and only stayed to protect any more of their offspring from her ongoing vindictive acts of procreation.
The hammering of his chisel on the stone drew the Lokota. They were always watching. They were as scared of Maria as anyone else, but they honored the agreement Joseph made with them upon first arriving in the prairie. Take and raise the newborns and Joseph would provide them with talismans needed for what seemed like an endless, formless war they continuously were fighting. What were they doing with the locks of Maria’s witched hair Joseph harvested from his wife with each Wolf Moon?
The scout’s shadow at the edge of the woods, knelt, lifted the swaddled babe and walked away. Joseph continued hammering, hoping it would hide any of the baby’s crying from Maria. As he worked the stone, the farmer catalogued the rest of his day. He’d dig the hole, put in the dead rabbit, fill it and plant the grave marker. Only then would he interrupt his wife and declare the task complete.
Today he had another task requiring a larger stone. There would be no more need for the babies, the rabbits and the truce with the Lokota. He raised his hammer again and started to scribe his wife’s name into the rock.