The Circle

The dirt driveway sneaked around and up to the Marrow farm. Officer Ravencroft drove up surveying the half rotten chicken coop and worn farmhouse. He slammed his patrol car door. Old Man Marrow watched the cop watching his farm.
Without a word Lucan Marrow climbed down from his lopsided porch and headed for the circle.
Ravencroft followed. Wordlessly they cut through the hip high weeds and rounded the old milking barn. An old barn cat named Cassidy stretched her tortoise shell legs, rolled out of its sunny corner, and joined the walk.
Up ahead through a smattering of trees it sat. The trio stopped at its edge.
“So what’s new at the hellmouth sir?”
The old man sighed. The smell answered. The thin forest was littered with empty beer bottles, chicken bones, puddles of puke, and a disinterested bra. Then of course there was the upside down Escalade on the fence. Ravencroft took out his phone.
“So what is this the sixth or seventh call this year sir?”
Marrow spat on the ground. The cop snapped a few photos. Cassidy licked her foot. The circle waited.
From a hundred feet up the Satan Wheel looked ordinary, just a circular burn mark only much larger. At ground level it was different. Perfectly flat and completely lifeless, the charred circle was the size of a basketball court. Charcoal black earth the Satan Wheel excelled in its nothingness. Nothing would grow in it and nothing could remain in it. Place a stone or a person or a mid range luxury vehicle in the Satan Wheel and overnight it was moved.
From a few inches to a few towns over whatever was placed in the ashen ring would not be inside by dawn. The Wheel has always been this way.
Ravencroft made notes for his report. Marrow glared. Cassidy cracked the teeny bones of a chicken wing. All of Gray Creek, NC, knew about the circle. There were legends of UFOs, a ghost trapped, a burnt witch’s curse, and well the devil.
During the late 1800s a coven reclaimed the circle as the sacred feminine and did healing prayers. There was a spate of miraculous recoveries at the local old folks home but then it rained fish for two weeks in the town square and everyone got colds. After the wave of pneumonia Gray Creek tried to forget the circle.
Ravencroft has grown up on the campfire stories of Marrow farm. Trespassing was still a rite of passage. Smiling over his misspent youth Ravencroft finished his notes. Marrow hunkered down and stroked Cassidy’s ear.
“I’ll send Manny to tow out that car. And my report will be filed tomorrow for your insurance.” Ravencroft measured the farmer squatting in the dust. The farmer was as tired as the town.
“Let me ask you a question sir. Have you ever thought about—“
Marrow hopped up. “I pay my taxes. I don’t need crap about attractive nuisances. I need protection from these goddamned kids. My family has owed this abomination for generations. I’m not moving or selling.”
The officer lifted his hands in surrender. “A podcast. Terrytown got a film festival after that mail lady made a grilled cheese that looks like Jesus. Imagine what we could do with this,” Ravencroft said.
Marrow’s face brighten. Ravencroft began to plan. Cassidy rubbed the policeman’s ankles.

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