Sunday, October 1, 2017

Grave Dancer

It was dark in the chapel, a new moon shed no light in the old abandoned building He sat on a pew moved under a window he watched and waited. Tonight he was prepared with camera, recorder, extra batteries, and a thermos of hot coffee to combat the chill of the night.


His hands wrapped around the tin cup absorbing the heat as he took a long sip. It was almost time, almost. He was afraid they wouldn’t come, he wouldn’t see her again. That it had been all a figment of his drunken mind.

Every night since that first one he had waited to see her again. He glanced back out the window he saw a glow fill the ancient graveyard. 

The glow was a soft bluish green like the ocean. The air felt damp heavy as he tossed aside the half full cup to get up on his knees for a better view out the broken window. His camera was in hand as he searched the worn headstones for her. 

The earth below a few of the stones shifted as a mist formed above them, taking shape. Arms stretched toward the sky as feet touched the ground. The figures yawned and moved as if waking from slumber.

He watched from his perch in the window holding up his camera to get the proof he wasn’t mad. They were real. The women there were like wisps of wind, ethereal. He could see them clearly in their ivory burial gowns, their skin fair as fine porcelain. But there was a touch of dream about them as they moved. Shifts in the misty glow would show them transparent.

His interest focused on one as she turned her skirt swirling the brittle leaves over her grave. She seemed to dance to some silent tune, perhaps only her kind could hear. Suddenly she stopped and walked back to her tombstone.

A cream colored rose lay on the aged marble. A soft smile of wonder slowly spread across  her pinked lips. She touched the petals gently as if it would fade away. When it didn’t she picked it up and brushed her cheek against the silken petals before she inhaled the sweet scent. 
  
A few of the other spirits began to gather to see the flower. Some searched their own stones. She smiled and held it out for them to sniff and touch lightly it had been so very long since anything but decay grew here.

The wind blew leaves around them, though their delicate forms. One jealous spiteful spirit marched over. Around her, the mist seemed darker, and aura of her cruel days in flesh perhaps.

Her hand closed over the petals and crushed the flower leaving only the stem in the sweet spirits hands.

The others began to walk away to play on their night of freedom.  The dark soul raised her chin and moved as far from them as her existence would allow. 

He watched wanting in that moment to run out and tell her not to be sad. The expression of loss on her sweet face was almost too much for his own heart to bare. How was he to know something as simple as a rose would cause so much.

Out the window, he saw her chest rise and fall in a ghostly sigh. The spirit knelt on the dead grass and picked up every petal, caressing it lightly in her hand. When they were all gathered she sat on a cracked marble bench and marveled.

She could still smell the sweet fragrance; the petals were still soft like her favorite velvet gown. She held them to her face and smiled. A petal escaped, slipped through her fingers to float into her lap.

She stood and watched it float gently to the worn earth. Suddenly she raised her hands and spun around tossing the petals in the air. As they fell around her catching on her hair and dress she danced in them.

When they had all fallen she gathered them to dance again in the glow of the mist. Her gown flowed around her, arms gracefully moved through the air, her dark hair flowed free around her shoulders lifting as she turned.

There was no sound but a soft rustle of leaves but he could imagine her joyous laughter. Something made her pause and look up. She brushed a strand of hair from her face and sighed. She gathered up her petals and carried them lovingly back to her grave.

She held her hands over it then slowly turned her palms letting petals fall like soft rain over her stone. With a gentle smile, she yawned and stretched as the mist appeared to grow thicker. Soon the others were in their places as well the mist began to fade until a glimpse of the sun could be spotted over the trees.

There was no more dancing the only evidence of the night being the cream-colored rose petals strewn over the darkened marble stone.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Rosary



Father McKenna looked out at the congregation as they stood from their pews to sing with the choir. His eyes slipped shut as the organ notes began to echo though the sanctuary.

The high ceiling echoed with the faith filled voices of those present for mass this night. Did they know? Could they see the difference in him?

His eyes turned to the crowd. Some stood with their hands out palms upward to catch Heaven’s blessings. While others lifted their faces as if God would press his lips to their brow to take the sorrow from their souls.

What of his soul, did it exist or did she drink it with her seductions. He gingerly touched the edge of his collar, grateful it hid his secret beneath. The church faded before his eyes as his mind replayed the memory of last night.

***
He couldn’t sleep, the night was too warm in the rectory. After restless minutes of failed attempts to find comfort, the Father walked out into the garden. He knelt before the stone cross in the center with his rosary.

McKenna bowed his head and crossed himself as he began the prayers. He turned the beads in his fingers as he spoke. “Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name… “

As the words fell into the night, his soul began to calm, his eyes closed as he opened to deity’s touch. The air around him stilled, a dark silence descended. He took a deep breath to clear the distraction his focus on God as he continued to pray.

A soft giggle broke the silence, Father McKenna opened his eyes and fell backward with a startled breath. A young woman stood behind the stone cross her arms wrapped around it. Her petite fingers covering her mouth to stifle her laughter. 

Her eyes were dark sunken into her face as though it had been a hundred years since she last slept. McKenna could feel darkness in her. “The church is open for prayer. The rectory is private, my child.”

The girl, no thing… pushed from the stone, her tongue slowly moved across her bottom lip. “Child? Priest… you’re not even old enough to be my father.”

McKenna stilled as she stood over him. His eyes couldn’t focus on her face, dizziness fell on him.

She… it, bent to bring her face to his and sniffed at the air before him, then again at his neck. McKenna’s pulse jumped as she moved closer, her lip curled wickedly. “I smell fear on your skin. Is your faith not strong enough?”

Her breath a bouquet of decay, soured milk, and roses filled face. The father coughed and swallowed back the sickness. “He will protect me, my faith is strong.”

Her fingers slid through his hair slowly as she gave a sound something between a scoff and curt laugh. “No, priest, faith can’t protect you. Your hair is so soft, you do smell nice, fresh.”

The creature nuzzled his neck, for a brief moment the gentle touch of her fingertips along the line of his neck distracted him from what he was. His hand clenched and he felt the rosary wrapped in his palm.

He drew back from her. “I am a man of God, I will not be corrupt.”

The creature was undeterred rested her brow to his. “You were corrupt the moment you spoke to me, priest.”

That last word she spat into his face with contempt for all he was and believed.

This close he could see her eyes were dead, soulless things. He felt his heartbeat slow, her tiny hands grip his shoulders. Those hands had strength that defied their size. She moved closer, her head tilted toward the side of his neck as if to kiss.

McKenna pushed her off as he scurried backward until he could stand and put distance between them. “Be gone unclean spirit.” He swung the crucifix; the silver cross struck the monster across her cheek.

She hissed and pressed a hand to her wound but not before, he saw blood thick and black ooze forth. The blood of a corpse. Her eyes shifted until there was no white left in them. He gazed into orbs of pure onyx.

McKenna tried to look away but those orbs held him captive. In an attempt to break the spell, he rose the crucifix between them. Bluish smoke rose from the bits of flesh and ooze that clung to the holy item.

“Unclean, perhaps you should look in the mirror, priest.” She brushed the ooze from her cheek; the wound closed and began to fade from her skin.

When it vanished, McKenna looked at the rosary to see the gore still present. He hadn’t dreamed the gash. Though his faith was strong, the hand which clutched the beaded strand trembled. “I am a child of God.”

She laughed, not the girlish giggle that brought his attention from prayer. This was as though gravel were being poured into his ears. Only something made of darkness could laugh like that. “Does he love you, priest?”

He gasped as her voice whispered behind him against his ear, she had moved faster than a blink. “Despite the blood I smell on your hands?”

He could not stop the shiver which coursed down his spine when her breath fell down the line of his throat. “Old blood, long forgiven. He loves me.”

McKenna turned his head to look at her, but his eyes focused on her lips not her eyes. “He has love for you.”

She cackled again, the sound dug painfully inside his ears. “Love for me, an unclean beast? You think I still have a soul to save? Perhaps I don’t want your salvation.”

The edge of her fingernail trailed down his neck. “You have to wait for your rewards in Heaven. I get my rewards when I take them.” The nail turned and sliced into his flesh.

He froze caught by fear and her gaze. Her lip curled into a grin that would haunt his dreams for the rest of his days on earth. She pressed a soft kiss to his lips. “My reward tonight shall be you.”

McKenna tried to push her away again but he was powerless held in her gaze, one hand at his throat a razor like nail dug at his skin as the other hand fisted in his hair. His mouth opened to scream, protest, cry for help, but nothing uttered forth. Only a groan of pain as she drew back his head and struck the line of soft flesh she exposed.

The next moment he knew dawn had begun to break. The beams of soft light danced over his face to open his eyes. The creature had gone but her kiss remained on his neck, he felt the punctures gingerly and hissed in pain. He lived… at least part of him had survived.

As McKenna stumbled to his room he felt changed, the world seemed too bright, the light ached his eyes.

**
Silence called him back from memory to Morning Mass. The songs were finished, the voices of the blessed quiet to receive the message. McKenna stood and approached the pulpit. Was he cursed, could he speak the words?

His rosary clean and polished lay gazing at him. It had burned the thing; if he was cursed, it would him also. It was time to see if his soul was her reward. McKenna closed his eyes and uttered a prayer as his hand descended on the rosary, and the truth of his soul.



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Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't Breathe

Victor and Nicholas stumbled down the walk. They leaned on each other; one thought he was holding the other
upright. Victor took a deep swallow from the bottle then passed it to his friend.

Nicholas took the offered libation. “Ah, there’s still half of the amber left in there. We must be getting light my friend.”

Victor chuckled. “Light? Nay, well, you maybe. You know what we need Nicky boy?”

He passed the bottle back to Victor. “Oh bloody hell. No, not that.”

Victor grinned a bit lopsided. “Oh yes.” He took a deep breath and began. “Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…”

Nicholas took the cute as Victor paused for a drink. “From glen to glen and down the mountain side. The summer’s gone and all the flowers dying…”

Victor shoved the bottle back into his friend’s hand. “Och! Take another swig to tune those pipes.”

Nicholas pushed the bottle back and hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his waistcoat as his chest puffed up with pride. “I will have you know, Reverend Blake said my voice could wake angels.”

“No, he said, you could wake the demons in all nine hells.” Victor started to laugh when he saw the policeman pop around the corner. He leaned against the brick wall and smiled. He knew he was to far gone to pass for sober any other way.

Nicholas straightened and tossed the bottle over the high wall. “Evening, officer. Lovely night for a stroll don’t you think?”

“Aye, evening gents. You should be heading on home at this hour though.” The bobby eyed the men, he could see they were a few sheets to the wind. They weren’t causing trouble so why bother with the paperwork of taking them in.

Nicholas tipped his cap to him. “Yes, sir. That’s right where we’re headed.”

The cop scoffed then continued to walk. Once he was gone around the next corner, Victor breathed a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s totter on before he patrols back. Where’s our fine nectar, boyo?”

“I tossed it over the wall. I wasn’t going to spend the night in the tank.” He thumbed over the top of the bricks to point where.

Victor pulled himself up enough to peek over. “I see it, still intact even. Good thing you throw like a lass. It landed on a new grave, the fresh turned soil cushioned her fall.”

“Grave? This is Westfall Cemetery? Oh no, I don’t want another drink that bad. The bobby was right it’s time to call it a night, Vic.”

“You can’t be afraid of a few old bones. No one in there is going to bite.” Victor laughed as he started to walk toward the gate of the cemetery.

Nicholas grabbed his arm. “You cannot go in there, it’s past midnight and the moon is high. There’s a fresh grave. We can just walk around the other way and go home.”

The other man shook his head.  “For the love of Pete, the bobby went that way. I’m not getting pinched again because you’re superstitious. “

With a deep sigh, Nicholas conceded. Neither of them could afford to get busted again by the cops for public drinking. “Alright, but when we pass the gate you have to hold your breath. They can pass through a gate, the spirits that is, and steal your body.”

Victor rolled his eyes and walked toward the gate. Just before they got to the rusted iron barrier Nicholas took a deep breath and readied to rush past it.

His friend had other plans, Victor tried the gate and when it gave he pushed it open. The iron creaked and squealed a bit as it swung on hinges that begged for a drop or two of oil. The horrible sound echoed into the night.

Nicholas was so startled he let go of the breath with a bit of a whelp. “What are you doing? You’re going to bring that bob back around.”

He realized he’d let go of his breath and the gateway was open, the ghosts had permission now to roam. As quickly as he could Nicholas drew another deep breath careful to do it away from the gate.
Victor shook his head. “You are mad boyo. I’m not going to leave some spook half a bottle of third shelf whiskey.”

With that, Victor left his pal on the walk and ventured into the cemetery. It was much darker on this side of the wall. There was only one lantern hung along the walk. He made his way through the row of headstones to the fresh turned soil. He could see the glint of moonlight reflecting off the bottle glass. “There you are my beauty.” He turned and called out over the wall. “I found it.”

Nicholas huffed exasperated and worried. “Don’t breathe you, damn fool. Just hurry up and don’t breathe.”

Victor grinned, plucked the bottle from the earth. He took a swig and turned to head back.

There in a moonbeam stood a man a bit older than Victor but finely dressed. His expression was dower as his eyes took in the sight of the man before him. It was a judgmental glare.

Victor coughed having choked on his whiskey. Once his lungs were clear of the burning liquid Victor placed his hand over his pounding heart. “Mister you gave me a fright.  They almost needed to dig another plot.”

Victor chuckled while the man considered him. When the stranger didn’t respond Victor brushed his hand off on the thigh of his pants then offered it. “Name’s Victor Mason, my mate and I just lost our libation.” The silent man made Victor nervous. “May I ask your name, sir?”

The stranger’s lip twitched then he shook Victor’s hand. The stranger’s hand was ice cold and his voice sent a shiver down Victor’s spine. “Jacob Crest. You live here in the village?”

Victor rubbed his palm against his thigh again this time to rid it of that awful sensation. “Yes, all my life.” Something started to feel very off, very wrong. He tipped his hat. “Nice to have meet you, Mr. Crest. I should be going. Early day at the mill and all.”

Jacob nodded and pointed to the headstone of the fresh grave. “Nice, to meet you Mr. Mason. Before you go would you kindly hand me my cane.”

Victor glanced back and saw the cane with a shiny silver bird on top. “Uh… sure.” He stepped back to the freshly covered grave and picked up the walking stick. Just as his hand closed around the shaft a moonbeam illuminated just enough of the tombstone for him to read…

Here lies
Jacob Crest
1834-1875

His eyes grew large and he took a deep breath to shout out for Nicholas….

After a couple more minutes, Nicholas shook his head and called into the cemetery. “I’m not waiting any longer, Victor.”

Victor stepped out with the bottle still half full in one hand and a walking stick topped with a silver bird in the other. “No, need to wait. I’m ready to go home.”

Nicholas looked at his friend, something was off, something was wrong. His voice was an octave deeper than it was before. “Are you alright? Where did you get that fancy cane?”

Victor smiled, it wasn’t a lopsided grin. “I’m fine, it was a gift.”

Nicholas took the bottle and drank as they walked back to their flat. His companion didn’t talk or sing. He didn’t even seem tipsy any longer and refused any of the bottle he’d risked his soul to retrieve. When they reached their door Nicholas fumbled with the key.

With an impatient sigh Victor stepped up and took the key. He unlocked the door and looked at Nicholas who stared back. “Victor… your eyes.”

His lip twitched. “Yes, there are two just like yours.” Victor ushered him in and put him to bed quickly to silence any more questions.

In the morning Nicholas woke and sat, bolt upright with the memory of those eyes. He jumped up and hurried into the next bedroom. “Victor….”

The closet was open and Victor’s best clothes had been removed. His suitcase was gone as were any valuable effects. The photo of his ma and siblings still stood on the dresser, as did his journal. Two things Victor would never have left without.


Nicholas sat on the bed and wanted very much to disbelieve. He knew it the moment he had looked into those eyes. Blue eyes, Victor’s had been brown. “You damn fool. I told ya don’t breathe.”

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cóiste Bodhar The Black Coach

A wail cut through the night, a warning, the black coach was coming for him. The dying man pulled himself from his bed. He fought with his weakened body to reach the door and lock it tight. He called his wife to push the dresser over, blockade them in. Maybe it would stop him.

The banshee’s wail called the Dullahan from slumber. The large chest took a deep waking breath; he could feel the moon high in the darkened sky. It was time once again to ride. He walked out to the barn hidden deep in the black forest. The nightmares that would pull him through the night stamped impatient to run.

No ordinary horses were these. Their coats shone black as oil, red eyes shaped like almonds, they were evil souls cursed to live eternity as demon spirits in his service. He fastened them in their harnesses and led the beasts to the coach.

His half-rotted flesh began to work the straps and buckles.The nightmares screamed into the night anxious to be on their way. Hooves dug at the earth impatient and sparked flame. He stroked the beast’s neck, he felt it too, the call of the dying.

The  Dullahan climbed aboard and took the reins. The nightmares reared and screamed as they took to the unseen road.

The living did not see him but felt the cold chill down their backs as he passed. The night became darker, thicker with dread as he road toward his destination. His arm drew back to crack his bone whip, the spine snapped and spurred the beasts into a full run.

Men woke and cried out with terrifying dreams, women wept in their sleep. Death was coming.

The dark coachman pulled the beasts to a stop, their destination before them. He stepped down to earth once more and it trembled beneath his boot.

The slowing beats of his soon to be passenger’s heart pulsed in the Dullahan’s veins. He was the harbinger, nothing could stand in his way. The gate opened at his approach. The front door on the modest cottage swung inward.

The dying man cried out for mercy as the candles snuffed leaving him and his wife in darkness. A loud scrape echoed in the room as the dresser moved aside, pulled by an invisible force. The locks he was so sure were strong enough to hold tumbled and turned, the final door opened with a creak of bone on bone.

The dying screamed as he watched the dark creature walk toward him. The barrel-sized chest took deep breaths, beneath the cloak’s hood there was nothing but darkness. The wife looked into it and felt the emptiness there, as though she stared into the pits of hell itself. She covered her own mouth to hold back her horror. Least his attention be drawn her way.

The Dullahan reached into the dying man’s chest with its black hand and tore out his soul. The man’s corpse gave one last breath in life. The spirit struggled in the grip of death as he was escorted out to the black coach. The coach’s door opened beckoning the soul to enter and be taken to his fate. 

The wife cried out as her husband’s essence stepped inside. The dark coachmen growled low, her skin turned to gooseflesh, her hair stood on end. The Dullahan turned toward her, she screamed and begged him to not to take her.

The coachman dowsed the wife with the blood of the dead. A mark, she would live this night and maybe the next, but at the banshee’s next cry he would come for her first.

He mounted the coach and cracked his bone whip.  Cóiste Bodhar and its headless coachmen rode into the darkest part of night to carry their passenger to judgement.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tentacle

Photo prompt courtesy photographer  Danielle Tunstall
His eyes snapped open, darted about the darkened bedroom. The room was too quiet, too still. His breath panted. They were almost here. No, not again.

A soft whirring sound made his muscles tense and jump. Then he felt the warmed air on his feet from the vent just below his bed. It was just the heat, he let out a breath.

There was a sound a claw scratching on the wall. The breath turned into a gasp as a dark blur shifted in the corner of his vision. His body stiffened and stilled, his heart raced until all he could hear was his pulse pound in his ears.

“Please.” His voice squeaked as his hands gripped the bed sheet.

The room fell into utter silence, until it began to quake. Mild tremors that caused nick nacks to clank on shelves, then stronger until the bed moved side to side. His hands tightened onto the mattress. “Please, please.”

The quake stopped as he begged into the still silence of the room. He began to pant, his fists balled around the sheet and pulled it up to his face. The clack of claw on the tiled floor became louder.

He tried to hold his breath, if he was still enough they may not see him. Sudden pain coursed though him as electricity lit every nerve ending on fire. The blaze faded enough for him to catch a breath.

It was difficult to take that desperate breath as though a weight sat upon his chest. He couldn’t sit up, couldn’t move any part of him.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see a blur, it reached out to press something by his head. He attempted to struggle against his paralysis as he felt his body being lifted then lowered. Cool thick liquid oozed over his skin until he was submerged.

He tried to hold his breath but it was too long and his lungs gulped in the gel. It burned as it filled his lungs. Then he felt them, their tentacles crept across his skin. Some of the creatures latched on. He screamed wordless as the tentacles bore into his flesh.

They crawled over his face reaching into his ears and mouth. He felt first one then another push its way down his throat. His screams were choked off by the creatures. Sensations of the arms inside him probing made him were sickening.

Worse as the paralysis wore off. He screamed and pleaded for mercy from the things. After minutes that seemed like hours of hell he felt the shock of pain down his spine once more.

The electricity jolted his body forcing the tentacles to flee their host.  He cried out in pure agony until….

He sat up, screamed wildly, his hands pulled at his face, hair and clothing. His breath came in hard gasps. He could see his reflection in his dresser mirror. The realization made him look around the room.

It was morning… He pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside as he searched his chest and arms for any evidence. Nothing. “It was a dream… just another nightmare.”

He didn’t know why they had begun, but hoped they would end soon as he swung his feet to the floor.

His foot stepped on something soft…wet…  His pulse in his throat, he looked down to what it was. A tentacle. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Rosary

Father McKenna looked out at the congregation as they stood from their pews to sing with the choir. His eyes slipped shut as the organ notes began to echo though the sanctuary.
 The high ceiling echoed with the faith filled voices of those present for mass this night. Did they know? Could they see the difference in him?
 His eyes turned to the crowd. Some stood with their hands out palms upward to catch Heaven’s blessings. While others lifted their faces as if God would press his lips to their brow to take the sorrow from their souls.
 What of his soul, did it exist or did she drink it with her seductions. He gingerly touched the edge of his collar, grateful it hid his secret beneath. The church faded before his eyes as his mind replayed the memory of last night.
 ***
 He couldn’t sleep, the night was too warm in the rectory. After restless minutes of failed attempts to find comfort, the Father walked out into the garden. He knelt before the stone cross in the center with his rosary.
 McKenna bowed his head and crossed himself as he began the prayers. He turned the beads in his fingers as he spoke. “Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name… “
 As the words fell into the night, his soul began to calm, his eyes closed as he opened to deity’s touch. The air around him stilled, a dark silence descended. He took a deep breath to clear the distraction his focus on God as he continued to pray.
 A soft giggle broke the silence, Father McKenna opened his eyes and fell backward with a startled breath. A young woman stood behind the stone cross her arms wrapped around it. Her petite fingers covering her mouth to stifle her laughter. 
 Her eyes were dark sunken into her face as though it had been a hundred years since she last slept. McKenna could feel darkness in her. “The church is open for prayer. The rectory is private, my child.”
 The girl, no thing… pushed from the stone, her tongue slowly moved across her bottom lip. “Child? Priest… you’re not even old enough to be my father.”
 McKenna stilled as she stood over him. His eyes couldn’t focus on her face, dizziness fell on him.
 She… it, bent to bring her face to his and sniffed at the air before him, then again at his neck. McKenna’s pulse jumped as she moved closer, her lip curled wickedly. “I smell fear on your skin. Is your faith not strong enough?”
 Her breath a bouquet of decay, soured milk, and roses filled face. The father coughed and swallowed back the sickness. “He will protect me, my faith is strong.”
 Her fingers slid through his hair slowly as she gave a sound something between a scoff and curt laugh. “No, priest, faith can’t protect you. Your hair is so soft, you do smell nice, fresh.”
 The creature nuzzled his neck, for a brief moment the gentle touch of her fingertips along the line of his neck distracted him from what he was. His hand clenched and he felt the rosary wrapped in his palm.
 He drew back from her. “I am a man of God, I will not be corrupt.”
 The creature was undeterred rested her brow to his. “You were corrupt the moment you spoke to me, priest.”
 That last word she spat into his face with contempt for all he was and believed.
 This close he could see her eyes were dead, soulless things. He felt his heartbeat slow, her tiny hands grip his shoulders. Those hands had strength that defied their size. She moved closer, her head tilted toward the side of his neck as if to kiss.
 McKenna pushed her off as he scurried backward until he could stand and put distance between them. “Be gone unclean spirit.” He swung the crucifix; the silver cross struck the monster across her cheek.
 She hissed and pressed a hand to her wound but not before, he saw blood thick and black ooze forth. The blood of a corpse. Her eyes shifted until there was no white left in them. He gazed into orbs of pure onyx.
 McKenna tried to look away but those orbs held him captive. In an attempt to break the spell, he rose the crucifix between them. Bluish smoke rose from the bits of flesh and ooze that clung to the holy item.
 “Unclean, perhaps you should look in the mirror, priest.” She brushed the ooze from her cheek; the wound closed and began to fade from her skin.
 When it vanished, McKenna looked at the rosary to see the gore still present. He hadn’t dreamed the gash. Though his faith was strong, the hand which clutched the beaded strand trembled. “I am a child of God.”
 She laughed, not the girlish giggle that brought his attention from prayer. This was as though gravel were being poured into his ears. Only something made of darkness could laugh like that. “Does he love you, priest?”
 He gasped as her voice whispered behind him against his ear, she had moved faster than a blink. “Despite the blood I smell on your hands?”
 He could not stop the shiver which coursed down his spine when her breath fell down the line of his throat. “Old blood, long forgiven. He loves me.”
 McKenna turned his head to look at her, but his eyes focused on her lips not her eyes. “He has love for you.”
 She cackled again, the sound dug painfully inside his ears. “Love for me, an unclean beast? You think I still have a soul to save? Perhaps I don’t want your salvation.”
 The edge of her fingernail trailed down his neck. “You have to wait for your rewards in Heaven. I get my rewards when I take them.” The nail turned and sliced into his flesh.
 He froze caught by fear and her gaze. Her lip curled into a grin that would haunt his dreams for the rest of his days on earth. She pressed a soft kiss to his lips. “My reward tonight shall be you.”
 McKenna tried to push her away again but he was powerless held in her gaze, one hand at his throat a razor like nail dug at his skin as the other hand fisted in his hair. His mouth opened to scream, protest, cry for help, but nothing uttered forth. Only a groan of pain as she drew back his head and struck the line of soft flesh she exposed.
 The next moment he knew dawn had begun to break. The beams of soft light danced over his face to open his eyes. The creature had gone but her kiss remained on his neck, he felt the punctures gingerly and hissed in pain. He lived… at least part of him had survived.
 As McKenna stumbled to his room he felt changed, the world seemed too bright, the light ached his eyes.
 **
Silence called him back from memory to Morning Mass. The songs were finished, the voices of the blessed quiet to receive the message. McKenna stood and approached the pulpit. Was he cursed, could he speak the words?
 His rosary clean and polished lay gazing at him. It had burned the thing; if he was cursed, it would him also. It was time to see if his soul was her reward. McKenna closed his eyes and uttered a prayer as his hand descended on the rosary, and the truth of his soul. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Woman in the Woods

It was nearly dusk and he was completely turned around on the forest trails. He hoped he was going in the direction of the cabin. After a few more minutes walk he could hear the  soft swoosh of water rushing over rocks.
His lungs took a calming breath and let it go slowly. There wasn't a creek anywhere near the cabin. He was lost. The canteen was almost empty, he should fill it while he had the  chance.
With the sky turning a pinkish gold overhead he made his way off the trail toward the soft splashing sounds. As he moved closer a soft voice humming blended into the sounds of the creek. Maybe another hiker and he wasn't as lost as he thought.
He stepped through the brush toward the song to the rocky edge of the creek. His hand gripped a hanging tree limb to keep his footing on the moss slickened stones as he picked his way along the edge. He kneeled on a flat rock and watched bubbles float upward as he held the canteen below the water line.
The bubbles calmed as the last of the air was replaced with refreshing cool liquid. He capped the canteen and cupped his hands to scoop up a drink and bathe his face and neck. As his hands dipped under a face appeared in the water not his own.
With an unmanly yip he jumped back and looked behind him. No one was there. He sighed and shook his head. "I've been out in the sun too long today."
As he stood the humming became louder, clearer. He turned and saw a young redheaded woman, she sat on the rocks at the creek edge with a washboard.
He blinked, was she there before? Maybe he was just too tired from the long walk to notice. He watched her pick up a large bar of soap and rub it up and down the board as she continued her song, seemingly oblivious to his presence.
She had to live near by. "Excuse me.... Miss?"
She picked up a shirt from her basket and started to scrub up and down over the washboard. He stepped forward and lost traction on the damp stones. He hit the ground  hard enough to see stars. His eyes watered with the ache in his head as he sat up.
The woman had stopped her song and now looked at him as she turned the shirt and continued to scrub. She turned back to her work as she spoke. "Does it hurt?"
He rubbed the back of his head. "Not really, I think I just showed how much of a city boy  I am." His lips curled in a soft grin. "I'm completely turned around on these trails. Do you live near the campground?"
She glanced up for a moment then rinsed the shirt in the creek and examined it carefully. In the dying light he could see the white shirt was still stained. She sighed and began to  scrub it up and down the board again. "I live in the wood."
He raised a brow at the short answer. Maybe she was one of those Rainbow People he was always being told to be cautious of. They traveled to different areas sometimes camping out in the forest like a wild hippy commune. Maybe she her family was a bunch of cannibal axe murderers on the run or weird apocalypse get back to nature groupies.
If he was lucky she had a phone and he could call for help before she went all Blair Witch on him. "It must be nice to live out here in the quiet. Could I use your land line to call someone to pick me up? My cell is useless out here and I am totally lost on these  trails."
She continued to push and pull the cloth over the board. "There is no phone."
His spine tingled as he moved closer to her, more carefully over the rocks this time. He  made a silent promise to pay more attention to signs and maps next time if hiked. "There's no phone? Could you give me a ride back to camp? I'll be glad to pay you for the gas and trouble. I'm sure you get a lot of lost hikers up here."
She held up the shirt, in the dying light, the dark stain glistened. He thought it looked larger than it had before. The woman seemed satisfied as if it should be worse not better."You're not lost, Thomas." She began to sing a little louder this time as she worked the cloth once more.
He swallowed, how did she know his name. He rubbed his arms as gooseflesh covered them and chill filled him to the bone. "I really need to get out of the woods, my friends are going to wonder where I am. Is there someone that can give me a ride to camp or town?"
The woman's lips curled ever so slightly. "Soon, he will come for you, Thomas."
She stood her hair flowing around her as she turned and pointed. "Don't worry so, you're not lost."
Thomas felt a knot of fear in his throat as he gazed down the line of her finger. His knees felt weak as he walked back to where he had slipped. He looked down at his own face, eyes open, blankly staring at the rising moon. Blood still glistening covered the rock beneath his head. "No... this... isn't real."
She put a dainty blood speckled hand on his shoulder. "Some fairy tales are very real, Thomas."
His chest rose and fell rapidly, his pulse beating in his ears. "Who is coming for me?"
She turned and picked up her basket with its bounty of stained clothing from those she had called for today. Silently she stepped back into the wood disappearing from sight.
He looked up and down the rocky bank as hoof beats began to fill the empty night air. Thomas stood frozen at the sight of the black coach drawn by a demon horse with red eyes. As the coach drew near he could hear the woman singing again. Only now the soft  sweet song had turned into a wail.

PARTICIPATES:
  1. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  2. Erica Damon Penance'
  3. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  4. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  5. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  6. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  7. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  8. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  9. Sherri Conway Ants
  10. Elizabeth McCleary Over James Henry Wilcox Dead Body
  11. Canis Lupus The Picture
  12. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  13. Bill Bush Trapped
  14. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  15. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  16. Viola Fury 911