This story is by Natasha Lemieux and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
The slow steady pound of a lone set of feet meeting pavement seemed to reverberate through the desolate town square. Somber yellow light flickered as they attempted to illuminate the worn cobblestones.
Sean kicked a loose stone across to the old well; it clatter against the larger rock ricocheting out of the pool of light. The well, which had been filled years prior following an incident where a young boy fell to the bottom and starved to death, stood as an oppressive memorial to the failures of this small town known as fallen Point. A constant reminder to everyone of the pain that had been suffered there.
This of course was what drew Sean here tonight. He fancied himself an amateur paranormal investigator and was hoping to record his first real electromagnetic voice phenomenon.
He stopped by the well and peered down inside it. He was just able to make out gravel that stopped five feet from the top. Taking a deep breath, he placed his hands on the edge and boosted himself up over the short, stone wall and fell onto the hard gravel inside. Standing, he could still see outside. The brick faced shops stared back at him with hollow, disapproving eyes, as if the buildings themselves were offended by his presence.
He shrugged, tugged off his windbreaker, and dropped it on the ground, using it to sit on. Crossing his legs he sat perfectly still in the middle of the well, careful to clear his mind. He waited, cell phone out with his EVP recorder rolling.
The limestones provided an almost-soundproof barrier between him and the surrounding world. It was so quiet. (more description)
A giddy feeling of euphoria bubbled up in his chest, making him giggle at his joke.
The rumbling of a truck brought his attention to town square. Two blinding headlights were shining towards the north end of the square where the town suddenly ended and a dark forest began, continuing into the hundred mile mountain range the seemed to suffocate the small town. Sean shifted closer to the edge, careful not to expose too much of his head as he watched a young woman jump out of the car.
It was Mallory, a new member of the community who had moved in with her grandparents after she’d become pregnant, consequently abandoned by her boyfriend. Sean and Mallory had never spoken, she probably wouldn’t know who he was if asked, like most of Fallen Point.
Mallory rounded her truck, her movement casting shadows across the eerily quiet forest. She disappeared from his view for a minute, before reappearing with a baby’s car seat. Mallory set it on the ground in the middle of the two beams, jerking the seat roughly twice until a shrill cry pierced the night. She stood ramrod straight, ignoring her baby, her eyes fixed on the woods.
“What the hell is she doing?” Sean asked himself. Nimbly he switched from his recorder to video camera and began to film the strange behavior.
“Bring her back!” she screamed, her voice barely detectable over the now screeching cries. “BRING HER BACK!”
A static change seemed to pass through Sean as he watched, the raw pain in Malory’s voice so plainly evident as she screamed into the trees.
Sean started to rise, trying to get a better image only to stop mid crouch at the sight of movement by the tree line.
Frozen, he watched as a male-shaped figure melted out of the woods, its body completely naked and skin the color of a toad. It towered over Mallory, it’s matted head of sparse hair crawling with insects. Its fingers were thin, knobby, and shaped like tree branches with needle-like nails. Four solid black eyes fixed themselves on the now quivering young woman. Sean watched in terror as its face seemed to split open, exposing two lines of jagged and glistening teeth.
“Why have you returned?” a voice like the hissing wind rustling through the trees on a freezing winter’s night spilled from the creature mouth. It was soothing sound that carried an impression of agelessness and to freeze Sean to the bone, making him lose control of his bladder. The warm trickle running down his legs, however, did not distract from this otherworldly being that was now caressing Mallory’s face, his face contorted in what he could only guess was a smile.
“G-give Emily back.” she demanded, voice quivering.
“Yes, my baby.”
Its head cocked to the side with the sound of a snapping branch, quieting the baby’s cries instantly. “A deal was struck.”
“I know, but–”
“A promise cannot be broken.”
“I can’t raise a Changeling!” she cried. The name stirred a memory planted deep in Sean’s mind. “My grandparents are starting to suspect. You have to take her back!”
“A promise cannot be broken,” it repeated.
Malissa bent, grabbed the baby from the carrier, and thrust the child into the creature’s arms. “Take her and give me back my baby. I made a mistake! Emily needs me. I’m her mother!”
A strangled cry broke from Mallory’s throat, he hands flying up to grasp uselessly at it, her back arched as her stomach burst, spraying the being with chunky blood.
Sean watched with rapt attention as Mallory collapsed.
The creature regarded Mallory for a moment, the infant in its arms cooed and reached tiny hands to grasp at its insect infested hair.
Sean started, his phone recording the whole scene. The sound of a text coming in started him, making him fall back and shift a pile of gravel.
Terror gripped his gut as he pulled himself up and looked out towards the truck and woods. The creature was gone, the headlights shone straight into the dense woods.
Heart pounding, he checked his camera, looking through the small screen he saw a black mass blocking his view. Slowly, he lifted his head, blue eyes meeting four pure black ones.
“Hello again Sean.” it said a smile splitting its face.