This story is by Laurine Linden and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It had taken me a year to prepare, yet now I’m out of time. There had never been any doubt that my life would be short. The nightmares have been there for as long as I can remember. The cold stare, gleeful face of the thing that would mean my demise. They don’t scare me anymore. I know our meeting is inevitable. He will kill me and now, Samhain is coming up on me fast. Only a few hours left. I meticulously crafted the wards, just like my grandfather had shown me. I’ve put the salt at the threshold and the jack-o’-lanterns at my gate. I know all of this is futile. When the moon rises high, the veils between all the worlds will become weak, easily broken. One may hope to get a visit from a long passed relative, but I know I won’t be that lucky. The lanterns will most likely scare off any ghouls. The salt might keep out a goblin or two but my wards will be useless against the real threat. The Fomóire.
A rush of cold wind brushes along my arms, a shiver runs down my spine. I can feel his eyes upon me. So this is the year he will finally come for me. My mind draws back to last year. Mary went missing, she was missing the morning after Samhain. The door to her cottage ripped to pieces. No one spoke about it but we all knew the Fomóire had taken her. A fortnight after they found her. Her body was long-passedso horribly mutilated, I still find it hard to keep my stomach from turning when I think about it.
A wolf howls in the distance, my body freezes. It’s time. Birds quiet down, animals hide away. The world is holding its breath. The silence is thick, hugging me like a shroud.
The scratches come first, like nails in the dirt. The rustle of leaves makes my heart jump in my chest. The tightness in my throat thickens, making it hard to breathe. My mind races back to my nightmares. The black hair, his gold-flecked eyes, smirking down at my agony with glee. He is waiting for me, watching me. The tap on the glass makes me jump, whirling around. My heart nearly gallops out of my chest.
The window is no more than a black void, ready to engulf me. Staring into the blackness I wait for my heart to slow down. I’ve known this day would come my entire life, there is no use in letting my nerves take over. He would find me eventually. My grandmother’s gift of sight has been telling me this for years. I have accepted my fate and should not be scared, but still, my throat closes up in fear.
Even though there is no noise, I know I’m not alone. Shivers run through my muscles involuntarily. The pressure at the base of my neck feels warm, like a touch. It trails down my spine and I arch my back to get away from the feeling. Wind strokes my ear. There is a voice on it, but too soft to hear what it says.
I turn around but all that greets me is my own empty room. My grandfather’s words come rushing back to me. I remember his warnings for Samhain clearly “Stay inside, don’t speak and whatever you do, don’t scream”. Screaming draws them in. Fomóire live off the fears of humans. After the gods defeated them, they were banished to the dark crevasses of the earth. The veil between the worlds keeps us safe from them. But still, they can affect the human realm. They send blight on the crops. Watching in glee as our food decays and goes back to the earth. They let the wooden beams of houses rot, laughing as the house crushes the people inside.
“I’m waiting” the voice on the wind is now strong enough for me to hear. With every minute passing, the veil becomes weaker. At midnight he will come for me. If I want to live, I have to hold out until dawn. Scratches on my door drain the blood away from my face leaving me trembling in my boots. I stumble back away from the door but a hand rests in the small of my back holding me up. I can feel his touch as if he is right there but I know if I turn all I will see is air.
Wailing begins outside, soft at first but building in confidence. I try to ignore it, but I eventually fall to my knees pressing my hands against my ears in pain. I bite my lip to keep from screaming but the sound cuts through me as it scrapes away my soul. “I’m waiting” the voice behind me whispers again. This time I turn as I draw blood from my lips to keep my screams inside. The air is shifting the outline of a man, but this will not be a normal man. I should stay in my house. I know, but my fears take over and I run.
My door bangs against the wall as I rush out. My grandfather’s warnings ring in my ears, but he is there in my house. The Nightmare I’ve been living with my entire life is here, coming to claim me. To bask in my fear and pain. The moon shines brightly on the path but I dare not run into the village, ghouls might already be through the veil and they love to trick humans. My only choice is to run, run far and fast until the sun finally returns.
The trees of the forest loom over me. Their dark branches like claws, ready to tear me apart. But I don’t fear them as much as I do him. Branches scratch my face, tugging on my clothes as I run. Gleeful laughter rolls down the hill and I nearly scream. My fear might draw him but my screams most certainly will and I lock my jaw in place. My foot snags on something and I go down. I brace myself with my hands but still a small cry of pain escapes my lips.
“There you are” his voice is void of any feeling. I push myself from the dirt but I don’t look up. I know what the looks like I know the grin that will be on his face. “Why did you run?” he’s closer now but still I don’t move. He puts his fingers at the base of my neck. They warm my skin to burning and I fight my scream. “You will not run again little one” he whispers in my ear. The world begins to shimmer like heat is emanating from the earth itself. My vision blurs and I blink to get rid of the blurriness.
By the time my eyes adjust again, I’m staring at a dark hall. Banners hang on the far wall, bloodred against the black granite. Under the banners sits a black stone throne, which seems to engulf the light around it into its void.
I know this place. I’ve seen it in my nightmares. He would be sitting on the throne laughing down at me. “I’ve been waiting” his whisper sends shivers down my spine. He laughs as the touch on my neck becomes hotter I eventually let my scream escape. “You belong to me and I’ve waited long enough. The fear that drives you is something you cannot live without. It gives meaning to your little life. I give meaning to it”. I try to get my body to move but everything goes slack. Wiggling my arm I finally feel the black tourmaline crystal cold in my hand. Blessed with the protective wards I’ve crafted, I can feel its strength building. Raising my arm takes all my remaining strength but I get the crystal up towards him. His painful grunt is the last I hear. Blackness encroaches on my vision taking away the bloodred banners and the rest of the throne room, they disappear into a black fog.
My neck hurts and my face stings when I finally open my eyes. It feels like I’ve slept for hours but my head is about to explode. The first rays of the sun fall warm on my face and I blink again. I’m close to the hill in the forest. I scramble to my feet quickly and I whirl around searching for him. The wind ruffles my hair around my face and the faint traces of his laughter drift with. I survived. He came for me and I survived. Laughter bubbles up in my throat. If I can do this, I can beat him for good. I smile as I walk back feeling new energy. My life had been marked for so many years to end last night and now it feels like a new beginning. I can finally breathe and start living.
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