The following story is by guest author Samantha Amenn. If you enjoy this story you can follow Samantha on twitter: @pepperdaphoenix or on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/pepperthephoenix and https://www.tumblr.com/blog/withnothingbutglory
Shouts broke across the emerald land as two young men ran across the rolling countryside, hopping over fences and dodging ditches, the police close behind. Dogs barked, shattering the silent night and geese squawked as farmers turned off their lights and locked their doors, underscored by a faint moan. Fog swirled around them, barely letting the boys pass before swallowing them whole. One man with hair as red as the dawn laughed and his partner huffed and puffed besides him, blood splattered across their faces. The police shouted at each other as they became entangled in the fog and the boys knew they would be home free soon. Just a little farther. They reached a fork in the road and went their separate ways, knowing to meet up again at Ma Moyna’s house, the cops still too close for comfort.
Casey, the raven haired heartbreaker of Kilkenny, went left, down the windy road that led towards the glen and the little stream. The police would not follow him in there, not into the boggy land and thick fog where the fairy folk liked to hide. He sprinted over rock and puddle down into the dark and boggy glen, tumbling towards the muddy river bank. The fog was thicker down here, and a creaky voice swirled with the wind, singing a far off song, one he almost recognized. Casey frowned as he felt his way through the thickening fog, cursing as he sank in the mud. He could hear the dogs in the distance, but the police were long gone, probably chasing after Sean. He was about to turn and take the long way to Ma Moyna’s house, when he heard a splash. He whirled around and frowned, wishing he had brought a weapon with him. Stupid Sean. Wouldn’t be in this fecking mess if he hadn’t picked a fight with the Ulster prick. Ulster might made Ulster right. Fecking assholes. He shrugged it off and tried to separate the thick veil of fog.
He whirled around and heard the song again.
“Hello?” he called.
Another splash within the thick, rolling fog. He had never seen fog this thick before. He shuddered and jumped away as fog clung to his skin and he stepped into the stream.
Casey, ya rascal, out late again. Always causing trouble
He whirled around and the fog dissipated enough to reveal a dark, hunched over figure. He took a step towards the figure, but hesitated.
“Who are you?”
The huddled figure turned around and he gasped, nearly falling into the stream.
Aye, Casey, you’re nothing but trouble. Always told yar mam.
The figure bent over and pulled a dark shirt out of the stream and started singing again. He took a step towards the figure and stared at it, his mouth wide open. It was her down to the wrinkles and warts and her curly grey hair.
“Mammo, what are you doing out here?”
She’s well. Misses you terribly. You should come and see her and your Da.
Casey looked around into the swirling fog, wondering if he had hit his head on something on his way down here.
“I got to go, Mammo.”
Always running off. Never staying put, just like yar Daddo. Leads to nothing but trouble and an early meeting with Death.
Casey shook his head and was about to stay away when he heard another splash.
Casey, lad, help your dear Mammo before you go. Grab that shirt over there. My joints ache.
He hesitated before nodding his head.
“Yeah, all right.”
He winced as he stepped into the cold stream, searching for this fecking shirt, the fog closing in, and the song echoing in his ears.
Just a little farther, Casey, lad.
He bent over and plunged into the water, desperately searching for this damn shirt.
A little more, Casey.
Fecking hell. He was on all fours in the miserably cold water, icy water rushing up his nose, and that fecking song echoing in his ears. He stared in the blackness and was about to pull up for a puff of air, when something calling to him. Dark willow fingers wrapped around his throat and pulled him forth down. He snorted up water and tried to pull away. Nothing but trouble, Casey, just like your Daddo.
Sean laughed as the hellhounds chased after him through the hills and fields. He had taken them out to no man’s land and he knew it wouldn’t be long until he lost them. The fog was thick, like soup, Hard to see his way now, but that meant the cops were lost as well. At least, he knew this land. He tripped down a hill and rolled halfway down it before managing to stop himself. He looked up and laid still as the dogs howled and the cops trampled. Where were they? A shiver ran down his spine as a quiet moan seeped from the earth. The dogs sounded farther away now. Maybe it was safe to make his way back to Ma Moyna’s? Would Casey already be there? He jerked as a light scream traveled across the back of his neck. He looked around and only saw thick, swirling fog. Damn it was thick. Never seen it this thick before. Casey would probably get lost. Fecking idiot. Dear man, but no sense of direction. Still a good man to have in a fight. He had knocked a few of that fecking Ulsterman’s teeth out. He would be bragging about it for days without end. Lord almighty.
He jumped as someone screamed his name. He jerked his head up and scanned the area. Who? A distant dog barked and he knew he had to get out of here. The cops were dumb, but not that dumb. They would find him if he stayed put. He jumped to his feet and felt his way through the fog. It was so thick he could wrap his hands around it. It was almost impossible to walk through it.
He shuddered as another moan crawled down his spine. Who was that? Didn’t matter. He had to get out of here. The dogs were distance, but that didn’t mean anything in this bizarre fog. He brought his hands to his ears as a high pitched scream echoed across the hills. What the hell? Sean stumbled forward, trying to reorient himself. Straight, straight had to be right. Wait, was someone singing? He whirled around and stared into the stonelike fog. It was mournful singing, he couldn’t quite make out the tune, but it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand up.
He swallowed and waved the sound away.
He trudged forward and pushed through the fog and jumped as a wail rattled in his lungs.
“Sean, I have come for thee.”
He gasped as he saw a faint woman standing before him. She was a pearl in a sea of death, her round cheeks faint and a soft white, her long dark hair floating with a mind of its own. She was terribly beautiful and her eyes were dark and deep like wells. He tried to take a step back, but found he couldn’t move. Her dark eyes latched onto his and he instantly fell in love with her and reviled her.
“Sean,” she said, her thin hands resting on his cheeks, “I have come for thee.”
His breathe was caught in his chest as she leant towards him and pressed her cold, black lips against his. A chill crept into the tips of his fingers and toes and traveled up his body, causing his body to tingle and grow heavy, and his head spun as she kissed him, taking every last puff of air that remained in his lungs. He gasped and sputtered for air as she pulled away and smiled. Blood streamed out of her eyes and down her cheeks and joined the blood dripping from her mouth. A hellish moan emerged from her bloody lips as the wind tore her flesh away until she was nothing more than a skeleton, her hands still resting on his cheeks. Sean gasped and his eyes widened before the land echoed in a sharp crack!
The featured image is by Jim Lukach found via Creative Commons.
Chuck Gould says
On the plus side- the scene was vividly imagined. The author instilled a sense of danger during the pursuit, preparing readers for the eventual outcome. Pacing was quick- appropriate for a chase.
A couple of minor concerns. The clutch seemed to slip a bit in the opening lines. Two or three conjunctions appeared where punctuation could have established a pleasant rhythm early one. By the second paragraph, that issue resolved itself.
After three readings, I failed to discover any special reason why Sean and Casey met their deaths. I know how they died, but not why. Perhaps that’s a challenge with short fiction.Or, maybe it’s my shortcoming as a reader. If there’s a rewrite in the offing, a definitive statement examining why these two were in peril for their souls would be useful.
Overall impression: a well-written piece by an author exercising a fertile imagination with a deliberate sense of craft.
It had me gripped all the way through