Friday, 9 January 2015

Into The Woods

They must come soon.
Crouching in the shadows I peer into the gloom.
The moon dark night smothers my sight. Nothing is visible, but patterns still emerge as my brain stubbornly struggles to makes shapes from the sheltering woodland. The wind rustles the trees and a man sized shape looms in the distance before vanishing with the next random movement of the branches. Even the shadows writhe, shifting shapes, greater darkness vying with lesser to make phantom apparitions manifest before me.
I squeeze my eyes tight shut, seeking the refuge of total darkness, but even that eludes me as I watch the shadows continue their sinuous dance on the backs of my eyelids before slowly, imperceptibly, developing impossible colours that swirl before me like oil on water.
They must come soon. I know they are hunting me.
I force myself to focus on my other senses. The rustling leaves whisper secrets to each other. Sharp, sibilant secrets of the cruel, cold, silent hours, half-heard tales of horrors undreamt of under the sun’s happy domain. They call to me, sirens of desolation, urging me to shout, to drive away their murmured roar. Instead I release another slow, measured breath, so faint that I barely hear it.
The musky loam scent of years-old leaf litter, mixed with faint pine scents of the needles beneath me, tickle my nostrils. Those same needles prick me through my heavy woollen sweater with every slight movement I make.
Damp, rising from my shallow scrape hole wicks through to my shirt, clasping my skin in a lukewarm embrace. The loss of heat from my core, slowly stolen by the unyielding ground, brings a shiver, causing twigs to crackle beneath me in protest.
But colder still is my sole companion. It has adapted better than I, swiftly settling to ambient temperature. A whiff of light oil drifts from it and steals into the night, scouting for other unnatural aromas. The night terrors and sounds of the dark wood hold no sway over its angular perfection. No hooting owl distracts it from its singular purpose. It waits, patiently as I cannot, for them to come.
A pale glow flickers between the distant boughs, jumping and dancing. And another. And another.
A line of battery powered fireflies in the darkness.
Slowly, cautiously they quarter the ground, seeking sign of my spoor.
My breath comes sharper now. My heart pounds and blood whooshes in my ears.
They are here.
I reach out to clasp my unsleeping companion one last time, enfolding it in the comforting, familiar embrace of long practice. I nuzzle my cheek against its cold flank and steady my breathing.
I work the bolt with infinite soundless care, and wait for them to come into my crosshairs.

 455 words

This story was written for Jeff Tsuruoka's Mid-Week Blues Buster . This week's prompt is Dark Road by Sarah Jarosz 
It received an Honourable Mention from judge Laura James, who said:- 
I’m also giving a wee Honourable Mention to Nick Johns, very clever writing – I didn’t truly get it till the last line.

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