Elements of Genre Writing decided this is monster week. Okay, I can work with this. When it comes to monsters, I’m not the best, but someone may give some good critique on how tom improve it. So, without further ado, this week’s flash fiction response to day 1 prompt.
“Don’t got into the forest.” The order was clear, the danger unknown, but it was felt in the words and seen in the expression of the sergeant issuing the order. “Until we further notice, no one is to go into the forest. Guard the gates until Melencamp returns.”
The sergeant turned on his heel and left the group of guardsmen waiting for their leader to dismiss them. Among the mangy crowd of men a murmur started as what caused the order to come down so quickly after the disappearance of a few farmers on their way to the next town. A bark as sharp as the squinted eyes of the head guard brought the men back, straightening them up in a rough caricature of a trained contingent.
“You heard the sergeant, no one is to go into the forest until the wizard arrives. That means citizens, too.” As short as what the man looked, no one dared to snicker as his display of strength. Not one of them wanted to have the dwarf bringing them down in front of their peers for the man was fast and very strong and they could see the souvenirs of fights in the past on his armor and helmet. Another barked command the guards went to their assigned positions along the high rocky wall.
No one in and no one out until further notice. That worked well for the guards and the other citizens of the mountain town, but for Gherig, those orders didn’t include him. He had a charmed existence and considered himself the best thief in the realm able to escape any danger.
Slinking through the shadows toward the sluice gate where the river filled the moat, he crept silently. No one noticed him there except for the dogs that roamed the walls in search of scraps. Their barking came moments too late and didn’t bring anyone to investigate. Why would anyone bother with stray dogs fighting over a scrap of meat.
That is what Gherig counted on. No one knew he left. All he had to do was get across the open land between the walls and the forest. Until the sun went down, he’d have to wait. The late day sun gave too much light. As soon as night fell, he’d be on his way to see what was keeping the guards in this night.
Being patient wasn’t a strong point with him. Try as he might, he found himself startled into wakefulness. The sky was dark with ominous clouds blocking the moon and stars from view. Even though it was summer, a cold wind swept from the forest toward town sending shivers down his spine. A long and lonely howl echoed from the nearby valley adding to the general feel of unease the night had brought with it.
With a shrug, the thief ran across the bared land to the forest, keeping away from the road itself lest he seen by the guards on their rounds. Out of breath, he looked back at the stone walls and saw the torches move but no one coming after him. He made it across successfully.
“Good.” The single word was spoken aloud and it felt out of place among the shadow draped trees. He could barely see a few feet ahead of him. Something felt odd about the old wood. Something not natural and the feeling tickled the back of his mind as a warning of things to come.
Not one to give in to his own instincts, he continued deeper in until he felt sure his own torch wouldn’t get any attention from across the field. As he set about priming his torch and looked for his flint, he got the feeling that he was being watched.
The feeling grew and grew, building while he worked and made him nervous. Trying to ignore the sensation, he kept working on making some light. When at last the flames burst into being and lapped at the pitch coated wood greedily, the light it gave seemed feeble as if scared of the forest itself.
Then, on the night breeze, he heard his name whispered. Over and over, he heard his name whispered but nobody was there. It was just him and the trees and the trees don’t talk.
He crept along the game trail, looking all around to find the source of the voice. The further into the forest went, the stronger the feeling he was being watched. The trees pressed close, grabbing at his clothes as if to pluck them away. Roots lifted to trap his feet and make him stumble.
No where was there the buzz of a bug or the hoot of an owl. Nothing, nothing at all moved except for him and the night wind through the tree limbs.
The trail he followed twisted and turned, ridding him of any hope of being able to find his way back to the field by the city gates. When he wasn’t stumbling over invisible roots, he was brushing away tendrils of moss hanging from the limbs while they grabbed at him.
Without warning, he fell with a thump on the hard earth. The torch fell from his hand and sputtered out, leaving him in darkness again. As his eye adjusted to the dark, the moon found a sliver between the clouds to shed pale light down into the thicket he had fallen into. Brambles twisted into strange shapes with long thorns prepared to strike any who dared step too close. From amid the thorny briars, the whispered voice emanated; daring him to come closer.
A shadowy figure moved within the branches; small child-like, in size but with waves of death and fear flowing around it like a cloud. It moved closer with the brambles giving way before it. The face remained enshrouded with shadow, but the slight body became defined and moved stiffly though with purpose toward his grounded body.
His mind screamed at him to get up and leave. Danger was there in front of him, but he ignored those thoughts. There could be no danger from a child of any kind. He was bigger and stronger than this kid.
Or so he thought.
Behind the child, other shadow cloaked beings appeared, each moving slow and stiff, reaching out with waves of death toward him. Gherig’s eyes went wide as they appeared before him. His strength left him, leaving him shuddering before the child as he lay on the ground watching it and the other.
The clouds began to part, offering more of the moon’s light to the clearing, showing him the white dress of a merchant’s daughter he knew fluttering around he legs. He knew her to be dead, he had done that deed. Others behind her entered the light, their faces blank, eyes nothing more than dark holes where evil lay in wait beside his death.
Her face loomed closer. She whispered his name as a vile grin parted his lips to expose crooked teeth. Her eyes were like the others, holes that held evil desires to drink his soul for the evil he had done.
Gherig’s eye widened, showing the whites as he tried to back away from the girl. She was coming for him. All he could feel was a fear like no other grow when he saw her skeletal hand lift to reach for his throat.
All was quiet at the castle. The cold wind had calmed, leaving the guards to their duty of patrolling the wall. When the moon stated to beak through the clouds, the old wizard Melencamp appeared with grave news. He and the others paused in the market square when a human scream broke through the silence of the night. Moments after, the old clock struck the midnight hour. Few looked up at the sound of the scream. Only the old wizard paused before he was ushered to the lord’s manor to go over his findings.