A day late and a dollar short, but that’s me all over. Everybody’s saying Halloween is a pagan holiday, but it isn’t. It’s co-opted the good, clean pagan holidays, but the name “Halloween” is a corruption of All Hallows’ E’en (eve). Today is All Hallows’ (all saints’) Day, so last night was All Hallows’ E’en. I hate Halloween, just so you know.
ANYWAY, it’s the first of the month, so there’s a new Hot Flash on my Hot Flashes page.
I also have a spooky story for you. It originally appeared in the Southern Indiana Writers’ 2013 anthology, PAIR OF NORMAL WHAT? Enjoy!
I take up my pen, if not with tranquility, at least with composure — surprising, perhaps, in light of the past night’s events, if surprise were not by now beyond me.
Perhaps you will discount this as fictional. I would not blame you. I would envy your unbelief, the complacency which is so much more comfortable than the unnatural calm now left to me.
An opalescent moon shone like a precious stone on deep blue velvet. So bright it was, that the stars, which ordinarily sparked across the seaside country sky, paled. I have seen days that were dimmer than that night.
Dear heaven, was it only last night?
So bright it was at midnight, when I dimmed the study lamp, I scorned my bedroom and went, instead, out into the dewy quietude, down to the inlet where my people came to catch fish for my dinner. The full moon’s reflection floated upon its mirror surface, almost too lambent to look upon.
As I neared the water, the brilliant disk wavered, though there was no wind. The white circle rippled and rose, and resolved into a woman standing upon the surface. Was she dressed in white linen, which clung to her shape with the weight of its liquidity, or was she bare, wearing only inhumanly featureless flesh?
I could not say, but she was suddenly at the marshy edge, not illuminated by the moon above, but luminescent in herself. She held out her arms to me. She smiled, her lips red as coral.
“Who are you?” I thought, or perhaps I whispered it, for she smiled more broadly, showing teeth like pearls.
“Rusalka,” she whispered back, or perhaps she only thought it, for I did not see her mouth form the word, and yet I heard it.
I stepped into the mud, into the water, into her arms, and she drew me close. The chill damp crept up my body as we glided out and down, until the sea burned my eyes and I lost sight of her empty gaze.
With that, I came to myself. I gasped and thrashed, raising my mouth above the surface long enough to fill my lungs with precious air before my succubus, with infernal strength, pulled me back into her domain, down, down to the very floor of the inlet.
There, I saw unspeakable things: the corpses of men — yes, and of children — lured to deaths by this creature’s mesmerizing beauty. And, as I looked upon the hideous remains, I saw salvation. It was a blade: a fisherman’s knife, still sheathed at a dead man’s side.
I snatched it, drew it, held it, shoved it at the phantom’s face, pommel upwards, thrusting the shape of the Cross between damnation and myself.
Rusalka shoved herself away, the force sending me backward and upward. I broke the surface again, bellowing for air, weeping and praying as I flailed the eternal distance back to land.
I reached the fen that bordered the inlet and struggled toward solid ground. A cold hand clutched my shoulder and spun me around.
Again I raised my makeshift Cross and again the thing shrank back. Then the blood froze within my veins, for the monster lifted her head and laughed.
Laughter, I call it, for want of a better word, but no earthly laughter ever came so shrill and savage. The very beating of my heart slowed; my lungs refused to breathe, and I grew faint.
To save my life — to save my soul — I took a different grip upon my weapon. With the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” on my lips, I spent my final strength in an arcing blow, slicing the shining throat with tempered steel.
Without a sound, she vanished. I dropped my weapon and collapsed.
And so I lay, alone and senseless, until my people, missing me in the morning, found me and carried me to my bed.
I told them I slipped and fell, having taken a foolish moonlight stroll. How could I tell them the truth? They would have thought me mad. Indeed, my only hope for sanity is that I, myself, may come to believe the events of the night just past only happened in a dreadful dream.
To that purpose, I have penned this account and, when I have written THE END, will consign it to the flames of my bedroom fire.
Wasn’t that fun?
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character goes for a walk alone and falls into something.