Beware of the Dark Path
An Improbable and Entirely Fictional Tale of Youthful Lust and Inadequate Girlfriend Background Checks.
By Anthony Bellaleigh.
A chill grey mist coiled, like a living carpet made of restless snakes, amongst the long wet grass and tombstones. The last slivers of daylight were fading rapidly and dense cloud cover was obscuring any feeble light that might otherwise have been struggling down from the unseen disc of a full moon. It was cold. It was dark.
“I didn’t ask to be here,” whispered Jason, not entirely to himself, and in response the surrounding ring of glittering yellowy eyes danced as his listeners nodded their understanding.
“It is your destiny,” came an ice-cold hiss from amongst them.
“Yes, your destiny,” agreed a deeper growling snarl.
A gust of sudden breeze waltzed through the scattering of dark stones, tugging at the freshly fallen leaves and throwing them from left to right like handfuls of macabre rustling confetti.
Jason shuddered. “Why today?” he asked the attendant congregation.
They seemed agitated by his question and he could hear them shuffling rapidly around him. The bright lights of their eyes were flickering as they circled and a great many eldritch voices suddenly started to wail, “‘Tis the Eve! ‘Tis All Hallows! ‘Tis our night!”
‘Not exactly poetic,’ thought Jason to himself as he watched them circulating. Then he paused and, realising something, he glanced down at himself. Yes: the same battered old white teeshirt clung to his honed, twenty-two year old muscular torso, the same baggy denims framed his powerful thighs and the same old pair of size ten cross-trainers were poking out from their boot cut hems. He shook his head. It didn’t make sense. “Why here?” he asked as a wave of inexplicable sadness drifted across his soul.
“Where else?” asked the icy voice incredulously. “This is where we lie and wait.”
“I don’t understand…” They were laughing at him now. It was a nasty, angry, hostile sound. “Please! You must help me to understand!” Jason pleaded to the malevolent beings, “Help me.”
“It’s a little too late for that!” One of them cackled and their taunting laugher swelled to a crescendo.
“What do you mean?!” Jason demanded, his arms extended in supplication before him.
An ancient woman’s voice was suddenly at his ear. “Look at the fine specimen,” it leered in faltering wheezing gasps and a rancid stench of rot and decay filled the air around him, almost making him gag. “Look at the fine muscles, firm body and pretty face…” Jason leapt to one side as a frost-like touch brushed along his cheek.
“Get away from me!” he yelled.
“I’m going to have so much pleasure and entertainment with you,” the crackling old voice wheezed and the glacial touch sprang to his midriff then drifted downwards until it rested firmly over his groin. “Yes, lots of fun…” and the raucous chorus of laughter rose around him once again.
Jason took a step backwards and his heel hit a stone immediately behind him – he must have been standing in front of one of the graves. “What do you want from me?” he demanded. He needed to work out what he was up against. Maybe if he kept these things talking he could find a way to get out of here?
“What do you mean, want from you?” the deep growling voice responded from the darkness. “What could we possibly want from you?”
Then the original ice-cold voice rang out again, “‘Tis our night, we must use it wisely. We shall not waste too much on you. There are many things we must conclude before we return to our holes and wait another three and sixty-four long days… And there are other newborns we have to greet.”
Jason shook his head. This was just nonsense. He must be dreaming or something. He could vaguely remember walking along the main street in town – oddly it seemed to have been a summer’s day, not autumn – and he was with someone. A girl. On the way somewhere? Maybe dinner? He couldn’t remember where they were going but he could remember her face. Was her name Susan? She was so beautiful – ‘Don’t trust me,’ she had said when he had met her – all dressed in black and making out she was some sort of mystic. He hadn’t bought into any of that but when a woman is full on ‘H-O-T’ a little bit of mumbo-jumbo isn’t going to put a man off…
“Do you remember now?” The crone’s voice crackled at his ear and he felt repulsed at the sensation of dried up, ancient lips caressing his earlobe. “Do you remember, darling?”
And now he can see the truck coming hurtling down the hill toward the crossroads. The huge, heavy, truck sliding sideways – all tyres locked, smoke rising from the blistering rubber. He can hear the screaming of futile friction as the out of control vehicle rushes toward them. He can see the unstoppable velocity. He can hear Susan laughing beside him. He can see the end of everything.
“I asked you,” said the crone. “I asked you if you wanted to be with me.”
Jason nodded, sombre now. He remembered the conversation. Remembered his sparkling blue eyes widening and the rush of adrenalin as he had interpreted her words as being an invitation to get at her lush body.
“I asked you if you really wanted it… And, of course, you said yes, didn’t you? You’re such a naughty boy. You wanted it, didn’t you?” The crone’s cackling made the hairs stand up on the back of Jason’s neck. “Well, now my pretty one, you can have it!”
The surrounding ring of eyes started to flick out as, one by one, the spectral watchers began to disperse from the graveyard into the surrounding town.
The crone continued, “Yes, now you can have it, my little treasure. I’m all yours, once a year. For eternity. On the eve. Here. In my dark underworld. You have been granted your wishes…”
Ashen faced, Jason turned and looked at the stone behind him.
JASON SMITH (1989-2011). Cruelly Snatched From Us In The Summer Of His Life. May He Rest In Eternal Youth And The Loving Arms Of The Angels.
His shoulders slumped as a solitary tear edged down his cheek and the lust-filled laughter of the depraved witch rang out wantonly around him…
I wrote this in a couple of hours on the morning of the 22nd October as a submission to The Mistress of the Dark Path‘s October short story competition. I let it settle until lunchtime then edited and submitted (it’s in no way perfect). I wanted to try to create an environment which was chilling and hopefully touching but at the same time overlay an element of humour (there are veiled references to my esteemed and much liked fellow blogger buried in the tale. I hope she got the joke. Otherwise I’m in big trouble…).
This short story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
(c) Anthony Bellaleigh (22nd October 2011).