Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Fiction: Shade

Night clings to the forest like a shroud. The darkness is nearly absolute, the silhouettes of the trees only just a hair’s-breadth deeper black.

The sounds of life are everywhere, however. The chirps of insects and the calls of nocturnal predators. The sounds of movement originating from creatures perfectly adapted to life in the black.

Distantly, a light blooms, but grows slowly larger, nearer. It floats above the ground, weaving among the trees, despite its obvious ethereal form. It is a shade, the spectral afterimage of a sentient lifeform not-so-recently departed. The shade is oblivious to its surroundings, of course. Its meanderings are more reflex than the result of any conscious action.

As the shade drifts by one particularly large oak, its glow momentarily illuminates a small, bulbous husk. There’s just time to see a seam in the husk pucker before the shade glides by, returning the husk to darkness.

But then, a low, sustained intake of breath arrests the shade’s forward movement for just a second — and then it begins to drift backward. The husk comes into the light once more as the shade is pulled closer. The husk’s steady inhalation intensifies, halting the shade’s movement altogether. Streamers of ethereal matter pull away from the shade, spiraling downward to the husk, where the seam has parted just enough to engulf the streamers, trapping them inside.

The shade’s form begins to stretch and distend as the husk draws it in. Bit by bit the shade is pulled into the husk, until finally, nothing remains. The forest is plunged into full night once more.

Then, the sounds of the forest grow quiet and still. They are replaced by the sound of the husk, slowly chewing.

Confession

She is tied to a rack. The ropes at her wrists and ankles dig cruelly into her skin. Her fingers and toes have long since gone numb. She barely notices. This is as it should be.

Figures move in the shadows around her, checking her bonds, adjusting her garments, preparing her. Somewhere in the darkness beyond, she hears the sound of the bloodman’s knife on the sharpening stone. She relaxes into it.

“When I was nine, I stole two rolls from the bread lady. Times were hard, and we were hungry.”

The words tumble freely from her lips. She is not ashamed of her sins, does not fear her penance.

She holds nothing back.

“Two years ago, I spoke false words against a friend. She died. I did not.”

“Once I kicked a dog. It had done nothing to deserve it, but I was angry.”

She has found the rhythm of confession. One sin to six strokes of the bloodman’s knife on the stone. Her sins are many, and so the confession lasts for hours. This penance will be harder than most. She may not survive it. But she *will* welcome it.

These are the first words I’ve written and published — in any form — in months. As per my usual style, the content is somewhat dark (and so my wife will undoubtedly hate it), but not so much because it’s a reflection of my current state of mind (though it certainly could be, given my present state of affairs). Rather, the image of a woman giving confession while a priest — of sorts — prepares to offer her penance with his blade is the first that sprang to mind when I saw the video below some weeks ago.

My usual practice with micro-fiction of this type is to take that initial impression and follow it until space (1024 characters) runs out. This story, as it happens, uses every bit of that space, and so is shorter than I’d like. I was forced to cut details that would have fleshed out the scene and circumstances of this young woman’s confession, details that I think likely would have enriched the nature of her situation and added depth to her choice to give confession.

I don’t have it in me to feel bad about shortchanging my character this way, however, what with this being my first foray back into writing in quite some time. It’s also possible — nay, certain — that I borrowed no small amount of inspiration from this story that appeared on Tor last month. In any event the ideas are so entwined in my own mind that I see no reason to flesh this particular idea out any further. It’s enough for me right now that I’m back writing again.

Golem

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Golem

Rain lashed down on that ravaged plain in furious sheets. The broken earth drank it up through ragged cracks that went down forever.

At the center of the plain, a gaping maw of a hole sucked down water in great, sodden gulps. Perversely, gouts of flame licked up out of it, unnaturally green and purple. A lone figure stood at the edge of the pit, unaware or uncaring of the tremendous heat. Its lips moved, inaudible over the combined roar of rain and fire.

Smoke and steam heaved from the pit, and up rose a great clay monstrosity, towering dozens of feet over the figure below.

“What would have of me, my master?” it bellowed. The figure looked up at the beast, allowing her hood to fall back. Her features were fine and fair, hair so blonde as to be almost white.

Her voice was cold as ice. “Your time of sleep has come to an end, my dear. I have need of a titan.”

The golem pulled its massive bulk out of the pit. “Then let us be on our way,” it replied. It scooped its master up and lumbered out over the plain.

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

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Blood Rite

The albino stood on the platform and dragged the knife down his forearm. Blood ran in scarlet rivulets over his hand, his fingers. It dripped the sidereal pattern of his god onto the wooden planks around his feet.

Before him the air shimmered as it struggled to call forth his deity. The hot sun bore down full on his naked back, dampening the potency of the blood. Day was not the time for such magic, but there was no choice for it.

With each heartbeat, more of his life pulsed away, more of his power to prolong the spell ebbing. His was a complex gift, a dangerous magic. Each practice of the blood rites risked death, if the ritual could not be completed before last blood flowed.

The albino chanted, his voice barely a whisper, conserving energy, yet he felt his strength diminish.

He slashed again, savagely, desperately, hoping more blood would fuel the spell’s completion. Still it foundered, and he sagged to the platform.

The albino wept his final breaths. His failure meant that his people would die.

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

Meat-Eater

In hindsight, Trista realized she probably shouldn’t have fallen asleep under that tree.

Pus dripped into Trista’s eyes from the multiple infected sores on her scalp. She wanted to wipe it away, but the tree held her fast, pinning her arms to her sides, arms she could no longer feel. Feverish and frequently delirious, Trista couldn’t struggle. She’d lost track of how long she’d been trapped here. Days? Hours? She couldn’t remember.

Her body was coming apart. She was covered in sores as the tree slowly digested her. Her skin was sloughing off in greasy sheets, exposing bone and muscle that had turned black from the tree’s corrosive sap. Strands of flesh and tissue were all that was holding her organs in and that not very well. Already thick coils of bowel stretched from her abdomen to the ground, where insects feasted on them.

In her rare moments of coherency, she longed for death. She had suffered for so long.

Her final thought was a wish – a wish that she had never ventured into this hateful forest.

[Originally posted on Ficly.]