Tag Archives: Dark

Sever the Circle

Life for me and mine was set. Wood Women, witches to many, had a cycle. There were only two Wood Women alive at a time, a mother and her daughter. As the daughter beget her own, her mother would cease to be. But that wasn’t the only circle that justified our life.

The town was ours and we belonged to them. The crops flourished and the seasons changed, as was our want. We wove the tapestry of the town, trimmed the frayed threads, added the new ones, removed those that had faded, and kept the picture beautiful and trapped within a bubble of our making. They knew only of which we wanted them to, no more or less,.

As stories are often about a change, a disruption, so is this one. The circle of the lives of the Wood Women, the life of the town, and the sphere we had built to keep it all contained in was challenged, attacked, and eventually severed. There was another darkness in the night, untouched by moon and fire, and it held the secrets that would be our undoing.

GOODEREADS

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“I am a Wood Woman. One from a long line of Wood Women. We are the forest, from and of, and we are the caretakers of the town. We see and we mend, we care and we tend.”

“I don’t understand.” His eyes were narrowed as he searched my face. As much as he complimented me on my observations, he was a bit keen, himself. “If you are saying what I think you are saying, I am unsure how to proceed.”

“Would you burn me at the stake for healing the sick? For helping women birth babes? For making sure the harvests are good and rains come when needed?”

“No, not for those things.”

“But for other things? Do I sacrifice the young and eat their hearts?” I couldn’t help but laugh, a deeper laugh than I had ever felt any time before. His face was frozen but then cracked, his lips widened into a reluctant smile. “I assure you that all I hunt in the forest is small game, not humans, and that I prefer my meat well cooked. Stews are nice and keep for days.”

“I see. Do you not have a being you pray to, though? An entity that holds your hand and controls your heart and mind?”

“Only myself, Zariah. There are no devils or demons here.”

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White Neurosis (Horror Short)

This short story was written based on the writing prompt: A wintry scene and interpretation of the song “Reach” by Neurosis.

We didn’t watch. The explosion ripped through the night behind our backs and we kept walking. Not because we were badasses. No, definitely not that. In fact, we felt the opposite of that, the very black to that white. It wasn’t the first, nor the last, and the screams that still echoed over the raging flames was enough. We didn’t need to watch. I don’t think we could stomach to witness any more of the destruction our path had wrought.

Her hand felt so small, so fragile, in mine. The frozen blood and dirt that crusted our gloves was ground between our clasped palms. Death had, actually, not done us part, as the old saying went. Marriage between two souls sometimes went beyond petty normalcies, especially when the world was far from normal. Even more so when you see the world as it really is. When the veil falls, the gauzy screen is cleared away, and you see the truth of what is going on around you, around everyone. Humans didn’t rule the planet anymore. I don’t know if they had slipped to second place in the past month or year or what, but I knew we were quickly fading. She knew it too. She could see, as I did, that something else was perched, crouched, on the top of the food chain, annihilating its way down.

She was trembling. I couldn’t see her face in the night sky, not well. The half moon placed it in such heavy shadows under the hood of her sweatshirt, but I saw the sparkle and reflections of tears freezing on her cheeks and puffs of white as she tried to control her breathing. She wasn’t meant for this. Part of me felt guilty but a sliver was happy I could still protect her. She was all I had left to protect. If not for me, if not for us, one or both of us would have become one of them. Or we would be dead. Like our children. We didn’t do that. We couldn’t have. If they hadn’t had killed them, trying to kill us, we would have probably succumbed as the majority of the world had. The world failed them. We failed them. We should have never had children. But we hadn’t known. We couldn’t see them. Not then, not yet.

“There’s…” I coughed, partly to clear the smoke from my throat but I knew I was having my own emotional turmoils. Not crying. Not really. “There’s a, um, roadside inn not too far from here. Remember? The one we saw a few days ago?”

“Yes.” Barely a whisper.

“Maybe it’ll be okay. So far away from everyone else, you know?”

“Hopefully. But they might’ve seen the news, the lies they are telling about us.”

“Yeah, maybe. We’ll see.”

“Will we have to kill them too? If they aren’t one of them, but they recognize us?”

“I don’t know.”

And back to the sounds of tired feet scuffing across the snow, ragged backpacks thumping with each step, and labored breathing. A sniffle. A cough. No words. The air was getting so much harder to breathe in. I couldn’t quite make them out, but the massive silhouettes of the mountains were growing in the distance. Our destination was in those. We hoped. We didn’t know, not for sure, but that was what the message had said. There was no way to check anymore, see if it had been updated or some status like ffs, total clickbait, fake news, not safe at all posted in the comments. Nope. None of that.

Cell phones had been the secondary heart of the human race, but with the dwindling of the species, elimination of the devices was the quickest way to cut off all communication, rebellion, hope… anything. It was smart of them. I think it was how they got through to so many in the first place. But it was also how it alerted some of us. How we found out that something wasn’t right. The “conspiracy theorist crazies” had found something. It all started with a damn filter for social media. A quick way to stylishly alter an image. It was supposed to remove “unnatural lighting” from a picture, giving a very realistic image, like super HD or something. Instead, it removed the facade they wore. And then we saw them.

It sounds stupid. I almost want to laugh but I feel her hand, occasionally squeezing mine, and I know there is nothing to laugh about anymore. Nothing to find humor in. Not when the white, wormy looking things stared at you with their pus-colored eyes, reached for you with their tentacle-like arms. Their mouth was but a tube, a proboscis if school-age science memories are accurate. At least that is what I think they looked like. I can’t be sure, thinking back. They wear the people. Somehow. Or maybe they wear something that looks like the people but isn’t completely real. Maybe they aren’t real. Maybe we killed the kids. Did we kill the kids?

“What?” Her voice had moved up an octave. I spoke out loud. I had been doing that a lot lately. Shit.

“I’m tired.”

“Don’t….do not say that. Do not ever say that.” She stopped, stock still, yanking my arm to make me face her. “They did that. We saw them do that. We didn’t have the guns and explosives then. They made them….nothing. They took them and they were just gone! We did not do that!”

“I know, I know, I’m just…I can’t keep shit straight in my head, you know? Like, I don’t remember what they look like or how the kids….It’s getting dark and fuzzy and I can’t remember.”

“They look like snakes. Black and slimy and their eyes are red and evil. Their tongues lashing out of those damn, nasty ass teeth!”

I didn’t know how to respond to her. That wasn’t what I had seen. I didn’t think so.

“Are you sure?”

“What? Yes….maybe, I don’t know!”

She was definitely crying now. Hard.

“Okay, okay.” I pulled her close, sliding my hands around her jacket-layered waist and under the backpack. We had lost so much weight. When had we eaten? “Okay, let’s trying to get to the inn, get some sleep and maybe a shower. We need that.”

I felt her head bob against my chest. Reluctantly, I let her go and we continued on. No more words, again, and I tried to keep my head quite too. Didn’t need any more of that either. The sign for the hotel was dim under the snow but stood vigilant over the small building. Max of ten rooms and barely far enough away from the road for someone to park. Not that anyone would anymore. Unless it was them, though. A bunch of them could load up on a school bus or something and ride around sucking all the people out of themselves so they could plop another one inside what was left. That was a possibility.

“Something doesn’t seem right.” Her whispers sent a chill down my spine, it was as if she was hissing.

“Nothing’s right…” I turned my head slightly, trying to see into her hood from my peripheral.

I thought the light from the motel was reflecting off her skin, or scales, or something. Was I losing it or had I lost her? Either way, we were close to being screwed.

“What?” Her head flicked around, vertical slits shining as they watched me.

I shook my head, afraid to open my mouth. I shook off her hand and hurried up to the glass doors. Before my hand touched the handle, I saw them. Four of them standing around the front desk, staring at the television. A fat slug with beady black eyes was squeezed into a black suit. I didn’t see a mouth, but the captioning at the bottom did well to tell me what was going on a second before our images were on the screen. And then they started turning.

“Run, there here!” I grabbed her hand, glad the gloves prevented me from feeling any scales and pulled her behind me.

We circled around the motel and to the wide expanse of snow behind. But why was I seeing her as she saw them? That had to mean it was in my head, that she was safe. Maybe. I didn’t know how it worked. She saw them differently then I did. There was no manual for when the shit hit the fan. I mean, there was, but not like this. People are Slug-men Out to Kill You and How to Hunt with a Cellphone and Starbucks Straw……yeah. No.

We ran, stumbling in the snow, pulling each other up, pushing forward, our faces hurt, our muscles burned, and the icy mountain in the distance seemed no closer. If the world snapped back to how it had been, we would be able to join the Olympics. Free Runners, solid golds with a training regime of running for their lives all the goddamn time.

The sound from behind us was a massive tsunami of terror shoving us up the mountainside. High pitched screeching with the roar that shook the ground around us. The ground slowly sloped upward and the tremors began shaking the powdery snow.

“Oh shit!” My eyes had bounced up enough to see a side of the mountain sheer off and come blasting down the side.

Trees and rocks began to join the momentum. I pulled her to the right and tried running parallel to the mountaintop, knowing it was a useless endeavor. Within moments, we would be buried under the very sanctuary we were seeking. And they were still coming, unaware or unconcerned about the massive avalanche they were causing. Maybe that was the point. Bury us and be done.

I turned back to look at her, to make sure she was still attached to the hand I held. Our eyes met and she screamed, jerking away from me and falling backward. I slid to a stop, ignoring the chunks of snow and ice falling around my boots as I looked into her terrified face.

“Oh no, no no no no….” Her serpentine head swung wildly from side to side, “They got you. When did they get you?”

“What do you see?”

“You’re not like the others. You look like a night crawler, white and….oh god! How are you talking? Where’s your mouth?”

“Shhh, you look the way you told me they looked. Not like how I see them, but how you see them. I saw it before the motel. And now you see me the way I see them. I don’t think it’s real. I think it’s in our heads.”

“Then make it stop!” Her words echoed a moment and then were muffled as the sliding debris hit us.

We slid down, somehow afloat on the mass, but having to dodge each yank and pull from that which wished to take us under and devour us. I didn’t know where they were. I didn’t care. I tried to hold onto her, but both of us struggled to touch the other. What if we were changed? Maybe they looked different than we were seeing but some hive mind was contorting it all. We all saw what we wanted to see, as we had for ages.

The pain faded as the cold sucked everything from me. Exposed skin went from fiery burning to numb. A dull pain, like a severe headache, throbbed in my bones. I think she was gone. I couldn’t hear or feel her. My arms waved wildly as I tried to stay above the massive landslide. We had been so close to the edge of it, so close to being precariously safe.

And then it stopped. The motel a few yards in front of me. I realized the mountain had been closer than we thought, or we had traveled further, or nothing was as it seemed at all. She was close by. Her face as it was before but more pale and hollow. Her eyes blinked rapidly as her mouth gaped.

“Oh god, are you okay?”

I fell down on my knees and began digging and tugging, trying to get her out of the snow. I needed to make sure she was whole, she was okay. She was all I had left. I leaned over her and saw her neck was steaming, the red pool growing around the gash under her chin.

“No! No!” I didn’t know what to do.

Her eyes found mine, and they were still yellow with the black gash down the center. The eyes of a serpent. I leaned over and pressed my lips to her, the tears freezing on my eyelashes. She tried moving, but gave up, gasping and gurgling. And then I glanced behind and saw them, so close. Within moments, they would be on us. And I would be gone too.

“Not like this.”

There was no use in stopping the blood or comforting her. She was fading. But I wasn’t going to let her go alone. We made it this far together, we would continue on in the afterlife.

I ripped off my backpack, surprised it had stayed on with the straps frayed and tearing at every seam. Inside was more explosives and a few flares. I snatched up the flare, dumped the sticks of dynamite over her and leaned down for a final kiss. I saw their shadows falling over us as I ignited the flare, the phosphorescent light bursting a second before the world blinked white and then nothing.

Interview on Storyteller

Women in Horror Month is here! I have been featured on S. K. Gregory’s Storyteller Blog today, so if you get a chnce, check it out!

WiHM9 Interviews Amanda Leanne Boyce

 

A bit from the interview:

S.K. Gregory: Why is horror writing important to you?

Amanda Leane: I have an interesting theory about horror and what it does for me. I had a difficult childhood and have dealt with depression and insomnia (mine as well as that of my family) for a good amount of my life. Books became a staple for me at an early age. I learned to read when I was four, thanks to a determined uncle who saw my young fascination for books , and had read my first horror by the second grade. My mother loved Stephen King and Anne Rice, and so those books were quite plentiful. With insomnia, mom would be up late watching horror movies on one of the old random channels that played classics. And so the reading and watching gave me an early introduction, respect and love.
With horror, I feel it is more relatable to life. I’m not, nor ever have been, a fan of happy endings. I feel that if something goes horribly wrong, it can never be completely righted. I also feel that horror can embody issues worse than my experiences and fears, thus giving me proof of a darkness much bleaker than any I have dealt with. When I write horror, I get to control that. I am in control of the darkness. I decide how deep it can go, what it does , if it is able to be overcome and what it will leave behind. I can create worlds worse than any depression I have had and yet at any time I can tilt it another direction.
Horror is also necessary, in my opinion, to show the depths of depravity the human mind is possible to have. It also allows us to indulge in the faux pas aspects of being human in a lawful world without breaking any morality or personal vindications. You can delve into the mind of a cannibal or sympathize with a real monster and its okay. In horror, you can face your fears or bask in the darkness and close the book at the end without changing your place in the world. Horror allows us to confront and embrace so much on our own terms.

 

 

The Dragon Riddler (A Dark Fantasy Short)

I have a treat for you guys! This is a short story I wrote back in the late 90’s when I was first taking a creative writing course. The style and flow is a bit dated, but it is a fond memory for me. This was when I first began to seriously contemplate writing stories and books for other people to read, to actually be an author. Over two decades later and my dreams are starting to come true!

Image from Pixaby user Chewie2012

THE DRAGON RIDDLER

“Tell me this, I do declare, what is dark as night and white as the moon so fair? For it to live, you must die, and yet if you die it could not live. Yet dead it is as it walks alive.”

Fiera grinned as the villager’s face contorted in thought. Creatures of mystic powers were her specialty in these riddles. For, though the villagers told many tales of the workings and evils of different beings, they tended to forget about their own stories in the face of a dragon as dark as those very same creatures.

“Um….,” a line of dark liquid slid down the inner pants leg of the thin little man. His hands wrung with anxiety and his dark eyes squinted in expectation, “a…..a…..flea?”

Fiera roared in laughter before slamming her jaws around the helpless victim. One large gulp and he was gone. Humming to herself she smiled as her inner flames incinerated the dinner as it went to her belly.

“A vampire, you silly human. The very story you told to your children last night to keep them from causing mischief in the graveyards.” Shaking her magnificent head she slid back to the ground to nap for the remainder of the day.

Giant ebony plates, shining like wet glass, graced her long curved body. Her massive head, always held high, was topped by large white spikes sharp as swords. Eyes of emerald gems glared above her flaring nostrils. Her tail, also spiked, swished slowly knocking down brush and killing any small creatures that fell in its path.

Settling down on the forest floor, Fiera looked out at the small village of Fralthal, a town whose population was greatly affected by her large appetite. Fiera, though, was not a brainless killer. Her riddles gave the poor villagers a chance to keep their lives if only they answered them correctly. Only the bravest tried leaving through the only path to Sherdio, the very path that Fiera resided on. They could easily try the old thick forests surrounding their village, but then again, coyotes and bears did not give them chances to answer riddles before they killed, and many of them paced the perimeter of the town ready for their own chances at a good meal.

As evening came, Fiera was disturbed by an approaching life form. Slowly she sat up and looked around until she spotted the intruder. A cat, one of the largest she had ever seen, sat on the road blending in with surrounding night. His black coat was long and fluffy and well taken care of.

“Well, seems I will be having kitty for dessert?” Fiera crouched down and cleared her voice dramatically, “UMM UMM! Let’s see, ok, I will give you a simple one. Golden treasures I contain, guarded by hundreds and thousands. Stored in a labyrinth where no man walks, yet men come often to seize my gold. By smoke I am overcome and robbed, then left to build my treasure anew.”

“Well,” the black cat stretched lazily before staring back at the astounded dragon, “I believe you are referring to a beehive. Sorry to deprive you of your dessert.”

The cat turned its tail and continued down the path past the dragon. The dragon stared incredulously. Never had anyone answered her riddles so fast and not in many years had anyone been correct. Intrigued by this new found animal’s knowledge, Fiera thought up some of her hardest riddles for the next victim, who did suffice as a tasty dessert.

As dawn rose up and painted the morning sky, the fog that covered the forest floor slowly drifted away. Fiera’s eyes stayed alert for any who thought themselves cunning enough to sneak past her in this dense cover. She could see right through, and saw no one was willing to try her this morning. As her day continued on in the usual manner, she felt a surge of excitement as a long fluffy tail twitched back forth in the air. Slowly the cat from the previous evening appeared once more. Fiera could not help but shake in excitement, hoping the cat would once again answer her riddle.

“Good morning, giant reptilian guard of my village. You do seem a little more interested in me today,” The cat sat promptly in front of Fiera, its dark tail curling around its feet as it looked about lazily, “What have you to ask me this morning?”

“Ah, yes, hmmm,” Fiera tried to look deep thought as she rehearsed her riddle before speaking to the cat, “We are four brothers in this world and we’re born together. The first one runs and never wearies. The second eats and is never full. The third drinks and is ever thirsty. The fourth sings a song that is barely heard.”

The cat purred and lay down slowly. Stretching his claws before him he yawned and then returned to a curled ball of fluff at the dragon’s feet.

“My dear creature of the path, you are speaking of the sons of nature. There is water, fire, earth, and wind. I feel in need of a bit of a nap. Mind me not for a bit, just please do not step on my tail.”

Fiera stared at the cat in astonishment as it curled at her feet and fell asleep. Smiling a bit, if a dragon could smile physically that is, she nestled down near her new friend and thought to herself that for the first time in hundreds of years, she did not feel alone. For a dragon, this is a bit of an embarrassing thought, but as old as Fiera was it was one in which she often found herself saddened about.

Fiera drifted into her usual light sleep and soon felt the presence of the cat leave her. Though it did make her a bit sad, she felt sure that the cat was as intrigued with her as she was with him. A bond may have been formed and her happiness caused her to let one of the villagers go on a poor guess on an easy riddle. She was surprised at her first act of leniency in years. In fact, she believed she may have never been easy on anyone. Years ago, when children still listened to the stories of the wise men, they knew many of the riddles and answered plenty to allow them safe passage. Now no one cared for old stories, and oh how it did make them easy meals.

A few more days went by with the standard occasional not-so-brave man trying his luck. None succeeded, and Fiera was well fed. She began to get a little agitated and wondered if that cat had not been as fond of her as she had thought. This began to nag at her until an evening came when the notable fluffy standard was waving in the air over a small hill in the road. Fiera shivered and turned toward the approaching feline.

“Well, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to visit anymore.” Fiera sighed slightly as all women sometimes do to show they have been disappointed, “Are you ready for a riddle?”

“Why not? I have no plans for this evening so I suppose I could spare a bit of time for you. I must ask though, would you not like for me to ask one of you?” The cat sat in its usual position, and cocked its head to one side at the mighty dragon.

“Well, hmm, I have never been offered such a chance. I must warn you I have centuries of knowledge of riddles, so you may be in a bit of a spot trying to find one that I have not heard.”

“Ok then, how about a play on words and their meanings, a slight tale with an odd answer?”

“I will do my best to sound as if I did not have to think on it, but give me this tale,” Fiera felt the excitement build at the small conversation that had transgressed.

“John gave his brother, James, a box, about it were many locks. James woke and said it gave him a pain, so gave it back to John again. The box was not with lid supplied, yet caused the lids to open wide. And all these locks had never a key, What kind of box, then, could it be?” The cat licked his paw and slid it back on his glossy head then glanced at the dragon.

“Hmm, what a tale that is. I have never heard this one before. You astound me little friend! I am surprised! Tell me the answer, I do request!” The dragon crouched down waiting for the answer to such an odd riddle.

The cat purred a bit and looked back at the dragon.

“I will give you the answer under one condition, me and my own are never to enter the jaws you have. My master is old and frail, but a great man none the less. If you grant him safe passage then I will continue to visit and riddle with you as well as answer my own.”

The dragon sat up and felt a bit of anger seep up before he realized that it seemed only fair and maybe a good sign of her power to grant the cat’s request.

“Very well, I will do as you ask. What is your master’s name so that I may know him when he tries to pass?”

“His name is Vladrenyl, but you may have some difficulty asking him for an answer. He no longer speaks the heard words of man. His voice is that of the mind alone.”

“So how should I know it is him?”

“Ask him of this riddle that I tell you now, he will answer you with actions that should express the proper response.”

Fiera sighed then glanced at the cat.

“Then tell me of this answer so that I can be expectant of his actions.” The dragon crouched back down to better catch every word of the large cat.

“A curly-haired James was sleeping in bed, His brother John gave him a blow in the head. James opened his eyelids, and spying his brother, doubled his fist and gave him another. This kind of box then is not so rare, the lids are the eyelids, and the locks are the hair.”

Fiera huffed a bit and smoked seeped from her nostrils.

“What an odd reply. So I can imagine he may try to point to his head to answer this riddle. I will look out for this deaf old man and allow him passage if her responds as you say.”

So they agreed, and the cat was satisfied. They began to spend their days riddling each other and Fiera was impressed with the knowledge of the cat. Their friendship grew and eventually the cat was known as “Dragon Shadow”, for he sat in the shadow of Fiera whilst she riddled her victims for their lives.

Dragon Shadow sometimes offered her new riddles to try, for as old as she was, she often repeated some that could easily be over heard from the village. Impressed with the help of her friend, Fiera began to use his riddles more and more. Not one deaf old man had yet to appear in her presence, at least not until one muggy evening when the fog was quite heavy.

Fiera sat alone licking her elongated razor sharp teeth as a tall man approached. His hair fell in long white locks down and around his dark cloak. He walked with the weariness of an old man. Fiera’s eyes narrowed as he came closer. She decided to try Dragon Shadow’s riddle on this one to see if perhaps this was the old deaf man who belonged to the cat.

“Well, hello there, sir.” Fiera nodded to the old man keep her yes locked on his. The man nodded back. “Are you ready for your riddle?”

The man motioned to the dragon to continue. Fiera was almost certain this was the correct man, for his calm demeanor was extremely reflective of the cat’s and must be of the same place.

“John gave his brother, James, a box, about it were many locks. James woke and said it gave him a pain, so gave it back to John again. The box was not with lid supplied, yet caused the lids to open wide. And all these locks had never a key, what kind of box, then, could it be?”

Fiera watched the man and waited for him to point at his head. Instead he crouched and began drawing runes in the sand at their feet. Fiera watched in confusion and stared at the strange symbols. Looking at the man she saw he sat back in contempt and seemed to be waiting for her. Fiera grunted in frustration and gobbled the man down before he could blink. She shook her head as she felt the last of him burn within her infernal stomach.

The lone dragon spent much of the day staring at the symbols wandering if perhaps he was trying to tell her something or if maybe she had misinterpreted his answer. Her uneasiness grew to a small discomfort within her belly as she saw the swishy black tail rise over the ridge.

“Dragon!” the cat stomped as hard as a feline really could, up to the great reptile, “Have you seen my man beast today?”

Fiera snarled in disgust and turned her head.

“How should I know? What did he look like?”

“Well, I do believe you have been told that he is an elderly man who cannot speak the words aloud in a voice that men can hear. I also told you he was wise, and wise men write runes like the ones drawn upon this ground.”

Fiera turned away as the black ears lay back on the cat’s head.

“A man did come and write those but he did not point to his head so I assumed he did not know the answer to the riddle.”

The cat let out a howl of rage and jumped at the dragon. Fiera opened her mouth and before she realized what she was doing she burned the kitty to a crisp. Fiera froze in horror at the sight of the burnt corpse of her only friend. She stepped over the runes and curled up around the ashes. Searing tears of acid dripped down her glassy cheeks. Through the blur she looked up at the runes and realized that from this side, the side the man had been standing on, the runes were perfectly legible and stated the answer to the riddle precisely as the cat had said. In her impatience Fiera had eaten the man she promised to let live and then murdered her friend.

Using her massive claws, Fiera scratched an indention in the ground and slid the cat’s remains into the hole. She smoothed the dirt over and the sprayed her flames upon the ground until the sand melted into liquid glass. While it was still hot, Fiera carved the rune for Dragon Shadow on the surface. After it completely cooled she turned and pounced into the sky. Her large leathery wings flapped for the first time in ages, and the small town of Fralthal was finally free of their very unwelcome guardian.