Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Will-o'-the-Wisp, Part 6 (Fiction)

(Just joining us? Back to Part 1)

       Cold fear squeezed Andy's throat. He stared through the blackness, but saw nothing under the profound blanket of forest. The fairy light had slipped away through the maze of trees.
       "Bryn?" he called. "Bryn?" But his voice withered, impotent. His trembling breaths couldn't fill his lungs.
       Andy grabbed one of the shoes and stood. Over his shoulder, he saw the field nearby. The murky light filtered through the branches. He debated whether he should go back. Go back to find help.
       "Bryn?" he yelled again, a little louder.
       No answer.
       If he walked out, he would forever lose the bearing on Bryn's scream.
       He hesitated. His shins burned from where the tree trunk had gouged them.
       No, he couldn't go. Stuffing the shoe into his pocket, he turned back toward the forest.
       For minutes upon minutes, he groped and trudged. Twigs jabbed him. Briars hooked into his clothes and bit through to the skin. And Bryn didn't respond to his repeated calls. The faster his thundering heart pushed him, the more violence he suffered.
       Then, a point of radiance sparkled ahead, almost blinding to his deadened eyes.
       It's back, Andy whispered to himself.
       Yes, back, but motionless. At least a hundred yards away.
       Andy's terror detonated inside his skull. He felt something out there. He felt the danger. Bryn was out there. With the thing. Alone.
       He ran. How many times he crashed and tripped and tore and bled, he couldn't count. One by one, the crisscross of branches drew back. The light streamed into his eyes. Growing. Overwhelming him. The ground sloped up, and a small glade of glowing ferns opened. His strides chopped away the remaining distance.
       So close. The misty illumination infused every corner of Andy's mind. In a moment, he would overtake it.
       Suddenly, the orb yanked upward and swept through the treetops. Andy gaped, following it as it soared. Then, his foot landed on strange ground. Years of tangled pine needles, twigs, and decay gave way. His eyes were still tilted upward when he disappeared into the forest floor.
       He fell. His stomach ballooned up into his throat.
       Disorientation. Weightlessness.
       Then, he stuck fast, at least four feet down from the open air. Andy was wrapped in blindness and silence. His brain raced to process the shock.
       Wet stone.
       Pressed into his face.
       Feet twisted, crushed in the narrows.
       Andy tried to cry out, but the squeeze on his chest denied him. The tendons in his shoulders shrieked in agony. His arms were pulled over his head and jammed tight. The stench of mildew filled his nose.
       He wriggled, but the shift in his weight dropped him a fraction deeper. He tried to yell, but only an inhuman croak rattled in his throat. His shivering muscles bulged with panic.
       No good.
       When he relaxed, he slid yet another fraction deeper. Down into a hidden crack in the bedrock.
       Tears poured down his cheeks and sheeted down the sheer rock into the depths. For a long time his sobs murmured like Earth itself.
       Then, another sound.
       Andy hushed himself. He choked back the horror. He listened.
       There. Again.
       The sound tickled over him. From the ground above. The ethereal voice of a young girl.
       And the impish sound of laughter.

On to Part 7
Back to Part 5

Based on the legend of the Will-o'-the-Wisp


jane said...

I love the picture here. I really need to spend some time reading your site properly too... :)

Anonymous said...

Jane, coming from a photographer extraordinaire, that is quite a compliment!! I'm just an amateur hack.

To Clarity readers: check out Jane's photoblog, Ephemera, if you haven't already. It's listed in my links.

. : A : . said...

Excellent - both the shot and the story.

anne said...

OK now, those ethereal voice of a young girl and impish sound of laughter are really scary.

Anonymous said...

Anne, part 7 should interesting, eh? Our spectral friend has a "captive" audience.

.:A:., thank you!

Chemical Billy said...

Brrr...an otherworldly sadomasochistic little girl? Now I'm thoroughly creeped.

Anonymous said...

Chemical Billy,

Great to see you back! Our friends Andy and Bryn aren't having a good night, I'm afraid. :(

I think it's interesting that no one has mentioned the claustrophobia angle here!

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Great read, Jason! =D

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kelly! Still plowing through that WIP, I hope.

Jeff said...

jason, great photo :)

Anonymous said...

Jeff, welcome! And thanks! Hope to see you back.