Here is my short story, written for the Halloween Blog Hop. Like the blog hop, this story is rather experimental in nature. It's written in a voice I've never tried before, and I honestly don't know if I've pulled it off. But, hey, I figure the best way to grow is to try new things, so consider yourself my guinea pig.
A very big "thank you" to everyone who's participated. I've had a lot of fun with this. I hope you have, too.
Here's the links to everyone's blogs. It occurred to me rather belatedly to also put them here. Be sure to check them out for some Halloween goodness!
by Sara C. Snider
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #8f1f1f;"]I[/dropcap] was twelve years old when I saw it: a twinkling in the forest, like a hundred glow bugs flitting between the trees. I begged Ma to let me outside. I had a jar I used to catch glow bugs, ladybugs or any kind of bug, really. Except for butterflies. Never had the heart to catch them—afraid I’d hurt their wings. Anyway, Ma said no, that it was too dark and cold to let me go running around in the forest at night. Said I’d catch my death. I used to wonder how anyone could catch a death. Would it be like catching bugs in a jar? Or would you need something bigger, like those bear traps I seen in the forest that Ma said I shouldn’t touch?
Normally I listened to Ma, but that night was different. I never seen anything like those lights and I couldn’t leave them be. So when Ma went to bed, I snuck out real quiet. Left my shoes behind so I wouldn’t make any noise. The night was cool, and the grass was damp against my feet. I remember now that the night was silent. There were no crickets chirping or trees rustling. I ought to have thought that strange, but I didn’t. I was only twelve.
When I got to the forest I remembered I had forgotten my jar. I thought about turning back when I saw her: a beautiful lady with long, black hair. Her dress was white and she wore on her head a wreath of golden leaves and red rose hips. I thought wearing a crown of leaves strange, but then she smiled at me and it didn’t seem all that strange anymore. She walked towards me, and I remember the way the light shone on the trees around her. It was like she had a light all her own, as bright as the moon.
“Hello,” she said to me. “What’s your name?”
I smiled at her, but didn’t say anything. I felt so giddy and foolish. I realize now how queer she was. Her eyes were black and her fingers long and bony, like the shadows the elm tree cast on the walls at night. Her skin was a bluish color, like Uncle Redmond after he passed. But at the time I thought her beautiful, and, when she held her hand out to me, I took it.
We walked for a time, deeper into the forest. She didn’t say anything, and so neither did I. But after a while, the sticks and rocks on the ground started to hurt my feet. I told her as much, and so she picked me up and carried me. Now, I hadn’t been carried like that since I was real small. I was twelve years old, and it rankled me to be carried around like a baby. I almost told her as much, but my feet were awfully sore and so I held my tongue. I remember smelling her breath as she held me—a mixture of spices and dirt and old meat.
I kept watching that strange light glowing on the trees as she moved. I must have fallen asleep for a bit, ‘cause the next thing I knew she was setting me on the ground. She put me on something soft, like a bed, but it felt damp and woolly like moss. The glow around her had dimmed, and I remember thinking how empty and black her eyes looked, and how ashen her skin was. She wasn’t nearly as beautiful as I thought in the forest, and the look in those dark eyes of hers now frightened me some.
I made to leave, but she pinned me down with a bony hand. She smiled, then—a twisted sort of expression. I never seen anything so terrible. I panicked; I’m not ashamed to say it. You’d have too, if you’d seen that hungry look in her eye. I scrambled for a bit, thrashing and flailing. I managed to break free, and I fell from some sort of table and on to the ground. The air was knocked right from me, and I lay there gasping as I tried to catch my breath. That was when I saw the bones strewn about, and the old pairs of shoes thrown into a corner. The shoes were about my size, and I got real afraid, then.
I felt her hands on my back, and my heart was thumping so hard and my ears were buzzing. I grabbed a bone; it was broken and all sharp at one end. I turned ‘round and jabbed at her hand with it. I must have struck her, for she made this awful screeching noise. Loud and high, like a bird. I ran, then. Out of the ramshackle house she had taken me to and into the forest.
I could hear her behind me, huffing and wheezing and rustling through the brush. I ran faster than I ever had. I don’t remember my feet hurting anymore, I just remember wanting to get home. The sun was starting to come up then, and I could see my way through the forest. A good thing, too, else I might’ve missed that bear trap laid out among the leaves. I jumped over it, and kept on running. But she must've missed it, ‘cause I heard a loud snap, and then that bird-like keening again.
I got back home before Ma had woken, and I crept back into bed and cried into my pillow until I fell asleep. Ma woke me later for breakfast, but I never did tell her what happened. I didn’t want to get into trouble for sneaking into the woods at night. I kept an ear out for any word on someone getting caught in one of those bear traps, but I never heard anything. I went back into the woods some years later, trying to find that woman’s house. But I never found that, either.
I spent some time telling myself it had all been a dream, and sometimes I believed it. But I stopped catching bugs in jars, and I stopped wondering how you could catch a death. I figured I knew more on that than any twelve-year-old ought, and you just don’t get knowledge like that from dreams, you know?