Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Short Stories: Faeires of No-Lake

Welcome, welcome.
Today I'm posting the short story which placed second in my Short Story Contest last month. 
This story needs little introduction, beyond saying this: it's amazing.
The style - while different - sucks you right in, and doesn't let go until you realize...
Well, I'll let you read it and find out:

Faeries of No-Lake

By Michelle

If one goes down to the edge of No-Lake at twilight, one can catch a glimpse of the magical in-between.
Flashes of will-o’-the-wisp light; snatches of odd, lyrical music; fae laughter; wicked, cruel grins; sharp teeth.
The magical in-between does not take kindly to being glimpsed.

Sitting on the porch, staring at nothing, fingers worrying the locket at my throat. Something intangible tugs at me. No-Lake is calling for me to come.
I grip the locket, glance around at my family, and try to fix their faces in my mind. Little Johnny's buck teeth, Pappa's pipe, Josh's big feet. And Momma. Momma with her floury apron, big smile, and rough tongue.
Picking up my math, I stand. "Going to the pier!"
Momma lets out a quiet cry. The others stare at me.
Step off the porch. Screen door slams.
Momma's soft sobs are punches, kicks, elbows to my ribs.
But No-Lake is calling. I cannot ignore it.

Quiet at the pier. Bare feet rub rough boards. A light breeze dries the ever-present sweat on the back of my neck.
Fae things happen when a breeze comes.
I settle on the end of the pier, dangling feet over the edge.
Heavy textbook in my lap.
Muttering sums to myself.
Toes brushing sunbaked grass.
Sun sinking lower.
My time drawing nearer

A sound like dry wind on drier leaves whispers past my ear. Hairs along my spine stand up; gooseflesh spreads outward.
Pencil stops on the second curve of 3.
Breath jerking through lungs.
Do not look, do not look.
I am No-Lake born and raised. I know when not to look.  

"Human." The creature breathes the vowels, stretches them out into words of their own, it's voice a bare whisper. "Human." More insistent.
Open mouth, but no sound. Cannot work throat, tongue, breath in harmony to produce coherent words.
Stutter out a few fragmented sounds. Glance out of the corner of my eye.
My blood freezes.
Instincts scream to run, but it is behind me, short, dark, the light of setting sun poking holes in it.
To run into No-Lake is certain death. But I nearly consider it.

"Hu-man." Clipped now, each syllable jerked out.
Pulling eyes forward, trying to speak again. "W-what" clench jaw, breathe in, out, “do you want-" Oh, Mabe remember the wording, the wording, "require of me, Fae one?"
A rasping chuckle. "Payment." It stretches the vowels again.
Oh. That's why No-Lake called.
The breeze gusts. Shiver.
Deep breath. You must say the words Mabe. You must.
"If it is payment you seek, take me. I will go."

A cackle. Dry, dry hands around my throat, squeezing. So strong.
Gasp, choke, hands reach up to claw.
Still, squeezing.

Ease eyes open.
Dim light shows earthy walls, close around me. Hissing voices chant, a grating, senseless, circling sound, that makes my heart wild, sends panic's claws around my ribs.
Light floods into the cave. I squint, hiss.
A dark figure blocks the light. Hand reaches in, grabs me, drags me out.
Bright, bright outdoors. Summer-blue sky above, grass slides between my toes, faeries all around.
Standing before them - these twisted, dead-brown creatures, looking like sticks twined together in a mockery of human form, their black eyes calling for my blood in a language all their own. Trembling.
A hand on my shoulder, pushing me forward. No, no, no!
"Human," a smooth, tenor voice murmurs. "This will be easier if you do not resist."
Blooooood, the gazes of the faeries call.
Sobs choke my throat. But first one leg moves forward. Than the other.
The hand squeezes my shoulder. Is - is a faery comforting me?

My steps a steady metronome to my wild heart. My chin a defiant statement to the blood-thirsty faeries. My thoughts chaos, fear, panic, a repeating theme of impending death.
Faeries part, rustling, revealing a stone altar, stained with the blood of my ancestors.
Before the stone, I duck away from the hand, turn, face them. The tall faery stands beside me now, strangely comforting.
"Fae." My voice is a croak. I swallow. Do it, Mabe. "I know why you have brought me here. I know why you will spill my blood on this altar. But because I am human, I will ask for justice. Humans did not kill the firewyrm. It must have died of age, of wounds not from weapons either of our races wield. Please, lift the curse. This debt is not ours to pay."
The faery beside me gives a hum that is perhaps agreement.
The others hiss. "Blood. Debt. Payment."
I shiver, their voices awakening a primal fear.
They sizzle with anticipation.
I turn back to the rock; let my chin drop to my chest.

Cold stone against back, wrists tied down. Stare into summer-blue sky. Feel no fear.
They sing, calling a list of human crimes to the heavens, recounting the death of the firewyrm.
He looms just beyond my head. He does not sing.
Tilting my head back slightly, I catch a shaft of white-blond hair, emerald eyes, paper-thin mouth.
They stop singing. Jerk chin down, eyes on the sky again.
He moves to stand with his back to the crowd. Metal glints. Breath catches, holds.
His hand lifts my chin.
Green gaze locks onto mine. "Trust me."

If one goes down the edge of No-Lake, beneath the branches of the pine tree growing from the lake bed, the skeleton of a dragon curls.
The humans say it died of age.
The faeries cry murder and vengeance.
The people of No-Lake shoulder a curse.
All's not fair with the fair folk.

Michelle doesn't write nearly as much as she should, and hopes one day she'll get over this bad habit. For now, she simply cultivates a garden of story ideas - mostly fantasy. Lost of dragons (not dead) and magic. She is determined to finish a book, one day. But today is not that day. 
Maybe tomorrow.​

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