Nightmare Excerpt: 12/19

(For the record, the title is looking more likely to be Haven. But Nightmare makes a good working title, so shall stay as such.)

***********

Mask wiped the flour from her hands just as the big bell began tolling in the town square. Not the quiet, somber summoning bell. The furious warning bell. And it was ringing hard. Dropping the rolling pin, Mask swiped her hands on her apron and rushed outside. Her sons were out there. Silk, nine years old, was watching the twins and Cat.

Silk had already heard the bell and was herding the boys inside, dragging Cat, who wanted to see what was going on. Mask kissed Silk quickly on the forehead and snatched up Cat, who started kicking and screaming.

A cold breeze was blowing through the streets. A single touch left Mask’s teeth chattering and shocked the boys into silence.

“Inside, inside!” cried Mask, shoving the twins through the door.

The boys rushed inside. Mask bolted the door and rushed around the room, closing the windows and locking the back door too.

“Papa,” whimpered Cat, and Mask shushed him as she stepped into the closet. Bunches of rosemary, roses and cedar hung from the doors, blood marked the lintels.

A Memory was loose in the town, and there was nothing any of them could do.

The boys clustered around Mask, clutching her dress and whimpering. She found the food bag, dry supplies that always stayed in the closet, and gave each of them dried pieces of meat and fruit.

The cold deepened. Ice formed around the water bucket. The boys shivered, teeth chattering. Mask tucked a blanket around them and held them close. The Memory must be in town now, moving through the streets.
Mask sang them songs, quiet little ditties from the plains, songs her mother had sung to her.

Wind, as cold as a steppe winter, snatched at her hair, and she looked up through the open door. The Memory stood in her kitchen, turning slowly. A shimmering gray form, human-shaped but without eyes or nose, he stood taller than the average man. Thin streams floated through the air to curl around him, green, red, blue, gold, and Mask gasped as a stream of dark shadow stretched from her heart to him.

The Memory took it in his hands, wrapped the thread through his fingers and brought it to his lips. His head tilted towards her, as though he watched her. The thread tugged at something in her, and Mask moaned.

“Leave her alone!” cried Silk, springing to his feet. Mask caught at him, but he was out of her reach and facing off against the Memory. Chubby little-boy fists planted on his hips, he glared up at the creature. “Go away!”

The Memory bent, coiling in on himself somehow. His face level with Silk, a thin tongue whipped out and touched the boy’s face. Silk cringed, stood still. Tongue coiling back, the Memory huffed a little. His head tilted, and he poked at Silk with a long finger. Silk touched the Memory on the shoulder, took the creature’s hand and squeezed it.

In the closet, Mask’s breath stole away as she watched. The Memories were deadly. They came into isolated villages and drained the people of their souls. They didn’t commune in some strange, silent way with little boys.

The Memory stroked Silk’s hair and carefully coiled the boy’s black energy around long fingers. He tucked it back against Silk’s chest, and brought Mask’s back to her too. Petrified, Mask sat still. The Memory’s touch burned against her skin like frozen fire. The boys kept their faces buried against her skirts, wailing.

“Strong,” whispered the Memory, putting a hand on Silk’s shoulder. “I will answer him.”

Silk walked the nightmare to the door, hand in hand.

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One Response to “Nightmare Excerpt: 12/19”

  1. mmmm gives me a shiver. Quite interesting, I cannot wait to read more.

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