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The Hours #11

July 27, 2016 Leave a comment

It took me quite some time to come to a rational state of wakefulness. At first, my mind wondered at the firmness of my bed. Then, the warmth and perfume of the body pressed against mine led me to my dreams of Mary. I pulled my arm tight, pressing the warmth of the figure to my chest and I was rewarded with a soft groan.

I nuzzled my face into her hair and she shifted her body. I felt my pulse quicken and I moved my arm so that my hand pressed against her stomach.

A small hand reached up and ran fingers into my hair. I felt her tighten her fingers, pulling me in a most pleasant way as she wiggled further back into my embrace.

I began to slide my hand up her body. “Mary,” I breathed as my palms slid over an inch of soft fabric. Then the fingers in my hair and the warmth of the body disappeared in a rush. I stopped smiling and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I am not Mary.”

I snapped up, staring in horror at Samantha. Her wide, dark eyes bore holes into me and I felt the heat in my body rush up to my face. “I am…”

“No,” she said and the word snapped in the silence of the morning. “Don’t say it.”

“I only wanted to apologize,” I said.

She balled her fists up against her face and pressed them against her eyes. “I know that.” The words screeched out of her in such a deafening cacophony that I lifted my hands in preparation of covering my ears to protect from another burst.

The second outburst was interrupted by a different screech.

Something hit the tent, much as a bird will sometimes hit a window. This was followed by a second thump; and then a third.

“What,” I began before a rain of thumping and squawking drowned out the rest of my question.

I don’t know what exactly possessed me in that moment, but I was afforded a brilliant flash of clarity. I acted on instinct and lunged toward Samantha, plowing over her like one would their mates on the rugby field. I cringed as I heard her breath leave her and though I hoped that I had done her no injury, I was more concerned with saving both of our lives. My legs worked like massive springs and I was able to carry her tiny form with me over a span of at least ten paces before I overbalanced and we struck the earth. I bit my tongue and tasted blood in my mouth.

“Oh,” she said.

I turned back to see a flock of large black birds with bright red wings ripping and rending our garments.  My coat was on top, but the thin fabric of the summer jacket protected Samantha’s dress for only a moment. Gleaming black beaks dissected her dress and in minutes, the flock took to the air, each member carrying a scrap of our clothing.

I turned back and found myself looking into Samantha’s eyes. They were rimmed in red from the tears she had just  shed, but they were dry. I considered my position astride her and promptly rose, offering her my hand.

“Don’t,” she snapped when I opened my mouth to apologize. “Stop telling me that you are sorry.”

I shut my mouth, nodded and looked around, attempting to think of something to say before sighing and asking, “Are you injured?”

She laughed. “No, and that is a much better question.”

I smiled and to my amazement, Samantha smiled back. It was a full smile, unlike any I had ever seen on her before. She lit up and for a moment, I considered Carl a lucky man.

I took her hand, bent over it and kissed her knuckles. “My lady,” I said. “Will you be so kind as to accompany me on a stroll?”

She opened her mouth to answer, but was interrupted by another loud squawk. So without a word, she grabbed onto my arm and we made our way toward what I took to be the south.

 

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Categories: Horror, serial, Uncategorized

The Hours #10

July 14, 2016 Leave a comment

While my first instinct was to curse it, the rain was a blessing, even if it was a mixed blessing. The water was cold but we were spared a downpour. Instead, a steady beat soaked the area. I added our wood to the fire, keeping it large enough to survive but still trying to ration our supply. It allowed us keep one side dry and forced us to keep turning on our bottoms to try and dry the other.

The fire spread and seemed capable of sustaining itself, but as it moved, each blade it ignited was wetter than the one before. the battle between the elements raged for hours, but in the end, the fire died a smoking death.

“Will we have enough wood to make it through the night?”

I looked at Samantha, thought about trying to pacify her, then decided that she had been lied to enough. “Not if this rain continues.”

The young woman bit her lip, staring at me for a moment before nodding once. I wondered what decision she had made when she stood up, but my mouth fell open in surprise as she took off her skirt.

“What are you doing?”

“We need some shelter from the rain,” she said. “I think we can spread my skirts out over a few of those larger sticks and make a bit of a tent.”

I looked at the pile of wood and nodded. “That is a good idea. Are you sure you are okay with the impropriety of being without your dress in the presence of a man.”

She didn’t answer for a moment. “I have lived with a lot of impropriety and I can live with a bit more.”

We both surrendered our shoelaces and I gave up my belt and jacket before our shelter was up. It would never have survived any serious wind, but it did give Samantha some cover from the elements. She crawled under and I added the last of the wood to our fire before sitting down by the door of the tent.

“Why are you sitting there?” she asked.

“Because there is only enough room for one. You should have it.”

She made an indelicate sound. “Come here now.”

“For such a tiny woman you are very demanding.”

She laughed, a genuine laugh that brought a smile to my face. “I have no issue with that.”

I nodded and crawled in beside her. We wiggled and shifted until we were pressed together like silverware in a drawer. It was warm and I was grateful to be out of the rain, but as we lay there, a thought occurred to me. It wormed its way around, burrowing back and forth through my mind until I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

“What did you mean when you said you lived with a lot of impropriety?”

Samantha didn’t answer me for so long a time that I decided she must have fallen asleep. I stared out into the darkness, trying not to let my imagination wander to places that would make this more uncomfortable. Though I admit to the difficulty of that task with such a tiny and exotic beauty in my arms. My Mary had been so free with her kisses that I had considered myself a blessed man. Yet this situation was still far beyond any of my wildest exploration with her. It was frustrating and maddening, yet exciting despite the terror of the world we were in. I somewhat wished I was so relaxed as to be able to sleep the way Samantha did.

“It meant that I am used to things that a proper lady should not be.”

I jumped when she answered, though she ignored it.

“Despite what Mark said, Carl did not suffer for a lack of attention.” She was quiet for a while longer before I realized that her trembling was from crying rather than the chill of a rainy night.

“Carl was a very forward man. The first time we were allowed to be alone together, he explained that he knew the truth of our parents arrangement. He told me that we had two options. We could either accept our lot and live as so many other arranged marriages did, or we could try to find joy in each others company. He took my hand in his, kissed my palm, and asked me to decide what I wanted.”

“That doesn’t seem bad,” I said.

She sighed. “Then he took my hand and placed it between his legs.”

I gasped in surprise.

“I had been told by my parents that they were expecting me to make this work. They had made it clear to me that I had no options and that this was to be my future. So I decided to let Carl find his joy in life. I hoped that if  he found joy with me, I might one day find joy with him as well.”

I was speechless.

“I ruined myself for ever having a respectable husband for a man who was spending his time with another man. I gave myself to him. No one else will accept me and he is gone.”

I squeezed her closer to me, offering a hug that I hoped would give comfort. There was nothing else I could do.

Categories: Horror, serial, Uncategorized

The Hours #9

July 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Mark made two trips, dropping off arm loads of wood and switching to a fresh torch, before Samantha returned.  I was watching the sky as a wall of clouds worked their way towards us when she walked up and sat down beside of me. “Are you alright?”

She shook her head and sniffled. “I wondered about the time that Carl spent with Mark.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have trouble believing it.”

“It doesn’t matter now. Carl is gone and neither of us can have him.”

I was at a loss for words. How on earth was I supposed to console this woman. Her fiance had been ripped out of our boat and she had just been told that he was cheating on her with one of the two people she was traveling with. Further, her best friend, my own fiance, had just been eaten by spiders. We were lost in an  alien landscape and at this rate, all of us were going to die. I was numb to it all. I felt cold and lost and I knew she felt the same, but I could no more offer her support than I could guarantee her safety.

“I have a question for you.”

I added one of the sticks that Mark had brought to the fire and stirred it up before turning to face her squarely and nodding my ascent.

“Why didn’t you try to save Carl?”

“Because I was afraid.” It was the simplest version of the truth.

“Can’t you swim?”

I nodded.

“Then what were you afraid of?”

I swallowed, and in the quiet of the night, it was an audible sound. “He,” I began, and I had to begin the sentence many times before I managed to say the words. “He didn’t fall into the water.”

She looked at me with what I thought was confusion.

“I saw something that looked like the yellow ribbons on a young girls twirling baton wrap around his throat and drag him backward into the water. I didn’t know what it was, and I froze.” Samantha stared and after a moment, I realized that tears were making their way down my cheeks. “I was a coward.”

Samantha did something that was, in my opinion, one of the most courageous things that she could have. Instead of breaking down, as I was, or crying and denying my claim, she moved closer and wrapped her arms around me in a fierce hug. I returned the gesture, and we sat there, holding each other for some unknown time, before she sat back, moving her hands to sit on top of my knee.

I looked away, ashamed of my tears, my cowardice, and my general lack of manliness in such dire times. I attempted to take a steadying breath and noticed the light moving towards us. “It appears the Mark is returning.”

I regretted pointing it out. Samantha scooted away and I missed the comfort of her touch immediately. She lowered her eyes to the fire while I watched the torch as Mark made his way down the hill towards us.

The light came closer, then seemed to dance back and forth. “What is he doing?” I asked as the little glowing spot moved back and forth so quickly that it seemed a glowing line in the night.

Samantha looked up while I rose and moved to the other side of the fire. The spot seemed to jump forward and then it flared. When it moved again, there were two spots and I realized that the torch had hit the ground, lighting some of the dry grass when it did.

“He’s in trouble,” Samantha said. She rose and stepped up beside me. “He must be.”

It happened again, and a third fire sprang to life along with a high pitched scream. I turned and grabbed two more burning brands from our fire and handed one to Samantha. “Quickly,” I said, took hold of her hand and pulled her behind me.

The fire jumped again but this time, it left a streak of light as it moved away from our camp. It was moving much faster than what Samantha and I could. I stopped after a few steps, listening as the scream died away. The trail of fire disappeared when I assume Mark was dragged over the ridge of the hill.

Samantha’s hand trembled in mine and her voice broke as she asked, “He’s gone?”

My squeezing her hand was the only response I could muster. We stood for a moment, watching the little fires as the flared and grew, but then it began to rain. The first cold drops of water smacked my skin before Samantha pulled me back toward our little camp.

Categories: Horror, serial, Uncategorized Tags: