Wyld FLASH November 26th 2021
My senses are aroused beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. But though my heart is beating to a new, exciting rhythm, my mind has settled on the delicate crunch of half-dried leaves under feet as I follow the narrow path leading out to the clearing’s edge; it’s a small, compressed sound that dies in the surrounding woods, yet reaches my ears like an ancient, seductive whisper.
For the first time in my life I’m utterly alone, not just out for one of my solitary walks in the woods, the walks that up until today I took while my mother—at least that’s who she had always said she was—sat in our cottage behind a small table in the corner, between the fireplace and side window, studying spells and blending potions.
I didn’t realize that over the past two years, as I matured beyond boyhood, she’d been crafting a special gift for my eighteenth birthday; and an accompanying story she would tell on that pivotal day.
This morning, as we sat on her bed, she placed a small hat box between us and disclosed the truth of our relationship, the nature of my pedigree, and the significance of my eighteenth birthday. She had found me, newborn, near the very edge of the clearing I now approach, in a hand basket, swaddled in wool blankets, with a note that read: Boy to beast: 18 years of blessings and bounty, the final day one of turning, then one soul shall be taken—his or yours.
She believed she could save us both; for unless she took my virgin life on this very day—or was able to arrest my transformation—I would become…something more. Something dangerous.
These revelations at first alarmed and dismayed me. But the feelings quickly surrendered to the excitement of discovery and liberation, as if a cage door, until now closed, was suddenly left open, and the whole world—existence in its entirety—was now laid out before my feet. Strange and seductive sensations began to swell inside me like a restless, undulating tide spilling over into my consciousness.
She said she wanted to keep us safe.
I had never felt safer.
Her confession, that she wasn’t my mother, merely a surrogate and a witch—one who had gambled everything on this momentous day—made me feel less a son than something to be kept and tamed.
She removed the lid from the box. Inside, on a piece of velvet so smooth and dark it could have been the surface of a dead, bottomless lake, sat a neckband of golden bronze metal. She lifted it, as if an offering, with both hands. “I have infused this amulet with a binding spell that will keep you calm in adulthood, keep you…normal.”
So this was the gift she promised, the item she had forged and bewitched when I was out on my daily walks in the woods—the only time I felt…almost complete. “These are your woods,” she often proclaimed. Yours alone, a distant but more dominant voice echoed inside my head.
She was short of her normal confident and calming self this morning. Her upper back was clinched, slightly lifting her shoulders, her elbows tucked close; her fingers trembled along the neckband’s smooth curves; and the longer she spoke, the more she avoided my eyes. “Once latched, it will activate a spell to protect us both from your other…” Her voice began to tremble in cadence with her hands. “You know that I love you as my own, and you surely must still love me, as you have so often said.”
Her hands had achieved full shake, her face creased with conflict, her eyes darkened with dread. Her voice, now a weak rasp, labored from her throat like a dying breath: “This is the only way we can stay together…”
…then one soul shall be taken—his or yours…
“…if you’ll just allow me to put this on you.” She shakily reached for my neck with the…
She wanted me to trade my nature, my soul, for a collar.
I reach the exact location where not-mom said she had found the infant, me, and stop. Early winter rides the high clouds; the seasonal transitions always invigorate me, especially fall to winter. I glance over my shoulder one last time—the cottage, and all it represents, already fading from memory as a dream dissipates into the ether upon waking. But the woods…so lovely in the waning twilight, are hyper-real, as is her blood that stains the front of my shirt and covers my chin.
It’s true; I had loved her, because I believed she loved me. But her love was selfish and eager to deceive. I saw it, at the end, in her fearful, teary stare. She feared being alone. But what is more, she feared me. Always had. It flowed through her like a virus through blood and had corrupted any love she might have once had for me. Yes, her eyes revealed all these things. Eyes that in her final moments were unable to blink away the nightmare that was unfolding upon her like a demon’s shadow.
I strip and leave my clothes where I stand, urinate on them. Wild freedom breezes across my bare skin, stimulating the fine hairs; and a primal need, desperate to be sated, floods my heart and mind.
The woods smell richer and deeper today, the air itself alive with supernatural electricity. I step into them. My woods.
Author Bio: Tom Duke believes there’s nothing more enlivening than a creepy whisper from the shadows, the dread of what’s waiting behind the door, or a sudden, ghostly fright. Luckily he’s not afraid of the dark. Yeah, right!
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