Don’t Go Into the Woods

The moon hung low in the sky. Its light cast an eerie shimmer over the trees.

Ellie shivered.

If you go down to the woods tonight…

She thought she heard a guttural cough come from the trees to the left. She pulled her cloak closer around her and peered up through the gap in the canopy.

The moon seemed to taunt her. In her mind a haunting melody played, a nursery rhyme she’d heard as a child and forgotten.

If you go down to the woods tonight…

Something crunched underfoot. Ellie looked down. In between dead leaves and fallen twigs, white bones littered the earth.

They were not all animal bones.

Not all animal bones at all.

If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise.

A growl, low and menacing.

Her time was up.

It would be quick, she told herself.

It would be quick…

The darkness exploded and she screamed. For one brief second she saw it, outlined against the silver of the moon – a monstrous creature with claws like scythes and fur matted with blood.

Then it was on her, and she screamed no more.

Tonight’s the night the teddy bears have their picnic.

Messenger #writephoto

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It was a golden afternoon when the mysterious gemstone appeared.

I was waiting for our messenger raven, Barnabas. I always waited for him before sundown. He spent the day travelling all over the continent, delivering and receiving messages for my parents. I had to know that he’d returned safely.

My sister would laugh if she knew, of course. “It’s just a bird,” she’d once retorted. “It can’t love you back.”

We were just children when she said it, but I remember her words well. It had broken my heart back then, to know that he couldn’t love me. And yet, he was still my Barnabas. Every sundown there I would be, waiting for him.

When his inky silhouette appeared against the sky my heart leapt. He was safe. And he was early. He swooped down toward me, but instead of alighting on my shoulder as he usually does, he placed himself at my feet and bowed his head.

There was something shiny in his beak. I reached for it and it clattered to the floor – a gemstone of the very palest blue.

Neither my parents nor my sister knew anything about this strange delivery. There was no note, no return address. And in the ten years we’d had Barnabas, he had never misplaced a delivery.

I didn’t have many pretty things, so I kept it. I threaded string through it and wore it as a pendant. Whenever I greeted Barnabas he would nudge at my chest, almost as if to make sure it was still there.

It was a strange stone. It seemed to light up at random and I could never discover where the light was coming from.

It lit up whenever the neighbour’s dog barked at me. If I was walking close to a steep drop, it would flicker on and off.

On the night the storm sent a tree crashing into the side of our house, it was lighting up like crazy. It burned my fingers to touch it.

I was all alone that night. By the time I heard the crash it was too late. I never had time to run.

Everything happened so fast. I only remember two things before my world went black – bone-shattering pain, and an aura of the very palest blue.

*

They said it was a miracle that I survived.

I wasn’t so sure.

I found Barnabas the next evening perched on a low rafter. I pulled him close to me. His body was warm in my arms.

“Barnabas,” I whispered. I held the gemstone out to him. “Do you know what this is? Did you bring it for me?”

I studied my beloved raven as he considered the gem. His feathers were ink black and his eyes held an understanding beyond that of any bird.

He never answered, of course.

But from that day on I decided to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, our love wasn’t so one-sided after all.

 

(Image courtesy of Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo)

Written for Sue Vincent’s Writephoto Prompt: Messenger

Haiku: Cormorant Fishing

hungry cormorant
the taste of fish in its mouth
lingers like a ghost

 

Written for Carpe Diem #1217 Cormorant fishing (Ukai)

“Cormorant fishing is a method of fishing in which the bird has a snare attached to the base of its throat. When the cormorant catches a fish, it is unable to swallow it and the fisherman extracts it from the bird’s throat. The process is repeated, over and over again. This method of fishing, hundreds and hundreds of years old, inspired many haiku. And, as would be expected, most are in empathy with the plight of the bird.” – CDHK