Shirley Anne Edwards
Publication date: October 23rd 2016
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
The quaint village where Adela Jane lives is surrounded by fear. At night, a centuries old green mist covers the land and controls the animals within the forest. Lately, Adela feels someone or something is following her every move. Unbeknownst to her, the mist waits for the perfect moment to make her his. Adela feels trapped by her small town life and burdened by her love she keeps hidden for her best friend’s older brother, Nathan Alexander. But all that changes on her eighteenth birthday when Nathan admits his love and desire to marry her. Adela’s joy is cut short when the mist kidnaps her and takes her to his secret underground lair. Her nightmare has only just begun when the mist makes Adela his bride.
What of the Jabberwocky fell in love with Alice from Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass? That’s the question tackled in The Reaping. A Young Adult with an atmospheric Gothic feel, and elements from such classic novels, as Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and John Fowles’ The Collector.
I lay curled in a ball on the side of the pool as I woke from an apparent slumber. After taking some deep breaths and pushing my hair away from my face, I stood, cringing when my right calf cramped along with my stiff neck and arms. Limping over to a chair, I sat, doubled over, wishing the pain to stop. The clock on the wall pointed to the number six. Three hours had passed?The urge to use the privy became very important. I prowled the large room, searching for such a place. But I couldn’t locate one and limped back up the stairs to the bedroom, hoping to find one there.
I found an empty room in a corner next to the crate full of beautiful clothes. Inside, a porcelain bucket lay in the corner. After I finished, I then sat on the bed. More questions ran through my head.
Who would empty the bowl of waste and why was the table set with all that food? Where did all these things come from?
I laid my head on my knees while despair and anguish coursed through my entire body. Tears fell from my eyes and landed on my lips and chin.
If only Nathan Alexander was here to hold me and tell me everything would be all right.
But he wasn’t here, and it was my fault. Why didn’t I let him come with me to close my house?
My eyes closed as I remember our kisses near the lake and how wonderful it felt to be in his arms, where his whispered words of love and promises made me feel safe and protected….
The wind let out a muffled howl, and the slight dank smell rising from the stone floor met my nose. Goose bumps rose on my arms as I stood and paced the room. The place near the bed where I had been sick had dried, but it still smelled awful. Considering my current mood, it would remain a soiled stain.
Stomping down the stairs, I crumpled in a chair. Loneliness and fright crept up until I wanted to hide in a corner and rock and cry. My nose dripped, and tears trickled down my cheeks. Then something very strange happened. The owl clock let out a ding, and the howling wind stopped.
From one of the other tunnels leading to the unknown, a green haze poured out and made its way down the cavern stairs. Panicked, I jumped out of the chair and rushed back up the stairs to the bedroom. This stream of murk followed behind as I dashed to the crate to hide behind it.
The mist slinked across the room and stopped in the center, drifting back and forth, not coming any closer to where I stood. It had transformed into a strange, whirling circle. But it didn’t flood the entire room, remaining in that shaky sphere that turned toward the unmade bed and then back to me.
Trembling, I held back a whimper when the mist floated over the bed and toward me. Backing up toward the crate, I closed my eyes and prayed as a cold burst of air met my skin.
A voice spoke in my head.
“Why do you hide?”
My eyes opened, and I hit the wall. The mist floated right near my face as if to study me. The voice spoke again. This time it sounded deeper and hushed.
“Do not be afraid. Why are you frightened?”
It finally dawned on me—the strange and hollow-sounding voice came from the mist itself.
The mist turned away and hovered near the corner where the privy bowl sat. While its attention was diverted, I ran out and down the stairs to hide in one of the dark caverns. Nearing the two stone dog statues, the mist blocked my path. With a startled yelp, I backed away toward the long table. It followed, and I darted around until the table separated us. Again, it molded itself into a ghostlier form and watched me.
One of its phantom limbs reached out and picked up the pitcher from the table. It floated in the air as the mist poured red liquid in a clear wine glass. It then grabbed a few slices of bread and fruit and placed them on a plate. I watched, captivated, uncertain what it would do next. There was no other place to run except back up the stairs or through the waterfall.
“Sit,” it said in a gentle whisper in my mind.
I shook my head.
It stared at me with those nonexistent eyes and pulled out a chair, letting the wood scrape on the rock floor.
“Sit here.” Its deadly tone frightened me, and I backed away.
The mist rocked back and forth for several seconds.
“You will sit. If not….” The unspoken words tore through me as the mist glided over. Repulsed by the thought of it touching any part of my body, I scurried to a chair and sat down.
It backed away, but not before it drifted next to my head and lifted a piece of my tangled hair. I clenched my fists in my lap and waited for it to release it. A moan echoed in my head, and my hair fell down my back. It then pulled out a chair and floated over it.
The cramp in my leg came back, and I winced, trying to rub the ache away. But I feared making any quick movements.
“Are you in pain?” it asked in a concerned voice.
I stared ahead, refusing to respond.
It waited a few beats for an answer and let out a sigh when I didn’t. The mist settled in the chair, which should have been funny, but, under the present circumstances, I found no humor in it. It pushed the plate full of food toward me, including the glass. “Eat.”
I viewed the plate and then back at the mist.
“Um. I….” I had no idea what to say.
The mist wavered, unable to stay still. Even though it didn’t have eyes, it stared at me. I shifted in my seat, clasping my hands tightly on my lap.
It exhaled, picking up a piece of dark-brown bread and holding it up in the air. It moved the bread in a circle.
“You will eat, or I will make you,” it said in a blunt, do-not-even-think-of-disobeying-me type of voice.
I had run out of options. Instead of taking the piece of bread it offered, I picked up a few grapes, some cubes of cheese, and chewed small morsels slowly, blinking away tears.
The mist remained silent. My mouth trembled as I continued chewing. After I swallowed, my confidence grew, but before I could say a word, it moved behind my chair and off to the side. A squeal left my mouth when music filled the room. I dropped whatever was in my hands and placed them over my mouth and closed my eyes, sitting motionless until my heartbeat returned to normal.
Its presence hovered near. Hearing the clatter of a dish, I opened my eyes to see my plate gone. My untouched glass remained.
Sick of being ordered around, I slapped the arm of the chair.
“Eat, drink. What does it matter to you, or whatever you are, whether I eat or drink? What right do you have to bring me here? I want to go home!” I fumed, not caring if the mist became enraged.
“Can’t,” it said in a harsh whisper.
“Why?” I longed to pour my glass full of liquid over this wretched thing causing me such anguish.
The mist turned toward me. “Because I love you.”
I ran through miles upon miles of trees, not even stopping to rest when the need came upon me. My legs throbbed and my feet burned. It had been so long since I’d been active like this. I went through two pairs of shoes and my leggings did nothing to protect me from bushes and other prickly plants grabbing hold and leaving stinging cuts on my flesh. My legs became shredded, and the bottoms of my feet bloodied and blistered. The sun’s rays burned my skin, and my eyes watered from the bright light. I vomited bile and whatever else had lodged in my throat. Blood covered my hand as I wiped my mouth.
The trees went on forever. The sun dipped. I wished for relief from the heat as every part of my body sweated. It never came. The stilted air slowed me down, so I rested a few minutes to refresh myself. Soon the water ran out.
The sun continued to descend and shadows formed between the trees and along the forest floor. The sounds of those hidden animals grew, and the sky became cloudier. My legs throbbed and cramped, causing me to limp and sob in pain.
I talked aloud, pretending Nonnie or Emma Marie was with me. I wouldn’t think of Nathan Alexander because then I’d think of him.
My side cramped and the shooting pains moved down my hips and stabbed deeply in my knees. I needed to sit. I slid down next to a tree and, with a deep sigh, I sat back against the rough bark and closed my eyes for a short rest.
A piercing shriek came shattered the air. My eyes snapped open, and I shivered as two bright-red dots appeared a short distance in front of me. It was too early for the animals to come out. It had to be! I squinted, trying to place the twin lights. A drop of liquid landed on my hand. It had started to rain.
Day disappeared, and night moved in. Horrible tremors overtook my body, and the rain fell in heavy drops. I began sprinting. How could the day go by so fast?
The sense of impending doom froze me in my tracks. My drenched dress clung to me as the temperature dropped and the night came alive. A sound I’d never heard before met my ears. It was a combination of a loud boom and a screech.
Fear of death pushed me to move. I wouldn’t wait for it to find and kill me. I had gotten this far after so much and wouldn’t go down without a fight. Even as the horrid animals with their glowing eyes shifted around me, I scoured for a place to hide. There was no cave to take cover in or a low hanging tree to climb in. Only seconds remained.
My sluggish steps brought me to another tree, but this one bigger than the ones I’d passed. Piles of leaves covered the high tree roots rising from under the forest floor. Resting my forehead on the bark to think, I noticed the space between the roots and the leaves were big enough for me to fit in.
A chill slashed down my spine, which could have been from either the freezing rain or the sudden realization I had been given another chance at survival.
There was another ear-splitting howl. I quickly slid under the big tree root and pulled the leaves all around me to cover my hiding place. I peeked through a small opening in the homemade wall of leaves, muddy water dripping down my face.
The storm grew worse, and the trees shook. The world looked like it was going to end. The green misty film appeared and circled around in a frenzy, covering everything within reach.
I closed my eyes and waited, my heartbeat echoing in my ears and panic claiming my body. I cried silent tears, pleading and praying to the Almighty the mist wouldn’t find his wayward bride.
I lay on my stomach, watching the mist rage, shaken to my very core. I had horrible cramping in my limbs and, to keep from moaning, I bit down on my hand so hard I drew blood. I made sure to lick at the broken skin so the mist couldn’t sniff me out.
The howling wind and the crying animals, along with the destruction from the storm, continued for hours. Trees broke in half from the lightning strikes. Leaves flew everywhere as I witnessed the mutilation of the weaker animals by the mist and the larger animals. The smell of oozing mud and wet, dead leaves made me sick, and a few times I couldn’t hold back my gagging. Even covering my mouth to quiet these sounds and whimpers was grueling as the mist lifted things high in the air then let them drop. Small animals screamed in agony as they were torn to pieces and devoured.
I would never be safe, in truth. Even if I found my people and hid far, far away where the mist couldn’t find me, I would be haunted until the day I died. It would follow me to the ends of the earth until I was his again.
His. I would always be his.
As the night moved along, my eyes drooped. I slept, covered in muck.
The stillness of the morning woke me. I took in a deep gasp of air but couldn’t catch my breath. My heart sped up as I let out deep hacking coughs. Through my bleary, crusted eyes, everything was calm once again. I had survived the wicked storm and the rage of the mist.
Moving out from u my hiding space, I stumbled, falling face first in the mud. I lay there sobbing.
What was the point?
I was doomed….
Somehow, I found the will to stand. I lived, at least in body if not in spirit. The Almighty must have heard my prayer. With the waterlogged bag empty, I licked the dew-covered leaves.
I was so, so thirsty.
The muddy puddles called me to drink from them, even if the water was poisoned. I had taken enough chances already, and if I fell sick and couldn’t find another place to hide for the night, being ill would be the least of my worries.
The last of the battered fruit and soggy bread settled my queasy stomach, and I started on my journey once again. I moved much slower this time. The damaged bag was thrown away to the side and quickly forgotten. My legs were stiff from the mud and my lack of movement from the night before. For once, I welcomed the pain. It made me feel alive. Pain and suffering had become my life.
The forest appeared empty except for more trees, dead leaves, and rocks on the ground. So many boulders lay scattered around. What would it feel like to lie upon those and drift to sleep? Probably a great deal of pain with the rough, jagged rocks digging in my back and cutting my tender skin to pieces.
As I limped past a shrub with many holes and no leaves, I spotted a brown bird with a small head and a flat tail fluttering. I laughed and reached out to touch it, but my foot twisted out from under me, and I tripped on the shrub. The bird flew away, and long bleeding scratches rose from my arms. I’d failed to notice the sharp thorns in the bush.
Blood dripped down to my elbows, like sweat from my brow, combined with my tears falling in rivulets on my cheeks.
The sun blazed high in the sky. How I wanted to take off my dress because of the heat. The fabric itched and chafed my body. Also, my face and the top of my head burned. Somewhere along the way, I lost my hat. Perhaps the mist found it rolling around and took it back. It no longer mattered. I hiked, one foot in front of the other, until I couldn’t any more. When I toppled to the ground again, my cheek met the forest floor and a cackle echoed in my ears.
Author Bio:Shirley Anne Edwards is a Northeast girl who first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. Shirley found her love for writing at a very young age, and since then has let her imagination run wild by creating quirky characters and vast worlds in her head.
Shirley lives in New Jersey and works in the entertainment industry in New York City.
In the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.”