Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all tucking into a huge Easter roast and then sitting around consuming disgustingly large quantities of chocolate. I am now onto my third egg and wondering how wrong it would be to start on my daughters… Hmmm…
Anyway, back to business.
I am honoured that Tina Lonergan from The Clean White Page has allowed me to feature her on my blog today. With more short stories than I could ever dream of writing, one novel written, and another on the way, Tina is truly a prolific writer. She already has a huge following over at her blog The Clean White Page so make sure you check her out!
The short story is an art form and one I haven’t really been able to master yet. It takes talent to draw someone into a story so quickly and to develop an actual storyline over only a few pages. It is a talent Tina has with bucket loads. She has been kind enough to allow me to publish one of her story’s here today – a paranormal romance called Faint Thunder. Enjoy.
I saw the murder. Saw it happen, all red and green, all thundering and crashing in the woods behind my house. My parents were out at a New Year’s party and I had lied to them, saying my friends were coming around to keep me company. They were very well meaning, my folks, but too wrapped up in each other and their business to notice that I didn’t have any friends. Plenty of kids to talk to at school, where I was considered a bit weird but funny. Funny sure, just not funny enough to hang out with once school was over.
But I lied to keep the parents happy and distant, including dressing up in new jeans and a party top, with a flimsy scarf around my neck. I had found the scarf in a second hand shop a couple of weeks before. It was a soft grey silk that shimmered under lights and was my favourite thing. So, in what passed for finery for me, I waited by my window for the fireworks to light up the sky.
The deep window seat gave me a sideways view of the forest and an angled view in the direction of town. Paramore had been playing in the background but since the music had stopped I had almost drifted to sleep among the cushions.
The faint thunder was felt more than heard. A ripple of it goose bumped my arms and I hugged myself. The room wasn’t really dark because there was a blue moon. An extra full moon in the year, falling on New Year’s Eve. Its light cast shadows from the trees, long thin forms lying across the lawn that Dad had made between the wood and the house.
I put my hands against the glass and stared into the forest. At first there was nothing, but then I saw movement between the trees. The bare winter top of one young tree shook and then sank, leaving a dark space in the night. I pulled back from the window for a second. Something had knocked it. When I looked again, I could follow the progress of something through the forest by the quaking of the trees, the more slender ones succumbing.
It was coming closer to the house and I wanted to grab the phone, but I didn’t know who to call and I was too scared to get down off the window. An old fear about something grabbing my ankles in the dark.
And then it was too late. They bundled out of the forest, rolling together in a huge knot. The struggle went on for only a few seconds longer, but it seemed like forever. When it was over, the victor stood and reached to the sky in triumph, though his voice was silent. I cowered in the corner, but he never looked my way. He just stalked away into the enveloping woods.
When he was gone, I got down from the window, taking an extra big step to take me away from the darkness lurking around the bottom of the window seat and under my bed. I ran downstairs and shoved my feet into my boots, dragging my coat on as I struggled with the locks on the door.
I raced around the back, my boots slipping in the muddy grass. I skidded as I tried to stop and fell onto the lawn close to where he lay.
His body was thick and his face gnarled and he was the oldest man I had ever seen. He was also the first dead person I had ever seen. As I stared at him, a loud crack sounded and the night sky flared, making me scream. It was the first of the fireworks. In the silence that followed it, I felt a deep thump from inside the woods. I started to get up but slipped again. I heard the crashing as something ran towards me. I scrambled to my feet and made for the house, but I was knocked sideways through the air and crumpled onto the grass.
I looked up and saw him. The one who had murdered the old man. Young, handsome, very tall. He bent over me and the fireworks cracked again. Enough light caught his face to show me his vivid golden eyes and the ferocious life in them. He grabbed me and lifted me in his arms. He smelled like the forest. I struggled and he held me tight enough for me to lose my breath.
I woke up on the front doorstep, freezing. I staggered inside and slammed the door, my fingers almost too cold to manage the locks. I ran to my room and jumped onto the bed, grabbing the phone. But I must have blacked out again because I woke with it in my hand and with my mother shaking me, wanting to know why I was wearing my filthy boots on the bed.
I got up and looked out the window. The moon had gone, but there was enough grey pre-dawn light to show the lawn. I could see the marks where I had skidded. Where the old man’s body had lain, there was a fallen tree. A holly tree, all twisted with age. I could see how it looked like an old man.
I apologised to my mother for the boots and asked about the party, managing to make my voice steady. She smelled of perfume and wine. She told me about a couple of people I didn’t know and then took herself off to bed. I waited until the house took on the air of sleeping silence and then snuck back downstairs.
I went to the old man, his knotted limbs the branches of a tree. Just a vivid dream then. I went around his felled majesty and walked to the edge of the wood. In the inner darkness, I could make out a path of destruction. I followed it.
It took me deep into the wood, where dawn hadn’t reached. The long limbed trees grabbed at me as I went, the thin twigs like fingers. The broken path led me to a grove. At the heart of it, there was a great hole where a tree had been uprooted, but no fallen tree. Next to the cavity was a young oak tree, tall, bare of leaves, but trembling with life in the small breeze.
I went up close to it and looked up into its branches. My scarf was caught up there, wrapped around a thick limb the way a champion might tie a lady’s favour around his arm. It was New Year's Day and the first time I met him, the Oak King.
Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Then; and then
All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Alfred, Lord Tennyson