NIGHTFOREST



NIGHTFOREST, by Andrew Stockton

 

There are parts of forests,

As there are parts of minds,

In which it is foolish to tread.

 

The horseman, strangely attired,

a traveller’s smell,

not knowing this land, reigned his anxious horse to a standstill.

Above, colour bled from the sky: like a tired eye, its sallowness darkened around its horizons. On one side of the horseman a frail sun hid; on the other, twin moons fell behind siege armies of goading trees. His face flickered with the realisation he had ridden too far out of his way.

He was troubled: evening flowers’ perfumes no longer rose to him. He no longer heard birdsong.

 

Grey and glorious the onset of forest darkness. Cunning, those that watch him; and patient.

The day becomes a paralysed memory.

His fingertips play upon the pommel of his sword, then his decision made, his knee jerks at the horses flank and with the reluctance of a new season rider and steed move deeper into the dark obscuring trees.  

 

In the night there are times when distant noises, sounding for all the world like the cries of damned souls, really are, for all the world the cries of damned souls.

In the night there are times that stars shine for others.

In the night there are times when the last hope has been lost because the last prayer has proved futile.

In the night Daemon and Wight, dark spirit and foul, Satanspawn and Hell’s Emanation seek sustenance on the flesh and the souls of the living. And having gorged, seek sport with their victims’ sanities.

 

Madness, sweet bird, swoop upon this, your scarred and innocent child.

Here, in this groin of time and place, timorous divinity finally accepts that holiness is a deceit.

Madness, sweet bird, swoop upon this, your scarred and innocent child.

 

In the dawn the fear of the night is distilled into small droplets that, mingled with the dew, crouch unnoticed.

In the dawn the fear of the forest condenses into blackened forms that, mingled with the shadows, crouch unnoticed.

In the dawn the memory of fear is transformed into delicate visions that, mingled with the shimmering light, crouch unnoticed.

 

All fear is ultimately fear of not understanding.

 

Wearing easy the gentle and fawning disguise of a new day, all evil rests. In this hiatus one lone horse emerges from the fingering forest’s edge.

Cold-saddled and strange eyed, it wears a froth about its gaping mouth and a sheen of steaming sweat as if it had ridden over continents. In truth, it has ridden barely three leagues, though its soul has twice traversed the solemn and echoing chasm that separates the living and the dead.   

It drops slowly to the ground, its effort great, its movement aspasm, forelegs first amidst fern and bracken and broken branch. The great chest, twice a warrior’s girth, shudders. Cold breath crackles as if icicle ribs shatter at every shudder.

Then: stillness.

At the beast’s release, no flock of birds rises from the trees. No chill runs through human hearts. No unexplained silence falls. Just a shadow that moves from here. To there.

As the sun rises the fear of the forest encircle visions and the outline of the beast shimmers as the heat grows, growing less distinct. By evening it has gone.

 

In this way, Day fetters the fear of Night, but patience is evil’s strength and virtue.

Those that watch wait like the sky with its twin moons;

like countless eyes through the ages,

waiting and watching and waiting and watching, proving

 

there are parts of minds

As there are parts of forests

In which it is foolish to tread

 

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Andrew Stockton has had short fiction published in anthologies including First Time Dead (pub. May December Publications), Fortune: Lost and Found (pub. Omnium Gatherum) and Horror Library volume 5 (Cutting Block Press) as well as online and in magazines including Isotropic Fiction, Dark Tales Magazine and Ethereal Tales.

He lives in the Land of Song, Castles and Rain (though sadly not in that order), Wales. U.K., with his lovely wife and two amazing daughters. When he’s not writing short stories he spends his spare time writing even shorter stories and drabbles. His favourite night in is enjoying a pizza and some ales with his family while listening to rock or folk and watching Chelsea FC on tv.



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