Welcome back to the Author Up Challenge!
I’m going to cheat a little bit. I’m using Day 16 and 17 on one story idea. So today will be the first part, and it will be concluded in my next post.
Today’s prompt was:
Day 16: Write a Mystery
So enjoy this first half and I’ll get the second half posted ASAP.
Sharp slashes, not those of a single knife but many as from razor-edged claws, sliced across. Disembodied red lines appeared, followed by a disembodied female scream that inspired gooseflesh. Blood, blood like paint, splattered across the walls. It created spots and blotches that dripped and ran to the floor, forming rivulets that formed streams that collected into pools. The pools grew until they soaked his barefeet.
Looking down upon the puddle of red, he saw furred and clawed paws instead of toes.
Another scream echoed, but this time it was his own.
Phelan jerked awake. He battled his way from beneath the tangled covers, both of them soaked with sweat. The covers came loose, but only as he toppled from the bed and hit the floor with a crack as his right elbow struck first.
A string of curses followed.
Phelan flattened himself against the cool wooden floor planks, letting it wick away the heat of his tense body, but still gripping his throbbing elbow. The chill relaxed him and his breathing gradually returned to normal.
The man opened his eyes, not that it accomplished much. The room was black, along with the rest of the world outside the one small window where the moons and stars were obscured by clouds.
The light patter of rain began. It soothed Phelan back to sleep, right where he lie on the floor, his feet still tangled in the covers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The sun sat high and hot in the sky by the time Phelan awake again.
He rolled up the strewn blanket and tossed it onto the bed in a lump. The effort tore a yawn from him, and Phelan realized he could have continued to sleep. The stretched out the stiffness of his shoulders and shook off the urge to crawl back into bed.
It had been a few weeks since he’d gone into town, and his kitchen was bare. Time to see what needed done, who needed what fixed, and see if it would be enough to eat on for another few weeks.
When Phelan got to the barn, Bronte was trying to nuzzle into a bale of hay just out of his reach. The brown gelding nickered affectionately as the man approached. He sniffed for any tasty presents, of which Phelan had none, and snorted.
“Sorry, boy. That’s why we’re going to town.”
He opened the stall door and Bronte trotted out and straight to the hay. Phelan brushed him and saddled him while he ate. Then, they left for town.
Phelan found plenty of odd tasks around town. One of Hadden’s cows had damaged the fence again, there was a leaky spot in Kert’s barn roof, and Laufe had a number of horses needing new shoes. He kept busy throughout the day, and planned to stay over into the next.
While he worked, everyone was talking about the giant animal that had attacked Dewie’s oldest daughter, Mian. It had to be a bear from the description of the mess it had left behind. Phelan winced at such a callous way to even think about the remains of the poor girl.
He remembered more than one night being invited to their table for dinner, part of his payment for helping out around their farm. Mian had always been a quiet but happy girl, quick to smile and quick to laugh. She could only have seen sixteen or seventeen winters.
Phelan swore as he hammered his thumb instead of the nail. Pay attention, he scowled himself.
But he couldn’t shake the images from his previous night’s dream, and the scream.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
That evening, Phelan took his meal at the tavern. Saundra chatted with him at the bar in between her other customers. They talked about nothing of real importance, except Mian again. Her fate was on everyone’s lips.
“Poor girl,” Saundra murmured again. “Poor Dewie and Kitt.” She shook her head and her brown tresses brushed the top of the bartop, her head propped lightly in her right hand.
The door opened, and Saundra looked up. Phelan glanced too, eager for a distraction from the morbid topic.
Kert led four other men into the tavern and they headed straight for where Saundra and Phelan sat. Saundra had turned all the way around to face them, and gave them an amicable smile despite their deep scowls. “Looking for a drink to take the edge off, gentlemen? It’s looking to be a dark night, my tavern’s bright and warm.”
Putting a polite hand up to stop her, Kert shook his head. “Apologies, Saundra, but we’re not here to drink. We’re here for Phelan.”
Phelan’s stomach did a sickening flip-flop.
Kert turned his gaze on the man. “We’re going out after this bear, before it can attack anymore people. We could use you if you’re staying in town tonight?”
Phelan started breathing again. “Of course.”
“We’d like to get a start before the sun goes down, but it’s going to be a long night.”
To Be Continued…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.