Monday 24 October 2016

Halloween Week Begins With The Dark Man

Today, I officially kick off the beginning of my Halloween Week, (October 24th-31st) a spooky extravaganza of fun to celebrate the season. I have stories, poetry, a character interview with Lizzie Borden (from Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter), and some book spotlights, including one for the new release,  Furr by Axel Howerton. And don't forget to enter my Halloween Horror Haiku Giveaway (live until October 31st) by clicking on the Giveaway Tab at the top of the blog or this link: Halloween Horror Haiku Giveaway!  So come join me if you dare.

Now, settle in for my story based on another variation of the headless horsemen, this time a death rider from Ireland called The Dullahan. So don't walk alone at night and beware the Dark Man...

The Dark Man

On the blackest of evenings, when not a star nor moonbeam lit the sky and the clouds seemed made of soot and charcoal, a solitary figure walked the road home. His gait swayed and his liquor-laden breath puffed grey in the cold, while the lantern in his hand swung shadows across his footsteps. A jaunty, but off-tune, whistle played from his lips, and a grin lit his face.
“The best of nights it was!” He shouted raucous joy to the darkened heavens, before returning to his whistling.
His words echoed through the trees, a shiver to disturb the night birds and other things...
A shadow far beyond the road, the trees, or thoughts of drunken evenings, stirred. A scrape and a thump, a rhythmic pounding, and shudder of inky damnation set an ill-wind blowing across the countryside. And spinning on its eddy, came the sound of a name.
The whistling man stopped at the chime of his name and turned, holding the lantern high and peering down the path he left behind. Hollow emptiness met his eyes and a chill breeze scattering the leaves of autumn.
“Hello. Is anyone there? If it’s you Fergus, you’ve had your laugh. Come on out.”
The only answer was the hoot of an owl.
Conall shrugged. “I’m hearing things, I suppose. Silly imaginings.”
He swung himself and his lantern roundabout, and took three steps forward before his name again travelled down the road to his ears.
He shivered, but glanced back shining his light. Once more to see an empty road, devoid of any living soul. He shook his head, and turned back...
Another noise echoed, a faint thrash of hoofbeats. Conall spun, and saw nothing but a scatter of dust filling the air in the far distance. But no horse, no rider. Only the sound of a galloping beast and a spray of dirt.
He trembled, a shimmer of panic coursing through blood and bone. Then he ran, lantern waving wildly, racing as if the devil himself chased him. Breath heaving, feet pounding, his heart thumping a thunder boom in his chest, Conall bolted, while ever behind him rose the reverberation of a galloping horse. Closer, closer, louder, louder, until the rhythmic hammer of the sound smashed against his head, driving him faster into his mad flight.
He cried out, “What are you?!” as a immense shadow closed over him, and a great wind blew past him.
No not past, it felt as if the gale went through him. Chilled to the marrow, each breath an agony, Conall pulled short his frantic escape, stumbling over his feet as he stopped. A foul stench made him choke and he shuddered, his body rife with a damp stickiness. He looked down at his hands. They were covered in blood. His hands, his clothes his skin, his hair, all soaked in blood. On the tattered ends of his scream, he heard his name.
Slowly, fearfully, he lifted his gaze. Before him was a massive black steed pawing at the ground. The creature tossed its head, snorting ruddy sparks from its nostrils and small flames from its mouth and staring at Conall with radiant crimson eyes. But as fearsome as the creature was, the rider atop its back seized Conall’s blood and soul in unspeakable dread.
It held all semblance of a man dressed in black, save it had no head, or rather a head tucked in the crook of its right arm. This severed cranium shimmered in a translucent glow and it grinned at him, a hideous grimace stretching from ear to lopsided ear. Blue veins snaked across sallow skin, and its coal-black eyes darted like summer mosquitoes. A low chuckle emanated from its mouth, followed by  another utterance of his name.
Conall clutched his chest, choking out, “God save me!”
“It is too late for that.” The figure raised its left arm, and Conall spied a great whip made from the bones of a human spine. He fell to his knees, terror ripping through his guts.
“Spare me!”
Without word or mercy the creature brandished its whip, the malleable bones lashing around the flesh of Conall, and permeating to his very core. He screamed, the thousand times despair of the damned piercing him, and then he died, the soul shredded from his mortal form.
Farewell, Conall.”

© A. F. Stewart 2016 All Rights Reserved 

And please, return and join me tomorrow for my dark poetry corner.

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