Friday, 14 October 2016

#OctoberFrights Day 5: The Horseman




Welcome to Day 5 of the October Frights Blog Hop!




Today I you bring a flash fiction story, a little homage to a sleepy hollow...





The Horseman

The ancient oak tree stood at the top of the hill, all gnarled and bare, its fallen autumn leaves a crumpled shroud over lifeless grass. A few ebony crows roosted in its branches; dark solemn harbingers of death, awaiting the coming of the midnight hours.
Still air breathed an unnatural silence, while the rising moon bathed the sky in a nebulous pale glow. The night dripped an ambience, an expectation that held suspense and terror in its sway. As if it knew. As if it rejoiced.
The Horseman was coming.
A tinge of sulphur slithered from the loam beneath the leafy rot, the breath of Hell released by untrodden footsteps. The limbs of the oak quivered in the breezeless sky, while the crows screeched a raucous caw and twitched their wings in restless flapping. In the distance the drumming rhythmic thud of hoofbeats sounded their harbinger echo. A fog of sepia dust and ash grey unfurled along the hillside cloaking its vista and shrinking the world to misty obscurity.
The Horseman was riding.
A stygian nightmare emerged from the fog, an onyx wraith atop a ghostly sable steed. The creature’s long coat flailed in a cloud of malodorous smoke as it rode, its beast’s hoofprints leaving burning impressions in their wake. Petrified skin pulled taunt over its bones, as bony hands gripped the reins, and crimson eyes glared at the world. A tattered uniform of coal cloth and stained brass buttons, along with scuffed black boots, clothed the spectre, a remnant of a persistent but forgotten past. It ran long dead fingers through thin wisps of ebon hair and drew its mount to a halt beneath the oak tree. High in the branches the crows stayed silent and still.
The Horseman had arrived.
The fog parted, in whirl of choking grime and fetid rot, leaving a clear view of the land beyond. Below the hill, nestled a village in a tranquil hollow, dark and sleeping. The fearsome apparition looked down upon the quaint houses and exhaled, the crackle of fire in its eyes and the whiff brimstone on its breath. It nudged its horse forward and began the canter down the hill. High in the oak tree the crows cawed a futile warning.
And the Horseman laughed.




© A. F. Stewart 2016 All Rights Reserved


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12 comments:

LetaHawk said...

Love the Sleepy Hollow legend, and love this story!

Debbie Christiana said...

Loved it!!

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, I'm a fan of the Sleepy Hollow tale myself.

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, Debbie.

Nicholas Paschall said...

Great spin on an old legend, though I think this is a different spectre than the sleepy hollow version. He has his head, and no mention of sword exists. Maybe he uses more malign powers to hunt victims down (hellfire perhaps?) or merely tramples people in a vicious strategy employed by military riders, as was hinted by his uniform? I think this is a preface to an even greater story that could expand beyond simple sleepy hollow mimicry. Love the fact that the crows were involved in an unheeded warning despite their lack of fear of him. As "harbingers of death", they would have little to fear with this reaper. The fact that he is silent save for laughter may explain the crows presence: they serve as his voice to the world at large when he appears. The imagery was evocative and the story begs to be continued. Nicely done!

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, Nicholas. And yes, the story was more of an homage then a strict retelling of the Sleepy Hollow tale, plus I threw a bit of flavour from British legends like the Wild Hunt into the mix.

MJM said...

Great story! I love all your word choices

A. F. Stewart said...

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Scott Scherr said...

Very descriptive and creepy. I could picture this perfectly... and hear that chilling laughter ;)

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, Scott.

Wendy Howard said...

Delightfully haunting! I love Sleepy Hallow and love what you did here.

A. F. Stewart said...

Thank you, Wendy.

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