A Short Story
by M.R. Goodhew
The trim of her heavy cotton skirt grew quickly damp as it brushed the dew from the tall blades of grass. Sarah’s socks were wet as well, summoning goose-flesh to her bare legs. In spite of the discomfort, her gate remained graceful. She refused to shiver in cold of the morning, a sure sign of weakness.
There was something amiss in the blanket of fog, like she could feel the souls of the dead swimming freely through it. In addition to the Watcher’s dancing around her beautiful frame, eyeing her down and growing excited at the sound of her young heart beating firmly against her chest. The hair on her neck raised in greeting to any additional souls she could not see, and would not want to see. It calmed her to imagine that it all took place within her mind, the absence of visual presence kept her fear at bay. And so still she strode on, a perfect step from a gentle swing of each hip.
What was blind to her was the field a-swarm with the demons; they were the Watcher’s which had taken to the day. They ran a-muck about her, smacking their maws, and groaning long and low, eyeing her up and down with longing. She could feel their sickening desire only inches from her skin and knew they were present, maybe to collect the souls she was sensing. She willed them to stay unseen, pushed at them, forcing them away with her will.
Just fifteen minutes to the market through this damned soaking grass, it was chilling her to the bone. She should have driven instead of bounding off across the grasses positively intent on exercise. Even here there was no freedom from this veil she had discovered, she felt safer boxed in by four walls.
The field went suddenly still and she stopped, the crisp air filled her lungs. Her intake of breath seemed to echo down the rolling hillside. She could feel the eyes of the Watcher’s on her. There was nothing to be done about it. Best to distract her mind with what she was about. She brushed the discomfort aside focusing on the grass in front of her, she would continue on a little faster. There was nothing weak about her as she picked up her stride she thought, nothing until today.
Of the sudden, strange visions began to stir before her, she looked in disbelief. She shook her head to clear them. But then her heart leaped forward, startled. The shapes of kitchen chairs began to appear, one by one, with no rhyme nor reason. The dark wood of them standing out against the twilight, they were scattered about the hillside before her. Kitchen chairs against the mist, waiting for whom? Her mind began to quicken, seeking reason. And then she could feel it, death, clinging to the air about her. Confusion tugged at her will to stay calm; her feet were poised to bolt if she could feel them through the cold. Death, the word sang silently as the fog stirred before her.
The air seemed to crackle and groan when the face of an old woman appeared abruptly in the air. Just a weather beaten face which came first, peering into the space that Sarah occupied. And then the rest of her, as if unveiled to reveal her where she sat, clinging to the seat of a chair at Sarah’s feet.
Recognition gripped Sarah as the old woman stared, her gaze questioning and hair disheveled. She held firm to the sides of the wooden chair as if it were a clumsy raft in open water. Sarah shook her head as if to answer the woman’s unasked question, then shook it some more to clear the vision. But now the chairs were filling, randomly taken by some poor new soul marked for what she was sure was death. They seemed panicked and quite afraid, each of them clinging to their respective chairs in the same fashion.
Sarah stepped back, bending at the knee, that strong leg of hers would launch her run away …this vision wasn’t fading and she wanted no part of whatever was coming. The Watcher’s remained silent and still. She could feel them all in that instant, the Watcher’s and the people. She felt she knew these seated souls and what was coming for them.
Another sharp intake of breath and the mist swirled again before her, she was suddenly alone. No watchful demons, no lost souls, no chairs meant for dining. She began to shake, not out of any weakness, but from shock of what had looked so real. And she wondered where and why the Watcher’s had finally gone.