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-   -   A (Very) Short Story - 'Panic' (http://www.horror.com/forum/showthread.php?t=69695)

Woodwose 04-07-2021 10:00 AM

A (Very) Short Story - 'Panic'
Hi all. Just a little story I cooked up this afternoon. Comments and criticism, constructive or otherwise, greatly appreciated.


ďBut, you and I, at all events, have known something of the terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh; that which is without form taking to itself a form.Ē Arthur Machen.

The darkness of the wood was the shadow of fear. Hot squalls swayed the aged boughs causing them to creak and moan in a threatening dirge. Sable crows stalked from branch to branch, crying out with mocking tones as they fixed me with a murderous gaze. At their challenge I hesitated, dwelling for a while on the forestís threshold. It was then I sensed it, that tugging sensation. The seed of dread was sown by spectral fingers that plucked and wormed their way into through bowels. My blood flowed as ice. My feet took root. My heart beat a tattoo of primal horror in my breast. Something stirred in the corner of my vision, a presence. I was not alone at the forestís edge. But then I remembered the hammer, the other tools, their reassuring weight. The fear drew back a little. I had work to do.

Long empty, soon there would be sheep in the adjoining field. Before that could happen, the fence that separated forest from pasture had to be restored. Tree limbs, felled by the touch of entropy, had breached the barrier in a dozen places. I cut up these branches for kindling and threw the beams back. I slashed a swath through the blackthorn and weeds that had surged forward to reclaim the neglected defences. Fallen posts were righted, loosened wire reinstated and hammered into place. I worked on, through the gloaming of Midsummerís Eve. But then the shadows began to lengthen. The presence returned, and with it, fear. With one post left I toiled on. But something was definitely out there. A shape stalked through the trees. With every action of my trembling hands, I felt it get closer. I could not look.

It was when I aligned the final length of wire that I heard it. The crack of a twig and the sound of something breathing. How I heard anything over the thunder of my own heart or the roar of blood in my ears I cannot say. Shaking fingers, slick with sweat, placed the last staple above the wire. It was when the footsteps came that panic took me. My hammer descended in a flurry of blows, striking post, wire, and my own hand with a stroke I did not register. At the last, I saw it. Its shadow was cast on the forest floor. It was a thing from somewhere else. Part man, part beast. A thing with horns. My hammer fell and struck the staple, which sank greedily into the wood of the post, fixing the wire in place. The shadow vanished. I gasped, drinking in the sweetly scented Summer air. The last golden rays of day bathed the forestís edge. A cuckoo called out. I looked up and saw the pirouetting silhouettes of chattering swallows. On the crest of a ridgeline across the valley, a great bonfire blazed into life. The defences had been restored. The fear banished. For now, at least.

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