Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three Nights 'Til The New Moon - A Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge

Another week, another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. This week's prompt? Irregular Creatures. Probably has something to do with that book Mr. Wendig put out on the Amazons recently (you did buy a copy, right?)

Anyhow, here's my response. A bit over 1k words, and from a world where unicorns recruit virgin girls to eat their younger brothers. Enjoy!

Three Nights 'Til The New Moon (3/6/2011)

It's cold.

I can't sleep.

Nights like this are always the hardest. The air gets cold, and, with the wind howling like banshees in the dark, the rickety old wagon can't do much to keep it out. I pull my blanket up tighter around my shoulders, but that exposes my feet to the cold and doesn't make it better.

"Anna...Anna!" The whisper is harsh and frightened. "Anna! Are you awake?" I have to check my anger, Tom is only four after all.

"I'm up, what is it?"

"I heard something...outside"

"It's just the wind, Tom. Go back to sleep." I turn over and try to heed my own advice. Tom's hand grabs my shoulder and shakes me back 'awake'.

"It's not the wind, Anna. Something is out there!"

"All right, all right. I'm up, Tom. I'll check it out." Tom scurries back to his own bed as soon as the words are out of my mouth. It takes me a another minute to work up the courage to remove my blanket and face the cold air. The fact that I don't want to go out in the cold doesn't help.

The leather of my boots is cold against my bare feet. Dad's old heavy cloak from the closet is a little too big for me, but it is warm. I also grab dad's old hunting knife. The belt that holds it is heavy, but if I'm going out at night I'd rather have the protection. I look around the wagon before pulling the bolt on the door. "Thomas, lock this behind me. You know the drill right?" He nods vigorously, and I get the sense that now that I'm about to go he really doesn't want me to. "It's three days until the new moon. You got that?" He takes a few moments before nodding again. Everyone in the caravan uses a different system. Dad's based on days until the new moon. 'Simplicity is key' Dad would always say with a laugh. 'What good is a security knock if I can't remember it?' It hadn't failed us so far. Then again, it had never been really tested either.

With Tom set on the code for the day, I don't have anymore excuses to dilly dally. The second bolt slides open with a lurch and a clunk. The wind shoves the door open before I can even reach the handle and it's all I can do to keep it from banging into the wall. The cat comes in right away; trotting through the door and hiding from the wind. "Bosco, you know you're not supposed to be in here at night. The wagon master was clear." Bosco gives me the look, and I can't help but shake my head, "Alright. You can stay in here and watch Tom for me. I'm going out to check something." Bosco nods and briefly unfurls his wings before moving over to Tom.

I take one last look around and move out into the cold. As I take the creaky steps off the wagon I can hear Tom secure the two bolts behind me. The night is cold and dark. The only light comes from the lanterns on the other wagons. For a moment I consider waking someone up to come with me and check on Tom's noise, but immediately think better of it. No point waking someone up for an overactive imagination. All I need to do is stay outside, and out of sight, for a few minutes and I can go back in.

The wind howls again, and this time I can hear the cry for help under it. It isn't far off, just inside the trees off the road. I go back long enough to take the lantern from our wagon, and then step into the woods. "Hello? Is someone out here?" No one answers my call. Under dad's heavy cloak I nervously grip the handle of the knife. Having heard the noise myself I know I should run and hide, it could be one of them after all, but I can't bring myself to abandon someone who may need help.

The cry for help sounds again, a bit further into the woods, and I continue forward. There isn't much growth here, and even in the dark good footing isn't hard to find. I call out again, but there's still no answer. A horse whinnies makes me turn around. My heart starts to race immediately. I've come a lot farther into the trees than I'd ever intended. I start to go back, but the shadows begin to close around and reach for me. They stop when I pull the knife, but keep me surrounded.

"Put down the knife child, they won't hurt you." The voice comes from behind me, and I instinctively turn to look. It's not a horse, but a unicorn. He's the most magnificent thing I've ever seen, large and powerful with a pure white coat and mane. The horn, a graceful protrusion of about eight inches, seems to glow softly in the dark and make the shadows retreat further. The knife drops numbly from my hand as the compulsion to kneel and bow grips my body.

"That's a good child. Your purity is strong, I can feel it." The unicorn bows its head as well. I can feel the warmth from his horn just above my head. "Join us." The words are more than a command, and before I know what to do I can hear myself agree. The unicorn seems pleased. I look up just in time for the horn to touch me on the forehead. The heat is unbearable. I scream as everything goes white.

When I come to, I'm lying in the leaves with the moonlight streaming through the canopy over head. I hear the sound of metal scraping on stone as someone picks up dad's knife. I look up just in time to see myself, only with a hole in my head, and the urge to scream takes me again. With a mocking smile, fake-me puts a finger to her lips and makes a 'shhh' noise. That's when the shadows come for me, and pull me under the ground. As the ground takes me, I can see the hole in my doppelganger's head fill in. The last thing I hear is my own mocking voice, "Three days before the new moon. So simple..."

I'm so sorry Tom.


  1. Enchantingly creepy. Good stuff.

  2. Left you feeling cold?

    Glad you liked it.

  3. I've never look at another unicorn the same way again! Creepy ending.

  4. Hope you still liked it CMStewart! Sorry if I ruined a child hood memory!

  5. Yes, I liked it. Especially the ending. I'm a horror writer. :)