Yellow Mama Archives

C.R.J. Smith
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thelightonthemoors.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2016

The Light On The Moors

 

C.R.J. Smith

 

“So, what do we do now?” asked Alice. “We’ve just spent the last hour walking in a circle.”


          “I know we have,” said Brian, his voice heavy with frustrated anger. “Just give me a minute to think.”


          They were standing on the marshy bank of a small stream set in a gully with ten foot embankments on either side. On the crest of the embankment opposite them, stood a gnarled, leafless tree which seemed to have been transported there from a Tim Burton movie. It was this feature they had both recognised.


          Brian took his compass from his pocket and held it flat in the palm of his hand. The red point of the needle wavered for a second before settling on north, directly behind him. He turned to face that direction, and said, “Right, if we head due north, then we should…”


          The needle turned as he spoke, now pointing behind him again.


          “What the hell?”


          He turned once more, as did the needle. He turned ninety degrees to the left and still the needle pointed straight at him. He began to turn in quick movements, and the point stayed with him at every turn. He spun in circles and it danced with him, letting him lead but keeping up.


          Alice at first asked, “Brian, what’s going on?” then shouted, “Brian, what are you doing?” as he careered into the water.


          The shock of her raised voice and the ice cold wet on his feet snapped him out of it.


          He stood shin deep in the stream, compass held in front of him and said, “Sorry, I just…I don’t know, there’s something wrong with this thing.


          He looked again and the needle was spinning freely at a tremendous speed. He put it back in his pocket and stepped back onto the bank.


          “Well, that’s not going to be any help to us.”


          “We’d better get moving,” said Alice, “It’s getting colder and we can’t be stuck out here all night.”


          Brian wanted to object. He hated doing anything without a plan or a definite direction, but he bit his tongue. He had to admit to himself that they were lost. “Alright, let’s get going,” he said, and was about to point the way, but Alice had already started moving. He followed sullenly behind.

****

          After about five minutes walking, the walls of the gully began to recede and they were able to clamber out. They paused side by side at the top and no words needed to pass between them because they were both feeling the same sinking feeling.


          Stretched out before them, as far as the eye could see in the faint moonlight, was an expanse of empty moorland. There were no lights or movement and no sound above the wind.


          “How is this possible?” asked Alice. “How can we not find an entire village?”


          Brian, who prided himself on his practical nature and fancied himself as an outdoorsman, was at a loss. “It doesn’t make any sense. We followed the directions. The old lady at the guest house said it’d be almost impossible to get lost out here”


          Alice started walking. “Come on, we’re bound to find a road, or a trail, or something.”


          They walked in silence over boggy ground, their walking boots sinking ankle deep with each step. After a couple of miles the landscape hadn’t changed. The wind had picked up and now carried with it specks of rain.


          Their spirits dropped to a new low, but only for a second, as Alice exclaimed, “A light! Over there, look.”


          Brian’s eyes followed where she was pointing, and sure enough, there was a faint light in the distance.


          They picked up the pace as much as their tired legs and the terrain would allow. The light grew brighter, although it was still hard to tell how far away it was, or indeed what it was. They didn’t care. It was a beacon and possibly their ticket out of their situation.


          They lost all track of time and distance. They seemed to gain energy the closer they got. The ground underfoot was but an afterthought now, as if they were floating above it. Faster now. Running. Sprinting. The light was growing bigger, brighter, more intense than anything that could possibly be man-made.


          Euphoria swept over them. They forgot about getting back to the village and their guesthouse, forgot about getting home, about family and friends. Everything they needed was in that light, and it was right in front of them. Then they stopped dead in their tracks. The light faded as a silhouetted figure emerged from the glow, humanesque but possessing disproportionately large limbs and head.


          Time seemed to stand still as the trio faced off. The wind and rain, if still present, went unnoticed. This lasted seconds, or maybe years. Then the light went out. The wind roared back to life and brought with it a torrential rain.


          Above the din, from the darkness, the thud of inhuman footsteps grew louder. Brian grabbed Alice’s hand and they ran for their lives.

****

         
          They ran. They stumbled. They fell. They got up and kept going, because all the while, unseen in the darkness, something was hunting them. They could hear its thumping footfalls and a deep growl over the tumult of the weather.


          They were too exhausted to try to form words, but kept each other going by pushing and dragging. This could only go on for so long, however, and when Brian fell hard on his front, Alice was unable to get him moving again.


          “Brian,” she screamed. “Get up, we have to keep moving.”


          “I can’t, I just…I can’t keep going.”


          She kept shouting and cajoling, but he was done. Kneeling down beside him, she lay across his prone body, waiting for whatever was chasing them to catch up.


          Nothing happened.


          It was several minutes until she found the courage to lift her head. The night was still. No wind or rain battered down on them. No monster emerged from the shadows.


          Alice stood up tentatively, steeling herself for anything that may happen. Brian picked himself up and stood unsteady beside her.


          “Where is it?”


          “I don’t know.”


          “What is it?”


          “I have no idea,” said Alice. “Do you think you can move?”


          “Yeah, I think I’ll be okay. Are you alright?”


          “I just want to get out of here.”


          “You’re bleeding.”


          “Where?”


          “Your head,” he said.


          She reached up and let out a gasp as she touched a deep gash on her forehead.


          “I don’t know how that happened,” she said. “I must have hit my head on a rock or something. But it doesn’t matter. We’ve got bigger things to worry about. Let’s get moving.”


          They set off walking again, slower now, due to their exertions and the steadily softening ground. All the while they surveilled their surroundings. Brian took out the compass again on the off chance that it might be working. To his delight and surprise, it was.


          “This way,” he said. “If we head north, we will find a village.”


          With a renewed vigour, they set off, but stopped almost immediately. In the distance to the north, a light appeared, bright and inviting. They felt lured towards it, but fought against the pull. They turned their backs on it, but could almost feel the warmth emanating from it.


          “What do we do? If we go to it, that thing might be waiting for us.”


          “It might be our only way out of this.”


          “What if it’s a trap?”


          “What choice do we have? If we stay out here we’re sitting ducks.”


          They turned back towards the light and their fears dissipated. They soon found themselves racing towards it with the same fervour as before. This time they heard the growl of the beast before they saw it.


          It came at them from the side, striking Brian across the back of the head. He stumbled forward, but somehow managed to stay on his feet. He changed direction, now running away from the inviting glow, and Alice followed him.


          They ran and ran, finding wells of energy that no human should have been capable of tapping into. They ran headlong into the darkness, pursued by a nameless beast.


          The gnarled, Tim Burton tree emerged from the darkness so suddenly that by the time they saw it, it was too late to stop. Alice’s left foot went over the edge of the embankment and Brian reached out to grab her as she fell. They both fell ten feet into the shallow stream below. The shock of the cold water prevented their lying in a daze for any significant amount of time. They were on their feet and moving almost immediately, but not before their blood had mixed with the water.


          The stream took their blood along with it as it ran its lazy course through the lonely moors where the dark pursuer lapped it up greedily before continuing the chase.

****

          Alice and Brian made their way north, trusting that the compass was correct. They were walking again, having run as long as they could manage. They saw no lights of any kind, which filled them with relief and despair in equal measure.


          “I’ll say one thing for this trip,” said Brian. “It’s still better than the weekend we spent in that caravan in Bognor. A blocked toilet and a broken cooker? If we could survive that, we’ll get through this.”


          He looked at Alice. The rain was keeping the blood from her face and in the faint light he saw the faint hint of a smile.


          “Remember the chap that owned the place? How he went crazy when we asked for a refund?”


          “He actually chased us out of there with a cricket bat,” laughed Alice. “What I wouldn’t give to have him here right now. We could use him as a decoy.”


          They both laughed now, reached out, and held each-others hands. It was the first non-accidental physical contact they had had for over a year.


          They walked hand in hand for a while. Then Brian said, “I’m sorry.”


          They carried on walking in silence for a while. Eventually Alice said, “I know you are.”


          “You know I never meant…I never wanted to hurt you. I just….” He stopped talking. The explanation – the excuse – that he had tried to pedal for the last thirteen months, sounded as hollow to him now as he knew it must have sounded to his wife all this time.


          “I want you to know…” he paused again, but this time it wasn’t because he was lost for words. “Run!” he shouted.


          His hand tightened around hers, and he dragged her until she aligned with his pace. Behind them, the heavy thud of footfalls grew louder as their pursuer gained on them.


          “Look, Brian, look,” shouted Alice, pointing ahead. There were lights in the distance. Not ethereal or otherworldly, but the lights of a village.


          They garnered every last ounce of energy to keep propelling themselves forward, their hands entwined all the while. They knew they were running towards the village of Dartworth, where they had set off from that morning with directions and a compass given by the owner of the guesthouse they were staying at.


          They also knew that between them and the village lay a gorge with a thirty foot drop which they had earlier traversed on a wooden foot bridge. They would need lady luck to be smiling on them to find the bridge in the dark and rain, and as luck would have it, something caught Alice’s eye.


          “Over there,” she said, pulling Brian towards the bridge.


          Behind them, the thuds and guttural growl of the dark thing were growing deafening. They set foot on the bridge in unison, and as they did, a scythe sized claw grazed Alice’s back. Pain coursed through her body, but momentum kept her moving.


          They were halfway across the bridge, when the fragile old structure shook violently. Brian stumbled sideways into Alice, knocking her against the handrail. Her hip took the impact, and she cried out in pain as her feet left solid ground. The lights of the village, so close now, spun from her view as she pivoted over the side. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion. Gravity took hold and she could feel herself being inexorably pulled into the tenebrous bowels of the gorge.


          Then something grabbed her ankle with a vice like grip. Her fall halted and for a moment she hung in limbo as the noise of the wind and the rain mixed with the creatures roar and the creaking of the bridge. She felt herself being hauled back up slowly and when her hands could find something to hold onto, she helped hoist herself the rest of the way.


          Back on the bridge with her husband, they didn’t move immediately, transfixed as they were by the sight of their nemesis struggling to find it’s footing on the narrow walkway. It had to break the handrail away to advance towards them, and even then, it struggled to keep its feet from slipping off the side.


          “What the hell is it Brian?”


          “I don’t know,” he replied. “Let’s not stick around to find out.”


          They turned and ran. The beast, enraged at the possibility of losing its quarry, let out a deafening roar and lunged forward. It came down hard on the weather worn planks. The sound of splintering wood filled the night air as the planks and support beams gave way under the sudden, violent impact.


          Alice and Brian set foot on terra firma just as the bridge collapsed behind them, it and the dark thing falling into the gloom. They didn’t wait to see if it was still alive, and within five minutes they had reached the door of their guesthouse.


          The building stood in darkness, but after two minutes of pounding on the door, the hall light came on.


          The old landlady opened the door, saying, “Alright, alright, keep you’re…” She stopped and stared at them as if she had seen a ghost. “You?” she said, shocked. “You’re back? How did you…”


          Alice and Brian weren’t listening. They barged past and went to their room to find the car keys. They left twenty seconds later, leaving all their other belongings behind.


          The old lady was still standing at the door. She just looked blankly at them as they passed.
          Alice stopped, and said, “There’s something out there. On the moors. Some kind of monster. You need to get out of here.”


          The old lady didn’t react.


          “You can come with us,” said Alice.


          “It’s too late,” said the lady, and closed the door.


          Brian had already started the car. He beeped the horn and signalled for Alice to hurry up. She stalled for a moment, unsure what to do. Brian beeped again. Alice ran to the car, got in, and they sped from the village.

****

          The old lady composed herself, went to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of tea, then sat at the table to await her fate. She knew this day would come. She had hoped it wouldn’t, of course, but in her heart she knew it was inevitable. Deserved even. In order to save her own life, she had sent dozens more to their deaths. She had made a deal that she had now reneged on. It was a relief in a way. At least she wouldn’t have to live with the pressure and guilt any more.


          It wasn’t long before the bright, heavenly light shone through the kitchen window. She rinsed out the teacup, put it on the draining board and walked out to the back garden. The light was as beautiful and inviting as it had been when she had seen it for the first time almost sixty years earlier.


          She walked towards it. She had played her part. It would be somebody else’s job to provide the yearly sacrifices from now on.


          The dark figure appeared in the light. It was larger than she remembered. She held out her arms as she walked, waiting to be taken into its cold embrace.


          “I’m ready,” she said. “I…”


          Her head was torn clean off with one brutal swipe. The dark thing fell on her body and picked it clean in thirty seconds, leaving only her bones swaddled in a torn nightdress.


          It had had a blood sacrifice, but it wasn’t ready to return to the other side. Its thirst was not slaked. It yearned for the blood it had tasted on the moors. It needed to finish what it had started.


          It turned slowly, in circles, sniffing the air. Eventually it picked up the scent it was looking for, not far away, but too far to jump to in one leap. It let out a low growl and returned to the light.


          The chase was on.


C.R.J. Smith is a horror author who lives in Kells, County Meath, Ireland. He has self-published a novel called Semianimus, and his short story “Pca” was published by Muzzleland Press.

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