General Fiction posted September 12, 2016


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supernatural flash fiction

Perils of the Pen

by mfowler


The whites of natives' eyes flicker like tiny stars in the night forest.
 
Feliks Skov raises his hand. Behind him, frightened settlers nervously lower their weapons. 'Calmly does it, folks, we've gotta save every shot for an attack.'
 
They'd been gathering for hours, moving in the shadows like inky wraiths ... ever since Nygaard shot the black child he caught stealing a goat an hour before dusk.
 
Skov knows they have no chance. Since they'd come two years earlier, their numbers have gradually dwindled. Always one death at a time. Throats cut and bodies bled. Women violated and pegged out on bullants' nests. He's convinced the community Aborigines and their pagan blood lust are responsible for the terror. But Skov knows the truth behind the killings.
 
A spear sails through the darkness towards them, its flint blade wavering in reflected moonlight. Mesmerised, the settlers watch its path. A thud, a moan, a dire gasp--Skov falls, the spear impaling his head.
 
***
 
Porter stops, draws a deep breath, throws down the last drink in the bottle. Skov's killing has drained him. Writing the manuscript by hand seemed like a good thing, an inspired thing, twelve months ago. Authentic to the times, he told everyone in the industry.
 
'I want to feel the evil, know the bastard like a bad brother, and capture his soul on the page.' At least that's what he'd told Kirkham, the publisher.
 
'And you'll pay someone to transcribe it to computer, will you?'  Kirkham's response was blunt.
 
Looking down, Porter sees the ink pooling around his final words. Geeze, writing with ink pen's a dammed messy process, he muses. He blots the words, but the ink spreads wider.
 
What the hell? The blotter is red, deep dark claret. And the pooling ink spills from the page onto the desktop, onto his corduroys.
 
Porter dips his finger, then sniffs. Blood ... that's blood!
 
The shutters clatter nearby. A zephyr whips the manuscript off the desk. Pages flutter upwards, suspend like a flight of snowy owls, and spill their bloody words.
 
Porter feels the plunk of blood droplets on his face and arms. He swats with manic waves until the pages settle on the floor.
 
The writer wipes his face with paper towels. Saturated. Porter slumps into a padded chair. Around his feet lies the sweat of a year's research and writing. He swallows hard, stifles tears, and shakes.
 
The sweet metallic pungency of the drying blood-ink sickens him. Gone, but why? I owned Skov. He was me and I was him and now it's all gone.  
 
The sweetness dissipates. Old iron. Porter smells the clotting blood. Like old armour or weapons, he thinks. Maybe ... like the blade Skov used to carve up those poor Danes from the settlement.
 
He remembers the drawings of Skov's blade in the colonial records. Thirty inches of treacherous, sharpened iron emerging from a wooden handle. Similar to the weapons Viking warriors used in battle.
 
Porter needs a drink. He walks to the cabinet near the window, grips the edges and leans forward. Bloody Skov, I dream him, imagine the cries of his victims ... and now, just when I'm ready to write him off, he does this to me.
 
Sweat drains in small waterfalls from his brow. He swipes the moisture with his forearm. His arm hairs feel like fur across his skin. Porter's face contorts. His hirsute hands slide across his skin.
 
Berserker ... I'm turning into Skov!
 
Reports of the settler's massacre were sketchy. Much speculation, and only a few facts bore crosschecking. References to Skov's excessive hairiness were linked to a Viking mythical beast called a berserker. The slaughter of the innocents and Skov's purported bloodlust fitted the myths and half-truths Porter could uncover.

Attributing the beast's qualities to Skov seemed fair game for a writer of mystery and history when he'd started the story. Historical accounts only told of the Aboriginal raid on the Danish settlement. The earlier deaths were alluded to in journals and cuttings from speculative fiction rags from the mid 1850's.
 
The wind rattles the shutters once more. The manuscript pages flap and flop like ghostly sheets.
 
Porter pours, smells the spirit's familiar wooded scent, sips the Scotch, then looks towards the state forest beyond his fence line. Skov's dead to me, he thinks. I'm done with this supernatural guff. Adventure stories from now on. And on computer.
 
He checks his arms. Tanned and hairy. Just how he knows them. And the tarnished smell of blood's disappeared.
 
Porter drinks deeply. The mottled moon spills light upon the eucalypts. Silver grey gumnuts and leaves twinkle in the lunar light.
 
The whites of the natives' eyes flicker like tiny stars in the night forest ... Struth, I can remember it verbatim. Maybe there's a way to resurrect Skov's story if I check my notes. Hang on, the pages might still be okay. This whole debacle's just been my overactive imagination.
 
He raises his glass to the trees. 'Skov,' he shouts triumphantly.
 
A spear sails through the darkness towards him, its flint blade wavering in reflected moonlight. Mesmerised, the writer watches its approach.
 
A thud, a moan, a dire gasp--Porter falls, the spear impaling his head.

The author's blood surged, pooled and flowed in rivulets across the room, saturating pages, and assigning Porter's story to the vaults of forgotten myth.

 


Paranormal Flash Fiction contest entry

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Berserkers (or berserks) were champion Norse warriors who are primarily reported in Icelandic literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. In medieval Norse and Germanic history and folklore, the berserkers were described as members of an unruly warrior gang that worshipped Odin, the supreme Norse deity. Adding to their ferocity, and in order to intimidate the enemy, they would wear bear and wolf pelts when they fought, giving them the name Berserker, meaning bear coat in Old Norse. The original berserker morphed into legend and eventually the characters of fantasy and horror associated with frenzied killing.

Blood is often described as smelling sweet or even metallic. Owing to its iron content, human blood smells like metal to many people. In fact, when people rub their skin along certain iron-containing objects, such as coins, perspiration reacts with the iron to produce a metallic smell. Dry blood might smell mustier or more rancid than wet blood.

Eucalyptus: generic name-'gumtree'.
Silver grey gumnuts and leaves: found on some species of eucalypt specifically 'the silver princess'.

Aborigines: generic name applied to Indigenous people of Australia.
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