Last Updated on August 6, 2023 by ADMIN-TOM
The secrets of a small village lie hidden in the ruins, waiting to be discovered by a brave young archeologist.
Essi Zeltsmann is an ambitious archeologist who returns to her home village, now lying in ruins. She is determined to uncover the truth behind her mother’s mysterious death and prove her innocence. As she searches the ruins for her mother’s remains, she faces a powerful malevolence that has tightened its grip on the village. What secrets will Essi uncover in her quest to prove her mother wasn’t a witch?
Part One of a short story.
Essi Zeltsmann approached the outskirts of the village with trepidation. It was a way marker, a halfway point on her journey eastwards. She stood surveying the scene of desolation before her. The black cape wrapped around her body, covered her tweed jacket and skirt, a suit she had paid fifteen schillings for in 1903. She told herself she needed something to protect the expensive suit, and so she bought the cape. It was a throwback, an affectation from a young girl’s dream to be a swashbuckling hero, not something a girl usually aspired to, her mother told her many times. It was also of practical value for keeping out chill winds and taking the brunt of any weather thrown at her. As an archaeologist, her quests for knowledge took her to many inhospitable places.
But this place was both inhospitable and instilled a sense of foreboding in her.
She had told the villagers in the previous village of her quest. She met only closed doors, much crossing of chests and many shunning her. Most refused to engage with her questions, all except the sole village elder.
“You will find nothing but fear and desolation there,” the village elder had said.
That had been her one conversation, started and ended with that simple statement. The elder had shuffled off into his hovel and closed the creaking door shut. All doors in the village shut and barred. Even what passed for an inn closed its door to her.
Essi, reluctantly continued eastwards.
The village loomed out of the darkness. But a village that was no more. No longer a vibrant village. Judging by what was left of the hovels, it had been home to thirty or forty people, but no more. This was an abandoned village, everyone fled, or worse.
The hovels of roughly thatched roofing and stone walls bonded with clay were no more. In their place were ruins.
Of the dozen hovels, only one remained almost intact, with half a roof and three walls standing. The rest were in varying degrees of destruction. One completely flattened, as if a giant foot had stomped on it. Another was pushed aside, the ruin that was a hovel now a pile of stones, dried clay and straw. Others were simply not there anymore; fire had burned them to the ground. Swept away by a force of nature perhaps or fell creature of fire and malevolence.
Essi shuddered at her thoughts and walked into the village in a forlorn hope someone remained living there. But a walk around the desolate area proved fruitless.
It was getting dark and cold and she needed sleep. A half standing hovel seemed to offer the best form of shelter and Essi entered it, fearful of what she may find. All that she found was a broken cot for a bed. Two stubby legs at one end were missing. The straw filled mattress, a piece of ragged rough-hewn cloth binding the straw into a mattress, was still in place. The half roof offered shelter from the elements and Essi decided it was the best of a bad job and settled herself down for the night.
Essi awoke in the grip of fear. Her eyes flashed open, but it was all she could do to look left and right. Her body was rigid in what she took for fear, but realised she was gripped by something other than fear. A force of such pressure was being exerted on her body. She was sprawled, spread eagled, on the cot and unable to move. She could see and she could hear something, and also could smell… sulphur.
Essi tried and failed, to swallow. She felt sweat forming on her brow and panic welled up inside her as adrenalin flowed through her body. With an effort she looked left and right and then she heard what sounded like heavy breathing. Someone, some… thing, was in the ruined hovel with her. It pressed down on her. Essi could see well enough in the grey light but could not see what gripped her body. But the invisible force gave all the indications of a human presence. She felt fingers on her arms, pushing down. Perhaps a knee on her chest and heavy breathing and that slow burning smell of sulphur made her want to choke and gag, but she could do neither.
A face became almost discernible, bearing down on her, slowly getting lower. A man? A woman? The ethereal face was getting closer to her face, moving slower, seemingly changing shape, breathing deeply, growling in a feral, guttural, animal way.
Essi felt her head being turned right. Her neck exposed and could almost make out yellowed fangs in the wide gaping mouth of a creature from hell.
The creature lunged.
Essi Zeltsmann screamed a silent scream.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2023