Larissa managed to crawl free from the wreckage and make it to the other side of the road, her bloody left leg and arm leaving a Jackson Pollock spatter across the wet tarmac.
Four mangled vehicles lay strewn across the winding country road and huge plumes of steam became ghost screams into the weak morning light. The sole survivor, Larissa Bartholomew, snatched a smirk as she remembered how much her boyfriend hated ‘last girl standing’ movies – with a passion!
In all directions, the Scandinavian countryside proliferated like a million biker beards and shrieking black birds darted across the gap in the skyline, bound for the other side with the dead from the catastrophic accident.
The Elk lived for a few minutes before succumbing to its massive injuries. Drunken Elks, wasted on fermented apples, often stagger into the road, unaware of the dangers.
She looked back and snatched another smirk at the tiny saloon car with a fuck off moose hood ornament!
The rains had softened the verge to mush and she slipped and fell into a gully that followed the road like racing snakes. Winter was fast approaching and the nights sunk to a madness-inducing damp chill.
“Ahoooooooooyyyyyyy!” She yelled from her supine position, fully aware that wolves and bears were the eyes in the deep black woods.
“It is a womb bearer and she sheds her scarlet waters.” The tiny voice seemed to come from behind her but she couldn’t see what it was in her blurred shock.
“This is the foretold in the parchment. Muster the unalive bearers and convey the delivered to Straahl. The ceremony has outnumbered one and ten black suns.”
A vague mist enveloped Larissa, lying in her soggy dip in the world and she wondered if the voices and the exquisite floral scent were dying memories.
She began to scream until…
The huge hand that covered her mouth was all that was needed to shut down this nightmare to a dark sleep and hiccuping breaths.
Her dream was a fast flowing river in the night under a clear sky and a myriad of lights. The stars seemed like Chinese lanterns released by the universe to remember the dead. The river increased the flow and straight ahead was a huge waterfall but flowing upwards! Her body sailed up the frothing waters as salmon swam past her at dolphin speed. As she reached the top and over the crest, her eyes widened in sheer terror as a giant hooded creature lay ahead. She could make out the glinting fangs as the river flowed right into its gaping maw.
“Wake me from this…NOW!”
Her body moved inside the great jaws and she felt herself pounding on the roof of the mouth, then the throat and all the way into the stomach, flames leaping and shrill voices pleading in agony and…
Her eyes moved independently inside their sockets as she slowly came round. She realized that her surroundings had changed but couldn’t see the skies above the treetops.
Faint pairs of pinprick lights, she understood to be blinking eyes, flashed off and on in the crepuscular tree trunk army surrounding this clearing. She could make out an oddly geometric shape in front of her but dismissed it as fallen branches and happenstance.
“Stand upright, you, child of dire misfortune. Walk of you own volition into my realm and sit by my fireplace.”
As she raised herself up, two black lanterns, suspended in mid-air, burst into flames revealing a beautifully crafted hut, exuding the mist in swirling snowflake patterns.
“Are you Straahl?” She uttered through chattering teeth, the chill nipping her extremities.
“Knock with the staff on the face of the beast and choose the number of strikes from your first instinct.”
The door was arched and blood-red with the most hideous black demonic face, tongue outstretched and brow furrowed to almost no eyes, except two deep Violet diamonds that pulsated hypnotically.
She grabbed the staff by the door, swung out at full stretch then brought it cracking into the tongue of the vile thing.
“Three more I think and we’ll see what you have in store for sweet little Larissa, crash orphan and shedder of scarlet water.” Her sarcasm rippled the mist into agonized faces and death grin skulls before returning to snowflakes upon the last strike.
“Let me in, I’m freezing out here!” She murmured.
The lanterns suddenly fell to earth, transformed into a huge black millipede and scuttled off into the inky blackness that the open door revealed to her.
“Take a seat by the fire and warm your scarlet water, crash orphan. I will join you after your refreshments.”
Larissa moved with cat-like stealth inside the dark space and, once a few strides in, the door slammed shut, cracked and disappeared as she found herself in a round room with deep red walls and a floor that was a still black pool of water.
The fireplace was a beautiful ornate stove fire with a large pewter tankard on top, steaming and smelling delicious. She sat in the chair, which was the lantern millipede, sipped her delicious drink and stared into the odd violet flames in the stove.
“This is unusual but hospitable and I thank you for saving me from the wolves and bears, Straahl. Whoever you are? Sorcerer? Hermit? Zombie Apocalypse Survivor? I thank you.” Larissa felt her wounds healing and a strange warmth fill her up from the toes.
“I am shocking to see, crash orphan…”
“Please, call me Larissa.”
“Larissa, I am an elemental. I exist outside your laws but inside your lore. I ask that you see me as something natural beyond your perspective not unnatural beyond your comprehension. They made Satyr and Devil of me in their nightmare texts, but I am the scales of the land and sea and skies. I am underneath world and high above world meeting to a harmonious tune. May I present to you, Straahl.”
The stove fire creaked and groaned and shaped into a hideous tall black cloaked creature. She instantly recognized it from her dream but it was too late. Giant jaws clamped around her torso and bore down, slicing her in two. Then a huge tongue picked up the legs and shoved it deep into its throat. Her last view was her bloody sneakers passing by to fall over the waterfall and into the flames of agony.
“Kids, they’ll swallow anything. Actually, so will I.” The creature bellowed with laughter then shot the tongue out to wipe against a rough tree bark.
“I really hate cocoa butter!” He growled before slinking into the blinking eyes forest and the realm of disbelief.
Original written work of Richard Bell aka @rick_nightmare
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