Shirley Anne Edwards
Publication date: October 23rd 2016
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
The quaint village where Adela Jane lives is surrounded by fear. At night, a centuries old green mist covers the land and controls the animals within the forest. Lately, Adela feels someone or something is following her every move. Unbeknownst to her, the mist waits for the perfect moment to make her his. Adela feels trapped by her small town life and burdened by her love she keeps hidden for her best friend’s older brother, Nathan Alexander. But all that changes on her eighteenth birthday when Nathan admits his love and desire to marry her. Adela’s joy is cut short when the mist kidnaps her and takes her to his secret underground lair. Her nightmare has only just begun when the mist makes Adela his bride.
What of the Jabberwocky fell in love with Alice from Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass? That’s the question tackled in The Reaping. A Young Adult with an atmospheric Gothic feel, and elements from such classic novels, as Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and John Fowles’ The Collector.
The night grew cold, and heavy rain pounded the house. The wail of the wind combined with the yelps and growls of the possessed animals attacking one another in a pitiful harmony. The mist probably drifted in and out, waiting for its next kill. I hoped its potential victims had locked themselves away in the safety of their houses. Some probably slept with the covers over their heads as a way to ignore what occurred outside. I did that myself when fright took hold of me. Just one of the many things I had to deal with living on my own.
I tried to pay no heed to what transpired right outside my front door. But sometimes, I couldn’t ignore the longing to run outside during a rainstorm or view the stars on my front porch on a clear night. Instead, I usually settled for a few hours of reading or sewing before I went up to bed.
The nights were cold. It could be the dead of winter or the hot and humid middle of the summer, and, still, once the night set, I bundled up in my flannel nightgown to keep warm. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like shut in my house with uncomfortable heat and humidity.
After locking up, I took a sponge bath to clean away the dirt and sweat from the long day. I stood in front of my bedroom mirror in my nightgown and slippers while I brushed my hair. Tomorrow morning, before service, I would wash my hair. For now, I felt refreshed enough and relaxed, enjoying the bristles of the brush on my scalp.
I didn’t want to let go of this feeling of happiness. I hoped this was a sign of the wonderful things to come, of a future where Nathan Alexander and I would be more than friends. He wanted to talk to tomorrow. Oh, to think he’d made a decision about us! I’d already made mine so long ago.
Ez spread out at the foot of my bed, licking his paws. The distinct howl of the wind and a sudden boom shook the house. I flinched and finished brushing my hair. When a flash of lightning glared through the boards over my windows, I decided to get in bed.
One of my travelogues lay on top of the bedside table. I would read for a while by candlelight. The more privileged villagers already owned electric lights. Nathan Alexander’s family had been the first this year. I enjoyed the candlelight but preferred lights that could turn on with a touch. Ez climbed up on the pillow next to me. His purrs helped me fall asleep.
Another loud boom shook the house, and my drooping eyes snapped open.
It sounded like someone called out my name. I shivered and noticed Ez still dozing.
He didn’t seem too concerned, based on his loud snores. If I left him outside, his eyes would turn red, and his claws would attack anything that came near him. I almost picked him up to cuddle, but let him be.
The window across my room vibrated. The downpour splattered heavy against its wooden board. Remembering Nathan’s successful swipe and circle of my home, I relaxed. Also, the mist stayed low to the ground. I knew for a fact because I had witnessed it.
Whereas others refused to look out their windows, I enjoyed peeking outside and watching the mist and its animals play in the moonlight. I did this many times as a child. I stopped peeking when my mother died. But at this moment, I felt the need to do so again. I licked my lips, nervous but motivated. Before I went to sleep, I would do something both scary and thrilling, much like the way I’d felt when Nathan Alexander kissed me earlier in the day.
I placed my hand on the wood near the window. The ivory curtains Nonnie sewed long ago didn’t move, but the wood over the window vibrated. I grabbed a chair to sit on and fiddled with a small piece of the board until it loosened. Inhaling deeply, the way I used to as a child when panicked, I sat in a chair and peered through the inch-wide hole. Rain ran down the windowpane but the thunder grew muffled and the lightning weaker as the storm passed.
The rain let up after a few moments, and several red beacons glowed among the trees and bushes. The sounds of the animals grew louder, for the storm no longer muffled them. I had the sudden urge to climb back in bed, pull the covers over my head, and pray away the ghastly screams of pain and suffering.
But the mist, that phantom substance, emerged, whether there was a storm or not. It covered the grass like green-tinged snow, looking as harmless as a fog deep in the mountains. Could the mist reach that high? Is that where I could be safe to view the stars in the sky and breathe in the night air without the constant worry of death?
It danced and circled my shed and yard. A few rabbits ran away from a deer. The deer moved fast, grabbed one of the rabbits in its mouth and tore it apart. The dead rabbit landed on the wet grass in a bloody heap, and the deer’s hooves stomped on it. The deer’s head moved up and down in confusion. The mist came out fast, wrapping around the deer’s legs. The animal bleated a sorrowful tune.
The deer left, but the rabbit carcass remained, and scavengers crept out to eat its flesh. I watched that destruction, mesmerized, but then found something else to view. My eyes must have played tricks because very close to my house and almost under my bedroom window appeared the silhouette of a man. I jerked back and shook my head. There was no possible reason for someone to be there. I must be confused. I peeked through the hole again.
The man stood under my window, cloaked in mist. Due to the buildup of condensation on the glass, I couldn’t get a clear look at his face or the type of clothes he wore. My cheek dug in the wood as I tried to make out his features. I stared for countless minutes as this apparition stood unharmed. My breathing became heavy, and I trembled. Who could this be?
Some part deep down inside wanted to unlock the boards and open the window to inspect this very brave yet stupid person who stood there as if it was the middle of the day with no consideration for the danger surrounding him. The animals didn’t attack him. My mind must be playing tricks on me because it appeared he was a part of the mist. He disappeared before my eyes when the window rattled from a brisk wind. I stumbled out of the chair, slammed the small piece of wood back in the hole, and placed my hands over my mouth. Ez hissed and jumped off the bed and rubbed his body on my legs.
How could someone vanish before my eyes?
Could the mist have transformed itself into the solid form of a person to fool me?
And how would the mist know I watched it?
I couldn’t stop the shakes jarring my body. When the wind shook my house again, I blew out the candles, climbed in bed, and threw the covers over my head. Ez settled on top of my pillow, near my head. I lay on my side in a ball, whispering a prayer under my breath. I mouthed these words to save my soul over and over until I drifted off into an unsettling sleep where I dreamed I lost my way in the woods and something horrible chased me. Dread stayed with me late into the night, making me wake up for short periods of time.
Based on what I saw, I would never to look out my window again at night. It was inconceivable to think the mist watched me and wasn’t some mindless thing that killed without warning. If it owned a stream of consciousness, it must be more powerful than anyone could ever imagine.
The idea the mist could be a living, breathing thing was too horrifying.
Shirley Anne Edwards is a Northeast girl who first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. Shirley found her love for writing at a very young age, and since then has let her imagination run wild by creating quirky characters and vast worlds in her head.
Shirley lives in New Jersey and works in the entertainment industry in New York City.
In the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.”
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