September Shocks #13 – Craig Crawford

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The Pretty Lights

Craig Crawford

The pretty lights first came to Daniella on a harvest eve.  Every young man had been smitten with her at one time or the next, and when the heavenly beings befriended her it was little surprise.

Daniella first spied them in the trees of Taingarey Wood, shyly ducking behind trunk and branch in the wan light of dusk.  Their angelic glow beckoned; their light soothing and gentle in the cool darkness.  Curiosity is a cynical vixen, and Daniella investigated alone.  She was gone the night and following day, her mother fearing the worst, and yet by second day’s end, she reappeared on the path, no worse in virtue nor vigor.

She told of her adventure, revealing new companions:  unlike us, yet yearning to befriend all in the village.  Daniella produced pastries and mead as promise of their goodwill.  The following day, Daniella led an ensemble deep into the den of timber, crossing dale and stream to meet the pretty lights.

Though only spirits without form, they offered delectable delights:  sweets from their gardens, honey from their trees, enchanting everyone with goodwill and charity.  So much so, the evening turned to dawn before they returned.  Daniella led more from the village each night, and mostly, everyone returned.

Mostly.

I succumbed at last, entranced by Daniella’s invitation.  Yet, as I left, my gran warned me grimly: “Gifts from strangers still carry cost,” and blessed me with a talisman of cold iron.  Still, I journeyed forth, Daniella hand in mine; allaying all my fears.

I witnessed the pretty lights, so beautiful they felt like music.  They danced and gamboled amongst my friends, tending their every need.  Lulled by the display, I was prodded to take my place alongside them.

Yet, the pretty lights retreated from me, hissing and reviling my name.  Confusion lay on my brow, but they cursed my breast, and fair Daniella entreated me to forsake my gran’s grace.

Fear flowered and my strength failed.  I grasped the talisman as a dying man begs God’s forgiveness, and the lights glowered red.  They thrust themselves against me, cascading curses, but Gran’s gift sheltered me after all.

Casting my gaze, I saw Daniella radiant no more, but a sallow shade of the goddess she’d once been.  The pretty lights sickened me in their pallor glow, and I stepped to leave.  Not undone, they whispered lies in villagers’ ears, and though those sprites could not touch me, the villagers surely could.

I ran.  Fleeing with God’s speed I raced home, people I’d counted as friends intent on my trail, assuring death.  They burnt my hearth and slaughtered my animals; me barely escaping with Gran.

We took the road and though I sorely miss my peers, Gran counts them lost.  We keep on the move, afraid to trod the forests, dreading the pretty lights.

 

The End

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