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Legend

Summer Solstice Challenge

By Sian N. CluttonPublished 20 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - July 2024
Legend
Photo by Axel Holen on Unsplash

‘Doesn’t look like much.’

‘What were you expecting?’

‘I dunno. I thought it would look different. On a pedestal or something.’

‘Shh, they’ll hear us. Come on, follow me.’

Jake crept through the brush. The tranquil sounds of peaceful meditation and muffled chanting filled the hillside as the villagers prayed. Some had brought offerings, whilst others had come with empty hands, but hearts filled with faith.

Twigs snapped as Julie struggled to find her footing through the uneven forest floor in a desperate attempt to keep up. Jake stopped just short of the clearing. He turned and quietly called into the shadows behind a large oak tree.

Lucy looked up at the sky between the treetops. She watched the sun descend, casting deeper, darker, shadows through the woods.

The shadows danced as Billy O’Connor and Stanley Phillip stepped out from behind the oak and joined Jake behind a bush.

Lucy’s stomach dipped as excitement and regret fought each other in the pit of her stomach.

Her father would surely kill her if she got caught but she desperately wanted to be included in their friendship group, or any friendship group for that matter. Lucy would never understand her mother’s motives for moving to such a boring, one-horse town, but she intended to save what she could of her social life.

Therefore, when Jake Patterson himself had appeared at her window with the offer of unknown adventure, she’d jumped at the chance of a little excitement.

Now, here she crouched in the woods with the most troublesome boys from school, waiting for the cover of night, whilst nervously praying her mother wouldn’t pop her head in her bedroom to say goodnight. She shouldn’t – she should be out here pretending to believe in the magic of the stone, trying to fit in with the locals as they pinned all their hopes on the mystical strength of a large slab of rock and the magic of the Summer Solstice.

She caught up with the boys and sat down beside them.

‘Well, if it isn’t the new girl. Jakey boy said he was gonna invite you, but I didn’t think you’d have the guts to show up.’ Billy whispered as he pulled his rucksack off his back and passed it to Jake. ‘Better not let us down.’

Lucy felt the sting of embarrassment and was grateful for the growing darkness; she was sure her face was flushing. She wondered what it was she was supposed to do. She knew she should have asked before they set off but hadn’t dared.

‘It’s her initiation. We’ll see if she’s got what it takes to hang with us.' Said Jake, unzipping the backpack and pulling out a torch , ‘It shouldn't be long.’ He whispered.

The foursome sat in the tree line and waited for the villagers to leave as the woods slowly became darker and more lonesome. The sound of chanting and muffled conversation grew distant as the sun finally set and the villagers departed in preparation for the following morning’s festivities.

Stanley was the first to stand, carefully making his way into the clearing. Once he was sure the coast was clear, he nodded for the others to follow.

The clearing was large, the grass wild and unattended, spotted with wildflowers and foliage. In the middle stood a large grey stone, withered by the passing of time, surrounded by candles and personal nick-nacks.

‘I don’t get it. Why do they pray to the stone?’ Lucy asked.

‘Legend has it, the stone is the grave of one of the first men to colonise the land. It holds the power to grant them a long and fruitful harvest. To bring the people abundance of fortune and good health,’ said Jake, leading the way towards it.

A distant howl carried on the wind from somewhere deep within the woods.

Lucy shivered.

‘Creepy, right?’ Billy whispered, pushing past her.

‘They believe that on the longest day of every year a kind of gateway opens, and their wishes might be granted if their intentions are pure, and their faith remains devoted.’ Jake continued.

‘What if it doesn’t?’ asked Lucy.

‘Then the Old One doesn’t bless them, it punishes them instead,’ said Billy, as they reached the stone. Jake flicked on the torch and shined it over the ancient rock.

The rock looked dirty and unkempt, but there was something almost breathtaking about it. Upon closer inspection, Lucy could make out the scratchings of faint writing chipped into the stone amongst the moss and foliage.

She wiped the leaves away.

‘I wouldn’t bother...it’s a lost language. Countless villagers have tried to translate it over the years, but no one’s succeeded.’

Lucy rolled her eyes. Curious, she grabbed Jake’s wrist and aimed the torch closer.

Squinting, she slowly mouthed the words:

Fttcha chka hmttia inpalya mcht umhia.

She looked up at the boys, who had stopped talking. The woods had fallen silent, and the air seemed to thicken. Lucy gasped as a cold wind blew through her hair, whipping at the candles and making them dance.

‘BOO!’

Lucy jumped, shocked.

‘Keep it down, Billy! Are you trying to get us caught?’ Jake scolded.

Billy didn’t pay him any mind; he was too busy laughing at Lucy’s expense.

‘Relax, they’re all long gone. It’s just us, and him.’ said Stanley, gesturing toward the stone.

‘Yeah, it’s not my fault she’s chicken,’ chimed Billy.

‘I am so not chicken!’ Lucy spat.

‘Oh yeah?’ Billy raised his eyebrows, the shadows mixed with dim moonlight cast a menacing look over his face. ‘Prove it.’ He sniggered. Reaching for her hand, he placed something cold and hard in it.

The moonlight reflected off the metal, and she held it up: Spray paint.

‘What are you waiting for?’ He teased.

The pit in Lucy’s stomach grew heavier as bile rose in her throat. ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’

‘It’s easy,’ said Jake, ‘just shake it, face it away from you, push the nozzle and write something.’

‘But why?’

‘Told ya, she’s chicken.’ The smugness in Billy’s voice made her blood boil. She shook her head in disgust. She so badly wanted friends but there was a line.

Lucy lowered her arm in defiance. ‘I can’t. I won’t.’

Billy snatched the can out of her hand. ‘Pathetic.’ His voice was harsh and full of spiteful satisfaction.

Lucy’s blushed as tears filled her eyes. Turning away from the stone, she hurried back towards the treeline. ‘Screw this!’ She shouted but didn't look back.

She no longer cared about being alone in the woods, she only cared about not letting them see her cry.

She walked downhill through the woods, listening to the laughter and the hiss of spray cans in the distance. Her heart sank as she wept and picked up speed, desperately seeking the comfort of her bed.

*

The morning broke with the traditional anticipation of the Summer Solstice. The village market was setting up whilst the villagers were out early enjoying the sunrise.

It was almost 9 am when the screaming started. It began distant, travelling on a soft wind from the O’Connor residence on the edge of town. But soon the Patterson’s cottage resonated with the same blood-curdling scream that portrayed both hopelessness and grief, filling the market air, quickly followed by the distress of Mrs Philip, screaming as she ran terrified down Market Street in her nightgown, her feet bare and soaked in blood.

Lucy was having breakfast with her mother when her father came crashing through the door.

‘Jesus, Marcus,’ his wife scolded him, shocked.

‘It’s the Patterson’s boy, Mary - and the Philip's - and that family that lives near the river!’ He panted, visibly shaken.

‘What is?’

‘They’re all dead! All of them! Their parents found them this morning, tucked up in their beds, deceased... murdered. The men are putting together a posse. They’re going hunting in the woods to find whoever did this. Whoever... or whatever.’

‘What do you mean... whatever?’ Mary whispered in disbelief as the colour drained from her face.

‘I have never seen anything like it. There was so much blood. No one heard a damn thing. How, Mary? How? They were crushed to a pulp by something extremely heavy. Yet their beds were intact, completely untouched, like some kind of macabre magic. Those boys will have to be peeled off their bed sheets with a shovel and a mop.’

Lucy whimpered as she looked through the window and up towards the woods.

Short StoryMysteryHorrorFableAdventure

About the Creator

Sian N. Clutton

A horror and thriller writer at heart, who's recently decided to take a stab at other genres.

I sincerly hope you find something that either touches your soul or scares your socks off.

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Comments (23)

  • Tina D'Angelo17 days ago

    EEEEEK! Well done. So well done!

  • The Dani Writer17 days ago

    Whoa Sian! That grew intensity in all the right places. A superb read that I am grateful I got to see. Incredibly written top story!

  • Sam Avery18 days ago

    Excellent work good job.

  • Cathy holmes18 days ago

    That was intense. Excellent work. Congrats on the TS

  • Margaret Brennan18 days ago

    congrats on TS. THIS IS FANTASTIC!! LOVE IT!! BRILLIANT... can I say more?

  • Ruby Red18 days ago

    I. LOVE. THIS! 👌

  • Mary was totally freaked out and couldn't believe what she was hearing.

  • Novel Allen18 days ago

    So well written and great plot. Some pranks should be reconsidered. Congrtas on TS.

  • Hannah Moore18 days ago

    Ooh, great story. Is it callous that I'm immediately thinking "well, good job she didn't invest too much on those friendships, that would have been a waste..."

  • This is creepy! The way you described the screams and the state of the bodies is chilling. I can't wait to find out what happened in the woods! Stay safe and keep writing, Lucy!

  • Madeeha18 days ago

    Congratulations on your top story

  • Ameer Bibi19 days ago

    wow، really interesting and suspenseful many congratulations on TS

  • angela hepworth19 days ago

    Super spooky anf perfectly suspenseful! Congrats on a great top story!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Donna Renee19 days ago

    creeeeeeepy! Loved the suspense and got pulled right along!! Congrats on the TS! :D

  • Andrea Corwin 19 days ago

    I meant to also congratulate you on the Top Story!🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Andrea Corwin 19 days ago

    Lucy and The Stone won, unified. Nice job!

  • Mark Gagnon19 days ago

    I can see why this got a top story, Sian. Well done!

  • Liam Storm19 days ago

    Lucky she had the guys to not do it! Sometimes it's braver to not follow through with peer pressure when you know something is wrong! A great entry for the challenge and a well deserved top story, congrats! And good luck 🙌🤞

  • Rachel Deeming19 days ago

    Good job Lucy had the sense to leave! Liked this crushing ending, pun intended. Spooky stuff

  • Oooo, did Lucy have something to do with it too? Your story was so fast-paced and suspenseful! I loved it!

  • D.K. Shepard20 days ago

    Outstanding! Sounds like the rock didn’t take to being graffitied! Great challenge entry!

  • Tiffany Gordon 20 days ago

    Stunning work as usual Sian! You write beautifully! Good luck in the Challenge!

Sian N. CluttonWritten by Sian N. Clutton

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