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Host of Shadow

by Persephone Stylet about a year ago in fiction
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a short story

Host of Shadow
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

The woods were dark that night - so dark I later wondered if they had turned their backs on the horrors that lie within. I never should have run. It would have been better for me to be arrested for petty theft, but I was naive, stupid, and drunk with pride.

As I drove through the wooded path lit only by a pale and tired moon, I began to doubt that I could run much farther. I was beyond the city limits, but I didn't trust the laziness of the local police department. I had left enough evidence to frame my partner. As he ran back inside to retrieve the identification I convinced him I had dropped, I ran away and took the money, along with our getaway car, for myself. Cruel, I know, but necessary for my survival.

The longer I drove, the more tired I grew. After hours of running, and as my eyelids grew heavy, I fell by chance, by luck, or by a sick trick of fate, upon a cabin deep enclosed by guards of bark and leaf. It looked rather abandonded, as it was both in shambles and unlit, so I took my chances to stop for a brief respite. In the back of my brain, a voice so quietly whispered, "Be careful, ye who dare enter. Thou doth naught know the sin ye art committing."

As I chided myself for being foolish and strangely formal, I wandered into the grove. I studied the cabin carefully and found it to be more than what I had at first postulated. The grounds were well-kempt, with a beautiful garden that I appeared to be trespassing upon. First I saw the small white flowers, which I almost mistook to be the Queen Anne's Lace. Upon further inspection, I realized the bunches were far too small and the leaves far too large. Beyond these peculiar flowers, I noted that whoever resided in this odd cabin must have wonderful taste, for I saw the most beautiful pale pink flowers with small little fruits of which I almost partook.

As I looked to see what other beauties in the soil lie, I saw little violet helms, something so similar to the first flower I wondered if the gardener had gotten too many of the same seed, and orange trumpets of nature, all leading up to what I was sure was the crown jewel of the garden. Ahead of my undeserving eyes blossomed the most beautiful bush, adorned with roses of pure starlight. Never before had I seen such incandescent flowers. As I walked around the bush, I noticed the petals were garnished with speckles of crimson. The more I circumferenced the bush, the crimson seemed to encompass the buds until I nearly forgot that they were once the purest white.

Before my eyes could linger on the flora any longer, I saw a light in the cabin that had not been there previously. I knew that I had a choice to make - either I faced the host of shadow and pleaded with them to allow me to stay, or I could take up a weapon and demand anything I desired.

I approached the home with my shaking hand resting upon the gun I had an hour previously carried so cavalierly. As I ascended the steps and went to break the door window, something within me told me to try the knob - maybe it was unlocked. To my surprise, it was, and I entered the abode and laid my eyes upon the keeper of the cabin.

I remained in pure veneration of the creature of beauty standing so few feet away from me and bowed in utter respect. All notion of violence escaped my mind as I looked upon the angel.

"Forgive me for trespassing, but you see, I am a weary traveler seeking refuge." The words left my lips, but I was unsure of how. The beauty and elegance of the woman standing before me were unmatched by anyone to ever walk the earth. "I was wondering if you would be so gracious as to grant me shelter for the night."

"Young man, you have nearly startled me into seeing the Reaper himself. I would usually never keep such new company in my home, but seeing as you've been so polite, I shall allow it." Her voice was as smooth as silk and her lips a dark and bloodred crimson. The shadows created by the structure within cast a dark shade against her pale white skin only accentuated by her long black-as-night locks that fell so gently against her shoulders. "I've just been gathering herbs for my stew," said she, "and you are welcome to join me for dinner - you look famished."

"I cannot thank you enough, how may I show my appreciation?" I would later come to regret my next words. However, like a fool lost in infatuation, they poured out of my mouth. "Whatever you desire, I shall fulfill."

Her smile was absolutely intoxicating. Any form of apprehension I had disappeared and was replaced by warmth flooding into my veins. "Wonderful! If you would sit at the dining table, kind sir. However, before you go, I refuse to entertain a guest that I do not know the name of. Dear visitor, who are you?"

"My name is Raphael. Raphael Hensley. May I ask who I shall be staying with this night?"

"You may, Raphael. As long as you follow my rules, you may call me Ms. Strangelove."

There was something about Ms. Strangelove that did not sit right with me, but as any fool will tell you, I simply ignored my intuition. She was too beautiful to hold any ill will against anyone, and she had so kindly agreed to grant me stay in her home.

"Oh! Raphael - would you please be a dear and fetch an extra place setting from the shed? I hate to ask my guests to fetch their own amenities but seeing the way you have entered my home, I feel more inclined to ask this of you." Ms. Strangelove said this with such a lighthearted tone, and with a marvelous laugh, I could not say no.

"But of course," said I, "is there anything else I can do for you, kind hostess?"

"Not at the moment, dear Raphael. However, I may ask something of you later this night."

I exited the cabin and made my way to Ms. Strangelove's shed. I was not prepared for what I saw when I opened the door. Row upon row of horrific devices covered in what I could only hope was rust. Bones littered the ground, and there were sights no man should ever describe.

“You shall pay for your sins, Raphael. Fate has not been kind by bringing you into my dwelling place.” She raised her arm, a wrench in her hand. As Ms. Strangelove brought the wrench down upon my head, my world went dark for the last time.

fiction

About the author

Persephone Stylet

she/they/xey

Just a small-town girl livin' in a lonely world. Also a writer.

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