Kelly Scriven

Exploring worlds of my own creation

Category: Freewrite

A Debt is Owed

He’s coming.

The thought ripped through her, making it hard to breathe. Turning the knob, she eased the door shut, careful not to wake the children who slept peacefully on the other side. Once it was closed, she spun on heel and raced to the stairs. She leapt down them two at a time, grabbing the railing to spin herself down the last few steps and into the hallway beyond.

She flew through the kitchen, the last of the coals still glowing in the stove, and burst into the back yard.

A shadow shifted in front of her.

“You’re late.” His voice dripped with annoyance as the shadows manifested into a tall figure in a black cloak. She could only see his mouth and jaw beneath the hood, pale as moonlight.

She shrugged. “Nightmare,” she said in way of explanation, nodding up toward the twins’ bedroom. His thin lips curled into a smile.

“Of course,” he crooned. “Ever the devoted mother. Have you decided?” He stepped even closer to her, standing so close she could feel his breath ruffle the hair on her head. She took a quick step backward, putting her hands on her hips.

“I refuse.” She spat the words, thrusting her jaw forward and hoping her fear didn’t slip out. Red flashed under the hood of his cloak, his eyes glinting.

“You understand, of course, what this means,” he growled. “A debt is owed.”

“And it will be paid,” she assured him, “but not by my family. Find another way.”

His hand lifted from his side slightly, and she felt invisible fingers brush her hair behind her ear. The shadows swirled around her, blocking out the light until she could see nothing but shades of black and grey.

“Oh,” he whispered into her ear, “I have a way. Two ways, in fact.”

Her heart froze. On instinct, she reached up to grab at his throat, but the darkness scattered around her, leaving only her moonlit yard. He was gone.

“Oh gods,” she whispered, looking up at the bedroom window where her two children lay fast asleep. “What have I done?”

Pathway

A break in the wooden fence opened to a single pathway that led from the main thoroughfare. Grey, uniform stone covered in mottled shadow that shifted with the gentle breeze. On either side, trees had been planted so that their canopies arced overhead, just out of reach. Branches tangled together, various shades of green and brown that wove together intricately. It was impossible to tell where one tree ended and another began.

Stepping into the shadow was like stepping into a different world. The light dimmed, softly playing on the brush that covered the ground on either side of the path. Bushes and grasses grew wild, sharp points and broad leaves mixing together to block any view of the dirt below. They were full of life, thriving in the shade and saved from the harsh summer heat by the canopy of branches above.

She could stay here forever, if not for the rushing water of the fountains up ahead.

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