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Thriller Fantasy

Awake.


I blink twice. That's all it takes for me to realize I am lying on my back. Above me a night sky glitters with stars unlike any night sky I have ever seen. Hues of cobalt and lavender intertwine, as though placed by the gentle strokes of an artist's brush, while stars shimmer and blink, like jewels kissed fleetingly by the light.


And I gaze up at this masterpiece through thin branches, speckled with leaves that shake as the boughs sway to and fro.


For a moment, I don't move. But then, I hear the music. It drifts through the dark on a gentle breeze that raises goosebumps along my arms. This tune… do I know it? It seems so familiar, yet so strange. Like a memory that had all but faded from my recall, only to bring itself forward in a last moment of rebellion, refusing to be forgotten.


The breeze moves over me again, and I shiver. Why am I cold? I know I grabbed my favorite cardigan from the closet before I left home.


But I'm not wearing my cardigan. In fact... I'm not wearing my clothes at all. I should be looking at my legs and seeing a faded pair of jeans, leading up to one of the random t-shirts I own and pulled just as randomly from the closet.


But I'm looking down at a red silk skirt, tiered and trimmed with gold. It's so beautiful, I'm almost frightened to touch it, but I do. The fabric is softer than anything I've ever brought into my sewing room. I muse to myself it might even be the coveted Mulberry Silk I've dreamed of getting my hands on.


I slide up the full skirt to a tightly laced bodice that accentuates the curve of my hip, resting itself just atop the bones. It's beading is surrounded with the same gold accents as the skirt, and the princess neckline makes my breasts look surprisingly... well...


Only when I stand can I truly appreciate its beauty.


But then, the music calls me again, almost so clearly that I can hear my name on the strings of the violin that seems to carry the melody. It pulls me from the bower where I awoke and leads along a flowered path. I pause to gently stroke petals of pink, and white, and lilac that blush at me along my way. 


My breath catches as I remember flowers don’t bloom at night.


Closer, and closer, louder and louder, til I am in the full height of the haunting tune that has drawn me to itself. Before me is a garden, so fragrant its perfumes almost overwhelm me. Pillars encircle a polished marble floor, where men and women dance in gowns and garments more astounding than I’ve ever seen. All manner of silks and satins and velvets, lavishly embellished. 


And all of them black, and white, and gray.


My red gown seems like a rose amid the ashes as I slowly begin to move among them. Yet I wander through them as if unseen. Each couple has eyes only for the one in their arms, their gazes fixated on each other with a fascination I’ve never experienced.


No one has ever looked at me like that.


Then, I see him. He stands in the center of the revelry, his eyes drifting over the waves of fabric that swirl about him. Feathers, pearl, and lace adorn the edges of his collar and sleeves. Black curls flow down his back and over his shoulders, framing his pale, entrancing face. His eyes are so amber, I almost believe they could be golden, like the strokes that line his eyes and highlight the length of his dark lashes. 


He smiles at me with a playful, almost boyish grin, then extends his hand.


“Dance with me, Valyrie,” he whispers.


I don’t remember moving towards him. When he speaks my name, it’s as if the music fades, and everything around me vanishes, only returning once I find myself in his arms.


His hands take command of me. One gently pressing against my own palm, the other gripping firmly across my back and pulling me till all I can see are his golden eyes. We move together like we have done so our whole lives. I’m not even truly aware of my feet touching the floor.


“Who… are you?” I finally ask.


He laughs, softly. “I don’t expect you would know me. But I know you.”


In that moment, my eyes leave him, and take in the grandeur once more. “Who are you?” I ask again. “Where is this place?”


“Shhh,” he chides me, releasing my hand to grip my chin and turn my face back to him. “So many questions. You’ll have your answers, after we dance.”


This time, I can’t look away. Instead, I find myself searching those amber eyes. Looking into them as if gazing down into a well. I drop a pebble, and it splashes in the center, sending ripples out to the edges, and I watch those ripples with childish fascination.


“Speak to me,” he says. “Tell me what thoughts I must compete with for your attention.”


My lips seem suddenly parched, and my words catch in my throat. “You’re…”


“Yes?” he prods, that smile still teasing across his lips.


“You’re so… beautiful. Everything here is… beautiful,” I manage.


“I surround myself with beauty,” he replies. “I love beautiful things, and I must have them.” 


His words are pointed, and I feel my cheeks flushing. This seems to please him. “The beautiful things I find, I keep in my gardens.” 


“How many gardens do you have?”


“Many. Enough to hold all the beautiful things in the world,” he assures me.


I bite my lip, uncertain of myself. “And… the ugly things?”


A coldness comes to his eyes. An almost cruel delight that frightens me. His iris widens til the golden band of color all but vanishes. “The ugly things, I burn.”


My breath quickens, and I allow the music to fill the silence between us a moment.


“H-how did I get here? Did you,” I’m scared to say it, but I do anyway. “Did you take me?”


“No, my sweet. I did not take you. You came to me.”


I came? How? How could I come here when I don’t even know where HERE is?


“Ah, ah, ah,” he shakes his head, bringing his face close to mine. “You’re letting the questions take away your attention again. And I won’t have that.”


He brings his lips to my ear, and nibbles on the lobe. When I gasp, he laughs again, a pleased, low growl. His lips move along my neck, and across my chest, teeth teasing my skin with sensations I’ve never felt. I hold my breath as he lifts his face to look at me.


“That’s better,” he remarks. “There is nothing else, right now. Only the dance, do you understand?”


I nod, and feel his hands tightening as we glide across the floor. Everything around me begins to blur, so that only his face remains.


His beautiful, cruel face.


When the bells begin to ring, I realize I have lost track of everything. Of time. Of place. Of myself. Perhaps it’s been minutes, perhaps it's been years. I don’t know. But the bells break the music so that their deep, empty chime echoes through the night.


“The bells toll the end,” he tells me. “Now… you will remember.”


DONG


I was in my car. Driving to work? No… to the park. We were planting rose bushes today.


DONG


The road was wet. It had rained overnight.


DONG


Car. Next to me. Swerved. I went through the guardrail. 


DONG


Lights. Sirens. The ambulance came.


DONG


But it was too late. I was… I was…


DONG


I am…


DONG


He pulls me closer, til my chest is against his. “That’s right, Valyrie. You’re mine now.”


DONG


I look at him with a new understanding. A new fear. “You’re…” I can’t force myself to say it.


DONG


“Don’t be afraid. You weren’t meant to be burned.”


DONG


His lips press to mine. Gently. Carefully. And I feel my breath being pulled from me.


DONG


My dress.


My lovely red dress.


It’s changing. The color is fading as though washed with days, no, with years of sunlight. Paler and paler, till no trace of its vibrant hue is left. Only shades of black. And white. And gray.


He is changing, too. His skin begins to melt away, like wax from a candle, evaporating with each chime. His perfect lips, and golden eyes, and raven locks, all fading away, till I find myself staring into empty sockets and white bone.


And his smile.


DONG



May 09, 2022 18:53

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41 comments

K. Antonio
03:49 May 14, 2022

I really enjoyed the descriptions of the first paragraph. I have this thing with describing stars and light that I just find wonderful. The incorporation of music by the 3rd paragraph was unexpected but interesting. I found the character dynamics so strange and mysterious, the dialogue and the descriptions so reminiscent of fairy tales, but twisted up and done differently, obviously. Reading this story, I had no idea what I was in for, had no idea what to really expect. I think not knowing anything and just enjoying the ride was the best ...

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14:39 May 14, 2022

K! 🥰 thanks for stopping by to read my little grim fairy tale 😆 originally I had thought about it being a Fae Revel, with lots of fauns, and elves, and dryads, but when I decided the Host would be the Reaper, it took the turn. I hope you enjoyed 😊

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Michał Przywara
21:05 May 17, 2022

A fun story! Considering the title, when I saw the narrator wake up in greenery and when she heard music, I assumed she died and this was a Fiddler's Green kind of afterlife. Mixing it with more grim imagery made for a nice effect, and the Reaper ultimately turned out creepy and possessive. It's like a reverse Masque of the Red Death, or maybe the after party. I can't help but wonder though. If this is the afterlife for pretty things, what happens to the ugly ones? Simply oblivion? Or maybe their ashes fertilize the gardens.

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16:43 May 18, 2022

I’m so glad you thought it was fun! 😊 Masque of the Red Death is my favorite of Poe! I think it’s amazing and haunting, so I am honored that my story brought it to mind for you! I’ve thought about a “Garden of Beauty” and then a “Valley of Ashes” where the ugly things are left, but I didn’t delve TOO deep this time. Thank you for reading! ❤️

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Alex Sultan
07:22 May 13, 2022

Hi Hannah. I enjoyed reading this through. I liked the ending a lot, with how you formatted it, and I thought it was all pretty cool - going all supernatural with it. It was not I expected and it was a good twist. Like Shea wrote, it was beautifully creepy.

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11:09 May 13, 2022

Thank you, Alex! I wanted to have some fun, and I haven’t written a sort of thriller for a while, so this is what I came up with! I truly appreciate you reading, thank you so much 😊❤️

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Riel Rosehill
05:40 May 10, 2022

I knew I was going to love this when I saw the title! You just wrote my favourite version of the reaper and death to date. The imagery is beautiful, and the kiss of death..! Ticks my boxes. Loved when he said that the ugly things he burned, and the transformation at the end. Great work!!

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12:53 May 10, 2022

:O your FAVORITE?? I think I just won the day :D really, I'm so glad you liked it, thank you for the feedback, it helps me so much with my writing <3

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Ace Quinnton
20:48 May 26, 2022

Truly magnificent. Incredible, really. I admire the beauty of this story. In fact, I've had a similar idea to this, but didn't get to it after that prompt has passed. (Unfortunately. But at least I can create that story outside of Reedsy and in my own head instead.) Great work. I can't wait to see what you write next.

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Hailey Gaar
01:20 May 25, 2022

This was such a great story and beautifully written!

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16:33 May 21, 2022

I usually don't care for thrillers (especially not coupled with fantasy - the horror! ;), but then I knew you'd pull it off. I decided to read it. And I was rewarded for my effort! Beautiful description and imagery. I read every sentence you write slowly and chew on it, like on a bite of good steak. Juicy, tender, nourishing. It's a slow pace, but you feel full and satisfied at the end of the rich meal. I loved the charismatic reaper. Such an mesmerizing fellow you created. I almost fell in love with him, and then towards the end I was n...

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19:50 May 21, 2022

Oh my gosh, I am so honored you gave my story a chance, even though it was Thriller AND Fantasy xD I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, I wanted the reaper to conflict the reader, since I think our understanding and view of "death" is a conflicting one. he's alluring but frightening, peaceful, but horrific, you get the idea! thank you so much for your words, this made me feel so good (and I have been having a ROUGH day) I look forward to more of your writing as well <3

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Bradon L
02:05 May 21, 2022

Whoooooaaaaaa! I didn’t see that coming. I should have, being that the title gives it away. However, I still was totally caught off guard by the twist at the end! Excellent!

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19:48 May 21, 2022

Thank you, Brandon! I was so worried the title would be too much of a giveaway, but I'm glad you were still surprised :) thanks for stopping to read! <3

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Paul Wilhite
20:30 May 19, 2022

Wow, very intensive undertones that keep me wondering what's going on. The progression at the ending bells was also unusual and imaginative!

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Jay Mc Kenzie
10:27 May 19, 2022

This gave me shivers. It's beautifully poetic and the rhythm and pace are marvellous. Lovely.

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16:53 May 19, 2022

Jay, I appreciate that feedback so much! it makes me so happy to know I did my "job" with the story :) thank you for stopping to read <3

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J.C. Lovero
23:49 May 18, 2022

Hi Hannah, I love this twisted story you spun for us. The descriptions of the reaper are mesmerizing. I could feel the conflict within the protagonist as she danced with him throughout. I so enjoyed what you did at the end with the tolling of the bells, bringing her memory slowly from curiosity to horror. Congrats on the long list! Well-deserved.

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01:13 May 19, 2022

Thank you! I love a dark fairytale, so I had fun with this one 😊 I think the most dangerous things are the most mesmerizing, so here we are! Thanks for reading, dear!

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Cindy Calder
16:21 May 18, 2022

I love your story. It's different and imaginative. Thank you.

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16:52 May 18, 2022

Thanks, Cindy! It’s a little dark 😆 thank you for reading!

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Cindy Calder
18:03 May 18, 2022

I actually love dark....so it was right up my alley.

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19:27 May 18, 2022

Oh wonderful! not everyone can appreciate a plunge into the darkness ;) I will be sure to go see some of your work as well!

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02:54 May 17, 2022

I loved this story so much. The words danced around lyrically and it felt like a dream but the girl had some sense about her to ask the boy questions. His whispers were seductive but nonetheless I am glad she kept her wits about her because she was going to need them. The music plays a big part of the illusion the boy is trying to weave and it works well. A beautiful garden with a collection of beautiful things but nothing ugly. Those words sort of sobered her up to reality of what really happened and it was not pretty at all.

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Hi Hannah. This was engaging, pulling me in right away. The descriptions are beautiful throughout. Because we don't know where the character is, who her partner is, where she is, and neither does she, it has an unsettling undercurrent. It gives me a shiver of fear. This also reminds me of the various "Twelve Dancing Princesses" stories I've read. [His iris widens til the golden band of color all but vanishes.] I know you can't change anything now, but did you mean {his pupil widens}?

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22:27 May 14, 2022

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my FAVORITE fairy tales 😊 at first I was going to make this a more grim fae story, but I ended up settling on the grim Reaper! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 🤦🏼‍♀️ you are right. I was trying to say his iris got smaller 😆 oh well. Hopefully the judges will forgive me!

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Nandini Panchal
17:31 May 14, 2022

Wow! I mean your descriptions of the stars and music is so immersive--you already write like great author!!😊 And, the story was thrilling! Just loved it.☺

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19:58 May 14, 2022

Thank you, Nandini 😊 I’m so glad you enjoyed it! You are so very kind ❤️

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Sharon Hancock
02:49 May 13, 2022

AHHHHHH!!😱 🙂fantastic!! Loved it! So suspenseful and mysterious and such beautiful language. “A coldness comes to his eyes. An almost cruel delight that frightens me. His iris widens til the golden band of color all but vanishes. “The ugly things, I burn.”” Ooo this line is so creepy it gave me chills! The ending with the DONG is clever and unnerving…made me want to read faster and faster. Wonderful! I love this one so much!😻

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12:04 May 13, 2022

Sharon, thank you 😊 this made me so happy to read, I truly appreciate your kind words! I’m glad the ending worked! I wanted to build the suspense! Thank you again for reading ❤️

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L. Maddison
13:30 May 12, 2022

Wonderful! At first I was thinking along the lines of the dancing princesses fairytale, and then it became an altogether different kind of supernatural…

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15:35 May 12, 2022

Hi friend! Thank you for stopping to read! I'm so glad that it was able to surprise you a bit at the end :) I enjoy getting a bit "macabre" every so often!

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Suma Jayachandar
10:06 May 12, 2022

Hanna! I read the story and then looked at the title and the entire story took a different hue again. Gorgeous imagery with crisp narrative as always! The story was rich, intense and had just the right dose of suspense and menace to it. Thanks for sharing!

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15:37 May 12, 2022

Suma! :) thank you so much for reading, you always make me feel more confident about my writing! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I will be sure to go look at your most recent work soon! <3

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Cindy Strube
18:21 May 10, 2022

Hannah, What a gorgeous style of writing - it’s so lush, but ominous. One small note before I continue: I *think* “bows” should be “boughs”. The imagery is lovely and chilling. I was pretty sure, by the title, that the narrator would end up… um… fading, but the skill with which you wrote still left suspense — And that last paragraph — DONG I’m reminded of the reruns of old radio programs I listened to when I was a teenager. There was one called “Suspense!”, and this story could have been one of the programs. Excellent writing!

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19:46 May 10, 2022

Hey Cindy :) thank you so much, and THANK YOU for catching that! oh my gosh, I used to listen to Suspense (they had the cassette tapes at my library) so it was definitely an influence with my thriller writing!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story, and I truly appreciate your feedback <3

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Cindy Strube
00:43 May 11, 2022

; ) You’re welcome - I think I just have an automatic “edit” function… Not a bit surprised to hear that you’re familiar with “Suspense!” My dad grew up listening to those programs in the mid 40s to 50s, & I enjoyed the replays 30 years later!

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Spruce Popsicle
12:27 May 10, 2022

When I saw the title of this story, I didn’t expect this at all! That isn’t a bad thing though. I really love the story telling and how the transformation occurred. I loved the imagery and the dialogue. Great job!

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12:54 May 10, 2022

Hi Spruce :) so, I was actually worried the title would give it away too much, so I'm kinda happy that it caught you off guard Lol thank you so much for reading my story! I will be sure to go take a look at your work as well!

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