Fiction Horror Fantasy

      Cayden pulled the hood of his black cloak over his head and slipped into the darkness of the forest. His movements were light and swift so that his approaching footsteps would not be heard. The haunting sound of a melancholy flute guided him towards the secret gathering that he wasn’t supposed to be in attendance for. In the darkness of the night, the twisted branches of the trees above him appeared to sway, stretch, and reach out for him. He assured himself what he saw must be an illusion due to the eerie stillness of the air. Then again, he didn’t know the extent of the magic they were capable of conjuring or if they were even capable.

Everything he heard might only be rumors. They were the most talked about group in town and his source, Helena, loved to take tidbits of overheard conversations and spin them into fine, intricate tales.

           As he approached the clearing, he noticed a glowing, pale blue fog. Hidden behind the wide truck of an oak tree, he peered out and saw other people cloaked in a similar manner. They stood around a glowing swamp. Small creatures the size of chickadees, but with the scaly bodies of dragons glided around the swamp in a synchronized movement as if hypnotized by the music. He didn’t know dragons were real, and he certainly didn’t expect they’d be so small. A longing to cradle one in his palms pulsed in his heart, but he ignored it.

           The group kept their faces concealed, making it hard to determine if they were who he thought they were. The number of people, five, was correct. The heights seemed to line up too. He hoped they would drop their hoods and provide him with evidence. It’s never that easy though, is it? The tallest member of the group raised their hands and the center of the swamp bubbled like boiling water. Then water shot into the air like a geyser, swirled and molded into the form of a woman with arms like the branches of weeping willows. Her dress and skin were the same glowing blue of the water. A half circle of cattails lined her neck like a royal collar. 

           “Greetings, our enchanting Queen!” A man’s voice yelled, and the group knelt before her, bowing their heads.

           The Queen seemed unimpressed. “Have you brought me a gift?”

           “Of course.”

           Cayden hadn’t noticed the box before. Though, the dark color of it blended in with the night. One of the cloaked figures, opened the box and pulled out a young girl. Cayden recognized the golden curls and purple princess dress of Violet, the librarian’s daughter, from the hundreds of missing posters hanging up and down the streets.

           “Come to me child,” the Queen cooed. Blank faced like a mindless zombie the child stepped into the water. Her feet didn’t sink underneath it. She walked across the surface, as if it were frozen, into the Queen’s arms. The Queen embraced her warmly, ran her fingers down the child’s golden hair, and then stretched her jaw open wide to bit off Violet’s head. A loud crunch like that of someone eating potato chips but much louder rang in Cayden’s ears. He swallowed burning vomit that filled his mouth.

           “She’s a sweet one. Just how I like them.” The Queen sounded pleased as she bit off a chunk of arm. “What can I do for you?”

           “We have three requests,” the tall one said.

           “That’s a high number. I’m not a genie, you know. Spill it and I’ll let you know what I can do.”

           “We need Poppy Chanel to win the election and become Mayor.”

           The Queen chuckled. “Oh, Poppy is an old friend of mine, but I’m curious what she’s done to deserve this.”

           “We have a plan for this town and she’s a nice fit.”

           “Sure.” The Queen didn’t sound like she believed this. “What’s the next one?”

           “We need a flood. A large scale, devasting one. We need it to happen three weeks from now.”

           “Interesting, go on.”

           “We need John Lennox to get in a car accident with Max Stanley at 7pm on Friday night.”

           “Hmm. Curious requests. I’m happy to fulfill if tasty little snacks like this keep finding their way to me.”

           “Of course, our graceful Queen.”

           “You have a deal.” The Queen sank back into the swamp with the remains of Violet still clutched in her arms. The small dragons dove into the whirlpool that remained where she once stood and disappeared with her. A few shimmering bubbles floated through the air, then popped.

           Of all the things a person could use a swamp witch’s magic for, they’re trying to rig an election and meddle in politics. Cayden had a feeling he could see where this was going. John was Chief of police, and Max was a town troublemaker trying to turn a leaf. Max had been good too. It seemed this group planned to make issues that weren’t there, and have Poppy provide solutions quick. That would surely win the town over, but Poppy didn’t deserve their admiration. He knew a few things about her that said otherwise.

           When he was a boy, Cayden heard stories about witches like this one from the swamp and they all had that be-careful-what-you-wish-for theme. Did this group know what they were getting into it? Leave it to politicians to sacrifice innocent children and still believe they’re doing what’s best for the town.

           Cayden stood hiding in the shadows while the group left. After giving them a few minutes to make it out of the woods, he crept back the way he came.

A raven landed on his left shoulder. The raven always picked that shoulder, his hurt shoulder. In a croaky caw that only Cayden understood the raven assured him he saw the faces of the group. Cayden looked into the raven’s black eyes and saw Tiffany, Brian, Shelly, Colleen, and Timothy walking out of the woods with their cloaks down. They were exactly who he expected. Each one a prominent town leader, wealthy, and popular.

“There must be a way to stop their plan,” Cayden said with more confidence than he felt. Fighting against a witch’s magic wasn’t possible. Perhaps he could invite Max to dinner to keep him off the streets, but with a witch involved a car would probably crash through the restaurant window or Max would get an emergency call he had to take. The witch would find a way to make it work. Magic could do that. The best option seemed to be exposing the group. The town’s people were distrusting of magic. The unfortunate thing in all of this was that if he insured Poppy lost, the town still wouldn’t be in good hands. The other candidate he considered even worse. Still, the truth mattered.

Following their usual well-known tradition, the group attended the town’s trivia, craft beer, and half price appetizers night. No one would suspect just moments ago they were in the middle of the forest sacrificing a missing child to an evil witch. Cayden knew they’d be there at least two hours, so he used this time to break into their houses and search for further evidence with the help of his raven.

He snapped pictures of their discarded cloaks, but that didn’t necessarily prove anything. The group knew to be cautious, but with five people someone was bound to slip up. Cayden hacked into Brian’s laptop. Brian was an outgoing, goofball with a strong sense of entitlement. It seemed reasonable to suspect Brian would also be the type that felt invincible. It also seemed like politicians often underestimated the value of cybersecurity. So often people lacked the understanding of permanence. Deleting something didn’t mean it went away.

Unfortunately for Brian, Cayden didn’t even need to be as smart as he was. Brian’s search history contained all sorts of links to legends of the witch. It also contained evidence of stalking Violet. What an idiot. They didn’t think anyone would catch on or break into their homes while they drank and mingled at trivia night, but still. A certain amount of suspicion and caution was always healthy, especially for someone dealing in such seedy affairs.

Cayden put together all the evidence in a large envelop. He made sure the implications were easy to understand and the plan the group had could be followed. Then he sealed the envelop and watched the raven drop it on John Lennox’s head while he stood smoking a cigarette outside the police station. John rubbed his head and cursed the bird. Then he looked over the envelope curiously, and walked into the station. Satisfied, Cayden returned to his home to wait.

He waited and waited. Two days later, Poppy won the election by a landslide. Why didn’t they do anything?

The first order of business for Poppy turned out to be a heavy increase in funding for the police. Cayden suspected John Lennox began the investigation and ended it after a suitable bribe. Disappointing.

A day after Poppy won the election, and a day before the car crash was scheduled to happen, Poppy dropped dead in her office. They said it was a heart attack, but Cayden knew better. When dealing with a swamp witch, you need to be careful what you wish for. Foolishly, no one had paid much attention to the acting mayor who would take Poppy’s place. A beautiful woman with pale blue eyes that seemed to glow, and a cattail patterned dress suit eased into her spot. Something about the woman seemed familiar, but no one really knew her. Her first order of business was to schedule a field trip to her office with a local school, because understanding politics was valuable for children and she loved children.

Furious by the betrayal they should have seen coming, the group declared the new mayor a witch and told the town not to trust her. This message confused the town since Poppy had selected her and they supported Poppy. Of course, there’s also the fact that no one in the town wanted to believe in witches, even if the stories as kids felt a little too real for comfort. The town turned against the group instead. While Cayden didn’t care much for the group, he did care for the children.

Once again, he collected evidence with the help of his raven. This task would be much harder with a witch, though maybe her insatiable hunger would help. John clearly wasn’t planning to help him, but assuming the witch kept her word, he wouldn’t be around much longer anyway. State police would come in to investigate his death, and Cayden would have another chance. Sometimes the right way to handle things didn’t feel like the most efficient, but to him it was still important. He couldn’t help thinking that maybe if the group saw it that way, none of them would be in this mess to begin with.

October 06, 2021 14:36

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Eric D.
00:16 Oct 07, 2021

This was a really fun story there was a little error "pulsed in his heart, but he ignored he." I think you meant "it" I really enjoyed and wasnt expecting a sort of bohemian grove secret cult society story which was so cool to read, and better yet mixed with horror fantasy elements really well. Also left me with some questions I'm crossing my fingers for a potential sequel. What's the witch up to? And what is going on with that flood? There is also some cool monkey paw inspirations, great job with this creepy story.


Annalisa D.
00:25 Oct 07, 2021

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it! I appreciate the edit and have fixed it. Maybe there will be more! It's possible. Thank you so much!


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Alex Sultan
09:26 Oct 07, 2021

Engaging story. I think the format might be a bit word heavy - maybe break some paragraphs into two? - I really liked the concept. You blend genres together really well. I'd definitely read a second part if right prompt comes along


Annalisa D.
12:13 Oct 07, 2021

Thank you! I'll see what I can do about the paragraphs. I'm glad to hear you liked it. I do have fun mixing genres so that's good its working.


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Danny G
23:24 Oct 06, 2021

This was a fun and engaging story. I’d read more about this storyline and what Camden uncovers and how he goes about resolving it.


Annalisa D.
00:24 Oct 07, 2021

Thank you! I'm glad to hear that. Maybe there'll be more in another prompt!


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. .
22:39 Oct 06, 2021

I love this so much! The storyline was engaging and fun to read and I loved the hit of fantasy I don't even know if it's classified fantasy but I figured the Queen was a magical Queen with powers (or that could just be my interpretation).


Annalisa D.
00:23 Oct 07, 2021

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading and leaving me a comment. I love to read them! I think it's fantasy and meant her to have powers so you're right. I'm really happy you liked it! Thank you!


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