ANTISUN GREY Presents | A Brian Franklin Story
1One

The tall, stone figure of a man suddenly rose out of the grasping fronds of trees up ahead. He was stark against the smoky-blue backdrop of sky, his features clear and hard. In his hand a long-spear. He gazed out over the forest grimly.

Karissa scrambled over a small stone embankment just before her and jerked to a stop.

What was that?

A soft murmur of something following close tickled her ears. And then it was gone. She shook her head dismissively. She could not be sure. She could never be sure. Yet Karissa glanced behind furtively, seeing nothing in the gathering gloom.

Her heart raced, and every limb throbbed painfully. About her the land was still and quiet; waiting, watching.

I have to get to him before nightfall. I am brave, for the Mother guides me. I will arrive before nightfall.

She continued forward, scampering around dense bush where she could, and slashing through where she could not. Sweat slithered into her eyes, blurring her vision, and for a moment she saw shadows flit before her with the speed of arrows.

She stopped short, crouched, and hid behind a nearby baobab tree. Karissa wiped the sweat from her face with the cloth from her torn hood and she tried to calm herself. A Dervish was one with nature, and nature would protect her. She recited her holy mantras, all the while gazing about the darkening forest with her wide grey-brown eyes.

Nothing. She seemed suddenly very alone.

Karissa stood and looked for her landmark. Only the head of the statue now peeked above the trees. She was drawing ever closer to it. Ever closer to safety.

With a lunge she moved from the tree and forged ahead through the forest. The deepening darkness and the knowledge that her haven was growing ever closer filled her body with a renewed vigour. Hacking through greenery without prejudice she made good progress, until the ground fell away into a shallow swamp below.

“Gods!” she cursed. The blue sky was quickly melting into an indigo sea of stars, but she had to persevere. There was no time to find another way.

Strapping her scythe against her back, Karissa clambered down the soft rock into the swampy ravine. The scent of decaying detritus and pungent water filled her nostrils, but even so she could not hear the buzzing flies or the chittering skales. Had life even abandoned the swamps?

No time for questions. Karissa stepped into the thigh-high brackish water and waded towards the other side. Her skirt had long ago been torn right up to her buttocks, but she could not worry about her exposed skin. Night is coming.

With every step the water seemed to deepen, until Karissa found herself having to stem water in the middle of the swamp. It did not matter. She was almost across. It can’t be far now.

Suddenly she heard a loud splash behind her.

In a panic she whirled around, but there was nothing to be seen – nothing stood in the water but pooling shadows. She was still alone.

Her breathing came in rapid bursts now. Her skin felt like ice in the cold water. She had to get out…now! She lurched forward, desperately stroking in the still, undisturbed water. For a heart-wrenching moment Karissa felt as though she were going nowhere, until the opposite bank drew nearer and she abruptly pulled herself out of the swamp-water.

She glanced back to the far side of the swamp. Darkness consumed the forest entirely, and like a curling miasma of ink the darkness seemed to flow down into the swamp. Anything could be following her from within those moving shadows. She cast her gaze towards her landmark and realised – in horror – that she could no longer see the statue through the forest canopy.

I’m getting closer. I’m…getting…closer.

She climbed up the ravine wall with painstaking slowness. Her muscles were stiff and sore, and her body bordered on exhaustion. Every cell screamed for rest. Not yet!

Karissa eventually scrambled over the ledge onto the forest floor and, gasping for breath, looked back over the ravine. Night had come.

Heart throbbing, stomach fluttering, muscles aching, Karissa drew her scythe and fled into the thick forest before her. Hacking-slashing she made her way blindly through, feeling nothing but a desire to escape the night. Hope burned for a second.

She could not know that just before her lay two dark, misshapen figures. Waiting, watching. Waiting for her.

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antisunGREY v1.0 | © Copyright 2015, Brian Franklin. All rights reserved.