“Dumb John” Published in Print

One of my dark fantasy stories is now available in the Indigo Mosaic Publishing anthology Mytherium: Tales of Mythical and Magical Creatures. It’s available at amazon.com, as well as here.

Anyway, here is a short preview of Dumb John:

***

The moon lingered above the horizon like a grim fingernail. Its horns looked too small to do any real harm, yet its presence pushed against the mind, whispering and reminding.

Dumb John hunched into the coat the widow Jenner had given him for digging Martin’s grave. The harvest wind bit cold, and though John couldn’t see far in the dark, he could hear the rattle of dead leaves on the path. He should have been done hedging the old graveyard and back to St.Anne’s before sundown, but he’d gotten distracted by a family of squirrels. Now he had to round the bluff and cross the old mill bridge at night.

He knew what that meant, what came next.

John clenched the shaft of his sickle and squinted up at the bluff. The villagers said it was haunted, but only John knew the truth of that. Yet he saw no unclean spirits up there, and no vapors or wisps o’ night, only the bare-fingered trees as they stroked the belly of the sky. But that didn’t mean nothing was there. He licked his lips. No, it did not.

He shuddered and kept moving, his hands tightening and loosening on his sickle.

As always when the moon was new, John wondered if it would be tonight. The old priest had promised, and John figured it would happen on an evening like this, chill and black, with the hint of dead things on the wind.

“A turn deserves a turn,” the old priest had said from his deathbed all those years before. “One for the other, as before. Even you can see that, can’t you John? I’ll rise, my son, I will. They won’t hurt you anymore, and I won’t never leave you. You hear me? Never.”

 So John had helped. He had taken the knife and done what was asked, even when the old priest lost his courage and screamed for him to stop. John had wept, but he’d finished the task. He’d thrown the candles into the fire, cleaned up the blood, and sunk the body in the mill pond. He’d kept his word to the old priest. But that man had been no priest at all. No true priest would have bid John do such blasphemy. No true priest would want to cheat God and live forever. John had learned that from Father Mark.

John loved Father Mark.

John’s eye drifted back up to the bluff as he trudged along. The moan of the wind among the birches sent shivers up his spine, and he kissed his crucifix. He tried to say, “Mary protect me,” but only a groan came out. The knot of lips that fronted his jaw allowed him nothing more.

Finally John rounded the bluff and stumbled to a halt. Before him lay Tom’s mill and pond. It belonged to Owen and Annie now, but John still thought of it as Tom’s. The stream coiled through the valley like a whispering serpent, and beside the bridge stood the dam and its thin black waterwheel.

Beyond that lay the mill pond…

***

Go here for more info.

 

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