Le Shorts

Glimmer Tears

Something I wrote back in high school. It’s inspired by a song from Loreena McKennett

*****

The golden sunlight reflected like a strip of gossamer across the evergreen trees. Thick clusters of needle leaves shuffled in the soft breeze. A cool mist wove finger-like through the boughs. The air was warm but damp. A chill made seventeen year old Jane’s skin prick. Her sandy brown hair shimmered, and her skin glowed in the passing light.

Summer was ending. She could almost taste autumn on the air.

She had been watching the woods for seven evenings. She couldn’t explain what she was looking for, but she had been waiting all her life for this moment. Even as a child, she knew there was something magical about those woods. When she entered high school, she thought she had put all this fantasy behind her, but something beckoned her to continue dreaming. Now she would finally know what she was waiting for.

The first night had been an accident. It had been a long day at work, and she was taking a walk to clear her head. She had only paused for a moment, watching the fog drift among the everwoods, when strange lights flickered into place. They bobbed and moved through the trees. But once darkness settled, she had not been able to see the lights anymore.

Each night, the lights became brighter, more clear. Last night she had seen torches, but more surprisingly, ghosts. Images wavered, appeared, then faded from view. Tonight – she was sure – something would happen.

Jane drew in a breath and held it as the lights flickered into view one by one. They came slowly at first, few and far between, but then arriving in clusters. They lit up the trees and dispelled the fog. They moved in a line going from east to west, passing right by her without seeming to notice.

Sunset turned to twilight and the air became abruptly cooler, raising the gooseflesh on Jane’s skin until she shivered.

Slowly, patiently, ghostly figures began to emerge from the mist, taking shape and form, becoming tangible figures with details so refined that Jane could have painted them from memory with just a glance. She dared not blink – the figures might disappear entirely just as they had done last night. She wanted to step towards them, but she feared disturbing the fantastic mirage.

There was magic in the air, she could feel it. A tingling on her skin, a warming in the air. Even while the sunlight faded and the world became dark, the figures in the trees seemed to glow with their own light – sparkling almost.

I can see them, she gasped silently. I’m not dreaming. They’re…they’re actually real.

Elves. Mystical beings. Myth straight out of the story books, the stuff of legends. Not twenty feet away, the elegant creatures glided by, soft as whispers and subtle as roes, with glimmering capes of spider silk and evening dew and raven hair braided with forget-me-nots and violets. Every detail was delicate and intricate.

Jane found she couldn’t believe her eyes – not really. Elves did not exist in reality so the past week surely must have been a series of dreams. Yes, perhaps this was all a dream. If that were the case, then it explained why this evening felt like a goodbye.

She watched the procession with a keen gaze, taking in everything and letting nothing escape her eye. But she wasn’t the only one staring. There was a man standing perfectly still, and he was watching her closely.

She caught her breath. Could he see her? Who was he? Should she be afraid? No one else in the procession paid him any mind – or her, for that matter. Yet he continued to stare.

Just then, he started forward. Jane stumbled back a step, then froze. He weaved around his brothers and sisters without disrupting their solemn walk. He was coming closer. She couldn’t move – could hardly breathe.

He passed out of the woods and hesitated, casting his gaze around the open field as if seeing it for the first time. Jane could see him more clearly now—he seemed both young and old at the same time. His features were smooth and refined, though still chiseled with youth. His eyes told a different story, a story about a world lived over many, many seasons. 

Stopping just a few paces away from her, he stood very still, gazing at her openly with starlit blue eyes. It was a strange combination:  raven black hair with crystal blue eyes.

Jane very carefully, very hesitantly, lifted her hand to wave. She didn’t know what else to do, but the staring spell had to be broken. He raised his hand as well, holding it up without waving.

Now what?

“Hi,” she said, swallowing to clear the lump in her throat.

“Well met, friend,” he greeted.

Jane took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is real. I’m not dreaming. He’s tall and slender with pointy ears and robes of royalty over silk clothes. This is not a dream.

“I am Runal Eytheranea,” the elf said, gesturing to himself, then fell silent and waited for her.

Say something, you dork, she scolded herself. “I’m Jane. Jane Carter.”

“You are human,” he noted.

She nodded her head.

“And yet you opened the doors to Lorienne,” he said.

He glanced back at the trees where his fellows had disappeared. They were alone. The air was still and quiet as if time had stood still. Only crickets sounded like a chorus of tiny voices to fill the silence.

“Are you…” Jane felt stupid to be asking this question, but since she had started, she had no choice but to continue. “Are you real?”

Instead of answering, he held out his hand to her, palm up. For a moment, she felt a twinge of fear. She shook it off. Stepping closer, she reached out to lay her hand in his. His skin was cool to the touch because of the night air, but it quickly warmed in her hand. The touch of flesh was real, and his gentle clasp eased away the sense that he might fade away.

Runal was gazing down at her hand when he spoke. “I feel as if I know you from long ago,” he murmured.

“I’ve never seen you before,” Jane said.

He looked up. “No. From a long-forgotten memory. Or a dream,” he added.

Jane let out a trembling sigh. “I knew it. This is just a dream.”

A deeply sorrowful expression entered Runal’s eyes as he withdrew his hand. “The ships are calling,” he said softly.

It’s not real…

“I must leave you now.”

She nodded, maintaining control over her expression. “I know.”

“They’ll not be returning to this land,” he explained, backing up.

Jane nodded again and raised her hand to wave.

*****

Sunlight broke over the land with just a fraction of rosy light at first, steadily growing as the day began. Jane was still standing before the trees with hand raised in a good bye. It did not feel as if she had been standing out all night. She could almost still see the Elvin man’s retreating figure as he pulled the silver hood over his head and followed his brothers and sisters.

“It’s just not fair,” she said as a tear trickled down her face and sparkled in the sunlight.

*****

“Suddenly I knew that you’d have to go

Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so

Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time

And I wondered why.

“The thundering waves are calling me home, home to you

The pounding sea is calling me home, home to you.”

 –The Old Ways (by Loreena McKennett).

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Le Shorts

Laughter in the Mall

#Nightmare, #Horror, #Psychological, #Suspense

The bright lights and bustle of shoppers were always a welcomed diversion for Tessa. She enjoyed being part of the crowd. She liked looking at fancy things, browsing for jewelry or clothes or shoes she didn’t need but had to have. Today, however, she was partaking in none of those things. Today, she was babysitting.

“Come on, Eddy, don’t fall behind,” she said to the elder brother while simultaneously trying to wrangle the younger. “Sam, stop pulling.”

“I want to push the buttons,” Sam said, reaching out a pudgy hand for the ATM machine.

Tessa rolled her eyes. Sam wanted to push all of the buttons. She couldn’t understand the kid’s obsession for buttons. “No,” she said. “Now come on.

Eddy was a good kid; bright, sensible, with a knack for comprehending things beyond his age. His kid brother just liked pushing buttons – and that meant the babysitter’s buttons too.

Tessa thought bringing them to the mall would have been a fun thing. She thought maybe she could conquer two tasks; get paid while spending money all in one. But it had turned out to be a catastrophe. So far she spent her allowance in the food court just to stop their complaining, and had not been able to look at a single outfit because she was too busy keeping both eyes on two wayward boys who could somehow disappear in the blink of an eye. Tessa was exhausted.

“That’s it. We’re going home,” she announced.

“Awww!” they both whined.

“I want to ride the horsey,” Sam said.

“Can we maybe look at the bookstore one more time?” Eddy asked more tactfully.

“No and no,” Tessa said. “We’re all going to take a nap.”

“You’re my favorite babysitter, Ms Tessa,” Eddy added for good measure.

Tessa steered them back the way they had come. But to avoid getting stalled by all the arcade games with blinking push buttons, she took the longer route around. In her mind, it was worth it. Here, the mall was quieter. Mostly adults frequented the kitchen sections. There wasn’t much fun to look at, but at least the boys were too bored to try and touch anything.

“What’s that door?” Eddy stopped in the middle of the aisle to point at a rather nondescript door.

Tessa looked above it to the glowing sign. Instead of EXIT, it read COMING SOON.

“I don’t know,” she said, not in the mood for curiosity. “Maybe they’re adding on to the mall.”

“Can we see it?” he asked.

She sighed. “Okay. We’ll look. But if it says DO NOT ENTER, then we’re going straight home.”

Excited about something mysterious, Sam dragged her after Eddy and they both stood on tiptoe to see through the door window. Tessa peered through the glass, surprised to find the hallway beyond lit and decked with shop signs.

“Cool,” she breathed.

“What is it?” Eddy asked. “I can’t see.”

“Lift me up,” Sam said, hopping up and down on his stubby legs.

Tessa pushed on the handlebar and forced the door open with her shoulder. “It’s like a little, old fashioned town.” Quickly, she scooped up Sam’s hand before he could run off, then together they walked onto the cobblestone floor.

The walls were brick-laid, and colorful eaves hung over each doorway. There was an ice cream parlor, a rocking horse store, a knick-knack toy shop, and others down the corridor. But all of the windows were darkened and the doors locked.

“Well, doesn’t look like anything’s open,” she began, but then stopped. A neon light flashed just a short way down. She walked closer, curiosity getting the best of her. One of the windows was brightly lit. Above the door, the sign read BAKERY. Tessa tried the handle. It turned easily. Opening the door, she peered in cautiously and looked around. It was empty, but round tables were set out with all the chairs sitting ready for customers. Behind the counter, she could see a glass case, now empty, but with the promise of fresh baked bread and sweet rolls.

“Cool! Jello!”

All of a sudden, Eddy ran toward one of the tables. Before Tessa could scold him, he snatched up a cup of green Jello and started eating with the spoon he found next to it.

“Eddy! You can’t just eat that!”

There was another cup of gelatin, this one blue. Sam slipped out of her grasp and joined his brother. Tessa ran after them, grabbing the Jello out of their hands. But they found more on another table. They gobbled it up as if the pretzels and nachos they had earlier hadn’t filled their tummies at all.

“Sam, Eddy, stop.

She grabbed the current cups away from the boys, but that didn’t stop them either. Suddenly, two more cups appeared. A chill crept up Tessa’s spine. Where was the Jello coming from? And what was wrong with the boys? They weren’t behaving at all like themselves.

As she stared befuddled at her two wards, she heard a sound. A sort of laughing noise.

Turning slowly, she looked around the room. It was still empty, save for the three of them. So then where was the laughing coming from? It sounded like an old chuckle toy set on repeat, as if the switch was broken and it kept laughing over and over.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

It made Tessa’s skin crawl. She shook Eddy’s arm.

“Let’s get out of here. Eddy, come on. Sam, please. Put the Jello down.”

But they wouldn’t stop – couldn’t stop. They couldn’t hear her or the disembodied laughter. And it was getting louder – or closer. Finally, Tessa took the cups away and grabbed both boys by their now sticky hands.

“I wasn’t done!” they cried.

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA.

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA.

With the boys in tow, Tessa made a run for the door. The laughing was loud now, echoing off the brick walls, sounding in her ears and drowning out all else but the panicked beating of her shoes slapping the ground. She shut off the bakery lights and yanked the door shut after them. Running as fast as the children’s legs could go, she fairly dragged them down the corridor. The laughter followed – right behind her now even though nothing was there.

Tessa’s breath came in gasps. Her thoughts were a tumble of fear and panic. They reached the exit door, and she switched off the last light as they burst through the door.

Just then, all of the mall lights shut off.

Frozen in fear, Tessa could only catch her breath; squeezing the boys’ little hands to make sure they were still by her side.

HA-HA-HA-

The laughing stopped.

One by one, the lights came back on. The shoppers returned. As if nothing had happened, people milled about the kitchen wares browsing products.

Eddy tugged on her arm. “Can we go home now? I’m tired.”

“Ow,” Sam muttered. “You’re pinching.”

Tessa glanced back at the door. She couldn’t see anything through the dark window pane. There was no glowing sign above it, only a notice for employees only.

Taking a deep breath, she walked away from the door, but did not let go of either of their hands.

“Yeah. Let’s go.”

Fan T. C.

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