This story was inspired by the third image in Michael MacRae’s gallery. Enjoy.
The right hook didn’t feel great. But his face was numbed after the first few minutes. Now each blow was mostly just a burst of light and disorientation.
“Tell us what you did with her!”
The next left broke a tooth and Grays spit it out with a mouthful of blood.
“I tol’ yoo, I dinn see no’in”
“If you keep beating on him we won’t be able to understand him.” A voice from behind accompanied a tight grip on the collar of his dirty shirt.
“She’s my daughter! You wouldn’t understand Reci.”
“Well now, I don’t think you’re in a position to tell me what I do and don’t understand. Now listen to me Heath, I let you beat the piss out of him. I didn’t have to do that, I gave you a chance but it seems like ol’ Grays here has developed some resolve since we run him out of town. Or he’s been telling ya the truth. Now get out of the way and let us do our job.”
Grays looked up through swollen eyes, he hadn’t seen Pastor Reci in almost two years. His chin trembled, like that of a child about to bear it all.
“Grays, you know we don’t give two shits about ya. Heath here is about to pound you into oblivion and ain’t nobody back home going to know.”
A backhand sent him to the forest floor, the dew covered leaves were cool on his face, he did his best not to cry. That always made the beatings worse.
“Sorry bud, but our family ties were cut the day you murdered Mrs. Juniper and did Cerberus-knows-what to her daughter. You know we still haven’t found her remains. I’ll give you that, at least your good at sinnin’. Now sit on up and tell us what you were about to before Heath lost his temper.”
Grays pushed himself off the floor and held one hand tight over the right side of his face. He swallowed hard. There were about fifteen of them, most of them young boys he didn’t know. But Judge Reci was there, and Lamont too. He couldn’t make out anyone else through the pain and dim light.
He stammered “I, well. I, uh. I saw her, you know. Coming up the trail from the city. I watched her from a tree until she passed under me.”
“You bastard! Why’d you hurt my little girl!” Reci screamed, Lamont and another hooded figure reached out to restrain him, but Grays still flinched.
“I saw her, she seemed to know the woods. I followed, or tried to at least.”
“To kill her? Rape her? Eat her?, how fucking crazy are you Grays. I always told your mother not to spoil you so much.”
Grays continued. “She started weaving in and out of the trees and damn near sprinting.”
“She probably saw you chasing her, you fiend. How can you not understand that?”
“She didn’ see me, nobody sees me.”
Reci chimed in. “Then how come we found ya here weeping in the open, finally feeling guilty for what you’ve done?!”
“I didn’t do anything!” His scream was hoarse from the crying earlier. “They came again, I’m serious they came. The forest lit up like day!”
“Damnit Grays, don’t start with the whole creatures from the sky shit. I may have to take a page out of Reci’s book and beat some sense into ya like the old days. Heath cracked the knuckles on his right hand and took of his Pastoral signet ring.”
Grays used to run when he saw that happen growing up. He took the scene in and looked for an escape. They never listened and one day they would come and take everybody away. Someday they would believe him. He tensed his legs and shoulders, fingers sinking into the cool earth beneath him.
“I told you a hundred times, they took Mrs. Junipers daughter and she died trying to hold Lisa down!”
“How dare you speak her name, we don’t have time for games-“
As good a queue as any, Grays pounced forward past his Father and slammed hard into Reci sending him the ground. With a few strides, albeit painful ones, he was out of the clearing and looking for a way to get up in the canopy. The canopy was safe, he lived here, he knew.
When they banished him from the city he camped on the ground the first night. But the second one, the second one was a different story. The sun had hardly set and a groaning deep noise rolled through the forest sending flocks of birds up in the night sky and dead leaves drifting to the floor. The boom rattled his ribcage and sent him sprawling up the tree as a bright light approached. He clasped to the elm tree, and shivered, fearing what was coming.
Two silhouettes strode out of the undergrowth, bathed in light that seemed to bleed from them like fire from a phoenix. Their foot prints left scorched earth behind. The beings were radiant and beautiful, dove like wings unaffected by the blazing aura folded tightly behind them. Each wielded a halberd ten feet long like it weighed nothing. His Dad had always mention angels, but this light, that noise. The same thing happened when Mrs.Juniper died. He didn’t want to watch anymore but he felt drawn to them. Unable to shut his eyes. The one on the left looked up at where he hide. An unnaturally wide smile filled with pin-coushin teeth greeted him and Grays stared into the abyss of the beings stygian eyes for the second time in his life. He passed out and when he came to they were gone. Since then he’s stayed in the trees, away from their reach, operating on the it worked once philosophy.
He heard the noises and saw the lights several times in the last three months but he would climb as far as he could and pull his hood over his eyes to wait for day. He never wanted to see them again. They probably took Reci’s girl. The only seem interested in the women.
“Grays! You shouldn’t show your face, you Father wants you dead and we won’t hold back!” Lamont and three others were picking their way through the undergrowth.
He was about to yell back at them. But a childs voice called back in a sing song lilt. “Oh they don’t want Grays. He’s broken. But they want me. I don’t know how they feel about you though.”
“Mary? Mary! Its me, its daddy. I’m here baby come to my voice.”
“No, daddy. You come to mine.” She laughed.
“This isn’t funny, we’ve been very-“
The low boom shook the tree around them and haze of unnatural light moved towards them from the east. Mary stumbled towards the group and her Reci reached out to embrace her. His out stretched arms missed entirely as she shot into the air and hovered spinning fifteen feet above them.
Two of the men took that as their sign to run away and did so swiftly. Lamont and Reci drew their swords and were bathed in light as the two slender beings came into view.
“Leave her.” A voice so deep it trees cracked and rumbled in the vicinity.
“Show yourselves!” Reci ran towards them.”
With impossible speed the one that spoke vanished and appeared holding Reci by the throat. His feet dangled helplessly and his hands clasped at the effeminate arm holding him aloft.
“Look now, look at your daughter she’s ours.” Reci’s neck snapped and he was flung to the side. Lamont froze and fell to his knees bowing before the two. They rose in the air, wings unfurled they embraced Mary and circled faster and faster before rocketing upwards leaving Lamont and Grays deafened and disoriented.
Together they staggered into town, shaken and pale. The people surrounded them, noticing Grays was there they called for the Pastor. He would surely die for this.
Lamont held out his hand and spoke in a timid voice. “They came. They did, Grays was telling the truth! We aren’t safe here, the forest isn’t safe. The angels Pastor Heath tells about they’re real but they, but they..”
“They don’t come to fools, like you.” Heath finished the sentence. “Gag them and tie them to the stake. We’ll burn them after worship tomorrow. This what blasphemy does, these are the faces of traitors and murders!”
“Nooo, wait. I swear they came I saw them, they killed Reci and took Mary!”
“I told you.” Grays said. “I told you nobody is ready to listen, deception lies over them like a blanket.”
With his childhood friend Grays was tied to the stake. They would be dead by sunrise. He looked at his people, his family, his persecutors. Some of their smiles slightly too wide, their eyes were they all black? He couldn’t get a second look as the blindfold slid over his eyes.