Song of deerwoman, p.1
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       Song of Deerwoman, p.1

           Daniel Hoover
Song of Deerwoman
Song of Deerwoman.

  Daniel LaGrave.

  Copyright © 2011 by Daniel LaGrave

  If you value your life stay out of the Great Western Woods when the eves of autumn near.

  It had been well known that sprits of all kind walked those woods as the season began to chill. Monstrous things that could devour a one’s flesh and innards before his bones had enough time to fall to the ground they’d stood upon. The spirits shifted with the seasons, each making the forest their home for a time, before giving way to the next.

  Until that night, Baston Marriman had grown up with stories of the spirits of the dark woods, and dismissed them as stories made up to scare the colonists and their children.

  He had spent a late afternoon at the tavern house with his mates to celebrate the upcoming end of another season spent working in the fields, and the arrival of the autumn festival. The hours were whiled away until the sun had sunk into the horizon. Unlike his friends whose families lived within the confines of the fort-town the Marriman‘s plantation home was a few miles beyond the walls. If he wanted to be home before it was dark he decided that he’d need to take Peddler’s Pass, a trail that cut his distance in half, but wound its way through the very heart of the forest. While George Harriet, the rotund tavern keeper might have thought Baston and his friends were old enough to stay at his establishment and order beer, his mother still thought of him as the child she’d given birth to, and would already be upset with the scent of liquor, but would be irate if he arrived home well after dark.

  Thoughts of his mother that evening though had been the furthest from his mind, as he drank and chased the tavern girls promising each in turn his name and house. He walked through the dusky twilight, beginning to follow without realizing the sound of a woman’s soft singing as he drew deeper into the woods. He continued to follow her soft tune deeper and deeper into the forest until he’d long since slipped from the beaten path.

  Her melody ceased only when he came at last to a clearing, his breath creating billowing clouds. He stepped into the open, the withered grass under his feet crunched with each footfall.

  Baston stopped senses snapping back, he’d lived his entire life among these woods, but never had heard of or seen this clearing. He turned round and round again, but the meadow appeared empty. With his bearings lost the forest seemed to close in, and entrap him.

  She laughed a soft chuckle that echoed from all directions, he spun trying to locate the creator without success. The trunks of the oak forest now faded in and out of sight as a dense fog began to roll in, and deepen. A sense of panic quickly filled him.

  As if the phantom woman had heard his thoughts, her reserved maiden’s laughter soft and demur slipped into an insane cackle. He whirled around at the sound, which now came from behind him. There in the fog he caught the silhouette of deeper shadow in the moon lit fog. She giggled again, a sound now that seemed to mock him.

  “Who are you?” He demanded. The fog shifted and the shadow was gone. She cackled, frenzied from the other end of the clearing, and again from behind him.

  Despite the wintry air a sweat broke out on his brow.

  “Wha…what do you want?” He pleaded. The only answer he received was her continued laughing, which now slipped back and forth between maiden and madness.

  Baston twisted and turned at every chortle, and giggle until he fell landing hard on his backside, “Please, what is it you want from me?”

  There came back an infinitely more terrorizing sound-silence.

  Baston watched and waited for anything that would betray his tormentor. He counted the passage of time with his heartbeats. It felt as if a lifetime passed before the shadow again materialized directly ahead of him now only a few paces away, and without uttering a sound a woman stepped into the clearing.

  For a moment his fear vanished, replaced by a stark wonder. She wore a simple buck skin dress. She was clearly one of the native people.

  Her skin was the same warm fawn color of the other savages, and her hair straight and as black as raven’s wing. Those eyes, dark and penetrating so strange. Strangest of all was what appeared to protrude from her head, though he could not see how they were supported solely by the bright head band strung with dentalium shells, a pair of deer’s antlers protruded stout and sure from her black locks. Strange regalia, was common for the local natives, but these, these seemed to grow from her very scalp.

  “What do you want?” He asked again.

  The woman made no answer, only smiled. She had what she needed, there was only to finish the ritual now. He must be given a chance to live that was the law. She felt his youthful heart beat with life; in his mind she heard the lies spoken to girl after girl, and knew what he’d taken from each. He was guilty, and worthy of this sacrifice, but still he had to be given a chance. Now he must choose his contest.

  Despite that she bore neither knife nor musket, she was terrifying. “For god’s sake woman what do you want?” Baston screamed, his voice fraying in his throat.

  Still the woman said nothing, only smiled her terrible smile.

  “Go to hell.” He cried. His hand seized upon a pile of river stones. Her smile deepened, his choice has been made.

  The first stone was whipped in sidearm fashion while he leapt to his feet; Baston already running did not see his throw skim past her face narrowly missing. He heard her words now, and knew she spoke while still wearing that malevolent grin.

  “Missed me!” Her voice sweet and soft called.

  He ran as fast as his legs would carry him, branches slapped and clawed at his face as if the whole wood tried to slow him, but he paid no attention. In his panic his mind could not tell how far he’d traveled, the forest stretched on. Finally the glimmer of moon light signaled a break in the wood, and it was close. Pressing hard he slipped through.

  Dismay filled his soul, he’d not found the forests’ edge instead he’d only come to the clearing again. He heard the woman’s laugh again only now it sounded from behind him as if she followed. He turned, ran again, but this time his legs felt heavy, and could not gain speed. The demon woman’s laugh sounded closer.

  Again, moon light’s shine offered hope, but as he broke through he found himself again in that accursed clearing. Her laughing now filled the space. As he stumbled into the center, Baston’s mind struggled to understand how he could have ended up from where he escaped. Looking down he saw the small pile of rounded river stones. The fog swirled again at the edge of the wood, the chill in the air deepened, and her laugh ceased, leaving only silence.

  He stood alone, his breath billowing waiting for her shadow to again appear in the fog. The mist laced woodland betrayed no sign of her. His hazel eyes strained for any hint, any detail. But there was none.

  He sighed, a ragged breath. Surely he must have escaped her. No sooner than the thought had formed than he felt her presence soundless, but physical behind him.

  As he attempted to spin round and step back, he only found himself on the ground again. “Please, leave me be.” The woman only smiled, hummed her tune again, and pointed to the river rock. His mind seized on the potential weapon and took up another stone, this one heavy and well rounded. When he tried to take aim, he found her gone again. Her shadow and song slipped in and out of the haze echoing all around him.

  Baston squeezed his eyes until he felt her presence again, and with all his might threw the stone. As soon as it left him his eyes opened, every hope being carried on the cobble. She had been standing there, but in his fear his aim did not hold true. The rock sailed directly between her accursed antlers. Her smile deepened.

  “Missed me.” She called again cold and terrible.

  Her feet, you
must see her feet to break her spell; he remembered the warning, too late to save his life. She only offers a victim a chance to live twice. He remembered the stones thrown, in his terror he realized, those had been his chances.

  His gaze fell to the bottom of her buckskin dress, and to his revulsion he found in the place, where feet clad in moccasins should have been, a pair of cloven hooves stood. Now though, it did no good. “Now you must kiss me.” She held out her hand as if to beckon a lover.

  As she did his body froze in place, and a stabbing pain pierced his chest as though a pike had skewered him through. His eyes searched for the wound, but found nothing.

  Time for searching ended with the beckoning of her slender finger, an unseen force pulled him forward.

  In a heartbeat he found himself pulled into her arms, so close to her terrifying beauty, but helpless to prevent his end. He could only pray. She smiled, and leaned in pressing her crimson lips to his. Her lips were as cold like as the clay of an earthen grave.

  Then, in a flash, everything he had been felt set aflame and promised to burn endlessly. One last thought crystallized in his mind’s eye, as the chill in her lips parted the inferno, and spread through him, that his soul was hers alone, and that only oblivion would welcome him.

  She held her kiss until the last of the sacrifice was consumed. After a long moment, their lips parted and allowed the twisted grey remains to tumble to the ground. She regarded at what remained of the man Baston Marriman. A bit of her felt pity for the hapless creature, the first one of the harvesting season always died. He’d be the lucky one. It was the ones she found afterward, the others who would long for her, forsaking all others, until finally, desire drove them to madness.

  Reaching to her head band she removed one of the shells and placed it on the emaciated form. The shell twinkled bright amid the dull lusterless ash of a once living man. Standing again she resumed her singing, and strode back into her forest. All too soon the autumn season would again give way to winter and her time to gather the essential life energy needed would be over. She needed to hasten, the people were counting on her, and already her thoughts filled with their fertility and womanhood songs.

  No, she thought, I will not fail them.

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