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June 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Random Title Jamboree

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 9:26 am

New Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig. I rolled a 15 and a 15 because random number generators are lazy and got Back Country Junction.

The road ran between two villages and when you followed it past the last of the houses and out onto the moor or into the small forest – depending on which direction you were coming from – it narrowed to nothing more than a track.

Both villages were small, but both also boasted a smithy, a holy man and a doctor. Thus, neither place had anything the other wanted and the only people who went from one to the other, except the odd traveling salesman, were young people who had met each other at one of the fairs and wanted to get further acquainted. The villages were close enough that in the summertime, if you started early in the morning, you could walk from one to another, do your business and get back before sundown, but later in the year, it often happened that one of the aforementioned young people stayed too late and had to stay the night so as not to get caught out in the dark.

There were no robbers on the moor, no dangerous beast in the forest. But there was the junction. In the middle of nowhere, the track was crossed by another. People had tried following this other track in both directions and they said that on either side it went on for some miles and then faded and disappeared. But sometimes, people tried to follow the track and were never seen or heard from again.

People said that it was the preferred route of the fair folk visiting their neighbors, which just happened to intersect with the road between the two villages and very pragmatically they also said that as long as no-body used the road or in other ways bothered the fair folk, they would leave the villagers alone. So no-one used the intersecting track and no-one went from one village to the next at night and they were safe and in the end, they started to forget why they too these precautions and the cross road and the fair folk became nothing more that a tale to tell in the long winter evenings.

Maria carefully lifted Lily’s hand away from her waist and crawled out from under the blanket. Then she carefully tucked the blanket around her little sister, making sure to cover all of her feet. Lily was a light sleeper and if she got cold, she would wake and when she didn’t find Maria there, she would started to cry and wake the rest of their sisters and this wouldn’t do.

Maria slipped on her shoes, while her eyes darted around the room, looking for any sign of movement, but the four other bodies that could be seen in the pale light were all sleeping quietly. One of them, Ella, stirred when she opened the window, but only to turn around and hug her pillow. Maria took one last look and then, before she could change her mind, she tied the end of the rope to the bedpost and climbed out the window.

The Larsson family had seven daughters and in a village where not much happened, it had been the source of and endless stream of mild jibes about how you could set your calender after Eleanor Larsson’s yearly delivery. As they got older the talk had gotten to be more about how sweet and lovely the eldest of the girls, Ida, was. Last year the talk had turned to the young man she had met and fallen in love with, and after a short but hectic courtship they had married and seven months later she had given birth to a healthy boy. But just a month ago Ida’s husband had disappeared, leaving her heartbroken. She had moved back in with her parents, but the gossip was all about how she stayed in the attic with her son and refused to see anyone, just cried her eyes out.

Some of the very old people muttered, that the man had been taken by the fair folk, but vast majority of the village took the cynical view that young Matthew had been more suited as a lover than as a husband and father; that the best Ida could do was to forget about him and find a new kinder man, who would take care of her and the boy. After all she was still sweet and lovely and the fact that she had been able to give birth to a healthy child was not at all a bad thing.

Then rumors started spreading – no-one knew who had first started them, but suddenly they were everywhere – that maybe it was not Matthew who had realized that he was unfit as a husband, but Ida and that she had taken matters into her own hands. Somehow the talk reached even Ida and her family thought that her staying hidden had as much to do with being unable to face the slander as it had with her grief over Matthew.

All lies; Maria knew that. Matthew might be immature and inept in many ways, but he was as fiercely devoted to his wife and child as she was to him. Still, while Matthew was a sweet young man, Maria would never have been out on the moor in the dark for his sake. She was doing this solely for Ida. The loss of Matthew and the lies of the village was killing her, if not literally, then her at least her spirit. And Maria loved her sister far too much to stand by and do nothing.

She found her way carefully in the dark. There was a full moon, which was why she had chosen this night to do this, but she still had to look at the track in front of her to be sure she didn’t lose her way. She walked for hours while the moon rose in the sky and then started to sink again, just as she reached the junction.

Maria looked down, first one road, then the other, trying to decide which one to take, since they both looked the same. Then the wind, which had until then been a soft breeze, rose to a gust which pushed her in the back. And since that was as good a suggestion as any other, Maria went down that way.

In the beginning she was as alone as she had been until now, but not for long. Soon she saw light light shining from behind her and had to resist the urge to turn around. Then figures started to walk past her, wearing lanterns glowing with floating golden lights that did not seem to have any source. They were human looking but all very tall and inhumanly thin. They were beautiful but in the way an orchid was beautiful. There was no warmth in the way they looked.

There were many, apparently they were on their way to a large gathering. None of them looked at Maria as they passed her, but no-one tried to stop her either.

She didn’t know how and when it had happened, but she suddenly realized she was not at the moor. The path in front of her was leading through lush green grass, each leaf bejeweled with dewdrops sparkling in the moonlight.

In front of her was wall about the height of her waist with an opening in it, which the track lead through and one of the fail folk standing guard. Unlike the rest he fixed her with his gaze as she came closer and held up a hand to signal her to stop.

“What are you doing here, human?” he asked, sounding bored. “You are not welcome at our feast.”

“I believe you have my brother-in-law Matthew,” she replied, the hesitated before continuing. “I am here to negotiate his release.”

The fair one looked at her, head cocked to one side. “Very well,” he said, finally. “After all, we could use some extra entertainment tonight. You may enter.”

Maria walked through the opening in the stone wall, heart beating so fast and hard that it felt like it was trying to break open her ribcage from inside and escape. Then she got a look at hear surroundings and forgot everything.


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