Title: The Reaping
Author: Shirley Anne Edwards
Publication date: October 23rd 2016
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
The quaint village where Adela Jane lives is surrounded by fear. At night, a centuries old green mist covers the land and controls the animals within the forest. Lately, Adela feels someone or something is following her every move. Unbeknownst to her, the mist waits for the perfect moment to make her his. Adela feels trapped by her small town life and burdened by her love she keeps hidden for her best friend’s older brother, Nathan Alexander. But all that changes on her eighteenth birthday when Nathan admits his love and desire to marry her. Adela’s joy is cut short when the mist kidnaps her and takes her to his secret underground lair. Her nightmare has only just begun when the mist makes Adela his bride.
What of the Jabberwocky fell in love with Alice from Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass? That’s the question tackled in The Reaping. A Young Adult with an atmospheric Gothic feel, and elements from such classic novels, as Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and John Fowles’ The Collector.
I lay curled in a ball on the side of the pool as I woke from an apparent slumber. After taking some deep breaths and pushing my hair away from my face, I stood, cringing when my right calf cramped along with my stiff neck and arms. Limping over to a chair, I sat, doubled over, wishing the pain to stop. The clock on the wall pointed to the number six. Three hours had passed?
The urge to use the privy became very important. I prowled the large room, searching for such a place. But I couldn’t locate one and limped back up the stairs to the bedroom, hoping to find one there.
I found an empty room in a corner next to the crate full of beautiful clothes. Inside, a porcelain bucket lay in the corner. After I finished, I then sat on the bed. More questions ran through my head.
Who would empty the bowl of waste and why was the table set with all that food? Where did all these things come from?
I laid my head on my knees while despair and anguish coursed through my entire body. Tears fell from my eyes and landed on my lips and chin.
If only Nathan Alexander was here to hold me and tell me everything would be all right.
But he wasn’t here, and it was my fault. Why didn’t I let him come with me to close my house?
My eyes closed as I remember our kisses near the lake and how wonderful it felt to be in his arms, where his whispered words of love and promises made me feel safe and protected….
The wind let out a muffled howl, and the slight dank smell rising from the stone floor met my nose. Goose bumps rose on my arms as I stood and paced the room. The place near the bed where I had been sick had dried, but it still smelled awful. Considering my current mood, it would remain a soiled stain.
Stomping down the stairs, I crumpled in a chair. Loneliness and fright crept up until I wanted to hide in a corner and rock and cry. My nose dripped, and tears trickled down my cheeks. Then something very strange happened. The owl clock let out a ding, and the howling wind stopped.
From one of the other tunnels leading to the unknown, a green haze poured out and made its way down the cavern stairs. Panicked, I jumped out of the chair and rushed back up the stairs to the bedroom. This stream of murk followed behind as I dashed to the crate to hide behind it.
The mist slinked across the room and stopped in the center, drifting back and forth, not coming any closer to where I stood. It had transformed into a strange, whirling circle. But it didn’t flood the entire room, remaining in that shaky sphere that turned toward the unmade bed and then back to me.
Trembling, I held back a whimper when the mist floated over the bed and toward me. Backing up toward the crate, I closed my eyes and prayed as a cold burst of air met my skin.
A voice spoke in my head.
“Why do you hide?”
My eyes opened, and I hit the wall. The mist floated right near my face as if to study me. The voice spoke again. This time it sounded deeper and hushed.
“Do not be afraid. Why are you frightened?”
It finally dawned on me—the strange and hollow-sounding voice came from the mist itself.
The mist turned away and hovered near the corner where the privy bowl sat. While its attention was diverted, I ran out and down the stairs to hide in one of the dark caverns. Nearing the two stone dog statues, the mist blocked my path. With a startled yelp, I backed away toward the long table. It followed, and I darted around until the table separated us. Again, it molded itself into a ghostlier form and watched me.
One of its phantom limbs reached out and picked up the pitcher from the table. It floated in the air as the mist poured red liquid in a clear wine glass. It then grabbed a few slices of bread and fruit and placed them on a plate. I watched, captivated, uncertain what it would do next. There was no other place to run except back up the stairs or through the waterfall.
“Sit,” it said in a gentle whisper in my mind.
I shook my head.
It stared at me with those nonexistent eyes and pulled out a chair, letting the wood scrape on the rock floor.
“Sit here.” Its deadly tone frightened me, and I backed away.
The mist rocked back and forth for several seconds.
“You will sit. If not….” The unspoken words tore through me as the mist glided over. Repulsed by the thought of it touching any part of my body, I scurried to a chair and sat down.
It backed away, but not before it drifted next to my head and lifted a piece of my tangled hair. I clenched my fists in my lap and waited for it to release it. A moan echoed in my head, and my hair fell down my back. It then pulled out a chair and floated over it.
The cramp in my leg came back, and I winced, trying to rub the ache away. But I feared making any quick movements.
“Are you in pain?” it asked in a concerned voice.
I stared ahead, refusing to respond.
It waited a few beats for an answer and let out a sigh when I didn’t. The mist settled in the chair, which should have been funny, but, under the present circumstances, I found no humor in it. It pushed the plate full of food toward me, including the glass. “Eat.”
I viewed the plate and then back at the mist.
“Um. I….” I had no idea what to say.
The mist wavered, unable to stay still. Even though it didn’t have eyes, it stared at me. I shifted in my seat, clasping my hands tightly on my lap.
It exhaled, picking up a piece of dark-brown bread and holding it up in the air. It moved the bread in a circle.
“You will eat, or I will make you,” it said in a blunt, do-not-even-think-of-disobeying-me type of voice.
I had run out of options. Instead of taking the piece of bread it offered, I picked up a few grapes, some cubes of cheese, and chewed small morsels slowly, blinking away tears.
The mist remained silent. My mouth trembled as I continued chewing. After I swallowed, my confidence grew, but before I could say a word, it moved behind my chair and off to the side. A squeal left my mouth when music filled the room. I dropped whatever was in my hands and placed them over my mouth and closed my eyes, sitting motionless until my heartbeat returned to normal.
Its presence hovered near. Hearing the clatter of a dish, I opened my eyes to see my plate gone. My untouched glass remained.
Sick of being ordered around, I slapped the arm of the chair.
“Eat, drink. What does it matter to you, or whatever you are, whether I eat or drink? What right do you have to bring me here? I want to go home!” I fumed, not caring if the mist became enraged.
“Can’t,” it said in a harsh whisper.
“Why?” I longed to pour my glass full of liquid over this wretched thing causing me such anguish.
The mist turned toward me. “Because I love you.”
About the Author
Shirley Anne Edwards is a Northeast girl who first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. Shirley found her love for writing at a very young age, and since then has let her imagination run wild by creating quirky characters and vast worlds in her head.
Shirley lives in New Jersey and works in the entertainment industry in New York City.
In the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.”