Draft scene from KitSotD

©2022 Michael Raven

Below is an initial draft scene from Knives in the Edge of the Dawn (KitSotD). While I haven’t made quite the progress I’d been aiming to make due to some kind of writing block on the tale, I decided to jump to a more tense scene right after Winter goes back to the home during the daytime before eventually decides to buy it. While traipsing around in the the acreage of forest she will own if she buys the place, she encounters a few bear traps. As she decides the place is as dangerous as the real estate agent warned, is about to turn back when she sees a young woman flitting around, heedless of the dangers on the trail… This is an early draft written tonight with a minimum of editing. I expect it may change significantly during the revision process.

The girl skipped solemnly — or at least she did something while being solemn if it wasn’t skipping — the shadows filling in the empty spaces behind her as she moved through the arthritic skeletal black bones of fingers posturing as trees. Winter watched the strobe-light dance between penumbra and umbra, white birch black ash sunlight flicker shattering in the humidity flowing like mists. Swarms of gnats gave the girl wide berth, darting out of her way as she moved effortless through the bramble and fog.

“Hey!” Winter shouted, her voice sucked up by the damp air and falling dead to the forest floor. She tried again with the same result. “Hey!” louder this time, and still it fell dead before the first set of trees. J.R. had said this was a dangerous place, these woods, even in the day, and Sara had echoed those ruminations. What was this girl doing her in her tattered white shift, flowing on the light breeze that made the trees sway in hypnotic unison with the beat of Winter’s heart. There were traps, Winter had already seen these, those gaping metal monster teeth ready to shatter or amputate a shin. And those traps were reserved for cruel things that lived in the wild.

Gods, why was this girl here?

Winter thought of calling for Sara, but knew she wouldn’t come if she even heard Winter call. Too far away and the white ground clouds already had shown their hunger for sound, devouring it, quelling it, burying any tone that threated to cut through the mist. No, Sara had already declared these woods a trespass to all that lived. She wouldn’t come.

Unable to think of anything better, Winter chased after that slip of a girl with strawberry-blond ragged curl, making attention-getting sounds when she had breath, and tapping the trail ahead of her with her walking stick like she had after finding the first trap, hoping it would be satisfied with the meal of deadwood instead of her own muscular, ruddy-brown, joggers legs. Hoping the walking stick was enough and that it would feed whatever hungered within the traps in the path so she could save the girl.

Yet the waif moved on, her nursery-rhyme singsongs filling the thick forest air.

We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow.
But now alone I lie and weep beside the tree.

Winter followed the girl’s voice through the increasingly tangled old growth, sometime catching glimpse of that sooty white dress, and other times following the sound alone, wondering why it was that the voices only seemed to carry but one direction in this place. She knew she was already hopelessly lost and still she obsessed and followed, ignoring the biting flies and the smell of rot rising from a bog out of eyesight behind the trees, the forest grown quiet but for the song of the girl not-skipping through the tanglewood.

Singing ‘Oh willow waly’ by the tree that weeps with me.
Singing ‘Oh willow waly’ till my lover return to me.

Winter was frantically tapping the ground ahead of her, not thinking, when she heard the loud snap and stumbled to her knees and elbows, her weight no longer supported by the walking stick and her eyes perilously close to rust-metal jaws yawning open to snap around her neck. Pushing hard on her elbows, she fell back, the remains of her deadwood walking stick tumbling into another pair of jaws on the ground right behind her, becoming kindling as the trap snapped around the stub of stick and shattered what was left.

She sat there, her breath heavy with adrenaline, afraid to move lest she encounter a another of the damned traps. And still, the girl sang on.

We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow.
A broken heart have I. Oh willow I die, oh willow I die.

“You’re strong, girl,” she told herself as she examined the ground around her. But, for once, she didn’t quite believe the mantra taught to her my her grandmam.

She chanted it under her breath again, and that seemed to help, so she pushed herself up, careful where she put her hands, and stood just in time to watch the girl enter an old decrepit cabin she hadn’t seen until that moment: a shack with more moss than shingle, a door hanging uneven, windows stained black with dirt and soot. The girl faded into the darkness beyond the threshold. Winter would have sworn she saw shadows flow like ink in after the girl, but knew it must just be a the trick of the light in these dense trees.

Winter took a deep breath and picked her way down the little bit of trail between her and the cabin, watching for signs of more traps as she tip-toed over the narrow path. She wanted to call for the girl, but found her rebellious voice could only manage a harsh whisper. “Hey! Miss! Hey!” she said in that hoarse way, knowing it was useless, but trying all the same.

Winter was relieved when she was able to step on the wood planks of the patio, although those were hazards in of themselves — loose, wobbly things with the remains of rusted, angry nails pushing through the lichen in place, little more than miniature surrogates for the traps along the trail. Stepping gingerly, Winter crept to the leaning screen door and pushed it open with one dark hand, and the hinges screamed with rust on rust, filling the silence with a the sound of rending hearts.

“Hey,” she said in that afflicted rasp.

Winter needed have said anything at all, for it was plain no one had been in this cabin for years, maybe decades, let alone a singing girl in a white dress, her poorly cut hair snagging on the saplings in the wood, no matter what Winter thought she had just seen. Even the small creatures of the wilderness had found better places to live than in this sorry place.

That’s when the howling began. Deeper in the woods, but close enough to make Winter’s skin creep with chill. That howl promised nothing good, though she couldn’t say what owned it. But she knew enough about the tone to know it meant something was on the hunt.

6 thoughts on “Draft scene from KitSotD

    1. Those line might only be filler at this time. They don’t quite touch on my intent, which is to emulate a sense of dread in the same way that the children chanting at the end of Nephilim’s “Vet for the Insane” (https://youtu.be/0GTXvLrX5C8?t=349).

      time to go to sleep
      time to go to sleep

      But, yeah, I want her singing to be a pointer to the backstory.

      Thanks for the compliment, Chris.

      Liked by 1 person

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