Mountaintop Gnome: Horror Flash Fiction by cam
Hot Springs Switchback Road, Idaho
Jeremy relaxed in the natural hot spring at the top of the mountain. His shoulders rested against the stone wall at the back of the pool. The switchback road had been the scariest drive of his life, but now, all his cares evaporated like mist over a lake on a spring morning.
Through half closed eyes he scanned the natural bowl that teamed with greenery. Here and there, blackened skeletons of trees, reminders of a recent wildfire, poked through the new growth.
Warm water and cool air worked their magic. Burnt stumps became a roosting eagle, a wolf slinking through the undergrowth, and small man, possibly a troll or a gnome, wearing a mocking grin. Jeremy fought to stay awake, but reality faded like a dream.
Hot Springs, Idaho
He woke to the pungent smell of sulfur and climbed out of the pool. Why, with all this beauty and the soothing hot spring, was no one else here?
Jeremy’s wandering gaze stopped. What had earlier been a charred stump was now climbing over the trunk of a fallen tree. It reminded him of the picture of a gnome he'd seen in a book. The creature, no taller than a small child, wore bib overalls, and a green shirt. It waved at him. Jeremy retreated backward one step, but his foot found only air, and he fell into the pool.
He came up sputtering, wiping water from his eyes, but the little man was nowhere to be seen. Jeremy climbed onto the rock and scoured his surroundings.
“Looking for someone?” The voice squeaked like a rusty hinge from down at his feet. Jeremy stumbled backward, but not before the gnome clamped a ball and chain to his ankle.
“What are you doing?” Jeremy dropped to the ground and clawed at the lock.
“I believe you saw my friend, the wolf, earlier. I say friend, not pet. Although I do feed him now and then when a stranger wanders into our home.”
“Feed him?” Jeremy jerked the chain and kicked the ball. “Are you saying he’s going to kill me and then eat me?”
“Heavens no.” The gnome laughed and shook his head topped with a knitted red hat. “He’ll kill you as he eats you.
Jeremy scrambled to his feet and backed to the end of the chain. He reached out behind his back, but instead of the stone wall, his fingers grasped fur.