John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
The Story Continues
Be Not Afraid was intended to be just a one-off short horror story, suitably scary for Halloween, and leaving it up to the reader to imagine their own ending whether "happy ever after", or otherwise. However, the responses we received in comments where overwhelmingly encouraging us to continue the story and offer more of a closure. Readers seemed to be genuinely concerned with what would happen to Gerald, and to a slightly lesser extent, Beth.
Being the kind hearted souls that we are, and always open to suggestions, Chris and I conferred, and decided to continue the story. Welcome to the second chapter of Be Not Afraid. * There is a saying "be careful what you wish for," and so if you want full closure and to know the final outcome you will have to read part three (coming soon.)
Be Not Afraid-Part 2
Gerald’s mind was torn. On the one hand he wanted to stay away from the power of the figurine, and clear his head, recover his memory, and return to some form of normality. But, on the other hand this voracious hunger was consuming him. He needed to satisfy it first.
Tucking the oilskin bag into his pocket he made his way into the park. It was almost midnight so, apart from a few homeless sleeping soundly on the benches and the odd drunk taking a shortcut home, the place was quiet. He had no idea what he was hoping to find, in fact, most of the animals were asleep so his chance of finding prey was remote to say the least. But, he had to try…he was hungry, so hungry.
There were streetlights around the perimeter of the park and a few where the main walking and bike tracks meandered through, but Gerald made his way to a more remote and secluded section. The full moon provided enough light for him to make his way around and, anyway, in this changed form his night vision and other senses had become much more acute.
A rustling in the bushes just off to his left caught his attention. He stayed still and listened for a moment, but then slowly and cautiously made his way towards it. A deer had gone to the small man-made lagoon to drink but one leg had become entangled in a piece of fishing line (children often played truant from school and came here to hide, and fish instead.) That fishing line, in turn, had obviously snagged on a bush and the deer was struggling to free itself.
“Be not afraid,” Gerald coaxed as he edged closer. “Such a lovely creature,” he said as it looked up at him with big frightened eyes. Then, in a flash, Gerald pounced. His hand gripped the small head, and with one quick and powerful twist the creature fell limp and lifeless at his feet. He crouched down and feasted gluttonously, ripping flesh from the still warm corpse.
Once satisfied, he lumbered back towards the abandoned warehouse. He replaced the oilcloth bag and “amulet” (that word emerged in his mind) into their hiding place and went to sleep.
Gerald stood precariously on sanity ́s knife-edge. If he kept the figurine hidden, he thought more clearly, but it beckoned him constantly.
He remembered that his name was Dr. Gerald Thompson, an archeologist. Another name came to him almost simultaneously—Dr. Bethany Shackleford,a professional colleague, ex-lover, and the woman he had attacked on the street. He also remembered her address.
Beth wasn’t the type who scared easily, but she had to admit the recent encounter,or re-encounter, with Gerald disturbed her and she wasn’t sure what to do about it.
She had no way of contacting him anyway, and did she even want to after being attacked by him and seeing what he had become? But, saying that, could she just ignore their previous friendship, and how did he become…the way he was? These questions played on her mind and she decided to do all she could to investigate what had happened to Gerald.
We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
— Robert Louis Stevenson
Gerald made his way down alleys and along dark streets carrying a metal box he had found in the warehouse. It held the items he valued most.
He entered a building. People stared at his filthy, torn clothes. A stairway got him to the 13th floor without encountering anyone else.
He approached the door and pressed the doorbell. Floorboards squeaked as someone moved across the room and fell silent as they observed him through the peephole. The door opened slowly and Beth’s face appeared.
“Gerald! Is it really you? She pushed the door until it was almost closed. The last time I saw you...
“I barely remember that, but yes Beth, it is me.”
“I’m sorry. Come in, please.” She backed away as he entered the room. She saw his dishevelled appearance, but threw caution to the wind. “This is a surprise Gerald,” she paused slightly, “It’s good to see you again, my friend.”
They took a seat on the couch.
“Here, let me set that on the coffee table for you.” Beth reached for the box.
“No!” He jerked the box away from her, his eyes wide with fear, or anger.
She put her hands up. “Okay, okay. I understand you don’t want me to touch it.”
“I have some things to tell you about my time in Thailand,” Gerald said.
“And I need to tell you what I’ve learned about that same topic,” she said. “But you go first.”
Gerald stood and paced the room. He still held the box in front of him. “I was digging one day away from the city in an area rich in folklore.” Gerald opened the box. “I found this.” An amulet representing a hideous creature hung by a leather cord from his hand. He quickly put it back into the box. “And this.” He showed Beth a leather casing and a parchment wrapped in oilskin cloth inside.
“Do you know what it says?” Beth stood and joined him in the middle of the room.
≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ to be continued ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈
© 2019 John Hansen