Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Snippet Day the Second

It's that time of the week again! Read on for a snippety snippet.


Mouth dry and skin prickling, she stood still, watching the play of sunlight and shadow through the trees and trying to spot whatever had caught her eye again. And – there, slipping between the tree trunks – something lean and ragged, a shape that made her heart stutter and her legs tense. Fire flickered under her skin as she hesitated, torn between forging on and turning back.

If you don't want to die, a little voice whispered in her head, why walk into death?

It didn't sound like her voice. It sounded like the Tawny Man.

She chewed her lip and forged ahead. Deeper, deeper into the trees, into the swamp, while that tattered shape drifted from shadow to shadow, never truly revealing itself. It could have been a man. It could have been a wood stork, bald and ragged. It could have been her own taut nerves and sleep-starved imagination. She could be mistaking leaves in the wind for frayed cloth and long shadows for spidery limbs.

But Grunt's soft growls and fine shaking, and the tiny flames dancing at her fingertips said otherwise.
The shape tantalised, moving faster just when Scarlett thought she was gaining, then slowing down when she lost ground. But always, always, just out of reach, until frustration burned in her just as hot as the fire. Anger started to melt away her nerves. It was toying with her. Damn it. Fuck it. She ran, no longer caring about caution. Grunt squeaked a protest and leapt from her shoulder, but she didn't stop for him. She pushed harder, falling into a steady rhythm. She ran every day, she had done for years. Even running over fallen branches and through tangles of weeds, she should be able to catch the shape...

...If it was human.

But she couldn't catch up. It moved on, vanishing into the cypress trees.

She stopped, splashing into a deep puddle and soaking her jeans. The sound startled unseen birds from their roost, and she was momentarily distracted by the rush of their wings and their strident calls as they rose. She slapped her hand against a tree trunk and smelt burning wood. Smoke stung her eyes.

“Stupid -” She curled her hand into a fist and quashed the flames. Grunt scrambled up the trunk to sniff at the scorch marks. She watched him, panting for breath and bubbling with adrenaline that had nowhere to go. The fire was still close to the surface, conjured by her anger and fear, and for the first time in years, she wanted to use it, to sling it at that shadowy shape and force it into the light. Her fingers itched with heat and sweat beaded her face as she fought the urge.

Pain bolted through her head, blinding her, and she sank to the ground, pressing her fingers to her temples. It wasn't just that she wanted to call the fire; the fire wanted to be called. Whenever she was strung-out, stressed, or scared, the fire became seductive. A quick fix for whatever the problem was. Just burn it away. She saw it in her mind's eye, a raging storm of smoke and flame, swallowing her and the swamp and leaving a charred wasteland behind.

It wasn't a practical solution. Not in a psychiatric hospital and definitely not in the middle of a densely-wooded swamp. She knotted her fingers in her hair and squeezed her head as if she could squeeze out the pressure and pain. The fire danced inside her, promising to cleanse and purify – not just her, but the world around her too. No more shadows. Nothing to fear.

“No,” she said through gritted teeth. “Never.”

Her head pounded and her eyes watered and she felt full of flames, a volcano set to blow. Panic rushed through her as she struggled to call it back and push it down. Last time she lost control...last time...last time...

…Last time Erasmus House had burned and the screams still rang in her ears and through her nightmares.

“No!” She bit her lip so hard blood flooded her mouth and she gagged, turning to spit the blood out. The pain and the movement jerked something loose inside her, like pins and needles fading, and the fire fell away as fast as it rose. Scarlett moaned, wiping her mouth and tipping her head back to rest against the tree she'd burned. Her head felt like there was thunder bouncing around inside it and she knew opening her eyes was going to hurt.

When she did open them again, there was a man watching her.


  1. Ohhhhhh yesssssss!

    I'm really loving this character of yours. :)

    1. :D Thank you! She's my very first character, I think - I came up with her when I was in my early teens. I'm determined that this version of her world will be the one people finally get to read.

    2. Definitely looking forward to seeing more. :D

  2. Another great ending! I loved the tension here and the skipping back and forth between in the moment survival/fear and memories of the past. Fantastic stuff once again!