July 4, 2010

Short Story: The Grenyen ©

I hope you are enjoying the short stories I've written. Here's another flash fiction one: The Grenyen ©

The planets are aligned. Some say this foretells the coming of dark times, but Wenda knew that was just more old folk stories.  She laughed in derision when her mother told her the ancient tales and the predictions that the grenyen would return.

“Don’t dismiss our stories just because they’re old,” Wenda’s mother said.  She stood hunched over the kitchen table, crushing bettleyams and ostletwigs in a bowl.  Pausing to glance over at her eldest daughter, she said, “When the grenyen were loose, after the last alignment, children could not play outside, even during the daylight.  The men took to hunting and farming in large groups, just for protection.  But even so, we lost many of our kinfolk.”

“Oh, mama!  The last alignment of the planets was over four hundred years ago, and the grenyen have not been seen since. I think it was a story made up to scare little children,” Wenda snorted.  She was a sensible girl of fourteen and big-boned.  Although plain of face, she had good teeth and wavy, dark hair that she tied back with a piece of brown leather.

“I’m going over to Tellin’s house.  She told me that she bought a new dress from the Trader. On the way back I’ll dig for some more tanginroot and fenwin for supper. I promise I’ll be back before dark.”

“All right,” her mother replied, “Just don’t dawdle.”

Before her mother could change her mind, Wenda dashed out of the door and onto the path through the forest.  It wasn’t far to the village, although Wenda’s mother often complained to her papa of their isolation.  But being the local tanner, the stench emanating from his craft meant they had no alternative.

Wenda didn’t mind.  She often liked to walk alone in the forest and enjoyed the solitude she found there.  Many of the boys in the village thought she was conceited, but it was merely that she possessed a strong sense of herself and brooked no foolishness in people.  Boys her own age seemed so childish.

She realised she had slowed, enjoying the speckles of sunlight that filtered through the treetops. There was movement from within the forest, and her heart thudded in alarm.  She scolded herself for letting her imagination get carried away.  It would only take her another ten minutes to reach Tellin’s home, so she picked up her long, brown skirts and hurried. Glancing up, she spied a sentisbird alighting on a tree.  The forest was usually filled with their sweet melody, and she suddenly noticed how intensely quiet it was.  From the corner of her eye, she saw more movement, but when she looked over, she could see nothing.  Everything appeared normal, but the stillness gave her a feeling of disquiet.  She quickened her pace, then looking ahead she saw something flicker between the trees, and she almost cried out in alarm.

Her sensible nature re-asserted itself, and she stopped and called out crossly, “Who’s there?  Is that you Vesteen?  Jolbrin? You don’t scare me.”

But there was no response.  The leaves whispered amongst themselves, and a sudden breeze brought goosebumps to her flesh.

She forced herself to take one step, and then another.  And suddenly she was running as fast as she could.  She ran straight to Tellin’s home and pounded on the door, and when there was no response, she let herself in.

“Tellin! Are you home?” Wenda called out.  She entered the kitchen and saw that preparations were under way for supper.  Neither Tellin nor her mother were there.  She noticed that the back door was hanging crooked.  As she looked through the doorway, she spied the woodpile, usually so neatly stacked outside, strewn across the yard. 

“Tellin!” she called out again and dashed out of the front door.  Perhaps Tellin was at the town-well or at the drasbush where the children liked to meet.  As she hurried along the dusty road, she realised that the village was strangely quiet.  When she reached the well in the town centre, the truth became apparent.  There was nobody in the village. She could hear no voices, nor could she see any children playing.

“Hello!” Wenda called out.  There was no response.

She had the strangest sensation of being watched, and panic overwhelmed her.  Turning, she ran towards home, and as she reached the edge of the village, she stumbled over the hem of her skirt.  Pulling herself up from the ground, she heard an unfamiliar noise emanating from the air behind her.  Screaming in terror, she dashed through the forest.  This place that had once been her haven now seemed to be filled with fearful things, and the trip back was longer than it should have been. 

Just as she felt she could not run any further she spied her home further ahead, and somehow increased her speed.

“Mama!  Mama!” she cried, wrenching open the front door and flinging herself inside.  She closed it and pushed the wooden bar in place to lock it.  Hurrying to the kitchen she stepped inside.  “Mama!” she called out.

The kitchen was empty.  The bowl of bettleyams and ostletwigs lay tipped on its side.  Several of the chairs were flung to the side of the room.

Wenda’s mind was a jumble of confused thoughts.  Her mother was gone, and part of her kept thinking, “She’ll be back any minute and tell me it was a joke.” 

She recalled the story of the grenyen and how they had come from the sky in strange floating ships with bright lights.  The grenyen had been tall creatures with smooth heads and many arms.  They’d had large eyes and big teeth.  Few people had survived to tell the tales.

“Come on, Mama. Stop playing jokes now,” Wenda said, despite the lump in her throat.  There was a noise in the sky outside the house.  “I promise I won’t laugh at the old stories any more.  Truly!   I mean it.”

The noise grew louder. ©

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