Excerpt from A Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest

A Scholar's Journey The Divine TempestA Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest

The farm was almost deathly silent. There was a palpable tension in the air, as if everything were going to snap and release something fearful and unknown.

The air was warm and warned of unsettling things to come. The animals kept quiet, occasionally shifting nervously. A horse clicked its hooves softly, and a pig squealed in the night air.

The animals huddled with their backs against the walls, the whites of their eyes showing as their lids flared wide. They all shivered involuntarily.

Soren walked to the barn and made his way through the darkness. Hay snapped and crunched under his feet as he passed his horse. The feed in the animals’ stalls smelled putrid in the heavy air. The horse snorted and shifted its feet. Soren placed his hand softly on its brown neck, and the animal’s restlessness stilled at his touch.

Soren had just had his thirteenth birthday. He was wearing a black jerkin and a pair of satin pants that extended past his knees. A sudden chill wind blew through the barn, and he quickly hugged his arms to his chest to protect himself from the cold draft, but it left as soon as it had come.

Words escaped his lips as he walked through the barn, but they seemed muffled and incomprehensible, as if he were talking through cotton wool. The haze caused him to drift inexorably past the rest of the animals.

He opened the tall, wide door to the stables enough to make it through and found himself in a large, open field of wheat with a strange house directly in front of him. The damp ground compacted softly under his feet as he walked.

The house took up his focus of attention. It was highlighted by the moon and seemed to stare down at him with unblinking intensity.

The trees at the forest edge were rustling with the anxious wind, and their branches reached down toward him. Soren felt as if they were clawing at his vision and trying to draw him into their murky embrace. He looked back repeatedly, as if he was expecting something to sneak up behind him. His shoulders were shaking with fear.

As he walked toward the house, he brushed his hands along the tops of the wheat crop. The fuzzy edges of the seed plants tickled his palms, and he felt as if they were urging him ahead.

Suddenly he was hit with a sense of unrelenting terror. A thing, something unknown to him, was behind him. He did not see it or hear it but felt that it was there. Soren ran toward the house in a full-blown, manic dash, tripping over himself as he tried to outstrip whatever was behind him. He could feel a presence, but when he looked back, nothing was there.

He slowed as he reached the house. The fear of what was at his back subsided and turned to trepidation at entering the house. He made his way purposefully up the stairs and turned the door handle. The handle responded with a sharp, rusty creek that caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end.

The house inside was eerily still. Everything was in place. There was a simple, round wooden table, a set of chairs near a stark fireplace, and a pile of books along a low brick ledge, close to the chairs. Something was familiar about the scene, but his mind could not place it.

To his right, stairs caught his eye, and he started toward them. They led up to the second story of the house. His stomach tightened as a renewed feeling of apprehension invaded his senses.

Soren placed his hands on the railing and proceeded upwards. The solid wood floorboards creaked ominously under his feet as he ascended. Time seemed to pass quicker. He found himself at the top of the stairs looking down a long hallway that seemed to stretch on farther and farther as he stared at it. At the far end was a door.

Slowly and carefully he walked toward the door. Again time sped up, and he found his hand on a door handle. He turned it and entered.

Inside was a little girl’s room. The walls were lined with colorful, flower-covered wallpaper. Dolls were set up near one corner for a tea party. The room was comfortable and welcoming, though tonight it seemed as if something was not right.

He closed the door behind him.

The centerpiece of the room was a bed, and Soren approached it slowly. He did not want to disturb the sleeper but felt as if tonight it was necessary.

In the bed was a little girl. She was sleeping under the covers, and her long hair had been brushed straight and was splayed out around her. She looked peaceful…too peaceful. Soren knew she was someone close to him, but, there was a wall where the memories of her should be. He could hear himself saying her name, but it was muffled, as his speech had been before.

Something about the way she lay there was setting off alarms in his mind. Her face was pale, like a porcelain doll’s. Her body was not moving. Her chest was not moving. She was completely still, not breathing.

Soren rushed forward and gathered her in his arms in grief. Tears poured down his cheeks as he realized that this dear child was no longer alive.

And then a cold breeze brushed against his arm from the open door.

He stopped crying and wiped his tears away. That same sense of danger that had pervaded his senses before was shrilling like a siren.

Outside again, he looked to the left and saw nothing. He looked to the right, and something with a trailing, tattered, gray cloak was streaked toward him like a flash out of the darkness. It slammed him up against the wall, clutching him by his throat with a strength unmatched by normal men, despite its unnaturally gaunt frame. Cold, bestial eyes burrowed into his mind, and he felt all the strength drain from his body as the creature squeezed out his life.

It roared into his face, and long, pointed canines extended from its mouth. Soren felt its fetid breath on his cheek as it leaned closer.

“Kill me!” it screamed at him.

The most disturbing thing in the dream was that the creature was familiar, and yet he could not place him….

Purchase A Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest on Amazon. Follow the author Herrick C. Erickson-Brigl on his Website and Twitter.

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