Excerpts

Lurkers in the Leaves

The night I met Emily Locke was the first time my head was cut off.

Emily wasn’t her name. Not really. Just a designation given to a dream.

I’ve seen her every night since.

In dreams.

Nightmares.

Her skin was wooden, but not like the bark of a tree. It looked smooth—sanded. Leaves, lush with all the green of spring, cascaded over her shoulders like ringlets. She was the kind of person who never let a single thought go unspoken. If I believed in faeries, I’d say she was one. Tall and willowy, whoever—whatever—she was, she was not of this earth.

They say if you die in a dream, you’ll die in your bed, too.
I don’t know about that.

There was nothing but death waiting for me in the long reach of night, and I’m still here.

I went with her into the woods that first time, thinking I’d get lucky, even if I was too young to know exactly what lucky meant. I just knew the way she made me feel—confused, aroused; terrified and brave, all at once, like a great jumble of leaves, waiting to be tumbled into.

She gave me something—a scarf, maybe—and bound the token around my waist and it felt good to have her arms encircle me. Her breasts brushed my chest as she tied the knot.

That felt good, too.

Emily pulled me down into the leaves and we rolled, kissing. My nostrils were filled with the heavy, earthy scents of fall, even though I knew back home on the farm, it was summer. She had me on my back, straddling me, and reached behind her. I thought she was going to take her shirt off. I stiffened, anticipating.

This time. This time.

Somewhere distant, I felt a sense of urgency. There were whispers, carried on a cold breeze, from just beyond my sight.

Nononono.

Something hard poked at my back. We’d disturbed the leaves and I saw them: bones. A great midden full of them, bleached pale white and shining like silver under the glow of the moon. Emily wasn’t undressing. She had her axe.

Again.

As it descended, I put my arms up knowing—always knowing—I was too late. There was only heat, and iron, and the taste of pennies. My head tumbled from my shoulders, and watched, unblinking, as my body ran.

It stood up and ran.

I thought idly of runaway chickens on my parents’ farm. Wind bent the young branches and the leaves gathered over my head and eyes, mercifully blinding me. I became dizzy, wanting to throw up, but my mouth wasn’t connected to my stomach and only a hollow, dry gasp escaped.

Whispers filled my ears. I heard them, but I refused to listen. I tried to scream. All that passed my lips was a wheeze. My body tripped, its foot caught in a tree root. I fell. And they were on me.

That’s it.

I’m done.

This is all…

But it wasn’t.

It never is.

Read more in Alternate Plains from Enfield & Wizenty.

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