Extract from one of the Novella’s in my forthcoming collection: available summer 2016.
He reached out through the fog to turn the fan back on then the switch next to it to turn on the heater. The sound of galloping horses crashed over the fan’s hum. Hoofs pounded digging up clods of dirt and spraying them over the earth. He heard the laboured breathing of horses ridden hard, the jangle of harness and the wheels of a coach rolling over an unseen landscape. A musket fired and the acrid smell of gunpowder filled the room. The word ‘Stop’ was uttered in terror followed by something smashing to the ground.
This mist parted, swirling turbulently. It revealed the scene of two men in period costume in an open field facing each other, arms stretched, pistols raised and pointed at each other. A young woman lay in the foreground at the edge of the mirror, so close Austin could touch her. His face formed a worried look; propelled by an instinct transcending thought he reached out to touch her. Her motionless body resembled that of a wax doll, yet she seemed strangely alive. He moved his face closer to the mirror gazing intently at her. Her profile seemed familiar. He said, ‘We’ve met before.’
He was rendered silent by the subtle rise and fall of her chest which became audible. She was perfect with no sign of injury until she rolled her head in his direction. The left eye, clear and blue took in his image; the right eye had been shot out. Blood rolled down her face, oozed from her neck, seeping onto the ground into a crimson pool. Her pretty blue eye registered desperation as she mouthed the words ‘HELP ME’ he heard the words echo in his head. Then she said, ‘Help me’ then louder, ‘Help me. And he heard these words with his ears.
She was close enough to touch. Despite being confronted by the horror of half her face being blown off, the right side of her mouth hanging wretchedly, the finer details of her visage formed in his mind. She was eerily familiar. The second musket shot didn’t give him time to dwell on where he’d seen the young woman before. The room filled with the same choking smell of gunpowder. Austin’s attention switched to the figure at the furthest point of the scene where the fog hovered. The young gentlemen dropped his gun; his arms fell flaccidly by his sides. His eyes widened registering shock; blood poured from the flaccid half opened mouth spreading over the white cravat held neatly together by a decorative jewelled pin. In an undramatic sweep he fell to the ground. His body twitched furiously with one last attempt to wrest back his life before becoming still and cold.
His attention shifted to the opposite to edge of the fog and to the sight and rush of horses galloping away, their riders’ coats flapping in the wind. The coach that entered the scene rattled away awkwardly. The hoarse whisper of the word’s help me begged him back to the injured woman who it seemed had defied death. Her lifeless body and the pallid look on her face registered her as dead until she opened her eye and again pleaded, ‘Help me, help me!’ She eased herself up, faced him from the other side of the mirror. The hollowed out eye sprayed blood over the glass.
Austin froze; a look of horror fixed on his face. In terror, he watched dense fog close in on the scene. The swirling mist that engulfed him dissolved returning the mirror to its natural state reflecting his altered state. The colour had drained from his face and lips; his eyes glazed over and were rimmed with dark circles. He ran a hand through his hair that although wet stood on end. He turned away from his own image, scanned the room, walked into the foyer, to the edge of the staircase then to the master bedroom surveying the upper floor for signs of the disturbance he’d witnessed. Nothing untoward – this still house gives nothing away.