This is a sort of continuation of my previous story, Blood Red.
The horse whinnied loudly and shook its head, stamping its feet impatiently on the mossy ground.
“Tha’s as far as she goes.” the coachman said, making more of a definitive statement than an observation.
“I’ll pay you triple your fare, my good man, if you’ll just get me through to the village.”
The coachman grunted. “I already told ya, I cannae go through the forest. Nobody can. Best to turn back.”
“Nonsense!” Archibald Wolfram had exhausted the last of his patience. “If you won’t take me there, then I’ll just have to walk.”
The coachman shrugged. “Suit yerself. Bu’ I still think ye should go back. Ya don’ wanna run into her.”
Wolfram let out a sharp, mocking laugh. He wasn’t about to let fairy tales and ghost stories keep him from his business. He pulled out a few coins and handed them to the coachman.
“Thank you for your advice, but I think I’ll manage quite well. I outgrew ghouls and goblins a long time ago.”
The old man pocketed the payment without hesitation. “Alright. Then I’ll bid ye good night here, stranger.” He took off his hat, and Wolfram saw his face for the first time. It was heavily lined, and he looked older than his voice made him sound. One eye was a cloudy gray and the other pale, almost the color of sour milk. Small pink scars were grouped around that eye, as if it had been scratched or gouged at by small hands. His discolored eyes stared straight into Wolfram’s.
“But if ya see her, tell her yer goin’ to grandma’s house.”
Wolfram blinked. “W-what?”
The old man put his hat back on and pulled at the reins. The coach receded into the darkened horizon, and was swallowed up by the night. Wolfram turned to face the forest, completely alone. There were no monsters in there, surely.
Keeping a firm grip on his briefcase, Wolfram walked into the green canopy in front of him, feeling very unwelcome. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing at full attention. A full moon was out, bathing the forest path in silver. Wolfram walked at a brisk pace, keeping his eyes ahead of him. If there were any animals lurking in the shadows, he didn’t want to draw their attention.
The forest was getting denser, with more patches of darkness than moonlight. The trees huddled close. They appeared to be looking down at him, their gnarled and tangled branches reaching down to scoop him up and carry him off into the shadows. Wolfram smiled, feeling sheepish. He was letting silly stories get the better of him. It was a long walk, but he would make it to the blasted village and discuss the affairs of the recently deceased landowner Jonathan Hemming, and then after spending the night there, he would go back into town (by coach, as there were no monsters during the day) and take the first train back to London to report his progress on the case. That’s all there was to it. He straightened himself to his full height and walked on, his stride more confident. The confidence wouldn’t last.
In a small clearing up ahead, he saw her. A little girl, sitting on a log and idly picking the petals off a small purple flower. She appeared to be wearing a black frock, though most of her body was wrapped in a voluminous red cloak, with a hood covering her head. It was pushed back just enough to reveal her face. It would have been a very pretty face, if not for the abnormalities.
Wolfram narrowed his eyes, examining her closely; she took no notice of him. Her eyes, blue as a lake on a clear day, were a bit too big. Her ears were also too large, elf-like, and the fingers on her small hands were just a bit too long. The girl jerked her head up to look at Wolfram, giving him a start, and smiled. He couldn’t help but notice how large her teeth were, and how many they were. Too many for a normal human mouth. She plucked the last petal from the flower and ground it to dust between her too-long fingers, turning her full attention on Wolfram.
Before he could blink, she was standing in front of him, only inches away. He hadn’t seen her move. There was no indication that she had. The grass behind her was undisturbed, and her cloak completely still. Her hood covered most of her face, leaving only her numerous teeth exposed. She also seemed taller, her face level with his. From somewhere in the distance, he heard a howl, followed by several others. His breath was coming in short, ragged gasps, and he realized that he could no longer move.
The girl bowed her head, emitting a noise that sounded very much like the laugh of a little girl, or more accurately, it sounded like someone trying to imitate the sound of a child’s laughter after having heard it once or twice. Wolfram stared ahead, goggle-eyed, petrified by fear and some unnatural force.
Still laughing, the girl looked up and pulled her hood back. She no longer resembled a girl. There was no humanity to her face, or any recognizable form. Gasping, Wolfram tried to recall what the coachman had said, but the words would not come to him. He couldn’t remember how to ward off the girl, or demon, or whatever it was. All he could do was scream.
Thankfully, he didn’t scream for long.