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The Shadow Beneath the Dunes

By Franki/Zyda All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Thriller

Blurb

When the Light threatens to swallow the human world, the Darkness will not hide. The great realm of Huryem reaches out to an ancient human cult to pave their way toward humanity's enlightenment. Now, as an abandoned child is given a second chance at life, an ancient plot of an apocalyptic scale ticks slowly into motion. An immortal avatar of nature and darkness, an assassin and sorceress, is the only thing that can come between humanity and a blinding, unforgiving and all-consuming Light.

Of Angels and Light

When we talk of angels, we think of heavenly beings with great white wings and golden halos over or around their heads. We perhaps think of Cupid and his cherubs; naked babies with tiny wings and golden bows and arrows to strike love into the hearts of those destined to be together.

Louise believed whole heartedly in angels, and in heaven. She believed in God and his bigger plan. Even after all the misfortune she faced.

Both parents dead – her father died fighting in Iraq and her mother from cancer, when they were both much too young. She had only been eighteen when her mother died.

At twenty-one, she was raped on the way home from her job at the city library. She was left beaten and broken in a piss-soaked alley. She would have died there had it not been for a blonde man in a white hooded jacket passing by and seeing her. He called the ambulance and stayed with her in the hospital right until she was stable and awake again. She had seen an angel in her blonde-haired saviour and thanked God for sending him.

Police had been around her bed when she woke, and her saviour was gone. Police had told her that her situation sounded very similar to a series of rapes and murders police had been investigating in the area. Their prime suspect had been released due to lack of evidence. At the time the officers hadn’t been specific but Louise had later found out that this man had raped fifteen women in the last four months. Eleven of them he’d killed. She knew then that God had saved her for a reason.

God’s greater plan had become apparent when she discovered, a month later, that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy had been the solid evidence against her rapist that the police needed. Because of the child inside her, this man was sentenced to life, his previous victims and their families had their closure, and he could no longer hurt anyone else.

As the weeks passed, Louise feared her child would take after his father and be evil and corrupt. She prayed every night, for the light of her Lord to fill the child’s heart, to let him live a full, good life and continue to help people, as he had helped her and her attacker’s victims and their families find justice and peace.

Through her pregnancy Louise dreamed vividly. She dreamed of giving birth to a cherub with large bright blue eyes and a song-like laugh. Or she had nightmares of a horrid creature bursting from her belly and strangling her. On those horrid nights she prayed extra hard.

Finally came the day when it was time for Louise to meet her baby. Her pain was minimal, the labour was a quick one, and she wept with joy when she gave birth to a beautiful blue-eyed baby boy. He didn’t cry when he emerged, but coughed and made a beautifully adorable noise, not unlike the singing laugh she’d heard in her dreams. She was overjoyed with her little cherub, and named him Michael, after the blonde-haired man who had saved her life nine months ago.

Michael continued to impress Louise. He was perfection; he slept soundly every night, he never cried, he learned to walk and talk at a younger-than-average age and laughed and smiled, those big blue eyes marvelling at the world around him. As he grew, he made friends easily, and was uncommonly kind. He started school at 6 and was the brightest in his class.

It was coming up to Michael’s seventh birthday and Louise had been saving to take him on a mini-holiday, his first ever. She could only afford two nights in a small B&B in a tiny picturesque village in the country named Gart Haven, but there would be a winter festival in the village that weekend, and the pictures on the website of last years looked wonderful. And it truly was. The first night at the festival was the launch night, so there were fireworks, and entertainment acts, acrobats, men on stilts, a carousel and Michael adored everything he set his eyes on. His rosey cheeks glowed with joy and it was infectious to anyone he spoke to or flashed his cheeky grin at.

He made an impression on the men in stilts and they waved to him in greeting on the second night. Most of the same stalls and shows were featured, but that didn’t make Michael any less excited to see them. He won a water pistol and a teddy bear on the hook-a-duck, tried five different kinds of fudge, and seven different kinds of chocolate at the sweet store stand, Louise bought him his four favourites.

The next day they packed up their things, handed in their key and packed up the car. They decided they’d head back into town to see what kind of stalls would be there during the daytime before heading back home in time for dinner.

They wound up having so much fun, that they decided to stay just a little longer, and have an early dinner before hitting the road again. Michael was almost asleep on his feet when they got back to the car. Louise bundled him up in a blanket on the front seat to keep an eye on him while he slept. He’d almost immediately fallen asleep.

Louise was looking over him as she got into the car, when something stopped her closing the car door – she felt something thin, cold and hard press against her neck and a low voice hiss, “Don’t move, don’t scream, or I’ll cut your throat.”

Her heart seemed to stop and she couldn’t bring herself to move or make a sound, even if she wanted to. She saw out the corner of her eye a figure get into the back passenger side door of her car and the man behind her grabbed her collar and pulled her out the driver’s side. He pinned her to the side of the car, took her keys and pushed her into the back seat with his partner, who also had a knife and kept tight hold of her hair. She sobbed, though still no noise came from her mouth. She kept her eyes on Michael, still fast asleep, and silently prayed for God to help her; to save Michael.

The other man got into the driver’s side, started up the car, then started to head out of town. The men were both mostly quiet, keeping their voices to a low hiss whenever they spoke. Louise couldn’t see the man in the back with her, but the driver kept looking down at Michael, perhaps making sure he was still asleep.

A few miles out, when they were far from the village and still an hour drive from the city, the driver pulled over to the side of a field and got out the car. Louise held her breath, sure that this was where they’d drag her out the car and kill her. The driver walked around the front of the car and opened the passenger side door. She gasped and pleaded with the men to leave her son alone, but the man in the back held her tighter, holding his damp, sweaty gloved hand to her mouth, and knife to her throat. The driver gently picked Michael up and out of the car. He lay him down on the grass of the field, then got back into the car and drove off.

Another few miles down the way the men would arrive at their cabin. They’d built it themselves from the ground up for just this purpose. They’d rape, torture and eventually kill Louise, then sell her car and destroy any possessions they couldn’t safely sell. Two weeks later they would find another single mother to kidnap and kill. Then two weeks after that… and two weeks after that…

As the snow began to fall again, late that night, Michael woke up, cold and alone. He sat up and looked around, trying to shake the awful nightmare he had about his mum and two strange men. He tried to find his mum, but couldn’t see her. He called for her, but heard no reply. He was still partially wrapped in the blanket from the car. Had his mum left him out here? What had he done wrong? He began to cry as he called for his mother.

Michael called until his throat was sore. He eventually got to his feet and wrapped the blanket around himself, though now it was soaked through from the snow fall, his hair was wet, his cheeks stung against the cold. He thought if he found his way back to the village, the men on stilts would be able to see his mummy, they were so tall they’d be able to see her anywhere, and then they’d take him back to her. He couldn’t see any of the bright lights from the festival, nor could he hear the loud banging fireworks they started the night with.

He walked with the blanket tight around him. It didn’t take long for his legs to numb, his trousers were now also soaked through. He could bearly see the ground in the night, and his foot caught in a small hole in the road. He fell, unable to catch himself with the arms he had tucked into the blanket, and hit his head on the road. He cried at first, though it seemed useless when there was no mum there to kiss it better or put a plaster on. His knee was cut and his nose was bleeding. His ankle hurt, and he couldn’t stand up again.

Michael gave up. He cried and cried, and wiped his eyes and nose on the blanket, sat on the road side, shivering against the cold. After a while he had no more tears. The pain in his body was replaced only by cold, and he felt so sleepy. Maybe if he slept here until the morning, he would be able to see the village, or someone would come by on their way to the festival and find him. At the very least he would be in the warmth of the sunshine. As he closed, he could see the bright sunlight shining through the darkness, and feel its warmth. Then, he heard his mother’s voice, calling from the sun. He called back to her and left his cold, wet, snow covered body behind.

As Michael’s body slumped, lifeless against the snow, the sky blew open above, and a great ball of light, of life, cascaded down through the air in free fall. It crashed into the field beside the body. The light bloomed out from the ground, melting the snow with it’s warmth and ridding the air of the wild blizzard.

A shape moved within the light, a form with two arms, two legs, a straight back; a figure that may have been mistaken for human. The being’s light began to fade slowly, it’s luminescent eyes closing. Though it was straining to see, it saw the child’s body and it began to drag itself toward it. It reached out it’s hand for the child, and gently touched his frost-bitten forehead. The form’s head drops, it’s light fades. The child takes a breath.

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