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The Chalk Circle

By Elijah-Aaron Rowan All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

A short horror

The room was completely silent, except for the clickclickclick of the knitting needles and the rough, almost gasping breathing of Robert. They didn’t speak, it was safer not to. He was unpredictable and when he spoke he was cruel. Robert knew too many things about her and besides, she didn't like speaking. She liked the company though; the rough breaths reminded her she was alive and that her heart was still beating after all this time. After all these long years. After all the things she had done. 

Click click click. 

She peered over into His corner, squinting in the dim candle light. The tiny flames seemed to flicker in response, a small gasp of anticipation and fear. She had never seen all of Robert, not in his entirety. He seemed to be always just out of the light, hunched and withdrawn, in his corner behind the chalk line. It could have been the trick of the light but his shadow never stayed the same shape, it was likely if she saw him once the next time she wouldn't recognise him. He shifted. He wasn't a normal person and he scared her. That was why she was knitting tonight; it calmed her, she loved making little jumpers to send to the great- great nieces and nephews and little coats for the new babies in the village.She focused on that, moving her eyes back to her work. 

She was so very nervous. 

Robert could tell. His breathing increased in speed and noise, it thickened and she almost could feel him smile. She could hear the mucus and spit as it filled his mouth, he was growling at the thought of her. She could see his small slits of red eyes peering in her direction. That was the sign it was almost time, when he had those eyes, floating, bodiless in the dark. She felt like telling him off, telling him to stop it and he shouldn't get any ideas, but it wouldn't help. It was going to happen either way and he was going to giggle and smile until it was done. 

She heard a shuffle. Her eyes shot from her needles to Robert’s corner. She slowly stood, her crooked hands shaking. Maybe it was time for a conversation after all. 

“Don’t be silly Rob. Stay there.” her old voice trembled. 

“What’s the matter Marion?” The noise made her jump, his speaking was so rare, usually just breathing,the endless breathing. His voice was a thick, deep noise that seemed to crack under its own pressure. “Tick tock goes the clock.” 

Marion scowled and slowly sat back down, don't encourage him she thought to herself. Her eyes focused back onto her trail of wool, her mind anticipating how much more she'd need. Click click click. 

Her mind wandered, Robert could try and scare her all he liked, he could shuffle around inside his circle and say nasty things but he wasn't free just yet. He had a while left and he could wait and sit in his corner quietly. He growled. She smiled. 

“Be quiet Robbie dear. It’s not time yet. And I’ll be waiting anyway.” she carefully put down her needles and reached down by her feet for a warm cup of tea and a small leather book. “I’ve still got it all written down.” 

“But look how old you are now Marion...” he paused, his breaths making long gurgles in his throat, “I don’t think you have it in you any more.”  

“Every year I’ve had it in me.” she burst into a frantic laughter, throwing her gaze over to the corner, another smile spreading across her face. 

“You have!” he laughed back, “you love it. My barbed cock. Ripping in there.” 

“Stop that nasty talk!” her laughter stopped instantly. “Now you be quiet Robert, let me knit.” 

Click click click. Her mind wandered away again, drifting to all the little children, smiling. She had outlived so many people; all her siblings, her neighbours. But, her family continued and they meant the world to her. She crossed her legs at her ankles and sighed, a small, genuine, happy smile spreading across her wrinkled face. Not a spiteful one. Not a pained filled, smile of hatred. “How did we get into this situation aye Robbie?”  

“You wanted to feel me.” 

“What did I just say!?” she howled, throwing her needles on the floor and picking up the book. She rushed her glance around looking for something,each eye slightly out of sync with the other, searching over all the odd bits and pieces. Together they landed on it; a tiny black box. She fumbled with a key that hung around her neck and unlocked it with a loud click. 

“I’ll make you pay you little whore.” the thing in the corner mused. 

Marion didn't answer but instead lifted the lid to the box in silence and took out something crumpled and green. “I will throw this at you if you say one more nasty thing.” her voice shook. 

“You want it inside of you. I can feel you quiver.” The room filled with laughter, a deep, strong boom of frantic giggles. They stopped almost instantly. Marion faced the corner holding up a handful of the green crumbs. 

“No.” he whispered. “I will cut you, so help me witch I will cut your face off.” 

She threw the herbs into the shadow of the corner and rocked back and forth on her heels, her eyes closed, concentrating on something unseen. Screaming burst from the darkness followed by thick black smoke. Her walls shook from the force as the darkness smashed itself against the floor. She peered at the book with squinting eyes and muttered a few words she could make out on the page. Robert began to smell as if he were burning. She smiled her spiteful smile again.She had grown to like that smell. 

A blackened foot kicked out crossing the white chalk line. Whispers seemed to seep out of the walls. The demon within the shadows begged with them, sobbed, growled. Marion listened, waiting for their response. They silently seemed satisfied by the mistake, but she didn’t. 

“You crossed it!” Marion screamed, pointing, her eyes widening in fear, but the tiny sparkle couldn’t hide the satisfaction. Her hands reached inside the box again and grabbed more of the herb and threw it into the corner. The screaming reached a sound so high the creature’s voice broke and her ear drums strained to hear the wails. She turned towards her dying fire and stuck the poker deep into the glowing coals. The screams began to die down and the smoke thinned until it was almost a grey mist creeping towards her across the floorboards. Marion held up the deep red poker threateningly at arm’s length, but she could still feel its intense heat on her face. She hobbled closer to the corner, one hand holding the poker, one hand steadying herself on the wall. 

“You little bitch!” he yelled, his voice snapping and cutting off as the poker was forced into the shadows. “arrrggggh! Die!” he cried, “die! Die! Die!” 

She pulled the poker back and laid it back in front of the fire place, panting and holding her chest.She was so old now. “No more talking,” she panted through wheezing breaths,“It’s all he wants. To be nasty.” she muttered to herself. He wasn’t always so cruel though, he had had his uses. She looked back over the years, such a long time had passed since she was a teenager it was almost another blurred memory that eventually fizzled out like her dying fire.He had helped her. 

It was when mother was sick. They didn’t know what was wrong with her but she couldn’t move from her bed, she became dehydrated but refused to drink, distraught, maddened. Her skin dried so hard it split but her mouth seemed to always be thick with white,frothed saliva. Daddy told her that mother was going to die, bluntly and hysterically. 

She had hated that house, filled with sadness and a mother who stank of death and fear so she spent most of her timekeeping her younger siblings away from it, making them hide in the woods so that she could find them.The coolness of the trees was a stark, welcomed contrast to the stuffy, chocking heat of the house. It's air seemed sapped of life, the warmth that should have been welcoming stifled her. 

While playing, she heard the snap of twigs. Her hairs raised when she felt the unseen eyes fall on her. She called out, keeping her voice steady. A sickly looking old woman, bent over with a stick,wandered over to Marion as if she knew her;in fact Marion remembered her calling her by her name. Her brothers ran away but Marion stayed, in a semi conscious state, filled with wonder and excitement. The woman was old and slow but she had a feeling of adventure about her.The woman looked her straight in the eye and squinted before smiling and stating in a croaky voice, “I know a witch when I see a witch.” she tapped her nose with her long, twisted finger.  

“I think I knew.” Marion answered. The woman smiled and slid her hand into her pocket, pulling out a piece of white chalk and offered it to her. Marion took it without hesitation and placed it in her dress pocket, smiled and turned away. “Such a useful thing to the right woman!” the woman shouted after her. 

Marion returned to the house,looking back to the smiling lady. The woods, filled with all it's dangers felt more like home than the house. Her feelings of wonder shattered when she heard the sounds of hysterical crying. She carefully took off her shoes and her coat and tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs, listening, unable to breathe. 

“Your mother is dead!” her father screamed at her from the top of the thin stairs. He grabbed at his face, already sore from rubbing his eyes until they swelled and the skin was grazed away.  

“Dead!” he howled. Suddenly he flung himself forwards down the stairs and fell to the bottom of the steps, hitting his head on each one. After finally hitting the bottom he clung to Marion’s ankles while he sobbed. She froze, feeling trapped, tight, hopeless. 

Mother was so young, so beautiful,and she had to stay here with her!There must be a way. There was a way. 

“I can save her daddy.” she whispered and bent to pat his head as he lay at Marion feet.She gently kicked him away and ran into the darkness, coatless and shoeless,to the centre of the woods. The old woman was waiting for her, as if she knew she’d come all along. “My poor dear.” she held out her hands, Marion took them, squeezing tightly. “We can save your mother. Together.” Hand in hand they walked further into the trees until they reach an opening. The soft, wet forest floor disappeared to be replaced by hard, freezing rock. 

Marion seemed to know what to do instantly;she pulled out the chalk she had in her dress pocket and drew over lapping circles onto the rock. She felt around until she found a sharp corner on the grey stone and smashed her hand hard against it. She pulled it to the side sharply so her palm slit open.The old woman flinched. “I had another way in mind... A blood tie is a strong bond...” her voice seemed to trail away as if she saw something, her eyes widened. Marion’s hairs stood on end on her arms as she watched the old woman’s face turn from concern to fear, she darted her eyes around. Nothing. 

She heard a whisper, a hush of words behind her. She felt a breath on her neck. She spun around, making herself dizzy and tottered sideways, “who’s there!?” 

“I’ll be no part of this! You are something dangerous! Something evil!” The woman called, her eyes fixed on something peeking behind the trees. Her feet carried her away into the darkness of the woods, her eyes refusing to separate from the something Marion could not see. Marion went to follow her but her thoughts went to mother and instead she stopped dead and listened to the witch go, her footsteps get further away. She was alone.“Oh God...” she whispered. 

“There is no God here.”came a hushed reply. 

Marion jolted.“Good. He can’t help me.” she tried to sound strong, confident but her shaking body gave her away. “Where are you?”  

“Behind you!” the voice bellowed. She spun around but nothing but blackness stared back at her, nothing but dying trees in the frost.The air filled with laughter, it seemed to carry itself on the breeze directly to her ears."Gone. Here!" It yelled from above. 

Marion, clenched her shaking hands. “No games. I want to make a pact. I want mother fixed. I want her alive and better.” 

“Is that all? What about that woman that left you here. All alone with someone like me?”she felt a wetness stroke across her cheek and a tongue roll up into her ear.It stank. It prickled, like a young stinging nettle. A tear rolled from her eye, she felt her face go blue as she failed to breathe. Fingers slid down her back which jolted the air back into her lungs; she took a short, gasping breath. “Tell me.” the voice urged, “what else do you want?” 

Marion paused,closed her eyes... composed herself,“no,she has nothing to do with it.I want my mother better. What do you want in...”she bit her cheek, “in return?” 

“How dull. But I want your body. It’s so ripe. Oh God I could eat it now.” She felt saliva dribble down the back of her neck. She closed her eyes again and whimpered as the thick liquid rolled down her back and soaked into her dress. 

“Please, don’t eat me.” she whispered from the darkness behind her eyelids. An arm slid itself around her waist. Thick. Strong. Squeezed. 

“I won’t eat you.” The man’s voice whispered. “But, I do love these earthly pleasures.” Marion knew exactly what he meant and raised her head.“will you give me that?” 

Marion found herself answering instantly, “to save mother.” The arm reacted as quickly as she had spoken and pulled her so tight she felt like she was going to pass out, her ribs bent under the pressure, her spine clicked. It bent her forward.Pulled at her clothes.Entered. She should have hated it, she knew she should have. Yet, he was so experienced, so well learned, so large. It hurt. Oh God did it hurt and she screamed but she found herself yelling for more.  

The beast flung her down onto the rocks, she pressed backwards, taking some control, owning her gift to him and together they finished in a slump. She felt his weight on her back, smelled his thick scent. He felt... odd. She daren't look. 

The man laughed. “Whore.” He stated, “but I shall save your mother...” he hesitated. “I have a deal for you.”  

Marion, collapsed on the hard rock, she titled her head so she could hear, “what deal do you have in mind?” 

“A life for a life. But in a way you would like." The voice felt as if it was already in her ears. "Bear me my son and I shall give you another life of your own. You could live two lives and never fall sick like your mother.” 

Marion pulled herself up and turned around, there was a distinct darker patch in front of her but no person;a density, but her eyes couldn't focus on it and it was gone, hidden behind the trees, red eyes peeking. The voice was so deep yet it flickered to a screech then back again within seconds.His touch was strong and felt like ice and then like fire. He was so different. So exciting.She picked up the piece of chalk.She could feel his power, but she also knew her own. “Yes. But, this is your prison.” she held it out so he could see, her hands no longer shaking. “Can you see? I can’t tell...” 

Marion was pulled back into the room by a deep growling. “Time’s almost up Marion. Tick tock goes the clock.” 

It was true,she had told him the chalk was completely gone and this year’s circle of it was wearing thin. She looked over at the shadow in the corner;the odd flash of something that resembled a human limb would appear but quickly return to the darkness. 

“I suppose this will be the last time then Robert?” 

“You did lie to me Marion. I think you knew you were baron.” he tutted. 

Marion laughed, “I sure got you though Robbie! I sure got you.” She sighed and smiled. “No more chalk Robbie. Go easy on me?” Marion put the key back around her neck. She had kept Robert at bay all these years except for one day a year, but the chalk was all gone now, she’d be his everyday and she had lied for so long. 

“Almost two hundred now.” she sighed.  

“I know Marion. This is what will make it all the more sweeter. I’ve built up to this for so long.”  

The clock chimed.  

“Oh God.” Marion’s eyes widened. 

“There’s no God here.” the man from the corner replied in a croaky whisper, trying to hide the excitement in his voice. “But, isn’t that what you always wanted?” He took a step. He crossed the faded line.Marion waited, in some thin hope he'd scream out, burn, cry out in pain... but nothing happened. No whispering came from the walls. 

Marion closed her eyes. She squeezed the needles tightly in her hands and listened. One step. A giggle, a deep, low laugh. Another step, hard and deliberate. She felt breathing on her face. She daren’t open her eyes. Her heart pounded.  

“I can hear that thumpthumpthump.”His voice breathed on her. She felt a hand, large and strong, press against her chest, “thumpthumpidythump...” 

“Just do it Robbie.” her old thin lips trembled in fear, in anticipation. He slapped her suddenly across the face and she fell onto the floor. Her bones scrapped against the wood, she pushed herself into a position she could bear before feeling him jump down onto her. It still excited her, she still loved the fight. She knew she shouldn't but here she was, trembling in fear and excitement. She felt a hand pull on her dress but she pulled it down herself. He laughed, his thick horse laugh, just like he used to. He entered, pushing himself into her, hard and suddenly, in her old age it was too much and she lost consciousness. 

Marion awoke to a gurgled breathing. She groaned and rolled over,grabbing at her dress. “Oh don’t bother getting dressed. Remember, you’re mine now.” 

Marion ignored him and pulled herself up off of the floor. She pulled her dress over her head and reached through the arms and pulled it down over her body. She slowly placed her hand into her pocket and smiled. 

“What?” Robert screamed in her ear.  

The last of the fire light extinguished in a flash as if it had been blown out by a gust of biter wind. Nothing but the candles lit the room now. She could see his shape dancing around in the shadows of the tiny flames, an elongated caricature of his true self. She blinked and swallowed. He terrified her but she smiled her bitter smile. She slowly pulled out a small piece of white chalk. 

“Oh Robbie I do like fucking with you. Now back to your corner.” The smile on her face grew to a grin and she burst into laughter.The shadow seemed to grow and trembled and she lashed out at it. He screamed. “When it does run out Marion... Oh God you better pray.”  

Marion licked her lips. “There’s no God here.” she hobbled over to the corner, chalk pointed outwards and bent down with a heave, her dress falling about her. She dragged the small piece of chalk along the floor with loose fingers, around into a circle; a flicker of darkness locked inside. “You’re still mine Robbie boy.”She giggled. 

“And you’re still mine Marion.” he growled as she wandered back to her seat and sat down with a heave and picking up the knitting needles. Click click click.  

A whisper leaked from the gaps in the wall. 

“Until next year.” They muttered in unison.

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