By: Marie Robinson
Many supernatural legends ensnare their prey with appearing to be illusions. In Celtic folklore, the Kelpie does just that.
Marie Robinson is a young woman from St. Louis, MO who has an obsession with the supernatural, Gothic literature, horror films and all things macabre. She is studying to be a folklore expert and is one of two writers for the horror blog Fascination With Fear. She has had three pieces published this year, one featured in an anthology released by Black Hound Digital Press and two can be read in issues of Sanitarium magazine. Her blog can be found here: www.fascinationwithfear.blogspot.com
By: Marie Robinson
Chester was flying on his gangly legs; was it beer or fear that was helping him to run this fast? Half of him was terrified as he fled blindly, looking behind him ever so often—and when he turned to find only moonlight chasing him the other half of him laughed.
He was certain there was no way that woman’s husband could catch up with him. He was immensely fat; his pasty stomach spilled out from under his shirt, his meaty head sat simply upon his broad shoulders. It was no wonder his woman was fooling around on him; Chester was young, handsome, and lean as a reed. He threw back his head and cackled once more into the midnight air. He also had to have been twice as drunk as Chester was—that or he just couldn’t hold his drink. When he had initially found the two wrapped in each other’s arms on the side of the tavern, he swung a punch that met naught but the breeze.
She was indeed a lovely woman; he was a bit disappointed that their time together was cut short.
Chester stopped to catch his breath. He halted and buckled, slapping his chest as if to rid his lungs of their ache as they racked against his ribs. As he looked back to see if the bastard was chasing him he came to the realization that he had no clue where he was. He had cut down an old dirt road that ran through the woods to be surrounded now by looming, unfamiliar trees and the moonlit path on either side of him.
He caught sight of something between the trees. The woods that hugged this road were wild and untamed; he thought to himself that if he weren’t so drunk he could probably recall the name of this forest. He brushed the apparition off as a bird but when he saw it again—this time on the opposite side he had first spied it—he knew it couldn’t be that. It was low to the ground, dark, and hulking. Now that he was aware of it he could hear the crunch of the leaves beneath it and its snorting breaths as it ran.
Chester felt a stab of fear in his breast; he has lost sight of the beast again, it was the same bleak color as the shadowed trunks. He felt nervously in his pockets and retrieved a small knife, which he drew and held out before him.
“I didn’t think you could outrun me!” Chester shouted drunkenly, trying to stand still enough to peer through the trees.
He saw it flit in the corner of his eyes, and whirled to face it, but saw nothing.
“Who’s there?” He screamed. Numbness began to give away to fear, it brushed over him like a cool breeze, his skin prickled at its touch. He turned slowly around, straining to see through fogged eyes. He stopped cold when he saw a pair of eyes on a long face staring out at him. Chester fell back in surprise, dropping his knife. He scrambled to pick it up and thrust it out before him. “Show yourself!” He tried to bark, but his voice broke.
The figure moved forward, stepping down out of the shade of the trees and out into the moonlight. Chester sighed, his muscles released from terror’s icy grip as he observed that it was merely a horse.
He left his arm fall limp to the ground, slipping his knife back into his pocket.
“Good Lord, darlin’,” he sighed with relief. “You scared the wits out of me.” Indeed, he felt a bit more sober from the shock. He climbed to his feet with some difficulty. “Where’s your master, love?”
The mare looked out of sad black eyes that glittered like wet stones. Her coat was a shabby brown, with patches fallen out of it; she appeared to have lost the saddle she once wore, but around her nose was wrapped a tattered bridle.
“You look as though you’ve wandered through these woods for weeks.” Chester stumbled up to her, putting out his palm for her to nuzzle. Above her velvety muzzle he observed sores under the leather bridle. “You poor thing. Come, I’ll take you home with me.”
He took her bridle in his hand and went to lead her along the road, but she stood fast.
“What’s the matter, lovely?” Chester turned to ask her.
She lowered herself onto her knees, looking up at him with gentle, pleading eyes.
“I can’t climb up on you, dear,” he said softly. “You’re much too weak.”
The mare remained on the ground, gazing up dolefully.
Chester bent down and ran a hand along the side of her face. He unbuckled her bridle and slid it carefully off of her face; her ears twitched and her eyes watered but she made no fuss, she looked only grateful.
He stood and threw a leg over her broad back, settling down carefully before she rose back up to her full height.
“You probably know the way better than I do,” Chester said, looking around again as the mare began to traipse down the path. The forest was a blackened swirl from atop the beast; he felt an ache coming on behind his brow.
The moon was sliding down beneath the trees, the silvery glow on the road replaced by shadows, the only light remaining was the twinkling of fireflies. The slow, rhythmic pace of the horse and the rise and fall of its back became relaxing to Chester, and he felt himself nodding off. He tried hard to resist it, but his head dropped down to his breast and his eyes fell closed.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but when Chester awoke the horse had stopped and there was a low sound in his ear.
He opened his eyes to see a large black dog blocking the road ahead of them. The brute’s head was hung down below his hunkered shoulders, with lips pulled tight, baring his long, white teeth.
The mare was stamping her feet, her ears and her tail twitching wildly.
“Easy, girl,” Chester whispered, stroking the side of her neck; he could feel the bald, scabbed spots in her coat. He reached down and felt the knife in his pocket, trying to reassure himself, but it hardly worked as he looked down upon the monstrous hound, its eyes glaring red with fury. Every muscle on its body was tense and shivering, ready to release and pounce with eager fang and claw.
It did not, however. It did something far more strange; the dog began to speak. “Where did you get that horse?”
Chester froze; the warm tingle of drunkenness had faded, he felt his blood rush cold through his veins.
The beast stared up at him with glinting black eyes, his jowls dripping ferociously. A low rumble came deep within his broad, shaggy chest.
“It came to me,” Chester muttered dumbly, not daring to reach for his knife now. The hound was sure to leap upon his throat faster than he could draw his blade. “It was runnin’ loose in the forest.”
“Get off,” the dog snarled.
Chester’s breath caught in his throat; he twined his trembling fingers through the mare’s greasy mane.
“You are in danger,” the hound said in his grumbling voice, speaking from behind his clenched, pallid scowl.
Frozen with terror, his whole body quaking, Chester felt himself shift on the back of the horse, making to swing his leg over and slide gently off of her.
The great black hound’s eyes broke from Chester’s for a moment to look at the horse. With a powerful bark he commanded, “Now!”
Before Chester could leap from her back, the mare whinnied and began to charge off into the forest. She galloped at a neck-breaking speed; Chester clenched fistfuls of her mane and hugged his knees tight to her sides. He bent to rest his head against her neck, for when he sat up his body was thrown to and fro—he felt as though his spine would snap—and the low twigs and branches clawed at his face and eyes. With his head bowed he peered down the end of the horse and could see the dog chasing behind them, his jaws snapping as he yelped and howled.
His paws pounded the damp earth, which was in turn thrown up into his face by the heels of the horse. He gained proximity on them, he was close enough to take a leap up onto her backside, but when he went to do so, one of the mare’s ebony hoofs caught him on the throat. He fell with a great crash to the ground, letting out a great strangled cry before his windpipe was crushed, and he rolled over onto his side, his black form crumpled among the leaves.
“You’ve killed him!” Chester shouted into her ear as she continued to race on through the trees. “He lays dead a great length behind us. We are safe!”
The mare did nothing to slow, she was snorting as her hooves thumped the ground, foam and saliva seeping from her open mouth. Her eyes were rolling madly in her head, but it wasn’t fear they were fixed with, but some sort of malice—a hunger.
“Slow down!” He cried, tugging back on her mane. However, his fingers could not grab hold, for the hair had become slimy and wet—it dripped down her throat. He looked down upon her as they ran. Her appearance seemed to worsen before his very eyes. Her whole coat was sopping wet, and when he brushed his hand against it the hair would fall from her body. Her hooves were chipped and cracked.
Horrified, he craned his neck in all directions, trying to catch a glimpse of what his surroundings were in the case he might recognize them. The trees had thinned and up ahead Chester could see them breaking away into a clearing. A dart of light caught his eye. He squinted and saw that they were approaching a lonely pond—they were headed straight for it.
“Stop,” Chester whispered desperately into the horse’s ear. “Please!”
With tears slipping from his eyes, he looked down at the long, moonlit face of the mare. Her eyes had gone white as milk, crusted with mud around the edges. Her mouth, ajar, was full of moss-covered teeth and thick with foam; and from the ears, tattered and filthy, slithered maggots.
Chester recoiled in terror, a scream tearing from his throat. Between weeps and shrieks he called out hoarsely into the night. “Help! Help me, please!”
How he wished to throw himself from the mare, but he feared the fall would shatter all his bones—and even if he did survive, the mare might double back, and surely he could not outrun her; he would be trampled under her rotted feet.
He screamed and wailed, tears flying from his eyes, until his mouth was filled with cold murky water as the horse plunged into the pool. He left the mare’s back and clawed for the surface of the water. A sharp pain ripped through his side as his ribs crunched between her blunt jaws. He felt himself becoming weak—becoming less—as he floated with arms outstretched and darkness consumed him.