SHORT STORY PREVIEW: “The Barn”

Holy shit, it’s TOMORROW.

Okay, dudes, here’s the deal. This preview is a decent portion of the first installment of the short story series I’m writing that, beginning sometime next month, will be available essentially via subscription by becoming a patron of my Patreon account. Patreon is a fantastic site and service that allows individuals to support creators directly, allowing me to keep 90% of your monetary support and allowing you access to exclusive content such as this series. I will initially be offering the series for patrons supporting me to the tune of at least $2 a month, with more support netting you even more bonuses and exclusive content, which will be detailed on my Patreon once it goes live with the release of the first installment.

I am not a published author or even an established online writer or anything remotely approaching those things. I am a mother of young children with a passion for writing, who would be fucking thrilled to turn my writing into a career that will be fulfilling and help support my family at the same time. I am currently writing my first fantasy novel, but in the meantime, I wanted to find a way to get my work out into the world and gain valuable feedback from a larger audience while also earning some income for the many, many hours a week I put into my writing. I’m mostly confident my fiction is worth at least the amount of change you may very well currently have in your wallet, purse, car, or couch cushions, and I hope at least some of you will agree.

Full disclosure: This has only been self-edited, so hopefully I’m as anal as I think I am. And I’m just going to let WordPress format it like a blog post because…lazy? I would absolutely appreciate polite, constructive feedback in the comments, and would very, VERY much appreciate if you would SHARE this post if it ends up being something you’re into.

So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for being here. Your support means THE WORLD to me.

Okay, I officially have sweaty palms. Here we go.

——————————

“The Barn”

The cracked and peeling white paint of the windowsill scratched faintly at Myra’s trembling fingers as she slowly and haltingly pulled herself up from where she crouched against the wall. 

The strange blue-white light, streaked with brief flashes like traces of purple lightning, seeped out from between the sagging boards of the old barn across the eerily silent winter yard. It was much brighter now than it had been, glaring through the windows of the house like a massive banded spotlight. She tilted her head to one side and shakily raised herself just enough to squint out the dusty pane with one eye.

Who–or what–she was hiding from, she still didn’t know. But Papa had told her stay inside and stay down and that’s what she was doing. It was also pretty much all she could do at the moment, with limbs that felt like heavy, jittery jelly, so it worked out, she supposed.

Bo, their huge furry mutt, whined again from his appointed station by the back door, looking to her with cloudy eyes for permission to lend his slow, rickety, useless help outside. She ducked back below the sill and frantically shushed him, glancing behind her to where the baby still miraculously slept across the great timbered room in her cot by the hearth. She hadn’t even stirred when it happened, which wasn’t like her, but Myra was okay with that right now.

She had no idea where Callum was. 

She bit her lip and stifled a small sob, wiping her drippy nose with her palm. She had forced herself to stop crying, fearing she wouldn’t be able to do what needed to be done if she was blubbering. What needed to be done, she had no idea, but she was sure whatever it was, crying wouldn’t help. She could feel the fear, though, welling up again in her chest, heading straight for her throat (and legs), and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could hold it together. 

She squeezed her eyes shut, took a deep breath and held it, shaking her head rapidly in an attempt to force the issue with herself. She let the breath out, then took another and, holding it again, turned to slowly raise herself back up to squint into the brightness shining through the window. She blinked back the tears she felt escaping from her eyes and told herself they were from the shock of the light, not the overwhelming terror she felt. 

She could see or hear no movement anywhere. No crested jays or bushy grey squirrels chattered nosily from the branches of the giant maple tree beside the barn. No black-capped chickadees hopped about in the intermittent grass beneath the laundry line stretching from the tree to the intricate green house. No foxes peeked from the underbrush at the edge of the pine forest across the field beyond that. 

And no sounds came at all now from the barn.

The initial arrival of whomever–or whatever–had invaded their barn had shaken the house to its foundation and momentarily filled the air with a thunderous buzzing. The noise left her ears clogged and her hearing dampened for several moments until they cleared with a fizzle and were met with a profound silence. The event had even briefly startled the dogs into submission, until Ignacious, her father’s sweet beast of a hunting dog, had begun to emit a low, menacing growl, immediately picked up by Isla, their young collie.

Mama had turned from where she leaned against the kitchen sink, a partially peeled potato in one hand, peeler in the other, to throw a questioning look across the great room at Papa. Papa had straightened up from the crouch he fell into when the event caught him laying another log on the fire and glanced at her. He had shrugged and shook his head before stepping around the baby’s cot to look out the large window facing the barn, eyes narrowed in confusion.    

Then the horses had begun to scream. 

The noise was unlike anything Myra had ever heard, instantly making the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck rise in alarm. Before she could even properly register the source, a flurry of activity had erupted around her. 

The dogs were barking and howling and whining, Ignacious and Isla jumping up against the back door, claws dragging coats and scarves off the hooks along its back as they scrabbled out their impatience for it to open. Bo had planted himself firmly–or as firmly as was possible these days–just behind them, emitting a steady stream of thunderous woofs. Mama had thrown the potato and peeler in the sink and briefly wiped her hands on her apron as she crossed the kitchen to the door, then leaned up on her toes around the dogs to grab the shotgun on the shelf above. She had checked to see that it was loaded and then turned to where Myra sat frozen at the kitchen table, a puzzle piece still in one raised hand. She had only been able to blink at her mother.

Meanwhile Papa had snatched the large hatchet from the mantel and stopped behind Myra’s chair, placing a hand on her shoulder, which had made her flinch and drop the puzzle piece. She had looked up at him then, and as she did, the screaming suddenly stopped. Mama had inhaled sharply and Papa had squeezed Myra’s shoulder (whether out of surprise or comfort, she hadn’t known) and said into the abrupt quiet, “Stay here, stay down,” before bending to briefly but firmly kiss the top of her head. 

Then he had crossed to the door as Mama knocked the dogs out of the way with her hip, managing to barely get it open before Ignacious and Isla charged through the narrow opening, bellowing bravely and indignantly. When Bo tried to follow, Mama had swung her free arm down and caught him by the chest, “No, Bo. You stay with the girls. Stay.” 

Although Bo had let out a disgruntled whine, he immediately sat and Mama nodded at him. She then turned back to Myra, her expression earnest and encouraging as she nodded again and followed after the dogs. Papa had patted Bo on his great furry head, looked one more time at Myra, nodded and gave her a brief, sad-seeming smile. Then he had followed Mama out, slamming the heavy door behind him.

How long ago had that been? She didn’t know, but–

Myra spun and crouched as the front door slammed open across the great timbered room, revealing Callum’s outline shadowed in the doorway. Startled, Bo whipped his head around and let out one thunderous bark, and before she knew what she was doing, Myra found herself racing across the wide plank flooring and launching herself into her brother’s arms. She heard his sharp exhalation as she knocked the air out of him, snaking her arms around his neck in an iron grip and burying her face in the collar of his flannel jacket. He smelled of sweat and faintly of fuel, his breathing deep as if he had been running. 

He wrapped his long arms around her, cradling the back of her head and gently rocked side to side, murmuring comforting words as she sobbed into his neck. Bo pressed up against one of her dangling legs, waggling his ample hind end into her and Callum, whining softly under his wheezy breath. Myra felt Callum reach down with one hand to scratch his head in acknowledgment. After a moment, Callum gave her one final squeeze and set her down. He reached around to unwrap her arms from his neck, keeping hold of her hands, and crouched down so they were eye-level.

She could tell he made some attempt to soften his pinched expression, but looking into his eyes, Myra suddenly felt worse, not better. 

“Myra,” he said softly, “Mama and Papa went to the barn?”

She felt tears welling up again as she nodded.

Callum grimaced and closed his eyes briefly, swallowing hard and nodding once, as if he had hoped against but ultimately expected her answer. He opened his eyes, took a deep breath, and leaned nearly nose to nose with her, gripping her shoulders and pulling her close. The room seem to disappear around them in the intense brightness. 

“We need to go,” he said. “Right now.”

Myra jerked back almost out of his grip but froze when she saw the affected calm in his clenched jaw and furrowed brows. Mama was right; he looked just like Poppy when he used his serious grownup face.

She stared hard at him for several moments, her own brows tightly drawn together, trying to fully process what he had just said, her breath quick and shallow. She glanced over her shoulder towards the window and back door, squinting into the light, then turned back to Callum.

“What about Mama and Papa? And Ignacious and Isla?” she asked.

Callum opened his mouth to answer but his breath caught and, clearly anguished, he shook his head slightly. 

“We need to go,” he managed in a firm whisper. 

Myra twisted and yanked herself out of his hands, her face lowering in a mix of horror, disbelief, and, ultimately, anger at what Callum seemed to be implying with that one simple demand. Papa said to stay in the house. Why would they leave before Mama and Papa came back? Unless…

Callum’s bright blue, tear-tinged eyes pleaded with her not to ask for more detail right then, and she suddenly decided she didn’t want any. She already felt the bottom of her stomach falling out and took a deep breath to catch it. She held it till she couldn’t any longer, trying to frantically mend the break in her world enough to think and, hopefully, function. Finally the breath exploded out of her, dragging a small sob with it. 

Mama and Papa weren’t coming back. 

And they needed to go.

Right now.

 

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