This story begins a new series of short fiction. Unlike my Tales of the Faerie Shepherds series, I would urge caution for parents of potential younger readers. In these stories, I will explore more explicitly dark themes but will provide trigger warnings when warranted. These stories could be classified as Southern gothic, paranormal or horror. With that preface, I present to you “No Girl’s Land,” An Other-World Tale.

Trigger Warnings: Abuse and Torture 

Angelica risked a glimpse back. His stench lassoed her. She stumbled. 

Ribs ripped through nearly translucent skin as they scraped the asphalt beneath her. Her scarred and weakened wrists failed to catch her. 

The crack of calcium-deprived bones … one more odd against her escape. 

Gravel crunched with sickening closeness somewhere behind, lost but too-close found in the foggy pitch. The odor of liquor, tobacco and hallucinogens—all cheap, none free—assaulted her nostrils. Smelling salts for her senses, they and the ever-dropping chill of the air around her shot her system with strength to raise her from the dead ditch, on to life. 

Or another form of terror-filled servitude. 

Every sting of his belt. Each night the chains reopened old wounds as he held her captive to his sickening will. His malodor. His rancid taste. His poisonous touch. 

The memories rose; her senses tingled. The combination gifted her speed, breath, urgency, a superhuman ability to pull farther ahead of the madman pursuing her. 

She rose, shaking her head wildly around. Crunchy strands of hair stung her face, blinding her with their presence and the tears they caused. The wind whipped around her as it shredded the past from her skin, leaving her raw, exposed, open to healing … to hope. 

Rising before her as though a specter raised the curtains on a new drama set to unfold with her as its starring puppet, ever captive to the script, a visage with an ethereal shimmer loomed. She stopped short, barely retaining her balance. The fortress’ sudden arrival struck her still as its material stonework. Her mouth hung as she looked up, up, up to the disappearance of its crown. 

A growling obscenity alerted her. 

He had arrived.   

The night slithered around her, tightening its grip and constricting her heart and lungs with its horror. Never again would he take her. 

Never. 

Initially oppressive in its personification, the fog cloaked her and guided her gently forward as she reached down, down, down to a shimmering remnant of courage. Hand outstretched, she touched the gate. 

A chill surged up her arm and down her spine as she fingered the rusted metal and it pulled her inward. She tripped over the metal grate within, losing her grip as she rolled over gravel, sand and dirt. Bits and grains and specks adhering to the sweat of her exposed skin. 

His voice. Louder, fouler and nearer than ever. 

The curses and names he proclaimed over her worthless nature echoed off the walls behind her as the gate swept shut. Its motion—though so quick she nearly missed it—made no sound. His voice continued to reverberate. Out of the mist he appeared, a demon creature from the pits of hell. 

Stopping short, the vulgarities snaked their way through the gate to tie her soul in their ever-tightening knots with the threats and descriptions of what awaited her when he once again grasped her in his power. Violent tremors ravaged her body until the light of a small, mighty truth lit within her. 

He beat at the air before the fortress. He screamed past her. His malicious glare sought a victim. 

He could not see her. 

Behind her, a wind rustled, soft at first, then rising faster and faster into a crescendo surpassing Beethoven himself. This was no mere breeze. This force—this element—lived and moved and held its Beings. 

It spoke and whispered; hummed and sung. Its cadence other-worldly. Two strains wove around one another in opposite octaves and varying pitches but somehow perfectly paired. 

Surrounding her now, the music healed her deepest inner wounds even as it also tore afresh her outer ones. Her hidden peace struck against her free-flowing blood as the music hit an earth-shattering discord. 

The man before her—her tormentor, the devil of her every waking moment for the past six years—threw hands up straight above his head as his eyes contained an emotion she’d never witnessed there. Where once only hate and evil pooled, terror ran. The monster of her days and nights quaked with the earth beneath him as he beheld the duet of good and bad. 

It was the Symphony of Angels and Demons, and they required his soul to attain its screaming finale. 

Angelica watched as the music hewed the man in half, each a clone of the other. It then crushed both, distorting every feature and releasing the foulness within him before it shredded the remainder and cast him a zillion different ways, none of which her eyes could follow, before sinking into the earth beneath where the oppressor had stood seconds past. 

She crouched, knees beneath her, staring hard where all had disappeared. 

A dream—no—nightmare? Hallucinations? 

Had her mind finally snapped under his manipulative pressure? 

No. 

There, just inside the gate … 

Dirt specks rose to dance. Slow, timid then purposeful. Speeding to a waltz, then a reel and finally a tango. The movements jerky, sporadic as more and more rose until the music had returned in full. Within the veil of dirt, silhouettes and glimpses of bright angelic faces and glowing demonic ones wrestled for place and beat and rhythm. 

The girl lifted her face to view them all as they rose above and around her. The sound grew deafening as the wrestling shook earth, walls, trees, everything. In the final three six-beat measures, the choirs of the Other-Realm hissed and whispered … 

We will protect the Mind. We will collect the Soul. We will connect the Heart. 

 No Girl’s Land” Copyright © 2019 by Joy E. Rancatore. All Rights Reserved.

What do you think about this new style? Is this a genre you enjoy and would like to read more of? Please let me know in the comments below!

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