Happy February, dear reader! Hey, did you know that February comes from the Latin term februum which means "purification?"
Purification is a rather strong term, so let's just call it a new beginning.
I'm starting something new this go 'round, deviating a bit from the established path. But fear not! There is still magic at work, although it may be a stranger variety than what you are used to.
No. 1: In the Fog
The low grumbling of a far off beast made the man jump, salty sweat stinging his eyes. The bayou was dangerous even in the hot brightness of day, but at night… at night the place changed. Solid land melted away moments after it was traversed, leaving only cold, dead water. The bayou was a deadly deception after sundown.
And now, here in the middle of a muggy night, he was making his way back to the safety of hard earth. Wasn’t he? Surely this was the way he had come?
He was sweating madly now despite the coolness of the air. Coolness? While his skin burned with the effort of avoiding murky pools, his lungs pulled in harsh, stabbing breaths of rapidly cooling air. Yes, it was getting colder. His racing mind paused for a moment to consider the mechanics of this. How could humid, Louisiana summer air suddenly drop to wintry levels?
Like the morgue, he thought. The memory of visiting the parish morgue five years earlier was plucked from his mind; so vivid he was blinded, stumbling over the uneven ground.
When his head cleared, he lifted himself up and in the light of a fast waning moon saw the fog rolling across the waters. It moved swiftly outward from the inner recesses of the bayou, like it was being forced in front of something even colder, even more menacing.
Again there came the low rumbling noise, like a great beast lurked hidden just behind the white wall of fog. He ran, not knowing where he was running. All he knew was that he needed to put as much distance between him and the unseen guttural groan as was possible. The wall was in fast pursuit, and he scrambled madly for footing in the soft earth of the swamp.
He was just too slow.
The white blanket of the fog bank enveloped him, wrapped him in cool nothingness. It seemed to swallow everything, surroundings and noises both. His own heaving breaths came silently out of his throat. He whimpered on the verge of hysterics when his feet suddenly felt hard solid ground beneath them. He was out of the bayou and onto the packed dirt road that ran along side it.
He laughed and his tight shoulders sagged with relief. Stupid superstitions, he thought, I’ll ring Vergil’s neck for putting me up to this. But I saw it, I saw it.
The sound of a heavy body scraping against land stopped him mid-step. All around him the fog grew colder, denser, and began to reek of rotted meat. He was frozen in place, hardly daring to breathe. The throaty rumble of the hidden thing echoed around him, confusing him; he didn’t know where it was.
With only enough time to let out a strangled yelp he fell, leaving little swirls of vapor in his place. Heavy jaws clapped shut and the great weight of the beast pulled itself back into the bayou.
A lilting chuckle rippled the fading mists. “Ah, bonne fille.”