Book: Six Scary Tales Vol. 1 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hallcategories: Book, Short Stories, Creepy, Stone Circle, Paranormal, Horror
Rayne Hallabout this book: Six spine-tingling, creepy stories by Rayne Hall. Please note: these stories are also included in the bigger collection, THIRTY SCARY TALES. The author writes in British English.
Here's a sample. Enjoy!
Barbed wire laced the top of the narrow gate, and the jagged end of a broken signpost stuck out of the gorse hedge. The owner of the land, it seemed, disliked people using the ancient Right of Way.
But whatever the farmer's quarrels with occasional tourists, modern-day druids or scholars of ancient history, it did not concern Kathy. She had come a long way to Cornwall on her first holiday since the divorce to explore the stone circles, and would not let a stretch of barbed wire stop her.
Unhooking the stiff latch, she allowed the gate to screech open. She squeezed through the gap, dodging thorny brambles and spider webs. She hated spiders, and no doubt many of them lurked in the dank growth. Hedges towered on either side of the overgrown trail, their branches heavy with water from the earlier rain.
On reaching the stile, she found it also seamed with barbed wire. There was no signpost, not even a broken one. The landowners seemed determine to block a public Right of Way. They might have trouble with vandals, litterers and crop-tramplers, but Kathy was none of these. She never interfered, never meddled, never left more than footprints. She had the right to see the remotest of the ancient monuments, the Dredhek Druid Stones.
Her jeans snagged as she climbed across the barbed stile. At fifty-five, she wasn't as agile as she'd been last time she'd visited stone circles. How long ago had that been? Almost forty years. She'd been on a youth holiday in Cornwall, dating a blond afro-haired boy from the campsite. Not that they'd seen many monuments. They'd been too absorbed necking under the hedgerows.
Whereas these days, Kathy would not miss the chance to experience the ancient magic. The earth energy surrounding Men-at-Tol and at the Merry Maidens had sent her dancing in honour of the elements. What would the Dredhek Druid Stones do to her?
On the other side of the stile, she found nothing but neck-high brambles, nettles, scratchy thistles. No path was in sight. The other stone circles had been easier to get to, even in the rain.
Should she retrace her steps? Perhaps she had taken a wrong turn somewhere, missing a stile or mistaking a plain gate for a kissing gate. The drizzle started again, and the printer's ink on the cheaply produced guidebook ran. Somewhere far away, a dog howled.
Step by step, she trudged across ploughed fields, treading down the thicket of bracken and thorny brambles. Soon, her trouser legs were soaked up to the knees and clods of clay soil clung to her trainers. When she sampled the first blackberries of the season, they tasted acid and gritty, with more pips than sour flesh. It couldn't be much further now, could it?
Suddenly the thicket cleared, as if by sorcery. Below her, twelve stones of grey granite stood chest-high, sticking from the sodden ground like teeth from scurvy gums. What a view! Excited, Kathy quickened her steps, impatient to touch the stones, all twelve of them.
As soon as she placed her hand on the rough surface of the nearest boulder, the ancient energy rose and tingled in her palm. The thirteenth stone, the one in the centre, beckoned strongest. Twice the height of the others, it stood tilted at a phallic angle. Its broad, flat back invited her to lean against it.
Below the overhang of the tilted stone, a posy of wildflowers wilted: yarrow, dandelion and gorse. How touching: someone still worshipped at this ancient site, where people had prayed for thousands of years.
She picked up the blooms. Beneath them lay the charred remains of a frog, its hind legs grotesquely sprawled.
She swallowed the welling sickness. So what if a group of neo-pagans or whatever they were wished to make a burnt offering? Thousands of animals got slaughtered everyday for food, and thousands of frogs got run over on the roads. They'd probably not burnt it alive anyway. Didn't Druids have the custom of triple deaths? They'd probably strangled it first and drained its blood before putting it on the fire. She had no business judging their customs.
As she replaced the flowers to hide the corpse, she recalled a glimpse of a druid ritual during that Cornish holiday decades ago. The memory descended like a damp cloud.
Roaming the fields in search of a private spot, she and Jerry had stumbled across a group of cloaked, hooded figures with sickles and staffs.
The druids, though polite, had made it clear they did not like outsiders watching their ritual. Kathy wanted to leave immediately, but Jerry walked right into the gathering to a pale, red-cloaked woman.
With his bell-bottom trousers and purple striped shirt, Jerry looked pathetic among the robed druids. "Are you all right, lady?" he asked. "Do you need help?"
"Ngnggggg." The woman swayed, staggered, and raised her arms. "Ongengeeee."
"The lady is our queen." The tallest of the druids pointed at her crown of wildflowers and ivy. "She's had a little too much fly agaric, but we're looking after her."
"Engeeeengeeee." The woman's diluted pupils confirmed that she was drugged.
Kathy pulled Jerry's sleeve. "Let's go. This is a private celebration, and they can do what they like. Freedom of religion and all that."
"That's right. Freedom of religion." The tall druid smiled benevolently and drew a sign in the air, not unlike the Christian blessing of the cross.
Still Jerry didn't budge. "She looks sick. She needs help."
"For God's sake, Jerry!" Kathy dragged him away. "This isn't your business. You're embarrassing me."
On their way back to the camp, they argued. Jerry kept worrying about the drugged woman, and Kathy kept telling him the druids knew what they were doing and he had no right to meddle. At last, he fell silent. But there had been no more kissing that night, and after that, their romance had fizzled out.
The memory of that long-ago quarrel, combined with the charred frog, spoilt the magical mood. Dusk was falling anyway: time to leave. A well-trodden path led westward across a ploughed field, probably to a remote country road. Perhaps that was the way she should have come, instead of scrambling across barbed wire fences.
A distant sound alerted her, a chanting like the hum of a coming swarm of bees mingled with the low beat of drums. Six figures approached with large strides, each carrying a staff, their white hooded robes flowing. Bronze sickles gleamed at their waists.
Unwilling to get caught up in another druid ritual, Cathy ducked between a hawthorn hedge and a pile of firewood part-covered with a green tarpaulin, to let them pass. Her trousers grew sodden and her legs cold. All around her thick, sticky spider threads hung with raindrops like glass-bead necklaces.
But the procession halted before the stone circle. They rammed torches into the ground. Soon, the flames hissed in the damp air.
If she crawled out of the undergrowth now, it would look as if she had been spying on their ritual. To avoid the embarrassment, she would have to stay hidden until they were done.
A tall man with a circlet on his head chuckled. "I wonder what the Red Goddess will send us as an offering this year."
"Something small, I hope," a woman piped up. "A mouse or a rabbit. The sheep last year took ages to bleed out, and then it wouldn't burn."
"This time, I've brought enough wood for a big animal." The man pointed to the tarpaulin-covered pile.
He intoned an invocation of the Red Goddess, his voice deep and resonant like that of the solo baritone in Kathy's church choir.
Damp chills crawled up Kathy's calves and her thighs cramped. Rain trickled from a hawthorn bough into her collar and slid down her spine, but she held still. The ritual could not take much longer.
Now the druids strode in a clockwise circle, stepping across the part-exposed stones. Splashes of mud soiled their pristine white robes.
"Summer's gifts, summer's sacrifice…." Their chant, low and musical, had a hypnotic quality.
The inside of Kathy's wrist tickled. A fat spider with striped legs was crawling into her sleeve. She squealed.
At once, a druid strode to her hedge and pointed his staff at her like a spear. His young pimply face shaped into a grin. "See what I've found hiding in the haws."
Kathy's heart hammered in her chest. "I'm sorry, I...I didn't mean to... I don't want to disturb you or to interfere or anything..."
He pulled her up by the wrist and hauled her into the circle.
"Now, now," the druid with the circlet chided. "Let's treat our guest with courtesy."
To Kathy, he said, "If you wish to be part of our ritual, you're welcome."
"But-" One of the females frowned up at him.
He silenced her with an impatient flick of his sickle. "I'm in charge here." His voice had a sharp edge. "It is through me the ancient blood flows, through me the gods speak. Never forget that."
"It's all right," Kathy said hastily. "I really don't want to bother you. I ought to go, anyway."
"You're welcome to stay," the chief druid said. "Very welcome indeed. We celebrate Lughnasad, the ancient festival of the first harvest. Have some wine."
He offered her an earthenware cup.
"If you're sure you don't mind me watching your celebration." She took the clay beaker from his manicured fingers and sipped. It tasted odd. Probably a home-brewed herbal concoction.
"Drink all of it," he instructed in the tone of a dentist telling a patient to rinse her mouth.
The brew was potent, almost instantly stirring a dizzy spin in her head. Gratefully, she accepted a chunk of bread, broken from a plaited loaf, still fragrant from baking.
The druid pointed the staff at her. "Denims are not appropriate for a high festival."
"Sorry. I didn't expect to attend a druid celebration. I'd better go. I don't want to ruin your festival with the wrong clothes."
"Stay. We'll loan you a robe."
With a flick of his arm, he commanded the older woman druid, who brought a bulky velvet garment the colour of blood, with a hole in the head and holes for the arms.
"Thanks, but I'd rather not." Kathy struggled against the growing unease. "You've been very kind, I don't belong here."
All six drew close around her, chanting in low murmurs. Kathy struggled in vain as he pinned her arm to her back while another forced the red robe over her head.
The chief druid ripped the tarpaulin off the pyre and poured the contents of a canister. Petrol stink spread. Then a match scraped. Flames shot up, cackled and hissed.
"Lughnasad is the time of the year when tradition demands a sacrifice to the Red Goddess, to ensure a fertile harvest for the annual cycle. Terrible things happen when people don't obey." The chief druid strode up to Kathy and bend to peer into her face. She could smell the mint on his breath. He pressed a wreath of ivy on her scalp. "You're very welcome to join our ritual."
Kathy fought to break free.
A needle-sharp pain stabbed into her cheek, and again.
The younger female druid clutched the big pendant on her chest. "My former grove only ever used flowers and fruit. A rabbit, I can understand. Even a sheep. But -"
"This is my grove." The chief druid tapped his staff on the rock beneath his feet. "I make the decisions. This is how our grove has sacrificed for millennia; this is how we shall continue."
The young druid with gangly limbs fidgeted with his hood. "Won't she be missed? There'll be people looking for her."
The chief held up his arms. "The gods speak through me. This creature is alone here. She is alone in life. She is the offering the gods desire. Do you dare disobey the gods?"
Kathy's mouth was swelling with numbness, like at the dentists. Dizziness clouded her mind, and her willpower seeped away. Her body sagged against the leaning centre stone. The rock's ancient chill seeped into her bones.
The chief took the sickle and caressed its blade. It gleamed in the torchlight. "You won't feel much pain when I cut your wrists," he assured her, using the same tone as a dentist telling a patient it would hurt just a little. "You'll be pleasantly tired and whoozy. We'll drain your blood, and strangle you, and then before you expire, we'll put you on the pyre for burning. Have some more wine and poppy juice."
"Hey, those kids are watching!" The pimply druid pointed his staff at clump of gorse.
Kathy twisted in her captor's tight grip to see a pair of curly-haired teenagers in flaring jeans. Rescue had arrived.
"Help me," she tried to call, but the sounds squeezing from her swollen mouth came out as "Ngnggg. Ongengeee."
The chief druid's hands clasped her arms like iron grips. "The lady is our queen. She's had a little too much fly agaric, but we're looking after her."
"Engeeeengeeee," Kathy pleaded desperately, imploring them with her eyes.
But the girl was pulling the boy away. "Let's go. This is a private celebration, and they can do what they like." She sounded embarrassed. "Freedom of religion and all that."
"That's right. Freedom of religion," the chief druid said. She felt his breath on her neck and smelled his minty toothpaste again.
The boy, bless him, seemed to sense that something was wrong. "She looks sick. She needs help."
"For God's sake, Jerry!" Even as Kathy implored them with her eyes, the girl was leaving, pulling the boy after her. "This isn't your business. You're embarrassing me."
In numbed disbelief, Kathy watched them walk away. The curly-haired boy once glanced back over his shoulder, then they were gone.
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Other books by Rayne Hall (more)
• Book Review: Six Scary Tales Vol. 3 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
• Book Review: Six Scary Tales Vol. 2 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
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