Book: Six Scary Tales Vol. 4 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hallcategories: Book, Short Story Collection, Dark Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Zombies, Short Horror Fiction, Horror
Rayne Hallabout this book: Dark Fiction author Rayne Hall presents six more unsettling, suspenseful, atmospheric, creepy short stories.
Volume 4 of the Six Scary Tales series contains these stories: The Devil You Know, Greywalker, Prophetess, Each Stone A Life, By Your Own Free Will, The Bridge Chamber. "The Bridge Chamber" is perhaps Rayne Hall's scariest story... you may not be able to shake it off easily.
PLEASE NOTE: THESE STORIES ARE ALSO CONTAINED IN THE LARGER COLLECTION, "THIRTY SCARY TALES" which may offer better value for money.
The stories use British English, with British words, grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Here's an excerpt from the story "Greywalker" - enjoy!
"You smell of death," the witch said. Her age-mottled nose wrinkled in disapproval.
"You speak truly, honoured one." Turgan bowed. "I am indeed dying."
Oil lamps flickered between rodent skulls, and somewhere in the back of the cave, water dripped.
Turgan kept his gaze lowered, as befitted a man addressing a crone. "A fungus devours my flesh. Already my blood is sour and my liver is cold, and the healer says I'll cross the life-end river before the new moon. I beg your forgiveness for my discourtesy in entering your home under this shadow, but I need your help."
The witch's eyes narrowed. "You think I will fight death for you? Go away, fool."
He shifted his weight. Already, his knees ached from standing. "I just need more time."
"Didn't you hear me? Even if I could prolong your life, I would not."
She turned her skinny back to him and poked the embers beneath her cauldron.
Apparently, he was dismissed.
Turgan refused to budge. Judging by the sand-white hair, the knot-gnarled fingers and the way the wrinkled skin folds hung from her thin frame, this woman had already defied death far beyond her allotted years. She knew how.
"Honoured one, I beg you, show me the path. I'll do what it takes... no matter how difficult, costly or dangerous."
The witch fed the fire with dried camel patties and broken fir, and the flames spat yellow sparks. "That's what they all say in their greed for more life."
Sensing the question behind her words, he snatched the chance. "I neither love life, nor fear death."
She swivelled on her heels. "Then what do you want?" Her small eyes peered like those of a hawk fixed on its prey, but there was something else: interest.
"I was married. Thirty years ago." He studied his sandalled feet rather than meet the condemnation he knew he would see in the witch's eyes. "I was young - we both were. Neither of us had sought the bond. Our parents' combined force..." The words came haltingly from his dry throat.
"I treated her like a possession. An unwanted one. And she... she tried to make the marriage work. Laina gave me her patience, her love. I gave her nothing. Nothing but hard words, violence and disdain. She suffered in silence, always forgiving, praying, hoping. Now I see clearly what a monster I was, but at the time, I blamed her for my unhappiness." The words flowed faster now. "I chafed at the imposed bonds, I found fault with her conversation, her cooking, her body, her caresses. Being married to me was a daily torment, yet she never gave up. And then..."
The shame of recall washed his cheeks with heat.
"And then?" The witch pointed her poker at his chest.
"One day I just walked away, without apology, without explanation. Without farewell."
"Ha! So now you want to harvest the fruit of the love you once disdained? The coming of death always makes such youthful fruit seem sweet."
She fed another camel patty to the flames, and the fire's heat grew. Sweat trickled from Turgan's armpits and slid down his sides.
"Your victim has had thirty years to heal. Now you want to break open her wounds with your demands?"
"I want nothing from her." Turgan met the witch's sceptical gaze. If Laina had built a new life and found a better man, he would rejoice with the gladdest spirit. But his actions had not been waterdrops that evaporated in the sun without leaving a trace. They had been cruel flames, scorching deep holes into Laina's defenceless heart. "All I want is to kneel before her and kiss the dust at her feet."
The witch stared at him as if reading his soul. Hot fingers seemed to probe his insides for sincerity. Leaning still against the wall of the cave, he allowed it to happen.
At last, she ceased. "What about your obligations to the people in your life now? Your friends, your associates, your current family?"
"My affairs are settled, my debts paid, and no one will wonder where I have gone."
Was there a small nod of approval? Already, she shot out the next question: "How far from here does your once-wife live? How much time would you need?"
"Ain-Elnour is in Koskara. In peace times, the journey would take two moons with a trade caravan. Now, with the borders closed and the land in the grip of war... four moons, perhaps five... if she still lives in Ain-Elnour. I may have to search."
The witch was rubbing her chin and gnawing her lower lip, calculating.
"So there is a path?" Turgan stepped forward. "Tell me, honoured one. Tell me what I must do."
"There is a path, but ... " She studied him through narrow eyes. "Are you man enough to take it?"
"That path is difficult, dangerous and dark." Her voice was grave. "You'll travel to Koskara, find your once-wife, and speak to her. You will be in your physical body - but you will not be alive."
"A greywalker?" he whispered. Like a cold fist, understanding squeezed around his chest. "No! No, I won't do that."
Her nose wrinkled, and her lips curled in contempt. "Anything, you said. Where's your courage now?"
With his arms locked across his chest, he shrank against the wall. "I will not eat human flesh!"
She barked a laugh. "What do you really know about greywalkers?"
Turgan had heard much about greywalkers - corpses buried without proper ritual rising from the dead, they walked among the living, often indistinguishable except by the grey hue of their skin. They possessed superhuman strength, could not be killed except with a dagger in the ear, and fed on the bodies of people still alive.
But that was hearsay. "Forgive my outburst, honoured one. I know nothing," he admitted.
"When a dead person becomes a greywalker, their functions are like those of the person they were when alive. For a while they eat the same foods, think the same thoughts. Then their mind and body decay... unless they replenish their life force with human flesh. Once they feed on human matter, they become the feared greywalkers your mother warned you about."
He nodded sharply to show he understood. His limbs were tiring from standing so long, his liver was clenching in sharp pain, and his guts churned at what this witch was telling him.
"This phase of living like a human," she said, "it can last a few moments - mostly when a corpse has been buried without ritual and rises unaided - or it can extend for several moons - if the person wills it, and magic rites are carried out before death."
"Those rites..." Turgan croaked. "You can do them?"
The witch opened her palm to show him a blade of black obsidian. "I will bleed you and collect your blood. That is the moment of your death. I will then blend your blood with water and salt and heat it in my cauldron, while working the spell. When I reinsert the blood into your body, you will be like you were when alive... only healthier, stronger, and dead." Her lips curved into a smile. "I think you'll like it. This state lasts for five moons at least, sometimes more."
"Five moons, and then I would start hunting humans for flesh?"
"That need never happen. Remember: Greywalkers can be destroyed with a knife in the ear. It's up to you to carry out the act. Find your once-wife, tell her what you mean to say, then go away and plunge a dagger into your brain."
"Self-killing is an outrage in the eyes of the gods!"
"Ah, but is it self-killing if you're already dead?"
Turgan considered. Thirty years in trade had taught him the signs when someone lied, and this woman seemed to be speaking the truth. What did he have to lose? Nothing but a few days of increasingly pain-riddled life.
He straightened. "Do it." Any delay, and he might be too ill to return, and his courage might fade. "Do it now."
"If you're sure." She gestured to the sheepskin on the floor. "Lie down."
Pain creaked through his limbs as he lowered himself, but once he lay stretched out on his back, the softness of the fleece eased his aches.
The witch poured water into the cauldron, sprinkled salt, stirred and chanted. When she tossed frankincense on the embers, the sweet fragrance lulled him with its bliss.
Then she knelt and placed a large earthenware bowl on each side of him. Still chanting, she massaged each arm with warm fingers. There was a sharp sting on the inside of one arm, just below the elbow, then on the other. "There, there," she singsonged. "That's it."
While his blood drained into the bowls, drowsy peace wrapped around him. His head felt light and dizzy, and his limbs grew cold. The chill deepened, seeped into his bones and lodged there.
How strange that the witch had not named a fee. In all Turgan's years in trade, he had never met someone who gave professional services without pay. Vaguely he wondered what was in it for her.
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what to read next: if you read and liked this book...
Other books by Rayne Hall (more)
• Book Review: Thirty Scary Tales - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
• Book Review: Six Scary Tales Vol. 3 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
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