Danger in the swamp

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by The Returner, Jul 15, 2012.

  1. [​IMG]

    Beginning of winter, early November, 1876
    In the crips afternoon the village was almost peaceful. Only few children were playing on the half frozen, muddy path supervised by adults who carefully looked after them from the warmth of their homes. Though, through the content impression that this scene bore, there were tendrils of instability. As if the wrong wind could flip the switch and the whole place would change from peaceful to disturbed or even violent.

    There was only one main road in the village and it was a dead-end road. All the houses looked similar and were clumped together. What usually discerned the buildings from one another was a small signboard indicating if there was a shop hiden behind the door or tavern or any other business that you could find in a village like this. As I wrote before, the road running through the village never left the borders because at the very end of it stood a house bigger than the rest. It was the farmer’s house who was also the richest and considered the head of Csikaró. Most people in the village formed their own opinion on the basis of what the farmer was thinking. In terms of the disappearances, the farmer was sure that it was a curse sent on them by the woman living on her own, separately from the village. The witch cursed them he said everytime he was questioned. His opinion was even printed in the newspaper article which somehow gave it more importance.


    Margit was on the way from one of the villagers with reel of thread that has been just finnished. There has been no disappearance for the past two days but things did not fall back to normal. It wasn’t that easy to resume the calmness of everyday life when there was threat coming every night, after sunset. Children regarded her with smiles that would usually be full of happiness and carelessness. Even those little creatures knew that there was something lurking on the verge of shadows. Yet, they still had the courage to stay out and play, depending on their elders to protect them. Beyond the borders of village, a carriage could have been seen. It was the owner of the tavern returning from the near town with barrels of alcohol. As he drew closer there was another person sitting next to him – an outsider. This place didn’t get many outsiders and certainly wasn’t meant to welcome any more after what has been happening here.


    The journey to the godforsaken village was a nightmare. Not that it was just cold due to the upcoming winter but the transport has gotten harder and harder to find the closer Alexander got to Csikaró. It was strangely interesting that as he got nigher to the village, people were less willing to let him ride with them. Often they would make excuses not giving the real answer which was so obvious in their eyes. Even outsiders were afraid to go there as if their presence in the damned village could make them cursed somehow as well. After some time of searching and with a great portion of luck, Alexander found one of the authentic villagers. The villager, male himself, eyed him suspiciously. For a few minutes it looked like he would not even answer Alexander's request and if he would it would be a negative response. Fortune must have been on Alexander's side that day because at last the man agreed to take him to the village. He even shared with him that he was the owner of the local tavern and would provide Alexander with a room as long as he was able to pay the rent.

    „But don’t expect any special treatment. You writers are pain in the butt. Flying around, sticking your nose everywhere,“ he snorted and got on the carriage and waited for ALexander to join him. He certainly wasn’t going to be a good travel company neither a nice landlord.


    Lately, fishing was one of the businesses that were considered to be dangerous and also infertile. The waters were mistier than usual. Sometimes, the fog was so thick that it was hard to see just one feet in front of the boat. In such times, the air got more than cold. It penetrated all the clothes and stung the skin as swarm of wasps. Strangely enough, it didn’t last for longer than a few minutes before it desolved and either disappeared absolutely or vapour remained. This day wasn’t any different. It was hazy and fishes eluded the bait that was thrown to them. Only two got caught. It wasn’t enough to support the family and with the upcoming winter it was frustrating to know that stocking was harder to make.

    „Hey Károly! I am calling it a day! This place is hollow, nothing to catch,“ called another fisherman while turning his boat around and deserting as he said. There was truth to his words. Waiting in the crisp air any longer wouldn’t give anyone a fruit but flu.
  2. There was definitely truth in those words, not to mention that it was already getting late. Staying at the lake in the darkness was suicide, especially with the nearby swamps. Even if one knew the way around there, when night fell, the shadows played tricks with the human eye, turning the surroundings of the lake into a maze without a way out. Károly had heard stories of the fishermen who somehow managed to make it out alive when the night fell, and even thinking about them made him shiver, so he quickly paddled to the shore, packed his fishing gear up, then started to make his way home. For some reason, he felt a chill travel down his spine as he navigated the safe parts of the swamp, but just when he was about to write it off to the cold weather, he heard something behind him despite the fact that the swamp had no animals.

    Károly's heart filled with dread at the almost completely silent sound, and he started running right away without even looking back. His heart was beating in his throat, his limbs were suddenly covered in cold sweat because of the fear and his mind raced through the paths in front of him, telling him which one to follow. He ran with all his might as he felt the shadows wrap around him, but before they could tangle his legs, he was out of the swamp. The daylight, no matter how weak it was always scattered the shadows of the swamp, making them dissolve into the domain where they have come from, and Károly was very grateful for that now. He quickly got on his knees and prostrated himself before the Allmighty.

    "Thank you, Lord, for letting me escape that swamp," said Károly and made the sign of the cross. Relief flooded into his soul, not to mention that his limbs stopped shaking, so he stood up quickly. He knew that his wife would be disappointed with his catch, but it was about time he returned home.
  3. As darkness fell, Margit hurried home, telling the children she met along the way to get inside with their families. She felt a pang again as she passed her former home and waved to the children in the windows; Margit always worried about her younger brothers and sisters, but her home was somewhere else now, despite the fact that she often went back to sit with her mother and help with the sewing there. She lived now with her husband and he would be getting home soon from his fishing.

    Margit opened the door to her new household and went straight to the kitchen to check on the fire. Károly would bring home fish and she'd have to cook one for their dinner, so long as the fire hadn't died down. After checking on the fire, she started preparing vegetables for side dishes, wondering when Károly would be getting home and keeping an ear open for his arrival. Perhaps she should prepare a warm drink for him for when he got home. It was getting later and later, and Margit had to keep herself from biting her lip with worry.
  4. "Because that's what I'm paid to do." Alexander trudged after the somewhat hostile villager, mouthing low grumbles under his breath. It was just great that after getting refused so many times prior to this little bit of good luck, he was stuck with someone downright abrasive, he mused sarcastically.

    Alexander shivered a little, drawing his thick clothes tighter around his body. He had dressed for the weather, but even so, the chill of the air penetrated the woolen clothing. The blasted cold was beginning to get to him, but this story was worth it.

    Regardless of everything, he knew that he was in for a long trip. A very long trip indeed.
  5. A flood of relief came over Károly when he finally sighted his village, and his footstepts started growing larger and faster. he knew that the catch was not much today, but it would be probably enough for him and Margit to have a good meal, which filled him with anticipation, mainly because he was starting to feel hungry. However, as he approached the houses, he noticed that the atmosphere was not just the same anymore. The children that used to play on the streets were long gone, not to mention that a slight fog has descended over everything, blurring the boundaries of the houses. Even the dirt road looked crooked, and Károly had to rub his eyes to make sure he was not hallucinating.

    As he thought, he was not seeing things. The strange mirage that only appeared in the swamps started to spread over to the village as well, so he hurriedly found his house, tore the door open, and then closed all the locks on it. Only then he let his wife know that he arrived.

    "Margit! I am home!"
  6. Alexander

    The villager just ignored Alex's reply and once the journalist was seated, he urges the horses to move forward. It was rather obvious that there would be no conversation what so ever which could give the journalist an opportunity to look around. As they left the town, a wild nature surrounded them. It wasn't much different from what Alexander has seen so far. However, it was somehow colder and no matter what clothes Alex was dressed in, it seemed to get right to his bones. They didn't travel for too long but due to the upcoming winter, it was getting dark soon and as the carriage neared the village, not just dark fell upon them but also a sparse mist seemed to emitted from the lake. The innkeeper obviously shivered and spurred the horses.

    There were only few people out in the one way street, mostly children who looked curiously at the new comer. Adults and elders watch Alexander from the safe place of their homes. It was hard to say whether they were pleased to see yet another writer or if they wanted him out as soon as possible. The innkeeper stopped in front of one house which was bigger than the other ones but not as big as that house at the end of the village.

    "We're here," the old man muttered as he jumped down from his seat. Suddenly a teenage boy appeared, dressed in warm clothes with red nose and cheeks which gave away that he was outside for quite some time now. "Take care of the load son, will you?" Said the innkeeper and the boy nodded. The old man walked into the house leaving the journalist behind. The hanging sign above the door which was slowly swaying in the light breeze indicated that the building was indeed a tavern. As Alexander entered, he appeared in a large room filled with tables and chairs. There were few men already. All stopped talking at once and looked at the newcomer, though they didn't wonder for a long time. At the end of, there was a bar, behind it stood an older woman who regarded him warily. Next to her was the old man, leaning on one elbow and so to speak impatiently waiting for Alexander.

    "This is a key for your room. If you go up these stairs it's the third one on the right. The rent is five forint a day,” the owner has said and quite impatiently tapped his fingers on the wooden board, waiting for Alexander to make his move. Frankly, there wasn’t much the journalist could do. If he wanted the story he had to pay five forints a day in order to obtain the information needful for the article. He couldn’t leave either because the dark was settling down outside and no outsider would be able to make it back to the town due to the mist that was now getting thicker. The old woman just shook her head in disapproval and looked at Alexander apologetically as she filled another glass with beer.
  7. Hearing the door open and shut quickly, the locks turning shut, Margit wiped her hands on a towel and went to greet her husband. "Károly, I've been waiting. It's not good to be out late anymore, what with the dark clouds and things missing." Margit didn't have to add the fear of the entire village, that more children would go missing as well. Both of them had that on their mind.

    "What kept you out so late?" Finally coming close enough to Károly to notice signs of his distress, Margit stopped and looked again. He was pale and shaking, slightly out of breath from his hasty entrance. "Károly? What happened?" Margit took him by the wrist and propelled him to a chair in the kitchen and dining area, where she made him sit down while she poured ale into a cup for him. "Drink this, and tell me what happened," she said softly.
  8. The obvious discomfort and telltale shiver of the innkeeper told Alexander a lot of things about the man. As gruff as he seemed to be, and he wouldn't blame the man since times were tough either, he was as afraid of the situation as everyone else. The fear that clung to the town was palpable in the night's chill. Alexander himself could not help but feel uneasy once he saw the mist, for once wavering in his confidence that it was all just an elaborate hoax.

    The way that everyone's head in the tavern swung towards him when he entered the place was another obvious sign that tensions were running high in the small village. Alexander resumed his grumbling when the innkeeper named his price. He might make a well-to-do living with the salary he got from the newspaper, but one never knew what could happen and every little bit of money was important. Regardless, he thought it was well worth the price to get to the bottom of things. This story would be his crowning glory and he would see to it that he got it.

    Alexander caught the woman's eye who looked at him apologetically. She would be useful, and he might just be able to get a few answers from her. Alexander rummaged in his stuff to get the money and put it on the counter before the innkeeper. He gave him fifteen forints, enough for three days. He thought he wouldn't have to stay much longer than that. Even if he did, though, he had brought enough money to last him for a week or two.
  9. "I think... I met with the Shadow Lizard in the swamp," said Károly, his breath still a bit short from seeing what the outside was like. "And the village was crazy. The straight road was bent!" exclaimed the frightened man as he took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. "Just do not go outside, Margit," continued Károly as he took the drink Margit offered to him, downing it in mere seconds. The alcohol did some good to calm his nerves down, but he was still a bit nervous. "At least, not when it is dark. I do not know what is out there, but..."

    There was no need to say anymore. Both of them knew what Károly meant.
  10. Margit nodded and shivered, wrapping her shawl tighter around her shoulders. "It's all right, Károly, we're inside now and you've locked the door. I hope my family is all inside now." She patted Károly on the shoulders. "I won't go out any more tonight," she reassured him, and went back to preparing dinner. "Did you bring me any fish for tonight's dinner?" Margit was afraid, of course, but she wouldn't give much thought to the Shadow Lizard her husband claimed to see. She dealt with what was in front of her.

    She did, though, have to mention something happen in the village that was real.

    "I passed a stranger in the village earlier, Károly. Do you think that had anything to do with the disappearances?" Margit very carefully paid attention to her cooking, controlling her movements as a way to control her fear of the unknown.
  11. At the question of Margit, Károly shook his head in utter disappointment even as he put the mug down in his hands, then suddenly, it hit him. The bucket he carried the fish in was no longer with him; he must have lost it in the forest as he was being chased by the Shadow Lizard, so he grumbled under his nose, but he owed up to his mistake.

    "I lost the bucket when the Shadow Lizard was chasing me," said Károly, a shiver going down his spine again. "The catch was not good anyways, only two fish. I am, however, going to go out to look for the bucket," said the young man as yet another shiver ran down his spine. He deliberately ignored the second question of Margit. "I am going to go outside to look for it. Stay in here."