Here is my round 3 submission for NYC midnight flash fiction challenge.
My prompts were Ghost story (again), forest, saw.
I took inspiration from the brothers Grimm on this one. There were some glaring errors that I have cleaned up since submitting to the judges. I hope you enjoy.
Title: The boy without eyes
Synopsis: Blinded, the second son of a great lord confronts his father’s ghost in a cursed forest. But will he be worthy to be the instrument of his father’s revenge.
When the eldest stepson failed to return, Nirald the imposter summoned his second stepson into his chambers.
Despite the tales of Nirald’s ruthlessness and rumors that Nirald had supplanted his father, the boy had demonstrated his loyalty.
It was no secret that the boys father and Nirald hated each other. They rival each other for both the lands and the affections of the boys mother.
But the second stepson hadn’t believed the stories, or his brother conspiring whispers that their stepfather had made an unholy pact with the things that lived in the nameless forest. That he had lured their true father there and killed him, and now planned to kill them.
This son had embraced Nirald and called him father.
Wide-eyed he entered the chamber, and Nirald showed him the saw, the poker and the blade.
When the stepson witnessed the blood on the saw’s blade, he panicked. But Nirald grabbed him until the boy pointed to the poker. Ignoring his screams Nirald plucked out the boy’s eyeballs.
The spirit would know who had sent this sacrifice.
Nirald abandoned him in the nameless forest, which everyone knew damned. Those that entered lost their souls.
Blinded and still bloodied the boy without eyes scrambled around the ground until his hand closed around a long stick.
“I’m blind and helpless,” the boy without eyes whispered, “but my older brother may yet live. I will find him.”
He used the long stick to tap the soft earth before him. Searching and scouting for rocks, branches or something darker and more terrible. A specter from some half made grave, perhaps.
Soon he found the grove where the spirit resided. The boy felt the spectral chill on his arm, cheeks and face. Even beneath his tunic he could feel it’s vile tendrils lick and tease his chest like some wintry tongue.
“Who are you?” The spirit asked. The boy shuddered at the nightmarish voice. His feet stumbled backwards until he hit a tree. His hands gripped the rough bark. But, he failed to recognise that the voice belonged to his late father.
“I… I am the son of Panthor. Lord of these lands.”
“The Lord Panthor is dead. Nirald, the imposter, is Lord now. He sent you here to torment me.” An icy finger traced its way across the boy’s disfigured face. The blind boy recoiled.
Fearing the ghosts wrath, the boy without eyes said, “Torment you? No, you must be mistaken.”
“The imposter did not send you? Tell me Panthor’s son, how did you lose your eyes?”
“A bear took them,” the boy without eyes blurted.
“He offered to trade me his strength if I gave him my eyes,” The boy lied. The apparition did not reply, but the cool forest air became wintry. The boy without eyes shivered, longing to be gone from this place and find his brother.
“Why did you seek the strength of a bear?” His father’s ghost asked. “For revenge against Nirald?”
The boy without eyes shook his head. He wondered if his stepfather did have allies in this forest. He feared what he would do to him if he should return. Was this a test of loyalty?
“Why would I need to revenge myself on my stepfather? He has always been kind to me. I wanted the strength of a bear so I could hunt the wolves.”
The apparition studied the boy without eyes for a long moment. It’s presence wrapped around him like some vile and fetid smell. Even in death Nirald taunted him. The ghost’s need for revenge against his murderer pulsed like an unholy heart, but he calmed himself.
“Rest,” said the ghost. “Remain in this grove and you will be under my protection. Do not leave. I can help you, but only if you are honest with me.”
“It was a bear,” he said. But the forest air had become warmer, and the boy knew the ghost had gone.
The boy slept and had many nightmares.
When he woke the temperature had dropped, and he knew the spirit had returned.
“How did you lose your eyes?” the spirit asked, again.
“I traded them with a bear,” the boy replied. “So I might kill the wolves that ate my father.”
The spirit sighed and once again left the boy alone to see if he would find his courage.
Time passed, and the boy thought about his older brother and wondered what had happened to him. He thought of his stepfather and shivered. He worried for his younger brother. He feared for his soul.
“How did you lose your eyes?” the spirit asked.
“I told you, a bear.”
“Can you not see?” it shrieked “I will help you avenge your father. Stop lying!”
The boy grew fearful. He’d heard tales of the creatures within the forest offering gifts or deals in exchange for your soul.
“No. There is no need. I must find my brother.” The boy stood.
“Do not leave the grove.”
“Together we will hunt the wolves that killed father.”
“Do not leave the grove.”
But the boy ignored the ghosts warning and stumbled into the forest. He hurried forward tapping his stick before him.
Something scratched his cheek, A long hanging branch or the nails from some ghoul, leaving a searing trail of pain behind it. He recoiled, lost his balance, and fell down a slope. He tumbled over and over until his head struck many rocks and branches.
When his body came to rest, he lay panting and crying. He just wanted to go home.
A feral growl interrupted him. He sat up, and the growl became a beastly chorus. Wolves surrounded him.
“I have the strength of a bear,” said the boy who would not see.
When the second brother failed to return, Nirald the imposter summoned the youngest and wisest of the three brothers to his chambers, but that is a different story.