The Shadow Blight lived between the bewitched wind and the waning moon, beneath the cold whispers of autumn and the first kiss of winter. He moved as a gossamer ghost, shifting along the seasons when the old year turned new, when the voices of the forest told their stories. He smiled. His tale was foremost, a warning to all and veneration to appease.
“Weave my story with your words and summon me.”
Among the trees the Shadow Blight slithered, listened and lingered, melting into the flickering silhouettes cast by the flames of campfires. The air turned chill and the light dimmed as once more a story unfolded, one told for a thousand years.
“Beware the Shadow Blight. A cursed spirit of the land, a soul reaper.” An old man stirred the fire, nodding at his compatriots. “Born from the primal night and the eternal fear, the creature comes to us for our light and hope, feeds on our warmth and joy. We must be vigilant and reverent, guard our homes and words, to never invoke its wrath or presence, lest we fall to its power.”
Then another voice scoffed, “A child’s tale, lies meant to scare, nothing more.” The man who spoke snorted, as the others made warding signs. “I’ll not believe in a fool’s story.”
The wind blew suddenly, and the fire snapped with sparking embers.
“Do not mock me, unbeliever.”
The Shadow Blight laid a hand on the man’s shoulder fusing cold despair into his bones that would never vanish. The man shivered and fell silent, staring into the flames. By morning, he would be a hollow shell: afraid, hopeless and slave to a forever misery.
“Remember me, always.”
The Shadow Blight moved on.
He drifted as an imperceptible phantasm, shifting along the edges of vision and well-worn roads, drawn by the voices of the crackling hearth and their whispered warnings. The settlement lights delighted him, and he slid from village to village. His dark fingers brushed window sills and shutters as he wandered past each house. He rattled door handles and knocked softly on the wood.
“Let me in.”
The people inside shivered with his words, terror bled from hidden depths and spilled against the night. Not a door opened until he came to one neglected, one entrance unlocked to his presence.
“I am here.”
The door creaked open, flapped in the wind, and the doomed inhabitants gasped. The candle flames and hearth fires flickered, then died, and frost filled the windows. A happy family of four felt the ice form in their veins as the Shadow Blight’s arms encircled them, as he murmured in their ears.
“Come to me. You are mine.”
Their eyes closed and their breath slowed. One by one they died, their bodies still and frozen, their lives over. But their souls…
Their souls followed the Shadow Blight home.
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2020 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.