Through the woods, she is running, dethroning branches, cobwebs, crimson leaves that have yet to fall. She is not aware of which direction she is headed, only the inherent instinct to flee. On her tongue lingers peppermint and the promise of regret.
Behind her is the mistake. One that will not be undone.
Shoeless feet strike skids of snow and mud and muck, and the pyroclastic remains of an autumn that has long outlived its welcome. An unbidden rhyme, a Sisyphus song of perpetual reiteration, refuses to relent, “three blind mice three blind mice see how they run see how they run…” And she runs, and she runs, but there is no one to see.
No one. Other than the mistake.
“Did you ever see such a sight in your life?”
No, the mistake has not.
And she flees, gulping extravagant draughts of smoke-tinged, winter-poisoned air, this shock of a woman, no longer a child. Exposed shoulders scrubbed raw, another bad decision in an evening legion with them. Still, she runs, she stumbles, she scuttle/scurry/hurries deeper—towards an untenable destination, away from an unthinkable fate.
And the night is dark—pitch-black obsidian. Even the stars refuse to watch. “They all ran after the farmer’s wife…” The farmer’s wife. The farmer’s daughters. The farmer’s miserable cinderfaced mistake.
No, she is not the mistake, yet the mistake was hers. Mustn’t be hers. Daren’t be hers.
Is hers and is in pursuit.
And the beat goes on. Feet bounding pounding sounding on rock and stone and sand and the remnant of a youth that no longer clings to the girl. It had expelled out ahead of her before she even made it through the door. Before the final toll of the midnight bell. The witching hour. The dead of night. The mistake had set it in motion, aboard galloping steeds and gilded coach. Her youth didn’t, it wouldn’t, it couldn’t look back, and she could not follow where it has fled.
And no one will retrieve it. No one will try.
Add that to the list of all she has lost. Gallant garment gone, clear-cut talaria, first one than the other, coach and horse and footman and hope gone gone gone. The mistake will back her forever in a corner, misgivings amassed on her own little chair.
And the mistake accelerates, buoyed by his freedom, the night and fear and the stiffening cold, his own stiffening, and the hunt, adrenaline feeding stoking encouraging.
And the prey ahead praying for his retreat.
Yes, she is ahead, but she will be his. Entirely his.
Of this, he is as sure as the slipper in his sack.
Brian John Feehan
Brian John Feehan is a writer living in Connecticut. His fiction has appeared in New Millennium Writing (Muse Award), The Foundling Review, and Plots with Guns. Several other stories were published in the anthologies LOCKDOWN NUMBER ONE, Beyond Words, and Lights, Camera, Action. He was a finalist for the Hemingway Story Prize and a semi-finalist for the London Independent Story Prize. He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and took his BFA from NYU. He has written and published five plays with Heuer publishing. He is shopping around his debut novel, ‘MUMFORD’, and putting the finishing touches on his second, ‘THE LAKE’ while living with his husband in a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old house with two ghosts and a mortgage. For more information www.brianjohnfeehan.com.
Artwork: Mary C. Carroll, Lost Bride