ms. eldritch horror

the contrarian
jun lei

those we left behind:

Message to Readers

i actually love writing demons, they're so fun to play with.

feedback appreciated cos i wrote this in like half an hour with no editing

Cold Bargain #spearmintcontest

February 24, 2019


"'s cold..."

    I shake my head and squeeze her hand, "shh Kara, you're gonna be fine."

    I hear my own words, but I don't believe them. I can only hope the scarf around my face will keep my sister from seeing my panic and fear. We've come too far. I can't lose her like this.

    Her ears are blue and tears have frozen on her cheeks, cracking as her mouth moves ever so slightly. "Caleb," she whispers.

    I don't say anything, just gripping her torso tighter. I can already feel that even my bearskin jerkin hasn't staunched the bleeding, as warmth seeps into my fingernails. It should've been me.

    It should've been you, Yllig says, his voice uncaring but not cold. He's a bastard but right now he sounds like a crackling hearth. Anything to get out of this cold, even to hear those horrid truths slip into my mind like smoke. Impossible to grasp and throw away. Some people like the smell, they breathe it in like an old friend. But if you let it fester, oh Kara, Kara, no Kara...

    Her grip on my shoulder is growing slack and my heart pounds even faster. I feel like I'm going to throw up, but I can see the lights of the village, they're over the crest of the hill - they can save her - I need to go faster. But my legs are weary and the slush from bloody snowfall tries to trip me with icy fingers, her iron-watered sister turning my feet numb, the cold leaking into my boots and under the squelch of my every step.

    She's not going to make it, Yllig states, the unempathetic shit that he is. His lion tail swishes back and forth as he pads bipedal beside me, making no effort to help. You should reconsider my offer.

    "Shut up," I growl, readjusting my grip on Kara's weight, wasting precious seconds just for a moment of comfort - what a joke. Her eyes flutter, and I can feel my brow furrowing. There's no point pretending that this is fine, that this is normal. I'm growing desperate and delirious, the lights are swaying from side to side in a tantalising dance, and I almost feel like dropping Kara to join them.

    Poor little boy, purrs Yllig, as if he's taking a sip of white wine. He's enjoying this. Suffering and desperation are like chocolates to him - if chocolates made you immortal and convinced people to make deals with literal devils. You wouldn't have to try so hard if you accepted.

    "I'll never take you, devil," I hiss. Or rather, I try to, but it comes out tired and barely audible. Yllig scoffs and for once I don't blame him. I must look pathetic. A voice in my head jokes, c'mon what could be worse than this? Clinging to a dying girl in the hopes that you'll reach civilisation before you die of frostbite yourself? The only way you make it out of this is if you take his deal.

    As if Yllig can hear my thoughts, he smirks and leans forward, think about it, boy. I could give you anything you wish. All I'm asking for it time that you never spend anyway.

    I don't even have the energy to respond anymore, my legs feel more like wooden sticks than they do flesh and bone. I can't hear Kara's breathing anymore, and the lights in the distance have faded. Were they even ever there? Was this hopeless all along?

    With that thought, I stumble. Caught in the web of my thoughts, I didn't notice the rock in front of me until I was falling over it. We fall into a snowbank and Kara doesn't move. It feels like it takes an eternity to sit up, but I do, and shake her gently. My face feels hot but my arms feel cold.

    "Kara?" I whisper. "Kara, wake up." Her chest is barely rising - no.

    My breath hitches in my chest. "Kara." I shake her again. My voice breaks. "KARA." But she doesn't respond and I know I've failed. I bury my face in her shoulder and clutch her unmoving form to mine. This can't be real. It should've been me.

     You can make her come back you know, reminds Yllig, as if Kara has just run away from home instead of being dead in my arms. Just say the word and I can bring her back for you.

    "YOU'RE A MONSTER," I scream, "STOP LYING TO ME." I'm sobbing and it makes my face itchy and cold but I won't give him the satisfaction of pausing my anger just to clean my face. "My sister's dead, the least you could do is stop lying to me."

    I'm not lying, Caleb.
    I start and stare at him. I don't think he's ever said my name before. He's always called me 'kid' or 'brat' or some other degrading variation. Is he being... sincere?

    I've never lied to you. It should've been you - your sister saved your life when it was not her time. She didn't make it - that much is clear. But I can bring her back for you. I can give her new life. He shakes his head almost bemusedly, like bargaining with a human boy is a new low he has never stooped to before. My people, they want you, Caleb, he says. For hell, I can't understand why but they want you. I'll never try to kill you. You'll never leave this earth, nor can I take you beyond this plane before your end - all I'm asking for is time. Your time. Why can't you give that to me?

    I open my mouth to answer - you know damn well why - but he's not finished.

    Is half a year stuck with me really worth less than your sister's life?

    And for all my wanting to scream and yell at the demon who basically led me to my death, I am silent.
oof there can be more but i feel like i've tortured this poor boy enough.

check out spearmint's contest here


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  • Pi_Pen

    Wow, this is heartbreaking. An original story. Great description.

    over 1 year ago
  • Kahasai

    Thank you for choosing a non-writing piece to comment on. I really appreciate that. :)

    I just finished submitting a review of this piece. Overall, it's great. It's just a few minor things I noticed (mostly in the second round of reading). Good luck in the competition, and I'd love to read a follow-up story.

    over 1 year ago
  • spearmint

    oh wow, this is just so good.

    over 1 year ago
  • Anha

    @ethereal.otherworldly thanks babe uwu

    @Kahasai thanks for the feedback! could you give me some examples of things you find i'm lacking in for the second draft of this piece? i'm getting rather attached to these characters, so i'd like to write a follow-up story if i can.

    over 1 year ago
  • Kahasai

    I'm about to cry and it's hard to make me cry. This is just a gorgeous piece of work with beautiful personified descriptions of the demon. For writing this in a half hour it's rather lacking in things I would suggest you edit (at least in a once-over reading). For how short this is you did an excellent job with presenting characters and expressing some dynamics.

    over 1 year ago
  • elisa

    idk why i love your prose so much. "as if he's taking a sip of white wine." that's so goddamn good. in awe.

    over 1 year ago