The following story by Shawnee Luke won joint 2nd place in the second week of our 2014 Celtx Competition. The theme was Sabbats.
An Invitation from the Fair Folk by Shawnee Luke
Esther O’Neil emptied the contents of this nights pillbox into her palm. Once she’d finished her medication, she stood and stared out through her bedroom window. At nine o’clock at night, the streetlights were on and she could see where they gave way to the desert beyond. Once considered a party town, Palm Springs was now fairly quiet. The perfect place for a woman such as herself to retire and enjoy the dry air. Her arthritis had made it a necessity, even if it meant leaving behind her adult children and her coven.
With a twinge of pain, she remembered that tonight was Beltane. It was her favorite sabbath, and this was the first time she would have nobody to celebrate with. She tried to imagine for a moment her former coven mates giggling at inappropriate jokes before the ritual began. The idea of not being there herself became almost as unbearable as the physical discomfort. She glanced once more at the sky above before making her way back to bed. As she closed her eyes, she prayed to her Goddess that sleep would replace pain sooner rather than later.
“Esther! Wake up!” The voice that spoke through the darkness of sleep sounded melodic and soothing, like tubular bells. As sweet as the sound was, there was an urgency to it that forced her to open her eyes. Above her was a full moon surrounded by a sea of stars. Only then did she realize that she now lay in a bed of cool grass. There were new scents now too. The scents of pine and heather seemed to mix with the aroma of a campfire, though she could not feel it’s heat. pine and heather seemed to mix with the aroma of a campfire, though she could not feel it’s heat. From somewhere far off, the sound of drums echoed through the night air. Most peculiar of all, her pain was gone.
There was a tug on her arm, coupled with a more excited “Get up now. We’re going to be late!”
As Esther turned her head, she found herself looking into the angular but beautiful visage of a young man. He was lean, no taller than she and hairless except for the auburn curls on his head. But his violet eyes betrayed the maturity of adulthood and perhaps far beyond. Effortlessly, he pulled her to her feet. And, as she looked down at herself, Esther realized that her body was naked and young again.
She didn’t ask where they were going as she was led down a path flanked by trees and lit by what seemed to be fireflies. And she didn’t ask why when she stared into one of those lights and saw a tiny, winged women smiling back at her. In truth, she didn’t have time to ask much at all. For just as quickly, the path opened up to a great scene. In front of her, nude and beautiful couples danced around a bonfire before taking turns leaping over its flames. It was here that her companion pulled her close and swung her around to join the dance.
There was an herbal smell to him that filled her senses and intoxicated her as she lay her head so close to his slender chest. The drums around her seemed to vibrate through her body and into her soul itself, mingling with the sounds of song, laughter and flirtations. All around her, into her soul itself, mingling with the sounds of song, laughter and flirtations. All around her, faces smiled and slender figures bowed in greeting before disappearing into a blur as her companion whisked her away. From somewhere to her left, a goblet was held up to her and he pulled her possessively close to warn “Take no food or drink here, my love.”
They had stopped before the bonfire when a whisper slithered through the crowd. It took a few beats of the drum before Esther realized they were all saying her name. The sound became greater, first soft and then raising into a crescendo. As it reached it’s height, her companion let go of all but her hand and gripped firmly. “Are you ready?” he asked.
When she nodded, the raced her forward and they leapt. For a moment, flames licked her legs and smoke filled her vision. It seemed then that time stood still and the sounds of the drums gave way to two heartbeats, joined just assuredly as their hands. Her own heart seemed heavy as they came down on the other side and the moment was over.
Cheers erupted around them and she turned to face to face her companion. Leaning in, she began to whisper “Tha-”
“Never thank.” He warned before closing the gap between them. As their lips met, her head swam and darkness claimed her.
Her iPhone vibrated rudely on the nightstand beside her. “Hey Peg. Missed you, too. No. Just watched television and went to bed early. Glad you all had fun.”
Shawnee Luke lives in the Antelope Valley of Southern California. She is an avid reader of science fiction and is currently working on a werewolf book. While she has nothing published yet, she is writing with the support of her husband of twelve years, her son, her two stepchildren, five cats, and her dog.