Desperation

Desperation by Chris Barraclough, Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, 27,000 words

An isolated island, a community that thinks it's alone in the world...

Until a stranger appears, bringing tragedy and violence.

The tale is told by three very different characters, revealing the mystery a piece at a time as a terrible storm brews and the tension escalates...

Read the full novella right here on Movellas.com. For more ebooks and stories, check out www.chrisbarraclough.co.uk

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4. Kerisan - IV

 

The hut was perfectly round with a low, sloped roof that Kerisan’s hair scraped across as he entered. Aside from a simple table and bed, the place was bare. A lantern cast its orange glow from the table, which had been shifted to one side to allow Sammus to be laid out in the centre of the floor, his body still covered by the fleshy palm leaf. Wren sat cross-legged on the wooden floorboards and stared at the vein-riddled surface, while Lisle and Rorchast had taken a space at the far end of the hut, still on their feet. Wren’s hands were halfway to the leaf, as if she’d reached for it then had a sudden turn of heart.

            “Are you sure you want to stay for this?” she asked, without turning. Lisle shifted on her feet and sniffed.

            “I’m not leaving.”

            “Rorchast?”

            “I…” The man stroked his temple and swallowed. “I’ll stay.”

            “In that case, I’ll start. Kerisan, come sit opposite.”

            She slipped the leaf aside and folded it away while Kerisan knelt on the other side of the body. He stared at his mother for a moment before his gaze fell on the boy. Instantly he was back in the jungle, the air hot, moist and scented with dew, the silence filled with insect sirens. His own hand had tugged the leaf free and he was met with a face that was barely recognisable. Skin that was once a healthy golden colour was now as pale as pig’s milk, as if a spirit had sucked it from him. The same colour as the stranger’s. The boy’s lips were bright blue and twisted into the most horrifying scream, but it was the eyes that terrified Kerisan the most. They had turned to pure black stones within the sockets. Not a hint of white remained.

            “Gods have mercy,” Wren said, her features crumpled. She dragged a tongue across dry lips, and Kerisan felt a crippling tension. Wren had always been the strongest of them, never in doubt, always ready with a wise word or a simple means to end a dispute. But now she appeared hesitant, her hands shaking over the lifeless boy.

            “What happened to him?” Rorchast asked, and Kerisan saw that Sammus’ father had averted his gaze, his wrinkled fingers lifted to his face. Wren shook her head and muttered something that wasn’t meant for other ears. Kerisan sucked in a breath.

            “Where should we start?”

            “I…I think the first…” She trailed off, but then, as if remembering Sammus’ parents were stood in the room, threw herself back together. “We need to examine his skin for any kind of wound, see if we can find a tell-tale mark.”

            They searched every colourless inch, but he was perfect. All they found were scratches on his arms and shins from the undergrowth. Kerisan frowned and ground his knuckles.

            “If he wasn’t stabbed, then what else?”

            “Did you find any other weapons on the stranger?”

            “He was only carrying the dagger. Pon searched his shelter and found some smaller knives, but that was all he had.”

            “Maybe…” Lisle started, her eyes locked on her son. “Could he have been choked?” She had to force the words, which threatened to catch in her throat. Wren reached out and gently tipped the boy’s head back. “If that’s the case, there’s no marks here to suggest it.” Kerisan leaned forwards and dared to run a finger across the pale flesh. Smooth and perfect.

            “Not choked,” he said, his voice a whisper. “Not stabbed. What, then? Poisoned? Drowned?” He unwillingly caught sight of those eyes again and fell back. Nothing could do that to a man, nor a boy. He was hesitant to say it, but this was something unnatural, some kind of dark art that chilled him through. “We have to kill him, mother. We have to kill that devil.”

            “Stop that, right now,” Wren shot back, and he was so startled he jerked away. “I didn’t raise you to solve your problems with murder.”

            “Solve my problems? This isn’t just a problem, mother!” A tremendous heat roared deep in his gut. “I’m not going to wait for that bastard to kill again. We need rid of him.” Wren began to protest, but Lisle cut her off.

            “You can’t tell us what to do. If it was Kerisan laid out on your floor, you’d be saying the same!”

            “Just listen to me,” Wren barked, and she heaved herself forward and groaned her way back to her feet. “That’s all I ask, for the love of heaven! What happens if we murder this man, and there are more out there? We need to wait, until we’ve searched every last bush and know that he’s alone. We need to find out where he came from, if we can, to stop this from happening again.”

            “There’s no more where he came from,” Kerisan said, all too aware of the hesitancy that attacked his voice. “One shelter, by itself, that was all we found.”

            “Just wait. When the search is done, we can decide what to do with him.”

He couldn’t tell if it was a plea or a command, but he knew she wouldn’t budge on her decision. And as eager as Lisle was to run a blade through the stranger’s throat and rob him of every last drop of blood, Kerisan knew she would obey.

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