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 For more ebooks and stories, check out


5. Kerisan - V


When Kerisan emerged onto the darkened beach, he was shaken from his trance by the chill that raked across his bare skin. He wrapped his arms across his chest and stared at the lanterns that stretched out either side of him, marking each hut in turn. The orange flames were bent sideways by the gusts.

            “What’s happening to this place?” he muttered.

            A portion of the crowd had departed for their homes, but a steady few remained, gathered outside the pen. Richos and Pon were among them, a step back from the gate which was locked and reinforced with thick strands of twine. Richos nodded as he approached.

            “Still back there, hidden in the corner. Hasn’t moved or made a sound.”

            “We aren’t to kill him,” Kerisan said, “not until we’ve done a thorough search of the high land.” He noted the look of disappointment on Richos’ face, while Pon remained silent, focused on the cage.

            “Should’ve done for him back in the jungle,” Richos said, his voice lowered so only Kerisan heard. “We won’t get a chance like that again.”

            “At least this way we can see if he talks.” Kerisan stepped up to the pen. A single man was pressed against the gate, desperate to get a glimpse of the captive by the way he stretched and pushed at the bars. Kerisan tapped his arm and he spun around, wide-eyed. Mathus, one of the carpenters. He was young still, no doubt curious, and he almost fell back at the sight of Kerisan.

            “Oh, I, sorry,” Mathus said, his hands crushed together. “Can I help?”

            “I just need to get inside.” Kerisan sliced through the twine with his blade, then slid back the lock and pushed his way into the pen. Richos and Pon followed, but the rest of the villagers hung back and watched, their curiosity lit by the billowing lanterns. Mathus lingered at the gate, then thought better of it and resumed his position at the bars.

            “Do you feel that?” Pon asked as they slipped through the drowsy pigs, now slumped in twos and threes in the grass. “The air is too cold, and tastes like the sea. And did you see the bright lights out at sea? Something’s coming, I can feel it.” Richos glanced at her and laughed.

            “Listen to you, all gloomy. You trying to scare us, Pon?”

            “I just don’t like it. First, he shows up, and now the skies have turned and the air with it.” Kerisan had never seen Pon scared, not even when faced with deadly sea creatures, and the way she was talking unsettled him. He grimaced and swallowed back a lump.

            “Nothing else is going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to deal with this bastard and get on with it.”

            The stranger was spread in the same position, his eyes still open but barely visible in the shadows. Kerisan knelt beside him and leaned in as close as he dared. The man’s breath, hot and meaty, washed over him. The breath of a devil.

            “I’m going to ask again. Where did you come from?” He waited, already knowing he would get nothing in response. The stranger peered up at him with cold, merciless eyes and Kerisan felt the fire rise again, and his hand shot out and snatched the man around his throat. “Tell me where you came from, or I’ll crush your damned spine!” Those eyes bulged and the stranger’s lips tightened into a grimace. Kerisan dug his fingers in further, until the tips pulsed in time with the man’s own beating heart.

            Something grabbed him by the wrist and he found himself staring at Pon. Her face was calm, but her words were firm.

            “This won’t work. Either he can’t understand us, or he won’t answer us. We’re wasting our time.”

            “More reason to kill the bastard,” Richos said, but Kerisan relented and eased his hand back. The stranger rolled and cleared his lungs with a weighty cough.

            “Fine. When daylight comes, we’ll take over from the hunters, search whatever remains. Find any friends he might have.”

            With the gate trussed up once more, Kerisan turned to the others and nodded.

            “I’m going to stand guard, make sure that he doesn’t escape. Go get some rest and I’ll see you at sunrise.”

            “Don’t be ridiculous,” Pon said, her arms crossed. “You can barely even stand straight. You need sleep.”

            “We can’t leave him alone. We don’t know what he’s capable of.” Richos sighed and scratched his neck.

            “You’re right, but so’s Pon. You look like you can barely stand.”

            “I can do it,” came a voice. A boy with short dark hair pushed his way into the huddle. Kerisan recognised him as one of the carpenters, a boy called Mathus. “I’ll watch him overnight, let you get some rest.”

            “There, problem resolved, eh. Well volunteered, kid.”

            “Fine,” Kerisan said. “If that beast moves, though, I want you to wake me. Understand?”

            “Of course.” Mathus waved them off and Kerisan slouched back to his hut, rubbing his arms to keep off the chill. The brilliant flashes continued out to sea, and he was sure he heard something drift out from the enormous black pool, a sinister rumble that seemed to shake the sand beneath his feet. He dragged his weary body into bed and sank beneath the covers, and quickly slipped into a troubled sleep.

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