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


6. Kerisan - VI


He woke with the morning call and pulled himself free from his blanket, pausing only to pull on some fresh clothes before he stepped outside. On the sand he paused, his mouth hung open at the sight before him.

            The sky was still dark, shrouded by an endless black veil, with only tiny ruptures here and there where weak shards of sunlight pierced through. Those solitary beacons were only enough to light tiny pockets of ocean, and the lanterns had been left ablaze to keep the beach lit, the convulsing flames throwing shadows across the sand as nervous villagers hurried past. Even more concerning was the sea, which tossed itself violently against the shore, scouring a trench in the sand. He’d never seen it so restless, so furious. If they ventured into those waters they’d be crushed and swept away, their bodies lost to the carnage.

            Mathus was stood where he’d been left, beside the gate to the pen. He appeared just as fresh as if he’d had a full night’s rest, although his chest heaved as if he struggled for breath. Kerisan watched him for a moment, then peered through the bars and saw the stranger still slumped in the corner, little more than a silhouette in the dim light.

            “Did he do or say anything at all?”

            “No, no, he was quiet the whole time. Barely moved.” Mathus kicked his foot through the sand. “Hard to think he did anything to Sammus. He doesn’t look like he could kill a child.”

            “Set him free and give him a knife and you’ll think different.”

            “What are we going to do with him? Some of the others want him dead, say he’s some kind of devil, but that can’t be true, can it?”

            “Did you see the body?” Kerisan turned to the young carpenter, his eyes narrowed. “Did you see that boy?”

            “No, but…”

            “I don’t know who this bastard is, but if he can do something like that to a child, he’s better off to all of us dead.” Mathus shrank back, silenced by the outburst. Kerisan took in a lungful of bitter air and slowly released it. “I need to speak with the others. Can you watch him a while longer for me?”

            “If it would help.”

            “It would.”

            Kerisan made off along the beach and met the other fishers outside Pon’s hut. Eva was there too, and she smiled as he approached.

            “I take it today’s fish is off.” Her disappointment was clear in her voice, but as keen as she was to get started, at least she wasn’t suicidal enough to suggest venturing into the raging sea.

            “Afraid so. Have any of you seen the hunters yet?”

            “Light is just in with Wren,” Pon replied. “There’s no news.” Her eyes flicked across the horizon, her face split by a wide frown.

            “You okay, Pon?” She shook her head and ran a hand through her hair.

            “Just a little distracted, that’s all. I lost…well, it doesn’t matter. My head’s filled with things I’d rather not think about.” Kerisan watched her for a moment, until she dipped her eyes to the sand.

            “Have you spoken with Light?”


            “How far did the hunters cover last night?”

            “They searched the high land from the shelter down to the bay of crabs, but found nothing at all.”

            “Like he just appeared from the air,” Richos muttered. “Now look out there, you ever seen anything like that, eh? The gods are spittin’ over something, and I reckon it’s him in the pen.” Kerisan nodded.

            “Let’s form a group and continue the search. The sooner we cover the entire land, the sooner we can deal with the bastard.”

            Kerisan waited until Light was finished with his mother, then he sat down with the hunter in his hut and they came up with a plan. Before sun-down the fishers would search the central strip, along with a group of carpenters. That would leave only the far end of the land untouched, which the hunters would cover at their preferred time, before the sun rose once more.

            “As it is, you’d be pressed to even know the sun was up,” Light said, his eyes cast to the darkness above. “I’ve seen some things, but never a sky like that, or a sea so violent either.”

            “Do you really think it’s because of him?” Kerisan asked.

            “I’d sooner break his neck than sit around here waiting for the sea to take us in, but we have our orders. I daren’t make a move until we’re sure he’s alone. Of course, if he does have any friends out there, there’s nothing stopping them from moving around, hiding in places we’ve already looked.”

            “At least we’ll know if we find any more shelters.” Kerisan sighed and shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if my mother knows what she’s doing. Why put it off, when we know what the bastard’s capable of?”

            “I’m not sure it’s simply a case of waiting,” Light said, and his face darkened beneath his scowl. “I know she’s your mother, and I don’t like to belittle her, but I don’t think she’s got it in her to order a death.”

            “But what else can we do, just keep him trussed up in the pen with the damned pigs?”

            “Half of the village say the same, they’re against his death.”

            “This is ridiculous.” Kerisan rose and paced the hut, his hands clenched into fists. “I don’t care what any of them think, they must be blind! Keep him alive? Not a chance!”

            “I’m with you, as are the other hunters. We just need to make sure we have the support of your friends out there, and the rest can’t stop us even if they want to.” Kerisan stared at Light and exhaled.

            Is this what it’s come to, he thought. Rising up against the rest of the village, using our force to do what’s right.

            “Richos is on our side. I’m not sure about Fenn, but he’s easily persuaded. It’s just Pon that worries me. I had the bastard by the throat last night, and she stopped me.” He thought back to the capture, with the stranger unconscious, his throat at their mercy.

            If only I’d killed him when I was able. Two mistakes I’ve made, one after the other, that could have cost lives.

            “I’m not going to make another mistake,” Kerisan said, and Light met his gaze with a slow and deliberate nod.

            “There’s something else you should know. I hesitated to mention this before, but it’s your right to hear it.” Light sucked in a deep breath and leaned closer.


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