Written in response to a “first line” writing prompt from Figment Daily Themes email (sign up here: I’m fairly happy with it but would appreciate beta reader comments, particularly whether it seems to have the legs to take it to short story length.

“Her eyes fluttered shut. If you didn’t know her, you’d think she was asleep. I knew her.”

I knew what she was, and her kind never sleep. They fake it to fool humans, sometimes – like she’s doing now. Her breath is deliberately soft, her head propped against the window of the railway carriage, clickety clack, clickety clack. What a picture of innocence she makes. The sinking sun illuminates the loose strands of golden hair which wave gently around her perfect porcelain brow in the slight breeze from the open window. The witching hour comes early when creatures like her are around.

I look about, wondering who her target is. Ah, yes. The handsome young man at the opposite window. Now that she’s shut her eyes he’s openly staring at her, which is of course what she wanted. The breeze blows her delightful – and yet to my nose, slightly rancid – scent across to him. Not that he is aware of that, but it’s what attracted his attention, which is now fixed on the strand of bright red beads draped across her breasts. Ten minutes ago he was daydreaming about his new bride (I can tell from the shine on his wedding ring that he’s not been married long) and now…now she has his mind in her grasp. Three days from now, she’ll ride this same train again and he will willingly follow her wherever she leads him. He won’t have eaten; won’t have slept or made love to his wife and may even have lost his job in that short time. If he’s particularly susceptible he’ll burn all over, become sick, his head will ache constantly. He may fall into delirium, but nothing will stop him boarding that train to find her again.

What she wants this time I can’t tell at this point. A lover? A sacrifice? Will she take joy in killing him? Or will she just lead him into nowhere and then release his mind, his memory riddled with holes, for the sheer thrill of it? Enough speculation. My directive is clear: find her place and torch it. I need to stop her brood from maturing before she’s taken out completely. If we remove her when her next generation has already spread it’s a waste of time – they just grow back stronger.

The train slows. She “wakes” prettily, catches his eye. He flushes, caught in the act of admiring her. She lowers her eyes demurely, then stands to leave the carriage at the next station. He follows her and I hear him speak as I rise too, reaching for my cane and smelly old carpet bag. The gorgeous young things completely ignore me, little old lady that I appear.

“What’s your name?” he says, entranced.

She smiles gently. “Daphne. But you can call me Laurel, if you prefer.”

She takes his hand and presses it to her cheek. He winces as the burn sets in, but he can’t pull away. I roll my eyes behind her back. Her kind are so predictable when the hunt is on them. I grip my cane tightly, repressing the urge to draw the blade within it and remove her from this plane.

“Will I see you again?” The young man’s voice is dreamy even as he clasps his hands in pain.

“Be sure of it.” She alights from the train, leaving him in a foggy haze of her sweet scent. I cough into a grotty-looking hanky and follow her at a distance.

“Not if I see you first, lady.” I think.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction (<1500 words)
6 comments on “Laurel
  1. bull4499 says:

    I think it has the legs for a longer short story, but unless you want this creature(extremely interested to find out what it is, sounds like a succubus) to be the main problem in the story I suggest adding a more diabolical creature for your hunter to kill. If that isn’t what you would like then track this creature to her lair expanding on what this creature does, only thing about that is your hunter seems very confident and experienced, unless your hunter was having a bad day I think they would be able to dispatch the creature easily. as far as a more diabolical creature it could be the big wig that moved into town and this creature was dragging the unsuspecting man to him. I would think if your world has other monsters having another try and take the man away, like a pack of hyenas and a lion may do in the wild forcing a more difficult situation for your hunter and a more deadly situation for the man to survive. just a few ideas, but I like the description of the characters and the sneaky abilities of the creature, forcing the hand to stay in hers like a Nepenthes plant does to an insect. great idea love to see a longer version of it.

    • seawoodwrites says:

      Some great ideas there! Thanks for taking the time, I appreciate it. Yes, Laurel is roughly based on the idea of succubi and I’d like to make more of what she really is – her threat isn’t really what she can do in herself but how she creates more like her. And I want to make more of “Granny” Hunter, too, I’m quite keen on older characters at the moment.

  2. NicoleP says:

    I also feel this piece could be turned into a longer story, and I like the idea of grandma demon hunter. Personally, I’d like to see more of granny’s methods. How did she track Laurel? Has she been tracking Laurel long or was this a chance encounter? And her thought process. Why is she tracking demons? You make her sound kind of ratty looking, is she poor? Does she regret her choice to hunt demons? What sacrifices has she made? I’m sure you’ll take it in a great direction, however you decide to go about it!

  3. jameshedrick418299276 says:

    Here’s my two cents. I agree with Laurel and bull about a couple of things. I love the “Granny Hunter” idea, but I’m curious: is it a facade (is she really young and fast) or has she truly been hunting that long? Sounds like you’re leaning toward a truly old character, which I like and with ideas like this you could definitely do a series of short stories with the character. I’d be interested to see where “Granny” lives, how she trains, etc., similar to Nicole’s questions above.

    Additionally, and this is just reiterating bull, “Granny’s” narration seems routine. I think the rest of the story needs to up the ante somehow. What unexpected thing happens? Is the succubus stronger than anticipated? Has she already spawned a brood? Is she an errand-demon for something stronger, bringing sacrifices back to her master/mistress? Is “Granny’s” overconfidence about to get the better of her?

    Finally, and this is just a suggestion, you’ve done a really good job of the interaction between the succubus and the mark and “Granny’s”, but the setting is a little sparse. We’ve got a sunlit train car, but not much more. Obviously, the focus is on the interaction and Granny’s reaction, but is this a steampunk-style long-distance train, a commuter train, Amtrak? Nothing really major is needed, I think, but a few more details might clarify the setting a bit.

    Anyway, I really like what you’ve done and I’ve already signed up for the Figment Daily Themes email myself.

  4. I fully agree that older characters, especially female ones are always under-represented. One problem I see with an older protagonist as an action heroine is that she is going to be limited by her physical abilities. This could lead to one of two tropes – either she is supernatural herself which essentially negates the age problem and removes the interesting character elements, or she takes on an apprentice to carry on which shifts the focus away from her to the younger person. Both stories are appealing in their own right, but I think the lesser told story of an older person trying to deal with her own mortality (both from age and monsters) is more interesting.

  5. seawoodwrites says:

    Thank you for all the feedback! Some really great ideas here, I can’t wait to start exploring. I definitely want to work out more about “Granny Hunter” – older women keep cropping up in my stories at the moment. My anthology submission also has an older lead character, as does a novella I’m working on – “they” do say “write what you want to read”! I got a bit cheesed off after reading a stack of urban fantasy full of beautiful, kick-ass young women; but it did spawn a great thread in Vaginal Fantasy recommending books with older protagonists.

    Being older confers a curious kind of invisibility in society and in this piece in particular Granny is using that to the max by deliberately making herself seem even more ratty. By hiding in plain sight she’s much more effective at her work. That’s an avenue I want to explore in detail.

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June 2013
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