Chapter One, Part One

Chapter One, Part One

A Chapter by Pryde Foltz

The Slip was warm and moist. Life unfolded and flowered. Apple blossoms drifted through the air and coated the forest floor in false snow.


The Slip was warm and moist. Life unfolded and flowered. Apple blossoms drifted through the air and coated the forest floor in false snow. Sunlight filtered through a green canopy. Among the gnarled roots and discarded petals, a squirrel carried out his spring chores. Bara longed to stay where she was until dream-close, but that wasn’t the purpose of a Slip visit. She left the soft shade and found a well-trodden path. Her slipper-shod feet walked upon a patchwork of gold and brown. 

A familiar sound joined the chirps and chatter of bird, girlish giggles. Cassandra and Louise. They were the demon’s first victims. Brynndalin had sucked the life energy from their teenage bodies and left behind dead husks. Their psyches inhabited the Slip. They were horrible bullies alive. Dead, they continued to taunt Bara, but now she deserved it. She’d set Brynndalin free and set in motion the events that led to their death. Still, she’d have welcomed the terrible twins at their worse, rather than greet the figure who stood before her now. 

From the trees stepped a girl of four or five, dressed in a red pea coat. Heart-shaped dark glasses with white frames covered her eyes. Or where her eyes should have been. Under those glasses were empty sockets. 

Here was a doppelgänger. Bara’s younger self, but not really. The tot had the same red-gold hair and the same determined set to her small chin. That was where the similarities ended. This was the Wisp, Brynndalin, the demon. She took many forms in the Slip: wolf, spectre, anything the dreamer feared. Bara’s eye-less younger self was a favorite.

Brynndalin didn’t speak but offered a plump hand. From a real child, the gesture would have softened the heart. Bara felt only fear and revulsion but did take the hand. They left the path and traveled east, cutting through undergrowth and heading deeper into the forest, deeper into the Slip. Ferocious gusts replaced the warm breeze. Saplings bent near in half. Trees were robbed of their young sprouts. Branches and leaves littered the forest floor. The demon led the way. Brynndalin gripped her hand like iron and pulled her along like steam. Bara brought up her free hand to protect her face. Shins were banged and ankles twisted. There was no protesting and no retreat. An open mouth meant breath stolen by the wind and the taste of dirt and debris on the tongue. Only their hair protested. Two heads of red-gold blew bedraggled flags and marked their progress through the forest. 

Their journey came to an end in a clearing. 

Bodies of fallen giants, trees ripped from their roots, lay across the forest floor. The largest blocked the way. Brynndalin let go of Bara’s hand. She removed her glasses to reveal those empty black sockets. Her bow-shaped mouth turned up at one corner. Like the child she pretended, she stuck out her tongue and sputtered a silver-spittled raspberry. Beginning at her face and down into her torso and legs, she dissolved into the vapor. Droplets turned to silver dust. The wind picked up and blew the dust away, a metallic sandstorm in the forest. 

Brynndalin was gone but the nightmare wasn’t over. Bara rounded the largest fallen tree to its exposed root system and found what she always found, the statue of her mother, ever immovable. Below on the surface of a small pond was its fleshy reflection. Bara reached out to the statue and felt for warmth. Only cold. She knelt next to the pond’s edge and skimmed her hand across the surface. The mirrored image fractured into a fit of ripples. The water stilled. Beth Cavanagh’s reflection reformed and once again mouthed the same two words, over and over. Save me. If only Bara knew how.

A twig snapped and a bush rattled. Her pulse raced but then slowed. Excitement and a different kind of ache filled her heart. Through the wind-tossed leaves and twigs, the dark-haired boy approached. His long, smooth strides didn’t stop until he was at her side. He took her into his arms. The wind persisted in its savagery. His dark hair was tousled like black waves, her red-gold thrown like torn sails. He brushed away an unruly lock from her face. “I found you,” he said. 

Those three words revealed the truth. 

“You aren’t really here, are you?” she asked.

Bara knew the answer. He couldn’t be. Mathew entered her dreams at will but never had he spoken. He couldn’t, always a mute visitor upon her dreamscape. So he wasn’t present in her Slip dream but was only a dream. He smiled gently, bent down, and kissed her. His lips felt as they should. He even smelled the same, angelica and sandalwood. 

“Does it really matter?” he asked. “I feel real, don’t I?”

He did. He felt heavenly. She’d have gone with the fantasy, but a Slip visit wasn’t a chance for pleasure and escape. She shook her head and pulled back. Mathew wouldn’t give up. He waved his hand. The wind quieted and warm air returned. All around the forest bloomed and sprouted. Crocuses and snowdrops pushed up from the forest floor. The one tree still standing in the clearing, a magnolia, shot out with pale petals. The air filled with its sweet peppermint tea-like fragrance.

Whistles and chirps signaled the arrival of a cardinal, brilliant red. The bird landed on the statue of Beth Cavanagh. It cocked its head to the side as though in great thought and then took new flight. Flutters and dives drew a red ribbon through the air. It settled on a magnolia limb. Its winsome song joined the rustled of petals in the breeze. 

Bara turned back to Mathew. She was ready now to surrender to the beauty of this unreality, but the Slip would not accept surrender. Her smile and the splendor of the moment dissolved. Brynndalin had returned, still a little girl in a red pea-coat. The cardinal stopped singing and let out a shriek. So sharp was the sound Bara turned from the demon to the bird. It was still there, as red as ever, but was now melting. Like blood, its feathers dripped onto the fleshy flowers below. No, not like blood. It was blood. The blossoms bled. The magnolia was a waterfall of blood. The tree flowed with it, up through and over the petals, falling from the limbs, and tracing rivulets down the trunk and onto the mossy ground. Rivers of red flooded the forest floor.

Brynndalin howled with sharp laughter, a sound not suited to her borrowed plump face. All around her the blood bubbled and rolled. It rose up, mounds of blood, sculpting itself into hideous and bent forms. The air grew harsh, frigid. The macabre creation suddenly stopped. The blood hardened and froze. It peeled away like plastic and revealed a Demen brethren: a dozen or so incubi and succubi. In her shape-shifting, Brynndalin chose beauty, ferocious beauty, but still beauty. These Demen weren’t so particular. They wore rags. Their hair was long and frayed, their fingernails overgrown and jagged, their teeth broken and sharp. They howled and foamed at the mouth. 

With bent backs and twisted legs, they came upon them. Bara reached for Mathew’s hand and pulled. He refused to move and gave a pitiful smile, already defeated. She remembered. This wasn’t the real Mathew. The real Mathew would have fought. She let go of his hand and backed away. And the Demen were upon him, teeth biting, fingernails scraping. He screamed but didn’t bleed. Where claws and canines met flesh, all became stone. A slash to the temple ended his screams. The Demen pulled back. Mathew stood a statue as lifeless as Beth Cavanagh. 

Bara continued to back away until she fell with a splash. She’d fallen into the pond. It wasn’t deep. There was no fear of drowning. Fear kept coming all the same. What was a little dirty water to a hoard of filthy Demen? 

“Stop!” a powerful male voice sounded. 

They all turned to search out the new arrival. 

A figure crouched on a thicker branch of the now dead magnolia tree. He wore a long black cape. A hood covered his face. An immensely tall figure, he came to standing and balanced upon the limb with otherworldly agility. “You can’t have her,” he said in a booming voice. “She belongs to me.” 

He took to the air, his cloak flowing behind him, and landed with the accuracy of a bird on the pond’s edge. The cape fluttered out and created a wall of black between Bara and the Demen. He bent over and scooped her up from the water. Permission wasn’t asked. There were no romantic murmurs. He brought his mouth to hers and kissed her. His lips weren’t soft and gentle. He didn’t smell of angelica and sandalwood. There was no electric current, only an overwhelming sense of his warm heaviness. No Mathew here. Yet Bara knew two things. He was strong and she was protected. She kissed him in return. When he finally pulled back, she went to remove his hood, to see his face. He grasped her fingers. She winced at the strength of his grip.

“You can’t see me!” he whispered. “Not yet.”


The Tall Man and its prequel, the Wisp, are available here and through your local bookstores and libraries.

© 2019 Pryde Foltz

Author's Note

Pryde Foltz

My Review

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Hello dear Pryde. I was to find your story. Always a pleasure to read your work. I hope you are doing well. Have some fun and be safe my friend.

Posted 3 Years Ago

Pryde Foltz

3 Years Ago

Thank you, CP:)
Coyote Poetry

3 Years Ago

You are welcome my dear friend.
lots of hooks Pryde ;) your romantic imaginations have no bounds :)) gotta love the tall guy ... maybe???

Posted 4 Years Ago

Pryde Foltz

4 Years Ago

Thanks E. Of course I love the Wisp but I have to confess a slight preference for the Tall Man but I.. read more
Einstein Noodle

4 Years Ago

:) .................
Well. That certainly gets one's mind working overtime! Fascinating stuff!

Posted 4 Years Ago

Pryde Foltz

4 Years Ago

Thank you, Augustus:) Stoked you enjoyed:)
reminds me of that soap opera my grand mother used to watch,,dark shadows
well my girl you have a way with these great stories

Posted 4 Years Ago

Pryde Foltz

4 Years Ago

I have heard of Dark Shadows ... I think they made a remake with Johnny Depp. I may have to give it .. read more

4 Years Ago

with popcorn and a coke

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4 Reviews
Added on December 18, 2019
Last Updated on December 18, 2019


Pryde Foltz
Pryde Foltz

Vancouver, Canada

My written work can be found on Instagram: twitter: @Pryde Foltz Facebook: pryde foltz Youtubehttps:/ more..


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