Hi there! Thank you for checking out Cynosure! This is a series of short stories that focuses on various mythical creatures and ideas with a modern twist. I hope that you will enjoy this series and will read on. I ask that you please review, because the extra feedback allows me to go back and correct any mistakes that I might have made. Thanks!
Will o' the Wisp
Will o' the Wisp: A flicker of light that looks like a lantern that is said to appear in densely forested areas or swamps. In ancient folk lore, it is said that the light lures unsuspecting travelers off the safe path and to areas where they are likely to be killed.
I'm lost. She finally admitted to herself as she looked warily around the weed filled dirt trail she was wandering down. Normally, she would have been just fine walking by herself, being a full grown woman, but there was just something odd about the surrounding swamp. Strangely enough, she had found herself wandering down the trail instead of the paved road she had been walking along what seemed like a minute ago.
The area looked relatively normal, it was just like any other swamp she had been to, thick smatterings of trees, deep bogs of murky water, and lots and lots of wild foliage. That wasn't what gave her a strange feeling though- it was the highly suspicious silence that permeated the air. All she could hear was the sounds of her heavy breathing, unsteady footsteps and the ominous creaking of the trees around her. There was none of the typical chirping of birds and croaking toads. Just nothing.
If only my car hadn't broken down. She thought to herself as she continued down the path. She was driving just a few hours earlier, eager to reach Shreveport, the destination of her business trip. Frankly, she just wanted to get there and collapse on the bed of the hotel she would have been staying at, but apparently fate disagreed with her, as her car stuttered to a stop half way through a back road she used in an attempt to avoid roadwork on the highway.
After many curses and pathetic attempts to fix the problem, she just gave up and tried to call for assistance only to find that somehow, someway, her battery charge was absolutely and completely drained. How perfect. Thus, she wandered down the empty road with the desperate hope that she would find someone to help her. She had walked for a few hours while lost in thought, but every so often, she'd find herself drifting towards the tree line at the edge of the road. Naturally, she resisted the unnatural urge to wander into the swamp, because, really, who in their right state of mind would put themselves in such a dangerous situation? It was an hour after the last time that she caught herself drifting towards the swamp that she looked up again, only to find herself somehow irrevocably lost in the bog.
Snapping out of her drifting thoughts, she gazed up at the barely visible slivers of sky through the tree canopy and noted, with a heavy sigh, that the sun was just about to set. Body heavy with exhaustion, she flopped down on the path with her back against one of the many tree trunks and stared dejectedly into the dark swamp across from her. Her eyes were greeted with the distorted shapes of varying tree trunks and ghastly looking shadows, which were only amplified by the fading light. A chill racked up her spine and goose pimples covered her exposed forearms. Hours ago, when she had realized she was completely and utterly surrounded by the swamp, she whipped around and attempted to head back the way she had come in hopes of reaching the road- and, eventually, her car. As she walked, a faint tingle in the back of her mind hinted that she wouldn't be getting back any time soon, but she ignored it and continued to march on with determination to get to shelter. Hours of walking with no results finally affected her with a bone weary exhaustion which led to her to stopping and trying to recuperate her strength. Standing up while shaking off her thoughts, she decided that if she would have to stay the night outside, then she'd have to make a fire at the very least.
Gathering the kindling was not a problem due to the plentiful supply of trees, but finding something to light the fire was a whole different issue. As she glanced around, she strained her eyes in the fading light to see if there were any rocks she could use as a flint. It took her several minutes of muttered curses and digging through the mud to find two decent rocks, and even less to gather the wood into a pile.
Hunched over the pile, she eagerly clashed the rocks together, producing plenty of sparks, but none caught on the wood and started the fire she wanted so desperately. She tried to catch the wood on fire for what seemed like forever, but all she got was smoke from the fresh branches. Cursing violently as she finally gave up, she kicked hysterically at the pile of wood and collapsed to the ground next to it, tears of frustration beginning to rise. As she was attempting to reign in her bubbling hysteria, a flash of something in the corner of her eye caught her attention and she whipped her head around to stare intently at the area. I could have sworn I saw a light. She thought as she peered into the dark swamp, but after a few minutes of nothing appearing, she decided it was just her mind messing with her.
Stomach growling as she settled in next to the pile, she snatched up her long forgotten purse and pulled out the nondescript granola bar she kept for busy days when she didn't have time to eat, and devoured it with the fervor of a wild beast. Slightly contented with the food in her stomach, she slumped back against a tree trunk and gazed contemplatively at what was supposed to be her roaring fire- her only comfort in the god forsaken bog she was stuck in. The ominous silence of the swamp still hung heavily in the air, like the prelude to a startling crescendo.
Giving a deep-seated sigh, she hauled her body up and wandered around the area to gather leaves to make a temporary bed to rest on. She nestled down in the pile of leaves she created, her back to the tree trunk and her purse clenched tightly to her chest. Trying to relax her tensed up muscles and calm her ridiculously overactive senses, she stared just past the tree line and took deep calming breaths. It was probably nothing. Just the exhaustion and hunger getting to my head. She attempted to convince herself as she thought back to light she thought she saw.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she held it for a second and started to release it slowly as she cracked her eyes open, but the air caught in her throat as she stared in surprise in front of her. There it is again! I knew I wasn't crazy!
Not wanting to lose it this time, she shot up and rushed over to the edge of the road and stared in wonder at the light. Quickly, she blinked and when she opened her eyes, the light was still there. Squinting her eyes and looking at it, pondering what it could be, she realized that it looked almost like a flame. Maybe it's a lantern? She bit her lower lip as she mulled it over. If it is, then whoever it is could help me.
Torn, she glanced between the welcoming familiarity of the makeshift campsite and the promising, but risky glow in the swamp. In every one of the movies and books she read, it was always the person stupid enough to follow something unknown that got killed. Maybe I shouldn't. She tried to convince herself, but as she stared at the brightly glowing light, she couldn't shake the urge to follow it.
Mind made up, she took her first step into the swamp. As her back faded off into the dark shadows, following that bright wisp of light, the campsite she left remained untouched, even as its creator disappeared into the swamp.
The next day, as the police wandered down the old trail in search of the person who owned the broken car miles back, they would only find a singed pile of fresh branches, a purse with it's contents spread on the ground, and footsteps leading into the bayou. The sheriff, all too used to stupid tourists wandering off in the swamp, shrugged his shoulders and began to head back down the trail to the road all the while muttering about useless women.
The newest deputy remained behind, shouting after the sheriff that'd he'd follow in a second and stood at the tree line where the footsteps led off and stared ponderously into the shadowed bayou. About to head back after a few minutes of thinking, the young man noticed a curious light deep in the trees. Thinking it may have been the missing woman, and stirred by a bit of curiosity, he stepped into the swamp and wandered deep into the shadows. As he disappeared from sight, what sounded like an eerie, mischievous laugh echoed through the swamp on an unnaturally cool breeze.