Unholy Trinity: In the Forest by Christina Nordlander
Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.
Note on the stories:
I was intrigued when I first saw your Unholy Trinity category and wanted to write something for it, but inspiration didn’t come easily: after all, writing three connected-but-independent drabbles isn’t the same as writing a 300-word story. Some time later, I got the idea for the following three drabbles. My idea was to have the perspective change between the sections. The protagonist starts off as a helpless victim, then turns out to be more dangerous than her pursuers, who finally still turn out to have the upper hand.
The nocturnal forest was so chilly, pain stabbed Junia’s inner ear, and her nightdress couldn’t keep the cold from her chest.
They didn’t seem to follow her. She heard nothing above her crashing pulse, the breaths that injured her throat. Shouldn’t there have been night-birds, owls? She pushed through the wet branches. There was no traffic. Climb a tree? Not in this dark.
Twigs snapped. She ran as if she still had her strength, but her foot skidded. She fell face first with black liquid around her limbs, in her eyes. When she rolled over, torches gleamed over the ridge.
Ditmar kept behind the sturdier brethren in the front rank. He was one of the unarmed ones. The offering was unarmed, too.
He didn’t think he could have tracked her – perhaps a distinct footprint in mud – but the leaders bent their torches to the ground and never hesitated.
There, a white flicker. She lay prone in a bog that was just blackness. One second he thought she was dead, and what would happen now?
He couldn’t see her eyes opening, but he heard the drawn-out groan when she registered them.
Her body rose to sitting. Her eyes were white surfaces.
One of the robed figures approached down the ridge side. Junia looked at her hands, white and half submerged in the muck. Let him come. One swipe, and he would writhe with eyes unfocused and blood pumping from his jugular vein. She could smell the fluids, as if it had already happened.
He stopped two steps from her. She saw the glinting edge of a smile.
“Hatched one,” he said. “Rise.”
She obeyed, as if something in the new pattern in her neurons were directly subject to his voice. They cloaked her in a warm robe, the only red one.
Christina Nordlander was born 1982 in Sweden, but has lived in the UK since 2001. She is currently living outside Birmingham with her husband Graham and two cats. She also has a PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Manchester. She has published about ten short stories both in Sweden and the English-speaking world, most recently the drabble “Maneater” in Trembling with Fear (2020).
Link to her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.