A Simple Act – Short Story

“Put more logs on the fire!” Xera grabbed the basket she’d brought in. A few sticks remained, but no wood.

“It’s too hot already,” the old man whined. “And fire won’t help.”

Xera tossed the kindling into the flames and slammed the empty wire cage on the table. “Where is the wood?”

“There!” He pointed at the kitchen door.

“You won’t need food if that lot out there get in. You’ll be the one served up as dinner.” Xera glanced at the three occupants hunched in one corner, under the mesmerising ceiling of esoteric patterns and colours that danced in the firelight. “This room is the safest place.” This room will let you forget what happens tonight. “Get them back in here. With the logs.”

“How do you know? Who are you to tell us what to do? You’re just another idiot caught out in this storm, another fool trapped by those monsters out there.” His white-encrusted lips quivered, his head trembled, and his body shook. He pointed at the lead-glass window.

Gale-force winds threw trees from the mountain, shook rocks from the earth, and the Others walked through the flurries of dirt and debris, unwavering.

“Get them in here.” Xera nodded to the younger man nearest the door.

“No, don’t go. It’s a trick.” But the old fart didn’t fight the young woman who pulled him into the shadows of the far corner. “Don’t trust her. She isn’t one of our group”

The girl let him down gently, covered him with a throw-rug, slumped with her back to the corner.

The last three hikers returned with the young man.

“Lock the door,” Xera said, “and put that wood on the fire.”

“Why?” The old man shucked out of his thick jacket and tossed the throw-rug at Xera. “What’s your plan to save us from that?” Quivering arms gesticulated at the encroaching shadows taller than the aged pines.

“I’m the one who staged the lure, who set the trap, who offered ceremonial sacrifice to the ferryman. You’re the candidates, the bait, and I’m the one lighting the way until they get inside this room.” She smiled at the changes in the glowing patterns of the portal above their heads.

The stun guns in the small of her back tingled. “Empty your pockets of anything metal, including coins, burn anything with your identity,” She threw the old man’s jacket on the flames, “unless you want them finding your family.

“Once they’re inside the perimeter …” she flourished a hand at the ceiling and pulled out the guns, aimed quickly and zapped everyone, “it’s all over, done with. The ritual pieces are all in place for them to get to the other side.” She blinked sweat from her eyes. “Just know that you have saved the world with this simple act of service to humanity.”

See you next week, for more tales from the dark side.

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