Latest Flash

Bog Annis

Careful where, or on who, you tread.

Justice is coming. In this life, the next, or somewhere in between.

Bog Annis by S.R. Manev


They found Annis Nyel’s body hidden among the thick, mossy roots of the hunched fairy tree which grew on the edge of the Bog of Allen. There were marks on her neck and bruises on her thighs. Her face was peaceful. The eyes closed as if she were enchanted.
           
The killer left no DNA. She had no defense marks on her hands or nails. No one remembered seeing her on the night of her disappearance. No one had seen her since the afternoon the Englishman arrived on the train. The police questioned him but he said he didn’t know anything. They didn’t press him too hard—he was a Collegium man, a bogeyman. They didn’t want any trouble.
           
The tempo of the investigation slowed to a crawl.

“Bog Annis,” as a newspaper had dubbed her, was buried without justice or vengeance.

#

He knew the moment he laid eyes on her in the big, dimly lit foyer of the Crossroads Inn that she’d follow him to the back door without an invitation. They always did.

Ronny Cormorant, senior occult officer to Her Majesty’s Collegium Arcanum, staggered through the door into the walled backyard to relieve himself, feeling her gaze boring between his shoulder. He was dressed inconspicuously in a plain but well-tailored navy-blue jacket, faded jeans, and black ankle boots. His shaved head glistened in the stark moonlight. As he unbuckled his belt, he pretended not to notice the yard was weedy and overgrown. There were large, dark moths fluttering around the mounted lights.

Humming quietly, Cormorant answered nature’s call without bothering to look over his shoulder. He knew he didn’t need to rush. The fat, balding, middle-aged inn’s proprietor, called Neal or something, was only too happy to let him indulge himself in whatever way he wished. Cormorant usually preferred to get his pleasure in the privacy of the inn’s special suites – the Screaming Rooms, as most of the regulars called them – but tonight he was feeling strangely adventurous. He wanted to try something else, something new, something different.

“Take off your clothes,” he instructed, his breath catching a little in the back of his throat. “I noticed you’re wearing a strand of pearls around your neck. Good. Keep it on.”

As he spoke, he started stroking himself with one hand, pulling his belt out of the loops of his jeans with the other. He heard the rustling of her puce satin skirt as she swayed towards him. His tongue darted out to wet his lips.

Breathing harder and faster, he imagined looping the belt around her throat. Tighter. Her eyes bulging like a bogle’s, her long hair gripped in his hand.

His erection pulsed and throbbed. The October night air felt chill on his sensitive flesh. He breathed in the heady, exotic fragrance of her perfume. She didn’t smell like anything he’d encountered before.

“On your knees,” he grunted. “I want your mouth on—”

“No.”

Just one word, but it was enough. He swung around, his white-knuckled hand raised to strike her with the belt. Unsanctioned magic flickered in his black eyes, making them glisten like a scarab’s shell. “What did yo—”

His words died in his throat when he saw the apparition standing in front of him, clad in a torn, muddy dress that hung on her frame.

She was covered in cobwebs. Only her plump, freckled face was clean.

He recognized her instantly. She still bore the bruises of his forceful love-making, but he knew it couldn’t be her.

“You’re dead,” he spluttered. For an instant, he was dumbfounded and then his eyes widened in realization. “Shape-stealer.” Fear flashed across his face. Too late did he see the sudden glimmer of the two eight-inch fighting knives hidden in the folds of her skirt.

She moved so quickly he didn’t even have time to blink. Her hands snaked out and she plunged the knives into his ribs.

Cormorant growled in pain and brought the belt down with a whistling sound across her face.

 A spew of blood burst from her mouth.

The metal-buckled belt slipped from his numbing fingers as he stared in disbelief at the two knives. Only the micarta handles were visible, one protruding from each side of his body. He clutched at the right-hand one as blood soaked through his clothes. Teeth gritted, he pulled it out and gazed at the crimson blade. He presumed it was laced with wirry-cow venom. Any assassin worth her fee would have taken that precaution. It was the only sure-fire way to incapacitate a magic practitioner.

A sudden weakness swept over him. His legs buckled under him and he sank down upon the ground. Blinking slowly, he looked up at her, disbelief twisting his face. “You’ve killed me,” he managed to utter.

Then nothingness rose up like a great gaping mouth and swallowed him. 

The assassin heard the door behind her creak open. She didn’t need to turn to know who it was. “Is this a good enough kill, Mr. Nyel?”

“Aye,” said the proprietor, “but it makes little difference, does it? Me daughter is still dead.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But at least Annis is avenged now.”

“Aye, ’e got what was commin’ to ’im. Just wish ’e could ’ave suffered more.”

She let the remark pass without comment. “What do you want me to do with the body?”

He spat on the ground, then said firmly, “Leave the bastard where ’e is for now. When the place is empty, me and me boys will bury ’im in the bog.”

Nodding more to herself than to him, she retrieved her knives and wiped them clean on the corpse’s jacket. Turning to the proprietor, her swollen mouth stretched in what should have been a smile. “Good doing business with you, Mr. Nyel,” she said, and shape-shifted.



S. R. Manev is a writer and avid reader who has a passion for languages and the Victorian era. He is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at Ulster University. His short fiction has appeared in journals such as Holdfast Magazine in the UK and Shadowdance in Bulgaria. He has also contributed stories to a number of stateside anthologies. Follow him on twitter at @SRManev