QSFer Xavier Axelson has a new paranormal book out:
Being a single Dad is hard enough but when Pryor loses his daughter Lily in an unthinkable event, he thinks he has experienced the ultimate horror. It’s when Lily returns that he realizes his nightmare has only just begun.
When Pryor’s daughter Lily is taken by a wolf, Pryor is convinced she has turned into the creature he sees lurking in his woods. He swears she promises to return to him. But is it his despair and desperation making him see things or is there something more lurking in the shadows of the forest?
When he meets Ned, a silversmith who helps him with a plan to bring his daughter back into his life, he begins to live again. But can his newfound love help ease the horror that may be waiting? What if the ultimate horror isn’t when Lily was taken but it’s when Lily returns and he realizes his nightmare has only just begun…
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
I got up before Ned. He snored softly as I crept from the room. I pulled my robe from the back of a chair and slipped it on as I made my way to the kitchen. All the while I made coffee, I wondered if I would see my daughter today.
As the coffee brewed, I went and opened the blinds that covered the sliding glass door looking out to the woods. The gentle percolating gurgle of the coffeemaker was the only noise to shatter the silence, although the sounds in my head were far more menacing. I could still hear the wolf, the tussle, the scream, and the horrific image of Lily being dragged into the woods.
The coffee was done.
I only sat out on the back deck when the obsession to be close to my daughter became too much to bear. Today, I was surprised to find that although it was gray outside, it was mysteriously warm. A sharp odor permeated the air, and a delicate mist had fallen during the early morning hours and hid the depths of the forest. I felt closest to Lily here. Sometimes I would come and stare into the woods, even speak to her as if she was hiding behind a tree and not somewhere altogether more horrible.
What does one say when they first realize their child is gone? Better yet, what does one say when that child returns, but is different?
I sipped the coffee, strong and intensely dark. Ned liked dark coffee, dark chocolate, intense, robust flavors, and why not? He was a robust kind of man. My mother would say he was definitely blue collar, even pedestrian. After my mother’s death, I was still haunted by her voice, often at the most intimate of moments.
“Beneath you,” was a favorite, “gutter, filthy,” were the crueler tombstone reveries she emitted. I wondered what words she would use to describe me now that Lily was gone and Ned lived with me.
When Lily was taken–and I say taken because to say dragged into the woods by a wolf is so fantastical that it hurts to form the words–I sat outside and stared into the woods. I stopped working. Why bother working at all? I had money and would be fine for the rest of my life, so I stopped and gave in to the obsessive cruelty of insanity. I stopped shaving, let my beard grow, barely ate, and barely slept. So sure was I that Lily moved among the trees that I took to wandering in the woods, determined that every sound was my daughter trying to find me.
I never thought things would stop spinning: the cops, the people, the reporters, and the ridiculous red riding hood headlines that cheapened the sheer terror of what had actually happened. But the world did stop spinning the night Lily returned to me.
How long ago had it been? How many days after she’d vanished did I wake and hear her voice? I can’t recall, the blurred lines of time no longer meant anything. Even now, the only thing I remember is opening my eyes and hearing her call to me.
“Lily!” I screamed. Yes, I screamed my daughter’s name because if it had just been another dream, I would have killed myself.
I smelled her. I knew that sweet smell, the smell of her hair, wild and white–blonde. I would never see it turn darker, she would always be golden to me. I flung myself from my bed and dressed quickly. “I’m here, I’m coming, baby!”
I remember tripping over my damn sneakers and cursing violently as I stumbled over something else on the stairs. I’ve learned that in instances like these, one remembers horrible little details like the sneakers, like the stairs, and a wild, beautiful smell I knew but couldn’t place.
On instinct, I opened the blinds and threw open the sliding doors, then made my way out into the backyard. Lily wouldn’t be anywhere else.
We have a large weeping cherry tree in the backyard and in June, it is at its most magnificent. The smell coming off the tree was lurid and the flowers rained down in a pink shower when an errant breeze moved through the branches. The moon was stark and white, sending shivering silver light onto everything it touched. The night was alive with so much excitement that it was almost too much to bear. The woods appeared to be moving, a great looming mass of shadow and scent. The insects chorused, calling out in honor of what I hoped was my daughter.
“Lily?” I ran down the deck stairs. She had to be there! My eyes darted from one end of the yard to the other. The silver light of the moon cast everything in a strange glow that begged a ghostly encounter.
“Lily?” I said again, and this time looked to the trees where I thought I had heard ragged breathing; human, and yet not. There was movement, quick and furtive, a padded whisper of something pacing, searching, and then I saw eyes staring up at me from the darkness of the woods. Eyes that burned like a thousand fires, they were as blue as I remember, but now translucent and lit from behind.
It was then that I heard the call, chilling and ancient, that brought clouds to the sky as if they ached to protect the moon from such a hellish shriek.
“Lily,” I whispered, “baby, it’s your daddy, your father.” I held a hand out, wanted to go toward whatever it was that had my daughter’s eyes. Before I could move, I heard a voice, odd and quick; a fast whisper that sounded like the undertone of the trees, as if the forest was speaking to me. But those eyes, I knew those eyes.
“I will return for one day. One day.” The voice stopped. There was the sound of movement nearby. The ragged breathing stopped and the eyes vanished.
“When?! When, Lily? I know it’s you, please tell me when you will come back. Why not now?” I was trying not to yell. I could feel her presence–the smell was still there–she was close. I ran forward, but stopped when I heard her voice again.
“The day that I was taken will be the day I return.”
I was alone. Where there had been eyes, there was darkness; where there had been movement, there was nothing; and where there had been clouds, there was only silver light.
I felt a helpless rage swell within me until it erupted into the still night air in a primal scream that, once expelled, forced me to the ground, muscles shaking as I clawed at the earth.
As I struggled to my feet, I could still hear the voice echoing in my ears, fighting against my furious pulse.
The day I was taken will be the day I return.
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Xavier Axelson is a writer and columnist living in Los Angeles. Xavier’s work has been featured in various erotic and horror anthologies. Longer written works include “The Incident”, “Velvet”, and “Lily”. Xavier covers Fringe Culture for the Los Angeles Examiner.
Email: [email protected]