By Paul Stansbury
Luda stood peering into the deep shadows. The bright flowers and lush field grass in which she stood stopped abruptly at the base of the tall oak trees. Their thick and twisted trunks supported a canopy of leaves blocking all sunlight from the forest floor. Behind her, Maks and Anya played quietly along the creek that meandered across the meadow.
“Make sure Maks and Anya are safe.” mother had said as Luda stepped from the cottage porch. It was a task she took seriously.
She knew the beast was there. Babushka had told her of Zicgaforja lurking deep in the shadows of the forest. Even the village woodcutter with his broad, double bladed axe for protection avoided this forest. Behind the trees in the darkness, long dead leaves rustled on the forest floor. Is that the faint, dark scent of the creature floating on the wood’s cold, damp breath? It chased away the fragile warmth of the Spring sun, sending a chill through her. Regardless, she stood her ground, eyes never turning away.
While the children played blissfully, Luda stood between them and the waiting evil. She held her staff at the ready by her side. The beast was patient, waiting for its prey to come within range – muscles tensed, poised to attack with ripping teeth and tearing claws.
Mother’s call came rolling over the meadow, breaking her concentration. Maks and Anya jumped up from their play, setting off toward home. Luda turned with one last intent stare into the dark recesses of the woods and called out in smug defiance, “Lucky for you Zicgaforja, Mama has called us for supper.” With that, she threw the twig she had been holding into the shadows and turned to join her brother and sister in a race back to the cottage.
Author Bio: Paul Stansbury is a life long native of Kentucky. He is the author of “Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections” and “Little Green Men?” His stories have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky.