Wickers Bog: A Tale Of Southern Gothic Horror
by Mike Duran
<img src="http://www.speculativefaith.lorehaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/cover_WickersBog-266×400.jpg" alt="" width="266" height="400" class="alignright size-large wp-image-25744" INTRODUCTION
Every autumn, when the weather turned and the wind came off the marsh, the dark waters of Wickers Bog gave up its ghosts and reawakened the old yarns.
Julene Ella Haddan is about to be drawn into one of them.
It was a grey, joyless day, when young Julene heard the song of the siren and followed its melody into the enchanted swamp… a journey which led her into a tale of murder and deceit. It’s only the fated who hear the siren. Yet Julene’s fate now seems bound to the fabled Lady of Lisenby, the spectral gatekeeper of the Bog, queen of the haunted deep. However, is it justice the Lady seeks or is Julene the siren’s next victim?
Myth and mystery collide in this short, 34-page tale of Southern Gothic horror.
WICKERS BOG — EXCERPT
All that remained visible of Lisenby Plantation—the original house, that is—was a tottering, moss-draped cupola and weathervane that rose the height of a porch column above the black water of Wickers Bog. With a good throw, I could reach the rotted peak. But skipping the stone across the water was always the most successful. Though I’d repeatedly attempted the feat, never once had I struck the weathervane, as Cole claimed to have done. Like many things my brother boasted, I had my doubts about them. Being his younger sister, I’d learned not to challenge him. Especially when it was a claim to physical superiority, which Cole was unusually eager to reinforce.
Neither Cole nor I was around for the storm of ’18. Nans said she was a child then, but I suspect she was more near a young lady. She told the story over and over, like she’d rehearsed the events for years, her sole intent being to populate our minds with furniture from that legend. Mostly she expounded upon the Lady of Lisenby and how the woman got trapped upstairs, confined to her bed and drowned, shrieking for help as the black cold floodwaters took her life. That part especially seemed to pique Nans’ enthusiasm. Some might’ve mistook her vigor for relish. Rather, despite her vocal disdain for the local occult lore, and spiritualism in general, Nans was unusually privy to the folk tales that old women and children liked to pass on round the town of Meredith. What made the Lisenby event so disturbing was the charge of murder, which Nans disseminated with unrepentant, dramatic flair.
Allegedly, the Lady’s master had crippled her in the worst way. While accounts differed, most involved the removal of her legs so as to keep her bedridden. Some said it was out of jealousy for her beauty, which he refused to share with other men; some said it was punishment for an indiscretion. Others conjectured he simply went lunatic like his daddy who’d spent his final days in the state hospital in Convent. Whatever the truth, his actions were deemed criminal. Especially after her demise. If you listened closely, they said, the Lady’s screams could still be heard in Wickers Bog. Usually during autumn, when the weather turned and the wind came off the marsh, when the nights caused those dark waters to give up their ghosts and reawaken the old yarns.
You could say that this is one of them.
Funneled in by the Mississippi River gulf outlet, the levees and floodwalls had been breached by the storm that year. But it was the west side of the canal that took the beating. Our side. You’d have thought that the builders would’ve anticipated such flooding and moved the mansion to higher ground. They hadn’t. Supposedly it was some geographical anomaly upriver that funneled the water into the slight basin that Lisenby occupied. It resulted in the almost complete submergence of the Plantation house and happened so quickly that most of the servants were trapped. As was the Lady.
Nans liked to say it was fate that spread those murky tendrils racing toward the properties, that it was fat which filled the Lady’s lungs with flood water.
Nans was big on fate,
Perhaps it was that belief which had burrowed its way into my brain. Like a crawfish in a mud bank the thought nestled there—fate. I’d always fancied something special would come of my life. Me, Julene Ella Haddan. Fated. I’d survived the fever. And unlike many of those in Meredith, I could read and write. Some even said I had the gift, although Nans was resolute about me avoiding a public profession of such gifting. What I did not take into account was that my destiny would involve the unleashing of divine judgment. Much less, that it would be executed through the Lady of Lisenby.
It began on a grey, joyless day. The sun was a rusty orb on the horizon. Ribbons of pale light streamed between the swamp cypress, blanching the fen ochre and casting a pall across the eve. Autumn was usually short and undramatic in these parts; an occasional chill breeze signaled its arrival, and a few Red Oaks, their leaves in various shades of gold and red, shone bright between the evergreens. As always, a malignant shroud seemed to drape Wickers Bog.
MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and speaker, whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Bewildering Stories, Rue Morgue, Zombies magazine, Breakpoint, and other print and digital outlets. He is the author of THE GHOST BOX (Blue Crescent Press, 2014), which was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best indie novels of 2015 and first in a paranoir series that continues with SAINT DEATH (2016), a Southern Gothic Horror short “WICKERS BOG” (2016), a short story anthology SUBTERRANEA (Blue Crescent Press, 2013), the supernatural thrillers THE TELLING (Realms May 2012) and THE RESURRECTION (Realms, 2011), an e-book fantasy novella entitled WINTERLAND (Amazon digital, Oct. 2011), and a non-fiction exploration on the intersection between the horror genre and evangelical fiction entitled CHRISTIAN HORROR (Blue Crescent Press May 2015). You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, cultural commentary, philosophical musings, and arcane interests, at www.mikeduran.com.