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The Stag Aglow.

I can't exactly remember what the prompt for this piece was; what the writing competition stipulated that I focus on. Reading it back, it is quite a strange piece but enjoyable nonetheless.


‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that she thought of me but why would Gran leave me a badge?’

‘Brooch,’ my mother threw the words over her left shoulder. ‘It’s called a brooch son, and it’s very special.’

I held it loosely in my hands, inspecting it closely. It was beautiful. Even for a young man like me it was hard not to be impressed by the intricate detail of the brooch. The craftsmanship. The heirloom took the shape of a grazing stag as it lay in the shade of a robust tree. It was made entirely of sterling silver with radiant cut emeralds in place of the eyes. They were wildly aglow and I connected to this strange and dated object the more I beheld it.

However striking it was, I was still oddly surprised that this brooch was considered valuable enough to be passed down. It dated back to my great grandmother whose husband purchased it from a travelling salesman. It had supposedly been in our family ever since.

‘Just be careful, William,’ she seemed distressed, but I guess if my mother had just passed away I’d be a little distressed too. ‘Won’t you?’

Right after dinner, I made my break for divine slumber. My grandmother’s wake had soared through last night and early into this morning so I was beyond tired. My eyes had attempted to sew themselves shut repeatedly since our discourse regarding the brooch.

‘Hey! Don’t forget.’ Mum said, gesturing to the box containing my newest possession.

I grabbed the box and laboured upstairs. I entered my room and went to place it down so I could sleep. As I stood in the centre of my bedroom, I felt that it didn’t really belong anywhere. Definitely not on my bedside table, not propped up on the spare lounge chair in the corner and it wouldn’t fit with the various action figures that lined the top of my chest of drawers. So to the back of the bottom drawer it went. And to sleep I travelled.

My eyes seeped open. Covered in the all-too-familiar lens of weariness, they struggled to focus. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed since they had last closed. I tossed in the warm sheets, turned to face the bedside table. I looked over at the alarm clock and could barely make out the time: just turned 3:00am. I rubbed at my face, sliding the back of my hand hard up against my eyes.

It was freezing. The type of cold you felt in the middle of winter, the dead middle of winter when the water threatened to frost over and car engines took that extra click to start. I looked over to the window, searching for reassurance that I hadn’t opened it in my sleep; I had a tendency to sleepwalk when overtired. My mother often caught me moving furniture at strange hours of the night. My father even retrieved me from the tree out front once.

I felt a sudden draft, an unmistakable waft of ice-cold air swept through and set my arms on fire with goose bumps. I sensed something, something that didn’t belong here. My heart began to pump so hard that it was on the brink of breaking through my chest. That’s when I saw it. I saw her. A lady in full silhouette, seated at the lounge chair in the corner. My body stiffened and my teeth clenched together hard, locking my jaw shut. I glowered at the obscure shape before me, succumbed to this darkness. Heart racing.

I suddenly relaxed a little, softening in the presence of what I naively thought could be my Gran. This thing had settled on the chair in the same way she had always perched up here herself. Or was I being tricked by the shadows? I swung to the right, flicked the lamp on and rocked back to face the chair. Empty. I was right, the shadows were the perpetrators of this cruel hoax. And back to sleep I went.

The next morning, I woke in a state of exhaustion. My body ached, right through to my bones. I grabbed at my clothes, an attempt to quell the pain but ended up slicing right through my hand. A deep red liquid ran freely from the edge of my palm. The culprit: my brooch. My brooch had been pinned to my shirt, right over my heart. I unpicked it, apprehended it in my blood-soaked hands, and again glared into the emerald eyes of the stag.

At breakfast my mother attempted to clarify her version of events, ‘I heard you walking about in your room last night, sleepwalking. I was going to see if you were alright but you’d locked you door.’

‘Okay, but that doesn’t explain the brooch.’

My mother, awash with the same look she had given me at dinner last night had just one more thing to say that morning, ‘Put it out of your mind son, it’s not worth it.’ Night rolled around quickly and my bed took no time at all to sing me to sleep.

My eyes seeped open. Sullen and groggy at first but electrified in moments. I was instantly sobered by the faintest memory of what had transpired the night before. Shooting upwards, I aimed for a seated position but ended up contorting my body instead, landing on the hand I had cut the morning before. An icy chill wrapped around me as the blankets fell from my torso. I turned to the chair, not knowing what to expect. Nothing.

Disappointment. I guess I had wanted something to be there. Someone, rather. That’s when I heard the dull murmur. A subtle buzz at first that grew louder and louder by the second. The chest of drawers began to rattle. Overcome by something supernatural, it scattered the previously dormant action figures across the room and was three feet in the air before long. It hovered viciously above the ground, flickering back and forth. The bottom draw was thrown loose and out spilled the box. The box containing the brooch. It slipped out of the box and along the carpet. Soon, everything was a blur, everything but the lady in the corner. She had returned in the early hours of this morning. In a seemingly paler silhouette than before. Her eyes spat speckles of green in my direction. It illuminated her face just enough for me to make out the shape of her chin, the contours of her cheeks. It wasn’t Gran. It wasn’t the lady from my encounter yesterday, but I still knew this woman. Somehow, I still recognised this lady. Her arm flung out and propelled my gaze to the brooch. As soon as I looked to it a deafening shriek opened up in the canals of my ears. I retorted in excruciating pain and then, without thinking, leaped madly at the brooch. As soon as my hands met the silver curvature of the stag the drawers fell to the floor. The room stopped shaking and the house was quiet. I looked up and could see them clearly now, the two women hovering a foot or two above the ground in the corner of my asylum. One, my Gran. The other, my great grandmother. The moonlight shot through the darkness and exposed them to me now. Then as quickly as they had manifested, they were gone. But not before they lifted their hands to their heart. A simple action followed by absence.

It took me an hour before I could force myself back into bed, another hour before I could bring myself to shut my eyes. I’m not sure why I had done it, but just before I closed my eyes to sleep I looked into the depths of the stag. And then I pinned it to my shirt, over my heart.

Many years had passed since I had discovered the true nature of my great grandmother’s brooch. Since my mother had told me the story about the ability for spirits to exist within and protect the stag bearer. I had built the most incredible family of my own since then; a mesmerising wife and two respectable girls. A family who now comforted me as I perished from lingering heart failure; a progressive narrowing of blood vessels. The doctors said it was amazing that I had been able to live to such a ripe age. “A miracle” they proposed, but I knew better.

For it was my Gran and great grandmother who had joined me all those nights ago, and many more leading up till now. Willing me to wear the brooch over my heart. A miraculous brooch they possessed and used to protect those in the realm if the living. To protect me. And now I would join them.

My final gesture, with the little life I had left, was handing over the brooch to my daughter, pinning it to heart, ‘It’s called a brooch, love, and it’s very special.’


I would love to know what you thought about this piece of writing. Let me know in the comments below; it would make my day!

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