Sarah had always been told not to go too far. Perhaps she should have paid more attention.

Cover image:

The Wild Ones

Mama warned me not to go to far. The world outside, she’d said, was no place for a girl alone. In fact no one ventured out without company; three or four together and even then sometimes they were forced to turn back by The Wild Ones.

The Wild Ones were those that had turned their backs on returning to their home towns, instead forming bands that lived who knew where. Mama said they probably moved around all the time and it was that which made them so dangerous. If they settled in an area we could simply avoid it, but they popped up everywhere.

In the last month, two from our village had been lost to them. Full grown men both of them, but we were used to living a peaceful life while The Wild Ones were violent, savage, and showed no mercy.

I’d asked Mama once what would have happened to Joel and Henry but she had not replied. Instead my brother sought me out and said somewhat cryptically: ‘They have to eat, don’t they’.

Did Carl mean that they ate their victims? No, he had been making that up, was just trying to scare me. I could have told Mama of course, and she would have laughed it off, reassured me, but then Carl would have got into trouble. He wouldn’t have liked that, and would have been sure to return the favor.

Instead, I chose to forget his words. And Mama was none the wiser about the cause of my occasional nightmares.

I had chores to do morning and evening, but the afternoons were left free. Sometimes I would find a sunny spot to sit in, and I would let my mind wander into the land of dreams and imaginings. Occasionally I would take a sheet of precious paper and write in tiny words, covering the entire piece. Once finished, I would hide it away, for I did not want anyone to share in my fantasies. But other days I would wander, collecting wild flowers which my mother would put into jars. Carl scorned them, but Mama and I both enjoyed the brightness and freshness that they would bring to our home.

I knew the land about us so well that I could walk it with my eyes shut. There were ten houses in the village, mostly inhabited by couples. Carl and I were the youngest of the villagers by far. We were the survivors of wide-scale destruction and devastation; and while there were many more settlements like our own scattered about, they were all more than a day’s walk away.

Much of the land was meadow, but they were deceptive, tricky for strangers because of the quicksand. We knew the safe paths, but to those not of these parts, the danger would be invisible. We had lost more than one animal to the swamp, for once it had you it would not let you go but would suck you down beneath its surface.

The villagers said that the quicksand was our defense against The Wild Ones. They would not venture near. And I guess that was true, for although I had heard the tales, I had never set eyes on one of these savage strangers.

Perhaps it was this assumption that led me to stray further than I’d gone before. I made my way carefully across the grassland to stand at the edge of the forest. It was a magical sight, with the sunshine lacing its way through the branches to light up some of the ground while leaving other parts in darkness.

Would I have ventured inside if I had not spotted those blue blooms? I don’t know, but once they had caught my eye I had to carry on to pick some. They would look so beautiful in among the pinks, the whites and the yellows.

I intended to stay on the edge but I saw bigger crops, better ones, and I walked along this path and that, stopping to pick a bloom here, another couple there, and I never even realised that I was lost. Not until I heard a whistle that sounded like no bird I had ever heard before.

Poor foolish me. Instead of noticing the danger, I walked further into their trap, all my attention focussed on the trees as I searched for the bird. And then a man stepped out onto my path, barely two feet in front of me.

Even then I did not panic, but tried in vain to put a name to a face. His hair was filthy as it hung in tangled clumps around his shoulders. His beard covered much of his mouth, until he opened it to let out a snarl. It was then that I finally understood who, or what he was... a Wild One!

Gripped by fear I whirled around, to find three more of these men. I was surrounded. The look in their eyes spoke of hunger, but for something more than food and I did not understand. My only advantage was my smaller size. I ran and ducked beneath the hand of one, hearing my sleeve rip in his grasp. I could not slow down or head back along the path; instead I wove my way through trees and bushes that scratched at my face, my arms, my legs.

They were following me, and I could hear by the sounds of branches snapping, that they were close. This terrain was more familiar to them than to me and I was hopelessly lost. One of them must have spotted me for he let out a whoop of enjoyment. They were having fun and that fact scared me more than ever. I was the prey and they were the hunters; if I was going to escape I needed to get back to the meadows.

Footsteps thudded behind me as I turned frantically this way and that, looking for any sign of the meadow. All I saw were more trees, bushes; more darkness.

A hand whipped out and grabbed my face. I moved quick enough to give the hand a bite strong enough to draw blood and to make the hand retract. “You’re going to pay well for that, bitch,” he snarled, but I leaped away and headed for the narrowest gap that I could see.

Then I saw the brightness. I was almost home, if only I could evade their hands for long enough to reach it.

All four of The Wild Ones were close behind me as I reached the edge, stepped through the last line of trees and froze. I knew where I was now; right at the very edge of the quicksand.

Every nerve in my body was screaming at me to run, to take flight, but to do so would be fatal. I had to pick every single footstep with the utmost care, and haste would not allow for that.

Ahead, I caught sight of Carl. I shouted his name, screamed his name, but the distance was too far for him to hear me. And even if he did, what good would it have done me. There was no way the two of us could fight off four grown men, let alone savage ones.

I had got myself into this danger and I was going to have to get myself out.

My hope had been that they would not slow down and would simply run straight into the swamp. That did not happen, for they must have noticed my hesitation, realised that there had to be a reason for it. First one man then another broke through the tree-line and began to follow in my footsteps. I had no choice but to speed up.

Gasping in terror, I continued to call to my brother, eventually attracting his attention. His look of horror made me even more scared. “Sarah! Run!” I heard his voice only faintly but could hear the urgency.

I stared at the ground, trying to make my feet move faster, and I almost missed the path. I righted my direction just in time, but the grunt behind me said that one of my followers had not managed to do the same. He began to shout to his companions, and I could hear the ground sucking.

My brother was nearer now, had come forwards to meet me. “Don’t look back, Sarah. Keep running.”

And I did. It was only when I had made it through the marshes that I turned. The man was invisible now, except for his head and his shoulders. The look of terror on his face must have mirrored that which had been on my own. His companions were retreating, leaving him to drown alone, and I cried and I cried, for I knew that in my own way I had caused his death.

I sank to the ground, unable to bear the horror behind me. Carl stooped down to pick me up and, my brother, he carried me home.

Submitted: May 23, 2020

© Copyright 2023 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


Mike S.

Spooky-goodness, Hull!

Sat, May 23rd, 2020 7:21pm


Thanks so much, Mike.

Sun, May 24th, 2020 12:26pm

moa rider

I'm glad the little girl outran the ogres Mama Hullabaloo! A bad lot they are! Usianguke

Sat, May 23rd, 2020 9:44pm


Yep, perfect swamp fodder. Thanks, Moa.

Sun, May 24th, 2020 12:30pm

Vance Currie

Despite knowing that this was just a story, I found myself holding my breath during the chase. I was hoping she would lead the baddies into the swamp, and she did. Yay! I could breath again.

Sat, May 23rd, 2020 10:29pm


I know... it was kind of predictable, but I still enjoyed writing it. Thanks, Joe.

Sun, May 24th, 2020 12:33pm

Sue Harris

Kill or be killed, and she managed to pull it off... just! Despite the fact that she had been running for her life, I liked the pang of guilt she felt at causing his demise. Excellent story, Hully.

Sun, May 24th, 2020 7:59pm


Thanks so much for giving it a read, Sue.

Mon, May 25th, 2020 12:04pm

Jeff Bezaire

Good story, Hully! A wonderful setting that made for a hot chase. It had a Roman-era England feel to it - the Wild Ones and the scattering of villages. Nicely done! I'm glad she lured at least one of them to their doom.

Mon, May 25th, 2020 6:44pm


Thanks, Jeff. I wanted to leave it unspecified when the story was set - either the past or the future. I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Mon, May 25th, 2020 11:55am

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