Bayou’s Lament
A Labyrinth of Souls Novella #9
by Cheryl Owen-Wilson
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror
Veya Marie St. James has vowed to never again set foot on the Island of her birth—a strip of land buried deep in the swamps of southern Louisiana. Her childhood memories are rampant with ancient superstitions and the bizarre rituals of her estranged mother. Veya long ago rejected that life and those beliefs, but when a mysterious illness threatens her daughter’s life, it all leads to the Island. Veya swore she would never go back, but the Island calls to her, and now it’s calling with her daughter’s voice.

She sat slumped on cold, metal stairs struggling for breath. With each labored inhale an old familiar scent filled her senses, the stagnant stench of decay. She sat between the fourth and fifth floors of her office building in a stairwell she’d traversed hundreds of times. Yet, she could not shake the feeling she’d been transported through a time warp back to her childhood and the nightmares it held.

Invisible rubber bands tightened and pulsed across her chest. Panic attacks had always walked hand in hand with her childhood memories. Memories she—Veya Marie St. James—had eradicated within the first year of leaving the place where they’d originated. The Island, the home of her birth, hidden deep within southern Louisiana’s swamplands. A land fed by layer upon layer of decomposing foliage and dead animals resulting in the odor now assaulting her senses.

Veya had been eighteen when she left the Island. She was now a thirty-nine-year-old woman with a nineteen-year-old daughter.

The sensation of having no control over her own body diminished with each breath, until she could sit upright without the fear of her chest being crushed by an unseen vice.

A panic attack after so many years. Why?

She searched the stairwell for the kid who’d just scared the hell out of her. It was a kid, wasn’t it? She’d been fumbling in her purse for her phone thinking she should call to check on her daughter, Triste. When she’d looked up, he’d been standing in her way, a four-foot tall black goblin with pointy ears, a tail, and red glowing slits for eyes. It’s the end of August, not October, she’d thought right before her phone fell from her hand, and her body began its well-tuned dance with the all-consuming panic. An affliction it had taken her months in therapy to overcome.

She called out, “Where the hell are you, you little cretin?” When no answer came, she wearily climbed the steps out of the stairwell, careful to avoid looking in its dark corners.

Costumes these days are too realistic.


The writing bug first snagged Cheryl Owen-Wilson through the penning of a personal essay, for which she received an award and publication. Today what drives her writing life is Southern Gothic fiction. Since her biological roots are buried not only in Oregon, but also deep in the bayous of Southern Louisiana the genre is a natural fit.
When not writing she can be found at an easel covered in oil paint. “When I write I usually have painting in mind to go with the story. The same holds true when a painting forms, a story generally follows.” In that vein one of her paintings is featured on the ShadowSpinners: A Collection of Dark Tales, book jacket. You can find her short story: Swamp Symphony, in the book’s collection. This is Cheryl’s first published novella.

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