Friday, January 23, 2015

FREEBIE FRIDAY! A Dark Southern Gothic Folktale

A free dark fantasy folktale for your weekend reading pleasure. Inspired by a Cherokee legend and first published in The Clockwise Cat and reprinted in HALLOWEEN THIRTEEN, my collection of macabre/strange short stories.


Revenge of the Ulagu 
by Bobbi A. Chukran 
"Hon, I wish you wouldn't use chemicals around the house. It's not good for the kids, or for us," Coralee complained.
"You've read too many of those tree hugger magazines," Herbert said, wagging his head back and forth, squinting his little beady eyes and aiming an aerosol can of wasp spray towards a huge nest of yellow jackets up under the eaves of the farmhouse. "That's just a load of horse-shit, you ask me. Now you get back, you don't wanna get stung. You know how yeller jackets are. When I spray 'em, they're gonna go crazy! Remember last time you got stung you swole up like a melon."

Coralee stepped back inside the safety of the screen door where she cast a wary eye on Herbert. He sprayed the nest full of yellow jackets, and sure enough, they went insane, flying straight for him. He dropped the can and ran, almost escaping. One of them, however, was faster than he was. It landed on the side of his face and stung.

"Damn!" he yelled, slapping at the wasp and knocking it to the ground.

He ran back into the house and into the kitchen. Coralee frowned and cursed under her breath, hating the fact that the nest had been destroyed and hating the fact that her husband was so ignorant when it came to using toxic chemicals around the children and her garden. She knew there were better ways. Her native ancestors believed in living in harmony with the insects, birds and wildlife, and she believed the same thing. She shook her head, but made up an ice pack and applied it to the side of Herbert's face, feeling sorry for him because he was such an idiot.

That night, Herbert's head throbbed, and his jaw was swollen to the size of a baseball. "I think the stinger's still in it," Coralee said.  "We need to get the stinger out. My grandma says if you don't get that stinger out, other wasps will come back for it later."

Herbert was mule-stubborn and wouldn't let her look at it. "That's just an old wife's tale. Something your grandmother said just to vex me," he grumbled, took a few allergy capsules and went to bed. He tossed and turned for a while. The pain was almost unbearable but finally Herbert fell asleep.

About 2 a.m., Herbert was awakened by a strange thumping vibration at the bedroom window. There was a small tree beside the house, so he assumed it was a branch tapping against the windowpane. He turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Then he heard a buzzing sound, so loud that it reverberated in his head and filled his brain with nothing but the loud buzzzzz. He got up and walked to the picture window. He saw a large shadow, thought he was dreaming, but it became obvious that he was not. Herbert, not being terribly smart (and proving Coralee right about that), opened the window to get a better look. At that moment an enormous yellow jacket, the size of a large dog, flew in and attacked him, its huge stinger pressing itself into the side of his neck over and over until he was paralyzed from the venom.

His wife lay asleep in their bed, not twenty feet from the window, but she didn't hear a thing.

The yellow jacket wrapped its legs around Herbert like he was a dead fly and flew out the window, carrying him with it.

The next morning, Coralee called the county sheriff and reported Herbert missing. She told them that he had disappeared during the night, and as far as she knew, he had. The only other thing missing besides Herbert was his ugly plaid pajamas, which she said he'd worn to bed that night. She figured he'd been kidnapped since he would have certainly changed clothes had he run away from home on his own. For the life of Coralee, though, she couldn't figure out who would want to kidnap Herbert.

Three days later, while searching for Herbert, the sheriff found a cave filled with hundreds of man-sized cells, in a network of tissue paper thin walls, each holding the white grub-like larvae of oversized yellow jackets.

In the back corner was a human skeleton, wearing Herbert's ugly plaid pajamas. The body was identified by dental records (and the pajamas). His bones had been picked clean. No obvious cause for Herbert's death was ever found. As for the large larvae, entomologists were called in, but their only theory was that a few wasps had mutated because of something in the local environment. They'd never seen anything like it! The cave was sealed tight and a warning sign was erected over the entrance.

After Herbert's funeral, Coralee sat on the front porch rocking and sipping sweet tea, watching the yellow jackets hover around the door. She remembered her Cherokee grandmother telling her the story of Ulagu, a giant yellow jacket that would snatch small children and take them back to its nest to feed to its young. She remembered the story about the stinger and how they'd always come back to reclaim those they'd lost. She believed that the old stories had basic truths at their very roots.

Coralee didn't know what had really happened to poor Herbert, but she had a good idea.

In no time at all, the yellow jackets rebuilt their nest beside the front door, and as far as Coralee was concerned, it would stay there. She vowed that a wasp nest would never again be destroyed on her property.

She smiled and rocked and rocked as the yellow jackets gently buzzed around her head.



Bobbi A. Chukran writes gothic small-town tales and is the author of the "Nameless, Texas" story series. She lives near Austin, TX in a tiny town full of characters that are fodder for her fiction. She gardens like a fool, herds rescue cats, blogs and carries on at

No comments: