Taygete, youngest of the Pleiades
When one comes to the Greek coast, one is expecting a peaceful getaway, lots of sun and sand, blue water and all that sort of thing. One does not really expect ghosts, particularly ghosts of supposedly immortal beings, to haunt one’s campsite. However, these things happen.
We were camping out near ancient Sparta, in Laconia, my boyfriend and I, the summer after we graduated from college. He was going to go to law school in the fall, and I was starting a research assistant post at the classics library at Reed. He was a politics and government major, but it was always about ancient civilizations for me. My boyfriend said it was because my middle name is Electra, that it destined me for the classics, I just think it’s because I like stories. The Pleiades are my favorites. Seven sisters, each with a tale of heartbreak, who ended up as a constellation. The youngest was the most tragic. She rebuffed the king of the gods, so he raped her in her sleep. She bore his child and then killed herself. What can I say, I’m a sucker for desperate tragedy. Anyway, we were done with college and on vacation.
It was late at night, really dark and quiet, like the air was listening for something, and my boyfriend, Ashley, was already asleep. I was enjoying watching the stars, the view is spectacular out away from the cities, when I heard a twig break. You have to understand that I’m a pretty typical American city girl, and I don’t have a clue about wild animals or predators or anything like that. So, I immediately assumed that there was a bear or a lion or something coming to get us and I got up to find something with which I could defend the cave. Which was undoubtedly incredibly stupid, but…it seemed like the thing to do. I stood there, in the dark, in my nightgown, with a tin skillet in my hand, and waited for the slavering wild creature to pounce on me. Instead, I got a figure, all in black, with a hood covering her face. She staggered toward me, like she was drunk or something, before she collapsed on the ground with a scream. I’ve seen too many horror movies and I thought she was a murder victim at first. But then that I saw that she was very pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, that she was in labor. I was the only one there, so I ran over to her, carefully, hoping I wouldn’t scare her into a miscarriage or anything…
She saw me, but she shook her head and then screamed again, and she must have pushed pretty hard, because there was a baby boy between her legs a minute later. Later on, I would wonder why Ashley didn’t wake up, the pregnant woman wasn’t quiet at all, but right then I was more worried about the baby. The woman lay there for about thirty seconds and then she sat up and picked up the baby. I’m no med student, but I was pretty sure women didn’t usually sit up immediately after giving birth and move around that much. I told her I was going to go get her some water and when I turned around, she was gone. I went back to the air mattress, shaking a little, and fell asleep really fast.
It’s funny, but it felt like the next night was even darker. As if stars were going out, or the dark was tangible or something. I was getting a little freaked out and I didn’t want to watch the stars anymore, I wanted to close my eyes and open them and have it be morning. That’s when it happened again, the twig snapping and then the figure in black. This time, she was carrying the baby in her arms and crying. She sat there, in the middle of the clearing, rocking back and forth and weeping. I wanted to get up and go to her, but she looked at me and shook her head and I stayed where I was. I must have nodded off, because she was gone, and I didn’t see her go. I didn’t tell Ashley, I’m not sure why, it just seemed…wrong. I couldn’t get the words out.
We spent a week with no interruptions. Swimming, sunbathing, being lazy. Ashley said I was less bubbly than usual and I told him I just wasn’t used to sleeping outdoors.
Then, I woke up in the night again. It was foggy that night. Not thick fog, so you couldn’t see through it, just little wisps that crawled along the ground and twisted around the tree branches like some kind of transparent boa constrictor…Like the night was trying to suck everything into itself. The woman was back in the clearing, without the baby, and she wasn’t crying. She was looking up at a tree, studying it from several angles. She found an old uprooted stump covered in dirt and leaf mold lying near the tree and dragged it under a lower hanging branch. Climbing up on it, the woman went to work with a gold cord, tying it carefully around the sturdy base of the branch. Her body obscured what she was doing, so I didn’t know what she had planned until it was too late. In one movement, she threw back her hood, so that the moonlight shone on her white blond hair, looped the cord around her neck, and stepped off the stump. I ran to her, screaming for Ashley, but she was gone by the time I reached the tree. Really gone, there was no sign that she had ever been there. Even the stump was gone. All that was left was a word carved into the tree trunk.
It might have helped if I knew the story of Taygete better. Try setting the atmosphere a little more. This would necessarily make your story longer, but I think it would be necessary in order for the reader to fully appreciate how creepy this tale truly is.
Try weaving the backstory into the frontstory, maybe with the narrator not realizing who Taygete is or what she's doing until the third night when it's too late. When you give it all at the beginning, it's almost like a summary of the story itself before putting it in its modern context. The early part also had more detail about the narraotr's boyfriend than were necessary; the bit about the narrator being a classics major makes sense and is very helpful, but Ashley isn't given any lines or much to show his personality, so he doesn't need to background-ized. Finally, it might help if the narrator were affected more during the day, other than the one sentence about her not being as bubbly.
No, one more thing. It might also help to talk about how the narrator is affected after the trip. Do the strange visions haunt her? Inspire her? Drive her nuts? Never bother her again? It would help to establish more of a conflict.