October 2, 2013 8 Comments
I would like to thank vladimm for letting me post this image. I must admit I saw this image after completing the story; however, it summed up so much for me. If you want to see more of his excellent dark and surreal creations, you’ll find him lurking in the virtual shadows at: http://vladimm.deviantart.com/
OK, on with the show:
From the dimness of the hallway, a cold, ebbing wind swept into the study, bringing forth the stench of rotten, damp wood and foul roots, those tangled blind serpents that ravaged the tenebrous depths of old houses.
Unbound from those depths, the howling flurry raced through the room, forcing the two women to huddle into a corner.
As the unnatural tempest roared, the room became an arena for the spirits to play.
With the air crystallised, charged with unseen energy, the curtains swirled and billowed, ornaments danced upon their shelves and books upon the shelves pounded the glass doors.
But, of all the strangest things to be seen, thought Mademoiselle Clements, was the single candle upon the table: how it remained steady, its flame unmoving as the room became the victim of this charging force.
From the corner, the two women stood their ground, too scared to move, fearing the wind and the foul stench filling their nostrils.
The old woman closed her eyes – her lips moving in silent prayer.
But, as quickly as it had started, the wind slowed its dance.
Around the room, everything steadily became still as the wind pirouetted into silence, bowing back to the recesses from whence it had emerged.
With its passing, however, came that singular sensation, a presence, and a tangible perception that they were not alone.
Mademoiselle Sanson stopped her praying, and, face drained of colour, turned to the table and the three chairs.
“Why has it chosen me? This house? Tell me,” she said, clinging to Mademoiselle Clements, her face distraught, her voice that of a desperate, lost child. “Why? Tell me!”
But there came no answer.
The young woman focussed on the table and the farthest chair.
Had it moved?
It was unbearably cold now.
On the table, the candle flickered.
At the window, the moths danced even livelier – a captive audience waiting for the show to begin
And then…, she saw the farthest chair gently rock.
It slid out, just enough for someone to sit down.
Foreboding passed across the young woman’s face – there would be no running now.
For, from deep within the house it had risen, seeking her.
She’d already felt its mind, ancient, cold, full of hate, like all of what she’d encountered in her life’s work.
She’d recognised it before as she stared down into its abyss, at the window, as the moths had gathered around. It was a darkness that sunk deeper than any fetid roots that clung to the wretched foundations of the house.
It was from those depths that it had sought her, probing, touching the books, and finding the words that had been frozen in time.
It had been called and it had answered.
The chair moved again, ever so slightly.
The old woman stirred next to her, a whimper crossing her lips.
Mademoiselle Clements wanted to say something but her lips could only twitch, no words would form.
Her eyes froze on the chair.
She tried to speak, tried to control her tongue, but it was frozen, like her lips, dry and cracked, and her throat, a searing dryness now constricting her breathing.
Panic gripped her.
As she focussed on the words, the cold flooded over her lips, flowing like icy water moving in her mouth, filling it with the taste of putrefied matter. Then, oozing onwards, it dipped down into her throat, into her stomach, filling her with biting, nauseating cold.
Every part of her inner being was drowning now in whatever the presence was.
She was powerless to this incomprehensible force; invisible fingers pawing inside her, opening her like a book, flicking through her memories.
Each touch freezing another part of her soul.
Then she felt the pull, like a steady change in the tide, an undercurrent drawing her down, clasping her legs and tugging. It was smothering her.
Looking down she could see the seething roots, coiling around each other beneath the floor, their tips testing the air ready to reach up to catch her, ready to choke the life out of her.
She pushed the vision away. Struggling to gain a mental foothold in reality.
But her sight dimmed; the space around her drifting outwards, extending into space: the table, chairs, the bookshelf and old woman were moving down a long concertina of darkness.
She tensed to hold onto reality, but that tide encircled her body again, pulling down, her control fading.
As light slipped away, her thoughts were only of what they would do.
Those that waited down there.
The spirits who’d visited the old woman so often.
God they were strong. So strong.
Would they listen to her?
Her conscious being was falling into the depths of the house.
As she twisted, she reached out, feeling roots, soil passing swiftly, crumbling in her fingers, no chance to hold on, spinning around, helpless, falling…
Then.., she felt it.
A frozen finger touched her lips.
Opening her eyes, the spinning stopped.
There was no hole, no abyss.
She’d been freed. The spell broken.
The room was before her – her lips could move.
As she focussed, the candle flickered and the lights finally went out.
The old woman was still at her arm.
“Is it here?” asked Mademoiselle Sanson, tugging gently at her arm.
Looking towards the chair.
Had something moved it?
The young woman saw it: a cloudy outline, a shifting shape, dimming, focussing, and trying to hold onto reality.
Was it a memory in the darkness? A character from one of the books?
She didn’t know.
It had to be their messenger.
At her side the old woman persisted.
“Is it here? She begged, oblivious to the presence.
Mademoiselle Clements nodded.
An invisible hand gently stroked her back. Cold lips brushed her ear, her cheek, numbing the skin.
The screams started.
From a thousand miles away she heard voices screaming out, crying for mercy, crying to be freed from their prison.
Then came other voices, chastising, hideous, offensive, jeering out, ignoring their pleas; these were screams from a time that was now only kept alive in the books.
It was a time of revolution and death.
These screams were memories held in ink and paper. Prisoners without souls. Suspended in words that would only awaken when the eye beheld them.
But something else had awoken their sleep.
And they were screaming for justice.
They wailed in her mind, crying for her to listen.
However, that presence in the chair had also heard their pitiful cries and, growing impatient at their madness, silenced them with a terrible sound, one that sent a spasm of fear shuddering through her body: it was the unmistakable sound of sliding, screeching metal and it thudding down hard on wood.
As it hit, the voices sped away – tiny birds whisking away from the hedgerows upon hearing the prowling cat.
Now, only one sound remained.
A cold, dead voice lurking in the vacuum of her subconscious.
It spoke, a whisper on a howling wind, and she fought hard to comprehend its words. Closing her eyes, her temples aching, she listened as it screamed into her subconscious. Listened as it strove to tune into her mind, sliding through the ether.
As the wind lessened, she heard it.
“Write,” it said.
Next to her, the old woman, her face twitching from fear and cold, shook her head, nervous, waiting for an answer.
“What do we do? What do we do?”
Mademoiselle Clements slowly turned to her.
“It wants me to write,” she said, her voice trailing, straining from the freezing river in her throat.
Across the gulf that separated life and death, the voice reached out again.
“Paper. You shall write what I say.”
Icy breath enveloped her body. It was an ancient voice, like stone, cold and lifeless.
“What?” The old woman squinted at her, her voice frail.
“Paper. I need paper. In the cupboard. Have you got paper and a pen? Please.” She begged, her words coming in quick bursts.
The wind returned.
Mademoiselle Clements gasped as it reached down, sliding into her. The spirits were exploring her, finally let out of their deep dark prisons after so many years.
As the wind rose, so did the voices, all screaming together, reaching into her.
They were strong, a heaving throng on the edge of her subconscious, reaching out to her. More than one, trying to speak. She had to hold them back.
Concentrate. Don’t let them through…, not yet.
The old woman finally moved. Shuffling across the carpet, she put her hands to her mouth. Looking back at Mademoiselle Clements, her eyes were dim pinpoints in the shimmering light of the candle. Fear cracking her delicate skin, she remained unaware of the voices.
“Paper. I’ll get it.”
Fumbling around the old writing desk, she found a small pad and a pencil.
“Here,” she said, putting them on the table.
Mademoiselle Clements pointed to a chair. “Sit down.”
The old woman did as she was told.
Mademoiselle Clements couldn’t move.
Her body was paralyzed, caught like the books behind glass.
Now she felt an icy hand upon her. The sinister spectre sat at the end of the table was playing puppet master with her.
As the vague shape moved, freezing fingers played along her wrists.
Without warning, it pulled her to the nearest chair, pushing her down. Icy strings pulled on her hands, making her draw the notepad towards her.
She was powerless. All she could do was fix her eyes on the moths dancing outside.
Her hands began moving.
The pen scratched its way across the paper, line after line, forming a long list.
She wanted to look down, but the dance of the creatures outside was mesmerising.
Her neck cold. Held in place by the spectre.
What were they writing?
Would they remember to wait?
She prayed that they would wait; wouldn’t expose the truth too quickly.
The old woman had to talk to them.
Tell them the truth.
Please, make them be patient.
Please don’t tell the old woman yet. Please…, remember.
She couldn’t see the words.
She so desperately wanted to see what they were writing, but her eyes remained locked on the moths.
The cold lips were at her ear once again, and that voice from so far away, hissing like winter’s bane, callous and uncaring, whispered.
“Look down… read the truths we give to you. Let her see what she has done to us… all of us. Then it shall be complete.”
The wind in her mind, raging, rampaging, tore through her world. She forced her head to move, but it had control, keeping her in its cold grip.
Across the table, the spirit gestured, a smoky hand rising from the table.
As the flame of the candle gently waltzed by itself, the coldness lifted from her neck.
She could move.
Across from her, white as marble, the old woman sat waiting, her eyes wide, her fingers gently pointing to the paper.
“What are you writing? What is it? Tell me.”
The wispy stranger stroked her arms and she felt herself pushing the writing pad slowly towards the candle.
“Please, take it. I can’t get up.”
The wind was barely audible; but she knew they were waiting, waiting in the shadows of her mind, waiting in the wings.
Mademoiselle Sanson got up and slowly walked to the young woman. From her pocket, she took out old reading glasses.
She picked up the writing block and, putting it near the candlelight, began reading.
“They’re names. You’ve written names.”
As the old woman spoke, the wind stirred, voices hissing, screams from the abyss of Mademoiselle Clements’ mind. Voices caged in.
The old woman read further. When she’d finished she put the writing block down.
Straitening, she took off her glasses.
The voices hissed, louder now, screaming a word; however, they were too loud, the word becoming inaudible in the storm of screams.
Mademoiselle Sanson walked to the sideboard, her voice whining, and the beginnings of tears.
“I didn’t know…, I didn’t know… they would….”
Her voice trailed off and, as it did, she shuffled towards the window, the shadows swallowing her.
Mademoiselle Clements followed her, losing sight of her; but the voices screamed on, a word, a word…, but what were they saying.
She shut her eyes tight, willing one of them to speak; one voice one voice, please…
Her eyes opened.
The cold had returned.
But…, this was another cold.
The voices screamed on.
No…, this wasn’t the wind, this was…
At her throat was a knife, and with it came the overpowering smell of lavender.
The old woman.
But not the old woman.
Her eyes caught a glimpse of a twisted, misshapen face.
Hate contorting it into a hideous visage.
“Thought you’d get my books, did you?”
It wasn’t her voice. This was something else. A creature that lived here and used the guise of a frail old woman.
Lurking in the life of another.
“Cheap tricks to get my books. All my beautiful books.”
She screamed out. “My beautiful books! All mine, I tell you. I collected them. Mine!”
The blade dug into the folds of her neck.
“Séance and all… Think you’d outsmart an old woman with your tricks. I think you better tell your spirits that if they want my books they better start praying for your soul.”
But the phantasm was drifting away, far away, swimming out of focus.
The spirit sitting in the corner pointed to Mademoiselle Clements.
With a wispy movement, it closed her eyes.
The world moving.
It was taking her away.
But she needed to know the truth.
That was why it was there.
To talk to her.
Help me, she asked.
She’ll kill me.
You know the truth.
It took her hand, showing her another place.
Her body frozen; her will under the control of another; all she could do was concentrate, make them listen, make them understand.
They had to listen.
She felt it pulling her away from her body, out into the darkness.
A deep, dark undulating mist engulfed her mind, and she was set adrift in a sea of confusion.
Twisting around, she searched for a foothold, an anchor point, flailing in free fall thought.
What was that?
She now saw edges forming, lines taking shape, materialising.
There were…, cobble stone roads, houses, chimneys belching thick smoke, a market place…
She was over an ancient market place; that cold night where they suffered. She had to find that voice, lonely, whimpering.
One voice was all she needed.
One voice and the truth.
She was in the market square.
Full moon overhead.
Frost glittering upon the rooftops.
Horses in stables.
The smell of death.
Then the voice.
It came from a house, overlooking the square.
A woman’s voice, and a single word…
She wandered to that voice and the house.
As she approached, a door opened, and candlelight seeped out. A woman stood silhouetted there.
She pointed and shouted.
“Look to the square. It’s waiting.”
As she turned, her eyes beheld the vast dark shape rising up, tall, malevolent, waiting for the one to trudge up the steps to meet their destiny.
The woman at the door shouted again.
“Tell her! Tell her the name!”
And that name rang out across the market.
But…, as she clutched for that name, she was being called back, called back by the cold steel at her neck.
To be continued…