Inside the cave lived a Fox – Chapter 2

Chapter 1

foxo2n2

The road took a swerve and the car eased into a stretch illuminated only by the headlights. Pine trees white against the colorless background buckled under a high wind and she could just catch their crowns so high above. The world wasn’t clearing and she felt trapped on this narrow road, in this car going somewhere that meant nothing to her. She was going in the wrong way regardless of the promise.

Her body shifted away from him patiently pulling on his thin cigar providing the same scent she had breathed with familiarity on his coat. Her heated temple rested against the cool glass of window. Her head was static, memories heavily faded. Lolling with the motion of the car she thought her fingers someone else’s. She opened and closed her palm, flexing her digits. There was a sense of something amiss, something that had been there in her hand but was now gone taking away with itself her feel, her touch. Her skin hurt and she rubbed a thumb against it feeling nothing.

Soon he chose to break the silence “I’m Ambrose by the way in case you fear riding with nameless strangers. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you that before. It seems stupid now, but…”

She could feel his eyes on her back, waiting, wanting to ask more, to know. “Neave. My name is Neave.”

“Are your folks Irish?”

Neave shifted again so she could face him.

“I think they just liked the name. It isn’t spelled like you would if it was Irish. What about you, were your parents religious? Were you named like after Saint Ambrose?”

He laughed and his laughter was even hoarser than his voice. “No, they were not that religious. I like to think Ambrose Bierce served for inspiration. My mother…she was a scholar. She taught Latin and Greek almost her entire life. That and maybe she thought the name sounded posh.”

Ambrose cleared his throat, his grin waning away. His lips became thin, the lines around them more pronounced now that the dimples of his smile were gone. His eyes under a furrowed brow returned to the road.

Neave disregarded her own half-smile and returned her attention to the dial. Time had scarcely passed since they had left the near accident. “Where are we?”

 “Just outside of Tallbridge. See there? That’s Wrell mountain. People sometimes call it “the moaning mountain” because of how the wind whistles through the valleys.”

Neave inched in her seat, inclining her head to catch the slowly rising hills in the distance. There was not a flicker of light there and the mountain looked wild and undisturbed, but she knew of villages hidden within its folds.

 “Inside the cave lived a Fox.”

Ambrose looked at her. “I’m sorry?”

“It’s an old story my grandmother used to tell. Local folklore I think. I remember it originated in a village somewhere high in the mountain.”

Ambrose steered the car left leaving the main road. The tires hit gravel and they started to climb a narrow dirt road between the trees. “What is it about?”

Neave shook her head. “Not sure. It was a really long time ago when I first heard it. I think it made me both scared and sad.” Her skin goosed up when she thought long and hard about it. It too was amiss, not fully formed, partial. Memories of the past were easier to access and process. The now was a blur haunted by them and not all were happy memories.

 “Here’s the house.”

The headlights broke through the dark revealing a small cottage visibly a faded white, a side of it overgrown with ivy, red and brown and orange, an Autumn coat. It had been here for a long time and Neave could sense the coziness it provided along with seclusion. She followed Ambrose through the dark alley, tiny sharp rocks sticking in her soles, and past the makeshift swing still wet with tiny droplets. The light and warmth seeping from inside the house came with a voice.

“Where the hell have you been? I tried calling but you’ve left your phone and…”

Neave shut the door behind her awkwardly stepping inside and facing the petite woman with her arms akimbo.

“Who’s this?”

“Sierra this is Neave. I nearly ran her over on the farm road.”

Sierra’s face changed. She took hold of Neave and led her further into the living room sitting her down on the coach by the fireplace.

“What were you doing at this hour in the fields?”

Neave took the warmth of the fire for a second to defrost her thoughts.

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

Ambrose sitting across from her shook his head in dismay. “You never said…I assumed…”

“You never asked.”  She still wore his coat and it was enough but Ambrose was pale, wet strands of hair falling in his dark eyes.

Sierra reached over to the cabinet placed between the couch and the armchair and produced a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of red wine. She poured a healthy dose for Neave, none for herself and for Ambrose filled an elegant glass with the wine.

The alcohol burned her throat, not a sensation Neave was used to. It loosened her and the fire, the stillness of everything around her, the disappearing numbness from fingers and limbs altogether softened her. She glanced at the phone hanging on the wall, a landline most definitely dead and then at their phones on display on the table. There was no one to call however. Relationships were strained, a thread of her memory knew that.

“Do you want to?” Ambrose asked, his voice gentle.

“I don’t want to bother anyone.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Sierra probed.

“Nothing. I find only nothingness and the more I try to remember the more distant I feel.”

Sierra found her hand, warm against her still cold one. “Think hard. Last image, last sound.” Ambrose lighted a candle and placed it on the table in front of Neave. The scent filled her nostrils, sweet and heavy. She inserted it into herself within seconds, deep breaths to calm herself bringing more of the opium scent into her body and mind.

Neave closed her eyes following Sierra’s voice to continue breathing deep. She could hear a door getting closed, the rattle of a key chain, the muffled barks of a dog behind that door.

“It’s my house in Lowview.” It was her hand closing the door, turning the key. “I’m at the door and Enok is barking.”

“How does your door look? Describe it to me.” Sierra said.

“It’s just a normal door. White but the paint around the handle is peeling and you can see the original green underneath it. It has scratch marks from Enok, deep into the wood.”

“Is there a date somewhere?”

A car had unlocked behind her and the key was in her hand. She was walking towards it, climbing in it, starting it. The dial caught her attention. “October 16th,” she whispered.

The scent was removed from her and replaced by that of burning wood and sharp whiskey.

“There is your start. But you’re still missing three days and they seem gone for good.” Sierra blew the candle free of its dancing flame.

Neave shook her head feeling lonely without Enok. How could she forget about Enok?

‘The way I see it you have two choices,” Ambrose said rubbing his greying goatee. “You could go home tomorrow, forget all about this and return to normal. Call it an episode.” He swirled the dark red wine in its thin glass. “Or you could try to discover where you went and what you did during those three days.”

“I told you, I want to go home.” She spoke with urgency, one that threatened to tumble-down what little defence she had left.

He cocked his head to one side. “But aren’t you curious?”

Neave remembered the thing that was amiss, her fingers closing in on thin air hoping to grab something that wasn’t there but had been.

Ambrose stood up and circled around the couch she was sitting in. His hand fell heavy on her shoulder, the squeeze a new seal.

“Tomorrow we’ll find out what happened. You have my word.”

Chapter 3

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Inside the cave lived a Fox – Chapter 1

foxo2n

The lash of the rain was harsh against her face, the droplets like needles against her skin as she ran. Knee-high streaks of wheat, drowned in the downpour earlier, lolled via the rushing she made as she slipped on fresh mud, white sneakers dipped from sole to laces. She battled her way through the bleak grounds, cowering away from the grey clouds and the low rumble hidden within them waiting as if to unleash full power, a thunderous roar to echo through the empty unobstructed air and space above and around her.

Her eyes managed to spot a wide patch bald with the lack of useless crops swaying. It seemed to hover with low settled fog on what appeared the edge of the field. She went to it and took down from mud to asphalt darkened by the rain in one swift step. Then there were lights approaching fast without the alert of a signal. The shift from dreary dark to illuminating xenon turned her to a frightened deer staring at death. The signal finally came and her teeth began chattering, a previously unknown cold settling in her bones and weakening them.

The entire torso of the car took to the left, the screech of tires against the slippery road canceling the rain fully. Acceleration carried the car and it zigzagged towards her unavoidably. Her eyes blinked away the seconds of artificial blindness, the deer becoming a rabbit hurrying to escape. She feared, blood pressure rising, ears burning. Her knees buckled and she tumbled backwards returning to mud, grabbing fistfuls of it amidst bouquets of wheat cutting through her fingers.

The rain was light, a pitter-patter on her face as she lay in the soft bed of earth, her form sinking into it, molding with it. In her eye, the sky previously one equal gray horizon to horizon, was now curling up, rolling onto an invisible spindle layer by layer of white, gray and black. It reminded her of cotton candy heavily colored by those inks the Japanese use to make their burger buns and ice creams black. But it was a cell storm consuming the sky, sucking each and every cloud into its gaping hole to spin and spin and spin it until there was no sky and it was a storm on a spindle the dome above. Against it a voice shouted trying to overcome the winds that picked up to rotate this heavenly carousel.

“Are you alright? Can you stand up?”

She spotted a man hovering above her but his face was blank and his voice was low and gruff. He put out a hand for her to take.

“I won’t hurt you. Please, take my hand.”

Just like that she was stood up from her bed of earth and took back to the road where the car stood sideways, an ugly skid mark marking its dangerous path.

“You jumped out of nowhere. I nearly ran over you,” the tall stranger said. He stood at a careful distance shadowed by his headlights, the voice of a silhouette and waited for her to speak up, to explain.

“I suppose I did. Sorry, I didn’t know whether it was a road or more wheat. It was hard to see.”

“I startled you.” It wasn’t a suggestion and she confirmed it with a slight nod. Her hands went to her hair, messy and tick with mud. She dropped them to her pockets instead unsure of what to do.

He pointed at her arm and she found a skid mark all of her own, red and raw under the torn cloth on her elbow.

“Do you want to go to a hospital?”

The pain was absent but it would come soon enough, she knew. It was quickly ignored as there was a greater need tugging at her from the depth of her being, a destination more alluring than any other. “I want to go home,” she told the man.

He slipped off his coat and passed it on to her. She breathed in a distinct tobacco soaked in chocolate and underneath it a lingering scent of earth, pines and ash mixed with the man’s own cologne. She pulled it close against her damp body.

“I see. That’s alright, that’s fine. I can drive you there if you just tell me where you live.”

The where was nonexistent in her mind for moments that made her feel light-headed and distant. She looked frantically about at the nothingness stretched from where she’d emerged to where to road disappeared in fog and darkness. Home was a place that she needed to find and it existed in her consciousness but its shape and form were gone. The man caught on her confusion and gestured for her to enter the car sealing his intentions to bring her back to where she belonged. The leathery interior was instantly warmer and the soft tap of the windshield wipers against the steamy window and the low volume rumble of the radio slowly drifted her back to her own world.

“Lowview. I live in Lowview.”

He had climbed beside her, shaking the rain and cold away. The doors were closed and the dark interior lighted up. She waited for his reply, to confirm that the destination she had named was a real one. He slicked back his salt and pepper hair and tucked strands behind his ear. His eyes, perhaps dark brown were soft and friendly.

“Lowview is about a four-hour drive from here. If we head there now I’ll be able to drop you off early morning but with the weather forecast…I don’t know. There’s more of this storm to come and we might end up getting trapped on the road. These country roads flood in the blink of an eye dragging mud and branches, whole trees too and sometimes dead cattle. Lambs, I’ve seen. Chickens too, poor things.”

“There was a cell storm,” she said trying to imagine the Biblical flood it would cause. It would swipe them where they stood into a vortex of limbs and roots. Her head throbbed. The clock on the dashboard blinked and the digital numbers told her it was nearly 2 A.M. and the night was just getting dark and darker for the lack of stars and Moon.

 “Listen. I have a house nearby. If you want you can spend the night there, get yourself cleaned up and get some rest and in the morning I’ll drive you to Lowview.”

“I should be home.”

But she wasn’t. She gazed out the window steamy and spattered with raindrops. The world had disappeared completely and its bleakness was renewed with the start of fresh rain of rounder, heavier droplets which began to rattle against the hood. There was only her and the stranger, a proposition awaiting a decline or an acceptance. He would go and she with him, or she would exit the car and start up or down the road seeking the way home.

“In the morning you’ll drive me to Lowview,” she repeated his words at him to seal the deal. He drew a cross, ghosting his fingers against his chest.

“You have my word.”

Chapter 2

Melting for you

Last Christmas…and the Christmas before that….and the one before it, these were the stories. They might be better than this one:

A Christmas Horrortale

Neon Claus

Christmas at Granny Rose

Happy holidays & a Merry Christmas! Xx

snowman

Photo courtesy of friends. You know who you are!

 

Before dinner on Christmas Day, the children of the Flinchers, Milly and Anthony began a simple game of snow angel making in the front yard.

Patrick Flincher, their father, had decided that in these final days of 2016 he would be a risk taker. He would “go for it” and live dangerously, thus becoming one of the cool dads. Christmas didn’t frighten him this year – no giant spiders, no Neon Santa, no ghosts in the supermarket would put him down and make him shun the Christmas spirit away. He had convinced the rest of the Flinchers that giving in to the festivity was a great idea.

So while he was reclining brazenly with his much deserved cup of eggnog and Mrs. Flincher was putting the turkey in the oven, the children accepting their father’s new found motto of Christmas bravery, competed out of breath forgetting all the past horrortales they had lived through.

Milly and Anthony decided the traditional snow angel was a bore to make so instead they began building an angel out of ice. There was plenty of that hidden underneath the heaps of snow.

“It doesn’t look like an angel,” Anthony complained staring at the misshapen figure in the middle of the yard.

“Yes it does,” his sister protested. “This is its left wing and this, its right. And this is its gown.” On the thin ice pieces, jagged and uneven protruding flat from its blocky body, Milly scattered the snow she had gathered in her gloved palms. It stuck to the transparent surface and became one with it. Milly scooped more snow and scattered it generously again and again and again until the wings such as they were and the blocky body already wearing a skirt of dulled snow at its base were nearly white and semi-translucent.

“But we don’t have a head!” Anthony protested as he was shaking off the snow from his hat.

Milly skipped and slid through the yard and kicked here and there for hidden ice while her brother laughed and poorly sang a quickly made up song of her futile task. Her boot however connected with one of the rainwater pipes and while she whimpered in pain, the pipe rattled spitting out a halo of ice with its stalactite icicles. Milly picked it up and examined how symmetrical and smooth it was. She then skipped back to her angel sculpture and carefully placed the halo on the top of the statue. Now it had two long and one short icicles for a beard and a transparent face through which light could shine. But it was missing something. Milly snatched her brother’s hat and placed it atop the halo.

“It’ll melt,” he murmured thinking the angel was too girly even with his hat on. It was small and odd with a head without a face, chipped wings that would break in the wind, no hands or legs and a skirt made of hard snow. It looked like nothing. Milly was thrilled by their creation. She stared at it for the longest time when Mrs. Flincher called them inside for dinner. She was quite proud of their ice angel.

***

Later that evening, the ice angel hopped on the rooftop of the Flincher house and sat there contemplating why the children had neglected to give it arms. It was in a desperate need to light a smoke and melt its head off and be done with this “alive with the spirit of Christmas” ordeal. It could only slightly play with the hat the girl had given him by poking at the fluffy ball hanging on its tip with its icicles. The angel could hear the Flinchers still talking down in the house and instead busied itself with their conversation.

 “What is it, Mr. Flincher?” Mrs. Flincher was asking.

“There’s a snowman staring at me. Look, just across the street. It’s grinning!”

There was a rustle and the large living room curtain was pulled.

“We should run, shouldn’t we?” Mrs. Flincher was whispering.

Mr. Flincher snorted. “Nonsense. Don’t be silly, I’m being silly. It’s just a regular, ol’ snowman that someone built…”

The angel stood on the edge of the rooftop looking about the place. It could just make out a large form across the street where the forest began. It counted three balls, one large, one medium, one small and could just see the beady dark eyes reflecting the street lamp in a fiery orange. Father Flincher was wrong, the angel knew it. The snowman wasn’t just any snowman. It was alive with the spirit of Christmas but in a reverse way, the bad way. It had left a trail behind it when that big bottom ball of ice and horror had rolled the snowman through the forest and to the front yard of the Flinchers to grin at them.

“Well I bet…I bet I can go out there and tell him to be on his way and wish him a happy Christmas,” Mr. Flincher was saying. The angel could hear the tremble in his voice.

Mrs. Flincher tutted. It was a loud tut. “Do you really think you’ll scare him Mr. Flincher and he’ll just burst into a million tiny snowflakes?”

The ice angel decided it would like to see that. It hopped down from the rooftop and flapped its stiff uneven wings into the darkness outside of the perimeter shined by yellow, red, blue and green Christmas lights. It glided above the snowman and ducked in the shadows behind it. It could barely contain its laughter.

In minutes Mr. Flincher left the house carrying a steaming pot with his Santa Claus mitts. He slid and slipped sloshing boiling water that hissed and made holes in the snow.

The snowman, the leer on his plump face gone after seeing the approaching danger, tried to roll back the way it had come but something blocked its way. Angrily the snowman spun his head around and sharp toothed looked down at the angel with its sharp icicle beard. The snowman roared and thrust his full weight at the tiny angel. Its wing broke and its base cracked underneath the snow coat but it stood its icy ground and poked the giant creature with its icicles.

Patrick Flincher came just on time to throw the boiling water at the snowman’s face. It shrieked and started grabbing chunks of its melting face with thin wooden hands and tried to put them back blindly, but the snow turned to water and it drooled through its core collapsing the snowman ball by ball. The angel dragged itself out of the rubble but it too had met with the boiling water and had melted halfway.

“Thank you little ice angel. For not trying to kill me that is. And for helping.”

The ice angel managed a nod with its broken halo head before it too collapsed to nothing but jagged pieces of ice.

Patrick bent down and picked Anthony’s hat patting off bits of ice and layers of snow off of it. He had survived yet another Christmas and he had been brazen about it, though running through his yard in his slippers with Santa mitts and a pot of hot water was an image far away from looking like a heroic one. He could now add to the list of supernatural Christmas disasters an abominable snowman and a headless ice angel, though the latter had actually tried to help him. He had Milly and Anthony to thank for that. Also he had to explain why their ice angel was gone.

Cara

untitled_drawing_by_cindyvaskova-daq7ftha

Excuse the ugly art

Someone had won at cards it seemed; a boisterous laughter erupted from the next hall, brightly lighted and dimmed by cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes. I wasn’t any good at poker, the cards always mere pieces of paper in my unpolished/unskilled hand. My friend Amory however was a passionate player. He lingered his stare awhile longer at the closed door unamused by the win; he had taken the gentlemen’s money one too many times now. His voice broke me of my reverie.

‘Good God, that girl is practically staring at you.”

I followed his amused gaze. He was right, my companion. She was and her stare was not a casual one; it was curious, more even – lusting. I knew such things as I was partially their creator. But she, sweet, sweet Cara was seventeen and I, 46. This was not entirely Venice and we weren’t in the midst of death, though the comparison that came to mind of that Mann novelette was not far-fetched – she was something new, seemingly orchestrated by either Gods or demons as her skin was marble, her hair was silk, and her eyes were made of the brightest green glass, and I myself was death incarnate, an occult symbol coated in a suave skin.

“Your eyes are taking up a different shade my friend, one that would not suit the evening.”

Yet again my companion was right. I dabbed at my swollen, red irises with a handkerchief and glimpsed at my face in the provided small mirror seeking the light blue gaze of the man in me, the 46-year old whose throat was dry at the sight of her.

“My apologies,” I splashed tipping the remains of my glass in my burning throat.

“None needed. She is an example for higher praise.”

“I shall take her not. We are both here to conduct an investigation.”

My companion laughed.

“Is that said for my or your reassurance?”

I bowed my head to him and left him to drown his laughter in the wine. He was thinking our trip amusing; I would have too if it weren’t for our missing friend.

The luxurious complex we were residing at along with a dozen wealthy families, politicians and famed artists stood guardian to all land as ahead was the sea, dark in the moonlight, as dark as blood. It was a cold December, colder than any previous I remembered lacking the gracious fall of minuscule snowflakes and orchestrating brutal winds to howl between the waves and at our doorstep. But inside it was a little paradise.

A simple vacation it would have been– tea and games, newspaper articles and tobacco, walks on the beach and shopping, theatre and sleep, but for me and my friend it was to be different. For the two of us it was a case, a crime, a ponder. Aside for maintaining our charm and friendliness we were to discover what had happened to a dear friend of ours in this very hotel just a week ago.

Me and Amory took separate rooms and bid the front desk to dismiss maids from entering. The solid bills rolling between thumb and forefinger had made the boy at the desk shy with red but only for a shallow second before he took it and hid in the pocket of his well-ironed vest.

Whilst Amory indulged – he liked the harsher gambling that went on in the darker hours and the imported hashish (he called that divine) that some of the gentlemen smoked in between sips of scotch – I sat most often in my room studying the panel of scarce clues we had pieced together.  I flattened the newspaper clippings we had collected in desperate search of some hint but the past week’s events from a stolen bicycle to a beached whale bore no signs of the occult. Home had not called upon Douglas itself.

At this point I had begun hoping he had drowned or fallen drunk off a cliff, but he remained an unknown man, not simply missing but non-existent. Over a week now he was neither to be summoned nor visualized at any plain. Had he been transcended? Was that possible? Such silly thoughts amused Amory who gave up on our task soon enough.

We sat on the terrace neither of us shivering like the rest of the early birds went out to enjoy the breeze and pale sun.

 “Why do we even continue? I’ve never much liked Douglas anyways.”

 I sighed and took a long swallow feeling the burn of the tea seep through my teeth. It was much too sweet.

“He is our brother before all else.”

“A poor pup always wailing for this and that. Nay, a mutt. We’re not like him, why should we care?”

Amory leaned towards me, his eyes the awful shade we tried to hide.

“Calm down, Amory. He may be a runt and yet again he is one of us. I simply want to know what happened to him. Aren’t you curious? This disappearance seems queer to me. No signs, no claims and yet…”

“Douglas is gone without a trace.” Amory finished for me. “Be it so. If he wishes to be gone let him be so. I say we enjoy this trip while it lasts. We’ve earned it.”

What if it hadn’t been his decision, I wanted to say but stood down. And soon apathy stood up and took over me. Staring at newspapers and photographs, searching for signs tired me. It was tedious and inane and after two weeks I took to Amory’s advice – I became native to the hotel and its inhabitants. I blended in to the point where I forgot why I was there, the task a peripheral activity that soon died away with the pull of the waves. And since Amory had gone too, I assumed adventuring far and wide before going home, I had no one to pull me away from my melancholy and assumed identity. No one except sweet Cara.

Part 2

Brief dreams

Her palm displayed tiny purple crescent shaped marks where her jagged nails had dug into her wind bruised skin. She traced them, the slowly fading proof of her anxiety and allowed her lungs a long intake of the sharp October air. Long night, time to go home, she thought. She toyed with the car keys in her parka pocket, squeezing the furry key chain through the fabric. A talisman, a memory. The simple motion eased her mind, relaxed her shoulders. Tugging her scarf securely around her neck she made her way towards her cab. Lights off, interior coated in dark. No, some light on, the lamp. The dark is too close still. Amelia listened to the engine. It was barely above the prolonged silence around her. No, not home. Not yet.

She parked the cab in front of the bar two blocks away from her apartment complex.

“Double,” she announced to the empty stools and the single woman working behind the bar. Dead night, cold weather. Not a soul to stay.

“Hey there. You’re early off tonight. Long shift?”

 “Bad dream,” Amelia said, her voice hoarse. “A Lucid dream,” she added as she sat on the bar shivering from the adjustment of her cold cab and cold street to the booze fragranced coziness of the bar.

“A what?” Keely looked at her through the poor kaleidoscope created by a beer pitcher.

“Lucid dream. When you know that you are dreaming in your dream.”

Keely made a notable noise.

“I’ve heard about those. Some freaky shit, right? You want some coffee?”

Amelia shook her head.

“Something stronger and double. Has it ever happened to you?”

A shrug. She wore a lazy smile unscathed by bad dreams.

“You want to tell me about it?”

Amelia took the drink with thanks. It was over in one thirsty swallow. Amelia hadn’t realized how much she needed it.

“Not really.” She paused staring into the empty glass waiting for the burn to settle in her stomach and warm it. “Can I have another?”

The bottle tipped over the small glass pouring to the edge.

“It made me think of another…dream. I don’t know what to call it. All too real but still impossible. Lucid again? I don’t know. Funny I remembered it today or at all. It happened when I was about eight.”

“Was it a nightmare too?”

Amelia pressed two fingers on the spot between her eyes. Bullseye she thought as she massaged the throbbing dot.

“Most of my dreams are nightmares I think.” She smiled bittersweet, returning the condoling smile Keely offered her. “That one was different. For a long time I thought it wasn’t just a weird progression of my dream, that I had actually been awake in my room having all these thoughts and emotions. Being so scared…How could it have been a dream?”

Keely poured herself some of the same and joined Amelia with a small clink of glass on glass. “So, tell me about it.”

The noise had stirred Amelia from her sleep. It first existed there, tugging at her from the depths of her colorful REM, pretentious and demanding attention, averting Amelia’s thoughts from innocence to worry. If the noise was the music of her dream, Amelia wished it go away. But it persisted and she felt herself snuggle tighter against her blanket, the dream nearly over. She awoke, whatever sleep was left rolling off her eyelids like tears. The room was as it should, dark and hushed and after moments Amelia could see the outlines of her toys and her desk, and the wardrobe tightly shut. But she could also hear the noise and it wasn’t a part of her dream anymore. It was real. And it was coming from outside.

Amelia’s wide eyes traveled to the window. She pushed up the safety of the blanket and got up. The noise was outside but it vibrated heavily inside her, hurting her chest. The want to call for her mother or father was etched on her face, but Amelia found herself climbing on the window ledge, tiny feet and sweaty toes, small fingers clutching the windowpane.

From her window she could clearly see past the neat little garden and onto the brightly lit street visible through the naked autumn trees. There was a procession of seven hooded people walking up the street. They cast strange shadows and the more Amelia watched them, the more they seemed to be moving backwards, convulsing from some strain to detach themselves from their people. The street lights became hushed, faint with ill yellow light. As the group proceeded their shadows lagged back until they disappeared. Shadowless the figures glided further.

Amelia knew they carried the noise. At first it was a chant, a low gibberish sounding one, wordless words that came in whistles and breathy whispers, choked syllables that frightened her, just like in her dream, but now Amelia could understand them and they called upon The Witch. They didn’t seem to have faces underneath the brown hoods and Amelia wondered where the sound came from. It grew so strong her whole body began hurting. She opened her mouth to scream, but the thunder of their chant was so powerful, Amelia wasn’t sure she had made any noise at all.

The group of seven plucked their invisible hands deep into their robes and produced black candles which were lit and burned with the brightest and cruelest flame Amelia had seen.

The leading figure was taller than the rest. He was tightly bound in chains, visible pale hands clasped in a prayer close to his chest. With a gasp Amelia realized he was their prisoner. The chant flowed still, speaking words of blood magick and consecration, of his blood tasted on the old tongue of The Witch for immortality, for knowledge, for power.

It had become so cold not in her room but inside her. Amelia’s teeth chattered audibly. She didn’t want to hear no more of the bad words. They frightened her so much and brought impossible images into her mind which made her shiver. Her tiny voice rang out in a long and squeaky scream. The chant broke and the procession stopped. She counted seven heads turn towards her in unison. They stared she knew as she could feel whatever eyes were hidden beneath those hoods pierce her. Amelia thought she would wet herself.

She felt the tears, the huge wet droplets trickle down her freezing cheeks, the bubble of saliva forming on her thin pink lips, the running snot from her nose. She hoped they couldn’t see her truly, couldn’t hear her cry, the bad men, the evil women, the shapeless ones. But even if they had they slowly averted their concealed faces away from her. Only the tall figure watched her still. His hood slipped showing the faintest trace of blue lips on a pale skin. They curved into a smile for the shortest moment but she caught the briefness of that contact. A smile, just for her. The prisoner turned his head away as the procession assumed their chanting glide along the asphalt. The street lights blinked away from submission. They lit the road as brightly as before.

“So, what happened next?”

Amelia pinned the last shot to her wet lips and tipped its continence down her sore throat.

“It was daytime. I don’t remember falling asleep. I don’t remember anything at all after that up until my mom came in the room.”

Keely dabbed her hands on a clean cloth. They were bright pink from the hot water she had been working ash trays underneath.

“It’s creepy, I’ll give you that. But you know how they say we don’t remember things accurately. Our minds easily trick us with false information. I betcha’ something like that happened to you.”

Amelia jiggled her car keys in her pocket feeling for the lucky key chain. “Like I imagined it?”

“Yeah, maybe. Otherwise…” Keely left her thought unfinished. She circled the bar and reached for the small button shutting off the “Last call for alcohol” blue neon sign hanging above the bar. She put an arm around Amelia and the two went out into the damp autumn cold.

 “You want a ride?”

Keely shook her head as she worked the lock.

“I’m trying to walk more, get some exercise. Even downloaded some app on my phone measuring how many steps I’ve walked during the day.”

Amelia made a snorting sound.

“We’ll see who’s laughing when your ass can’t fit into that cab seat no more.”

Amelia chuckled and waved Keely a good-bye.

“Amy?”

She followed the voice back to her friend. Keely, skinny frame huddled in a large jacket, looking at her with those silver eyes.

 “I could be real. It could be that you lived through that and saw those people. Who knows? It shouldn’t be denied as a possibility. I get told many stories when I’m behind that bar but they are hardly ever sincere. They are mangled, put through a grinder. None of them sound possible. You got emotional when you told yours. I trust emotions like that, especially fear. Fear is possible. So, I believe you.”

Amelia took a step back from her cab. “You believe my dream was real? Or that it’s just a story?”

Keely shrugged. Neither.

“I believe that you saw those people and they saw you. Goodnight, Amy.”

Keely’s fingers gestured a wave and she disappeared behind the corner. Amelia pulled the key chain from her pocket and unlocked the cab. She slipped inside its unwelcoming coldness and sat there while the lights changed red to yellow to green and again. There was a burning tingle in her palm like sharp needles. When she eased her fingers loose the purple crescent marks had reappeared.

 

 

Thoughtless

After numerous attempts I still have no idea how exactly to flow a sestina poem but that said here is one with all its flaws


[OC] from an art installation titled “Les Bourgeois de Calais”

Illuminating – so was the spark that set from the shadows of their life

But it is gone now, just like those first of us who wielded falsely the Hammer.

And they just taught to crawl and quickly taught self how to fight and express through tears.

We never fully gave real meaning to their dreams,

and thus we left them uneducated and struggling to comprehend the misshapen Law.

We made them to be of savage and brute, and man was their name, and we were their god.

*

Time passed and come suddenly no noise, no light above, so we the God

we found that in the hush the biggest lie awaits, and we spoke tenderly their dreams.

But naught yielded and we brushed their dark away, lifting what was left of the Law

and we saw that the truth cannot be heard, but seen in red tears.

In our millennial absence our bastard children had found the meaning of their life;

in our lack they had struck upon themselves the given, the all-shaping Hammer.

*

Woe that poor one whose flesh first bit the metal of the Hammer.

That Judgment came to us in bright flashes and we cried the same as them, in angry tears.

The darkness voiced with their primal thoughts, questioning lord given life.

We listened to those who had taken into their mouths the tongue with which to speak the law

and we all knelt in our defeat knowing we would be no more the gods

For we knew as we had known everything that they knew the verity behind dreams.

*

Today with smoke-stained fingers I give overpriced thoughts about dreams;

my boulevards cripple with foul income; I beg to hold the takers long, just to find some Life.

I cry soul to sleep, the reason the emptiness I see, wishing I can save them with my tears.

Even in my outspoken rambles I don’t own the strength to tell the truth about the hammer

tonight, who am I to turn to if I were the God?

For a curse the broken glass at my feet and the drink on my lips won’t bring the law.

*

Because if they did then it’ll all be gone, forgotten, as such is the truth of the Law.

Instead many a day and night I stay too long to see retried all these dreams.

But there is nothing of change; once long ago we gave them, we the impatient gods

and they took them and tore at them bloody bringing down in a blinding fury the hammer.

So blame who  – I, we as the brute for once giving it or they – all too greedy for taking the life?

I will stand here last, full of trepidation to learn of the answer kept by this future of tears

*

It has been unkind – maybe I should seek some redemption instead of wiping its tears

But you should know prophets are broken, we bleed, we’re no gods

We were handed nothing but fear and to nail our halos a broken hammer

I remember us beautiful and us many and giving all of ourselves for an absolute Law

Now at night I pray silent to have them once more back in the briefest of dreams.

But I’ve cut off my wings and I’ve sold them for this flimsier life

*

I burn with all of my tears and point my trembling finger at all those who walk as it is them to blame, the new gods, those who shaped their dreams.  They picked for each fall of the hammer, and chose whether to value or not both life and the law.

Baby I Call Hell

 

“Babe, could you please check outside?”

Beck sighed as he picked up the two cups of tea and carried them back to the small table in front of the couch. His foot caught on the bear rug’s protruding ears and he cursed his father again for buying the thing.

He set the two steaming cups down and bent to kiss Rain’s forehead before settling next to her.

“There’s nothing out there Rai, just shadows and branches playing tricks. I’m starting to regret we watched “Poltergeist”. I didn’t think it would upset you this much.”

“No, it’s not the movie. I just feel weird, like…someone’s watching.” Rain nuzzled into his embrace but she kept looking at the window.

“What do you mean?”

“Every time I look away it seems like something is moving out there and I can kind of see it out of the corner of my eye. It sounds silly, I know.”

Beck grinned against Rain’s neck, his short beard tickling her.

“Well if someone is watching what do you say we show them something worth staring at?”

“Creative, are we now?” Rai smiled too and lifted her head up to kiss Beck. He hugged her tighter.

“There’s nothing to worry about, I promise. It’s just us here. Try not to think about it.”

Rain turned her gaze from the window neither of them speaking for a brief. Only the fire crackled in the fireplace. Her eyes seemed to fill up with tears the longer she stared at the flames.

“Is it always so quiet up here?” Rai asked in a hushed voice.

“I don’t know. I have never really thought about it.” Beck found that he was whispering too.

Then a loud bump outside made Rain jump. She sat up sharp, heart thumping loudly in her chest.

“What was that?”

The two stared out into the darkness through the tall windows, but nothing came into the light. Beck shifted behind her and stood up.

“I’ll go check it.”

Rain caught his hand. “What if you get hurt? What if there’s someone out there trying to rob us, or kill us, or…”

Beck smiled reassuringly interrupting Rai’s growing panic.

“It’s probably just some animal ransacking the trash. Don’t worry.”

When Beck released her from his warm and secure embrace, and left her alone in the room, Rai regretted making him go. She wrapped the blanket tightly around herself and waited.

***

Beck pulled his phone from his pocket and turned the flashlight app on.

It was cool outside, but there was a rank animal smell going about the place. The forest itself smelled foul instead of fresh, the fragrance of rotting leafs permeating above all.

A cloud drifted and parted way for the blue light of the moon. It put a ghostlike filter on the Alaskan forest and Beck shivered; it suddenly became colder.

But still he took slow steps and moved the light as gently as he could, trying not to startle any animal that might have hidden itself in the shadows. He found no glimmering eyes in the darkness, no reflection. He listened for scuttling sounds, little paws tapping on the hardened ground but there were none. The trash was also intact.

The quiet was dense, Beck noticed; it put a pressure on his ears and Beck wondered whether he hadn’t gone deaf just there, awestruck by and respectful towards the choice of silence nature had made at this moment.

The forest was too quiet yes, but weren’t forests always? Weren’t they like that when you were staring too long, too much? Beck shook his head. It was as if all the trees froze from their cumbersome sway, not a leaf shivering. It was like the collective of them took a deep breath and held it while he watched searching for something to move, to startle him, to chase him.

And Beck knew that when he turned his back it would exhale, a loud whistle through the branches and the wind would pick up its game and the eyes will snap open and the beasts would leap.

Beck stood there eyes still fixed on the trees. With his back to the house he couldn’t see Rai, but he called for her.

“See, told you – nothing. It’s just the forest…breathing.” He mumbled the last word to himself.

He thought what it would be like to run into the forest without the assurance of light and his heart beat loudly in his chest. He dismissed the idea, nauseated by it and the gaping darkness that could swallow him. Beck turned around and soon skipped up the steps to the villa, flickering through his phone as he went back inside, mind absent.

He cleared his throat before speaking. “It could have been a branch that snapped earlier.”

When Rain didn’t answer he looked up from his phone. It slipped from his fingers.

The bear rug was eating Rain. It had its front paws propped on the sofa, and half of Rain’s torso was inside its mouth, the faux fabric filling in with her lower limbs. Her eyes looked past him, a vague shine in their dead, white space; her pale face was sprayed with blood. She was dead. Beck hadn’t even heard a scream.

The bear rug crunched through Rain’s bones like twigs, gobbling her up whole, pale fingers disappearing last inside the maw.

Then it burped and turned its glossed marble eyes towards Beck. Outside the forest swayed and snapped its branches wildly.