Susan’s husband committed suicide. The damning act came out of nowhere. A blow to the heart and soul of those he left behind. A new marriage, a promising career, a happy newlywed family with nothing but life ahead of them. But, like many happily ever afters, theirs carried a hidden, tragic flaw. And in the months following the suicide, the grieving woman searched deep within her soul to grasp that flaw and put to order the chaos in her heart and mind.
But nothing seemed to work. Every inch of the house brought to the fore memories of the happy life the couple shared.
Pictures from the wedding. The first time in her life she was able to look in the mirror and say to herself ‘You are lovely’. And Robbie – so handsome in the black and teal formal. He even wore the tiny silk flower her sister had made for him, pinning it on his lapel and kissing him on the cheek.
Her family loved Robbie. The adoration lofted his way was pure magic. Her sister was fond of joking that ‘Had Susan not caught him first…’ Everyone loved Robbie. But not like she. From deep within her heart, she knew no one had ever loved another like she loved her darling soul mate. And now he was gone. Forever stolen from her vision, but never from her heart.
She vowed on his coffin she would never love again.
Her mind made certain of that vow, slowly bending under the pain of loss until it silently snapped one night as she clutched Robbie’s picture tightly to her breast. She felt it go. Felt the numbing trickle down her arms, and her face go slack. The loss was too much. She couldn’t bear to face life without her darling husband.
Her numb legs allowed her to climb the stairs to the attic. If it was good enough for Robbie, it was good enough for her. The bare bulb swung from the large rafter in the sweltering room. Next to the bulb was the exact spot Robbie’s noose dripped from – his neck broken, his breath and life stolen. Susan’s resolve caved and understood, full well, that spot would hold her own death-necklace. The broken wife would call it a poetic ending and rejoin the love of her life in heaven.
Or would she? Would heaven admit the Suiciders? She wasn’t sure. Confusion wracked her brain and squeezed the very blood from her heart. Could it be her angel was rotting in hell? If that be the case then her quest would be to save him from an eternal struggle. Surely their love could battle the demons of Hades and carry them safely across the veil of sorrow.
The time for questioning was over. All that existed was a dark desire to rejoin Robbie and to Hell with all else.
Susan tossed the rope over the beam and formed the noose. She grabbed the lone chair that her darling dearest kicked out from his very feet and placed it directly under the rope. She climbed onto the chair, pulled the noose over her head, said a prayer, and kicked the chair away. The rope immediately dug deep into the flesh of her neck. The fall wasn’t forceful enough to snap bone and vein. The noose, however, was tight enough to end the passage of life-giving oxygen.
The attic scene faded in and out. A strange whisper tickled her hearing. The words weren’t clear, but the lilt and timbre of the tone was familiar. As she swayed side to side, back and forth, her hands and feet grew unfamiliar – as if they had been lost and reattached.
Again, the voice danced about the space around her head. Susan strained her neck in a vain attempt to discern the words and meaning. Each time she twisted her suffering neck, a thrumming hum overtook every sensation. She tried to cry out, but the serpentine cord prevented sound from escaping her throat.
As she silently swung her feet kicked madly. The heel of her shoe connected with a box. The box tilted and came to rest back in place. Again the foot bumped the aged cardboard, only this time the box upended and dumped its contents to the floor. Pictures spilled out in an array of colors and memories. Pictures of family, pictures of vacations, of love and laughter. Of the many moments spilled onto the wood of the attic floor, it was the pictures of her darling husband and her baby sister that caught her eye.
Kissing. Fondling. Loving.
As her vision began to tunnel, the last memory she would take into whatever afterlife was offered, was the image of her husband and her sister making the shape of a heart with their hands.
~ Jack Wallen
© Copyright 2012 Jack Wallen. All Rights Reserved.
Sit before the Tale Weaver.
Through this open sash wafts the spice of golden autumn, yet lulled into complacency dare be not. A harbinger, this essence, of sinister entities soon to stalk the sanctity of your threshold. Hastened your pulse, and so should it be. For in due time the graveyards beyond shall be born once more. My skeletal hand now take, and open your dormant senses to such truths as only the Tale Weaver can reveal. Yes. Yessss. One foot fore the other; step now from my tenebrous haunt.
Behold my playground! Behold the majesty of rot neath your apprehensive feet, these glorious, rusted arches serving as gateways for the dead. Across the chilled flesh of your cheek doth flit moonlight embers, or so your consciousness should have you believe. Tis the fingers of lost souls caressing your countenance, mourning the shell of humanity you now possess. This wayward wind aches under the weight of their listless repose; cease the shuddering of your limbs and heed their moans! As you are now so once were they; for what they are now so soon shall you be. Death, perhaps for you, is final, yet for these entities only in death do they flourish.
Cautious, ever cautious should you step tween the ever-sentient monuments and moss crusted sepulchers; their domain you tread. Respect these hallowed grounds, respect this kingdom of decay, for to the purveyors of putrefaction tis their crown jewel. The swirling mist; it jerks at your wrist, starving and desperate for your attention. Yes, ignorant one, tis the dead! They watch us…watch you…their doleful eyes shimmering tween the slender silvered cobwebs of the tombs. Their tendrils seek you, enamored with the stink of humanity, and in slow solitaire turns do they wish to dance at your side, their darkened cathedral of sorrow echoing with the strained chords of the damned.
The pathways, the hills, teeming with specters of eras long gone; this necropolis of the horrific busying itself for its grandest day — All Hallows Eve — so bear witness the blessings of death these hapless beings do perceive. In turn, treasure your own worthless existence and end your common grievances, lest you return, doomed and fated to roam deeper chasms of despair than you can possibly comprehend.
Your attention…drawn to the small clearing just yonder. Investigate you may; the ghouls I shall restrain whilst you stride tween the jagged teeth of plot and stone. Yet you turn to me, confusion etched deep into your brow. Aye, tis what you believe it to be…here the obscure sorrow more profound than anywhere else…here the cloying agony more suffocating than anywhere else…here the tiny monuments adorned with docile lambs, yet greater in stature than anywhere else…the final resting place for the young souls given no choice tween exemption and sin.
Dare not judge me, for your God I am not and do not wish to be. Even I cannot fathom the laws of what you call fate; aye, nor abide by its rules if I could. But these younglings I do watch from the distance, ever mindful of their misplaced light in this land so very lost.
You hear her, do you not? The long, drawn mewls of agony and torturous sobbings of a heart long since raped; tis the guardian of these younglings, there…there…tattered wings draped in black strands over the faceless, nameless tombstone upon which she perches. Yes…she…the dark angel for these beacons of light.
Gaze upon her grotesque beauty, this devourer of purity, yet your head turn from her tears. Her anguish respect. Protects these younglings at all costs and yet mourns her greatest loss, this dark angel does. I speak of a soul abandoned by its Maker; a soul denied entry by equal parts Heaven and Hell. A soul delivered from the abyss, cast back to the abyss. For eternity has the dark angel brooded upon her cold throne of shattered dreams, compassionately embracing the young that seek comfort at her thorn laced feet whilst inconsolable her own charred essence bleeds dry. For eternity agonizing over the light left unclaimed as her own.
The dark angel seethes – such is the price of unsatiated grief. Mouth jagged, a twisted hole of silent fury; swarthy locks entombing stricken face. Yearning, yearning for the sunbeam she may never hold. Beautiful, wondrous and macabrely awful…the dark angel bemoans what is beyond even my capacity.
Leave now. I command – leave now! Across unholy crypts do run with tail tween legs, and pray your ragged breath not be stolen by the ghouls at your heels. No longer I offer protection; no longer your welcome honored in our sanctuary of desolation. For on this Stygian night the abomination I am becomes something wholly else; only on this Stygian night do I ignore my own sentence of perpetual condemnation and become something other than the insidious being you loathe. Into these debased arms do I lift the dark angel and remove her from her watch. On this endless night of Stygian nights, protector I become. Upon my lap I lay her wicked head down, my sweet angel of depravity, and so she will mourn. And hold her evermore, until all that remains of us is the rot tween our bones.
Until next I summon you, be gone.
So the Tale Weaver speaks.
~ Joseph A. Pinto as the Tale Weaver
© Copyright 2012 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
As a proud participant in this years Coffin Hop 2012 blog tour, I’m giving away an e-copy of my novel Flowers for Evelene, plus a print copy of Twisted Realities: Of Myth and Monstrosity featuring my story Memorial.
If you’d like to be one of the winners of my give away, please leave a comment on this post, and on November 1st, two random recipients will be chosen.
Don’t forget to visit the rest of the Coffin Hoppers at coffinhop.wordpress.com!
The boys flock screeching to the locker room, their faces red and wild from the cold. One runs, arms outstretched, as though attempting to take-off. Another rushes, flapping, to his locker. A third hops onto the benches at the centre of the room and, his head thrown back, croons loudly. His throat swells, victorious; his was the winning football team.
One boy follows afterwards, calmly and more quietly than the rest. He does not screech or flap his arms, and if his face is red or wild from the cold, it is because it is his face, and helpless to be otherwise. He cannot change his face, although he has wished for this many times before.
The room fills with the flutter of sleeve arms as the boys begin to get changed. Socks grow long where they are pulled from the toes; longer, longer still, until they tear from ankles and snap like synthetic sinew through the air. It is early afternoon and the autumn wind is playing with the tree outside the window. Red leaves press like outstretched hands against the opaque glass.
The same boy pauses, his sweatshirt around his shoulders, and studies the scarlet palm-prints. Their redness reminds him of other things: burst berries, flushed cheeks, the colour of split lips and the stains down the arms of his school shirt. He wonders how a colour can be so many things, how it can mean so many things, and still be beautiful. It is just a colour, after all, the same wherever it is seen.
He stares intently for several seconds, the world around him fading beneath the bright red of the leaves. Then he loses himself once more in his sweatshirt. The name label, which tickles his neck and then his face, reads Bran Thomas. The room smells damp and feels cold against his goose-pimpled skin.
Around him, the others prance and preen. Sometimes their faces are expressive, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Other times, it seems, they barely have faces at all. One is studying himself in the mirror above the sink, moving left, then right, his reflection doing likewise in the glass. From where Bran stands there is no nose, no mouth, no face that can be seen, but he imagines a sharp beak and two unblinking eyes in their place. He knows that beak. He has felt it before, or one like it, and the ceaseless peck of its words.
Shouts ricochet from the locker room walls. When they reach the communal showers they distort, in that way all sounds do when they bounce from bathroom tiles. Bran hears jubilation in those sounds, and taunts, and mimicry; so much mimicry. It is cacophonous in his head. He wishes that worms turned in the ground beneath them, or that the pink throats of their parents hovered above, come to regurgitate food into their mouths, silencing those hungry beaks for one solitary minute!
The shrieks escalate, grow shrill. He steps back to his locker, which is already open, and shields himself behind the metal door as the boys fly into a flurry of movement. His little heart rattles, like a cage of frightened lovebirds in his chest. He fears for his sanity in the midst of such madness. He fears he is the mad one, the outsider of the flock.
He thinks of lovebirds, and wonders why they are called such. Do they love? Are they more than birds because of it, or indifferent except in name? What of scaredbirds too, and deadbirds, and whatdoesitallmeanbirds?
One of the boys falls into his locker, so that the door swings into Bran’s face. It is a senseless gesture, accident or otherwise, and Bran feels reaffirmed. He feels pain too, where the door has struck his nose. He sinks to the floor. The rich metal-taste of red fills his mouth.
The tiles are cold beneath his feet. Blackness encroaches on his vision, then whiteness, growing from the strip bulbs above. The bird-boys circle overhead, beaks clacking, and he hears malice. He hears stupidity and joy and inconsideration. If there is an apology, he cannot hear that. He does not think there is.
Bran’s toes scrunch slowly, over and over, feeling the mud that has been trawled in from the playing fields. With conscious effort he takes a long breath. The fluttering in his chest begins to slow. The grit between his toes is grounding. It is a moment, the moment, in which he realises he is not like the other bird-boys. They hop and screech and peck for giblets, their beaks black, like the crows in the ditch behind the football field. They are a faceless flock, drawn to shiny things, or thrashing insects in the ground. Their bones are light. Their forms slight.
Bran’s chest is heavy with petrified lovebirds. They sit like stones behind his ribs and he knows he will never fly. He will never be as the other bird-boys: the crows, the magpies, the voracious playground vultures.
They swarm from the locker room, these other boys, the corridor ringing with their shrieks and the beating of their feathered arms. Bran is left alone, with the grit between his toes, the slap of scarlet at the window and the taste of the colour in his mouth.
~ Thomas James Brown
© Copyright 2012 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.
(continuation of ‘Mercy‘ chapter 1 s2iKoL-mercy )
Jessamine slept often, those first few days after her return. I was allowed to take her to the garden for one hour each day, where I read poetry to her and piled dozens of fresh picked flowers on her lap. The hail storm had laid waste to our vegetable garden, but the heartier flowers that lined the old house were spared its wrath.
“Do you remember how it felt when…” I couldn’t bring myself to finish the question. Father had told me to never mention the word exorcism again, especially in front of Jessamine.
She shook her head. “I don’t remember a thing. It just felt as if I’d disappeared, like sleeping without dreaming.”
“Please don’t go away again.”
“I promise, I won’t. Big sisters are supposed to take care of their little sisters, not the other way around. Thank heavens you had Lucy to watch over you while I was…gone.” She cradled Lucy in her hands, smoothing her thumb over the tiny fracture.
I had to say something that had puzzled me ever since her possession. “You’d think living in the Reverend’s house would have prevented something like this from happening. I mean, this is sacred ground of sorts. ”
Jessamine stares at the old stone manse, at its tall windows and gabled roof. Her eyes glazed over as if with fever. Her lips were dry and cracked and her voice was soft and distant when she replied, “Yes, you would think so.”
Despite father’s insistence that we put Jessamine’s episode behind us, lest we give the evil the power to creep back into our lives, it was hard for me to stay silent. I had so many questions.
I lay in my bed letting the questions twist round my brain. The moon was full and brilliant and cast silvery shafts of diaphaneity across our small bedroom.
How did the evil worm its way into Jessamine?
Where did it go?
How did it go? Was it simply a matter of saying the right words by the Reverend, or was it something more, something that couldn’t be seen or heard?
“I’m sure it’s in hell, where it belongs,” my sister blurted from her sleep. It was if she had read my thoughts!
It gave me a terrible fright. I touched her lightly on the shoulder but her heavy exhalation told me she was in a deep state of sleep.
The house took on a preternatural silence and the radiance of the moon no longer seemed so gay. Sleep did not come easily.
I was awakened by Esther’s piercing scream. Jessamine and I threw off our blankets and rushed down the stairs.
Esther was still in her nightclothes. A wide, dark streak of blood marked the trail of her pained walk from her room by the kitchen to the dining room.
She reached out to us with shaking hands. “Help…me!”
It was awful. Her round face was red with strain and rivers of tears flowed from the corners of her eyes. Our charwoman had always been a source of invincibility in our home. She lay upon the floor like a helpless rabbit caught in a trap. Her leg was a mass of gore. With trembling hands she tried to stanch the flow of blood.
My father brushed past us and knelt by her side. He asked her how she had come to be hurt but poor Esther could only babble. The house was awash with our cries.
Mother had been given a prescription of laudanum to help her frayed nerves, so she remained oblivious to the commotion.
“Jessamine, fetch me that cloth over there,” he said.
When he turned to ask for her help, I saw the red, pulpy swath that had been carved into Esther’s leg. The edges of the wound were ragged, as if…
As if something had gnawed the flesh from her leg.
Esther’s moans died in her throat when she passed out, and I ran to the well to fill a basin with water.
The doctor arrived an hour later. He took Esther with him to the hospital. She awoke when Father and he lifted her from the floor and screamed like a madwoman all the way to the doctor’s carriage.
None of us ate that day. We couldn’t get the image of her gnawed-upon leg out of our brains.
“Father, what could do such a thing to Esther?” I asked. “Could it have been a wolf?”
He shook his head and smoothed the sides of his great, bushy mustache. “I’m not sure dear. Esther was in no state to tell us. Perhaps when she settles down at hospital, she’ll recall. I’d say it had to have been some animal she encountered in the yard. I want you girls to pray for her recovery and that it wasn’t…rabid.”
When mother awoke in the early afternoon, she shuffled throughout the house, calling for Esther, wondering about supper.
It seemed we couldn’t escape the madness.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2012 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 3 will be available on Halloween Day on Hunter’s blog, www.huntershea.com. To be concluded on Pen of the Damned in December!
My watcher gazes upon me, great despair and longing seeping through her gently fluttering lashes. She lives a life of torment, a life filled with a depth of pain and depravity that rivals my own. Closer she wishes to draw, trying – always trying, but the measure of her success is a cruel and harsh one that denies, not grants, the wants of those like us. Unable to do more, she watches.
She watches as I sink ever further into the squalor that is my self-imposed exile, my place of preciously preserved pains, the darkest recesses of my mind where even I cannot find respite from my own deranged ramblings. Gasping for a breath that will never come, hope a thing lost to a moment that can never be regained, I will forever dwell in this chasm of nowhere. Capable of infusing life into me once more, yet unable to wade such a distance, she must simply watch as I succumb.
She watches as I prance about in this tattered garb, seeming to most a thing so giddy; a toy bright and shiny – all the while, inside… nothing but a fool. She sees my cracks, my flaws, all that makes me unworthy. She is witness to the tarnish that dulls my plating, the rust that flakes my surface, the debris that hinders my step. She gropes at the pile of destroyed dreams, hoping in vain to free me; the more she digs, the deeper the rubble becomes. She must watch as I succumb to what others have done, and what has become of me.
She watches as I shatter into innumerable shards, only to suffer my tears as I collect each delicate fragment to me; insistent upon rebuilding my ruined castle once more. Tears of acid crawl down my cheeks, the madness that accompanies them the crumbling of the world – my world – should they ever truly be unleashed. A steady stream of tangible harm inflicted by so many, each droplet a testament to the life I bear. Her desperate plea for me to hush heard only as an echo in my ear. Her arm stretched towards me, wanting so much to offer reprieve, is hindered by obstacles both beloved and unfair. She must watch as I succumb to what others have undone within me.
She watches as I flay open my own flesh for allowing moments of weakness, glimpses of joy, lies of happiness that happen in an instant, gone all too quickly. Brief encounters, an hour, perhaps two. Touching, loving, seeing, hearing; feeling – breathing; for the first time in so long, breathing. A small step that leads to a brighter existence, a false step placed upon undulating ground. A promise of the sweetest forever, but no promise ever made, a faith always held – a mourning that shall never end, my forever, my reality. This she must watch as I succumb not to what others have undone, but what I have done to destroy me.
Would I give so much more for even a lie of something less, if that lie was not this? With all the wasted remains of me, I would… But my watcher stands as guard. She will not allow one to crumble, for the other would fall, no longer even the loathsome wreckage that now exists. Scalding tears pour in a cascade of deafening silence from her eyes. She must always watch me from behind a glass wall that cannot be allowed to shatter for all that would be lost.
A pile of forever swept to the side so that the tendrils of this now never break for what should have been.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.