. . . But ever forward did I fly, for Hell was no less quickly encroaching upon my Hind.
Daring to cast a Gaze over my stiffened Shoulder to check my Time and Progress, I marked the ghastly Shape of that horrid Hill with its one Tree standing dead and alone atop its Summit. The Silhouette of this Bag-o’-bare-Bones, though only two-dimensional, drew me straight in. A most eerie Composition it was to behold. Dancing in the cold, damp Autumn Breeze, it captivated me … compelled me. Its every crooked Line … every Detail … every gnarled, bony Limb … stood out in crisp Contrast against the glowing Orb that rose up at its Rear … obscured only somewhat by a dwindling Column of Smoke rising from a single smouldering Ember just aside of the Base of its Stem.
Upon the Winds, the Tree spoke to me … clearly and unmistakably. It appeared as though a glowing Head … a sculpted Autumn Gourd with great inner Fire, mounted Stem-down … upon Shoulders of pure Stone.
Like a sudden Flash, a great Quake erupted within my Core. That familiar Sickness welled up within my Gut once again. I thought for a Moment to stop and let the Disturbance pass; but I foresaw that it would not yield to my Pause. It would only grow stronger and more crippling. I had to keep moving; and I did just that. Losing not a Stride, I regained my Breath, refocused my Lights back forward and pressed straight on, cupping my Ears, as if to do so would strike the relentless, cockaded Musketeers from the very Earth.
Next came what I then feared most: The Firing Squads had met up and joined Forces before me and sealed off my only Means of Escape. Still, I could not see them; but, sure that I soon would, I drew the Shades down over my Lights, having no Safe Harbour at which I could cast my Gaze. But, what next slapped my Face was no Chicken; it was the Earth itself. For, deaf and blind, I somehow stumbled and tripped.
I lay there for a While, frozen in the fruitless Hope of being swept up and away to some mythical Paradise by some equally mythical Force. But such was not to be. Time to face Reality. I rose gently, bravely to my Knees, spitting out the Serving of Dirt and Gravel and dead, decaying Leaves and Twigs I had just been administered … but, not before acknowledging that the Spoonful was well-deserved and much needed.
I opened my Eyes and Ears. My House. I made it. But, was it the Darkness that marked my Way Home? Or, was it the Light of the new Day that, tickling its feathered Heralds into a blasting Frenzy, guided me there? Or, was it the Hill? … which cast that dark Shadow … which Shadow, vanquished by the resurrecting Sun, was fast retreating back to its blinding Source. Any or all of the above I figured, depending upon which Aspect of “me” I had in View.
But, before reaching the Safety of its own cold Lair, that dark Umbra … the very Shadow of which I now speak, and without which I had never moved since my Arrival in this so-called New World … had to pass through me first. Slithering down the Face of my modest Abode … and then down the Back of my humble Frame, now rising to its Feet … I let the Darkness go. I left it behind me. It will return next Morning to challenge the Light; and it will retreat again, as it will do Day after Day after Day. That I can not prevent; and nor should I try to.
So long as there be Light, Darkness will come with each new Day. But I have at last emerged from the Shadow. And, now firmly upon my own two Feet, I was determined never to be swept back into the Abyss. But my Trials here at Salem Village were not yet finished.
My Door was noticeably ajar. But, whether it was I who had left it open, I could not recall. For, even with great Effort, I could not summon the mental Image of my Self stepping out across the Threshold that now lay visible before my dirty Boots. Strange, for it was ever my Wont to not wander out at Night.
But, whatever the Cause, my Door was open … though only slightly. And there upon it stood to greet me a little gray Ghost … left abandoned and exposed by its departed, dark Master. A most hideous Creature it was. It was the very Beast that had been long unseen to me, lurking and hiding within and against its matching gray Canvas. Only this ghastly Gate-Keeper, over-proud with its over-inflated Sense of Power to instill Fear and assert its Control, stood between me and the Rediscovery of my own House.
I confronted the Ghoul. Seeking to confirm its Identity, though quite aware of just who … or what … it was, I granted the Thing its fair Trial. I stood still and stared. I turned my Head to the Side, and then back straightforward. I closed my Eyelids, and I drew them back open again. The ghastly Form was still there, aping my every Move, challenging me to challenge it Head-on and charge forth against it. It thought it was taunting me. But it was wrong … deluded. For I was now taunting it.
In a Display of Strength and Courage, I turned my Back on the Daemon completely around to face the Hill and rising Sun. Without a Tremor, I turned back around for the final Confrontation … Face-to-Face. I reached out to it. I pressed the Devil’s Hand and, casting it boldly aside, entered my House again for the first Time.
Exploring its full Depth, I observed yet another Shade, this one occupying my far, forward-facing, Interior Wall. It was roughly circular and, except at its Base, engulfed within a flowing, flaming Corona.
Knowing that this Phantasm could not have been of my own Projection, I directed my Eyes slowly and deliberately to the Left, where I discovered seated at the Table in the forward Part of my single Room a familiar Face, its discerning, permeating Features brilliantly illuminated, and its Eyes fixed squarely upon my own.
I must have given a Start. For next, Zahna urgently cried out, “Please, Marcus! Wait! Don’t fly from me again!”
“Of Course, I will not run,” I firmly replied. “To where else would I go? And, from whom or what would I be flying?”
“I found your Door ajar,” she reported. “I recall you telling me that, whenever your Door is open, it is open to me … and that you would leave this Candle burning to serve as a Beacon that I might find my Way back Home to you.”
“I did utter Words to that Effect,” I recollected, turning my Head back toward the open Door, silently pondering whether to effect my Escape once more. But, as I did so, I caught a Glance of my dark Profile, flitting nervously upon the exterior Plane of that Door. I marked that its Nose became longer as I turned my Face toward the Aperture through which I contemplated flight. But I did not fly. No. I turned back toward the Source of interior Light; and, as I did so, I felt that Poker recede into Place.
“The sweet Pillar stood near full Length when I arrived, so I knew you couldn’t have been yet far off,” she reported. “But, as you can see, it’s nearly run its Course. Nice little Invention you’ve got here … a hollowed Pumpkin Shell to encase the unattended Flame. Safety first. I like how the glowing Orb descends in perfect Step with the Flame. It’s mounted on a small Platform, mounted on the top Rim of the waning, sweet Wax Column … like a human Bust … Head and Shoulders. And the Shoulders support the full Weight of the Head … which is all they need do. And quite a Piece of Artwork as well. Form and Function. But the scary Face you carved into it … well … I hope you don’t mind that I created a happy one on the other Side. I had some to Time on my Hands here. At first I was worried about you and considered immediate Pursuit. But, with a little Thought, I found my Faith in that you’d come back. You’re not one to leave such gravely important official Business unfinished.”
“Well, I am here,” I needlessly announced, intimating that she state her Case forthwith.
“Marcus, I know you found the Letter from my Cousin,” she told me. “There could be no other Reason for your parting from me so hastily at the Ironsides Inn, whereat I fear and apologize that I had slept too long and too deeply. I surmise that, in your Haste, you must not have read it through, else you would not have flown. It was my Intention to have you examine fully the Communication in my Presence, and in that of its Author, there at the Inn so that we could both attest to the Truth of it. But my neglectful Slumber has allowed more than four long and dark Months to lapse Meantime. I hope I may regain that Opportunity now, if you would be so willing.”
I pulled up beside her in my extra Chair, kept for just such an Occasion. I removed the Autumn Gourd from its Mount and examined Zahna’s Artwork. “It’s lovely,” I told her. “I like it much … much better than the one I left here last Evening.”
By the flickering Light of the now fully exposed, and very short, Bee Wax Candle that set both our Faces aglow, I confirmed that it was, in Fact, the same Letter before me, the Intelligence contained therein which I had failed to fully learn before. …
~ Querolus, The Goddess & The Devil, Act III, Sc. 1
Posted on October 31, 2012, in Autumn in New England, Knotty Knuggets, The Goddess & The Devil and tagged fear, fiction, Goddess and the Devil, jack-o-lantern, literature, philosophy, Querolus, Quote, shadow. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.