By: Matthew D. Laing
Darhaven’s grey, lifeless walls have fallen to ruin.
Weather beaten and eroded; mortar crumbling into fine powder;
beams of an almost ancient wood soaked and rotting; muddied
and impassible road winding up Winby’s Hill,
all features of a time long past and long forgotten.
I take the road and traverse the steep slope
to the gate, panting-huffing, boots sloshed with filth,
perspiration staining leather and glistening off of polished metal.
I walk under the tall arches and through a mammoth gate
into a strange world lacking voice, or human presence.
The air has chilled, and a savage wind whistles through
a circular tower as if sounding my presence.
In the middle of the courtyard, amidst worn
cobblestone and spread ashes, where grass and weeds
have crept through, I look up towards a barren window looming
over the yard and I see only pitch darkness and vacant emptiness behind.
But- then, I hear a shrill shriek, to my left, a cry and whimpering
sounding almost non-human and absurd, yet intriguing,
and I turn with haste towards the entrance of the stone keep.
At first, I think it may be an illusion; some trick of light
bouncing off of stone or jetting through a vacant slot.
I readjust my vision; pat myself on the face, softly,
squint intently, but I can still see her: a woman,
young and beautiful, with black curly hair flowing over
thin shoulders and draped over a white, almost cream coloured, gown.
She stares at me with dark jet eyes and I am drawn in.
Her smile is bold, yet wonderful. She holds, in between locked hands,
a singular flower: it’s petals are a hue almost black and stem
As I approach, she vanishes, but I can still smell the sweet, earthy,
fresh aroma of the rose as I enter the hollowed room.
I long to see her again, I think;
my precious flower.
Then- I hear rustling, a shriek; a terrible cry from all directions echoing
off of worn stone. A dark mass moves from the corner: slouched;
hunched; creeping steadily towards me. A foul putrid odour plumes through
cool air as I back towards the keep’s entrance.
I see the rose grasped by a rotting, foul hand. Fingernails like daggers,
unsheathed and lethal. Diseased skin clenched loosely to soft bone;
an arm almost green with rot and mold and moss extended out of a
once beautiful scarlet cloak.