Prompt: “You think that…the only truth that matters is that which can be measured. That isn’t always the case…some truths can’t be quantified…they just are and we have to accept that.”
Dusk has fallen, casting long shadows across the narrow forest road. Suddenly, a dark shape darts out in the middle of the road. You jam on the brakes, skidding to a stop…
What happened next? What’s in the middle of the road? What do you do? You’ve got only a little over a thousand words to tell me. Oh, and those words need to include the following – murder, bedchamber, rack, clock, wine, time.
Word Limit: 1,031
Word List: murder, bedchamber, rack, clock, wine, time
Deadline: Wednesday, 31 October, 2012 @ 10:00 pm CT
By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Time stopped… or so it seemed, though the clock on the dashboard indicated otherwise. Sophie and Claudette stared through the windscreen of the Citroen, their minds trying to wrap around the appearance of the apparition standing in the middle of the road. It was hard to say if the being was staring back; its face was almost totally obscured by a tangle of dark hair.
The girl, a tattered and filthy white silk gown hanging from her slender frame, suddenly lifted her arms… a rusted chain draped from one frail wrist… as if beseeching the women in the car for help. Sophie was halfway out the door when Claudette grabbed her arm, pulling her back.
“Sophie… no! Wait!”
“What? She needs…”
“Sophie! Look at… look… it is not real, cher! Look at the lights!”
Sophie turned her attention back to the shape caught in the glare of the headlights. The beams of light seemed to ‘catch’ on the figure standing in the road, and then pass through. Sophie looked back at Claudette, her eyes wide.
Claudette only stared at Sophie; fear shadowed her delicate features as the two looked at each other. Movement outside brought their attention back to the front of the car.
The girl beckoned again, her arm outstretched and fingers motioning the women to follow as she slowly drifted toward the side of the road.
Sophie turned to her lover.
“You wait in the car… I am following her.”
Sophie exited the Citroen and walked toward the girl. “Wait… wait… wait…” Claudette clambered across the seat and followed after Sophie. Grabbing hold of her arm, the two stepped closer to the girl.
A mask of sadness etched the girl’s face… mouth turned down… the dark pools of her eyes… like wells of sorrow. She turned and moved off into the woods. With Sophie leading, the two followed the ghostly apparition.
The rain had stopped and the clouds parted, allowing a full moon to cast its silvery glow through the bare trees. In the distance an owl hooted, announcing the intruders to the dark woods. Beside her, Claudette shivered and clutched tighter to Sophie’s arm.
The girl, casting a pale glow, glided through the trees and underbrush as if nothing were there, pausing every so often to wait for Sophie and Claudette to catch up.
After a time, the woods thinned and the trio found themselves at the edge of a large lawn, littered and overgrown from disuse. Across the open space, a dark edifice loomed… abandoned to the elements for decades, judging from its appearance.
The ethereal glow cast by the girl’s gown was the only light afforded them as they entered the 19th century villa.
The girl… Claudette thought of her as ‘the girl’ rather than ‘the apparition’… Claudette was good with denial… led the two women up a wide, spiraling staircase. The carpet gave up little puffs of moldy dust with each step Sophie and Claudette made, occasioning a sneeze from Claudette… the sound of which echoed in the still, dead air.
Upon reaching the landing, the pale apparition moved down the long, wide hallway and into a large bedchamber… the master bedroom, Sophie presumed. All around, mold and decay permeated the air.
Standing beside the long disused bed and its crumbling garments, the girl pointed at the wall over the head of the massive four-poster. Even with the paint faded and peeling from decades of neglect, it was evident to Sophie and Claudette that the beautiful girl in the portrait and the girl they had encountered in the road were the same person.
Beyond a recessed door concealed in the thick wood paneling, a set of narrow stone steps wound down into the bowels of the deserted villa. The trio began their descent.
Presently they found themselves in what could only be described as a dungeon… dark, dripping stone walls festooned with rusted and twisted paraphernalia, the purpose of which neither woman wanted to contemplate. An ancient rack stood in the center of the room and several iron cages hung from the massive oak beams that ran the length of the dungeon’s ceiling… a good ten meters above their heads. Murder had been done here.
As Sophie and Claudette took in the scene before them and tried not to think of the horrors inflicted there, the girl made her way to the far wall, previously shrouded in darkness, but now lit by the pale glow of her ragged gown. She turned and motioned to the women… the look on her face pleading… to join her.
Sophie was the first to speak
“Is that … can it be…?”
The two stared at the remains of a human skeleton sitting against the damp stone wall, its left arm stretched upward. A rusted manacle encircled the wrist, the chain leading up to an iron ring set in the wall high overhead. A pewter wine chalice lay on its side nearby. Remnants of dingy, white silk littered the floor.
The girl knelt beside the skeleton and began making frantic gestures at the bony wrist, her fingers passing through as she tried to grasp the manacle. She looked up at the pair, her dark eyes pleading… begging…
It took several moments for comprehension to set in… the skeleton was all that was left of the girl… and she wanted them to…
“She can’t cross the plane…” Sophie whispered. “Help me… hold here, cher.”
Claudette grasped the manacle and Sophie gently eased the dry bones of the skeleton’s hand through the rusted metal circle. With great care, she lowered the limb down and rested it in the lap of the skeletal remains.
The girl stood and faced the two women. Her mouth moved and though no sound passed, it was plain to Sophie and Claudette that she was thanking them. Overcome with emotion, neither woman could speak
The girl stepped back… and then began to rise up… higher and higher. The look on her face as she gazed down at Sophie and Claudette was now peaceful.
The girl passed through the ceiling… and was gone.
Claudette burst into tears.
~ finis ~
© 2012 – Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw. All Rights Reserved.