The Waiting Ruins. Part 2/2
Davies arrived at Gaunt’s house, finally accepting the invitation to return.
The death of his father still weighed heavy on his heart, and although Gaunt could be pompous at times, his jokes and wit did much to lift Davies’ spirits.
As he looked out on the garden on the morning of the third day of his visit, he remembered his interrupted quest. A determination settled upon Davies to conquer the hill and reach its summit.
He again borrowed his host’s sturdy walking stick and collected his knapsack. Into this he placed the gardener’s billhook and a light luncheon provided by the cook, together with a small jug of cider. As an afterthought he packed a hand-held oil lamp and matches. He had no wish to walk the rough byways of the area in the dark.
With his earthly comforts seen to and equipment stowed away, he practically marched to the hill.
He sought out the previously discovered gate stones at the hills base and commenced to slash and cut a way through the buried driveway. Occasionally, parts of the cobbled surface emerged as he crept around the sides of the hill.
The effort involved was prodigious and Davies blessed the cook who had provided the sandwiches and the cider. After five hours of exhausting work he finally approached another set of gate posts in a less ruinous state than those at the bottom of the hill. Fallen stone spheres lay on the ground, toppled long ago. A partly demolished wall seemed to run from the posts, although the trees and undergrowth were even thicker here than at any time during his climb.
By now afternoon had given way to early evening. Davies prepared the oil lamp and took a rest by the moss-covered stone sphere.
He had been so engrossed in his task, it was a shock to realise he was surrounded by silence. No birdsong or buzzing from bee. Flies, usually the plague of any walker in the countryside, were absent. Even the trees rustling had ceased. This green gloomy silence was unnatural and disturbing. The first element of fear began to touch Davies’ consciousness.
Darkness. A deep longing for the non-light, when its malign heart can reach out from rubble filled cellars to trap the spirit of the trespasser. Words of dust and web, incantations of horror and malice, ooze from the mortar binding the hewn rock edifice.
Davies went through the gateway, cutting through thick tendrils of blackberry thorn. The blasted things clung around his legs, wrapping around his ankles like dying men begging for help. The only concession the humid air free of biting insects.
The remembering. Obsessive lives, the hate and twisted emotions of the long-ago residents who wore away its stone steps, opened gateways to differing hells. The sweet longing for power to trickle through its joints and body. The true corruptions of the creatures who had lived behind its walls, sustained it and gave it such bloody memory.
Twilight gnawed at the dappled light. Davies considered turning back, giving up this mad obsession. But something eroded his doubts, urging him on.
This combined with a curiosity to see what lay behind the curtain of vegetation made him press on. He swung the billhook into the thin branches, cutting into bramble and leaf, stamping on black green foliage. His reward came as the ruins were suddenly revealed, just as the sun touched the surrounding hills.
The building was more complete than he had assumed. It stood in a rubble-strewn clearing, its façade showing signs of ancient burning. The holes in the stonework indicated battle. He speculated on something from the English civil war but knew of no siege in these parts.
Davies walked through ruined garden walls to the shattered stones. The door frame had caved in and he was able to walk over the threshold into the house proper. Wooden staircases and panels had long since rotted to sheds of fibre, but the stone remained.
Shadows congealed with the twilight and he lit his lantern slowly walking forwards with his walking stick raised. He realised the strangeness of this place and those fears and intuition started to demand his attention.
Carefully watching his steps on the moss-covered stones and fearful of any holes in the floor that would pitch him into the recesses of the cellars of the house, he explored the structure.
With each step he thought the shadows twitched. There was movement like ink dropping in water. As the heat of day evaporated into the cool of the night, so did Davies courage evaporate as he walked the path towards the hell hiding in the stones.
The sun was near set and the shadows of tree and stone combined into a gloom of fading greys. His path led to a door, its timbers somehow uncorrupted by the elements and age. His heart raced with trickles of perspiration chilling lines of skin under his shirt and down his face.
Here, before that dark door of oak and iron, it was if two voices whispered into his mind. One he knew was his own self, screaming run, Run, RUN. The other strange, enticing, hypnotic, drawing him to the door, which even now clicked open and slowly to reveal a solid blackness in which something twisted and squirmed like maggots in a corpse. His lamp light refused to penetrate the hateful obsidian portal, merely describing its edges. And the blackness caressed his thoughts.
Wavering, he stood at the dark door’s threshold as the last rays of the sun left the dry silent air, his will being fought over by self-preservation and the darkness beyond. He swayed as almost in a dream he edged towards the sharp line of utter nothingness beyond the door frame.
What brought him out of the trance he never knew, but he snapped back to the real world; a world of murky shades and hard ruined stone.
He turned and ran, ran through clawing branch, tripping over root and blackberry tendril. Twigs scratched, stones fell in his path, scraping arms and legs. He kept the lantern high, pushed forward like a crucifix to try and dispel the evil of this place. He cleaved to that warm light, his only hope, never daring to look back at that open door, despite the awful sounds he heard.
On he ran, onto the cobbled driveway. Slippery moss and lichen caused him to slip, brushing against the stone gate posts. The stone sang to his mind, a song so cruel he wept at the implied terror. It was here as he sought firmer footing, he glanced backwards into the heart of the ruins. The stones moved like wobbling flesh, and a sick green luminance revealed the silhouette of some creature that must have been the pet of the Devil. The brief glimpse Davies had was of loathsome, corpse white skin, claws and tentacles writhing in agitated anger and red burning eyes. Those eyes scarred his soul, branding his folly and commanding he return to the dominion of death.
He ran, scrambled, staggered away from the vile structure, gripping the lamp in his left hand and slashing at any vegetation seeming to creep into his path. His knapsack fell from his shoulders, but he would not stop. He breathed in the hills stagnant air, the stench of rot and the grave filling his craving lungs. All sense of time withered as he plunged on, falling, stumbling onto the hard cobbles. The trees hid the stars making his lamp the only light in the universe. And all the time he heard it behind him; enticing, roaring, commanding his return and surrender.
He emerged from the hill’s domain at the foot of the hill, his sides twisted with pain, lungs bursting, blood painting his torn and scuffed skin, his clothing ragged and ripped. Still he clutched the lantern and still he ran.
Behind him a sigh of some huge beast and a foul breeze grabbed at his hair and clothing. Run, crawl. Never stopping, in case the thing could leave its realm of horror and pursue him through the deepening night.
He reached Gaunt’s front door on all fours, his hands blistered and cut. This feeble pounding on the painted wood was eventually heard by the butler, who upon opening the door and seeing his master’s guest in such distress, raised the alarm.
Davies, half dead with fear and exhaustion was taken to his bed and a physician called. Davies could not be undressed as no matter what persuasion was spoken or force used, the lantern could not be prised from his hand.
Midnight’s embrace came to the land and night folded around the hill and its palace of deep wickedness. Plant, root, leaf and branch grew back to keep out the reckless adventurer, who would dally within its malevolent realm. An enchantment of forgetfulness and disinterest is generated easing memory.
Despite it being confined by nature, the hill and house plan new delights to play upon the flesh and creep into their thoughts. Those that stay beyond the realm of day, remain forever in its night.
It grieved about the loss of fresh meat, so nearly brought into its maw.
The ruins could wait however, always damned and always very hungry.
Martin P. Fuller
Martin P. Fuller lives in his shoebox house in West Yorkshire. He was in his previous exitances: –
a beer salesman, a pall bearer, a car delivery driver, and oh yes… a police officer for over 34 years.
He started to write in 2013 after attending a creative writing class and since then has become a writing course junkie.
Discovering his dark side, Martin has had a number of stories published in Trembling with Fear and several other anthologies including Deadcades published by Infernal Clock.