A Little Late…

So over the past few months, I’ve been trying to write a couple of posts a week. If you haven’t noticed however, I haven’t written anything in the last couple of weeks. To explain, I’ve moved to the little town of Catawissa PA, and brought in two new members into my family. A cute Labradoodle named Howl (who likes to howl, but was named after the book by Diane Jones.) and a little baby girl named Autumn who is much cuter then the dog, and doesn’t cry half as much!

hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll be able to begin writing again, but for now I’m taking a well deserved break… well, from my blog at least!

Thanks for everyone’s support! 

Opportunity.

There arose,

Like a seedling

Breaching

The crust

A finger

Pointing

Toward the trees

 

In the morning

A bird sang

Singing

Follow me

Dancing

Like a torrent

On my knees

 

Awaken me

To knowledge

Burgeoning

With life

Following

Wildly

The rising breeze.

The Decision

The steps stretched to eternity. Jason pondered them, willing his feet to walk up the winding steel steps which circled ever higher into the blinding sun. It was safe beneath the earth, at least that’s what he had always been told. In all honesty, the underground metropolis where he lived seemed anything but safe. Down below was too comfortable; it was what mankind had always dreamed of. Robots patrolled the streets in white uniforms deterring crime and maintaining peace, providing for and maintaining the city. Yet something was missing, some freedom to do what you wanted without being watched, or guided to the appropriate choice. He shook his head this was his chance he couldn’t lose it. He took a small step forward, squared himself, and began to ascend the stairs.

The Stair-way creaked, groaning as he wound his way along. He didn’t look up anymore because flakes of rust seemed to shower him with every step, finding their way into his eyes. Instead he stared down at his feet, trying not to let fear overtake him, as the ground disappeared further beneath him, until it sank into pitch blackness. He wished he could look up, but the relentless shower of debris falling on his head and shoulders prevented him. Instead he imagined himself getting closer to his goal, the sun almost touching him, as he immerged from the ventilation shaft. Suddenly he stopped, something, a sound. He listened, straining his ears against the silence, but was met with only the sound of the wind. He turned looking behind him, but there was only blackness. Shielding his eyes he looked up, light streamed down even stronger now, but he was still only halfway to the top. Then he heard it again, a strange whistling sound, almost like what he had heard on the old VICast movies his father had kept hidden. They had shown him brief glimpses of the outside, and some type of flying creature. He thought for a moment, birds, that’s what they had been called. He smiled hopefully; maybe he would see one, flying high in the distance, a mere speck in the sky.

The higher he went the darker it seemed to grow now. He wondered where the light had gone, thinking back he remembered his caretaker telling him that the earth circled something called a star, which lit the earth for only a small part of every cycle. He hurried now, only a soft orange glow was still visible at the very top of the stairs. It seemed like an eternity, but when he finally looked up again the last ring of stairway had opened up into a crimson sky. He felt a rush of emotion over-take him, this felt like a mad thing to do, coming to the surface. Reaching for the railing with a shaking hand he scrambled to the top of the stairs, bursting out onto a concrete platform.

He trembled with the exhaustion and thrill that assailed him. The sky was changing to deep purple now, but he could still see just a tiny glimpse of the sun disappearing in the far distance. Warm air whipped against his skin, and a sweet, salty, scent crowded his senses. Nervously he approached the edge of the platform, looking down he saw a vast body of water, which crashed into the jagged cliffs beneath him. Above him, strange winged creatures circled over-head. To all sides sheer rock walls surrounded him. There was nowhere to go. Slowly he walked to the back of the platform, put his back to the wall, and sank down. He watched as the sun slowly disappeared, and darkness began to steal across the horizon. It was tantalizing, to be out in the open, but there was no way off the platform. Heavy, tears swelled in his eyes, spilling onto his cheeks. It would be okay he thought, to die here, in the open, outside where humanity had first walked, under the sunlit sky.

The night passed swiftly, and when morning came, the platform was deserted. A heavy steel plate covered the stairway entrance, and blood was visible on the concrete. The wind still bore the same smells, gulls passed overhead, and the ocean waves bore hard upon the rocks. There was no sign of the man who had passed the night listening to the sea, and birds. Maybe he had been taken back, deep below the earth, or had rushed past his adversaries, and thrown him-self over the cliff, and into the water below. Off in the distance a sailboat could be seen anchored in the bay, its white sails stark against the bright blue of the ocean and sky. Perhaps he had, in the first glimpse of daylight seen that beacon, and made the choice, to live.

A short story

by

Keith King

A Matter Of Belief.

Where should I go

Do you know?

To lift a new leaf

Change my belief

Reap what I didn’t sow

 

Perhaps a new dress

Will sort out the rest

Change my perspective

I’ll be more selective

About my choices I guess.

 

But my credit is delinquent

I’ve used it so frequent

To change out my skin

What a state I’m in

To reach this final sequent

 

Tomorrow perhaps

I’ll change out my wraps

Something more tasteful

And not so disgraceful

I’ll call this a little relapse

 

The choice has been made

Long ago I’m afraid

To be what I am

I can’t change my hem

A poorly drawn charade.

A Little Chardonnay

It behooves me to say

That I’m here for the day

To sit on your couch

To mumble and slouch

While you pander, survey.

 

I am old and unsteady

With my cane at the ready

I’ll wait while you cook

Put my coat on the hook

And pour something heady.

 

Perhaps a good glass

Will make the time pass

A little chardonnay

Would do by the way

I had it at Christmas mass.

Baloc’s Blade

The wind swept through the empty streets with a harsh dryness, searching out the spider web cracks in the cobblestone. The parched city now rose slowly into view as the savage wind whipped though the streets. The loose sand billowed into great clouds which swirled in the dim afternoon light. Rubble littered the way, empty crates, and great piles of discarded pots and dishes lay strewn for miles. Occasionally even the stark white bones of a horse still attached to the wagon could be found along the road.

In slow deliberate strides Taren walked cautiously as he approached the city, the giant city gates were torn off their hinges, and lay crumbling into dust wasting away to nothingness. The city reeked of must, rotting debris, and the sickly sweet smell of decay. Dark shadows seemed to swallow the city, giving it a foreboding and perilous look. Still without hesitation he walked on for, despite the obvious danger, the city was his destination. The prophecy had foretold his coming, though it did not mention his going.

Low under his breath Taren sang the foretelling the midwife had sung upon his birth;

“You will walk a wanderer in forest long,

 Storms will come to make you strong.

A messenger to walk the path,

Lowly priest who shows his wrath

To those who left and then forgot,

Whose laden hearts have gone to rot.

They stamp their feet, upon the earth

And fill their bellies full with mirth.

Through Grisbaum, and shadowed glade

They walk alone, upon Baloc’s Blade.

The shift of mountains tall and old

Is where they journey in its cold.

What song is sung, of their endless mood?

Or stories told while curses brood?

Set to wander, upon the cull,

They who left Feiore to fall

Into blackness deep

Through death’s cold sleep

Until the hour has come to wane

And the world has felt its final pain.

Awake shall be their eyes at last

To change their fate and troubled past,

Upon the fastness of the reef

Of forests tall and full of grief

Their voices heard, so clear and free

Will bend the sky into the sea!

And from darkness will protrude a light

To mend the world and make it right.

Changelings turned from crimson shades

Into young girls dancing with golden braids

All things forgot, in morning rays

Except to those who gave it days.”

Even from far away the city of Feiore could be seen rising up above Grisbaum, the forest of the dead. For almost a century it had remained empty of life, a cold, forgotten and cursed place, a dark memory from the war of wizards which had covered the land with darkness swallowing the rain and leaving the world in a dry ruin. The last stand of Baloc had occurred here, and his dying curse had wasted the entire country, corrupting everything alive within a hundred leagues of his city. Even now a century after, the earth still suffered, the drought had continued, leaving the world a parched wasteland. Occasionally the heavens did open, but even that gave no cause for celebration as they appeared in storms so massive and destructive that villages and even cities were often laid to ruin by them.

It was mid afternoon when Taren passed through the gates leading into the city, but while the sun had risen long ago endless gray clouds still closeted the sky like the lid of a coffin nailed tight. They were not rain clouds, but clouds of dust, stripping the land bare and soaking up what little water remained. The few trees that lined the street leading into the heart of the city had long ago shed their final leaves to the eternal winter. Now they stood tall reaching up into the air with gnarled arms, empty of life.

The creak of open doors swinging heavily on their hinges was the only sound to join with the mad whistling of the ever-present wind as it whipped through the barren city. The windows on the houses held their broken panes in twisted fragments holding loosely to their wooden frames. Yet other than those noises caused by the screech of the wind, not a sound could be heard, either a baby’s cry, or the mumble of the merchants who had at one time sold their exotic wares on the street corners. Even the birds had long ago abandoned the hedgerows for some faraway harbor, only desolation remained, and the dead.

On this day, however, for the first time in a hundred years, a slow crunch could now be heard from someone treading lightly over the broken cobble street. The breaking of the silence almost made the whole city seem as if it would come alive at any second, yet instead it only made the whole citadel press down more ominously upon the lonely traveler. After winding through the narrow city streets he arrived at the palace gatehouse. The palace was in ruins, though at one time Taren knew that it had been a colossal structure, both in strength and beauty. Even now, glints of faded gold, and weather beaten marble could be seen dully gleaming in the low light of the evening. After a moment’s hesitation he slipped through the now twisted iron bars and crept cautiously through its now barren grounds.

Swiftly the cloaked traveler passed through the courtyard, and coming to the palace doors, entered into the darkness of its chambers. Shortly after entering a small light sparked, and then flared from an iron lantern, illuminating the dark halls, and casting looming shadows on the floor. Without stopping he quickly moved from the antechamber, and into the inner hall. Stairways reached up along the walls slowly ascending into the upper rooms. Tall pillars shaped in the aspect of mighty trees, stood tall like sentinels guarding the palace. They stretched down the expansive chamber ever opposing each other in two great formations as they lead to the distant throne.

Small shafts of gray light now broke through the darkness, as He moved swiftly, coming closer to the throne. The beams fell from lofty windows where once brilliant panes of colored glass had broken. Still visible on the walls were the tortured figures of men, women, and children. Some gallant and brave facing death, others blackened and naked withering beneath the shadow of the king. A high whistling screech could be heard, as the wind whipped through the broken glass on the windows, sounding like an alarm. Grimacing he walked on, the brutal visages of the past held no sway over him, they could not be changed.

He sniffed the air, the smell of rot and death still lingered, as a reminder. Even now he knew that danger could still be found here, old things forgotten could still bring destruction and death to the unwise. Without breaking his stride, he approached the throne room door, its massive oaken boards painted in fading colors, and golden runes. Great iron hinges rusted on its corners, and a great handle in the shape of a snake, its massive head reaching out to be grasped and tail carefully curled between its coils.

Carefully he felt the handle, neither pressing nor pulling upon it, the dark ruby eyes of the creature seemed to follow his movements, finally as if confirming something he had long suspected he pulled his hand away, grasped the tail of the snake, and pushed upon the groaning door. Immediately razor-sharp needles drove through the snakes back and head, poison glistening from their tips in tiny droplets where a moment ago his hand had grazed. Again he pushed, this time with all of his strength, forcing the hinges to grind free of their position. Slowly as if resisting his entrance the doors groaned open, revealing a large forbidding room of worked stone and black iron. At its end was a great throne, red as blood, and covered in thick rotting cloth.

A tall figure sat upon the throne, an iron visage of strength and power perfectly preserved in appearance, even in the low light of the lantern, his cruel eyes could be seen to glint with savagery and blood lust. In his hand he held an orb, like a white diamond, hard and cold. Yet at its center a dull light could be seen to pulse, as if struggling against the hold of its master. A small flame which flickered against the darkness yet could make no advance against the power which held it.

Ascending to the throne the old man took a cloth out of his cloak, and grasped the orb with it, but it would not come free from the iron hand. Muttering to himself, he began to chant. Almost immediately a low warming light could be seen spreading from his left hand to the orb. A sudden light blazed within it, breaking up the darkness which lay heavily upon the throne. At that same moment low roar could be heard, it spread quickly, gathering strength until the whole city could be heard groaning. Then it stopped.

Quickly, and fearfully he stooped down with his right hand and pulled again at the orb, with a snap it came free from its master’s hand, and in that instant the wizard upon the throne crumbled, hollowed out, and disintegrated. For a moment Taren froze, paralyzed by fear. The wizard was gone, yet he could now feel the malice and rage growing furiously in the room. He turned and fled quickly out of the throne room and into the hall. Everything was darker now, the evening was almost ended, and a piercing chill was in the air. It took his entire strength not to look behind him, but he knew he was being followed now. The power of evil was stronger than before, and even as he ran, it felt closer, as if something was clutching after him. In desperation he threw himself into the courtyard, clambering, and falling on the marble steps. He clutched his sword and turned, it rang out as it swung in front of him. In horror he caught a glimpse of a man, dark and cowled looming from the doorway, seething with venom, and then was gone.

Without another backward glance Taren hobbled past the gatehouse, blood dripped through his trousers, where he had fallen and gashed his leg. Slowly he limped back down the street, shivering as he shouldered his small pack. His eyes desperately watching the houses with a weary determination as dust swirled around his legs. Shadows moved in the windows, dark silhouettes fading in and out of sight.  What little light remained was already fading beyond the horizon; leaving a quickly falling darkness in its wake. Soon the city, would awaken, and with it, all manner of evil.

He quickened his pace, the city gates loomed ahead; its sheer stone-mason walls rising a hundred feet into the dim sky. He knew before he had entered the city what a risk it would be, yet he knew with almost certainty that he would make the gate before dusk. Before the coming night turned loose the ghoulish creatures, ever haunting the dead city.

The nearer he approached the gates however, the darker the sky seemed to grow. The wind slowed in anticipation of the coming night as the horizon shed the only color the sky could bleed, a crusty red, like a bloodshot moon. The clacking of shutters slowed, until only a soft moaning filled the air. He quickened his pace, his cracking voice spilling charms of safety around him, until a dull white glow seemed to spill out of the seams in his gray woolen cloak. Behind him he could hear rustling and soft howling as the ghouls peered earnestly at the receding light, snapping their teeth in a rattling chant of hatred.

Far behind in the distance, he could now hear the creaking of hinges, as the creatures began to inch out into the twilight, the sun having fallen well below the mountain range off to the west. Sooner than he had anticipated he knew they would be upon him, yet maybe he could still make the gates before they fully awoke from their sleep. Perhaps slipping into the dark forest, where the safety of its cold forbidding trunks created a labyrinth of trails which would lead him away from the oncoming danger.

His spells now complete he gathered up his cloak behind him and began to run, his thick legs quivering and stretching as he darted for the gates. The ghouls let out a screeching cry as they saw their prey bolt, and pushed like a flood onto the cobblestone street. Their tortured feet splayed wide apart as they scrambled, some on all fours towards the feeling man.

Reaching the gateway he sped into the field between the city and the forest. Behind him the ghouls had also reached the gateway, their cries growing louder with frustration as they saw him nearing the forest. Their speed quickened, as they clambered forward, closing the small distance between them and their prey.

He knew that he would be overtaken; he could smell the reeking stench of rotting flesh just moments behind him. He ground his teeth in frustration, tensing every fiber in his body to its breaking point as he tore through the low-lying grass. A mere hundred feet remained between him and the forest, yet with every second the ghouls approached still closer, their savage eyes full of blood lust.

His head pounded and vision blurred as he pushed himself forward, his wounded leg screamed with pain.  Suddenly flickers of light whistled past him. He gasped as a dull gleam appeared, like a lantern ahead, than a second, third and fourth one, until the entire forest edge seemed to come alight. Behind him he could hear the sound of the pursuing ghouls turning into confusion and fear as a swarm of fiery arrows struck them mere paces behind their prey. For a second they merely slowed their gait, and than just as suddenly as they had begun their chase they stopped. A harsh and deep roar could be heard now, coming from deep within the city, reverberating and echoing like an earthquake in the endless caverns of the world. At once they turned fleeing back toward the citadel, tossing their heads ever slightly behind them to screech their hatred upon their attackers, and the loss of their prey. To tell them, that they would return.

Reaching the forest edge Taren stumbled, his legs trembling with exhaustion, sticky with blood and sweat. He no longer retained the energy to hold his charms, or even to stand. He fell roughly into the dust, watching as tiny beads of light, from his charms, trickled off him onto the ground where they expired in the dead grass. Humans, he could smell them, their rank stench almost as noxious to him as that of the ghouls. As pitiful as it would have been to have fallen to the dead he almost found himself wishing to exchange fates rather than to have been saved by these men. There were only thieves and traitors within this country, worthless men. Yet he knew without saying so that he was now their captive, an unfavorable shift of fortune, a poor hand of fate.

A ring of notched arrows quickly surrounded him, their iron tips gleamed dull in the lantern light. Bows creaked as they bent in anticipation of releasing their fury. Shadowy faces hooded, and bodies cloaked rose all around him, from the eve of the trees, and the grasslands beside, a whole company of men seemed to emerge from the twilight. He strove to maintain consciousness, but the light was fading, and all that was left was night.

When morning came.

The wind whistled savagely through the pine trees. It was a dark night, no stars or moon shone through the gloomy sky. The only light in the forest came from a small campfire, hidden underneath an outcropped rock. Two figures huddled in the night, their tired, hungry, features masked by a thick layer of dirt and grime. In the dim light of the fire it would have been impossible to tell that one was a man and the other a women. They both shivered in the cold winter air, their arms and hands clenched around each other.

I smiled sadly; I knew who they were, and where they were going. I had seen this occur a million times, but each time it struck a chord in my heart. I waited among the tree limbs, a mere shadow, spindly and tall. The fire would last another couple of hours; it would peak, and then slowly dwindle into embers. The air felt heavy, even the smell of the pine trees was barely noticeable. I’m always near when death is close, I’m compelled to observe.

Watching them I wished I could give them food and shelter from the driving wind, to ease their suffering. They moved less and less with every moment that passed, and the light grew dimmer. I wondered why I only watched them. Why couldn’t I take them under my arms, and guide them to a place where they could be fed and warmed. Slowly I came closer, silently padding through the branches until I stood above them. The fire was almost out.

There was an ache that filled me, a need which drove me to stand beside them, an invisible comfort in their plight. I touched the lady’s cheek, and felt its coldness.  Gently I took their hands, clenched tightly together and I felt their pulses thrumming slowly. Throughout the night I held them, I gave them warmth. At dawn I saw a flicker of a smile pass along their faces, the night had ended. Crying softly I rose and took their hands again in mine.  I took them by an easy trail out of the forest and into the light.