It was a grey and shadowed dusk, the last vestiges of sunlight fading from view, plunging what was once a sunlit day into an overcast and dreary evening. “Yet what,” the young poet thought, “could harm me in a place as secure as this?” He was right, for in the dusty Victorian mansion, the only things lurking were the house mice and some ten dozen paintings of grim and looming nobles, previous owners of the fine estate. “A perfect setting in which to compose frightening verse,” he soliloquized while lighting a candle.
Yet, wait! What was that? The sound of padded footsteps, a flicker of movement in the shadows? The young poet stood up, his eyes trying to follow the movement of a wraith-like, raven-clad phantom darting through the gloom. “Who is it?” he shouted into the audient void – from which there was no reply. Hurriedly picking up the candle, he ran toward the sound of fleeing footsteps until he was lead to the decaying stairs into the basement. He saw a silhouette slip into the darkness. Cautiously descending the rotted steps, his candle flickered as he went deeper even though he feared the darkness of the abyss. For both comfort and self-defense, he drew a sword from an antique suit of armor. “Truly I shall face this lurking shadow as a knight would face a dragon.”
Around him were the works of art he’d once loved so much to surround himself with, forgotten in the place of newer paintings. Their eyes seeming to follow him, their faces like those of mournful fiends. Ignoring these terrible countenances as best he could, he pressed on. Hefting the sword up to his shoulder, he held up the candle to the darkness. Something was avidly awaiting his arrival. As he stumbled upon a strange stone altar he could not remember buying, he was shoved forward by a bony hand forcing him down upon the altar’s top. The sword clattered to the ground. He wheeled around only to see a figure in robes so dark it was as though the night sky was clinging to the skeletal frame. A metal mask carved into the countenance of a fearsome skull covered the face letting only its eyes show. But, oh, those dreadful eyes, those dark lusterless orbs, reflecting only the poet’s guttering candle flame! Yet the poet took little notice of this for he was groping in the darkness with his hand for something to use as a weapon. He came across a crude stone dagger that surely once belonged to the owner of this altar and swung it around with all his might at the ghastly figure.
The figure, who had been chanting some vile, arcane mantra in a dry and raspy voice, took no heed of the stone knife until it was too late. The blade passed through its pallid flesh, piercing its neck. The robes and mask collapsed empty to the floor, the flesh having crumbled to dust. Strangely, the poet took no notice of this event, but got up in a businesslike manner and began to walk towards the stairs.
He continued walking back the way he came, towards the room he was writing in. His candle was sputtering and dying, ready to go out, but he did not worry himself over this either. He had lived and that was the important thing. As if to reassure himself, he muttered under his breath, “I have lived.”
Yet it was not the young poet’s voice passing from his lips. It was a dry and raspy voice, the voice of a creature no longer human. It was the voice of a creature wishing to live forever in the bodies of others while its own body decayed in a long forgotten crypt. And as he gazed into a mirror, his fair hair and suntanned skin contrasted now with the black, lusterless orbs that were his eyes, he again uttered, “I have lived.”
Ethan Carpenter, born in Mississippi, was raised in several different states. He is currently a sophomore at Dunlap High School in Dunlap, IL. Occupying his time with a variety of activities such as fencing, Scholastic Bowl, Pathfinder, and Choir, he reads and seeks to advance his writing skill. The idea of writing as a career appeals to him, but he would gladly pursue it as simply a hobby if other doors open. Now 16, he wrote the above story at the age of 12.
If you enjoyed this story, let Ethan know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.
Story illustration by Raven Daegmorgan.