Part of a “work in progress”

I started off a short story (that could become a novel) a couple of years ago. I really need to pick it up again and run with it but haven’t got the time… Never even got round to a title 🙂

He waited in despair, listening for the sounds that came, inevitably, inexorably, and always bringing torment. The room around him was stone built; the unyielding solidity and coldness reflecting the personality of his captors. His one joy was the moment the sun came through the high, narrow window. For that brief time its rays gave him a sense of warmth despite the desolation of his situation. All other times he felt as cold and empty as the room, knowing there was no escape, knowing his fate was sealed.

Alice stared down at him, eyes wide and breath suspended for a moment, finally understanding at a level never before explored what emaciated meant. His body was barely covered in grey-dirty, worn rags and to her further horror his arms and legs were shackled with heavy locks and chains to the hard wooden bench he lay on. No, Alice realised lay wasn’t the right word – that conveyed an idea of comfort that this man had obviously not experienced for a very long time.

A movement made the heavy chains clink; the noise loud in the dark silence. Slowly and with great effort the man raised his head, his long, matted hair and beard partially hiding his face.

“Who’s there?” the man’s voice was hoarse, barely above a whisper.

Alice tried to move towards him but found herself unable to. “Are you OK?” she responded. But her words didn’t seem to register and the man dropped his head back on the bench with a long sigh as if his last breath was leaving his body.

She was distraught, her mind, her body, wanted, needed, had to help this man but she couldn’t. A force unknown and unseen was holding her back. Alice struggled against the restraint but it was as unyielding as the solid stone walls around her.

Noises from beyond the room suddenly made Alice more aware of her surroundings. She glanced around at the walls, so dank and dirty that her skin shrank away from contact even though she couldn’t move. On the opposite wall, half hidden in the gloom was a dark wooden door. The outer noise became a recognisable sound, one of a bolt being drawn, grating and loud.

“Help me”

The whispered plea from the bound man made Alice’s heart swirl and swoop in patterns she had never known or thought herself capable of. She had never heard such depths of sorrow in anyone’s voice and was unsurprised to find there were tears falling from her eyes. She dashed them away with the back of her hand.

As the door swung open Alice frantically felt for safety of darkness but the same forces held her still. Thudding beats resounded within as she realised that she was going to be caught somewhere she shouldn’t be. Like the one time she had transgressed at school, the time she had taken a dare and gone into the teachers’ bathroom just to see if it was better than the grotty school toilets the pupils never used. Her mind showed her stood there, as she was now, watching a door open and knowing there was no escape, no excuse.

A tall figure entered the room, his long, hooded, blood red robe swished against the dirt floor. The light from the flaming torch in the narrow corridor beyond chased the gloom back into the corners of the room starkly emphasising the squalor. Dirt collected in the crevices and corners of the flagged floor; glints on the walls were reflections of light from the dampness; creatures with many feet scuttled away back to the places where light did not reach. Alice could now see the full extent of the prisoner’s plight; his arms blotchy from bruises and grime, the skin on his legs broken and crusted with old blood from the weight and harshness of the shackles, the ribs under his skin making ridges like wave patterns in sand. Her feelings broke through her fright and reserve.

“Let him go, leave him be.”

Her voice sounded faraway and echoed back to her, not like the scream she had intended. The red-robed figure carried on his slow walk towards the man on the bench. Alice’s words hadn’t registered even an acknowledgement of her presence. The robed figure pushed the hood back off his face and knelt beside his prisoner, totally disregarding the filth on his robes. He carried a large bowl, heavily carved and hewn from a dark wood. It was obviously empty and Alice wondered briefly why he had brought it. The figure lifted the man’s head by his hair without gentleness then spoke in a soft voice.

“Your time is near but we are yet a month away from the return.” His heavily-accented voice reflected his obvious displeasure as he released the man’s head and sat back on his heels deep in thought.     “Draining may be our only option. The power of the last may bring us the time we need”. Softly spoken words not directed at the prisoner; Alice felt the chilling promise within them.

Alice watched curiously but with a rising fear inside as the robed man took a curved blade from his belt. A quick flash showed engravings along its length reflected the torchlight; the same engravings as on the carved bowl. He arranged himself so the prisoner’s head was over the edge of the bench and he placed the carved bowl underneath. Raising the knife in his right hand and steadying the man’s head with his left the red-robed man began to chant. No words were sung; the vocalisations were deeper in meaning and intent than mere words could ever be. It held a droning yet musical fascination that tore Alice’s insides with conflict. Yearning and horror combined.

The sound made Alice want to run, run away as fast and as far as she could and run towards it to embrace its implication. Her whole being was invaded, her skin crawled with fear and loathing while the chant held her still in its thrall. It reverberated within her head like the heavy soul-beat of the bass drum but at the same time scraped her brain like the screech of a mad violin. As the chant reached the edges of unbearable the red-robed man brought the knife down across his captive’s exposed neck. Deep red blood flowed into the sudden silence.

[tags]wip, fantasy fiction[/tags]

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