Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)
TITLE: Doomed Regret
By Loren T. Lowery
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The December snow fell quietly. Night stole in on tiptoe, drawing lavender sheets over pearl gray hills, blanketing the day, shushing the noise, calling for sleep.
Black wrought iron, caste in the shape of spears, and tethered with kindred kind, boldly embroidered a patch of sacred lawn. Iron Gates standing as steely barriers to life’s finality, man’s mortality.
Drifting snow speckles brown dirt from the fresh graves, it melts and turns the warm earth dark - thawing like a spreading bruise, staining black.
No breath, not even the whisper of a wind confuses the silence here; indeed, sound stoically throws ups its arms to surrender to the cold blackening stillness. No noise, no stirring only quiet. Life laid to rest, death no longer denied.
Not here, between the Iron Gates, but there, yonder a bell peals. Four, five, six times, evening drawing nigh, lavender sheets, once cool to the fevered skin, melds with the blackening earth; a once past comfort turned foe in the frosting darkness.
A white moon appears on the night’s cloudless horizon, moving slowly as if awakened and pulled by the pealing bell’s fading sound. Moon shadows fall upon the pristine snow – outline of trees, gate, fence and headstones begin to move.
Impossible, graceful, silent movements, dipping, waggling, bobbing caressing the snow around their forms– their shadows dancing like puppets tied to a string from the moving light above them.
Beyond the Iron Gates, a noise is heard, quick, fast: thump, thump, thump. Feet descending on wooden steps connected to a white clapboard church. A man appears; he is running, jacket open and flying behind him as he darts up the road to the graveyard. “Rachel, Rachel,” he cries.
Behind him more distant but quickly looming, another sound. Its rhythmic cadence shakes the road with its thunderous approach. A Dark Figure, riding a dark horse emerges from shadows that seem to embrace them with intimate familiarity. In a gloom well past twilight, they appear almost as one.
The man races ahead of the Horseman, pushing the Iron Gates open with a clang that vibrates in the cold air. He runs to one of the graves, kneeling on the fresh earth. Hot tears mingle with snow dust. “God, I beseech you, hear my prayer.” Clutching a gold cross, he pounds his fist into the fresh soil, bruising the earth still more.
The relentless beat of the hooves draws closer, the noise suffocating, pilfering sense and sensibility. The black specter of the horse and its Rider suddenly halt at the gate. Their presence hangs large and overwhelming behind the man kneeling at the grave. The horse stomps it feet with impatient agitation. The man stretches his arms in a protective stance. “May the Lord grant us mercy in our deaths.”
He dares a glance at the Rider who eyes stare back as red embers of hate. The horse rears and neighs with a sound that splits the earth itself. Flames belch from its nostrils, sizzling the snow into a lake of red flames.
“That we might be united with Him in Christ in Heaven,” the man continues.
A wedge of brilliant, warm light breaks the ebony night, scalding it gold - down to the grave where the praying man kneels. The man looks up; his tears absorbing the color of the light and reflecting like liquid gold on his cheeks.
“Fear not,” a gentle voice instructs.
Seven bells peal out and a Perfect Peace embraces him as the light disappears, returning cold blackness to cold blackness; restoring the same, but for the red flames dancing across the lake of melted snow.
The horse rears again, disturbing the dirt from the adjacent, forsaken grave, causing it to crumble and avalanche down upon itself. A howling apparition arises from the mound; corrupt, tormented, putrid it floats to the outstretched hand of the Specter on horseback.
The man falls back in terror as he watches in awe as the apparition closes the Iron Gate and mounts behind the dark Rider. The ghost leans forward as if in hope to hear something the Rider says. Slowly he turns, infinite horror etched into his features, he stares at the Christian– in doomed regret.
The Rider laughs.
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