Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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The Ruined Tower

by Jeromy Henry

Beneath the twilit gloom
Of the moldering branches lay
The faintest glimmer of fading silver
As the moon's blood leaked away.

My cloak of shadows brushed the ground,
I wandered, wrapped in pale gray smoke,
The scabrous hands of the Whispering Wood
Clutched at me, as madmen's voices spoke.

The clouds blew down to whisper too,
The fog grew thick and cold,
Eerie witch-green fires lit,
Will o' wisps in a diaphanous hold.

The moisture dripped on everything
And then it turned to ice.
The trees grew locks of brittle hair,
Old men stooped with vice.

I heard the hounds, baying for my blood,
But I just smiled a sad grim smile,
For I had none. They thundered
Past me, slavering in single file,

Paws like claws of lions,
Great black bodies, big as wagons,
Teeth like flashing sailor's knives,
Yellow eyes like brimming flagons.

Their hot breath stirred the hem
Of my evanescent cloak, fiery
Spittle sparked the fallen leaves,
Ice splintered and broke.

They jumbled past, the woods went back
To murmuring and creaking swaying,
I faintly heard the thundering paws,
And the distant baying.

The clammy, foggy tendrils rested
On my shoulders, like ghoulish friends.
A hundred clammy fingers pointed to
A snaking road of twists and bends.

I followed a path of crooked skulls,
Amidst the gnarled roots and ancient boles,
As dead men looked and dead men smiled,
I stepped among the hallowed knolls.

Through the haze I saw the blade
Of the sickle moon above my head,
The ice began to drip and melt,
As I walked among the tumbled dead.

At last I came to a leaning ruin,
A tower without a top.
I stared into its blackened eyes,
And I glided to a stop.

I reached a withered hand
To the frame of a forgotten door,
Made of darkness, not of wood,
Belonging to that time before.

The wind began to laugh and groan.
I let my magic cloak of gray
Slither off my clean white bones,
And down upon the stones I lay.

A huntsman's horn cracked the night,
The hunters howled to the sky.
They could never catch me now
However fast that they could fly.

It sounded like a silver chime,
As the curse upon me broke.
My dimming eyes saw silver fire
Limn the ancient ring of oak.

About the fairy ring the hunters stamped,
Horses snorted frost and flame.
Thirteen hands raised torches high,
And booming voices yelled my name.

I shuddered when I saw their suits of iron,
Molded with skulls and spikes and fire,
Antlered helms bobbed and turned,
They slashed their moon-bright blades in ire.

I would sleep forevermore, though
All the knights of hell paced round and round.
The dogs howled a shivering howl,
My final earthly sound.

© 2010 Jeromy Henry

Jeromy Henry is the author of more than a dozen published stories. Besides writing, he designs games, and has far too many other hobbies to mention. Check out his writing page at: www.bonkers.host22.com/writing.html

Find more by Jeromy Henry in the Author Index.

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