Saturday, October 28

Healing in the Hall of Bones


It's the Wordsmiths Unlimited October challenge! Can you hear the creaking? Can you hear the whispers? Can you hear the scurrying in the shadows? No? Then you're not listening...

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Healing in the Hall of Bones

"Beware the masters of this place," says the groundskeeper on your first visit. He shoulders his shovel and walks away, ignoring questions unasked.

It is the sixteenth day of your convalescence in these cold and green isles, exploring heath and hill. Wandering is good. It helps calm the mind and stretch the body. In cafes and bookshops near the hospital you learn of a hundred wonderful places within a day's walk. Of the few you have found so far, this is your favorite.

It is a great hall, or was hundreds of years in the past. Through ages and neglect it has opened its raftered roof to the sky, shed its ornate windows to the winds. Only the thick sturdy walls painted with lichen remain. There is a weight to the air, a sense of time and testing. It wraps you in a cool cloak of tranquil familiarity. Absent are the fluttering noises, nests, and stains of birds. The stone walls impart serenity and strength. Abundant ferns surround you, peaceful and patient.

The groundskeeper’s warning leaves you confused. Why beware? Who are the masters? It cannot matter. The hall is overgrown. The groundskeeper must not be a capable caretaker. Perhaps the masters prefer the ancient place be kept as it is, steadfast and noble, crumbling with dignity back into the earth.

In the following weeks you regain parts of what you have lost. Prescriptions and therapists occupy the mornings. Fields and copses take up the afternoons. Township parks and public houses fill the evenings. Each day brings conversations with new people, renewing your confidence and stamina. Every day you stroll along hedgerows, amble over countryside. Every day you visit the old hall. And every day you are alone there, except for the stone walls, the open sky, and the low forest of ferns that greet you with quiet acceptance.

On this day you arrive at the hall in the morning earlier than usual. The sky above the open roof portends rain. The mossy pocked walls promise security. The ferns beckon you to rest. You lay down on soft soil that smells of living things. The green stalks are a protective bower. Contentment and sleep come unbidden.

A pinprick of pain wakes you. Bewildered, you stand on unsteady legs and peer at your hand. From your wrist a point of red seeps, running down your forearm, dripping on the ground.

"I told you to beware." You stumble toward a voice. The world slows. The edges of your sight blur into grey. The groundskeeper stands there, his voice as flat as the stone walls, his face as impassive as the ferns. He stands among the fronds, caressing them. They bend toward his touch, quiver around his boots.

"The masters are always grateful for their bone meal.” In a rush of horror, you understand the absence of birds. The groundskeeper speaks the last words you hear.

“What is left of you will be delicious.”


tiff said...

Death by fern. What a wonderful place your brain is.

I did NOT see that ending coming at all. The last line is perfectly chilling, the play on "bone meal" is clever.

Question - is the groundskeeper going to eat, or just the masters? Another question: if they've had their bone meal, how can the doomed "you" stand? Maybe I'm just being dense on that point.

Wordnerd said...

Oh wow. This is fantastic. I'm going back to read it again.

This Girl I Used to Know said...

Very interesting. Kind of a role-playing thing... putting the reader as the actor in the piece.

To Tiff's comment, I had to read the bone meal part twice to get it... I think they drank all the blood, then the standing up, then the speaking, then falling back down to become the rest of the meal.

I think that my confusion stemmed from speaking of bones when only blood had been taken so far. But I really like the term bone meal, better than the alternative, blood meal, so I don't know that I would suggest any change.

Anywho... good stuff, with some excellent imagery...

I LOVE this line
Through ages and neglect it has opened its raftered roof to the sky, shed its ornate windows to the winds.

Good stuff

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, good stuff!

Very fitting for this time of year; you certainly have a talent for the macabre, no?

jazz bird said...

I'm with wordnerd- worth a second read. Enjoyable, as usual! Keep 'em comin'.

Shari said...

You seem to know a lot about ferns, being a Mojave guy....

Up here in the Pacific Northwest we have those carnivorous ferns you speak of.

One can never be too careful when hiking.

Chelle said...

Wow. Nice. Agree with Tiff never see the end coming- which a hard task to accomplish in today's world.

Kingfisher said...

Thank you all. Obviously, I stumbled on this one. I will break one of my rules and explain.

The pinprick and standing were meant to be confusing. Was it a needle by the groundskeeper? Was it a sharp tendril from the ferns? Does it matter? Something weird and scary happened.

You stand and realize there are no birds. Animal life is not welcome here. But your bones, after you fall, will feed the masters. And the groundskeeper will feed on the rest.

You are recuperating. From what? Injury? Illness? Mental breakdown? Are you in your right mind in any case? Why are you attracted to this place?

Is this the domain of the groundskeeper? Or of the ferns? Does it matter?

You see that you are dead. That is all.

the only daughter said...

I too, enjoyed it much and the ending surprisingly icky.

I wonder if the section starting "The groundskeeper's warning.." is even necessary. It cannot matter. Why not?
Also, steadfast & noble, (and) crumbling... twisted me just a bit. But, it's probably just me-and my interpretation.

Very creative and lush. Maybe it's good I have such bad luck with ferns.

tiff said...

KF - I get it now. Thank you.

Also, thank you for your comments on my story. You're right on all points and I'll se if I can tweak it for my own personal "pleasure."

Sea Hag said...

Good stuff. I liked the twist of this, and the fact that the narrator found this place to be a sanctuary only to be EATEN BY KILLER FERNS!!!! Oh noes!