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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

82_ym_somniumtrivium_hstanton.jpg
Art by Henry Stanton 2020

Somnium Trivium


Michael Steven

 

    I sit in the glow of kerosene light, repenting each dream not with cross and prayer but with quill and ink. For I allow them to breathe because I allow them to exist and take shape, haunting my dying sleep. With every stroke I expel my demons back to where they came, yet they still come. Night after night they toil in the shadows, hidden behind a dream. Even now I can feel them conspiring against me in the furthest reaches of my mind. Their faces void of all expression, they swing their hammers and drag stone, constructing the bridge when I slumber.

    The slick black streets outside my window remain deserted and drip crescent moonlight. My hands, however, are alive with fear and pour out the night’s dream with feverish speed. To recall such events is in itself tiring work, the fine details lay hidden in a winter’s fog but the shapes remain. That which cannot be articulated in word must be drawn from my vague memory of the account. It is here on my writer’s chair that I reflect and begin the ritual.

    I stood in the shadows of my mind, gazing up to the heavens. The moon burned without flame and the stars shone like ice chips, my head whirled with such a sight. On the mountain’s edge I peered down at a town below, the post-Victorian homes illuminated warmth, smokestacks bellowed big grey clouds into the sky, I have never in my life felt more in the moment as I did then. Charlie, as I have come to know him, stood in silence at the rear of the dream, allowing me to breathe it all in before he spoke.

“Do you hear them, Allen?”

    I did not receive the question at first. I was lost wandering the sky. My finger traced the belt of Orion, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, the three kings.

“I said, can you hear them beyond the thicket?”

    Deep inside the woods I could hear hammers strike rock and the sounds of a dozen feet shuffling against the forest floor, they were here all along working in secret behind the veil.

“What do they want?”

“Fear the moon, Allen for it’s ajar.”

    Before I could answer I awoke in a sweat, my sheets were stuck to the backs of my arms and I was breathing, heavy. I wrote and I drew all that my memory would allow. I wrote about the town and how it glowed in the night and how the stars in the sky made my eyes swell. I drew pictures, pictures of Charlie mostly, what he was wearing and how he stood with that slight hitch in his hip, pointing at the moon. I described to the best of my ability the noises the builders produced and how it made my stomach turn. The days bled together making it very difficult to decipher early morning and late nights, they have become entangled and I fear they may never come undone.

    If I needed sleep I did so during the day where as I found the dreams to be less intense but still very much alive. The moon had become my only real source of time, how it went from crescent to more gibbous let me know the weeks were in fact slipping away. Recently I have made a strange revelation, a smell. I figured at first it was I who was producing such a revolting odour, that is what the smell was, revolting. I washed vigorously, I washed bed sheets and linen, I washed my body and all my belongings but alas, I could not rid the room of such a foul stench, in fact it still remains, the stench of a dozen builders sweating over heavy stone.

    I put aside my quill and retired for the night all the while knowing it would get much use in the early hours of the morning when the moon is still hanging on before daylight arrives. I toss and turn in my sleep but cannot shake the feeling of being watched. My arms, possessed, burst above me, stiffly they reach for the sky. My hands twist and bend, my fingers form crooked black sigils transitioning from one to the next. My head bends and contorts beyond my will, my mouth is stretched past its limits. I thrash about as my body descends into madness. My feet flail and kick about, my hands reach for the quill that lay next to my bedside, they have forsaken me and begin to stab wildly at the bed sheets sending ink and blood splatter across the walls. My eyes dart from side to side hidden under their lids.

“Wake up, you must wake up!”

    The quill begins to find its mark and tattoo up and down my legs and stomach. The tip snaps off after its final blow and only then was I allowed to resurface and reclaim my body. I try to stand but stumble to my knees looking out the window only to find a full moon peering down at me.

    I was lost, huddled in the corner holding myself, unaware of how much my body was shaking and bleeding. I could not stand nor pity myself, I had to write before it was too late. With my quill now bust I had no other option; I must use my own ink. My legs run scarlet and pool at my feet. I lean forward, dip my finger and begin to write. I cast my finger along the walls bleeding one image to the next, the diary of a madman written in red. I blanket the walls with an archaic bloody hieroglyphic of nightmares, my eyes glazed, pulsing with lack of sleep. The moon, now full, projects a ghastly light over my work. I thumb the holes my quill produced in order to deliver the entire story upon the walls.

    All that I could recall at first was Charlie, his voiced muffled, lost in the dark repeating the same incoherent chant over and over with frantic urgency. But what the words were, I could not comprehend. The builders came next, their whips cracked and feet stomped the earth flat, dragging stone by the hundreds. The foundation had been laid and arches carved out, it was exquisite and would be beautiful if not for its dark origins. The bridge arched into a great black void covered in low mist and in that void, a full moon. I needed to fight, of that much I was sure. I pushed and punched and grabbed at their arms pleading for them to stop but alas it was no use, their grip was tightening and I was losing my foothold on reality, the dream had demands that I could not fulfil. The chant continued in the background, lost among such dreadful things. Their clay faces, soulless and without empathy, paid me no mind and disregarded my presence. The smell of kerosene and putrid stink overcame the air and yet Charlie chanted on. My world and theirs were melting together, the door was nearly open. The chant grew louder and louder still unrecognizable but merging and blending and becoming a solid voice.

“ey’r  hre! ey’r  hre! ey’r  hre!”

    I focused in and tried to listen to the hysteric rambling chants of Charlie. His voice grew and grew, ice hit my veins and my heart wanted to burst.

“ey’r  hre! thy’r he! They’re here! THEY’RE HERE!”

    And that was when I awoke, standing here scribbling macabre images and ranting in the dark about things I could not possibly understand or begin to comprehend. My arms felt heavy with the burden of the task of transcribing the night terror. At some point, beyond my memory, the hammers began to ring from some distant land, a constant and consistent rhythm that I feared would last a lifetime. Mist began to gather at my feet, tugging at my ankles for attention. The stink of “them” mixed with the smell of blood sickened me, the room began to spin, my breath quickened, which only made things worse.

“It’s time to go Allen.”

    Startled, I spun around only to find Charlie sitting, legs crossed on the edge of my bed, his fingers tapped at his knee as if he had been waiting and was losing patience.

“What are you doing here, what do you want with me?”

    The moon struck his skin and he appeared to be somewhat transparent, an apparition come to life. Was he real or was I imprisoned in my dream or perhaps what feared me most, he had come through. But if he had made his way onto the plains of the living, what else found its way across?

“I am your chauffeur across the bridge.”

    It was at that moment I realised it was not about them crossing over, it was about taking me back to which they came. I had not imagined even in my wildest dreams that this turn of events would at all be possible.

    “Do not fear the builders, they are just that, builders. Just as I am your chauffer, assigned to guide you across the bridge Somnium Trivium.” His piercing blue eyes dimmed and brightened with every strike of the distant hammers.

    “You and the others will cross over, that much you can be certain. What happens on the other side lies in the hands of Hecate, the collector and queen of the crossroads.” His casual demeanour of the subject of my fate infuriated me. He spoke so candidly, as if I were but an item and not a person at all.

“What do you mean, others?”

    “Well Allen, this very town is up for collection. Many things in times past and even now vanish without much of a trace. The Roanoke Colony, the crew of Mary Celeste and the people of Indus Pakistan were all adopted by the great Hecate but not all are sworn in. She will pick through and discard the unworthy, casting them to the pits of oblivion while the few chosen will transcend to a higher judgment. You, I believe, are why we have come, fighting off the reaching arm of Hecate is no simple task and cannot be overlooked, consider this to be a blessing from the nine circles.”

       Charlie held out his hands in a soft and gentle manner which made me feel uneasy due to the fact I knew I had no choice but to follow. I received his invitation, his eyes glowed a heavy blue as he led the way. The streets that lay deserted each and every night are now alive with activity. The townsfolk walked hand in hand with their very own blue eyed escort as they marched with no resistance towards the bridge that I have come to know as Somnium Trivium.

Michael Steven has had two stories published previously: "The Mirror" & "Hell Rift,” both published by Black Petals.


Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020