Good afternoon, or morning, or night, or whatever the time is when you happen to be reading this. I thought since I’m revamping The Siren’s Lyric (again) it might be a good idea to throw in a quick excerpt of some of the prose. I think this one’s a bit chilling, or at least that’s the intent. The setting is, very plainly, a dream Alex has.
* * *
Alex slept reasonably well that night. While there had been dreams, most of them had faded to the mind’s forgotten wastelands as soon as the next one had begun. However, one would stick with her like a fly to a spider’s web; this dream was almost a memory.
While sunny, the air had been unnaturally cool for a summer’s day. She clung to Matthew’s arm as the two walked eastward, well beyond the tavern where the forest path ended, to the place deep in the woods she called the chopping block. This was their spot, far from civilization where they could explore their young love in ways that would make their parents cringe. Father had once told her that even bandit gangs and others in exile would steer clear of this area, as their superstitions often got the best of them. If this place of death contained any haunts or evil omens, however, she and Matthew were oblivious to them.
The event of the dream carried on in much the same way as it did in her memory. The chopping block was a horrific place—both of them knew its history. A Breaking Wheel lay on end at the farthest reaches of grass; a short stoop beneath a low-hanging branch, likely used as a gallows, stood at the opposite end; several metal sheers and shackles had been strewn about, and speckled between were skulls and other human bones. By intent, she had never given much thought to what these devices had once been used for. There was no need for that—the young lovers could see past these terrors (there was even a time when, in reflection, Alex could appreciate the irony of how so much beauty could exist in a place rooted in such despair). It was at the center of this clearing, next to a large rotted tree stump, where Matthew had asked for her hand in marriage. Of course, he would not be allowed to make an official proposal for at least two more years—town law held that no man could make the formal request to marry before he had secured himself a craft, and Matthew had yet to submit anywhere for an apprenticeship. But the gesture had meant everything to her, and she had been eager to respond with a yes.
She would have been happy for the dream to end here, but dreams rarely run the course they’re directed. As Matthew rose to his feet to embrace her, she saw past his shoulder and into the shade of the trees where a looming darkness drifted towards them like fine wisps of morning fog curling across a moor. Standing there was a figure—the details of its face obscure at first, but as it neared the edge of the clearing Alex began to make it out. When she could see it well enough, a silent scream caught in her throat.
It was like looking into the face of death itself.
The hag within the trees didn’t seem the least bit startled at being noticed. In fact, her leathery lips curled into a puckered grin. Her searching eyes sat deep within the cavity of her skull, which was wrapped tightly with pallid skin. A tattered brown bonnet hugged her scalp like beetle’s armor, and at first Alex had thought what she was seeing were cobwebs poking out from beneath it. A second glance, however, and she realized it was the woman’s hair.
Matthew held her tighter, mistaking her shivers of terror for happiness, and just before the dream began to fade, a voice spoke in her mind:
“What a pretty necklace, young lass.”