First off, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I hope you all a fun day. And I hope the world is kind to all the beautiful black kitties out there.
Secondly, it's time for the WEP, which I missed last month. WEP is hosted by my awesome fellow Aussie, Denise Covey. This month's theme is, fittingly for the time of year, "Ghost Story".
My story is actually from a novel I never ended up finishing, despite working on it across 2 years of NaNo (2004 and 2005, I believe). It's technically part of a greater epic fantasy work, but is currently a little bit disconnected from the "whole". Anyway, this is the scene as it stands after a few revisions done today. MS Word tells me it's 523 words long.
Somana stared at the ghost. She knew what it must see as it looked back at her—a face haggard and sagging, red-rimmed eyes with heavy shadows underneath. No doubt it also saw a withered, worn-out body, all planes, angles and shadows.
That was how Somana felt. Desiccated.
Soft orange-red light flickered all around, filtering through the ghost, playing tricks. The ghost stood silent, its power unspoken, undefinable…inescapable. It held Somana in its thrall, a trembling prisoner barely able to draw breath.
This had been one of the bad nights—the ones that always seemed to age Somana so dramatically. And it was far from over yet.
“Why are you here?” Somana’s voice shook. “You torment me!”
The ghost did not need her accusation. It knew.
It knew all her names: Zeille. Ereta. Joenne. Somana. It even knew the name she’d gone by as a child, a name all but forgotten now even by its owner. Best forgotten. Perish the thought of anyone speaking it aloud nowadays—such an act would surely seal Somana’s doom.
In her mind, she saw the ghost’s mouth open; saw the word, the name, slip out.
Her heart seized, stuttered. Her lungs constricted, and she was convinced they would explode at any moment.
Her life hung in the balance. Cradled in a ghost’s hands.
Empty bottles lay scattered about the room—at the foot of Somana’s chair, on every windowsill, and peeking out from beneath the thick, velvet curtains. Those glass receptacles glimmered in the firelight, mesmerising representations of the depths to which their owner had sunk. Usually a visitor wouldn’t see them, for no visitors came on bad nights like these. But the ghost saw them always, and drew them out.
Somana hated this ghost. She also loved and grieved, as she had done across all these bereaved years. The sickly feeling swelled in her breast, sweeping through her entire being, threatening to obliterate her the way endless bottles of elixir could never do. Why are you being so cruel? she wanted to ask, but her mouth no longer worked. And besides, she would never ask that question. Never could. The ghost was not being cruel on purpose. It was only fulfilling its purpose.
But she couldn’t help but wonder what sort of life this was. Could she really go on this way forever?
Her limbs had grown stiff to the point of cramping. She sweated, twitched, grimaced, whimpered, but did not move from her seat, huddled as she was against the great cushions. Sometimes she leaned forward, and always her eyes remained fixed on the spectre of her fascination. She wanted to run and hide, but she also wanted to spring forward and enfold the apparition in her embrace.
A motherly embrace...
The sun crept above the horizon but the light inside Somana’s room never changed. Only when the ghost departed would the shadows relinquish their hold on her. For now, the ghost held sway, and gained some measure of vindication. No comfort. Never that. No one could ever feel comfort here.
But when vindication was all there was to gain, it would have to do.