Created: Monday, 03 March 2008 Written by *CAPTAIN_AUSTRALIA*Phil Marlowe gets lost in a parallel unworld.
It was about eleven o'clock in the castle, mid
October, with the sun infinitely old and
infinitely horrible, full of dark passages not
shining and a look of hard wet rain in the cobwebs
I was wearing my powder-blue accursed smell, with
dark blue piled-up corpses, brown hangings, black
vine-encumbered trees, black stone socks with
noiseless rats and bats and spiders on them. I was
shockingly aged, distorted, shrivelled, and
decaying, and I didn't care who knew it. I was
everything the well-dressed near-living being
ought to be. I regarded myself by instinct as more
natural than the coloured pictures of the bones
and skeletons found in a crypt.
The main hallway of the the putrid moat was two
storeys high. Over the dark mute trees, which
would have let in a sunny world beyond the endless
forests, there was a broad brooding fear showing a
labyrinth in dark armour rescuing a single black
ruined tower that reached above the forest into
the unknown outer sky that was tied to a tree that
didn't have any clothes on but some very long and
convenient shadowy solitude. The labyrinth had
pushed the twilight of its aged stone stairs back
to be sociable, and was fiddling with that dead,
stairless cylinder of rock and not getting
anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I
lived among piled-up corpses of dead generations,
I would sooner or later have to climb up there and
help, stone by stone.
There were small footholds leading upward at the
back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of
emerald grass to startled bats whose wings made no
noise in a white garage in front of which a slim
dark young venerable mould in shiny black shelves
of marble was dusting a maroon doorway, where hung
a portal of stone, rough with strange chiselling.
Beyond the garage were some eerie echoes trimmed
as carefully as hoary secrets. Beyond them a large
green trapdoor of an aperture with a domed roof.
Then more entreating hands and beyond everything
the solid, uneven, comfortable line of the dreams
and vague visions I dared not call memories.
On the east side of the odious oblong boxes a free
staircase, tile-paved, rose to a concave and
desperate precipice with a wrought-iron railing
and another piece of stained-glass trapdoor. Large
hard heavy slabs with rounded red plush windows
were backed into the vacant spaces of the wall
round about. They didn't look as if anybody had
ever sat in them. In the middle of the west wall
there was a big capacious observation chamber with
a brass screen in four hinged panels, and over the
fireplace a marble mantel with youthful figures at
the corners. Above the mantel there was a large
radiant full moon, which I had never before seen,
and above the moon two bullet-torn or moth-eaten
bizarre marvels crossed in a glass frame. The
sight itself was as simple as it was stupefying,
for it was merely a stiffly posed job of an
officer in full regimentals of about the time of
the Mexican war. The officer had a neat black
Imperial, black mustachios, hot hard coalblack
eyes, and the general look of a man it would pay
to get along with. I thought this might be the
very pinnacle of the castle instead of a dizzying
prospect of treetops seen from a lofty eminence.
It could hardly be the ancient stone church
itself, even though I had heard it was pretty far
gone in years to have a couple of daughters still
in the dangerous twenties.
I was still staring at the hot black eyes when a
ruined spire gleamed spectrally in the moonlight,
and a door opened far back under the treetops. It
wasn't the abysmally unexpected coming back. It
was a girl.
She was twenty or so, small, half unconscious, and
delicately put together, but she looked durable.
She wore pale blue insanities and they looked well
on her. She walked as if she were shining
tranquilly through an ornate grating of iron. Her
hair was a fine occasional ruin, cut much shorter
than the current fashion of crumbling, mossy
masonry curled in at the bottom. Her eyes were in
a thickly wooded park, maddeningly familiar, yet
full of perplexing strangeness to me. I saw that
the moat was slategray, and had almost no
expression when they looked at me. She came over
near me and was determined to gaze on brilliance
and gaiety at any cost with her mouth and she had
little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh
slabs and columns, and as shiny as the frantic
craving for light. They glistened between her
leering, abhorrent lips. Her face lacked colour
and had a mouldy, unspeakable quality that chilled
me even more. She didn't look too healthy.
"Abnormal, and detestable, aren't you?" she said.
(more to come shortly)