Character Pieces, Fantasy, Home

Echoes on the Wind

Leaves crunched loudly underfoot as Adam marched across the remnants of the pathway he had walked so long ago. Twisted trees stretched above, like clawed hands gasping for salvation.

A salvation that would never come.

He sighed, breath a puff of grey smoke, wondering why he’d come back to this childhood home, eyes dead and dull, the color washed away like an old forgotten photograph.

Adam sighed again, hands curling inside his pockets as he tried to remember why he had chosen to come back to such a wretched place.

The answer of course, presented itself in her usual manner; a creeping, clawing cold that crawled up his spine and settled in his weary bones. Ghostly hands clutched at his shoulders as he shivered, nose filling with the scent of the lake as ice coated his throat.

For once, his sister’s silence was a comfort.

All too soon, they reached the end of the path, and after a moment of hesitation, Adam raised his eyes to the spiraling mansion that had been a symbol of warmth and safety in his youth.

His eyes burned as he took in the remains of the crumbling structure. Entire walls were missing, gaping wounds that bared the broken bones of blackened wood and stone. The roof had collapsed, but whether that had been caused by the passage of time or had been created in the initial assault, he did not know. He took a breath and began marching up the cracked stone steps.

The door was gone, its splintered remains scattered across the dust painted floor. A wind rushed through, swirling and echoing through the neglected halls, carrying the earth-ridden water scent from the lake he knew sat some distance behind him.

He swallowed and stepped into the house, back stiff as he fought the urge to flee once again.

And then, he could see it all again. The halls painted in golden firelight, the polished white stone that held up the ancient house, the crisp red rugs, the dark hanging portraits, and the smooth wooden banister he and his sister had spent hours climbing.

Eyes shut, all he could see was bright crimson fire, the heat licking at his heels, the piercing screams echoing in his ears. The taste of ash and copper sharp on his tongue. He sucked in a violent breath, and then coughed, choking on long settled dust.

Adam squinted and rushed away, feet carrying him until he had to stop and catch his breath. Throwing out an arm, he struck cool marble and immediately slumped against the wall, waiting in the silence until his pulse slowed and his blurred vision cleared.

Wind caressed his hot cheeks and he blinked until he could see, and once more he found himself outside, pressed against a column near what had been a beautiful large stained glass window.

Unfortunately, this put the lake within his line of sight, and more importantly, the old oak tree. His heart skipped a beat and sweat gathered beneath his collar as Adam stared down the childhood landmark.

His eyes burned as laughter echoed in his ears. Unwanted, he still saw a young girl with long raven hair dance down the broken steps overrun with creeping grass and dark violets (though then, they had been smooth gleaming marble, the flowers pruned and placed happily at the rails edges), dark blue dress swishing around her small bare feet. She turned, beckoning him with a smirk before bounding off across the lush green yard, sweet music falling from her bright lips.

Through eyes set mush closer to the ground, he gave chase, little limbs reaching out and clasping the dark silken fabric, twirling until they crashed into the unyielding bark. Giggling, his sister offered a hand, and he braced a hand against the tree, raising his head just in time to—

–see the knife in her chest, the crimson bubbling from lips that formed the words—

His vision blurred as he stumbled, and he choked as he slumped against the tree, the bark cold and stiff, cutting into his flesh through his gloves. Sobs bubbled from his lips as cold hands fell against his curls. He fell, knees scrapping against old broken gnarled roots. He curled, limbs prickling with needles, back pressed against the copper stained marks left to rot within the bark.

(Note: This story is connected to the piece “Echoes in His Head”)

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