Thursday, October 15, 2009

Infernal Stalking

The night is wings of crows, flapping silently over my shoulders. A thousand whispers of leaves, or mice, scurrying at my heels.

Only three more streets and I’ll be home.

The wind is brother to hungry wolves. With iced fingers it seizes my eyes, tears my hair, dies quickly only to be reborn through another crevice between buildings.

An operatic voice rises behind me, too close, too loud. A tremendous bass-baritone from a tragic opera I vaguely seem to recognize. The voice is close, the instruments far, in a discarded dimension. Is it in Italian? Or German? Who listens to opera in these deep hours of the night?

I think I can hear my name. How can it call my name? The wind is meowing, mocking my ears. It must be.

Only two more streets and I’ll be home.

Again. My name. I hear it now with aching clarity. I chance a glimpse back, just as I force my march into a trot. The street is a valley of stone, with nothing animated but the white wings of abandoned newspapers, tumbleweeds blown on a prairie of asphalt. No car even sleeps by the curb. No window is alive, behind me, in front. Darkness has engulfed everything beyond the meagre streetlights. Is there a power outage?

Where does the music come from?

Only one more street and I’ll be home.

I pull my jacket tighter, unable to repel the chill in my heart. My name echoes wildly behind me, around me.

My trot morphs into a sprint, the soles of my sneakers slapping the sidewalk impossibly loud.

Finally. But my house is dark too. There’s nobody home. It takes an eternity to fumble with my keys. An eternity of operatic madness.

At last, the door shuts behind me, enclosing me in the cocoon of safety built by the familiar feels, and smells, and noises. The tic-tock of the grandfather clock, the clanging of a water pipe from the heating system, the sweet, humid smell of earth and plants. The absence of opera sounds.

The light switch is dead. I feel my way along the wall to the kitchen. A muffled humming permeates the door that leads to the lowest entrails of the house. What’s in the cellar?

Against all caution, against all hope, I open the door. A milky glow bathes the staircase. The opera music builds in a sombre crescendo from which the bass-baritone voice calls my name.

I have nowhere to go home.

I am home.

(photo from


Karen said...

How easily you write this genre. Reading this is like entering your mind and feelings. The details you include - such as the newspapers blowing like tumbleweeds, the winds rising as you pass by breaks in the buildings, and the sound of the shoes slapping on pavement - add to to the realism and also heighten the tension.

You do the tension part really well. Beginning with the night, adding in the wind, the deserted street and the music leads to a higher and higher level of anxiety as the narrator vainly seeks escape from the inevitable.

I hope you're continuing work on your book, Vesper. You are entirely readable and engaging. Great seasonal piece, but beyond that - very, very good!

the walking man said...

It is much more haunting because no creature came out of the night. Much more viral because the darkness within and without is the monster.

Anonymous said...

For me, this is one of the most delicious things I've read on your blog. Really a masterpiece of heady sensation, mood, fear, and consignment. Bravo!!

BernardL said...

A very well done chiller!

Aine said...

The operatic build of the terror within... a sort of warped coziness. Very nice!

And that photo! Just fantastic...evoked some fantasy for me, that's for sure!

Geraldine said...

Just excellent Vesper. You've built in the suspense and tension so well. I was holding my breath byt the end...

Michelle Johnson said...

you built the suspense so well. i was engaged from beginning to end. i think this is the perfect seasonal piece. have a great weekend.

Nevine said...

This is beautiful, Vesper. Very often writing a suspenseful piece is akin to challenging reality. Here, because the focus is on what you're feeling, how you're reacting to the stimuli around you, it flows beautifully and is entirely real. I really enjoyed this!


Fireblossom said...

Vesper! You scared me half to death, girl! ;-)

S said...

Hi Vesper,

Suspense grips me like a vice as I hold my breath reading. Your style of questions, and succinct short sentences interspersed among longer background description, adds to the momentum. Well-done.
-gel This is my new writing & photography blog address

laughingwolf said...

oooooooo i like the mood/visions... especially the 'milk monster' at the end ;)

Miladysa said...

I was reading faster and faster as this went along - always a good sign lol

My favourite lines:

"The night is wings of crows, flapping silently over my shoulders. A thousand whispers of leaves, or mice, scurrying at my heels."


Marilyn Brant said...

You create such an intense, atmospheric journey in merely this walk with the heart is pounding faster now, having just read it :).
Thanks, Vesper!

Akasha Savage said...

Oooooh! Vesper! I love it. You've crept into the Darkside. :o

Rick said...

Hi Vesper. This has such a different rhythm than most of the work that you've displayed that the more I read it, the more I wondered if you were free-versing in mental prep for a novel to see how it played. I'm doing a lot of that now so I thought I'd ask if you were doing the same. Especially when you comined the element of opera. Here's what I'm saying: I'm dying to hear more about the background and future of this piece.

Also, do you feel more creative and prolific in October? I do, and I was wondering if you do, too. I wonder if we're more creative in the month's we were born? Or at season's change.

Oops. I almost forgot to tell you I loved the piece!

Tabitha Bird said...

Dark and delicious. So well written. and I love the ending. The darkness... wow. I'll never walk home alone again. Glad I found your blog.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

OOOoooo! When our dark imaginations have moved into our cellars, and have manifested themselves, as who knows what...where in the hell CAN we go?

From the very first line you capture my attention - "...The night is wings of crows..." so gracefully expressive and infinitely poetic. You build the tension so masterfully - and then, you softly drop that last line producing that wanted shiver that all writers hope they elicit.

Vesper said...

Karen, thank you for such a detailed and considerate comment. The fantastic literature (not fantasy) and the science-fiction are what I like most so that’s what I write.
When I wrote this, I "was" on that street, feeling, seeing, hearing everything – that’s how I am when I write something…
The book, ah, Karen, now you shamed me and it’s a very good thing. The book is somewhere on one of those shelves I was mentioning not so long ago. I suffer greatly of an amazing lack of time.
But I thank you with all my heart for your encouragement.

Mark, I’m glad you saw this. An unseen adversary is often scarier and more menacing.

Jason, “delicious” – that’s a wonderful word! Thank you! I’m thrilled that you liked this.

Thank you , Bernard!

Aine, thank you! “Warped coziness” – I like that!
The photo is weird, isn’t it? Could be the landscape of nightmares… I’ll have to dig more to find out from which film it is.

Geraldine, thank you so much! :-)

Michelle, I’m very glad you liked this. ‘Tis the season to be scared… :-)

Nevine, yes, I thought that a first person POV would make this piece more “real”, closer to the reader… Thank you for your kind praise.

Fireblossom, ahem… *large grin* …thank you! :-)

Gel, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed this. :-)

Laughingwolf , I’m thrilled that you liked this! :-)

A good sign, indeed, Miladysa. :-) Thank you so much!

Marilyn, I’m almost sorry that you read this , after I just read on your blog how you feel about such disturbing stories… But thank you for reading and for your kind words! :-)

Akasha, thank you! I love, the Darkside… :-)

Rick, what interesting things you’re saying! “Free-versing in mental prep for a novel to see how it played “ – never thought of that. How interesting! Some of my shorter pieces are like this. Ideas with not enough “meat” to make it into a short story but perfect for a vignette. Unfortunately, I think this is all there is to this piece…
I do feel more creative and prolific in October. Maybe because of Halloween and because of my love for all things dark and fantastic.
I was born in April and, you are right, I feel a sort of special energy then… But maybe everybody feels it, because of the renewal in nature.
Thank you very much, Rick!

Tabitha, I am glad that you found my blog! :-) Thank you for reading this and for your very nice comment.

Kaye, yes, where can we turn to if our home even is not safe?...
Your words of praise bring a smile and a shiver to my heart. Thank you, my friend!:-)

SzélsőFa said...

I've been absent - but will be back soon. I liked your Equinox poem and will return for everything in between.
It's only that I'm busy with things.
Mostly, blah.
And some, you know what.
but that will pass, too.
I missed your writing.

SzélsőFa said...

Wow, now I read it through.
Detto what Myladysa said -
Or to put it in another way: I keept creeping to the edge of my seat. Literally I almost fell off at the very end.
Great poetic piece.

Vesper said...

SzélsőFa, I'm so glad you liked this! I too miss your visits, and also your poetry and your fiction. But don't worry, we're all busy with things... and most of them are just... blah...