Insane in an Hour

February 8, 2009

Tony Schilling

Insane in an Hour

Around us was darkness, only darkness; deeper than the greatest oceans, blacker than the depths of space. I struggled to push my last worldly possession through the deep mud of the surrounding forest. Onward I wrestled with the small, wooden cart, purloined from a neighbor’s back yard. Upon this cart, lay my brother and business partner, Samuel. However, I no longer had to sludge through the muck at the grueling pace I had at first taken up, as the town’s people had given up their pursuit.

We were lucky to have escaped alive, though villagers’ attempt at stoning us had left my brother maimed and unconscious, and myself slightly bruised, but otherwise in adequate health. In spite of the pain and struggle involved in pushing my brother forward, I continued to drag myself slowly forward, the mud now up to my ankles.

Though our fear of persecution was now over, as the town’s people dared not enter the forest and beyond, it was necessary that we found shelter soon, lest the elements become too much for my brother and me. The rain, though invisible in the shadows cast by the clusters of trees, was now beginning to fall much harder. It lashed our faces with frigid ferocity and soaked our garments, causing them to drag me down, deeper into the cold mud.

At length, the trees began to thin out and grew less dense, allowing bright moonlight to beam trough the outstretched branches. The now illuminated raindrops fell like gleaming jewels, pounding our backs with equal weight.

Suddenly, the front wheel unexpectedly became entangled in an outstretched root, and then there resounded a loud crack. Soon after, the tiny wagon, along with my brother tumbled to the soft, wet ground. I groped around in the dim light, finally finding my brother’s clammy wrists, half submerged in the frigid soil. The cart, clearly beyond repair, I left behind, so I dragged my brother forth on my own.

For a long while, I dragged my brother along the ground, until finally, the forest dissipated and we were left crossing a large, grassy field, besotted with mud and puddles. The precipitation on my brother’s face rolled down his cheeks resembling tears of pain and suffering. This I knew, however, was impossible in his sickly condition.

At this point, however, clouds had rolled over the moon, leaving us with no illumination, save the habitual fissure of lightning, followed by thunderous rumbles which shook the earth beneath us and rippled the pools of water now forming across the field. During one such flash, preceded by a lengthy spell of pitch, I saw in the distance a rough dwelling, which disappeared in another flash of black. I decided to wait for the next flash of lightning to verify my vision. In a deep puddle I waited with my brother until, by the next flash, I saw the domicile again, and again, my vision was soon after impaired with the proceeding blackness. And with that, I dragged my brother through the field until; at length, we came upon the great oak doors of the abode. And it was not until the next blazing flash that I saw the lodging for what it really was: a great castle with mighty stone turrets and ramparts which, even in the light, seemed black as pitch.
The mighty citadel loomed like a giant over the daunting cliff on which it rested. This timeless fortress, though weakened with age, refused to crumble and give in to the elements. The doors opened with surprising ease when I applied force to the great, wooden things, revealing the long, black innards of the castle. Letting my brother fall upon the floor, I closed the oak gates which left the rain as no more than a silent percussion, resounding throughout the halls of the castle. Our night time lodgings found, I resumed the burdening task of dragging my fraternal about, seeking perhaps rough bedding of some sort.
We traversed the lengthy corridor, padded with a dilapidated, red carpet, which tore and ripped as my feet fell upon the aged thing. And to my left and right I observed the impressive array of items along the stone walls. Said walls were festooned with an ancient panoply of every type of object, from weapons, to tapestries to suits of armor consistently placed throughout the walls. These blazed in the light of every flash of lightning which flashed through the windows.
I discovered our shelter at the end of the hallway. I wandered into a lofty bed chamber with a great wooden bed in the center of the room. I laid my brother down upon the silk sheets of the bed and set out for fuel to light a fire in the fireplace. I ambled through dark halls past spires and arches and after a lengthy search I came across some old wood and found my way back to the chamber. My brother lay there as before, still and weak. I then lit a small fire in the fireplace and reclined in a cushioned chair. I stared pensively at the fire as I warmed my hands by the blaze.
The warming flame illuminated the rest of the room, revealing an even more impressive collection of decorations than those of the previous hall. I gazed in awe at the ancient tapestries and realized at one glance of this array that this castle seemed in some way familiar. I recalled tales of a castle from my childhood, and it was these old fables that frightened the people of my old village into never crossing into the woods or beyond. These tales of a fortress of ineffable mysteries and bloody terrors had never frightened me as a child and therefore had I never been afraid of transgressing the frightful land.
However, it was because of this lore that my brother and I had been cast out of our homes; although it had been more the idea of my brother to take advantage of the people’s fears and superstitions to turn a profit. It was these avaricious acts, motivated by his greed that led me to often look upon my brother with distaste. His greed had always accentuated the fact that he had never truly been my fraternal relative, but my half-brother. In spite of this, however, I had always followed him in his schemes. This was perhaps my greatest flaw that I went with every plan and whim of everyone I met. My flaw was that I was too kind, almost foolish. However the more I thought of it, the more I realized that this entire situation was of no fault of my own, but rather that of my brother. Had it not been for him, I would be in my home, not ostracized to this ancient fortress. The more I thought, the more I realized what he owed me. Why was I left burdened with his faults? Why was I meant to suffer on his account? He always had been close to me, as close as a brother. However this last act of avidity was too much to bear. I ran my fingers through my hair, struggling with my evil thoughts.
Lost in thought, I had forgotten about my drenched garments. After a short search, I found a long, silk cloak of dark black with which I replaced my own clothing. Pulling the hood over my soaked hair, I again sat down and resumed my thoughts. And though I fought them, the hateful thoughts returned, and I found myself scorning his very presence; the young man who had caused me so much misery. I turned my head to him, and though he shivered, I did not clothe him in something dry, but turned back to the fire and continued warming myself. I added fuel to the fire, the flame grew hotter and with it, my temper. I could not control myself, something had changed inside me. All composure lost, I leapt up and paced around the room in an ire. I was confused, and angry.
Horrifying thoughts began to erupt from the depths of my soul. Hatred filled thoughts, ugly thoughts…evil thoughts.
I could leave this man here to die; I could leave him the next morning, frozen and dead. But I was not a murderer. I was not capable of such neglect and cruelty. Or was I? Could I leave behind this man whom I once had loved as a brother?
‘Yes’ came the answer. ‘Of course!’ The next morning I would leave him for good. No one would know, no one journeyed into these parts. It would be my secret. I tried to compose myself, but in my insanity, this was impossible. Or perhaps I had never been saner. Perhaps this was right. What had he ever given me? And finally, in a fit of absolute rage, a complete loss of composure and decorum, I dashed back into the great hall, now blazing with light from the moon and the lightning; I grabbed a scythe from the wall and hurried back to the chamber. My thoughts now turned paranoid as well, for I slammed the door behind me lest someone should see me.
I raised the scythe high above my head prepared to strike the man dead. Just as I was prepared to slash, the great windows on the other end of the room blustered open, and wind and rain now rushed into the room, tearing curtains and tapestries asunder. The lightning was now bright as daylight and I could no longer hold back. There was something inside of me; something demonic, for I resumed my striking position, and in one cruel blow, I lodged the blade deep into the man’s chest. Obstreperously, he lurched up and let out a terrifying screech, but then fell silently back to the bed. I pried my tool of death from his abdomen and observed for a moment. He was breathing heavily and fading quickly. However I was not finished. I resumed my horrid attacks, this time hacking continuously at the body below me. I could feel the crunch of bone and the splatter of blood upon my face, but it mattered not, for I continued to hack for many minutes more until there was no corpse, but rather a pile of gore and mess; it made me grin. And at this point I looked up, towards the window, and the storm which I hadn’t noticed in my fury. I spotted a large mirror next to the open panes and saw my horrid reflection. I gasped at the sight of myself. I gazed in horror, at the stranger in that reflection. That could not be me. And yet it was. In my black cloak, scythe in hand, covered in blood I not only resembled, but was something demonic. I was the reaper of death and despair, the grim reaper, as my town folk had called it. I harvested the living and cultivated the dead, the latter of which lay before me, unrecognizable, terrifying.
I let my murder weapon clatter to the floor and fell back into my chair by the fire, which was now just a smoldering pile of embers. The moon snuck behind a large, dark cloud and I was again left in darkness. The cold and the storm no longer bothered me, though; I fell asleep and was met with terrifying nightmares.
I awoke later in the night to find that the storm had passed, and the room was now bathed in cool moonlight. I was shaken from my night terrors and was sweating profusely, and found myself staring at the wall in front of me. Suddenly, I heard the low, unmistakable breathe of my brother. Had it all been a horrific dream? I turned to verify this and was disappointed beyond description to find the carnage still there, still soaking the bed sheets and found that the blood had dripped to the floor forming pools over half of the chamber. I could not bear it! Alone with a corpse I was; and not even such, but a horribly disfigured version of one. I cried out in terror. I now believed every legend, every myth, every tale once told. I flung open the door, dashed out and raced down the long hall. I came to the exit, I would soon be free, but I could no longer even turn the handles of the doors that had once been so easy to open. My hands were too wet to grasp the black handles and simply slipped with every attempt to do so. And as I looked down, I saw, not sweat on the handles, but blood. I knew I was delirious, but I would listen to no logic, I instead ran in the opposite direction; I dipped into another doorway and dashed through halls and rooms, through and eternal labyrinth of brick and stone. I found my way to a large staircase which I followed, sweating and panting. I knew I was alone, but felt constantly that I was being watched. At the top of the staircase was a wide opening which led to a large balcony. I ran onto it, relieved beyond description to be out of that beastly castle’s bowls. However, I almost slipped and fell, as the balcony was still wet with precipitation. Slightly shaken, I composed myself, but felt suddenly pushed towards the edge of the balcony but stopped myself again from falling and straightened out my cloak. However on my sleeves I saw two red marks, bloody hand prints. I turned all about looking every which way to find the assailant, but there was no one to be seen. I gazed quickly over the balcony, at the daunting fall below. I had almost met my death in the thrashing waves at the foot of the cliff. But as I withdrew, there came a great thrashing, I was being wrestled every which way. I tried to resist, but some force was throttling me. I shut my eyes and felt myself being lifted into the air, felt my shins crack against the stone railing of the balcony, and then- I felt the horrible free fall. I opened my eyes to see the craggily rocks of the cliff whizzing past me and the lapping tongues of the wave crests, ready to swallow me below. I looked back up to the last thing I would see- a mangled shadow staring down at me from the balcony, grinning. And then, around me was darkness, only darkness; deeper than the greatest oceans, blacker than the depths of space.

The author's comments:
We sarted reading Edgar Allen Poe in my English class, and one of our homework assignments was to write a gothic horror story. This is what I wrote...

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