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A Cold Winter's Morning

They tell me it was cold. The wind whipped at your hair and tore the words from your lips as you spoke them, the icy rain falling in cascades down your neck. They grey dawn gave little light through the downpour and the sparse souls that could be seen along the streets hurried from cover to cover, afraid to linger in the chill longer than necessary. It seemed the perfect day to stay indoors, huddled against the fire as you drew close the young ones. It was in fact not a perfect day. It was a day of blood.
Stories are told now, of how the army seemed to rise from the mist that surrounded us, of how the faces under helmets seemed to hold only bone, the smiles skeletal and the eyes empty of all. Of course these are rumors, embellishes, the crafty imaginations of a man’s mind wrought by fear. But on that day the men might as well have been ghosts, the blood that spilled from them no more consequential than the rain, for they laughed as they died. They laughed as they died and they laughed as they killed and desecrated and stole.
I was four when it happened, and though I try the snatches of images, the half formed words that wormed in through my ears, still lay waiting in the darkened corners of my mind. I remember the look of something caged whirling in my father’s eyes, the warm brush of my mother’s fingertips across my palm, whispering words that have long been forgotten. I held a child in my arms. I don’t know her name. I looked across the room at the grown figures desperately stuffing items in bags and, in the case of my father, knifes into belts.
Our home was small but finely furnished. China plates sat at our table with the steam still curling from our abandoned tea cups, and on the wall hung a dagger. I remember that part quite clearly. Silver and long and desperately cruel, it stood on our wall as both a threat and a comfort. The history of the blade had been told so many times that even now it stays with me. It was the safety of our family, of our town, and to me our world. Countless times throughout the centuries when danger drew towards the Kavanagh clan the dagger ceased our crisis, the adversary erased like smoke. It was cherished, a thing of little monetary value but priceless for the sense of sanctuary it presented. It was our safety.
About then the screams began. Only a few at first, the high pitched squeals of those unfortunate enough to stand in the way, but they soon grew in number and mingled with the sound of running footsteps, jostling bodies, and laughing. Always the laughing. The shrill cackles, the cawing of crows, that echoed through the streets and bounced off the bodies still ring in my mind.
I remember my father pulling back the curtain that led to the outside world. I knew I wasn't allowed to look, that I shouldn't look, but still I peered through the gap of light at the mayhem beyond. The streets ran red. The view was blocked abruptly by a skeletal face, lips drawn back; a feral grin mocking the deadened eyes. I know I screamed. I’m sure of it. The ghost stalked into the room, pulling as he did a long broad-sword. My father stumbled back, grasping for something, anything, to use against the shadow that slowly advanced. The blades in his belt proved useless and were cast away with casual flicks of the sword.
I’m not sure when my mother died. One moment she was there, her arms warm and firm around us. The next she was gone, the lace around her collar stained a forever red. A different specter peered at us, seemingly through us.
“What’s your name, love?”
I stood in the corner, cowering. His breath was hot and sticky like warm tar on my cheek. The baby was crying.
“Erlina,” I whispered. The child shrieked in my arms.
“That’s quite troublesome, isn't it love?” he said, glancing at the small bundle. Without warning it was ripped from my arms. I covered my eyes. The wailing ceased.
“Leave the girl, she’s of no interest.” The words came sickly through the torrents of my fear.
“And this one?” hissed the other. My eyes sought the spaces between my shaking fingers, looking out upon the room. Backed against the wall stood my father, and above him the dagger. A silence followed the response. The gaunt lips opened to release a laugh that clawed at my spine and sent ice up my veins. The blade was seized from the wall. The dead eyes were light again with an eerie delight as the knife was thrown down. My father coughed. I screamed. He choked on his breath, words stuck in his throat. Slumped against the wall he lay still, a silver handle protruding grotesquely from his chest.
The dagger had chosen a new master.

(C)




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

guardianofthestarsThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 19 at 7:08 pm:
Wow, I wish there was more. Very nice details and I was on the edge of my seat until the end.
 
Sarah1517This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jan. 20 at 3:15 pm :
Thanks you so much!
 
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