Anytowne, UK – AD 700 (#3)

September 30, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

this was originally published in one of our zine’s “THE ARCHIVE”

Written by Peter Speer

ANYTOWNE, UK – AD 700 (#3)

I’d hitched a ride on an oxcart with little to my name—a lumber log, a gypsy lamb, assorted trinkets.  My cloaked chauffer, more troll than dwarf, and more dwarf than woman, drove with a liberal whip, her bearskin smock undulating Turkishly in the damp Spring eve.  We’d stopped for a grog-nip under a sloping knoll’s shadow, the rising moon catching a fleeting nap behind a passing cloud.  My feet were numb in the cold, and I’d begun to grow tired.

At first I paid little heed to the rustling in the branches, to the flocks abandoning their stately perch.  I saw a fox, then two, then all manner of varmint scampering from the outlying brush.  Their pace quickening with their numbers, an escalating stampede, a rising tide of fur and claws, darting with alarm from their secret homes.  A putrid wind followed them from the forest, the air itself expelling an urgency in its exit.  It groaned, howled and spit, roaring past, parting the weeds, loosening my footing.  It smelled of rot, semen and cinnamon: the musk of spell-craft.  I spied my driver high above, atop the hill, incanting in tongues, her hideous complexion bathed in an emerald moonlight.  I was paralyzed.

Sun-flares erupted in the periphery, my knees gave out, my shoulders fell fast.  My tongue felt suddenly huge, alien, hostile.  My stomach quaked, my throat heaved and I cried out with everything I still commanded: a primal rattle that left me hoarse and gasping.  I tore at my clothes, certain they were in flames.  I ripped at the grass.  I wanted only to slow its whirling.

Then earth grew deathly quiet and shook!  Monoliths rose from its surface all around, perfectly formed and set, growing to extraordinary heights, radiating a womb’s warmth and rotating with the cadence of my slowing heart.  I could not close my eyes, I could not stop from drooling.  Indeed, though I knew myself poisoned, and felt my mind scurrying like so much local fauna, this was no fantasy!  I was at once awash in the helpless surrender of a complacent invalid, beholden to the supernatural spectacle unfolding around me, and yet focused with sober intensity on the rising rhythms approaching from the dark of the wood.

Dun!  Dun!  Dun-dun!  Dun!  It snapped me back to the ground.  I could feel the chill of the dew.  It grew louder: DUN!  DUN!  DUN-DUN!  DUN!  A fog hung low and crept towards me.

I was immobile, lying on the field, rigid, panting, staring upwards.  I saw myself running in the heavens, regressing in years as I passed the stars: now old, now young, now an infant, now a spark.  I felt the shaman woman’s chanting trickle down my spine as my life passed before me, constellations warping around my visage in the ether.  Explosions of color, patterns forming and collapsing on one another, shadows dancing everywhere.  I shook uncontrollably, and as I shook florescent vapors radiated from my joints.

I rolled onto my chest and managed to rise to my knees, vomiting violently forward in the darkness.  The bile simmered on the lawn, and I followed its steam upwards, my eyes catching the seething void beneath an earthen hood.  If I could have run I would have run, but I don’t have to tell you, dear friend, that it was hopeless.  The druids had already arrived…