Are you ready for FEAR!
The hidden tavern
Dusk, dusty and cool, mists swirled up from out of the ground, rising in tendrils, as weird plants from the cold ground. Stumbling and scratched, in the wood, once full of bird’s song and sunbeams, light sunlit and dappled dauphin, now lost its backdrop for a sameness, a grey cooking paper background, stumps littered in the billowing fog. The lights of the village, eyes glowing in the fog swirled in and out of view. Salty and burnt from tears, cheeks, whipped by the wind or by sorrow and fear, burned by time and weather, seemed to shrink into his face, hiding from that which was out here. The path seemed difficult to follow, and the lantern spluttered and waved, a ship tossing in the seas of sorrow. Diving into his coat, shrugging and shivering through crisp leaves and branches, the lights blazed and he grabbed a cool iron latch. Creaking like a coffin, the hinges rolled past each other, fear crisped from his forehead to his toes, electric, refreshing. Around the table plates and glasses were to be found, as if a meal had been interrupted. Half eaten, abandoned. The candles blazed brightly. So many lit in a time of poverty meant a signal, or fear. He blew out some, keeping only a few so as to make it through the night. He closed the door, swinging fast, and the the terror hit him full in the stomach as he saw the feet swinging in the rafters, pair after pair, flittering in the candle light. He turned, and there behind was a glinting smile of a dead man, pinned to the door speared, gored, as if in mid joke.
He blew out the lantern, and shivered. Hunting round he found the slosh of a canteen full of oil, refilled the lantern and cut down the dead. Too many hours walk from a neighbor and out here, in the muffled middle of no-where, the law was all too often ignored or even openly flaunted. The inhabitants of the inn, for that was where he was, had no documents or even money. A thief, or highwayman had taken everything. Kicking open the door to the stables, dust climbing, sticking in his throat. A sole horse was left, the rest had been taken. It shivered in the night, shining with sweat. That meant a rider had just tied it up, but who?
Blood swimming its scent into every pore, into the nose and throat, as pulling and heaving with the last efforts of tiredness, he dragged the poor souls to the garden. Perhaps the beasts of the woods would feast on the corpses, wild dogs and foxes and badgers and other more dangerous beasts, bears or even wolves would creep out now, exploring nature’s larder. A shovel, a spade, rolled up the sleeves, relit the lantern, its smell bringing the blood to nostrils, and dug. He buried the dead, hoping not to join them. Then, crept back, barred the windows and doors, lit a roaring fire and sat in a chair, holding a garden fork in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.
Daylight came. A traveler knocked on the door, then pushed down the latch. He took a step back, not daring to believe, the husk in the chair, life sucked, face full of fear, sorrow, lines etched by acid, smoke smoldering in the fireplace, and the dead swinging from the rafters, the dead smiling man pinned to the door. A husk! Perhaps some crazy butterfly had hatched from that! Stumbling in fear, blood pumping in his temples, he ran, ran, ran, until his very soul turned white with fear. The sound of his body, dropping dead into the undergrowth hidden wafted through the woods and his corpse was grabbed by the very roots, for the tavern lived off nature’s bounty, whatever form it came in.