Stones, Echoes, Skulls

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!         
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,   
And close your eyes with holy dread,       
For he on honey-dew hath fed,      
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
~ Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 
“I lost the skull charm three years ago, Grandmother. But there is nothing to worry about. I promise.”

Her eyes grew wide and shiny, so he added a smile to the fib. “Grandmother, there are no echoes. There have never been. I feel a little silly telling you this, but I never really heard them. Or saw anything. I used to wear the charm to bed because it made you happy. That’s all.”

She shook her head and began to fade, slowly gliding backwards towards the opened window, as if pulled by a force she couldn’t control.

“Grandmother? Don’t leave like that. Don’t be upset. I… it’s just that…” He knew he had to tell her, but the lie had gone for so long. He was sure that if he refused to believe in them, they would just go… But their screams just got louder and closer, and her voice faded. “Grandmother, I threw it away. The skull charm, I buried it.”

Her translucent features crumpled, phantom tears filled the wrinkles that cracked her youth. The unseen pulled on her, ripping off her clothes. Before her skin was also torn, the lips of his grandmother’s spirit mouth: Stones, stones, stones…        

It was the last time he saw her, years ago, when the dead only whispered from the shadows. The first echoes began to take shape the night he turned twenty-one. He went back for the skull charm, but the earth had eaten the protection. He returned home with hands and pockets full of stones. 

Placing the stones around him didnt quiet the dead, but it kept their skulls from smothering him into madness. Some nights, when he fell asleep between books and stones, he could hear the echoes of his grandmother’s warnings: Beware, beware…  

Poet’s Sleep, by Chang Houg Ahn
for Magpie Tales 208

44 comments:

  1. wow, this really is jagged and compelling. The word picture of the grandmother being torn apart is griping. Lies will do that.

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    1. Those of us who "have been there" know that the horrors of a lie get us in the most physical of ways, don't we?

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  2. Not sure how you got so much shudder factor into such a short story but, da-yum!

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    1. "shudder factor" I like that...

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  3. Loved your take on this. All the major elements are present and woven together so beautifully.

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    1. I'm very glad you loved it, Lynette. (I wanted to type your name; so pretty ☺)

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  4. I love this. I want to read so much more.

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    1. You might get to. I hope you had a good day yesterday and this coming week. You've been on my mind...

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  5. Quoth the grandma: Nevermore!

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    1. I laughed so hard when I read this, that I almost fell off the bed!

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  6. Your drawing me in with yet another wickedly yummy story, I hope there will be more :)

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    1. More we shall have. I'm pretty sure I'm adding this one to the short collection I'll publish in the spring... expanded. ☻

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  7. Creepily good, what a great write.

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    1. "Creepily good" I love that combination!

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  8. Nothing to worry about Grandmother... Yeah right...

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    1. Some people just don't seem to grasp the situation, until the situation has them by the neck and sleepless...

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  9. Good on you, Magally , 21 always seems to shine some light on hidden things....cheers mate

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    1. Doesn't it? So many things to be seen again, but really seen for the very first time...

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  10. I want to know why he wanted to be rid of it. Why he buried it

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    1. We shall discover those details together in Blooming Howls, my Lori love.

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  11. Some explanation required...so hope we'll see continuation of the story....~ very intriguing prose

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    1. I will be happy (and all of you have inspired me) to continue the tale, and find out just how things got that point. Thanks so very much for visiting. ☺

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  12. A most resilient spirit rages on alive within your poem!

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    1. Spirits alive and raging, how wonderful!

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  13. Very powerful Magaly! I love the way you use words!

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    1. Well, thank you, my dear Stacy.

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  14. Beware , Beware says the G.Mother. maybe she is trying to protect him.

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    1. I think you might be right.

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  15. oh my gosh- amazing story! wow!

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    1. I'm very happy you liked it. ;-)

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  16. Captivating! Beware floating grannies!

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    1. Flying grannies are probably quite dangerous, lol!

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  17. Amazing and gripping! More please?

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    1. More you shall have. Soon...

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  18. Well done! Nice write...

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  19. Yes, beware. I will. Great story.

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  20. I was transported to his bedside and table top. That was beautiful.

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    1. Good for him... to have you there. ;-)

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  21. The lucky charms and trinkets that we cast aside can be our undoing..........

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