Restless MagicMature

Nobody knew exactly how old the old castle was, just that nobody in the area knew anyone that was alive when it was inhabited.

Now, you would think that nothing could be so scary as to shoo away teenage hustlers, but there was that air of feral danger that lurked around the place, so strong that not even the teens dared to go near it. There were no animals, either; the occasional hawk that was unlucky enough to end up in the surrounding area always kept a wide distance between it and the structure. Even the wolves avoided it.

The small city/large town that was nestled in the hill beneath the old castle was surprisingly modern considering they were somewhat cut off from most of the rest of humanity. There weren't many new people there, and no one ever moved out, but there was occasional tourist or paranormal journalist who went to see the huge stone building. The tourists never dared enter; the journalists never came out. It wasn't that the place was haunted; it was either inhabited by something with a six-mile-radius aura of hostility, or it was just so harshly uninhabited that it felt like the air itself couldn't breathe inside its stone walls. Or outside the stone walls. Or anywhere within the already mentioned six-mile-radius.

Now, if you were expecting a vampire story, I'm sorry to say that you were wrong. If you were expecting and hoping for a vampire story, you might be disappointed for a minute, but then you'll be happy again because this story is just as good as a vampire story.

No, it is not a werewolf story. Shut up. Just read.

~December 19th

Jacqueline Rowan stood alone in a pine forest.

The trees were placed in frustratingly perfect rows, each reaching about seven or eight feet tall, with no more and no less than four feet between each row and two feet between each column. Jack stood solitary in the symmetrical maze. Her breath steamed, and rose in little clouds that barely made it over the topmost pine branches before dissipating back into the frigid air. Voices drifted from behind her and to her left; people were buying Christmas trees.

The stone structure loomed forbiddingly over the vast tree farm; this was the closest place in town to the castle, and hardly anyone ever came. Jack loved it here. The silence helped her not to think to much, pushed away all of her stress and doubts. Like a downer drug.

Jack's black hair fell in spiked alignment with her jaw, and the funny red flame-colored highlights that bled from her roots stood out among the onyx. She had been born dirty blond, but her hair had, over the years, worked its way from darker blond to brown to mahogany to, recently, black. The red in her hair seemed to seep through the ebony spikes, then recede, according to light, so it resembled a living flame.

Her ashen eyes traveled around the Christmas tree farm, and her fingers rose to her mouth to touch the rose-shaped piercing below her bottom lip. The voices faded and stopped, and the faint crunch of tires on hard-packed snow echoed through the hollow air.

A little shower of snow erupted through the silence that followed from one of the spires on the castle. Jack watched it with interest; nothing ever moved up there, so even a little snow dropping from a gargoyle was unexpected and interesting. Jacqueline's angular face tilted up toward the source of movement, where the sun was beginning to blot out the spire as it set behind it.

Her phone suddenly buzzed in the pocket of her jeans. Jack flipped it out as she began to walk toward what she hoped was the beginning of the field of Christmas trees. It was a text.

Nathan Rowan: hey get ur ass home dads mad

She sighed. Her dad was always mad; it was sort of expected, actually, because of his alcoholism. She flipped out the keyboard of the phone and typed a quick reply.

Me: K on my way. Tell him ill b there in a sec

Send. Nathan would get the text in another second, and then he would have to lie to her dad that she would be home soon, while her and Nathan probably both knew it would be a good twenty minutes or so. Jack ran her hand through her bangs and made her way out of the maze with little difficulty; the place wasn't that big, it just seemed endless when you saw the exact same thing everywhere you looked.

Nathan Rowan: dude hurry he's fudging wasted hes prolly dangerous

She sighed as she read the text. She was already about halfway home, having taken the shortcut through the park in the middle of town.

Me: sorry im running

Nathan Rowan: hurryyyyyyy man hes raging about something i cant tell what hes saying but its something like the dog wont shut up or i wont shut up or i cant take care of the dog...

Me: shit. alright im almost home

Nathan Rowan:..............!!!

Me: sorry o.O

Jack slipped her phone into her pocket one last time as she reached the porch of the run-down building. Her, her two older brothers, and her dad lived in a two-story house that was slowly falling apart. It was already past the point where repairing would do any good, but it kept the heat in surprisingly well, and it was home.

Nathan was the middle sibling, nineteen, and the closest to Jack. Adam, the oldest, was staying with his girlfriend for the week while he looked for an apartment. He was twenty-three. Jacqueline was fifteen, the youngest.

"Dad?" she called carefully as she pushed open the door. The place was actually quite cozy on the inside. "I'm home. Sorry I'm late..."

"Jackie!" came a slurred voice. Jack winced. Rounding the corner came Mustang, their Belgian sheepdog, with his collar mangled and half-torn in two places. He wagged his tail at Jack and continued on his journey out the door.

"Go upstairs," said Nathan, emerging behind her. He looked tired. "I'll tell him you're back."

Jack winced. "Sorry," she said, and bolted for the stairs.

While the house was falling apart and actually very ugly on the outside, it was nestled at the edge of town against the woods and had an excellent view of the trees. Jacqueline's room was on the second floor, and the entire back wall, facing the trees, was glass. This part of the house wasn't visible from the road outside, and was barely even visible if you were standing against the side of the house. It just blended in.

Jack sighed as she entered the room. It was about the size of a large walk-in closet, with the wall opposite the door - if you could call a curtained hole in the wall a door - dominated by a huge window, the glass of which spider-webbed through with little cracks leading from upper left corner. There was no screen, and in the summer Jack slid the window open as far as it would go and let the curtains hang in the wind.

The part about Jack's room that she loved was that it was hard to get in, but easy to get out. The upstairs hallway was crisscrossed with fallen boards that made it an obstacle course just to walk. Creeping up past her window, however, was a tree (she had never figured out what kind it was) that grew almost melded to the siding of the house. Thick branches all the way up and down the trunk made for a perfect ladder, or even just a seat outside on nights when she didn't want to or couldn't sleep.

The room had always felt like a nest to her. She could imagine the room being disconnected from the rest of the house, tucked on its own into the tangled branches of that tree. Jack imagined this as she settled down into the makeshift bed in the corner next to the door, accompanied by her iPod and book. Mustang trotted happily through the curtains that blocked the entrance and went to make himself comfortable by Jack's window, which was open despite the snow that was billowing past in curtains.

The room was quite for a while. Even the snow didn't make noise, though the wind occasionally whistled. If she put down her book and listened carefully, she could make out the soft whinnies of the horses that lived a bit away. If she really listened, she could hear the faint hoof steps and the swish of a tail. The puffing of breath. The shrieking of the wind as it was sliced through by the spires of the castle, several miles away.

A raven landed on one of the gargoyles, and rustled its wings in the cold. That was odd - hardly anything went within a mile of the place. Let alone touch it, land on it.

Something else moved, inside of the stones this time. In her trance-like state, Jack could feel the warmth of something big as it shifted around. Feathers brushed against each other, and the breath of the thing sent little warm clouds into the frigid air. Eyelashes tangled and untangled in a fraction of a split second as something blinked. Sharp vision darted around the darkness of the tower room. Jack was there, her conscience was there, and while she could see it, she neither had the light nor the sense to make out what it was before its gaze locked onto her nonexistent eyes.

Jack jerked back into the real world as she woke up. What a weird dream; she must have fallen asleep listening to the snow and the horses. She was sitting up on her mattress, her quilt tangled around her, though she didn't appear to have moved. Her book was in her lap, clasped at the base of the spine by her hand, just as she had been holding it when she lowered it to pay more attention to the snow storm.

Mustang was still there, in the exact same position; but covered with snow. He hadn't moved an inch. The big black dog was still sitting alert and stiff, watching out the window, right where he had been before Jack must have fallen asleep. But the snow was piling around his ears, on his muzzle, around his paws. He didn't blink. He didn't even appear to be breathing.

The curtains weren't blowing, either. Jack scanned her room slowly, carefully. Something was building up in her chest and throat; it felt like fear. The fear of things unexplained.

There was no sound, no movement except the endless snow that never ceased to dance outside her window and bury her dog in her room. Even the leaves weren't moving.

Just the snow.

The End

0 comments about this story Feed