Three

On the other side of the forbidden fence the spirit was completely different.

Everything was grey, from the sky to the grass to the thick woodland, which almost reached the level of wildness as the garden back across the fence.

The garden back across the fence suddenly seemed a long way away.

Jack and Jill, though they were tired and hungry, felt lured by some inexplicable coercion, and they fought their way through the forest with an unknown motive.

It had not been long when a light shone through the trees ahead. Jill’s heart leaped. Maybe it was a clearing.

She crashed through the undergrowth, a swishing sound behind betraying Jack’s presence as he brushed past some leaves.

At the edge of the supposed clearing Jill stopped with an abrupt halt. By some miracle Jack too paused. The awe-filled gazes in green and grey eyes locked with the invigorating scene before them.

It was flooded with whitish light and incredible beauty; nevertheless Jill could immediately sense an undoubted underlying ugliness in the general aspect of the place. Beauteous inspiring mountains framed the background, with snow-capped peaks and rocky slopes. A cascade of mist added to the impressive imposingness. A silver lake lay peacefully in the valley where they stood, skirted by tall pine trees tipped with silver.

However, as Jill scrutinized closer she conflicted her first impressions. The snow on the far-off mountains was tinged grey and the mist was a mere curtain, shutting the splendour of the mountains out. The silver lake, now she saw, was just grey like everything else, reflecting the menacing grey clouds that loomed ominously in a white sky. Even the sparkle on the trees was sinister cobwebs coating branches chokingly.

Everything is two-sided, thought Jill, with more than a little depression.

Her ears at once detected a moaning sound.

She glanced at Jack. His puzzled expression spelled that he had heard it too.

“It’s coming from the lake,” Jack maintained. His voice rose with tension.

They hurried to the lakeshore and the moan was voiced again, more clearly. Jill could hear a distraught note in the voice that touched her sensitive emotions and awoke sympathy for someone or something which she could not see.

Jill looked down at the lake and before her eyes the grey clouds on the lake surface faded and she was looking into the depths of the lake where millions of faces gazed up at her.

Jill’s heart missed a beat. She blinked. She could scarcely take her eyes off the lake. She opened them. The faces were still there.

Jill’s grey eyes, wider than usual in disbelief, focused on one pitiful face. The sallow yellow face was thin, hollow and haggard. A smudge of a mouth drooped with fatigue and starvation. The delicate but ruined nose was plastered to a mannequin’s face. Limp lanky hair was glued to a bruised cold scalp. Earlobes sagged alarmingly. The transparent forehead creased with the effort of living. The vision had no cheeks. The lips moved, emitting a far-off gurgling moan.

It caused Jill the most pain to see the desolation with which black eyes greeted her. They were pools of darkness representing the face’s past, present and future, resignation, terror, horrors, caution long thrown to the winds in madness. As she looked into the eyes they seemed to overwhelm Jill, and for a fleeting moment some words flashed before her in their raven blackness as she fell forward into the dark desperation.

The End

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