I stumbled my way out of the tavern walking out onto the desolate street, stepping off the wooden porch and steps out onto the street. There was a sparse amount of clouds across the night sky, the stars sparkled a little, and a crescent moon hung overhead. A wind based along the street, ducking into spaces between buildings where it could. I began to wobble my way towards my home, which wasn't too far removed from the tavern. But it still meant having to pass the gallows.
This town was the number one place in the state when it came to executing a felon. A good deal of them have broken their necks in the town square where the gallows were maintained. It's told that the gallows were the first thing built in the town, when the town's founder brought a murderer he tied up and built the gallows to hang his sorry neck with the rope that was once tied around the criminal. The town would be founded with the principles of justice, or so he claimed. The 'sport of hanging' never deceased.
With all the deaths it isn't surprising that once in awhile that some of them would return. I've heard from a few of my drinking pals that claimed that they had seen long dead felons hanging from the gallows when they passed in their stupors. Others see visions of their own family's past, or worse yet, was that some claimed to see their horrific future. I was skeptical of them. I maintained the belief that if I hadn't seen something, then most surely it lacked existence. And the apparitions my drunken friends had seen must be no different from that.
Most nights while at the tavern I only have a single drink, rich ale
usually – this night however had been different in that I partook
in more than a few ales in holiday spirit. It was Halloween nights,
and my friends always seem to convince me to drink more than I should
on what they see as "special occasions." So, hiccupping and
stumbling, and without enough sense to be very remorseful for my
inebriety, I made my way past the lone and dark gallows. It looked so
much more dark and looming than usual, at this many drinks, and at
this time of night.
"Good evening, sir, isn't it awfully late to be out on your own?" a voice whispered, it seemed to come out of nowhere and caught me by such surprise I couldn't help but jump.
"When is there not a 'Good Evening' after a round of ale?" I said.
"Ale….I haven't had a good round of ale in a long while."
"Why, there is a tavern just around the corner that serves the best Ale in town….No! The county!"
"I appreciate the advice, but I'm afraid I can't take it up."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well…it appears that I'm unable to move from here" the voice replied.
"You're stuck?! Do you need for me to get you some help?"
"No, but I would feel quite flattered that you would entreat me so. But frankly I'm as fit as a fiddle. Well….as fit as a dead person can be"
Wonderful, I found myself talking to a corpse and offering help. I had the sense to look about me to finally find the voice, and I saw a lovely woman clad in lace hanging from the gallows. Others hung limp around her, moving their mouths gently as they released whispers into the night air. I couldn't understand the words they spoke, but there was something deep inside me that was unsettled. The sight sent a chill down my spine and quickly broke out of my toes, I didn't mind the lady but these others discomforted me.
They hung from the same gallows the town's first hung man dangled
lifelessly on. The wood was beginning to rot in several place,
creaking as the wind blew through the planks. The hanging bodies
gently swayed, not noticing their lifeless movements, continuing to
whisper. A hazy half moon was hiding behind thin clouds that now
dominated the sky.
"Are you sure you don't need any help? And besides, a lady out on her own this late at night is not one bit better than a man!" I shouted to her as I stumbled towards her feet in worn leather boots – quite unfitting for the fancy dress.
"Well, I suppose you're right, I could use some help. Would you mind?" she glanced up at the noose with glazed eyes that shone near-white in the moonlight. Somehow I managed to climb up onto the gallows in my drunken state, and after much clueless groping about I managed to undo the noose. Much to my surprise, the lady landed perfectly on her feet after dropping down. A smile drew across her face.
When I'd clumsily made my way back, and practically fallen down from the gallows, I asked her; "What are you doing out this late, at any rate?"
"Oh me? I just felt like hanging for awhile. I hope you don't mind" she said with a grin on her face. I was quite baffled by the Lady's sense of humor. But I didn't spend much time thinking about it since she was fairly beautiful, and at that time I wasn't occupied with any other romanticism. "Would you like to go on a walk with me?"
"I was going to walk back home. But for a pretty thing like you I'd spare any amount of time." I said feeling quite excited that she would suggest such a thing to me.
"Well, aren't you quite the gentlemen!" she said. I then took her hand and helped her get down from the wood planking of the gallows. I then let go of her hand and put my arm around her own and began to walk with her down the street.
The others that hung had turned our way, by the swaying of the wind
or their own devices I could not tell, but their whispers were
audible even as we walked away.
It never once hit me to question the safety of walking with a deceased woman by my side, let alone the strangeness. It was quite peaceful really, and her attitude was charming – at least in the state I was in. I didn't feel quite myself around this woman; maybe she had unleashed some silent spell upon me that kept me entranced to her. The idea didn't really bother me, but then again I was drunk.
"You never did tell me your name…" I said to her, slurring my words slightly.
"Oh don't worry about that, mister, you'll find out soon enough." She winked at me, her pearly eyes still glowing. She steered me in the direction she pleased to go, and I was set off of my original course from my house – she never did say where we were going, but I liked her spunk. I just couldn't keep away from her.
We took many a twist and turn, and finally after I'd gotten out of a daze, I realized we were standing amidst a graveyard – with gravestones on each and every side of me. A thick fog had settled down as the evening progressed, and my lady friend was glowing a brighter shade of white than ever. The wind blew the fog in every direction and I lost my sight in only a few feet. The fog obscured everything, I could barely trace the figure of a a full orb above us.
I suddenly remembered the others that hung with women, moving their mouths to empty whispers. I felt that same discomfort as before wash all over me, whispers echoing from beneath the ground. Pulling at my feet in desperation in one last chance to be noticed, wanting to be more then just a whisper.
"Don't mind them. That's how all things are, don't worry, it's not much longer, really, I hope you don't mind," she said to me, I could tell that the smile hadn't left her voice.
"Oh… I don't suppose it's much of a problem" I said, scratching my head, but truly thinking that I wouldn't be able to find my way back, especially drunk and in the dark. Trying to step away from the invisible hands reaching from below, occasionally bumping against a tombstone or stumbling against a tree root. The lady gave me a confused look each time I did this, but I just gave her a smile.
"Here we are," she giggled, and ran up to a headstone, leaving my hand to hang emptily, and taking a seat upon it. The fog dissipated here, and with it the voices that seemed bent on haunting my drunkenness.
"You've been such a gentleman, I suppose you deserve some sort of thanks," she said, and bid me over with her finger, I obliged. She then gave me a small kiss on the lips, they felt cold, I could feel her dry skin, the smell of rotting flesh, and dust. I didn't mind at the time.
The fog came sweeping back. The whispers of the dead drowned the air and a sense of numbness drew across my entire body. The lady backed away and turned back towards the headstone. "Well its time for me to go, honey" she said with a wink.
"But wait-" but before I had spoke the fog had swept her away and then retreated in a hurry. I went to inspect the headstone where she had just been sitting. I put my hand on top of it and noticed how cold it was, but I quickly disregarded this. I checked over the headstone to see if I could identify who the woman was, but failed to find any markings. Knowing that staying wouldn't do me any good I decided to head to my home to recover from the experience.
I spent the whole walk home trying to decipher who the woman was. She
looked vaguely familiar, however I just couldn't place her. I was
cured from the whispers and the numbness they brought, but I still
felt the basic need for the woman who I shared my drunken state with.
There were only a few clouds in the sky, the stars were clear, a
crescent moon shone proudly with his astral brethren. I hung myself
in to keep warm from the wind that seemed to grow every moment.
I got home way later than I had anticipated. I put away what little things I had brought to the tavern and then got changed for slumber. I climbed into my bed and blew out the candle. In the remaining light from the candle I glanced over at the portraits of my parents. And there in the picture, I saw the woman. The wind snuck through my open window and snuffed the last light from the candle.