A village sat still and silent, guarded from the outside world by the never-ending clouds and mist that encased every inch of the village, even the doors and windows hinted a tint of the gray matter; making all the homes appear as if specters are constantly looming inside. It became the epitome of a languid village. The homes broken down, the roofs twisted upward or downward, in either prayer or in sorrowful repentance, the walls seemed to bulge at ends or centers, as if full or already busted. The small village of Hassen Nacht had not seen visitors for many a year, so when the usually still blanket moved and swirled with the kinetic force of a trotting horse, the town became a garrulous place, the often dead silence pierced by the small chatter of new comers. The steed entered the square, holding a woman on its back, a man walked in close approximation, holding still the silver reigns that held the horse at mercy. The woman seemed unhappy with their arrival, but the man on foot gave a satisfied sigh. She tried to whisper to him, he would not listen. He escorted the horse and woman to fountain in the centre of the town. The water in it long gone and brown with still growing mildew, the marble that held the water was cracked and had fissures in its upper portion where the designs of cherubs had taken a demonic and ghastly appearance after being worn by time. It was not the fountain the man was guiding them to, but what was just beyond it, there, standing erect, was the statue of Christ upon the cross. Made of fine wood and finished with a still lasting gleam, it seemed to be the only positive mark in the desiccated village. His face was forlorn and full of sorrow, he seemed to cry, even though he was forever still, his body was twisted and thin against the large wooden poles that made his cross.
"Isn't it lovely Katherine?" The man said with obvious fetish toward the graven image.
"This, carving, is what we came for?" She said curtly and with disconcert, she gave a powerful sigh, a sigh that could make any man remember why he should have or shouldn't have done something or another.
"I wonder who made such beauty."
"Not made nor carved nor even created I fear." The man flinched as he heard the cackle of an elderly woman, his attention shifted hastily to a small, haggard old woman, her skin was as pale as the moon, and her sunken, wrinkled eyes reflected an iridescent blue. Her hair seemed to be made of the same color and material as the wiry silver jewelry that dangled off her wrists. She was clothed like a peasant, wearing an old, baggy, brown skirt that bore just as many stitches as there were rips in its folds. Her shirt was nearly had been white at one point, but was now stained with mud and dirt; her back and head was veiled by a satin purple cape; she was bent and hobbled along with a cane made of silver and a fine, dark ebony wood. The man paled and the woman became afraid, at the sight of her, while she continued to smile.
"Then- Then where did it come from?" the woman on the horse asked fearfully, the old woman sighed and began to delineate the origin of the lovely cross.
"It's been said for many years how this cross came to be, but I believe the words of my dear husband, who told me what his parents told him. It's said that one day, this village was in a dark state, disease and famine was rampid across this land. Then one dawn, when the keeper of an inn was digging graves to bury the diseased and deceased he saw a man come down the road, wearing hardly enough to be considered clothed, bearing a huge cross on his back. He drug the cross behind him heavily, and the inn keeper came to his aid. Tired as he was the inn keeper gave him a room and food for the night. They made small chatter and the keeper asked the stranger what he was doing with the cross, and the stranger said he wanted to erect it in the village for all to see. Moved by this, the keeper promised to help the stranger carry it in the marrow if it wasn't too far. The stranger slept at the inn overnight, and at dawns break had taken the cross and began to carry it further, while the keeper still slept. The keeper woke late, only to find the stranger gone, and the cross as well, he grabbed a mallet and ran for the village. He saw the man by the cross, trying to raise it alone, the keeper ran by his side and helped him hammer and raise it in the ground. Promising to be back, the keeper said he was going to get them both water from the tavern. Upon his return, he found the stranger was nowhere to be found, all that was left was the mighty cross, upon it however, was something the keeper never saw, the figure of Christ. The inn keeper then had a dream the following night, it was the lord, and he said to the keeper to tell the village that; so long as we had faith in god, no evil, no famine, no drought nor even disease shall harm this town. From that point onward in history, this village has never suffered again." The woman nodded as she finished, the man stood with his mouth agape at the awe inspiring tale of this magnificent cross.
"That is quite a tale madam. A truly amazing story indeed." She smiled and her eyes lit up as if she had been a child who was rewarded for telling the truth. "What good fortune we have to come to such a well protected village."
"Not for much longer young boy." The man's awed face warped into a face of despair.
"What do you mean?"
"The cross used to be so much taller. Can't you see that? It's sinking, and if the lord's feet touch the ground, we shall no longer be protected by the lords' divinity, and evil will reign once more across our land."
"I see, well, we had best be headed back to our home. The man sighed to cover his worry. He took the horses reigns and began to walk away from the woman,
"I wouldn't leave if I were you young boy."
"Why not? Is there danger around?" The woman on the horse asked with bland concern.
"There will be a storm tonight; you will be in danger if you leave. I will give you a room if you'd like." The man looked to the woman on horseback, no words were said, but the man pleaded for her to stay one night; She rolled her eyed in dissonance. The elderly woman cleared her throat,
"My name is Emmalise; since you'll be staying I thought it fair that you knew my name. I don't like being called Madame; it makes me sound as if I'm from the long days of yore." She cackled out to herself.
"I'm Alphonse… and this is my wife, Katherine."
"Truly some wondrous names you have." Emmalise said as he bowed her head and turned away, she motioned with a wisp of her hand to follow her. Alphose lead the horse onward, his walk making Katherine bounce to her right and left with the slowest of motions. They followed Emmalise to almost the very edge of the town, where among the heavy mist there lay a home, a small two story building, its paint faded and chipped in places, the eaves had vines extending from them like hands; as if to grasp your clothing and never set you free, There were small barely noticeable cracks and fissures along the side of the poorly embellished building. Emmalise walked slowly to the large warped wooden door and opened it with a loud creak. Alphonse helped his wife off the horse slowly; making sure her feet hit the floor with the slightest pitter before he let her from his grasp. She heaved a leaden-burdened sigh,
"Are you perhaps insane? Why are we staying here Alphonse? We must leave here tonight."
"Why such a hurry my wife? We saw the wondrous cross of Germany, we are in no rush. It might even be a glorious time to try German hospitality." Alphonse tried to waver his usually stoic wife into letting him spend more time in the small dilapidated village that gave him so much awe. She shook her head, she knew she could not waver him, but she would not be wavered by him.
"We leave at dawns' break." She said with a lifeless word and eye, Alphonse lightened his expression and led his wife into the small home. The walls were made of stones of many shades, the floor was a wood that had been turned to an ash color over time and bore a small rug upon its naked body, though it too had turned into a lifeless color of black and dark brown. A fire roared out of the frivolous stone barrier that tried to keep it at bay, the embers dancing just above the floor and charring the floor black near it, ash came flying and leaping about the room trying to find an escape to the outside world through other means than a chimney no wider than an egg.
"I will lead you to your room momentarily, until then, please, sit, enjoy the fire." Emmalise cooed as she took a kettle from on top of an old, molded table and placed it on a hook above the fire. It dents and rusted spots began to glow and reflect the dancing red and orange gypsies below it. The house suddenly let out a creak so loud it was like the scream of a young child. A crack of lightning lit up the dimly candle lit home with great value, making ever y dark nook and cranny visible to even the blind for a split moment in the decrepit home. The thunder that proceeded ripped through the air with the crack of a thousand cattle whips; it shook the foundation of the home and caused a slight cloud of dust to fall from the ceiling. As if on cue a torrent had begun, the hard rain fell heavy and loud on the roof, like hail falling on a tin roof, the resulting sound was no more deafening than the thunder a few moments ago. Katherine covered her ears to try and escape the torrent and thunder, trying to keep her ears from getting damaged. Emmalise looked to the couple and began to try and shout over the uproar.
"I'll show you to your rooms now!" She nearly screamed over the new streak of lighting that crossed over the sky and reach the earth like a twisted hand, the pursuing thunder once again stirred dust in the house and without time to settle seemed to make a permanent cloud that hazed the view even more than the lack of light did. Alphonse did not hear her words; neither did Katherine, her words fell upon deaf ears. She grabbed Alphonses' sleeve and began to lead the couple up the rickety stairs that, under any other circumstance, surely would have creaked; but the sound was lost and drowned out by the harsh torrent and the ear-splitting thunder. Emmalise took a candelabra from an inn table just up the stairs and lit it with the lantern she tucked under her arm as they ascended the stairs. She led them to the very last door, at the very end of a dark hall, she opened the door with a crack, and a puff of antique air poured into Alphonse's and Katherine's' noses, Katherine coughed a little, and Alphonse used his hand to waft the air away from his face. Emmalise gave the small light to Alphonse and turned to leave down the staircase with her own light. Alphonse led his dainty wife into the room, it was covered in dust, a thick layer of it seemed to cover everything like a rough, transparent blanket. Everything was covered in this dust, with the exception of one item in the room, a tall grandfather clock, stood tall, proud and clean as a whistle, it had been kept with obvious and upmost care. The face was decorated with cherubs and an angel wrapped in blue that bore the Ten Commandments in its arm, it was colored in soft pastels, a wild contrast o the darkness of the wood that framed it all, the ebony seemed to devour the clock with the darkest of hunger, everything about this clock was perfect even the silver pendulum that swung with the most precise metronomic path. Katherine seemed awe struck by the beautiful image of this clean and holy clock. The beautifully crafted hands pointed a perfect time of 11:48 at night; Katherine seemed mesmerized by it, all of it, but mostly the heavenly painting on its face.
"Let us go to bed now Katherine, it seems later than I had thought." Katherine shook her lasting gaze on the clock off and retorted to her husband.
"It's filthy in here; I don't think I could even think to go to bed at this moment." Alphonse didn't pay her words much mind and he had taken to trying to sit on the dusty bed, he let his bottom hit it as lightly as he could, but his attempt to not further spread the dust had proven futile; for when he sat, a dust storm seemed to puff out of the bed and make a ring of dust and filth around the bed as it started to scatter and haze the already dusty air with a horrid brown color. Katherine took her hand and waved it wildly, using the other to cover her mouth to keep from suffocating in the squalor; she coughed and hacked wildly, beginning to wheeze and take harsh breaths. Alponse covered his face with a portion of his shirt and rushed to open the door to let some of it escape his wife's lungs. He swung the door open with a hard smack of his hand, and as the dust began to exit he was startled and taken aback by a dark figure outside the door, he let out a muffled yelp and stumbled back into the dust. He looked up to see, and it was none other than Emmalise standing in the doorway with a broom and a cloth over her mouth and nose. The panic settled with the dust and Alphonse could feel his heart throbbing against his sternum, and swore that everyone could hear it. Emmalise giggled slightly under the seemingly wetted cloth.
"You can leave the room for the moment being, I forgot I hadn't cleaned the filthy place since my son left." She shooed the couple out with the end of the broom and began her busy cleaning, sweeping up clouds upon clouds of grime into a hill that was quickly growing into a mountain. "You both can go on down to the main room, there's tea in the kettle over the fire, but mind you, it's very hot." She giggled and followed up with a raspy cough. Alphonse shrugged his shoulders to his wife and began to lead himself down the stairwell into the openness of the room at the bottom. He had no sooner tapped his foot upon the wooden floor when another streak of lightning had striped the sky and lit the home, again, letting a deafening roar of thunder permeate the house. His wife shuddered and found herself a lovely chair near the moldy table to sit upon.