The sound that my chains made as I shuffled across the lawn and Bieber to my side and I noticed that he hadn’t spoken a single word for the last five minutes as we scurried like two wood mice across the open lawn. And occasionally I would lift my gaze once more to the house and the windows and the tower that projected up from the centre of the main block and topped with a crown of iron rods. And now that we were a little closer to the house, I was able to fix my gaze upon the stone carvings and statues that lined the terraces against the roof. A cool shiver that ran along the length of my spine once more as I studied the hideous creatures that looked down from up there.
Bieber chuntering to himself. Nonsensical words I could not begin to understand. I noticed that he would occasionally lift his face to the old house. The twisted stone sculptures that were peering down from the top of Deadwood Manor as though they had been sitting up there for an eternity and had been waiting for this moment to arrive. Each stone creature more hideous than the last.
Some of the creatures that began with the tail of a lizard and their bodies that were shaggy and coated with a matt of course hair. Their arms that were knotted with muscles and a neck that was feline and a head that was human. An expression of contorted pain that was twisted upon the wretched creature’s face that had been fashioned from stone. Another statue that had the body of a centipede and the arms of a human and a head that was huge and out of proportion and appeared to be a pig or a boar. The beast’s snout that was open and the teeth that were revealed inside that were sharp and pointed. My gaze continuing across the line of hideous creatures. One monstrosity after the other.
The repeating beat of our feet across the endless lawn and if I wasn’t mistaken, I was convinced that we had been running for half an hour and still the little woodshed appeared no closer to the two of us than when we had started running towards it. A gravel driveway that snaked away to the sides of us and a huge iron gate in the distance that led out of deadwood Manor. The endless bank of trees beyond where the shadows ran thick.
A ringing in my ears and the sense that a great weight pressed down upon us from above so that I was forced to lift my face to the sky and was sure I would discover a helicopter must be hovering above my head. The whirring blades and the helicopters great mass that was pressing down upon our heads. But all that I could see was the endless violet sky that peered down from above. The crescent sickle moon that had decided not to hide away today it seemed.
The weight of the sky too much for me to bear and so I lowered my face. My toes squelching against the insides of my orange trainers from the dew that had collected against the blades of grass. And the thought that I was sinking, that a hidden tide had rushed in towards us through the iron gates from Deadwood and was sloshing around our ankles and lapping against our shins. And each step becoming harder to lift than the last as though we were traipsing through glue. The muscles that screamed out within my legs to stop and rest and recover our ragged breath for a while. But still we continued. The ramshackle shed in the distance that appeared to have travelled further from us somehow.
I lifted my face once more to Deadwood Manor and the windows and the darkness that resided back there. My head spinning and my eyes burning and the buzzing drone that invaded my ears and my senses as the corrupted air blew in towards our faces from the house. The scent of death. The stench of meat gone bad and rotten flesh. And the darkness that had settled behind the windows and the knowledge that somebody was waiting for me in there. That somebody had been waiting for me for so long. But I didn’t have the strength yet to lay my eyes upon them. That I wasn’t ready for that moment yet. But the laughter that carried on the air towards me. And the stench of sulphur that carried with it so that I had to bring my hand to my mouth and began to wretch and cough and bend my spine in pain.
“You ok Mandy?” Bieber asked, slowing his jog ahead of me and turning towards me.
I lifted my hand towards him and the rattle of my chains as I stumbled and fell towards the ground. All strength and conviction that had dissolved from my body beneath the weight of the violet sky. The sound of laughter that carried in towards me.
“Help me.” I said, lifting my hand towards Bieber and noticing the movement of his arm towards me as he offered out a hand. His fingers closing over mine. And a rifle burst of artillery against the insides of my skull so that I almost screamed in pain right there and right then and was forced to squeeze my eyes shut and allow the darkness to rush towards me. The goblin who studied me from the other side. His scales that prickled with excitement. His eyes that were furnaced from the flames of hell. And his ears that were pricked against his head and twisting this way and that.
Let me out Mandy. Let me out.
I shook my head firmly from left to right.
“No.” I said as I pushed down against the earth with my knee and grabbed firm against Bieber’s extended hand. I forced myself up from the hungry earth and finally lifted my face once more so that my gaze fell upon Bieber’s face.
And I must admit that I did scream then. I screamed as loud as I had ever screamed before, at the sight of Bieber. Two dark sockets where his eyes should be and gristle and ligaments and muscles back there that were twitching a little from left to right. The sticky black flesh that was revealed against the back of his eye sockets. White porcelain bone that was revealed behind the flesh. And the tears of blood that were dripping from the corners of each eye socket. An expression upon his face of complete and utter sadness.
“What is it?” He asked, his mouth wide and the look of fear that contorted against his features. Those little sticks of gristle that were twitching about inside his eye sockets where his eyes should be. “What’s wrong Mandy?”
I shook my head, was close to forcing my eyelids to close but knew that all that I would see behind them was the goblins face. And the goblin would be laughing, he would be laughing so hard. And so, I lowered my gaze to the grass beneath our feet.
“Nothing.” I said, the words breaking against my lips, but I couldn’t let the fear consume me whole out here. It wasn’t safe. “Quick,” I continued as I lifted myself from the ground and pushed past Bieber who remained frozen to the spot. I grabbed his hand and wrapped my fingers firm against his fingers as I dragged him towards the woodshed in the distance.
“Come with me.” I called, pulling him by the arm and scurrying like a startled squirrel across the endless lawn. “Come with me.”