The Devil & Georges Servan Aballaird – Part Five

Posted: April 22, 2015 in Short stories, starts & writing, The Devil & Georges Servan Aballaird

Red & orange radiance

A red and orange radiance danced about with silhouettes and shadow, trembling and blinking against walls and lighting the frost-bleached skeletons of the naked trees towering over the nearby buildings. Filled with such a rapturous joy and surrounded by the sounds of uproar and emergency, I was down on my hands and knees and had begun to cry. Tears and snot were soon raining down through the clouds of steam I huffed out, wheezing and weeping with silent sobs and laughter at the cold mossy stones and frozen mud under my blackened mitts.
My heart and stomach felt knotted and tight, and my head was weaving about like it was full of grog (though I’d not touched a drop). The knots grew tighter and inexplicable elation soon turned to fearful, icy bewilderment, and the wheezing and weeping became sputtering and choking that threatened to overcome me. I forced myself up on to my feet, to get my wind back lest I shoot the cat or worse, and I started to walk, half blind with tears and soot and the burning of my stomach in my throat. I had no care for the direction I took, only concerned with sucking in big gulps of freezing night air to try to clear my head. But the weaving and bucking inside my skull only grew worse as I went, increasing, and dizzying, and increasing, and screeching, and screaming, until…

“Now then, young Harley, d’ye know what ye’ve done?
Har-ley? Har-ley?
It was a voice I recognised, but the sound came from a dream full of black smoke, screaming, and suffocation. Into what turmoil had I been plunged? Surely I hadn’t come a second time to the halls of Hades. Besides, God knows I wasn’t the one who burnt down the mill. That great furnace had all the hallmarks of the devil’s work; the smell of burning brimstone and a terrible screeching that filled the air like a thousand banshees let loose, as we dragged who we could from those hellish flames.
“Ye’ve nowt idea. None of an idea ye have.
What have ye done?”
It was Mister Yoker’s voice! My neighbour in Radcliff. But I had never heard him speak this way, with this child-like lilt and strange riddler’s manner. Never much more than a few rumbling accusatory words was usual. I could feel the exaggerated furrow of my brow, all crumpled in confusion, and then, in that unusual way that dreams have of bending what is real, I found that I was looking down, from a height way above the rooftops, on to the bald spot of Mister Yoker’s old white head, and he was speaking into the empty street, as if to nobody.
“Ye’ll nowt find me,
Tied t’shattered piece o’ ma-son-ry.
But ye’ll find me f’ sure,
Wi’ corpses for me neigh-bars,” he sang.
My crumpled brow furrowed further at Mister Yoker’s funniment, whilst from the corner of my eye I sensed a conflagration, but dared not, would not, could never look that way for fear of what I would see.
Then, all of a sudden and with a long gasping intake of breath, as though I were emerging from deep under water, my eyes snapped open. I felt like I was trapped in a great freezing puddle of stinging and scratching treacle.
It was dark as pitch and there was water sloshing in my ears, splashing over my back and neck. When I tried to move my arms and legs they felt leaden. With a great effort I moved a knee and realised I was half-buried.
Half-buried in the high-water line!
I must have been insensible all the day. Or longer.
At least I was not drowning this time!
I was face down, wet grit imprinted painfully on my cheeks and my hands and feet were numb. I saw shadows, darker shades of black, moving in front of my eyes. Perhaps my hands scrambling for something to grip. But I could not feel, the sinews of my shoulders and arms dead, and flashes and sparks filled my vision as well as shadows, even though I sensed that my eyes were closed.
And then suddenly I was running. Careening full-tilt down a broad sweep of hard-packed sand without the faintest of notion of how I came to be doing such a thing.
And fear, likewise such a carriwitchet, absurd. I was scared out of my wits at I didn’t know what and every breath was like some great bellows-blown machine, steel rods stirring and scraping through a great vat of wet gravel.
All the while that line of pulsing white out in the dark away to my right, breathing in and out and in, softly hissing at the shore, guiding me on as I hurtled blindly, unfeeling but for this inexplicable terror that tore at the back of my mind, that whipped my head about most involuntarily so I would glance, wide-eyed, back into the void.


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