Wednesday December 14th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the catacombs.

You're welcome Greg.

Highlight of the day: this morning Max and I were playing Santa Claus. Because of course we were.

The couch was the sleigh. Max was the elf (yes, the, not an - he was the only elf doing any work... for reasons I cannot recall at the moment). I was Santa, waiting for him to finish loading the presents onto the sleigh. I was impressed with all the details he was thinking up and taking care of, so I told him:

"Max, you're a very prepared little elf."

"Thanks, Dada." Slight pause. "You've a very impaired Santa!"

If only.

Mine:

Whispers live down here. They emerge when the torches remain unlit for long enough. The darkness is a comfortable cloak, keeping them warm and safe as they roam these echoing hallways.

They do not take kindly to visitors. No, allow me to be perfectly accurate here. They do not believe in visitors. To them, there is no such thing.

There are only intruders.

If they had their way they would be left to their own devices for the rest of time. Would they be happy? I do not think that is the correct word. The phrase content in their misery comes to mind, however, and I think it is fitting enough to do the job for now.

They watch over the dead, keep them company. One might call them guardians, of a sort. Night watchmen, patrolling and policing this place far beneath the ground. It would be best if they were simply left to do their work in peace.

Unfortunately for everyone - us and them - there is another burial to be performed.

3 Comments:

Greg said...

Hah, I think what you meant to say was, "I'm missing Ernest and would like another installment please." It's not my fault you gave me Christmas themes to work with and got Frosty's dysfunctional family, an alternate-universe Winter Wonderland and the kind of advent calendar that makes you think that the low-quality chocolate one isn't so bad after all.
Well, actually I guess it is partly my fault that you got all that... Merry Christmas!
Hah, Max cracks me up sometimes, especially with comments like that. An impaired Santa... that sounds like a prompt as well!
What a lovely evocative piece today! I like the idea of sentient whispers, and the phrase content in their misery is inspired. And I love the fact that the guardians are doing their job even when there are more things to be guarded to be delivered... a lovely, chilling scene!

The catacombs
They moved slightly away from the reception desk, but Kevin seemed disinclined to leave the lobby yet. He shuffled his feet and shoved his broad. spatulate hands into the deep pockets of his overcoat and chewed on his upper lip: bristly with two-day stubble. Lord Derby waited patiently, and Samual stood slightly off to one side, his head turning this way and that like a bird. Finally Kevin coughed, a throaty sound that hinted at tuberculosis. Little pearls of saliva were thrown into the air, and some descended to hang like toxic frost on the collar and sleeves of his coat. He pulled his hands from his pockets, and opened the left one to reveal a piece of charred wood. He thrust it, palm upward, towards Lord Derby.
Ernest frowned, and slowly reached towards the wood. As his hand came within thirty centimetres the wood trembled and shook as though it were alive, and ten centimetres closer it suddenly leapt into the air and then into Ernest's hand. Ernest took a step back, clearly startled, and turned his own hand palm upwards. The charred wood shivered and settled down.
Kevin's hand closed over the wood, his fingertips not even grazing Ernest's skin, and took it back.
"Right," he said, his voice still thick. "You can come. Stay close, do as I tell you. The fam'lies take protecting their tombs seriously, and my job be interring folks, not poking around afters they're buried. If'n I tell you to stop still and wait, then youse be doing that, or mayhap I'll be adding an interral or two to my list."
Samual shuddered at the word "two" and Ernest smiled, slightly grimly. "Not to worry, Samual," he said. "The Derby family have a tomb up here, I'm sure Kevin will inter us in the same place."
"The Derby family have tombs in fourteen cities," said Kevin. "I've always wondered if any of you are mad enough to want to be interred in all fourteen."
"Mad enough? Hopefully not," said Ernest, still smiling. "Though as I recall I had a great-uncle who was dismembered; he might have made it into more than one tomb."
"Reginald," said Kevin without hesitation. "Put his torso up here in Edinburgh, his arms over in Swansea and his legses down in London. If we ever find his feet you can pick where you wants 'em to go."
"Charming," muttered Samual. Then louder, "Can we go now?"

Greg said...

As they walked through the hotel doors the light dimmed and instead of standing on the pavement outside they found themselves stood in a dark room barely two metres square. They were nearly pressed against each other, and the ceiling was uncomfortably close overhead. There was a damp, mouldy smell and a faint breeze that didn't carry freshness with it. All the sounds of the hotel and the city were gone, replacing by the sudden loudness of the blood in their ears. The floor underfoot was a soft, beige soil, and the only light came from lichen on the walls, glowing a sickly white like old bone. The walls were covered in it, with no bare rock to be seen, and the light was still barely strong enough to cast shadows.
"Perk of the job," said Kevin. He shuffled sideways a little, revealing a shadowy hole in the wall, a little shorter than the height of a short man. "This is the entrance chamber to the catacombs. There's enough air down here for one man to do the interrals, so we're going to run out of air being as there's threes of us. Unless'n you can all holds your breath?"
"Moving quickly sounds preferable," said Ernest. "Is the only way in?"
"To this part of the tombs, aye," said Kevin. "This is the back entrance, if'n you'll pardon the language my Lord. The front entrances be all above ground."
"The funeral will be held at the front of the Campion tomb," said Samual. He sniffed.
"I should hope so," said Ernest. "There are at least thirty people attending, down here we'd suffocate in no time."
"When we go through here," said Kevin, indicating the hole in the wall, "it's like a worm-tunnel, right?"
"Right?"
"It's narrow, it's ridged all along, and it's single file. So if'n I stop, you stop. Don't walk into me. if'n I keep going and tell youse to stop, you stop. This place is not for the likes of you, and only barely for the likes of me."
"Are all the tombs of nobility like this?" asked Samual. Kevin was turning away to enter the hole, but they heard his reply clearly: "No. Some of 'em are lethal."

Marc said...

Greg - eh, something like that :P

Hah, and a Merry Christmas to you as well :D

Thank you for the kind words on mine!

Ooh, I very much like this Kevin fellow! He's quite the character; I love what you've done with his dialogue and mannerisms here. Another intriguing entry, and I look forward to what comes next! As usual :)