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Here’s a little change of pace this week from my usual type of blog post. Let me know if you’d like to see more of this short story I’ve been working on for a while.
“A graveyard wind,” Damon called the sudden breeze. “Cold and damp as a tombstone.”
Damon’s identical twin, Mark, said, “Makes me feel kinda shivery inside.”
The boys walked past the library toward home and dinner, the sudden swirling breeze blowing orange and red leaves about their legs. In the graying twilight, Mark and Damon Damien exchanged sidelong glances, pulling their jackets tighter.
Summer was gone, and fall, with shorter days and longer nights, whispered dark promises of mystery and adventure. The night held a special fascination for the twelve-year-olds. They liked to stay awake into the early-morning hours watching October’s shifting shadows.
The twins often felt things together and would look at each other with their serious brown eyes, grinning a private little grin. Damon, at times, was sensitive not only to Mark but to others as well. Mark alone knew of Damon’s psychic ability.
“Come on!” Mark grabbed his brother’s shoulder as he started running in the opposite direction. Converse high-tops slap-slapped against the sidewalk, squished across wet lawns, and smashed and crackled through crisp fallen leaves. Leaping short picket fences, they sped through private shortcuts like a well-trained team.
Approaching the outskirts of the Missouri village of Reding’s Mill, south of Joplin, they paused at the sign that proclaimed, “City Limits – Pop. 1204.” It marked an invisible border that separated them from the wilderness beyond.
“We’ll be late for dinner!” Damon said. “Dad’ll skin us.”
“Come on! This is better than dinner.”
Damon followed, usually one step behind when it came to something new or exciting. He yearned for Mark’s boldness and daring, his bent for impulsive things five minutes before dinnertime. Damon found himself swept along by the force of his brother’s decisions, maybe because Mark had been born two minutes earlier.
Damon saw where they were headed and knew they were going to Sky Castle. They often talked about discovering what old Mr. Caruthers was about in the ancient place, and Damon felt a tug inside him whenever they talked of it.
Their pace quickened as they sped along the high brick wall that surrounded the cemetery, past gnarled old trees, and through moonlit shadows that reached out to the racing boys. Sometimes friendly places to hide when you didn’t want to be seen, the shadows tonight felt menacing, almost tangible, living beings that grew from the dismal graveyard depths.
Damon stumbled when he felt one of the long shadows reach for his ankles. Eyes wide, he recovered his balance and breathed easier when he saw the shadows still lying darkly across the road.
Why did we have to come here tonight?
He raced to catch Mark.
Past the cemetery and fifty yards around the bend in the road lay the entrance to the Caruthers estate. Slowing as they rounded the curve, they stopped short of the great wrought-iron gate.
“Over the wall,” Mark said. “That old gate’ll probably creak if we try to open it.”
They climbed thick vines growing over the six-foot stone wall and dropped into the high grass behind a sturdy oak, where they could survey the grounds from afar.
The ancient Scottish castle loomed against the sky like some great dark hulking predator, having been transported, stone by stone, to Reding’s Mill ninety years before. The twins had heard the usual haunted-castle tales—grisly torture chambers and mutilated victims—which kept away most of the curious. Damon didn’t put much stock in the rumors, but he thought about them as they crouched behind the oak’s trunk, fifty yards from the castle walls. They had never ventured this close before.
“Let’s see what’s in those windows,” Mark whispered, pointing to several small windows at ground level.
“Maybe that’s where the torture chamber is.” Damon’s voice sounded small and shaky.
“Yeah. Come on.”
A short sprint brought the breathless pair up against the castle wall.
“Yuck! Feels just like a tombstone,” Damon said.
Mark squatted beside one of the windows and peered into the darkness.
“See anything?” Damon asked.
“It’s too dark. Can’t see nothin’.”
“Probably just as well. Let’s go. We’ve already gotten closer than any other kid in town. This place makes me feel weird.”
“You and your weird feelings. Come on. Let’s try a couple more windows.”
“They’re all too—”
The sudden creaking of an unoiled hinge immobilized the boys, who flattened themselves against the wall. Mark inched his way along, edging one eye just beyond the corner.
“Mark! Come back!” hissed Damon, hurrying to catch up.
A tall dark figure, cloaked and cowled, stood at the shadowy main entrance, then moved into the pale moonlight and stood atop the wide granite steps, gazing across the grounds.
Mark turned to Damon, put his lips to his brother’s ear, and whispered, “Something’s out there, tall as a giant. Look!”
“Geez, we’ve had it now. I don’t wanna look!”
Mark dared another peek but jerked his head back as the hooded head turned to look straight at the boys’ hiding place.
“Let’s make a run for it!” Mark said. “I don’t think he’ll see us if we head for the wall behind the castle.”
They slithered along till they reached the building’s far corner, and then made a headlong sprint for the wall. Damon beat Mark to it, and without looking for a foothold, jumped, grabbed the rough stones, and pulled himself atop the fence. Mark scrambled up behind, and they both started to jump to safety.
“Look!” said Mark, glancing over his shoulder.
Damon felt goose bumps when he saw the forbidding figure standing at the corner where they had been seconds before. A long arm lifted from the folds of the black cloak, pointing at him.
“He’s seen us! Jump!”
They hit the ground and sprinted through the small grove separating the estate from the road, arms pumping, the wind whistling in their ears, fallen leaves scattering in every direction. They burst out of the wood onto the road and didn’t slow down until they reached the city-limits sign once again.