5: Spöke

This introduction sets the stage for a larger, forthcoming story that will be completely illustrated.

Summoned up like shadows from a candle are silhouettes rising in the confined paths of Memoriam Cemetery. The grounds overlook a neighboring city from a hill that rises its tombs up like the turrets of a watchtower, its crucifixes and wrought iron spines are flagstaffs for the forsaken. The steep roads ribboning the hills run with mud from a storm whose edge has just left the skies above the homes of the forgotten; its brooding mood is amassing a darkness that is intent on touching its belly along the ground.

Dusk has just settled, such that the sentiments of a normal day lay in tidy collections at the horizon's edge. Obelisks and sepulchers act as poor puppeteers, for soon they lose their grip on their subjects, the ties whisked away like spider silk tugged carelessly from webs.

Autumn has always been an active season for phantoms. For some, it is something of a second birth. They rise and stretch their limbs, to play benign tricks on the living. But it is only a taste, a harmless stretching of their long-sleeping wills. Winter is different. Winter brings out a viciousness in the living that is echoed in the dead. It’s the cold that does it. The lifelessness. The deep, penetrating grey. During winter, ghosts do not play. They haunt.

But for now, the whispering risen sweep across the dying fields towards the city in discordant gusts. Individually, their presence holds no bearing. Together, if you stood in the center of the fields plagued by wheat rot, you could hear the sound of their shifting voices. They would swirl around you in curiosity; the hair would rise along your arms and you would turn, turn, turn. Looking for the source. You would settle for the realization that it was your own mind playing tricks on you.

There were tricks being played. Just not yours.

In the city, rain plays a contrivance of melancholy against the ground. A din which builds to a steady hiss and washes away the few citizens still striding through the constricting streets. Their shadows glide like darting sparrows along the walls. From a distance, they appear to be neither darkness nor human, but some odd creature which society belched out of its sewers. Here we see the gutters are flooded and chimney smoke chokes the air. The crops have failed this year.

And there is a quiet over the city like an anticipation of death.

The whispering risen approach in harmony with the storm. Their fingers stretch along the walls. Over the ramparts and into the streets, where their hands test the edges of doorways and windows where lights are being snuffed out one by one. At those home cast into the deepest darkness, their outlines settle and remain, then disappear.

Sinking into their walls.

And the city is cast into a nightfall.

Into silence.

A silence with voices.

Voices containing memories.

And none which belong to the living.