Hilltop Castle
-Anonymous

In a land where all was still,
A boy stared south in awe,
At the castle on the hill,
That in his dreams he saw.

Traveling many a hundred mile,
For years and months and days,
He thought of her with a dopey smile,
And counted all the ways.

Stay sharp and quick,
A good mind would say,
Cause the course is thick,
And hunting for prey.

In a room atop a tower,
At the castle on the hill,
A girl stares out twirling a flower,
Looking for a boy from her window sill,

“I’ll come for you please say you’ll wait,”
She thought of him with a dopey smile,
“Keep your eyes to the southern gate,”
And she had since then, all the while.

Stay sharp and quick,
A good mind would say,
Cause the course is thick,
And hunting for prey.

His breath was caught and his eyes grew warm,
As they met a girl’s who was twirling a flower,
It’s no wonder he didn’t see the swarm,
Before they overthrew him with power.

“Keep your eyes to the southern gate,”
Called an official voice from above,
He wondered if this was poor luck or fate,
Or just the blinded judgment of love.

Stay sharp and quick,
A good mind would say,
Cause the course is thick,
And love is its prey.


The music woke him. It was one of his mother’s favorite songs. As the strings slowly hummed to life in his mind, Jack-o felt a light warmth on his face and let himself hope that when he opened his eyes, the sun’s rays would be sneaking in through his bedroom curtains. That he would walk downstairs to the kitchen where his mother and father were waiting with a hot breakfast and fresh juice. Just like any other morning. A piano began to lend its voice to the music in the boy’s head, the melody was calm and soothing. His body felt like it was floating in space, drifting through the vast nothingness he’d read about in one of his science fiction stories with an orchestra playing his background music.

The soothing warmth began to intensify to the point of burning and his instincts told him to move. The boy rolled over on his side, away from whatever was threatening to melt off the skin of his face. His eyelids peeled apart slowly and as his vision adjusted to the rapid flashes of lightning everything came rushing back to him. A few yards to his left his family’s barn burned brightly and the heat of his own tears added a few more degrees to his cheeks. The sky was a deep red and the ground below him shook violently. Jack-o pushed himself further away from the heat of the burning farm and sat cross-legged. Still, the music played on and he watched the destruction around him to a lovely concerto.

Though he’d only been alive for ten short years, the image of his mother and father being taken by the man in the red cloak was one he knew would be with him for the rest of his life. Anger was balling up inside the heavy sadness that attacked his guts. He should’ve done more, maybe ran after them, tried to fight, anything. It just all happened so fast before he was unconscious.

A crash of thunder echoed so loudly through the eerie red sky that it felt like it vibrated every bone and organ inside of Jack-o’s body. Another loud boom came immediately behind it and the boy thought it was a perfectly muffled bass accompaniment to his music.

“A little classical music every morning starts the day with a healthy dose of genius,” his mother would always say.

Sitting on the grass, watching his family’s barn burn to ashes he knew he should move, but he couldn’t find the energy. The smell of fire in the air had always been welcome on the farm, the small family had one almost every night. Jack-o stared more deeply into the flames that gradually tore down the red building and he knew, that for the rest of his life, every time smelled smoke he would remember this one moment.

Everything he knew and loved was gone or on its way to being gone. Maybe the best thing for the boy to do was lie still on his back and ride the Earth into the strange red oblivion that was slowly claiming it. In his head, the trumpets blared and as if the ground below the boy’s butt could hear them it fell away, sending Jack-o on a landslide a few feet down. He landed hard on his back and his breathe instantly left him. Pushing himself onto his stomach, gasping for air, he assumed this was the end of his story. Short and sweet.

Strobe-like flashes of lightning made the shadows dance like wicked monsters all around him. As his breathing slowed back to a normal pace he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, afraid, sad, and wishing that whatever was happening would just be over. It was too much, he couldn’t handle it anymore. He was just a boy.

“The best little boy with the jack-o-lantern smile.” His mother’s voice echoed in his head, interrupting the calming music he’d been clinging to, and he saw her face clearly. Even with his eyes squeezed shut so tightly it hurt, the tears managed to sneak past the lids. “You can’t lay there forever my sweet,” her words were soothing. Jack-o knew she wasn’t there, wasn’t really talking to him, but he didn’t care, just the sound of her voice from his own past was comforting.

“I’m scared mom,” he whispered into the shaking ground.

“I know you are sweetheart, but do you remember what we always say?”

“That we have to face our fears. But mom,” he paused and breathed in deeply, “this one is really scary,” his voice snagged on the last word and a new burst of tears wet his cheeks.

“I know it is baby, but the bigger the monster, the bigger the reward remember. Now, get up Jack-o. Get up!” His eyes shot open as his mother’s words were replaced by an explosion of instrumental crescendo and adrenaline. Springing onto his feet he quickly he surveyed the area, not wanting to waste too much time, and something caught his eyes in the wall of Earth at his back.

There was a dull, heart-like, pulsating green light between the loose parts of the crust. The rhythmic glow danced in unison with the music in his own head and he couldn’t take his eyes off of it. Jack-o felt strong throbs in his throat from his own rapidly beating heart, and he knew, even if it meant death, he couldn’t leave without whatever lie beneath the dirt.

Another large quake rattled the boy almost sending him back to the ground. Digging his fingers deep into his surroundings he caught himself. The music climaxed in his head, with every instrument in the orchestra screaming as loudly as it was capable. Quickly he jumped over a medium sized rock and reached out for the glowing wall. Plunging his hands into the Earth, his fingers wrapped around something the size of a baseball, that was warm and smooth, yet somewhat jagged. Jack-o yanked his fist free, it glowed green and pulsated in rhythm with his own heart. An army of butterflies flew not only through his belly but his entire body, and for a moment he thought he may lose balance. Before he could open his hand to more closely examine his new treasure, the Earth shook violently around him again sending debris tumbling down feet away. He slammed the rock into his pocket and jumped up grabbing hold of the cliff’s edge on his first try.

The sky looked like blood and bone as the redness deepened, and the lighting flashes increased. Downed trees could be seen all around as the boy pulled himself out of the hole and back into the worse part of the nightmare. The barn was still burning but much less brightly. He looked to the left where his house still stood in tatters. Without thinking, he started running as fast as he could toward the place where he’d already acquired so many memories in his short life. Everything was happening so quickly, yet it felt like time stood still. A guitar strummed softly in his head as he crossed the threshold of his house.

He didn’t know what he was doing until he’d dumped out his knapsack and found himself mindlessly packing. It was as if he was sitting outside of his body on the bedroom chair, watching another boy manically pack up the few precious belongings he owned. A couple shirts, pants, and undergarments went in first, then from his nightstand the framed picture of his family, followed by Farore his stuffed bear, and finally two books. Yet, the whole time, as he felt like he was watching himself pack, Jack-o couldn’t take his eyes off the eerie, green glow that could be seen through his pocket. The music was fading, the horns grew softer, and the piano whispered.

As he was about to zip up his bag he hesitated and reached for one more book. It was his favorite choose-your-own-adventure book, Saving Esrevinu. In the story, you played the role of a legendary space captain on a final adventure to the center of the universe. Together with his mother and father they’d saved the universe plenty of times and destroyed it equally as many. Jack-o slung the open bag over his shoulder while he opened the book to a random page in the middle. It was the part where you had to decide whether or not to take the experimental hyperdrive, or go the regular route which was a bit longer but much safer.

The music was all but gone now, and Jack-o could hear the Earth dying loudly. The boy was no longer sitting in the chair, disconnected from the world watching himself. Suddenly it was like a sledge hammer of emotion caved in his chest and he felt everything again. The urge to curl up in a ball and cry was almost too overwhelming to resist, but he thought of his mother. Outside a large crack of thunder made him jump and he glanced out the window.

An involuntary, eek, escaped his throat when he saw the man in the red cloak floating through the field toward the hole he’d just escaped. The music that had comforted him since he’d opened his eyes was completely silenced and the booming noise of the world was terrifying. Dropping quickly to his butt up against the wall, he looked at the books title in his hand and flipped to the page his thumb was marking. Choking on his own tears he began to scream the words as loudly as his young voice would allow. Anything to drown out the apocalyptic sounds.

“Time is running out and you have precious few options left,” as he read he began to feel light headed and in his pocket the strange rock grew hot. “You need to get to the IUC as fast as possible but is speed worth possibly not making it there at all?”

As the last word crossed the boys lips the hooded red man appeared in front of him. Green light erupted from his pocket and Jack-o’s head swam so fiercely he was finding it hard to maintain consciousness.

“You have something that belongs to me boy,” the words weren’t words at all. Instead, it felt like the man growled them directly into his mind. An immense fear strangled the last of his energy, and the boy with the jack-o-lantern smile passed out just before he disappeared in a flash of green light.

 


Comments

08/05/2016 12:56am

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01/21/2017 3:50am

I remembered one memorable happening when I was in high school. My teacher, told us to do a poem about photosynthesis. I'm not good in writing essays or poems so I decided to plagiarize a poem from my science book. I was surprised when I had the highest grade and felt conscience at the same time. Since then, I didn't cheated anymore.

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11/22/2016 10:57pm

Nice little story with full of mystical words shared regarding to the hilltop castle. I personally like that kind of silent places which got much noise in them. Would love to read more stories like that.

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12/23/2016 12:19am

Like this story! It beautiful and full or different secrets! How can it be continued?

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02/18/2017 10:23pm

The poem is well written. I am amazed on how a talented writer can organize his or her thoughts and come up with a poem or a short story.
This story is about learning and feelings of a couple waiting for each other. It has a touch of mystery and fantasy. I hope to read more good and inspiring love story.

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