July 12, 14XX
Every morning I hear it. Every morning and every evening, those damn footsteps, metal on stone, coming up the staircase. My name is Jean-Paul Rembaque, son of high nobleman Charles Edward Rembaque II, and I have been locked in this tower for years. I can now only barely remember my life before this, when I lived in my family’s keep.
I rose from my bed and walked over toward the barred window, my only view into the outside world. Was I still in England? A hot wind floated in through the window, bringing with it, the fresh smell of the summer air. In my view from the tower, I could see squirrels playing freely in the grass by the trees below, and I longed to be one of them. Looking farther down the field, I could see a large glassy lake with a small wooden boat on its edge. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and dreamed about going for a swim, the cool water rushing over me with no cares at all. I wrapped my hands around the vertical bars on the window and shook them, not as hard as I used to, just.. out of habit. I knew they would never move. The footsteps were getting louder outside my door. God, did I yearn for someone to talk to. I was so lonely in this tower. Anyone, just someone who I could share a thought with, but all I had was him. I heard the wooden lock get thrown on the door and it slowly opened on its raspy grating hinges. In walked the only being who I have had contact with in years, though I have never seen their face, or heard them utter a word. Standing there was a man.. I can only assume as much, dressed in knights attire, a full suit of dark, silver-plated, metal armor, with a sword sheathed at his side.
Whenever I hear those footsteps coming up the stairs I am reminded of that night I was taken from my home. I was roused from my sleep by the sound of the guards in our keep. They were hurt, badly. I sat up in my bed, wondering what was happening. Suddenly, the torch light in the hallway coming in from under my door went out, and I found myself surrounded by the pitch-blackness of the night. I kept staring in the direction of my door, though I could not see a thing. Then, I heard it creak open. Too scared to move, I just sat in my bed, gazing forward into the darkness. Silence enveloped me. With my throat tight, I called softly, “Father?” Then, from the doorway, I heard a menacing stomping, the terrifying tread of a suit of armor. The clanging of the metal plates rattled in my ears for the first time as he moved across my bedroom floor toward me. I screamed as he came closer, my howls of terror echoing down the halls of the keep, but no help came. The next thing I knew, I had a sack tied around my head, my hands and feet were bound, and I was thrown onto the back of a horse-drawn carriage, carried far away.
I have lost track of my age since I was stolen from my home that night, but whoever is in that suit is most certainly older, as he easily towers over me. He walks.. marches, with such a bizarre, almost mocking stride. It makes me furious every time I see it. I turned from the window and looked at them on the other side of the room. He carried a plate of food and glass of water, setting it down on the floor and picking up my empty one from the previous night. The two small meals a day I receive keep me weak, but alive. I looked at the plate on the ground. Today it is bread and chicken. Occasionally, he will come in with a key attached to a hook by his waist, though today it is absent. I will often wonder its purpose, as there is no keyhole in my door. I stared back up at the helm he wore. How I wished to see the face of my captor, the face of this person who has kept me in here all of these long horrid years. Then, after setting the plate down, he turned, and walked out the door, slamming it behind him. I closed my eyes, listening to the wooden bolted lock shut behind the door. I never bothered saying a word when he entered anymore. There was no reasoning with whoever this was.
I looked around my room, my entire life. All I have is my bed, my window, and my bookcases, which line the walls on the side of the room. They are quite tall and filled to the brim with books. I have read every single one. There are all different kinds from fantasy to astronomy, and even some that have different of maps of Europe. I have no idea what they are doing up here in this remote, isolated tower, but they provide me a brief escape from the unrelenting boredom of my imprisonment. Even so, there are some days when the mind dampening monotony is just too much. I feel as though I am slowly going mad locked in here, my only relief from this existence coming from the merciful unconscious hours of sleep. Occasionally, I swear I have even heard the voices of others from somewhere inside the tower, though I cannot say if these are manifestations of my loneliness. I let out a deep breath and gazed out the window, listening to the birds sing their summertime songs.
I have made many attempts to escape, several of them being exercises in futility, knowing that they would never be successful. Once, using my dinner fork, I had chiseled into one of the weathered stones from which the window bars protrude. I had made a sizeable hole into the stone, chipping into it for an entire afternoon. But later that night, when the man in the armor came to retrieve my plate and utensil, he saw the fork was bent from all of my chiseling. Now, I am no longer given utensils for eating, a punishment that has lasted to this day.
I turned from the window and walked over to my meal on the floor. I lifted the plate and slowly picked away at the stale bread and undercooked chicken.
One time, as he was kneeling to place my breakfast plate on the ground, I had even been so bold as to touch the visor on his helm, attempting to see his face. He grabbed me by my shirt and shoved me, causing me to fall backwards. Then he took the books I had on my bed, my two favorites, one about the planets and the stars, and the other a fantasy novel about a boy and his adventures at sea, and threw them out of my window. I ran to the window yelling, furious at his cruelty. I gripped the bars and tears began welling in my eyes as I watched the books hit the ground far below.
My worst punishment, however, came after I almost escaped. One night, I had undressed almost completely, and emptied out some of the contents of my mattress. I stuffed my clothes, attaching my shoes to my breeches, and stuck them under my bed to make it look as though I was underneath it. When I heard the faint sound of the footsteps coming up the stairs, I rushed next to the door to hide behind it when it opened. Soon, the man in the armor unlocked and opened my door. When he took a couple steps in, he saw the legs of the decoy underneath the bed. He set my food on the floor and marched quickly over to them, yanking the leg of my breeches out from under the bed. When I saw him do this, I ran out from my position behind the door and out of the room. The freedom of seeing another sight besides that horrible room overwhelmed me, even if it was just a stone hallway.
Then I saw it, at the end of this short hall was the staircase that this monster had come up and down every day to feed me. I ran toward it. The excitement had my heart pounding, and my head was flooded with thoughts of freedom. I was just about to set my foot down on the first step of the staircase when I felt a hand on my neck, a suffocating grip that wrenched me backwards. I watched the staircase grow more distant as I struggled and fought, but could not break free. Moments later, I was back in my room. The man in the armor suit grabbed me firmly by the arm. He knelt down staring into my face, and though I couldn’t see him, I could feel his eyes from behind the dark holes of the visor. Then, with his free hand, he unsheathed his sword, raising it in front of my face, and dragged it slowly across my forearm. My mouth shot open, and I screamed in searing agony as blood began pouring from the wound onto the floor. He held my arm tightly, watching me struggle in futility to free myself, as if enjoying the sight. Finally, he loosened his grip, and I clutched my arm in a panic, running to my bed and wrapping my bed sheets around the bleeding gash. I still have the scar, reminding me every day of what will happen should I try to escape.
Other times he will come in and just stare at me from the doorway, often for hours. It is maddening. I cannot eat, sleep, read, or concentrate in the ominous, unsettling silence. That concealed, studying gaze unnerves me intensely. The entirety of my being just wishes to be far away from him. His presence brings out such a furious contempt from my soul, I will often times just hide under my bed covers or pace around my room until he leaves. But even when I close my eyes, it is all I see, all I’ve come to know— the inescapable guard who will not let me leave.
The day stretched on and I spent the entire afternoon gazing at my ceiling and out the window from my bed, ruminating on all of my past encounters with him. My stomach began growling, and the sunlight from my window was beginning to dim. He would be up again soon, delivering my evening meal. I sat up and looked at my bookcases. Tomorrow will be my final attempt to escape. If I fail, I have decided that I will take my own life. I can no longer live a lifetime locked in this room.
Several more minutes passed and, like clockwork, I could hear the distant trudging of the man in the suit of armor coming up the stairs. I listened as the steps grew closer, more distinct, stopping right outside my door. Again, the lock was thrown, and he walked in holding a plate of food. He knelt down, placing it on the floor and took the now-empty plate he had delivered earlier this morning. It was more of the same, only less of it. He about-faced and walked out the room with his infuriating marching stride. At least today he had let me be after leaving my food. As the door closed, I got up from my bed and picked up the last of my food for the day. I ate it in my bed and continued looking out the window until the twilight of the evening had been extinguished. I waited a few more hours until the faint light of the stars was all that came through my window. Then I sat up, listening to the stillness of the night, and hoping that the man in the suit of armor was now asleep, I commenced with my plan.
The sunlight hit my face, and I opened my eyes to the project I had set upon last night. My tall, heavy bookcases, facing outward, created parallel walls around the doorway entrance, forcing one to walk a straight path between them. Unable to move them full, I emptied out all of the books, dragged the cases as quietly as possible across the floor, and then placed all of the books back inside, increasing their weight to their previous levels. There was six total, three on each side, with each of them being quite wide. I had left a small space between the first bookcase, and the wall, on the side to which the door swings open, so that upon entering the room, the space will be hidden from sight. Now, I waited.
I sat in my bed, listening, staring at the space between the wall and the first bookcase. A soft but audible breeze blew in through the window, setting my senses on edge as I listened even more intently for noises coming from within the tower. I got up from my bed and lie flat on the ground. Ceaseless anxiety clutched me as I felt the pounding of my heart against the floor, my breathing anxiously deepened. Soon, I heard it, softly, then growing louder, closer. Coming up the tower stairs, I could hear that sound. That sound that makes me gnaw on the edges of my fingers, that sound that gives me indigestion with the small amounts of food in my stomach, that sound which has haunted my dreams for years.
My mind was thrown into a spiraling rage. I wanted my freedom from this hell, and I grit my teeth as the sound came closer, stopping right outside my door. I slowly rose from my position on the ground as I listened to the door being unlocked. I swallowed, clearing my throat and the door opened, hitting the first bookcase on my side. I heard him take a couple steps inside, which was followed by the sound of a plate hitting the floor. He took a couple more steps inside and I estimated his position to be nearing the end of the first bookcase. As he reached the second, I ran up to the side of the bookcase on my side and lunged at it, pushing it toward him. It teetered forward and I felt my heart drop as it paused on its edge and began rocking back toward me. The footsteps on the other side had stopped, no doubt observing the movement. Then, as the bookcase stopped and began rocking back the other way toward him again, I shoved it forward once more with all of my strength. It fell inward with its great weight knocking over bookcase on the opposite side of the path I had created. I heard the loud clanging of the metal plating as the man in the suit of armor was knocked over and trapped between the two bookcases. I ran to the space between the first bookcase and the wall that I had created, pushing the door forward so that I could edge around it. I glanced over my shoulder for a split second before exiting out the doorway to see the man in the armor trying to free himself. Right before I closed the door, I saw him look up toward me. I could feel his seething rage from behind that visor, and he reached an arm in my direction as I closed the door.
My heart was pounding out of my chest as I reached across the side of the door and threw the heavy wooden lock. Combined with my shaking trepidation was a strange euphoria, an elation of being able to do to him just once what he had done to me for years. Behind the closed door, I heard him thrashing about, struggling to lift the bookcase. I bolted down the hallway, feeling the stone floor underneath my thin shoes. I reached the staircase, and as I set my foot down toward the first stair, I heard a loud bang at the door to my room behind me. It rattled against the large wooden lock and began shaking as he pushed repeatedly trying to open it. I sprinted in a panic, down the curved circular staircase. I kept moving, several seconds had past and I heard from behind me, back up from the hallway to my room, a dull thud. It seems he was chopping at my door with his sword. I hastened my pace down the remaining stairs. The low ceiling of the claustrophobic staircase trapped in the humid afternoon heat and I began to sweat as I ran downward. Soon, an offensive stench filled my nose. I pinched my nostrils closed to breathe through my mouth, but the smell was so overwhelming that I could taste the foul air coating my mouth and throat. The heat had only amplified the effect, but I pressed on my way down. Eventually, I saw a light creeping around the corner as I had finally come to the staircase’s end.
The staircase opened up to a long hallway with an elaborate, decorative, purple carpet extending its length. The towering ceiling was held up by dreary, gray stone walls, ornately furnished with escutcheons displaying various coat of arms, the families of which I could not discern. Sunlight poured into the room through the colored stain glass windows high above. The rancid smell I had encountered coming down the stairs had not dissipated as I entered the hallway, only seeming to grow stronger as if it was entrenched or seeped in the walls themselves. I wheezed as the heavy scent filled my lungs and looked to the end of the hallway, seeing two large wooden double doors. I sprinted to the end of the hall, passing by several closed doors to my sides with my hand over my nose and mouth, squinting my eyes. Daylight poured in from the cracks between and under the two doors. As I came closer, I raced with my arms outstretched in front of me and seconds later, my excitement and hopes were dashed as I crashed into the door, finding it would not open. It seemed to be fixed with a lock that would not allow the door to be opened from either direction. Perhaps he had put this on the door with the thought that I one day would have tried to escape and made it this far. Through the crack in the center of the two doors, I could see the metal lock keeping the two doors in place. I looked through the keyhole, seeing the familiar bright green field that I viewed each day from my window, brilliantly lit by the morning sun. Suddenly, from behind me, I heard a far off noise from within the tower, back up the staircase. A thunderous yet distant bang.
I quickly collected myself under the pressing urgency and searched the hallway. Seconds later, I could hear the faint, steady footsteps of sabatons stomping upon the stairs. My heart raced as I listened to the footsteps come at a speed quicker than their habitual pace during my food deliveries. The barren hallway left me completely visible. I looked to my left and tried the door, but it was locked. I looked back across the hallway at another door facing across from the one I had just tried. The footsteps were getting closer, and I looked down the hallway eyeing the dark opening of the staircase where the sound emanated from. I ran to the other door and tried pulling the latch, but it too was locked. I ran further down the hallway in the direction toward the staircase, trying each door I had come across. Eventually, I had found one that wasn’t locked, though I was uncomfortably close to the stairway entranceway. I pulled. The hinges grated and the door moved, though barely. I put all of my weight on the handle leaning back. The door edged toward me, and I kept pulling. The footsteps were close now, and I began to imagine all of the times I had heard them closing in on my bedroom door. I looked at the staircase opening in a panic, waiting for that moment when I would see him enter the hallway. I began to wonder how horrible his punishment for me would be this time. I tugged at the handle with all of my strength and finally the door opened just enough that I was able to squeeze through. I slipped past and pulled, desperately trying to close the door. It gradually edged towards me until it shut, thankfully closing much easier than it had been to open.
I turned and was greeted by another spiral, dimly lit, stone staircase. I began my descent with my ears still fixated on any noises coming from behind the hallway door in back of me. Lower I went with each precarious step, moving as quickly as possible while still remaining silent. Soon, my ears were forced to focus in front of me as I began hearing sounds coming from the room below. The smell was atrocious. It enveloped my head and caused tearing in my eyes. I felt as if it was absorbing itself into my clothes. As I reached the final steps, the stair entranceway opened up to a large room, and I stood there repulsed at a nauseating violation of my senses. There was several covered crates, from which came the shrill sounds of fowl, scratching, clucking, and squawking. I put my hand over my nose and clenched my nostrils at the grotesque smell. I walked into the room and grew quickly worried at the sight of horror laying before me. The floor was covered with the feathers of chickens, most of them stained brown from dirt, presumably left on the floor for some time. Bodies of dead chickens lay on the ground amidst the mess of dirt and feathers, some with their legs broken, heads twisted, and one that lay twitching, which gave me a sick loathing in my stomach. I grimaced and walked across the room toward the windows. They, too, were barred, and I shook them desperately, looking out upon the freedom denied to me. I angrily gripped the bars as hard as I could, then turned from the window, looking back at the disorienting and disturbingbasement I had come upon.
There looked to be about thirty or so chicken crates of all different sizes, some raised on decrepit planks and others lay on the ground in all different sizes. On the other side of the room, I saw a small window-sized door that stood out against the gray stone wall. I walked over and opened it, revealing a large dumbwaiter shaft. I looked inside and it seemed to go up quite far, gradually fading into darkness. There was a rope pulley in the center and above I could see a hook affixed to the rope, most likely for attaching a bucket of some sort. As I closed the door to the shaft, I began walking across the littered floor by a table near one of windows when something caught my eye and made my heart beat furiously in my chest. Something that had brought back memories of my childhood and made me frantic with confusion. On the table there was a few tattered pieces of paper in poor condition, with writing on each, looking as if they had been ripped from some sort of journal. And at the bottom of each of these pages was a distinct signature that I had seen many times before— that of my father’s. I picked one of the pages up, one that looked to have been crumpled and later re-flattened, and by the light of the window, I began reading.
He’s been doing it again, messing around in that damn suit of armor. I’ve told him countless times to stop making a fool of himself, but he keeps disobeying me. We Rembaques are meant to rule, not to get involved with matters of war and battle. He is disgracing our image as...
After this point, a smear from some sort of stain rendered the rest illegible until the bottom of the page.
...wakes his brother Jean-Paul up with his incessant rattling around in that suit. He’s still an infant, everything frightens him, and I will punish Julius severely if I go one more night without sleep. Delicate matters are at hand with the peasantry and they must be kept in check. We have several meetings in the coming days about how to quell the uprisings. May God see us through.
~Charles Edward Rembaque II
I set down the paper with rising perturbation and wiped my sweating hands on my clothes. My father had never mentioned to me once that I had an older brother. Disconcerted, I picked up a second page off the table.
Julius has been punished for his disobedience. I hid the suit of armor in a locked closet, but somehow he got it out and began marching around the halls in it once again. He refuses to take it off and if he is going to be so stubborn, he can be a knight, but he can start his training from the very bottom. As I write this, he is currently locked in the barn stables with the horses and chickens, forbidden to leave until he cleans every last one. He must learn that he...
At this point the entry ends, appearing to have been stopped abruptly. I then picked up a page on the table underneath the one I had just read.
This is the saddest day in all my years. Yesterday, as I was up in the tower of my keep, those cursed peasants revolted out of the city, setting fire to the property around our territory, including the barns and stables. My poor boy Julius... I will make these peasants feel an agony they cannot even dream. God, why did I send him to clean the stables during a time like this, all merely to prove a point. My dear boy, trapped in an inferno! As we searched through the ashes and rubble, he was nowhere to be found... not even the suit of armor. Jean-Paul is now my sole heir and I can only hope he grows up to be as strong as his brother.
The blood of these murderers will wash away my tears.
~Charles Edward Rembaque II
As I finished reading the entry, a sound burst from the staircase entranceway. It was the rusty grating of the door at the top of the stairs opening, and a second later I heard the menacing steps upon the stairs. Quickly, I set the pages down in the fashion that I had found them and ducked behind one of the larger chicken crates in the room. The stench of animal feces flooded my nostrils, and I covered my nose and mouth with my shirt trying desperately to avoid it. The footsteps closed in on the room nearing the end of the staircase. I took a deep breath of the foul air and held it as I heard the footsteps reach the entrance of the room. As he entered, the chickens squawked wildly, the hellish chorus filling the room. I looked to my left to see that the cover on this particular crate I ducked behind did not fully cover the side I was on. The chickens inside thrashed and screeched frantically upon seeing me. I closed my eyes, praying that this would not attract attention and would be drowned out by the noise of the room. I could feel him standing in the entranceway, scanning the room for me. I remained as still as possible as this went on for a minute or so, though it seemed to be far longer. But soon, I heard the footsteps begin to retreat back up the stairs. Once I heard the steps disappear out of range and the manic screeches of the chickens began to subside, I slowly rose from behind the crate. I rushed over to the staircase and waited a minute or two, listening for any sounds of movement. After another minute or two, I slowly proceeded up the stairs with the sounds of the basement fading behind me.
As I reached the top of the staircase, I peered out of the doorway, which had been left open. Looking to the left and right, I walked out into the empty hallway. If I kept still, he would eventually find me. I had to keep moving. More doors had been opened since I was last in the corridor. I moved forward, toward the door nearest to me that had been left ajar. I pushed it open cautiously, revealing a kitchen. It too smelled as if something had gone horribly rancid. The kitchen was constructed of the same gray stonework as the rest of the tower. The only window in the room was located far above and out of my reach, though it was barred as well. A giant stove occupied one side of the room, and it looked like it had been recently replenished with wood. Pots and utensils were strewn across a long wooden table, and I shuddered wondering if they had ever been cleaned. Peering across the room, something caught my eye. I walked over to the wall which had on it a familiar large window-sized door to the one I had seen in the basement. I opened it up and saw that it was in fact the same dumbwaiter shaft that I had looked in from below. I climbed up onto the ledge and gazed inside into the dark pit. Suddenly, I heard a loud crashing of a door being opened from somewhere in the hallway. Startled by the sound, I held still on the ledge of the dumbwaiter shaft, peering through the doorway into the hall. Attuning my ears to the hallway, I listened with trepidation as the steady treading made its way in my direction. Each footstep sent my heart into a manic flurry as they encroached on my position. I gripped the side of the dumbwaiter shaft entrance and watched as he marched into view of the doorway entrance. He paused a moment, then turned, his gaze falling upon me. I peered into the dark, thin, eyeholes of the visor, two soul-less pits, and began shaking as he started marching forward into the kitchen entranceway.
My voice was stifled, and I struggled in terror trying to articulate anything. As he came closer across the kitchen floor I finally shouted toward him, “Are you Julius Rembaque, son of high nobleman Charles Edward Rembaque II?” I paused a moment. “Are you my brother?” Then suddenly, he abandoned his faux military stride and started running across the room toward me. I screamed in peril at the clanking and rattling of the suit of armor as he charged at me with his quickened gait. He outstretched his arms toward me and with my legs shuddering in fear, I leapt into the dumbwaiter shaft grabbing the rope pulley, feeling his metal gloves touch my back as he reached over the ledge toward me. I fell down into the darkness with the rope pulley barely slowing my fall. I shrieked helplessly, anticipating the impact of the bottom of the shaft, when suddenly, the pulley jolted and the rope stopped. My hands burned with excruciating pain as I slid downward, keeping clenched tightly to the rope. From above me, I heard a human vocalization, though its sound disturbingly mangled. This was the first utterance I had ever heard from this person, and I am now glad that I had never heard it before. As I slid to a halt on the bottom of the shaft, a series of bizarre, pained noises emanated from above. Once at the bottom, I sensed movement from above in the shaft. I quickly kicked the dumbwaiter door open and sprung out onto the revolting, chicken feather covered basement floor. As I backed away from the opening with my hands searing in pain from the friction burn, the pulley began moving again and a startled scream erupted from my core as the body from my pursuer came crashing down through the shaft, landing on his shoulders and neck. The noise from the impact sent the chickens into a hysterical frenzy, producing horrendous noises that I did not even think the animals were capable of making. I took a cautious step toward the dumbwaiter shaft to view a sight so unfathomably grotesque that I felt myself almost faint. When I had grabbed the rope during my fall, the quickly rising hook of the pulley must have caught the visor of his helm. With his face now exposed, I now had no doubts that this was my brother, and I now understood what the screams of pain were.
My brother lay before me, no longer resembling how he had once appeared, but a tragic deformation, warped by the fires that engulfed him in that barn. Much of his face looked to have been melted to the visor itself, which was ripped violently upward. The rest of his body is sure to have suffered the same fate, melted to the steel, a prisoner inside the suit of armor. How on earth did he survive? I stood there in shock at his terrifying wounds, eyeing the piece of torn skin hanging from the visor. His face was badly bleeding, only one of his eyes seemed to have been mostly spared from the disfiguring flames, and it remain open, unfocused, yet staring at me in a piercing green. That’s when I saw it, attached to a hook on his waist faulds, the dark black key. Remembering the keyhole to the front door, it appeared to be about the same size. He still lay motionless, and I edged toward him, unsure if the fall had killed him. I bit my lower lip and extended my trembling hand toward the key, still nervously fixated on his open eye. As I reached for it, I began to shudder with even greater intensity as the unsettling sounds from his scorched vocal chords repeated in my head. I touched the key and slowly lifted it up over the hook. Once in the grasp of my rope burned hand, I pulled it toward me, staring at my brother for another moment, then dashed across the basement floor toward the staircase.
I raced up the steps as quickly as my legs could take me, rounding my way up toward the stone corridor. As I ran, I grew puzzled as the stench in the air became even stronger, despite distancing myself from the basement. The smell became so unbearably oppressive that I started to heave and my eyes watered. I wiped them, reaching the top of the staircase and spit on the floor feeling the taste of the air in my mouth. It became too much, and I kneeled down retching several times as there was not enough in my stomach to vomit. I picked myself back up, feeling delirious, but pushed on toward the double doors. Passing down the corridor, I could see the welcoming glow of the sunlight through the crack in the middle of the doors once again. My sights narrowed in on the keyhole and I ran as fast as I could, holding my last hope in my hands. Finally reaching them, I stopped and frantically stuck the key into the hole. It fit. A euphoria rushed over me, and I was about to turn the key when something to my left caught my eye. The door that had previously been closed and locked now lay wide open and my sudden bliss was transformed into an all-consuming horror. Inside the door was a sight so ghastly that I staggered backwards and my vision blurred as if protecting my own mind’s sanity. Through the door lay bodies piled into a mound in the center of the room, some intact, others an unrecognizable bloody mass, all in various levels of decay. Everything I felt went numb and distant, as if I was no longer a part of this reality. A dizzying, disturbed, confused nihilism swept through my mind.
Hollow eyed, I stared down at the key for a moment when suddenly a noise rang out through the tower. A few seconds later, I heard it again, and grappled my thoughts back into focus. I looked over my shoulder, hearing another loud, steady, intervaled noise, growing closer. They were coming from the basement staircase. I began turning the key and felt the burning pain from my hands as the lock barely moved. I turned the key even harder, watching as the rusted metal bar between the crack in the two doors slowly moved. The noise did not stop, and it sounded as if it was nearing the top of the stairs, a jarring, grating, clanging. I was so close to my freedom, little by little the bar moved through the wooden door. Suddenly, I heard one more of the clanging noises which had come right from the edge of the stairs. I looked behind me once more to see my brother stepping out from the doorway, and turned, looking down the hall in my direction.
He held his sword in his right hand and after a moment, began marching down the long purple carpet toward me. Staring straight ahead, with every few steps he took, he swung his sword at the wall beside him, the implications not being lost on me. I turned quickly back toward the key, putting all of my strength into turning it, when suddenly, with a snap, I jolted forward. My chest caved like an endless pit of dread as I opened my hand to see half of the broken key, with the other half lodged in the keyhole, flush with the door. I screamed in an impotent rage looking behind me, watching him swing his sword against the stone wall, producing sparks and that awful noise. About halfway down the hallway now, I could see blood coming through the holes in his visor and down the front of his helm. I watched him strike his sword once more against the wall. There would be no punishment for me this time. I turned, looking at the bar between the two doors. It had been moved just enough so that it was just barely touching the wood of the other door. I backed away and with all of my fury kicked the door. My threat was closing in behind me and I kicked the door over and over until I wrenched my ankle. I switched feet and continued striking at the door, watching as the bar gradually scraped by the door adjacent. I kicked it once more and backed away with the sound of my brother’s sword and his relentless stomping nearly right behind me. I lowered my shoulder and charged at the door, putting all the weight of my frame forward as I burst through the doors into the daylight.
I stumbled forward on my twisted ankle, feeling the sun hit me spectacularly from all angles, a feeling entirely forgotten that felt rather bizarre and new. The clanging had ceased and I glimpsed behind me to see my brother no longer marching, but charging toward me. Not wasting another moment, I dashed down the stone path of the entranceway with the menacing rattling of the suit of armor and his furious treading close behind. Soon, I reached the end of the stone path which gave way to the grassy field, the one which I had observed every day from my bedroom. As it opened up in front of me, it was even more beautiful than I could see from my view in the window. Vibrant greens meeting the azure sky filled my eyes, and I was overcome with a deluge of rapture, experiencing this after years of being trapped in the gray walled tower. I listened behind me and felt as though I was distancing myself from my pursuer, though he did not stop, as I heard his hard treading on the stone change to softer thuds on grass.
Favoring my injured ankle, I kept up my pace across the field, toward the lake in the distance. The glassy body of water stretched far into the distance. From behind me, I heard the terrifying contorted vocalizations of my brother, seemingly trying to shout at me. Had I the breath, I would have screamed, but I was fast approaching exhaustion.
I reached the edge of the lake, rushing the half-grounded, sideways boat into the water. To my luck, a paddle lie inside. I sloshed through the shallow water, finding that the lake deepened quickly. When the water came up to my shoulders, I kicked my legs, propelling myself upwards, and pulled myself over the side of the boat. I collapsed over the side, breathing heavily, and sat up, watching my brother slowly dash across the rest of the field, looking as though he too was quite winded. I picked up the paddle and began furiously beating against the water, pushing my boat deeper into the lake. Soon however, my brother reached the edge of the lake, taking his first strides into the water, the distance between us narrowing. My paddling turned frenzied as he came closer to my tiny boat. The water was now up to his knees. I was sure the water below me was quite deep but I was moving far too slow to get away. The water was up to his neck but he kept after me. Another few seconds passed and he was beneath the surface. I continued my unrelenting paddling until suddenly my boat lurched backwards. I spun around seeing the metal fingers of a gauntlet grasping the back of the boat. I moved to the edge of the boat hitting his hand with my paddle attempting to dislodge his grip. Unable to remove his grasp, I continued my mad paddling into the lake. The boat lurched again as a second hand grabbed the back end. The boat continued its way forward as I started to feel the burning fatigue from my relentless paddling. Suddenly, the hands moved, making their way from the back of the boat to the side. With the hanging weight, the small vessel pitched in his direction, throwing my balance. Again, the hands moved, one after another, edging closer. The ominous hands had made their way to the side, right next to me, and I did not know whether I should take my chances attempting to swim with my arms now completely exhausted. Suddenly, one of the hands disappeared beneath the water as the boat continued to drift out into the lake. With the weight of the armor rocking the boat in his direction, I leaned to the opposite side. I watched the calm surface in silence, when straight up out of the water shot his sword, the water and metal brightly reflecting the afternoon rays. I shrieked as he burst from the water grabbing my leg with his other hand, almost knocking the boat completely over. His grasp was one of blind, seething contempt. With his sword, he slashed mercilessly at my lower legs and thighs, with some of his berserk strikes chopping at the side of the boat. I screamed as my blood began pooling into the boat below me, combining with the water pouring in as we tipped violently back and forth. I cried, fearing my coming fate, whether it be pulled to a watery death or bled out at the hand of my brother’s erratic slicing. I thrashed with all my might, feeling the steelcut searing wounds through my flesh. I frantically kicked, until one of them, well placed, knocked the visor of his helm upwards, revealing his face to me.
I stared into his one preserved green eye, the only part of his face that could any longer show emotion, his psychotic rage burning through my soul. The boat leaned even further as I began sliding toward him, losing my balance. The boat creaked as it began tipping over and he raised his right arm, aiming the sword upward in a stabbing motion. With all of the energy I had left in my weakened arms, I took my paddle and thrust it into the face of my brother. It jabbed significantly into his reopened wounds and with a hideously mangled shout of fury, he fell backwards into the water as the boat flung in the opposite direction, swaying side to side. I looked over the side, into the deep, dark water to see a horrible thrashing and rising bubbles from just under the surface, and I knelt there watching it, until all I saw was my reflection in the water as it returned to its peaceful state of glass-like tranquility.
I collapsed backwards into the boat, exhausted under the afternoon sun, my legs pulsing in pain, and with my eyes squinting against the rays, I watched, as far above me, a bird soared across the cloudless blue sky.
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