Sat 18 Jan 2014
In the micro-fiction story that follows, I incorporate the Lovecraftian themes of forbidden knowledge, inner psychic turmoil, and gothic horror, but within a distinct historical and political context.
by Jonathan Lewis
This will be last the world hears from me. Nevertheless, it will soon enough learn a most terrible secret, one that has stained my family name for generations.
My only loyalists are the gargoyles. The magenta rays of the fading sun may portray their ashen faces in a grotesque light, but those grey stone carvings are the most loyal of sentries. They perch on the ledge of my citadel, leering skyward with impure eyes. Mocking my enemies with tongues grossly distorted, repulsed by the taste of sedition.
Distortions of animal form, worn by the steady march of time, they dwell just meters from the disintegrating tapestries adorning my vestibule walls. But how much do these inanimate creatures know of their true masters? They appear to steady themselves, in preparation for the struggle ahead. For who else remains to shield my body, let alone my mind, from the gathering maelstrom.
Those who obeyed my regency, who respected the authority of my stentorian voice, now betray me. They turned their backs and take solace in knaves who abjure the natural order of things. I hear stories of one of their self-appointed leaders and of his fealty to his own lust for power. A champion of the people, he styles himself. A ringleader of fools, he is. I have heard tales of guillotines, desecrated castles, new ways of signifying the world.
I am told that the agitators gather their strength from the forbidden philosophers, seekers, and questioners. The very thought of those sophists and their torturous logic sets my blood on fire. Oh, how I should have cast their elephantine volumes into the flames!
If only the mob that gathers outside these castle walls knew the abhorrent truth of this haunted terrain. Their impish rebellion will destroy us all. I may be a ruler, but I too am ruled.
My masters are of an ancient race. Not of this world.
When I was a boy, whispers suggested that they came from the stars centuries ago and struck a hellish bargain with my ancestors, the details of which I to this day remain unaware. The ancient ones dwell in subterranean mausoleums on the castle grounds. The rebels will surely disturb their slumber. An early awakening—a most unholy dawn—will summon horrors dwarfing the mere foibles of earthly politics.
I smell the unkempt masses below. A breeze sweeps past the gargoyles and into my room, further unsettling me. I look to my gargoyles for solace and protection, but it is in vain. My eyes bear witness, for they dare not deceive. The gargoyles are breaking free from their terrestrial moorings, soaring ever upward in the clear night sky, casting hideous shadows in the solemn moonlight. I hear their hideous, unearthly laughter, monstrous cackles. Betrayal is the most discordant of tunes.
My turncoat sentries aloft, I remain earthbound, hostage to forbidden knowledge, myself the last remaining nobleman of a cruel and ancient regime, but one that had no choice but to govern as we did.
I hear the bounding of footsteps and the dissonant symphony of conspiring voices. The oxblood drapery separating my antechamber from the hallway sways to and fro.
Something lies behind it, hidden.
I stand, captive to fear and to what I thought I knew. My hands unsteady at my sides, I reach for my steel blade. It brings me no comfort.
I am the last of the noblemen. I must be brave. But I am not brave. I tremble, sick to the core of my being, wondering what dwells out of sight, behind the curtain.