A crown floating in a pail of water

Jack and Jill went up the hill

 To fetch a pail of water,

 Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.”

Shrieks echo in my head as I look out the cracked door window. A pail filled with the blackest water rests upon a crumbling well in the far corner of the yard. Soft fog threads itself on the dew covered ground. Under a moonless sky, darkness convulses, daring me to enter its domain. With every flint of a shadow, flickering lights paint a story of death and despair. My breathing grows shallow and beads of sweat pool down my flushed skin. Images of pale flesh tainted with blood fill my mind’s eye and air eludes me. My legs buckle and the floor reaches out for my soul. The darkness outside shudders in anticipation.  I fall against the decaying door and it opens like the mouth of Hell.

Icy wind rubs sandpaper on my raw skin as I’m thrown into the night. Screams from sacrifices scratch against leaves and are silenced by a simple click. Air claws its way into my lungs and my heart begins to beat once again. Fear laces

A bloody pail of water spills out. Graphic by Katie Sickman.
A bloody pail of water spills out. Graphic by Katie Sickman.

its rotten poison around my soul and life cowers in the far corners of my mind. I slowly stand up, cautious of the terrors hidden under night’s blanket. I tug at the door but it groans in protest. Hope is diminished like a flame in the wind.

Darkness slithers forward and licks at my ankles, savoring the juice of morality. Acid boils in my veins and I run. Frozen, dead grass shatter under my feet as I run deeper into the unknown. Menacing trees line up like confederate soldiers ready to extinguish the beauty of the world. Their branches snap downward grabbing at my innocence. I break through their ranks while a piece of my existence drips from their appendages.

The snapping of twigs assaults my ears sending me down a spiral of fear and agony. A low snarl crawls up my back, ripping at my reality. Hands made of the coldest marble latch onto my shoulders, yanking me into the past.

“Did you miss me, Jill?”

He whispers in my blood pounding ears. Skeleton fingers squeeze at my pulsing neck and air breaks apart. I claw at the looming figure but my fingers pass through cold silk. Black spots act out a predetermined end on the edges of my vision. A soft chuckle glides like razors over my skin.

Life escapes my body as I’m slammed against the cold ground. I twist and turn trying to recapture the lost piece of my soul. My hand brushes against a solid rock as I am pulled to my aching feet. With a single swing, the rock connects with a sickening crack. The figure sways toward the downward hill as blood streams from his thorn-embedded crown. As he falls, I turn, but a bony chain imprisons my hand. Our bodies dance down the hill side until the pail’s black water washes our souls away.