Dances with Demons

At first glance the cavernous hall looks empty. But if you keep looking, you’ll see souls emanating from the stone walls, dancing with the sunbeams streaming down from holes in the cathedral-like roof. Ancient ghosts linger in the shadows silently weeping about their cruel deaths.

If you look closely at the rafters, you’ll see sleeping bats storing up their energy to hunt in the night. Their droppings foul the granite floor, creating a stench that wafts through the hall with every breeze that filters through the shattered front door and the gaping holes in the wall. If you have the time and the will, I will tell you a story about this accursed building.

Historians date this ruin back to the 13th century. But the building’s history is still a mystery. You probably noticed that this building is almost entirely overgrown with blackberry vines and dense foliage that disguises its outward profile. Local families have been passing down dark stories about the decrepit ruins for centuries. I’m going to share with you the most enduring tale among them.

DANCING WITH DEMONS

Once upon a time the building was the home of a pagan cult that practiced black magic. The priests, as they styled themselves, lived in the nearby villages and congregated there to perform dark rituals and human sacrifices. I suspect they were Druids, but I have no way to prove that despite the whispers we heard at the Inn.

The priests always gathered on full moons. There were exceptions, but I’ll get back to them later. On those nights people were tortured and killed during a mass celebration that lasted until the early morning hours. Screams of pain and horror mingled with raucous laughter and heathen drums throughout the little valley on those terrible nights.

What made this cult so special was its initiation ceremonies for new converts. The applicant had to dance with demons throughout the night. If they survived, they became members proudly describing the demons as their gods. Most of the time the supplicants didn’t make it through the test with the hell spawn and their bodies were rent into little pieces that the members quickly ate in a gruesome feast before the sun rose.

I hope I wasn’t boring you. You look tired. Was it the walk over here from the Inn? No. You’re sure you’re, okay? Did the well-trod trail here give you pause? I only say this because I see a glimmer of fear in your eyes. You seem uncomfortable.

For good reason.

To resume the story… the cult never died out. I’m brother Judas and it’s my pleasure to invite you to dance with demons this very night. We’ve had a hard time attracting converts in these modern times, so we had to adjust. Now we take whoever visits our valley to dance with the demons (who must be satisfied after all) and if they survive, we increase our ranks. If they don’t our secret lives on. By the way your tiredness isn’t from walking. Remember the beers we had at the Inn? I gave you something to relax. You have a big night ahead.

-30-

The Last Castle

names of fallen warriors carved

below the castle on the sea wall

invaders all

finally after a century

the towering castle

did fall

past glories reduced to rubble

and human bones hidden

in a secret tunnel

stories told about the ancient ruins spread

across the mighty seas to foreign cities

claiming the castle was haunted by the walking dead

The ragged ramparts are covered with vines and weeds

voices cheering in a cold wind from the past

admiring the castle’s warriors breathtaking deeds

the once majestic towers still stand

a testimony to the castle’s builders

who came from another land

****

Legends and Lies

a slender arm

reached up

from the lake’s

dark waters

reaching for the sky

clutching

the legendary

sword

Excalibur

a gift for a king who would die

wielding it against enemies

who personify

evil in a mythical land

called Camelot

where

noble knights

court fair damsels

in a world

that never was

**

Islands in the Sky

the keeper of dreams

comes to imaginations

with lurid temptations

promising

islands in the sky

beauty

in the mind’s eye

a veritable Versailles

where ones mind can fly

to islands in the sky

where mythology

turns into folk etymology

and no one has to die

***

Whispers in the Wind

She stood silent and still

listening to the spirits on the hill

a beautiful young wiccan she

standing straight next to a tree

listening to lost souls from eternity

whispers that soon became a plea

begging her to be set free

she listened compassionately

but it wasn’t meant to be

her magic wasn’t strong enough

to set the tortured souls free

so she returned every night

listening to their stories sadly

standing beside an old oak tree

dreaming of the day

when she could set them all free

The Returning Knight’s Story

(Editor’s note: I’m experimenting with a hybrid writing genre combining Flash Fiction/Poetry – let me know what you think. Does it work? Input appreciated – 326 words)

after years he returned from his duty as a crusader in a foreign land, riding a weary war horse in battered and bloody armor, the knight struggled not to think about the terrible things he saw in the Holy Land, where massacres of innocents were common and his soul shriveled watching and participating in…

the sun bore down mercilessly on his and his horse’s rusting armor, and his tortured brain, as he stared from behind unblinking eyes down the long dusty lane, where clusters of cobblestones laid by Roman engineers still existed after hundreds of years, reminded him of the rubble he left behind…

lurking behind his empty eyes was a shadow of recognition that he was once a husband and a father living peacefully in a green valley, where he and his bride were born so long ago, before the Catholic church came by and said he had to go, and defend Christianity for the sake of humanity, or be excommunicated by the church…

that man was just a memory as the knight rode down the road and considered what lay ahead with no emotion like he was dead, but instead he plowed ahead with no plan in mind, no speech to give about his harsh life when he thought about his young wife…

finally the day arrived and the familiar landscape of home rose like a blessing in green rows of trees surrounded by grassy knolls and a farm house at the bottom of the hill ahead, as the knight’s powerful horse picked up it’s gait unconsciously for his master to see his wife standing by a tree…

no Muslim warrior ever wounded the knight so badly

than after talking with her by the tree, when she said she thought he was dead and married again and was happy, with a tear in her eye that he could see, she turned and went back to her new family …

the knight got back on his horse, and rode into history.

***

Animal Philosophy

arrogant humans have a tendency

to ignore animal philosophy

which is rooted in nature

and it’s abundancy

where there’s no need

for greed

no unwritten law

degreed

no political party to follow

no lies to swallow

with animal philosophy

you’re free

to live in harmony

Ballad of Hotfoot and Thunder Thighs

there’s a ballad about two crazy guys

called Hotfoot and Thunder Thighs

who made people roar with laughter

and were often sought after

for their ability to make you laugh or cry

their very presence could electrify

they traveled on country trails

and loved to tell funny tales

both free as could be

the world their marquee

these guys were something to see

Udder Nonsense

the cow never even tried to jump over the moon

that story was made up by a common loon

waiting until the cows come home

is a motto that’s completely overblown

there’s one claim that won’t lead you astray

you should never kick a cow chip on a hot day

sacred cows have been known to bullshit

if they can see the benefit

it’s really all udder nonsense

and the opposite of common sense

The Storyteller’s Warning

gather ’round you ogres, trolls, fairies, wizards, elves, and giants, for I have a story to tell…

your days are numbered by the emergence of mankind

your histories will become mysteries until the end of time

your lives reduced to children’s fables and tales

where mankind is the hero who always prevails

so gather around my children and we’ll pretend

that this isn’t your end

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