Village of Fire  

by Eline

 

 

v.

with a garden and a prison.


It was her regular dream: she was walking in a garden at night, talking to someone she could not see, with words she did not understand. Any moment now some men would come and take her away, but then she woke up to a splash of water.

 

Emily drew herself up onto one elbow and rubbed her eyes, and saw the old man holding an empty glass. She shuffled backwards and nearly fell off the table he had put her on. She looked around; she was sitting on a table in a small room lit with several candles dotted around the room. A black curtain was hanging on one wall, presumably the location of a window. Piles of books sat on the floor against the walls, some with candles on top, some without. Emily got down from the table, straightened her dress, and carefully watched the old man. He set the glass on the table and took a step towards Emily, his arms outstretched as if he wanted to hug her. She stepped backwards quickly, nearly stumbled on a stack of books, then dashed round the other side of the table. The old man let his arms drop to his sides and looked at her with sad eyes.

“I expect you're wondering who I am?”

Emily said nothing but glanced at the door; it was in the wall behind the old man, off to his left. Could she dash over?

I'm old,” he said redundantly, “I wouldn't be able to stop you if you tried to run. But aren't you curious?”

 

He took a step, slowly, to come round the table. Emily moved round it, too, to keep as much table as possible between herself and the stranger. She was now a little further from the door, and there didn't seem to be another exit.

“There's another door in the corner behind you.” The old man lifted an arm to point; Emily flinched.

“Don't worry, my dear,” he smiled, “I'm not going to hurt you.”

Emily looked behind her, warily, and, sure enough, there was another door. Looking again at the old man, she took several steps backwards, but then stopped. Maybe it was a trap and she wouldn't be able to get away at all. The man had not moved.

He sighed. “I was the verger in this church when your grandmother was born. She was a difficult one,” he said cryptically, and smiled sadly, “And your mother was the same. Do you know your grandmother and her mother are buried side by side out there?”

Emily did not move.

“Have you ever looked at their graves?”

Emily shook her head.

“It's quite astounding,” the man sighed, “I shall show you them later.”

Emily's eyes widened, and she calculated how to make a dash for the other door, which was behind the old man now. She decided to go for it, and ran; predictably, the old man stopped her. He held, not tightly, onto her arms, and bent his knees slightly so that his face was level with hers, and looked again into her eyes.

Exactly the same,” he muttered, and relinquished his hold on her arms, “Quite astounding.”


Emily ran to the door without looking back, opened it – it creaked – and was back in the large room. She ran past the guttering candles to the big curtain covering the archway at the far end, and to the church's front doors beyond. They were locked. She checked her pockets for the key, but it was gone; that could only mean, she realised...

“Are you looking for this?”

Emily turned slowly and saw the old man standing behind her, holding the curtain aside with one hand, and the key in the other. He put it into his jacket pocket and watched as Emily lowered herself slowly to the floor, her back sliding down the wooden boards of the door. He didn't notice what Emily saw with her saddened and resigned eyes: the candles in the big room behind him all went out together.


 

vi

 

 

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