My thanks to all those lovely folks that submitted entries. We had a four way tie for 2nd place; phew! That is an indication of the high standard of the entries received.
Here is Melissa's Entry again for your reading enjoyment!
Stand by for a special announcement regarding October Paragraphs Of Power.
I dreamed of Leda, long forgotten by the centuries.
Her open palms outstretched beneath her pleading eyes.
“Remember me - lost in the forest by the sparkling seas.
And shed a tear at my unfortunate demise.
I wander endless paths of cobbled stone from long ago,
And chase elusive visions from my troubled past,
Through lonely crumbling ruins of my belov’d ancestral home,
I long to be embraced by those I love at last.
Pray for me! Pray for me! Eternity is vast and grey,
My mind’s a pris’ner in these empty haunted halls,
Oh, how I long to fly away on wings of joy today.
My tortured soul would be unchained from these bleak prison walls.”
She began to fade back to the empty hollow tomb,
As I awoke at midnight to the moonlight in my room.
I shudder as I wake from that bombastic night terror, but the soft moonlight from my window comforts me as it caresses familiar surroundings and settles peacefully upon my sheets. Yet my heart drums blood and pounds in my ears. All the while, one single thought reverberates. Leda was real, as real as that branch undulating outside my window, waving at me, mocking my fear as if it were Leda’s arm taunting me. Amidst the fear, I am exhausted as I slump as if an old pillow mashed into place. I lie to myself. It was just a dream. However, the trickery does not work. Gaunt, pallid Leda was real, dressed in her Italian renaissance garb. There were bloodstains on the cloth and her hair was askance in mussed strings that hung below her waist. Still, she was vaguely pretty and young- perhaps fifteen or sixteen. I’m puzzled though. I don’t understand why she came for me, why she dragged me through a reenactment of her life those many centuries ago in a place I’ve never been, seen, or imagined. There were mountains and forests surrounding a cobblestone courtyard in front of a stone house that stood like a great grey ghost in the ether. Fog breathed in and around, shrouding the yard from the dim light of early morning. To the west, flickering lamps illuminated the entrance of the building where two massive doors yawned under a pair of dark hollow eye socket windows with wrought iron terraces. A young woman stood on one, almost blending into the darkness. It was Leda. Her frail fists clenched around the cold iron rail as she cried. Bitter tears mixed with drops of icy rain and trailed down her face as she watched the scene unfolding in the courtyard. She squinted straight down at black funeral carriages pulled by anxious steeds that paused near the front entrance. The black horses stamped in place and puffed pale clouds from their nostrils into cold air. The hearse was there to take the body of her beloved Grandfather away. The huge arms that hugged her, the gentle eyes that shone love to her, and the calm deep voice that soothed her worries away was leaving forever.
Men scrambled around the carriages in the yard, shouting instructions to one another, stopping to gesture and hurrying on. “Stay here!” An older man shouted to a boy as he waved him over to one of the horses. “Hold this one!” The horse tossed his head and lifted the boy off of his feet. Other horses neighed in nervous bursts as their hooves clattered on the wet cobblestone. Pallbearers painstakingly carried the wooden coffin from the house to the back of the hearse. The nervous horses lurched forward as they felt the movement behind them and the coffin appeared as if it might fall. Voices rose in distress. Leda watched in horror from her terrace. “Don’t drop him,” she whispered with a wavering voice. She leaned over the rail with ornamental spikes pressing into her bodice. The men doubled their efforts, pushing the coffin safely into place. Leda’s head dropped forward in relief as she sighed. She caught sight of Vitorre, Grandfather’s oldest friend in the group of men below. He stepped back and moaned sadly while wiping the rain from his face. Leda recognized his despair because it mirrored her own. He sensed her presence and looked up with hopeless eyes. His as hand pressed over his heart and cried, “Oh Leda, what shall we do?” He turned toward the hearse and looked at the coffin within, patted the glass with his hand. “There now, Cirro, we take care of you. We always take care of you, old friend.” He nodded and blew his nose on the wet handkerchief, before walking away.
Since her grandfather had collapsed on the stairs, every moment felt like a waking nightmare to Leda. Rain saturated loose tendrils of hair around her face and dripped onto her dress as she watched poor broken Vitorre shuffle away.
Only two days before, Grandfather’s booming laughter echoed throughout the great house as brilliant sunshine filled every room. Now, the silence was a sickening forecast of the future without him. Leda closed her eyes to her pain and inhaled the comforting familiar scent of rain before turning to go back into her room. Once in, she heard Grandmother’s clipped steps at the base of the stairs as she quipped in a shrill tone from the bottom of the stairwell, “Shall we leave without you?” The old woman’s voice was a sharp rasp that invoked unsettled murmurings deep within Leda’s soul. She was sure that her grandmother’s cold heart caused the death of the dear old man. Grandmother’s shoes pivoted on the stone floor with a scratching noise and stepped away toward the entry. Leda whirled toward the stairs when she heard a muffled voice address Grandmother as the heavy front doors creaked open. Leda lifted her floor length skirt and clasped the handrail at the top of the stairs with the other as she descended into her version of the depths of hell.