Wow ... That was the closest poll I have had here in the Paragraphs Of Power contest. What a marvelous selection of Halloween short stories!
But; there can be only one winner and that winner is...Babs Morton with her amazingly chilling story...Bedlam.
Babs has won an a $50 Amazon Gift Voucher. A month long promotion of a work of her choosing on this blog. And a guest spot on any topic she likes.
I have posted BEDLAM below for readers to enjoy.
Fear, a primal reaction unfurled from the smallest seed, in the pit of a churning belly, a shiver etched with icy claws across skin stretched taut with dread.
Fear is subjective; I know this to be true. I have faced them all. The scuttling arachnid, the hissing serpent, even the heat of the pyre has left me unbowed. But, when I stand toe to toe with the wide open space, the plummeting depths; the void at the edge of my world, the panoramic vista draws me, seduces me; entices me to take that final step back into Bedlam.
I’m shaking now, deep inside. My organs rattle like poppy seeds in a desiccated pod. No warm flesh to cushion them, I am but a dry shell. Yet, I feel perspiration cold against the back of my neck, hot on my face and I force my eyes to remain open. This time I must see what lies before me. This time nothing will stop me.
I hear him coming softly through the darkness, his measured step as he circles ever closer. I feel his presence. The subtle movement of air around me as he moves; disturbs my fragile being. I need to retain focus, yet I have not the power to resist as his warm breath whispers against my ear. Taunting, teasing. He knows I will succumb, as I have done for what seems like an eternity.
This time is different. I must overcome, I must succeed. I inhale. The simple act of breathing causes my chest to burn. My heart beats a warning, my senses buzz. I clamp my mouth shut, hold my breath. He is all around me, he is poison and yet my lungs yearn for release. My body betrays me and my lips part with a soft sigh. The threat is real, I know it. I cannot help myself, I step forward.
My toes are bare, scuffed and bloody, yet I feel no pain, merely the cold steel beneath my feet. I have travelled far. I am nearly there, almost at my destination, the point of no return. Sadness exudes from my pores. Melancholy hums gently in my head. I curl my toes over the edge, feel the roughness of rusted rivets and steady myself against the night breeze.
He smiles. I feel it against my skin in the same way I hear his laughter in my head, harsh, and mocking. He is letting me know that my actions are his and I am powerless. I seek out the rage that lies hidden in the depths of my used and abused, excuse for a soul. It evades me.
I inch forward and now my toes are free of the degenerated metal. I feel cool air, an updraft of sweet intoxication. It beckons me and I am tempted. Behind, he urges me on, whispers his jibes, like lyrics to a favourite song, over and over until the chorus threatens to overpower me, to push me over, to pull me in.
I know what I must do. In my head, in my waking dreams I have argued and reasoned with my doubting, lesser self. In my dreams I am strong but now as I stand at the brink, at the beginning of the end, I am shaking and he crowds my thoughts with his own.
He’s closer now, almost upon me. I feel his coldness where others might imagine warmth. I risk a final breath through pursed lips and it is my undoing. The heady scent assails me, that coppery tang is love and life and all things to me, in my twisted perpetual world. My senses are bombarded. My brain is awash, alive. I clench my fists, curl my toes and plead with myself.
He laughs now, no longer in my head, but out loud, so all can hear the chilling sound. His venom anaesthetises my feeble revolt. My mind is numb with need, my nerve endings tingle. I begin to salivate.
It’s almost time, I feel the approach of midnight almost as strongly as I feel him. I am torn, pulled by twin temptations. His hand reaches out and caresses my arm. His icy touch penetrates my skin through dermis down to bone. I incline my head, weak and helpless, as he reaches my neck. I am done for, beyond help. My futile plotting; my longing for the end is all for naught.
Raising my eyes, I see the clouds which shroud the night sky move gently and the moon, serene and all seeing, is released from darkness. All Hallows is upon us. I hear his gasp, the catch in his throat and finally, his weakness is revealed.
I have but a moment, the risk is great, yet I am suddenly energised, reckless in my naivety. I feel his bite, sharp and cold and my body reacts; as I know it will. Iciness transforms to burning heat. Capillaries swell and throb as I come alive, my blood rushes to navigate every shrunken vessel, my organs rejoice and for one brief moment I have the power and he has naught but need.
I pull him close; he shares my precarious position on the very edge of nowhere. Bedlam beckons. The boiling maelstrom reaches out its welcome. This time, I will not step out alone. I will not suffer the torment of another tortured existence, continually seeking redemption and finding nothing but trial and defeat. This time, I will take him with me and he will finally know what it is, this half life he has gifted.
The blade is sharp. I feel it against my palm. The silver glints in the lunar glow. It sings to me – a song of hope. His voice in my head is receding. My mind becomes free, filled now with the joyous sound of the blade as it pierces his flesh. His confusion is overwhelming, betrayal and disbelief. But I have him in my embrace and he is lost.
I step out into the void and this time, we make the final journey back to Bedlam...together.