Odd, there’s no one usually here, not inside. OK, as a silhouette the castle looks impressive from a distance and draws people to it. But not for long, not when they see it’s made of crumbling bricks and broken concrete exposing steel reinforcement like twisted rib cages.
Fake: a folly of huge proportions. It must have been glamorous once.
Today my dogs don’t want to go near the ruin, probably due to the unearthly sound echoing within. Half music, half wind – as if it’s howling through skulls – does not make for a pleasant experience.
A woman moves among the shattered walls. Stark naked, she’s darting over the rubble and seemingly unaware it’s midwinter. Even the original frost crystals sport new sparkling layers this morning. The strange noises move with her as if she’s making them.
I’m wearing Wellingtons, thick tights and two layers of fleece under my padded jacket. The wind comes in bitter gusts.
The figure darts past a wrecked doorway, her head showing over the collapsed lintel. The sounds stop and she appears at a window, standing on the sill. No floors left at that height, there’s no earthly way a person could have…
Broken mortar cascades, rattling among rubble. The woman leaps down and faces me. My dogs flee through frost, dark stripes of grass mapping their retreat to the field’s edge. They bark from beneath the hedge. I can’t see why they’re panicked; she doesn’t seem threatening in posture, just inhuman in the way she sounds and … jumps.
The woman approaches and stops before me. A gust of wind whips my dog leads into a tangle but her hair doesn’t move. “Welcome,” she says, pauses and, after what looks like a moment’s thought, smiles. “Welcome.”
Not knowing how to respond, I remain silent. I am stupefied; now she’s this close I can see a visual distortion around her, light bent as through the surface tension of water in a glass.
Asking, “You believe this to be your … area?” she spins, her gesture sweeping the horizon in all directions. “We won’t stay here until you no longer need it. I know you may become emotionally distressed due to your concepts of possession and territory. I’ve made a study of you … your species. I came early to see for myself everything that unfolds.”
I think I must be dreaming but my dreams have never been like this.
The woman says, “I believe linking arms is considered a friendly gesture by you at this time. We can walk and converse. You will have the sensation of physical contact with me.”
With a yelp my dogs race home. The woman takes my arm and stands beside me. “You may find it difficult to converse at first, as I will. Translation and culture, we need to cope with them – and be patient with each other.” She steps forward and tugs me. “You need to move your legs too if we are to stroll, amble or pace together.”
It’s very difficult to feel threatened by someone when walking arm-in-arm … even if you are headed for a cliff … and in this wind I’m a little worried about the plunge into the sea far below.
The woman asks, “You have a name? You can tell me and I will use it when addressing you. Would you like me to have a name too?”
I steer us away from the precipice and we head along the clifftop footpath. Certain that I have a right to questions, I ask, “Who are you and where are you from?”
The woman glances at me. Rigid grass hisses and crackles under my feet: not hers. She leaves no footprints.
The strange woman stops walking, lost in concentration for several seconds. “I am beginning to understand.” She pauses again, for longer this time. “Be patient … with us … me. Conversing with you, in voices like this, takes a lot of reflection. We do not know how to answer those questions but can attempt to guess the information you are seeking.” We start walking again. “I like this area … planet … and will stay when you no longer require it. I come from so many places it is impossible for me to reply to your query in any way that would make sense to you. I think what you need to know is that we are waiting until you leave. Then we come to stay.”
“You are an alien?”
“Let me consider… Ah, I see … in a sense yes … but the whole answer, and your understanding of it, would require many changes to the ways you think and perceive.”
“What do you mean by ‘until you leave’?”
“All of you. Extinct. I have come to watch.”
©Gary Bonn, 2017