Excerpt from ‘The Host’



Fate drove me to my death, and by death I mean the tarot card interpretation; the end of an old life and the beginning of the new.  A repetitive dream haunted me from childhood. I would find myself in pouring rain roaming scared and lost through a thick woods drenched in night’s suffocating darkness. Finally I would hear the cries of the ocean’s tide hammering against a distant shore. On reaching an unkempt grassy clearing a once magnificent, now derelict mansion would come into view. I felt it looking at me, waiting for me and drawing me in; built of sturdy ageing stone, broken Georgian style windows, yet alive and calling for me.

Beyond lay a muddy beach littered with pebbles and overlooked by an abandoned lighthouse. Occasional jolts of lightening would illuminate the overbearing gargoyles that adorned the large, stretched eyes of the main first floor windows. Reluctantly I would enter the curved oak doors that had been left ajar as if welcoming me. Candles would flicker alive showing a grand hall, magically unscathed by age and bedecked with old portraits of people from long ago that stared longingly at the giant staircase. Behind the art stood high, crimson walls that complemented the dark wooden rails and floor.

An archway to my left revealed a splendid lounge full of Chaise-Lange’s, a crackling fire filled with logs and further pictures. One would always catch my gaze; A refined man, tall with thick black hair and the most soul-searching blue eyes. Pangs would always run through my body, pangs of attraction and a sub-conscious recognition. After a momentary stare I would climb the stairs. The first floor encompassed the stair case revealing numerous bedrooms. All furnished beautifully with king size beds, closets and rugs. One particular chamber attracted me, it lay between two other rooms and had doors accessing both. The bed had four posts and red covers, walls, floors.

Deeper into the house I would go, passing the servants’ quarters of the second floor and up into the attic. The attic called me and I was drawn to it. I always knew in the back of my mind that there were two staircases that led to the top floor; one ran directly from the scullery in the basement and the other from the landing of the second floor. I climbed higher, but a pain in my belly told me to turn back, to run. The hair on my neck rose, but I would always lose control of my feet. Forced to move on I would feel the panic welling up, lights dimmed and the splendour of the main house would soon be forgotten.

Mazes were incomparable to the intricate rooms that ran one from the other and across various levels. It would occur to me in my adult years that the attic rooms existed in a self-contained block to the rear of the house directly over the extended scullery and kitchens. The rooms varied from what appeared to be empty servants’ quarters and vast collections of old books. The largest room appeared to be a study of sorts and must have sat to the rear as it over looked the sea and lighthouse.

Layers of rocks, corals and pools provided an awkward array of stepping stones to the menacing tides and lighthouse. Sometimes I would move into a pitch black back room. I always felt disturbed, as if an inhumane soul suffered in the purgatory of this chamber. I could feel the threatening presence. I would try to escape, but my feet would draw me in deeper and darker. On other occasions I would dream that I stepped onto the balcony of the study and climbed over the barrier down to the first layer of rock. The hard weed soaked mass swept  in a rugged semi-circle dropping at one edge to another layer and at another to a rock pool that would tidally transform into a cruel tide sucking water into the jaws of the ocean.

I would feel him behind me, a greying mass of black and white, unable to reflect colour. I would feel his massive form enshrouding me and instinctively would edge towards the rock pool with fear. I knew him, the man before me, the man from the portrait, but could not place him. As I backed away his hand would stretch alongside great strides until it stroked my cheek. The fear would always make me unsteady, the fear and the swirls of the tide beckoning to me, I would slip as I backed away, tripping, stumbling trying desperately to get away from this monstrous spirit. He always uttered the same words as he angrily strode towards me,

‘We have been waiting!’ and I would fall into the whirling eddy below. Dark water sucked me under every time and every time I would drag myself to the surface choking and suffocating. He would watch cruelly as I cried out and begged for help. The tide would drive me outwards towards the rocky shelf separating the pool from the vicious sea. My nails would crack as I threw myself onto the largest stone, wrapping my arms about its huge form. Then she would come, the lighthouse would glow and she would come. My stinging, salty eyes would glance back and he would be staring, waiting and transparently illuminating as the ancient light flicked across the shore.

Her icy, drenched pale hand would appear first from beneath the waves, grabbing at the boulder with fingers crunched like talons. Her long black hair rose from the deep and clung to the rocks as if every single lock was an individual entity coming for my soul. I would always freeze with terror as a second hand splatted next to my face. Her bowed head would rise in neck cracking strokes and two dark eyes would peer from the downturned face turning me to stone.

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