Common Era Gothic: Nine Uncanny Vignettes
You find yourself at a psychic shop on the boardwalk. It’s starting to rain, so you step inside. Upon seeing your face, the woman behind the counter offers you a free reading. You pluck a card from her deck: the High Priestess, who regards you with cool, knowing eyes. Later that night, you realize that the woman on the card looked just like you, only older.
An abandoned castle, even older than it looks. A tapestry, artfully woven, depicts a shining pond under a tree. A draft enters through a window and the weaving billows against the stone wall, causing the image to shift and move; in the pond, naiads flit about, women one moment, serpents the next.
The bust of an unknown woman in a museum makes your breath catch in your throat. A finger of recognition scratches at your memory. Her stony eyes follow as you walk away, as if she, too, knows you from somewhere, some other time.
A strange man tells you to smile, implying that you only exist in a corporeal form to please him. You stare straight through him. He crumbles under the weight.
Every night, you place a shallow saucer of milk and honey above the hearth. Every morning, the door is unlocked, but everything is in its place, and the hearth burns bright as ever. Sometimes, you find a coin from a country you don’t recognize in your left shoe.
You pass under an archway in an old city. The carvings in the arch glow faintly as you cross over. The room you’ve entered is stark white, but as your eyes adjust, you find the ceiling painted with gods and women in muted pinks, deep ocean blues, and thin bits of gold. Stairs are artfully carved into rock, inlaid with oil slick mother of pearl. A soft, but cold brush on your arm raises the hairs on the back of your neck, the ghost of someone who lived there long, long ago. City of love, city of marble, city of bones.
You come upon a hallway lined with blushing paintings of women dancing. You look forward, taking care to not meet their eyes, lest you join the danse macabre. Out of the corner of your eye, their dresses swirl like drops of ink in water.
You’ve cut your hand while making copies at the library. At first the pain barely registered, but now it’s really bleeding; an old woman draped in a scarf produces a jar from under her sleeve and presses it into your hand. You apply the balm to your cut, and it burns. The smell is familiar, menthol perhaps? The next day, it’s as if nothing happened. Your skin is fresh, unmarred and baby soft. You have not seen the woman before or since.
The late afternoon wind carries puffy clouds across the azure sky. The way the sun hits them, it’s as if they drip gold, almost as if the rays of sunshine are the billowing dresses of Nephelai, the rain-shower nymphs, plucking lyre strings and dancing on the edges of clouds. You hear the music calling to you, but surely they can’t be that close… can they?
The crackle of new flame springs to life. The sun is setting over an autumn evening. Leaves crunch under your boots as you make your way to the campfire. The chirp and titter of little animals hails your passing. This is the time that life should be folding in on itself, a trailing procession into the underworld, but you can’t help notice how blisteringly alive is the sound of death.
Only after a few drinks do you realize the world has fallen silent. You hope the eyes in the woods belong to deer. But you are alert, not afraid. A man with a falcon face lifts you up and carries you home.