Echoes of the Past

  • Round: Books: 5 Page Challenge

  • Genre:
    Fiction: Sci Fi/Fantasy, Thriller/Suspense
  • Submitted: July 08, 2011

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5 Page Challenge

Pages 1-5 | Extended Sample


Summary

The year is 1691 and Alexander Roule has spent 2 years imprisoned, waiting for death for a murder he cannot recall committing. Instead he is banished. Only a stumble into the future can save Alexander from a fate worse than death and an accusation of witchery as he struggles to remember the past.

Pages 1 - _

Leaning against the cold stone wall, Alexander stared out the window at the soft snowflakes drifting lazily to the ground. The first storm of the season had begun, shrouding the dismal gray earth in a blanket of white.  His second winter here, watching the seasons pass so slowly, each day melting into the next like the warming ice trickles into the sea. Somewhere a bell tolled. 

The quarreling cry of many ravens echoed from the stones of the courtyard below.  Alexander shivered and hugged his arms around his chest.

He bowed his head; listening, concentrating.  If only to hear a human voice, but rarely did they come.  Only when the wind was kind would it bring the occasional trace of conversation from a nearby street. 

But today the wind was not so kind and in the stead of a human voice, it brought the melody. 

Most would have cherished the resonance.  But Alexander closed his eyes, dreading it.  He had heard it before, too many times. The violin sang softly yet its sound drowned out even the bells.  A warning disguised as a greeting.  It began as always; a child’s cry—faint and afraid.  Then sweetly it rose, so melodic he was almost fooled by it, until it swept inside, drifting on the acrid air of his cell, brushing past the wisps of mist from his own breath, taking possession in the dark far corner of the cell, where she rested. 

Where she had not moved nor been touched in two years.

Do not look.

The weeping rose to a scream in an attempt to draw Alexander’s attention.  No, he did not wish to see, but she screamed louder. Relentless.

He turned slowly, and gazed through heavy lids, fearful of looking fully upon her.  She was propped against the wall, as always, but the dust that obscured the carved angels on her varnished body, the cobwebs that entwined her neglected strings vibrated with the music and fell away, leaving her clean and begging for retribution.  It was not my fault, she was screaming, so why slight me, why make me beg for release? 

She was punishing him.

Alexander clasped his hands over his ears.  Still the violin screeched.  He squeezed his eyes shut.  Maybe if he did not look. Maybe if he refused to hear… “No! Leave me be!”

Screeching.  Screeching.

And then—silence! 

Was it a trick?  Cautiously, Alexander lowered his hands.  Had she forgiven him at last?  No, she had not.  He could now hear that which had graciously stilled her.  A voice outside the cell, growing louder.  A human voice.  Someone was approaching.

“You would be mad as well,” said the voice, “accused of murder and remembering naught… spending two years of solitude in there.…He is harmless.  Now let me in!” 

The door groaned its protest and an older gentleman appeared.  His clothes were neat and rich--the ornate garments of a court magistrate, from the long and wavy white wig, perfect and prim, down the buttons of his braided waistcoat, the gathered breeches, to the fancy heeled shoes that clicked on the dusty stones as he walked in.  The heavy door clanked shut behind him. 

“Hello John, “said Alexander as he turned his attention back to the snow outside. 

His mood lifted ever so slightly. Though John Peters was not his first choice for company, at the very least there would be a voice other than hers to listen to.  A human voice.  “How long has it been?”

Draped over one arm, Peters carried a long cloak, and this he placed on the small bed.  “Too long, I am afraid,” he stated apologetically, hugging himself. 

“Tis so cold in here, Alexander.” He gazed over to the small fireplace, the pile of ash in its hearth cold since last winter.

“They stopped bringing me wood long ago,” Alexander stated dejectedly.

“I have brought you a cloak.” 

Alexander chuckled beneath his breath. “Two winters here and now you bring me a cloak?”

“I know, I should have come sooner.”  Crossing in front of Alexander John stood on the opposite side of the window where he could see more clearly the man he had put into this place.  “But I—“ 

John paused, his gaze shrouding Alexander’s form.  Under his breath he muttered, “Bloody hell.”

Alexander concentrated on the thickening snow outside the window.  He wished not to be reminded of the state in which he had been reduced to these past years; of the clothes he wore, once so like John’s, now nothing but rags that barely hung from his emaciated body, covered in two years’ dirt like an old and neglected piece of furniture.

Peters, obviously sensing Alexander’s discomfort, recovered himself.  “I needed to care for business.”

“Would this business,” said Alexander, aware of his own sarcasm, “have anything to do with why I remain in this prison, rather than seeing my retribution on Tower Hill?”

“You sound as if you wish to hang.” 

Oh the anguish,” Alexander said dramatically. “I do.”

“Why would you talk this way?” 

Peters moved to place a hand on Alexander’s shoulder, but seemed to think better of it and pulled back.  “I know it could not have been pleasant, spending time in this…” he glanced around, “this cold, rather disagreeable place, but…” He gazed out the window.  “Look, the snow is so beautiful, surely you do not wish to die and miss it.”

Alexander remained silent.  He lowered himself onto the small bed and sighed.

Peters grabbed the single cane chair that rested in the corner of the cell, placed it before Alexander and sat.  Elbows resting on his knees, he rubbed his hands together thoughtfully—or perhaps to warm them—and when he spoke his words were soft and soothing.

“You were-you are the greatest violinist in all of London…all of Britain.  One of the greatest composers the court has ever seen.  To have none but the rats to play to in here, I cannot imagine.”

Their gazes met.  John’s expression was almost one of…guilt.  But guilt for what, Alexander could not imagine.  For committing a life-long friend to years spent alone in the Tower? The punishment befit the crime, Alexander did not blame John for this.

“I wish I could change all that happened,” said Peters as if to confirm Alexander’s thoughts.  “If only Carmina had not come…”  He paused, then drew a deep breath.  “I am aware of what was done here…I know of the fever you suffered and I know that every day of your life these past two years has been hell.  You do look such a fright, I have never seen you so thin, and I for one do not feel you deserved all this, despite what I had to do.”

“Not even with Elisabeth’s blood staining my hands?”  Alexander shook the long greasy hair out of his face and scratched at the thick beard itching his chin, not daring to think on what may be living in it. 

“I believe in your innocence.”

“How can you when I cannot even believe in it for myself?”

“You do not deserve death.”

Alexander stared at his old friend, long and hard.  “I have to live with the scars of my sins for the rest of my life.  I had hopes it would not be so long.”

Peters stood again, and began to pace, as if what he had come to say was painfully difficult.

 
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