An Old Friend

The castle had remnants of grandeur, of beauty long forgotten, now hanging in rubble and ruins over the cliff of the violently churning sea. Perhaps once it had been glorious, but now it lay in tatters, much like the man who claimed residency there. Torn and ripped apart at the edges, his gloom hung heavy upon the castle, echoing in every cracked mirror and shattered window, hauntingly beautiful in its demise.

His shouts were etched in every stone, carved into the very fabric of the castle, for to separate one from the other was surely impossible. Years of mindless madness had ruined him, now only a shadow of what he once was, a mere flicker of humanity trapped inside an empty, bloodied shell.

Stumbling blindly over the cracked, ancient marble, chasing the figures that tormented him so, the nameless man ran ragged through the ballroom, following those who had broken his mind, crumbling it down until it had turned to dust. Breath flowed harshly from his parted, cracked lips, hands scrabbled for grip upon the cold, unforgiving walls. Yet those he hunted so perversely were never caught, steps echoing upon the floor painted with tales of centuries past, the scream falling from his tongue before he had a chance to catch it, to stop the sound of pure, unforgivable hell filling the room like a chorus of demons, their faces savage as they ravaged his mind, their hands upon his shoulders, forcing him down upon the ground, and yet he could not feel them. Only his eyes could find their grotesque forms, the sunken orbs frantically searching from beast to beast, fingers scrabbling at the moonlit shadows that cast paintings upon his pallid, translucent skin, the unforgiving years hallowing his frame until only a small, pale ghost of a man remained.

He could hear the laughter ringing around him, their mockery agonizing him until his palms bled, the ugly crescent marks staining the whiteness of his hand vivid red, blood pooling under the fragile surface. Blood was not new to him, in fact, he welcomed it with familial affection, glorifying the way it spilled from every vein his demons ruptured, venerating each drop as if it was life itself, and in a way, it was. Yet as the blood spilt upon the floor, it proved a painful reminder of his greatest tragedy: the feeble beating of his wretched, forsaken heart. Each beat thrust against his ribcage as he was brought abruptly to his feet, the hair on the back of his neck prickling as he felt the undeniable feeling of being watched, of being hunted, the figures that had eluded him so suddenly gone in a moment of terrible clarity, vanishing into smoke and ice as he was left alone in the banishment of his solitude.

Staggering to ripped, aged curtains of ravished velvet, the unwelcome solace of the horrendous truth slowly building in his decaying mind, swelling like the great rise of a revolution destined to fall. The hunter had nothing, now stripped away until only the prey remained, weak and trembling, gripping those curtains as if they could save him from the ending of his story, the last inkblots staining the crumbling page. But even as the air filled his lungs, as the pain of life fell so heavily upon his weakening shoulders, he felt a gloved hand upon his neck, belonging so clearly to a being more than merely smoke and shadow, finding the chilling comfort of an old friend as his hurried whispers dissolved in one last moment of finality.


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