Enough Rope

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Just a short story about a midnight pursuit, to get this profile up and running.

Submitted: January 05, 2013

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Submitted: January 05, 2013





It was a cold night. The trees’ bare branches raked the freezing mist which bled crystalline droplets, like life’s blood on their stiff wooden claws. The moon poured pale light through the holes the branches had torn, illuminating the mists and making it look as though the forest had put up sails.


This was the kind of night he would enjoy laying on the cold earth, admiring the scene – the vital warmth of his life pushing away the bitter chill. Tonight he had no time. His mount thundered on through the forest and the claws of the trees struck at him – smearing his face with the blood of the mists.


The pursuit had gone on for too long, he was aware of this but he would not – could not let up. Something inside was driving him on, plunging him deeper into darkness and danger, and would not permit him to pull on those reins and admit defeat, though his mission had turned from futility to foolishness.

His quarry, caped and cowled astride a black horse, had outpaced him easily from the start and he quickly came to believe that he had been eluded. He had felt the slimy trickle of hope – hope that he would be able to quit this mad chase and turn away from the deepening gloom of the forest that waited ahead, a primal, fearsome presence. But no sooner had he thrust this feeling away from him, he came upon a clearing at the far end of which his enemy awaited him. The horseman, spying him, raised one hand, as though in warning and, seeing his pursuer let up not one iota his headlong dash sprang away once more with a cry that rang unnaturally loud in the cold stillness of that benighted forest. When he was gone the cry still remained – the echo of ghostly laughter.

From that moment he had seen little and less of his quarry – the merest flashes of cape or hoof ahead of him which rather than encourage him instead fed the yawning chasm of foreboding in his stomach. He could no longer tell if he was gaining or merely being strung along – being allowed just enough rope from which to hang himself.

Still he plunged on, horse sweating and foaming from the exertion – the hoof beats picking the last thought from his mind and echoing it with an unrelenting staccato rhythm


- justenoughropejustenoughropejustenoughropejustenoughropejustenoughropejustenoughrope –


Shaking his head to dislodge this awful repetition served only to unbalance him upon his mount – which took advantage of the sudden slackness in the reins and eased off from its gallop.


It was for this reason alone that the rope strung between two tall oak trees and lying deliberately across his path did not take his head clean off.


He was aware of a feeling of distance – of being separated from events as the world swung around him.  The horse that had been so safely tucked between his legs carried on without him and disappeared as the ground and the sky traded places, and the earth conspired to sneak up and strike him in the back of the head. This event played out in slow motion, allowing him time to realise as Copernicus had that it was he, rather than the heavens, that was in motion, before the firmament returned once more to strike him in the face.


Oblivion did not arrive, nor did his distance from his earthly shell diminish until the moment that he attempted to draw breath through the ruin of his windpipe. The crushed cartilage restricted his airway and his failure to breathe brought with it a panic that flung him back into his dying body.

He saw, rather than felt himself being turned over, is face coming around to meet the light of the moon, before it was eclipsed. He gazed with mute appeal at his quarry, but the eyes that met his were as cold as the earth on which he lay, and his numbed fingers could not reach the face beneath the cowl before the figure withdrew. With no breath to waste on dying words he allowed his dimming eyes to wander as he lay on the cold earth – the bitter chill pushing away the warmth of his life – admiring how the skeletal fingers of the trees raked the mists and the moonlight poured through and illuminated the shroud – like the forest had put up sails. 

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