The Flaming Towers - THIRD and FINAL PART.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Third and final part of a long, short story The Flaming Towers.
Story so far- 1781 New York, Dutch Annie is telling her friend Dick the story of supernatural events that terrorized the city when it was the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Winged devils appeared from the sky and created two huge flaming towers. The towers have now collapsed covering the island in a massive dust cloud. Out from the dust cloud an army of two thousand dead begin to walk through the city...
NOT ALL GHOSTS ARE OF THE PAST.

Submitted: April 14, 2015

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Submitted: April 14, 2015

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The Flaming Towers- 3rd and Final Part.

 

While the dust, stones, glass and reams of paper portraits and spells blasted themselves upon the walls, roofs and human and animal skin of New Amsterdam a new horror was stirring at where the base of the towers had been. Here where we are now Dick! This was the spot where the winged devils concentrated their attentions. It was here where the flaming towers were built. And it was from here: this unholy place (for that surely is what it must be) that an Army of The Dead rose up and began to walk the earth.
No not the winged devils this time. Would that there were only nineteen of these fiends. They had no wings or talons and were in human form. The few still left out in the countryside saw them first. The towers collapse had barely roared itself out when, two servants left behind at the Krol farm saw the first of them appearing out of through the dust. They emerged from here, Dick. Whether from a hole made from the towers collapse or perhaps they had lived in the towers themselves. Whichever it was they now stalked out from this place: slow and lumbering, in human form but all too obviously migrants from Satan’s grim estates. Those who quakingly watched them emerge could only see their silhouettes through the dust but on first sight new the creatures to be the animated dead. It was the way they moved. They had none of the floating lightness you would think of in a ghost rather they seemed to be more what the negroes call zombies; walking with clumsy, fateful footsteps as if barely in control of their own bodies. It was like watching corpses jerked into motion by invisible strings. 
They walked out north, south, east, west, from that hole to Hades. The numbers of them astounded those watching and cowering but still they kept coming until there was more than a thousand of them wandering aimlessly across the fields. All men who they came close to feared that they would hungrily at them then feast upon their flesh but
 but when the zombies did find evidence of living men they emitted the most mournful and piteous cries. At the farmhouses where men cowered with their families, the creatures slapped their palms against the doors and shuttered windows and lowed for entry. Though they walked slowly they walked relentlessly and soon enough they were at the gates of gates of New Amsterdam.
Those who saw them –just shadows in the dust at first- screamed in fear but fear only grew as after the first wave passed through the gates another wave came at their heels and another behind them. The same dread footsteps; phalanx after phalanx of them. A Necropolitan invasion, an army of the dead. If not never ending then until they were crammed into the involved ways of the town; a town whose denizens had already undergone more than their spirits could bear.
Their dress like their type was described differently by every witness. There were as many women as men and were of all ages. All the races of the globe (and of the underworld) were represented: black, white, brown, yellow. What little rule their was to the descriptions given had that they were for most part tall, they were hatless, dressed in the most outlandish garb familiar to none of New Amsterdam’s world travelled population; the woman in particular being notable for the wanton revealingness of their costumes. New Amsterdam was only three quarters Dutch, the others were from all over. As many languages as spoken in Babel could be heard on this little tongue of land. But still there were countless words being cried mournfully from the undead throng that no-one recognised. Not a few saw amongst this bewildering assortment what must have been its escort from some sepulchral militia. For scattered amongst the thousand there were perhaps two hundred in more uniform garb than the others and seemed to walk more straight and purposeful. A phalanx of knights in metal helmets and flowing yellow robes marched supported by infantry in cloth and caps of darkest blue with silver medals upon their chests and muskets strapped at their belts.
They slid along walls and slapped there palms upon doors. They seemed to see but yet not see; as if searching for something but they themselves knew not what. Some men who had not found shelter found themselves grappling with one of the creatures. They found them easy to fight off. Their limbs were weak and uncoordinated. Close up there faces seemed as those of mortals but the eyes were bottomless pits of death. When encountering men they only moaned or pleaded in one of their multitude of languages. Those who touched them found their skin as cold as ice and whose chill stayed with them for days.
Griet saw the silhouette of several  through the dust; sloping with shuffling feet past her hiding place at the slope of the canal bank. When one came close to the edge of the bank and she was able to see it clearly, Griet’s impression was typical of what others described that day in that it bore no relation to what anyone else saw. It plodded to the bankside and made a broad, almost perfectly spherical silhouette, clothed in fine blue cloth. When it turned she could make out a black face atop the sphere and realised that the zombie was a negress of impossibly wide proportions. She was but a great ball of fat barely supported on legs fastened in tight blue skirts. But beyond her vast body it was the expression on the woman’s face that fearfully captivated Griet. This creature who so terrified Griet –and whose like was terrifying the whole town- was in a state of mournful terror herself. Griet told me that her expression spoke of one sensation clearer than any words could: of being lost. She sobbed quietly and fat tears rolled down her black face. Griets fear faded a little as she watched her. As the woman looked around it was clear she was searching for help not prey. When the woman looked down, though, and spotted Griet in her hiding place Griet crouched lower and hoped that she would pass on. The negress bent down as much as her fat frame allowed. She reached out a hand to Griet. Griet still wished that she would pass on. Part of the child feared that it was a devils trick; that if she touched the woman she would be snatched off to hell but when the woman continued to reach down to Griet, Griet began to rise from her crouch. The woman made another piteous cry and reached further. Griet straightened her to all the height her tender years would allow. She regarded the black woman’s features again and again could see no malice. She timidly reached out her hand, the negress reached further with hers. Their fingers did not touch. They both began to strain. Griet was on tip toes now, not knowing what help she could yield the poor creature but now knowing that what it desired more than all things in the world was the touch of a living human hand. They strained until Griet was panting and the negress was beginning to sob in desperation; something within her seemed to speak of times hourglass running out. The gap between their fingers got smaller and smaller but then the image of the woman turned indistinct as though the mist was thickening. But it wasn’t though. As matter of fact the mist was thinning out. Griet could now see the outlines of the buildings and objects on the street but the face of the negress and the shuffling outlines of the other zombies on the street now made only the faintest of patterns amongst the grey. They got  fainter and fainter until they could barely be seen at all. As she was close to disappearing what could be seen of the dead woman’s face turned even more desperate. Griet in pity reached up again on her highest tiptoes and she swiped with her hand for she should be able to touch the woman’s hand now. But the child’s hand went straight through where the woman’s hand had been, for she had disappeared completely, taking her desperate yearning to feel the touch of a living being to wherever it was she was dammed to. All the other creatures in the town and the fields had disappeared too. They as well had faded from existence without fanfare just the same. The dust was also vanishing; not settling on the ground, for the dust layer on the town and its people thinned and thinned until it was gone, without a speck of it left as a trace. The solid rubble that had lain on the ground and the rooftops turned to dust then caught the breeze and vanished. The autumn sun now shone unhindered onto New Amsterdam with not a zombie or a flaming tower or winged devil in site but not a breath of relief was felt by Griet or her parents or any of the others, peeping timidly from their hiding places, in the town. Not a one believed their ordeal to be at an end. This change like the others must only be the prelude to a new assault.
But that was the end. Not just of the zombies but of the whole nightmare. The whole thing had lasted from around nine o’clock til a little before noon. Bit by bit the timid souls of New Amsterdam began to creep from their hiding places, wielding hatchets or frying pans. The swine and goats came out of their corners. Birds on the rooftops and clotheslines started tweeting again. There was little to say any of it had really happened but it had. The corpses with throats in tatters-three in all- swore as silent witnesses that the morning’s affair had been no illusion. Some townsfolk wore blood on their scalps where the now vanished rubble had struck or where the devils had caught them with a swipe of their talon. Some cows had aborted. Some chickens had pecked each other to death. Jacob Levy was found dead in the Krol’s farm with lungs full of dust like they were sandbags. Many had drowned in the harbour trying to board the St Martin. In the main the marks that the unearthly violators left were inconsiderable to the damage the townsfolk had done themselves in their panic-not least to their dignity. When the Andwerters returned to their farmstead  they found the only damage to be the slashes in the thatch of their roof  from when the creature had sat there.
Once the swashbuckling knaves found the courage to leave their dungeons and were convinced the devils and their like were really gone they were soon swaggering about the strand and composing soliloquies on how they had personally seen the evil ones off.For the rest of the day all were convinced a renewal of the attack was due in some form or other. Some child would scream that they another winged devil lurking behind a corner, which when the soldiers and armed townsfolk came to confront it turned out to be a donkey or an ox.
Just before nightfall peg legged Pete finally emerged from his fortress to summon a crowd and deliver a heartfelt panaegic to himself. Apparently the whole affair had been a plot by the English to take his life. He had so wanted to come out and do battle with the devils himself but his guards insisted that he remain hidden for the colony could not bear his loss. 
Mr Veenedaal, The minister got a few to pray thanks for their deliverance but no church bells of celebration were rung. No one was in celebratory spirits. When night fell there were periodic bursts of musketry as sentries mistook their shadows for devils. The fear went on for days and days. Conversations were utterly –with not a man able to agree with another what had occurred- to the point where all seemed to be talking in different languages. Not a few could not stop weeping. Not a few wailed as though mad. There was no business went on. No one ploughed there fields and livestock went unfed. Most were sure this must be the beginning of a stream of such days. Many just stayed in their homes and hid and prayed. When they braved to begin essaying the routine of usual mortal existence- gathering their harvest, feeding livestock, doing business- they did it without spirit in their heart and one eye on the sky. Talk of that terrible morning became lower and muttered because though few thought of anything else few could think of anything more to saw of it. When the first ship arrived not a man said a word to its crew of what had occurred. No-one broke this taboo; as if a pact had been made by agreement. And from there on no-one talked of it in public. A few too drunk or too vexed to keep the pact of silence earned themselves the stocks and whipping with a bull’s penis. It haunted dreams for sure and was muttered of at firesides in homes and some young uns went on to hear it at the spinning wheel as I did. Nothing like that can ever really die in the minds of a body of souls. It came up to the surface again as the old wives tales you have heard, as you say a hundred times- with all that is dangerous stripped from it. Something to shiver at  -just in fun- at the fireside but laugh at when in bright daylight. To laugh at them so as not to truly face them; is that not mans way with all his fears.
Griet? Well, once she had climbed from her hiding place she was again engaged in search for her parents, this time with the streets in a less rambunctious state. She was sobbing for she nor anyone knew this had been a war more of new Amsterdam’s soul than its flesh and she feared her parents had gone the way of Anneke. She walked aimless calling “Mama” but her voice was lost amongst three score children crying the same. Then she remembered that they had been bound for the Dycman house and she began making her way through the confused throng the Beaver Street.
“Griet ! Griet!”
Even amongst the storm of voices a child could distinguish her loving mother’s voice. Then her hopeful eye was upon the window of the Dycman house from where Neeltje called forlornly into the street. “Mama! Mama” Griet ran faster and shouted louder. When Neeltje’s hopeful eye  struck upon Griet her mouth formed a cavern and in the time of a flash of lightening the good woman’s form was gone from the window and charging from the door into the street, Jeremais following close at her heels. The mud that caked the child was being washed off by her mother’s tears as Neelje held her in her arms. And in amongst that great lake of vexation, shouting, wailing and fear  that was New Amsterdam that day three souls hugged each other close and spoke what families will so rarely say in words except in such times of trial: of their love for each other. 
And if stories should end happily then this one should end there” 


I waited for the next line of the story. None came.
“We’ll be closing now, Dick”. Annie’s voice had already discarded the slow deliberate style she had used to tell her tale. It took some moments for me to climb back into my body, for I had for so long known nothing but Annie’s voice. I had been there with her and her grandmother; running and screaming and choking on the dust of the fallen towers. I found my neck and shoulders were stiff from having sat so long, statue-like. My first rum pot clutched in my fist, three quarters full (It was a rare night that I wouldn’t empty at least six). I became aware for the first time that I was the last customer left in the Fighting Cocks. The chill on my spine was not just from my own vexation; Caesar, Annie’s mulatto, had wedged the groggery’s door open. The fireplace had eaten up its final logs and the late hour was extinguishing the last of its glow, one orange speck at a time
“Surely you’ll go on with your tale until its end, Annie”.
“That was its end, Dick”. 
“Surely there was more occurred.”
“No more that ever reached my ears”.
She teased with a cruelly long pause then added: “There was a tale reached New Amsterdam more than two months after that may have had relations to the affair”.
“Pray tell”.
 “A party of Pennacooks arrived to trade pelts and passed on a strange story that they heard passing through Abenakis territory. An Abenakis hunting party in the dense woods by the Delaware river had come across a pile of corpses, both human and not, that told a mute tale. There were men there with their throat slashed but they had taken their inhuman assailants with them in the struggle. A wise man would wager that the slaughtered party were of forest Finns; those virile, hearty, woodsman, the Swedish queen used to pacify the wildest frontiers. Not men to go out without a fight, Dick. But it was the sight of the creatures who had died attacking them that turned the redmen white. The Pennacocks described exactly the same species of winged devils who had tormented New Amsterdam. Satanic talons were embedded in Finish flesh. Hatchets wedged in the devils spines. Fingers griped like vices on their throats. To the Pennacooks the creatures were bmol; dreaded flying creatures that stirred up wind and storms . To even catch sight of them was the worst of bad medicine but one of the party braved to approach one and put a hand on its spindly wing. At that light touch all of the bmol crumbled to dust, just as the towers and rubble of New Amsterdam had done. The dust took off on the wind and vanished amongst the trees. There wasn’t but a hairs trace of the creatures left except the bloody bladework they left on the brave Finns. The Pennacocks aren’t sticklers for keeping calendar but my grandmother reckoned, going by the time it took the tale to reach the town, that the murders on the Delaware could have happened on that same morning that the devils attacked New Amsterdam.”
“And what was the significance of this, Annie?”
“There would be significance to that, I’m sure Dick. But because there is meaning to an event doesn’t require that that meaning will reveal itself. Posterity never did say what those backwoodsmen died for. No more than New Amsterdam was ever shown why it deserved the persecution it suffered that morning.”
My frustration only grew at this parody of an answer. Annie’s counter top near won itself a blow from my fist. I kept my vexation as hidden as well I could for I knew there was little reason to it. This was only a gothic tale, after all. There should be no more reason to quake from the hearing of it than from the ten score others I had heard since boyhood. This story, though, was different. It worked on my nerves like no other ever had and was stirring in me a conviction unworthy of the lowest bedlamite. I felt I must share this conviction with Annie though I might as well have chose to wear a fool’s cap with bells on.
“Annie!” I beckoned her closer so that I might whisper to her but she stood where she was.
“We really must be closing now, Dick”. My own tormented spirits were black to Annie’s white for the old crone was more at ease in her manner than I think I had ever seen her. She looked like one who had just cleansed a long carried curse from her soul (or passed it on to another). There was even the flicker of a smile on that ancient, jaundiced, face.
As I paused to consider how to express my thoughts, a breeze stirred the straw on the floor and made fly a little swarm of ash specks from the fireplace. Caesar was wandering the bar, collecting wooden rum pots and stone gin bottles. He extinguished a lamp at the other side of the room which poured a pool of inky blackness across the floor to the edge of my seat.
“Annie is there not something of your story that you think is…..unusual”.
“Aye, Dick. All of it”.
“No. I mean nothing unusual in how it strikes at you inside. Do you not find it strikes you as…..familiar, somehow”.
“Aye, its familiar. I first heard it when knee high and you’ve doubtless been hearing versions of it all your life.”
“Not in that way though. Hearing about it all in full for the first time, it comes to me that this was all something I knew even before I heard it. The imagery I mean-the winged devils, the two flaming towers. As if I knew it all inside before a word of it reached my ears. As if the tale was somehow older than itself.” I said though I knew full well the senselessness of my words.
“Or younger than itself”. Annie smirked.
“What do you mean?”
She moved in close to me now and her voiced altered to a conspiratorial whisper.  “We’re talking of ghosts do we not, Dick? Those things you know not to be true. But put aside Dick, if you can, your wisdom. Imagine that you are a foolish man who believes in such things. What the New Amsterdammers witnessed was surely a haunting. But how so? America’s story was but a blank page. Hauntings are the unnatural echo of events and no events ever occurred in Dutch Manhattan to illicit such a furious reaction from the Netherworld.”
“Perhaps the savages provoked it. Maybe the devils were the echo of some story from their dark past”.
“Aye, perhaps. But then again of the Mohawks, Maquas, Makihinkanders, Iroquis and Mahican who saw it all none expressed any understanding of what occurred. The devils talons never touched red flesh that morn nor showed  desire to torment them. In the days after that morning, some chicken hearted knaves got up the story that the devils had been summoned by Manhattan’s slaves. The negroes, so it went, had used their wicked magic to summoned the devils across the see from the African jungle. This had the benefit of explaining the devils cries about their lost lands across the sea. This caught on for a day or two, encouraging some to kill their negroes and some others to free theirs. It quickly dampened down though when everyone remembered that the negroes had been as terrified of their supposed liberators as anyone”.
This seemed to be going nowhere. “So you have no thoughts at all on what occurred, except that it did”.
Finally  - from her sly smirk – Dutch Annie looked like she might be ready to reveal something.
“Aren’t you an American, Dick? Aye, but when you think of ghosts you think how an oldworlder would of them. We all know that ghosts are the evil shadows of the past. Europe is weighed down heavy with them. More ghosts haunt its country lanes and it’s the corridors of its mansions than living men live in the whole thirteen colonies. In the old world every city rests on ten layers of ruins. Armies of skeletons rattle in plague pits. Men in armour fell by the hundred score to soak with their blood fields where daises and tulips now grow. Dead nuns wail from behind the walls where their abbess entombed them. The fruits of incestuous passion are buried in the foundation of every manor house. Cowled monks live their madness ten generations beyond their lifetime. And don’t forget the alchemists and the witches-their snakeskins, batwing, powdered mandrake, toads blood, love potions and death curses. Every noble house has in his lineage a man or wench who bargained with Satan and every king sees the successor who he murdered, sitting and glowering at him at the banquet table. Wicked popery was all powerful for a millennia and before that white men bowed low before pagan idols me. Are these the monstrosities that must be to stir up a ghost , Dick?. New Amsterdam had none such. When those good Dutch landed on virgin soil they left all that behind them. But it is mans nature to be haunted, Dick. He never escapes it. If not by the ghosts of the past then……” Her voice trailed off.
I had no more questions.
“We’re closing now, Dick. I really must insist”.
“Aye…….all must end, Eh”.
“Only for tonight, Mister Montgomery”, said Caesar cheerfully.
“Aye, I’m sure you’ll be darkening our doors tomorrow.” She grinned as she said it and part of me suspected that she knew what I already did: that I never wanted to return to this place, although, at that moment I would have given all not to have to go out and face the dark night on my own. I looked at the doorway. The grey moonlight illuminated nothing beyond it.I climbed to my feet and found that my limbs were heavy and weak, though not –poor luck- from alcohol.
“Tomorrow we’ll wake up in freedom, Mista Montgomerie” cried Caesar to me cheerfully as a goodbye and I looked into his cheerful, generous face as he waited for me to return the chant. I thought for a moment of confiding the fear that now lived in me. Of how Annie’s tale had destroyed the high spirits that I had entered the Fighting Cocks with and of how I feared that this had poisoned not just tonight but as far into the future as I could envisage. But there was no logic in these thoughts and I could not find the words to explain, with any sense, why a silly story should have such effect on me. Could not find the words then or now.“Tomo…”I paused as the joyful expression died in my mouth “Aye, Caesar. Aye”.
I walked out the door, my feet trailing on the floor as if dragging lead weights. I crossed the threshold of this dark smoky womb out into the crisp autumn night air; into a world the same but so different from that I had lived in before sundown.
“Goodnight Dick. Remember what you said: The truth can bring no fear to the pure of heart”.. I realised for the first time the date which Annie had named as the day of her story was –now it was passed midnight –today.
The landscape was transformed not just by the black night but my own blackened spirits. The ground where that afternoon, my minds eye had constructed glimmering palaces, to celebrate our new republic was now an earth scorched of love, humanity and all hope of the future. That great stretch of wasteland was like the blasted terrain of some undiscovered planet. The logical segment of my brain, told me that there was nothing to fear and reminded me I had crossed this ground in darkness. But this was a different place now as was all America. I pulled my collar to my neck against the cold and tried to find the merry tune in the crunch, crunch, of my footsteps on the ash that I heard any other evening. But tonight those footsteps were not fast enough and their sound put in me fear of what they might awaken in this unholy ground. I wanted home and bed though I knew no real comfort lay there. If my  poor Euphemia had been there to rest my spirits with her unceasable snoring maybe sleep would have waited for me at home but tonight I knew I would enjoy nothing but the evil echo of Annie’s story in my ears. That, though, was a fraction better than to hear it again out here on the earth that the devil had razed and from where the an army of shuffling corpses had emerged.
The silver shout of the moon was muffled behind a thick gag of cloud. I could not stop myself – as a man will pick at a scab- from turning over the winged devils words that Annie had conveyed to me.
We love life as you love death! And neither could I stop myself going over the fancy that I’d had –unworthy of the lowest bedlamite – that these warnings were familiar in some way to my soul though not my ears. Sweat and heat were oppressing my scalp so, that I lifted my tricorn and held it to my breast. My legs endeavoured to carry my great belly at a pace above what my years would allow and angina pectoris began to torment me.
See we have vanquished the great Satan! Watch him flee! They are not warriors!
My eyes had adjusted a degree to the blackness. I could see the edge of the waste ground and the vague outline of the jagged city horizon of church steeples and chimneys behind it Some woodsmoke told that the city was inhabited with human souls; that the world would be tomorrow as it had been but not a sound of those souls could I hear. Perhaps my usual spirits could be regained once I had submerged myself again amongst the human multitude, away from the crone and her wicked lair. But here alone in the darkness her words continued to torment me. My minds eye continued to see in flashes the events of the tale told me, as clearly as if seen by my mortal one. I heard the screaming, felt the dust on my skin and tasted it upon my tongue.  See we have vanquished the great Satan!
But then the waste grounds edge was near. And in announcement of my relief the cloud loosened its grip upon the moon. The light was now silver, not grey, that lit my path and my steps could be surer. I slowed them to the pace of a braver man than I was. But the new brightness of the moon brought with it shadow that was cast in front of the moon glow. It was shadow that destroyed my new found relief, for the black shadow that was cast was that of wing; a wing greater than any birds, a wing of a creature large enough to swoop from the sky and kill a man  with a stroke of its razored talon. At the very moment I first saw that shadow I heard –did not fancy I heard but heard – a voice exactly in the devilish tones described by Annie: See we have vanquished the great Satan!
I flew at speed I never knew I could but I knew my heels could not serve me to outrun a devil in flight. Though I would fly and I would fight I knew the devils talons would kiss my flesh if that was its demonic will. I blush to remember that I wept like a wench and whimpered like a negro under his masters whip. Though I knew there was no sanctuary there I ran for the uncursed ground of Broadway, for now I could hear the flap of the creature’s wing and could feel the wind it made on the back of my neck. I stumbled over the line from black ash onto muddy road and fell with a scream. I curled into a ball and used all of my pride not to beg the devil for mercy. It talons would tear into me at any moment.
But they didn’t. Nothing happened at all. When I braved to uncurl and peep behind me I found there was no black shadow across the moon. Nothing flew across the night sky, no voice called to me or threaten with its talons. I wiped out the sweat that had run into my eyes and searched every corner of the night sky. Nothing at all. After such frights, when a man realises that he has been the victim of a malign fancy, it is the nature of a man to laugh, in a loud bark to show that his fear is now gone. And so I did. But though I mocked myself aloud - “Dam you, Dick. You are worse than an old woman for you are a man who has tied himself in knots over an old woman’s tale” – I felt not the relief I knew I should. My hands still shook as I picked up my hat where it had fallen. I raised myself to my feet. My eyes constantly kept darting towards the menacing darkness. I essayed courage by standing casually where I was and wiped at the mud on my stockings and breeches. My spirits were now mournful rather than panicked for I knew that even when the sun rose on this day my life was changed forever.
I thought to myself as the burghers in Annie’s tale had, that I was confounded how I had deserved such persecution. Surely I was pure of heart as I had said. Just then, I heard a clink clink from further down Broadway and when I looked a saw a man who lead his mule on foot, the mule laid heavy with chains. I breathed relief to be in the company of mortal man but was ashamed to be seen in my flustered state. I could tell the man was one who had come to New York in search of his human property which had run of with the British. He had come to reclaim it now that the patriotic victory was complete. The clink, clink of the chains were comfort to me, and though he didn’t notice me I watched him as he made his way down Broadway and rounded a corner out of sight.
My breaths were now slow again. The tightness in my chest had gone. Home called me and I fancied my nerves would play on me no more this night. I began to walk down Broadway. A dozen yards closer to home I spied something at the roadside. It looked human but was not and hung from a rope on a wall by the wasteground and it moved in the breeze. As I got closer, I could see it was an effigy of George Washington made by redcoats and hung from a crude gibbet. He had straw in a blue coat for a body, a pumpkin head and his name on a sign hung around his neck. I had witnessed a hundred such insults in this occupied city the past seven years but tonight this mockery had an effect on me as no other had. I felt my blood boil. The mouth hole carved in the pumpkin seemed to be gasping for breath. I imagined  his straw arms reached towards me as he pleaded for myself and I found myself  cry; “Don’t worry general. This will not stand! I’m here. I’ll save you”.  I rushed forward and lifted him upwards by his straw body but the neck and the noose was higher than I could reach and I was struggling as I tried to push him upwards out through the loop. I began to feel panic rise in me, as if those straw lungs really were struggling for breath and there was not a moment to loose. I imagined tears welling in those pumpkin eyes as Washington felt life slip away and imagined that I had failed him.
Amongst the rustling of this struggle, I froze for I imaged I heard guttural words whispered in the night again. I stopped to reassure myself that nothing had been spoken and I was imagining things again but then there was a voice:
Do you think that was the end of the story? It was but the beginning!
Whimpering, I only just found the spirit to turn to the dark wasteland whence the voice came. A high pitched whine escaped me as I saw the winged devil swirling above the barren ground.
What you know of was but the first blow of our struggle! But the wound was deep and the flesh began to rot! Sooner than you will know the wound will be fatal! We will destroy you!
The creature was exactly as my minds eye had pictured it though its malevolence was beyond anything I could have imagined. The hatred on its face was beyond that of any mortal. Its stare was of one who had known me for all time before this even though it did not know me at all. It swooped close and brandished its blades at me. I screamed and ran and the creature answered with a laugh dripping with contempt.
See the American run! See his fear. This is how we will defeat you-we have no fear. We love death as you love life.
Its voice and its hateful laughter chased me down Broadway as I ran but it did not fly after me nor taste my flesh with its blades. This was no matter to my actions, however. I began to run from that accursed ground and carried on, I did, until the sun was up and I could run no more. I ran until I had passed the city’s northern limit and was amongst woodland and farmsteads but terror would not let me rest even there. The next day I was off Manhattan island altogether, crossing the Harlem river on rocks at low tide, and day by day went deeper and deeper into this great continent. I never returned to New York and doing so abandoned my home and my business without a shillings recompense. My new found impoverishment weighed on me not as much a feather on the scale against my terror for my immortal soul. As the days passed immediate terror made way for a dull dread that never has nor I fear ever will. When ten weeks later Washington made his triumphant entry to New York– the day I had for so long yearned- I was far gone from the city of my birth. The feast of freedom was but like ashes in my mouth. The birth of this great nation has brought me no joy for since that dreadful night I can see nothing but malevolence awaiting us in our future. I speak to no-one of these feelings for I can comprehend a great gulf resides betwixt logic and my morbid spirits. President Washington steered us on course for a tremendous future and as President Adams guides us well still but in my mind Washington hangs still upon a wall next to the wasteland west of Broadway-choked, helpless and humiliated.
I know full well the senselessness of these fancies. No winged devil could exist outside the imaginings of such like feeble minded self. No thousand foot towers ever flamed above Manhattan nor could any such thing be possible. But every day I hear in my mind the creatures taunt- “What you know of was but the first blow of our struggle! But the wound was deep and the flesh began to rot! Sooner than you will know the wound will be fatal! We will destroy you”- and my heart knows the opposite of my reason and I know that my terror tells me the truth. It is a terrible thing indeed to be there at the birth of one that thy loves dearer than all the world and at that same moment be shown the portents of their death.

The End.


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