A tragedy based on a pictorial prompt for Dark Dreamscapes Prose Contest, June 2014.
|The Pendulum of Midnight
Tasha stopped at the entrance to the Linear Park. Its tall trees and dense shrubbery cast pools of inky black on the gloom of the winding paths. The moon peeked like a shy maiden from behind the scudding clouds.
"Let's take a shortcut!" Tasha knew that this would cut a mile off their walk home and her midnight curfew loomed.
"Tasha! You know that I'm barred from there after dark!" Angie walked past the entrance then wheeled round expectantly.
"Oh Angie! Don't be such a scaredy cat!" Dee skipped up the dark path and beckoned. "Your Mom will never know." Tasha joined Dee and they waited for Angie to follow them.
"Scaredy cat! Scaredy cat!" With her friends' laughing chorus ringing in her ears, Angie shrugged and walked after them on leaden feet.
A cocoon of whispering darkness swallowed them. The park snaked through the suburbs, immune to the street lights beyond its boundary fences. An occasional pool of silver from the cloud-shrouded moon passed fleetingly across the parkland.
The three girls hurried along, staying close together and starting at every unexplained noise. Their nervous laughter and chattering shattered the spectral midnight of the familiar paths.
A cool breeze sighed through the treetops as they approached the clearing where they had often congregated on warm summer evenings with their friends. The dark silhouette of the padlocked swings enticed them to stop for a brief rest.
They sat, idly passing an illicit fag back and forth. The cool breeze strengthened as gathering thunderclouds piled across the face of the moon. They shivered and pulled their coats tighter as they hurried on their way, their eyes darting around warily.
They emerged eagerly from the darkness at the far end of the park, said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Tasha scurried up the long tree-lined avenue home. She took out her back door key as she walked down the side of the house and paused briefly before she put it in the lock.
A sudden shaft of moonlight lit up the far end of the garden where her old swing stood, neglected, on the crazy-paved patio. Warm memories flooded in of her younger self striving to reach the sky with each successive lunge forward, until exhaustion led her to let the sweeps slowly subside to a gentle sway.
Nostalgia drew her down the path and as she sat on the old wooden slats, she felt a frisson of the familiar excitement. She leant back, straining against the ropes. The old swing creaked as it gained momentum. Higher and higher she flew, the adrenalin lending her wings as she swung like a pendulum, her heart almost bursting out of her chest in excitement.
Tasha gasped as a sudden flash of lightning lit the skies followed by a long rumble of thunder. Several more followed in quick succession. As the thunder died away she felt a wave of nausea as the whole world seemed to spin before her eyes. She clamped them tightly shut and shook her head, but that only made the nausea worse. She could feel the gorge rise in her throat like an erupting volcano.
She could feel herself slipping forward on the old seat and tightened her hold on the rope. As the spinning slowed, mounting terror gripped her soul. The swing swayed sickeningly, suspended from a ceiling of crazy paving; far below her feet, a boiling cauldron of lightning-riven clouds threatened to rise and engulf her. The skeletal knuckles of her hands cracked as she fell forward with a silent scream.
“The Autopsy report on the death of the 17 year old local girl, Natasha Rainey was announced today.” Mrs Rainey sat staring blankly at the remains of the fire in the grate as the radio crackled in the corner.
“The Coroner confirmed that foul play was not suspected. The teenager was found lying dead under a tree at the bottom of the garden of the family home early last Tuesday morning.” The dark circles under Mrs Rainey’s sorrow-filled eyes stood out stark against her pale skin.
“It is believed that Natasha suffered from a rare coronary disorder which caused her heart to stop. The funeral will take place tomorrow morning at St Thomas’s Church in the High Street.”
“And now, the Weather Report.”