Darkness Castle


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The tour guide promised a visit to an historic site ‘steeped in blood and mystery.’

They called it the ‘Darkness Castle’. It was abandoned now, and ruined by centuries of weather and the indifferent cruelty of time. Still, that seemed fitting, for if history was to be believed, cruelty was as much a part of this place as the bricks and mortor that held its remaining ramparts high.

In those walls sacrifices were made, at every harvest and before every war. They say a queen lived here who, like Countess Bathory, believed in the restorative properties of young blood – young blood consumed, young blood bathed in, young blood taken in the most horrendous and frightening, traumatic ways imaginable.

In one destroyed large room of the castle it is said the long gone roof had many openings to allow the moonlight to seep in, like a thousand stars, on a floor bathed in blood. And it is said they danced there and revelled, and were wanton in their cruelty.

Now, it’s just ruins, just an old place. We walk through the rooms and hallways still safe enough to visit and touch the walls as though to feel the ghosts of time cry out to us. I hear nothing, I feel nothing. I don’t believe in ghosts.

But I do believe in the cruelty of mankind. I do believe the stories are true. Just as I believe the other rumours, that somewhere now in this city, in the places where the modern rich meet, that the rituals continue.

That’s why I travel with friends and I never let myself be alone in this city, in this place. For the Darkness Castle may be fallen, but something just as bad has risen in its wake.

And I do not intend to be its sacrifice. I’m just a tourist, passing through. It is not my time to die.

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Last Thing They’ll See


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Remember little one I told you
As I hung above your crib
Those many years ago
That angels come in many forms
So many you might know
Not only kindness, sweetness
We are warriors
We are kings
We are many, many things

Remember how I promised
To watch over you my child
Even as you grow
I see the onslaught of the storms
Your parents here bestow
Not only kindness, sweetness
They are torment
Terror brings
So many, many things

I will come when you most need it
When their battles reach your door
When they scream you are unwanted
When they shove you to the floor
When they think that little children
Can never fight and win
When such cowards bring brutality
To fragile, growing skin
Just remember that we angels
Are many, many things

When you need me most
You’re crying
And their wickedness is here
When you say the words
That anger them
And they answer you with fear
I will come with bow and arrow
Like pure vengeance to your room
I will show them all the corners
Where the darker flowers bloom
Not just a token above a crib now
Twisting, turning innocently
I promise my dear child how
I’m the last thing they will see
And they’ll understand
When they feel the fury of my wings
That angels are not just kindness
We are many, many things

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Can You See It?


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Can you see it in my eyes? In my smile?

I see you, behind the mirror, my other self, my best self. You are smiling back at me. You are pleased.

Did the blood on my hands soothe you? Did you enjoy, like I did, the slicing feel of the knife? How it sinks into flesh like into over-ripe fruit? I didn’t expect it to feel so soft, so yielding, so willing. Even with the screams, it just slid in and in, the skin acquiescing, understanding, what the owner of the skin could not.

Did you enjoy that too?

Do you think it shows? I’ve washed off the blood. I’ve cleaned every inch of my trembling, ¬†ecstatic body. So I’ve cleaned you too.

Have I done enough? You must tell me. Not just grin back at me, like a happy puppy at its master. For I know you are the master, I do know that, but right now, right now I feel so free we could almost be equals.

Still, I crave your approbation, your agreement, your approval. Did I do enough? Did it last long enough? All those hours of torture, was it a good blessing for you? Did it prove I am not just the man outside the mirror, that I am the man within it, part of you?

Are we one?

Oh, but how glorious that would be! And if you’d speak, not just reflect my mortal form, show yourself to me more fully, so we can truly merge.

I can hear you though, in my head your chatter, you always talk. Telling me, more blood, more death. And the more I shed, the closer we will get, till you will finally be freed from the mirror to merge with me.

I’m your willing pupil. I’m your best friend. Can you see it? Can you see?

Then I will show you, I will prove it, again and again. Whatever it takes.

Until you see it. Until you see me.

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Do Not Call Them


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Listen children as I tell you a story. The one story you must be told and must believe, and with the one moral you must always follow.

And the moral is so important I will say it at the beginning and I will repeat it at the end: Do Not Call Them.

Once, long ago, in this little town, there were a group of misfits. It was in the 1970s and in those times, people called hippies were everywhere. They spoke of love and kindness but often their lifestyles were dangerous and licentious and false. In our town, particularly so, for the leader of the hippies was an evil man. A man drunk on power and control. A cult leader, if you will.

Cults are things that are ultimately bent on their own destruction. People join them thinking they will be saved, but never so my children, never so. And not in this case either.

The town grew tired of this evil man and his hippie followers and his constant demands – for attention, for power, for money. He was barred from town hall events and was denied a voice in local council meetings. In time that made him paranoid my children – that means he began to mistrust everyone and everything, even his own followers.

And so, like all of his kind, he decided that he and his people were destined for greater land, a kingdom of their own, beyond the waters, as he said. He preached about a place beyond our world where they would thrive and live free and purposeful. And in time he convinced them all that they must follow him through the gate, to this glorious place beyond.

Ouside our little town you know of Lake Regret. That was not always its name, but we renamed it once he and his group walked, as one, into its depths, until all their heads were covered in the waters, until all of them, one by one, drowned.

And no, little ones, they did not make it to some glorious land beyond. There was no such thing. Only watery death awaited them.

But there is something about water, my children. Something maybe even the evil man knew. Souls get trapped in water. They can’t rise to heaven if they’ve chosen such a watery grave. But they can rise, in other ways. As some of the unfortunate townsfolk found – the parents of some of the hippies, crying and lamenting at the water’s edge for their lost sons and daughters.

Because, once called, sometimes they came back. Dead, haunted, ghosts – wraiths, and they demanded a bounty to be raised from their watery sleep. One that grieving parents often willingly gave, to be dragged down with their lost loved ones, into the water.

They are still there, under the water, my children. So listen when I tell you and listen well, the moral of the story – if you are to live and live happy, do not go to the waters and do not call them. Never call them.

Because if you call them, they may come.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Pack Them Away


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Pack them away
At the end of day
As the shadows crawl
Over the bay
As the depth of darkness
Wanders through these halls
Pack away the secrets
Make sure to hide them all
Pack them away

Pack them inside
Once were housed in flesh
Now it is the boxes
Wrapped in finest mesh
Carrying the lifetimes
Once the blood is shed
All their little sins
Everything they said
Pack them inside

Pack them so deep
Now they’re blanched by sun
All the killing over
All the feasting done
How their blood replenished
Skin so tired and old
Youth is for the daring
Merciless and cold
Pack them so deep

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Out of smoke and fire they came.

At first just as strange and unthreatening as seeing a face in the clouds, the creatures born of smoke and fire came.

Friendly at first, their faces smiling, their words sweet, the terrible creatures of smoke and fire came.

One or two, here and there, at campfires or in crematoriums or at bonfires on the beach, the creatures of smoke and fire came.

But then, so much more. Fires spontaneously lit themselves in city streets, in the lush cornfields of the country towns, in the playgrounds of schools.

And as more came, and more were born of the wicked flame, their expressions were not so sweet, their words not so kind. The creatures started to show, with the strength of numbers, their true faces.

And then we knew, the Emergence had begun.

The ephemeral can kill. It can torture in slow, bittersweet ways. It can drive you mad.

It is not constrained by the normal rules of physics. It can seep and creep and crawl and travel vast distances in the blink of an eye.

And its eye is terrible. But more terrible still is its mouth. Their mouths. Their hungry mouths.

All we could do was run, all we could do was hide. One by one we fell, consumed, one by one into bitter death.

I’m hiding still, in the alleyways and byways of the grittier side of city life. Hoping they won’t come. Hoping they won’t find me. Fearful, ever alert, for the slightest flicker of flame, the smallest whiff of smoke.

I know it’s only a matter of time. The world is theirs now, and we are but the fuel for their flame.

But still, I hide.

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Play With Me


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Come play with me the young girls say
The night is young, come play, come play!
We’ll travel oh so far away
Till night everlasting vanquishes day

Come dance with us upon the lawn
Don’t be so timid, so lost, forlorn
Leave your world, its fear, its scorn
You’ll never fear another morn

Come fly with us into the sky
We cannot tell you how or why
We are the things the world denies
But we can beat them, you and I

Come play with me the young girls say
The night is young, come play, come play!
We’ll travel oh so far away
Till night everlasting vanquishes day

(c) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Cold Castle


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He will invite you to his cold castle, so elegant, and so refined. You will be charmed by his words and his intense attention.

You will feel for a time like you are adored, so warm in his gaze you will not notice. You will not see how cold the walls are, so deep blue like a limitless sea. Nor how icy his eyes, like crystals from the oldest, highest mountains, always just out of reach. Or how your breath shimmers before you as you walk through the halls, following him ever deeper within.

It is his ritual and in this he is not better or worse than any other. We all consume to live, it is the one constant truth of this pitiless universe. He is no monster for this, or for the icy grasp and deadly breath on your cheek. And you are chosen, it is true, and he does need you, truer still.

Once in his cold castle you may never leave. Like Bluebeard he keeps secrets, and in time one may be you. On certain nights you will roam freely and find the others, the others like you. And each time you will see how they become more and more translucent, then eventually invisible as he and his castle absorbs them, piece by piece.

Eventually you will be invisible also, just a trapped ghost under the cold glass. And you will see him invite others, and you might try to call out to them to warn them, but it will be too late. You’ll only try once, because then you will know. You have no form and no voice, and they will not hear.

c) Helen M Valentina 2019

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They Come Back


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If they come back
They cannot be denied
You be the bridegroom
She’ll be the bride
You make your vows
They’ll never go
Tell you such things
You’d never know
If they come back
They take you in their arms
You can’t escape
Their cold deathly charms
If you hear them coming
Don’t run too slow
If they come back
They’ll never go

(c Helen M Valentina 2019

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The Happiest Tree


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They call it the Happiest Tree. They say on some nights, around twilight, before the sun has completely dipped below the horizon, it glows there, up on the hill, and seems to smile down at you.

I always thought that was just foolish imagination. Just the twists and turns of a totally natural process of growth for a tree which happened to make it look, from certain angles, like it was something else. How we see faces in clouds. The same type of thing I was sure.

There were legends about the tree that were less than bright, however. Some say the tree was happy because it could beguile, it could beckon to unwary souls on those nights, with its friendly, happy smile. And that the mouth of that smile could also eat.

The stories of a vivid childhood imagination I thought. A great halloween tale indeed, but nothing more.

Then one early evening I was walking home from work and I passed the hill and saw the tree smiling. It was very welcoming, I had to admit, when seen from just this angle, in such a beautiful sunset light. Before I knew it I’d forsaken my walk home and started to climb the hill.

I thought as I proceeded that eventually the angles would fail to work and the smiling tree would be revealed as nothing so special. But I was wrong. The closer I got, the more it smiled.

It grinned at me like a long lost friend, and what harm is there in smiling back, or coming up close, so close, to such a grinning, welcoming sight?

I didn’t even really feel it as I fell through, allowing it to swallow me. It was a strange sensation, mildly unpleasant, but nothing too bad. But now I’m somewhere else, somewhere dark and red and swirling, and I’m completely alone.

And I don’t know the way back. I don’t even know if there is a way back. But I can tell the tree is happy. It’s the Happiest Tree indeed.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2019

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