Card Challenge: Day 3
Card Day 3: A white candle, dripping red, slowly burns through a thin rope stretched above it.
Her legs shook, tapping out a tireless rhythm that she hoped would stave off the fatigue pulling at her eyelids. To say she was tired was an understatement, as egregious as trying to describe her condition with the simple term “exhausted.” Kara was quickly collapsing in on herself, unwound by a week of sleepless nights. Her eyes hung heavy with deep grey bags, and her head pounded with a relentless pulse that, in most circumstances, would have made sleep impossible. But in her state of sleep deprivation, it instead seemed to rock her and lull her towards sleep, the only cure and the most certain poison.
“The train is now arriving in the station. The train is now arriving in the station,” droned the mechanical woman overhead. That was the ninth train she had watched roll in, and she could see the security guard beginning to eye her warily. She had been seated there for nearly three hours, head hung low and eyes foggy with regrets. He was, likely, certain that she was carefully selecting the wheels to end her misery. Kara stood on wobbly legs. She liked the train station because of the constant noise, the hubbub of people coming and going. But it was clear she had overstayed her welcome. She slipped in just as the sliding doors swung closed behind her. She would go down a station and take watch again. It was getting late, she mused, so perhaps it was time to find some shady 24-hour joint serving stale coffee by the pot.
She sat, trying to find a balance between relief for her aching joints, and enough discomfort to last the ten minute ride to the next stop. Her neck ached and her eyes burned. She tried blinking quickly to clear away the nagging sting, but found her lids had grown even heavier. In her mind, some sibilant voice whispered that relief was waiting if she would just hold her eyes closed for one second more. Her head was heavy, as were her limbs, her tongue, and most importantly her eyes. So heavy, that surely one second more would not make a difference.
Kara snapped her eyes wide, staring once again down the moonlit path towards a listing shack in the deep woods. A single candle burned in the window, a beacon directing her feet down the muddy path towards the door she never wanted to see again. Her feet moved of their own accord, pulling her forward in a daze. While her thoughts screamed, her body remained relaxed and calm, taking confident strides towards the rickety wooden door.
She could hear humming from inside as her fist rapped against the warped wooden boards. It was a song that awakened deep ambivalence within her. On the one hand, there was a rapid, lilting quality to it that reminded her of times spent in laughter, frivolity, and adventure. It was the image of a smile. Yet there was some twist or turn to the notes which promised a bleak future and ultimate despair. Kara felt herself at once drawn to it and repulsed, but unable to ultimately do anything but what her body demanded. The humming grew louder as the door opened.
The woman standing there was stooped with the weight of many years, her face a haggard mask of deep set wrinkles forming fissures in her face. Her hair spun out in wispy strands of spider silk, catching the flickering candlelight and disappearing with the shadows. The milky white, unseeing eyes fixed Kara firmly to the spot as her lips cracked into a toothless grin.
“Kara, Kara! I thought you had lost the way to me. Do come in.”
The woman shuffled to the side, gesturing to the large, dark interior. The room was bare but for the candle, a pile of yarn, a sturdy three-legged stool. And the ancient frame of the loom. Without another word, the woman made her creaking way to the stool and began the loom rocking once again. ”You came at the perfect time. I’ve nearly finished your tapestry here. I think you will love it!” crowed the old woman, her fingers moving deftly over the strands like spiders spinning a web.
Kara was frozen, the fear inside of her spilling through her mind like an avalanche while her body remained solid, still, unmoving, and unaffected. In and out came the steady breaths from her lungs as her heart plodded along its natural course. Only inside could Kara feel the panic building at the woman’s words. She had to wake up before the piece was finished. She had to break free. Only her everything was suddenly captive, enthralled, and enslaved by the soothing sound of the woman’s voice. The humming returned, fitting the rhythmic motions of her hands as the carefully directed the loom in the woven dance.
“Just the finished touches now, dear. Can’t have a strand out of place in something this important, eh?” Her hands danced over the surface of the nearly finished square of fabric, its contents hidden by the unsteady candlelight. Apparently satisfied, she lifted it valiantly into the light, dragging a tail of yarn behind her. “Here it is! All for you!”
The fear in Kara’s mind overflowed into her body as she saw the forsaken tapestry. On it, she saw her body lying lifeless on cold pavement, her arm pulling away at an impossible angle while blood leaked from her head. The threads ran dark, deep crimson in a amorphous pool, silhouetting her broken body in the street. Kara screamed, her legs finally free to drag herself towards the door. Perhaps she still had time to escape the woven fate.
The woman smiled broadly. “I knew you’d love it.” She carefully drew a pair of long, rusted scissors from the pocket of her moth-eaten housecoat, drawing them briskly across the remaining strings with a sharp snap. As the metal ripped through the final pieces of yarn, Kara felt her eyes snap open.
The train was around her, gliding softly into the station. “Now arriving at Nornwood Station. Please watch your step when exiting to the platform,” cautioned the cheery voice from above. Kara stood, her legs protesting with the sudden burst of movement, and bolted onto the platform and towards the stairs. She took them two at a time, climbing eagerly towards the crisp blast of evening air. She gasped, ridding herself of the foul stagnant air from the dreamt cabin, her throat raw from her scream.
Kara looked for the diner on the corner, seeking it like a beacon of safety after what she had endured. Had she been in time? Her feet hurried across the pavement, swift to escape the woman’s hum, but not swift enough to outrun the squeal of brakes fighting—and losing—against rain-slicked streets.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.