The night sky shimmered above the revellers. Stars adorned the blackened sky like beads of frost on an ocean of treacle. Shards of cold mischievously nipped at the air. But said revellers? Well, they didn’t mind. Of course not. That’s whole the point in being a reveller, the not minding. The whole essence of the conjugated verb, to revel. The entire being of…well, you get the picture. A tedious, repetitive picture no doubt but nonetheless the picture has, I trust, been well and truly gotten.
So anyway, yes, the revellers cared not a jot for the winter’s malevolent cold. No lack of temperature or scarcity of heat could dampen these party-goers’ spirits. In fact, in the true essence of enjoying oneself, the surroundings of all at the gathering had disappeared meekly into the realm of irrelevant. Laughter, screeching, swirling pipes, wailing, singing, dancing, heelin’, beelin’, reelin’, fleein’, meelin’; yes, despite the last lot of those words being very clearly a lazy and inaccurate attempt at onomatopoeia, it’s true to say that all of these sounds burst forth from the ruined, roofless kirk. All of which, incidentally, were cloaked in a bright, fantastic beam of light. ‘Beam’ would be the wrong word to use, in fact. Splurge may more on point? Less a splurge of light however than possibly a boak? Yes, let’s go with that. It was as if a light source had inexplicably boaked a mass of the stuff into the crispy night air, paying no heed to shape nor consistency. Make sense? No? Fair enough.
Right, well, I for one am relieved we managed to get to the end of that paragraph together. Wouldn’t you agree? So, with that in mind, and going on the basis that we are all busy people and all have lives to lead, let’s bash on with this tale in an efficient and orderly manner shall we.
And we’ll do that by cutting through the cold night air, forcing ourselves through the boak of light into the ruined kirk, and by honing in on one character nestled in amongst the oft-mentioned revels. There he stood. A man. Like any other. Well, that’s not strictly true. In fact it’s not true at all. This man, our man, was a warlock. A male witch, so to speak. Only, you see, in the time when this story is set people weren’t as enlightened as they are now so the idea of a male doing a ‘woman’s job’ didn’t sit so kindly with the general public, or magistrates, or lynch mobs. So they went with the name ‘warlock’. But not for the first time in this tale, I digress. Yes, our man was a warlock. But this didn’t make him unique. Certainly not in this party, at least. No, he was one of many warlocks involved in the festivities. And if you think that is somewhat strange, or odd, then you won’t do when I reel off a list of some of the other attendees at this party. There were witches, corpses, pipers, priests (complete with blackened hearts), a trio of lawyers (each with their tongue inside-out), strangled babies, unchristened babies, a man freshly cut from the gallows, another man with a slit-throat, a shaggy black dog, even Old Nick himself, yes, Satan, The Devil, the Deil, etc etc…the list did and could go on. And in terms of decorations; open coffins, tomahawks, scimitars…again, the list did and could go on. But the scene has, I think, been rather well illustrated. And so you’ll understand why I said he wasn’t unique. Even amongst his fellow warlocks he didn’t stand out. The others could be boisterous, majestic, grand. Ours? He liked a party. Yes, of course he did. But boisterous or majestic wouldn’t be the words you’d use to describe him. ‘Sombre’ might be closer to the truth. ‘Reserved’ probably edges even closer. A reserved reveller. Not so great for a party invite but a fine, even-keeled, observational choice as a protagonist. Or, more precisely, a conduit for this story’s narration.
So there he stood. Slumped indifferently against a wall. The whole cold starry night/ruined kirk/horror hullaballoo thing going on around him. Witches, fellow warlocks, corpses, the devil sitting menacingly in a window alcove; all of that.
‘Not long now’ he muttered to himself, a glass of blo…let’s call it wine…a glass of let’s-call-it-wine listlessly swaying from side to side in his hand. ‘Not long to last now’. The words trickled from his throat, unsure of themselves even as he spoke them. The start of parties like this were fine, he thought, but it’s the latter part of them that turn into hellish bloody mess. He cast his gaze wearily from side to side. I mean look at the state of them, he decried in his mind. (He was a warlock, yes, but he wasn’t the type of warlock with enough courage to warrant uttering that kind of sentiment out loud thus invoking his own death sentence.) Screaming, hoisting, jigging. His ears throbbed under the volume of the scene. It sounds like a herd of banshees being throttled by an army of strangled cats, he thought. And horses hoofs? No, no. There’s no horses around here. It’s those hags making all the racket. That’s mainly who it is. The ‘witches’. Bloody wrinkled, thrawn, hideous messes. Well, all aside from that young one with the short skirt that is. She’s a right little stunner, a right…
‘…little beauty!’ he said louder, far louder, than he intended as he thoughts crossed the internal realm and snuck into the realms of spoken.
‘EH!?’ One of the corpses, rather worse for wear, which is perfectly natural for a corpse I would imagine, bumped into the warlock and peered through his sickly yellow eyes at the latter’s own.
‘Oh…nothing…nothing’ mumbled our conduit.
‘AYE!’ the drunken corpse staggered on unsteadily before finding himself being hurled at breakneck speed into a whirling mushroom cloud of violent ceilidh dancing.
Compose yourself now, our man admonished himself silently, compose yourself. It’ll be over soon. It’ll all be over soon. We’ve almost made it through. And then I can get back to my own spells and curse and general hellish abandon….’oh shit…’
Profanity never came easy to this particular warlock. I mean, after all, profanity was the last refuge of the intellectually challenged wasn’t it? But he could afford himself this one. And a few more to follow quickly on its heels come to think of it…
The reason for such a vulgar diatribe lurked in the shadows by the window. He glanced round in a panic, desperate to ensure no-one else had caught sight of the clearly drunken man peering voyeuristically in through one of the kirk windows; his horse stood several paces behind him. No. Thank god. Well, not he, obviously not him, but thank someone anyway. They were all too consumed in their own devilish merriment to take notice. He tried to gesture subtly to the man. Urging him to flee, to escape, to ride. But all to no avail. The man simply stared. In awe. In fear. In…well there was definitely lust there aswell as he looked on at the young witch with the short skirt. The dirty bugger! Perverted scoundrel! Maybe I should let the rest see him, maybe I should just let them all loose and….no, no. No, I really can’t be doing with another life-or-death chase. It takes it out of you and I’m already bloody fed up and knackered as it is. Maybe if I could just sneak quietly over and…
‘My good man! Hahaha! How are we? How are we? It’s been a while!’ the man cut fresh from the gallows staggered over to the warlock.
‘Oh bloody hell…YES! Fine! YES!’ he was aware of his own fluctuating speech levels, rising and falling with the nerves pulsating through his (admittedly barren) veins but could do nothing to stop them. ‘I’m, yes, I’m very good of course!’
‘Hahaha yes very good, you boring bugger that ye are! Enjoy yersel min! How’s the…erm…warlocking and all that stuff then?’
‘Erm fine, yes. Very fine. And how’s the…how’s your…neck?’
‘Bit sore with this bloody rope tightened around it, aye! Hahaha. Aye.’
The two stood in silence for a matter of seconds. The source of their small talk reserves now having run dry.
‘Well then…’ announced the man, picking up the surplus of his gallows rope from the ground, ‘I need to go for a, ehm, how do I put this delicately…I won’t…a piss my good warlocky chum. I need a piss. So I’ll away outside!’
‘NO!’ our warlock surprised himself with the ferocity of his demand. But if he went outside the man would be discovered and, let’s face it, that was the last thing anyone needed.
‘I said erm…erm…’ he scrambled for an excuse, cursing himself with a brief ‘come on man, you’re an all-powerful, evil warlock, you should be able to come up with a half-decent bloody lie!’ motivational speech, ‘erm…YES! It’s a hellish, ghoulish party. Just do it in here! Haha! Why wouldn’t you. None of these evil beings would care enough to go outside, would they! So erm…so on you go, in here…’ he looked nervously at the man.
‘Aye….aye…Aye!’ each ‘aye’ gained more conviction. ‘Aye, why the hell would I eh! Right, I’m off for a piss over there and then when I’m done I’m going tae hae a shot at that young witch piece o’er there! Haha! Cheers my Warlock chum!’ a friendly clap on the back signalled his exit.
‘Right’ whispered our man, ‘if I can only just get over there to the man without anyone noticing then I’ll just politely say to him, in the calmest set of terms of course, I’ll say; look, my fine fellow, this is not your scene, maybe it’s best if you just head on home now and…’
‘WEEL DONE CUTTY SARK!!!’
Every witch, warlock, fiend, creature and orb turned their heads, their sight, towards the red-faced man staring in through the window at them.
And in an instant, all was….well, do I really need to finish that line for you? Really? Darkness, ok? Where there was once light – remember the ‘boak’ of light – there was now darkness. No lights. Lights out. Oot. Kaput. If you could see through pitch darkness you would have seen our warlock shaking his head in an emotion lodged somewhere between anger, disappointment, exasperation and general annoyance. ‘You stupid drunken bastard’ he said. ‘You stupid, bloody drunken idiot.’
Unspoken thoughts, grunts, commands, passed between the revellers. All blending seamlessly, it seemed, into two distinct thoughts; namely ‘Chase him’ and ‘Kill him’.
‘Ignore him’ offered the warlock sheepishly, trying to disguise the thought’s identity. ‘Just ignore him? Yeah, waste of time, yeah, just enjoy the party. Ignore him. Yeah.’
‘Then it’s agreed! We chase him and we KILL HIM!’ the collective, coherent thought of the group pierced through our warlock’s skull. He sighed. Mournfully and exhaustingly.
The lights burst into the air again. Hungry, violent evil now etched across every inch of the revellers’ faces. All directed towards the now-quivering, the now-scrambling, the now-trying-to-flee red-faced man.
‘Every single time there’s a party’ mumbled our conduit, still shaking his head. A blood-curdling cacophony of noise shot into the ether as they prepared to advance. ‘This happens every single bloody time…’