I heard it again last night.
In those grey gauze moments just before sleep, a distant sound. Or was it just outside my bolted window? A laugh? Or a cackle? I couldn’t be sure. Listening, listening, till the beat of my heart hurt my head. I pulled the covers up over my eyes and lay still as sleep, thinking.
Does no one else hear this?
All week long, just around midnight, strange sounds. Echoes of half forgotten conversations, snippets of laughter from those long disappeared into the mist. Rustlings. Murmurings. A whirling susurrus scratching at the garden gate. From deep in the trees, sounds of feather-soled footfalls cracking old leaves, inching closer and closer, ever nearer, to my door.
As each orange afternoon hands over the day to the night, a long finger of ice traces my spine.
I see faces in the candle flame - hear incantations in the trees.
I jump at the tea kettle’s whistle.
November will come, I tell myself. It will weave the now threadbare veil tightly and these visitors will vanish to mist. No longer will the will-o-the-wisp follow me, footstep by footstep, down the darkened hallway, its light casting unspeakable shadows upon the wall. This robed coven will fly from my rooftop, its shadow melting back to a flock of black crows.
I will open my window at midnight and all will be quiet.
No more will I catch the bleached discordant notes drifting out from the midst of the trees. No longer will I glimpse the swirl of an embroidered hem waltzing underneath the old oaks.
But for now, I wait.
With twisty hands and tapping foot, I sit.
I strain my ears for the step on the walk, for the knock on the door that I know will come.
And I listen.