In response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.
Well Hung – #writephoto
It had started that most miserable of days, when, sodden with the constant June downpour, he had lost his way and found himself in a dark valley.
Ahead of him was the strange hill. The second he saw it the hill reminded him of the head of a bird of prey. But, before he could focus on it–as though that was not yet allowed–he lost his footing and found himself in the mud, gazing upwards at where the ominous hill of the head had been, but seeing only the grazing bull; the real bull; the huge black bull that was anything but fanciful; the bull whose gaze suddenly shimmered, revealing an image of the dark legs of a man standing, immobile and deathly, on a sculpture of forged iron.
He shivered, not knowing why… Then he screamed as the breath of the bull blew on his face.
Still screaming, he slithered to his soaking feet and ran, finding the cave at slithering level in the cliffs, nearby, seeking sanctuary within.
For an hour, perhaps, two; as the rain lashed down, taunting him, he looked out at the ragged, jagged entrance before him. He noticed that part of it was square and less dense than the rock comprising the rest.
Square? His fevered mind analysed. Less dense? Happy with the mental distraction, he inched to the left, to bring the walkers’ sign into focus. “Hanging rock” said the sign.
He shivered, not knowing why…
The strange man in the old, grey cloak, with the willow staff leaned his jovial head into the cave entrance and blew smoke in the walker’s eyes from a long, hooked pipe. For some reason, and despite the wizard’s smile, it seemed a threatening gesture.
He slithered away into the darkness, but not before looking up into the wizard’s eyes and seeing the same, shimmering image again. There the legs were, but this time they had a midsection, a taut stomach and the unmistakable outline of a pair of arms bound behind the victim’s back. Another dark lattice of old iron sealed off his ascending view and he blinked back into the space where the eyes of the dark wizard had been.
He shivered, not knowing why…
But, now, there was only the jagged stone, the Hanging Rock sign and the clearing sky, with its accompanying pitter-pat of a storm that was passing… a sky that was brightening.
Down the valley, the bull was trumpeting its call.
He slithered out of the cave, tearing his walkers’ cargo trousers on the dark rocks of the entrance. The air felt clean and good in his heaving lungs as feet, legs and stomach muscles powered his flight in the opposite direction to the way the sign had been pointing.
He kept his gaze on the immediate path before him, not wanting to give the dark powers any entrance point into his mind. He was surprised that the ground seemed to be fighting back against his movement, but pounded on as the air burned in his lungs and he felt like the friendly air had decoyed him into treacle.
When the rope whipped tight across his ankles and he fell into space, he realised he had been running uphill.
They had switched the sign around… he had been running up Hanging Rock…
There was a flash of red hair as he spun and his wrists were bound tightly behind him.
As the wizard’s snigger shocked his mind into terror, again, he took in the revolving landscape and wondered at their power to slow down time. Then the revolving red-haired woman came into view, again, and he realised he was having trouble breathing, remembering for some reason, how Simon Tremming had pulled his junior school tie so tightly he had passed out…
Her eyes were the last thing he saw, smiling in a way that was somehow not cruel… but definitely not kind. Her eyes that took in the condemned walker’s dark and silent feet, his thrashing thighs, heaving midsection and exploding chest; and, now, the rope that was pulling his head off, connecting him, tightly, to the top of the cage that they were pulling on its hoisted old rope, back to the rocky crag on the top of Hanging Rock.
He screamed then, one last time, knowing why…
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.