~The Midnight Hour~
by Noah A. Bowen
He wore a top hat, frock coat, carried a sword stick, and had the tendency to lick at the froth that would often flick from the corners of his mouth. He preferred alleys to streets, night to day, and, with the insistent accuracy of a madman, never wore white. His cape was, as was all else, of black silk only the lining, a smear of stark scarlet that would flicker and weave about his shoulders as a flame of some diabolic heritage would a coal. The stiff collar rose high and red against his tall hat giving his pallid face the appearance of some pagan god.
He wavered under the street lamps like a shadow, and through the alleys, neath a full moon and cloud mottled sky. Somewhere a clock boomed as it clicked mid-night, the specter looked to the sky, the moon becoming an eerie glimmer in his empty black eyes. The time was ripe and with each tick of the hour and darkening of shadow, growing richer, sweeter still. He stopped at a boarded door and, with gnarled hands and bony wrists, broken nails and insidious determination, began to pry, board by board, the splintery barrier from the stoop with the heavy breathing of a deranged mind. The moon cast a sickly yellow hue across his parchment like skin and, at last, the deed was done.
Digging through his pocket he extracted a key, of which he rattled into the rusty lock and opened the door. Flinging it open then twisting into its alcove with an obscene cackle, slowly the door creaked shut. He filtered silently to the center of the musty room, fraying cobwebs clinging to his cape, and, kneeling, fingered the decaying floorboards till he felt the iron hoop cold in his grasp. With a profane utterance hissing between his teeth, he heaved and the floor opened to a foul smelling hole, depraved whispers lisping from below its inky blanket. Letting the door drop back with a sickening thud he groped at the walls of the dark prison till corroded links clinked dully against his groping. Hoisting the chain to the surface, he opened a small teek-wood box at its end and removed a sinister yellow oboe. This he placed to his lips a produced a morbid sonata of fiendish notes that reverberated down into the hole with hollow, demonic delight. Something groaned fare below, something ancient and thirsty. He ceased playing the oboe and, twisting his head to a tilt, listened in ghastly silence.
Again the restless groan came, only closer.
Crawling to his feet and drawing away from the hole, he watched in awe as an ominous black shape oozed from the prison and slithered hideously out the door, into the night, a clammy chill in its wake.
Re-setting the oboe and lowering it back deep within the tomb, he closed the moldy trap door with a gust of stale air, then, locking the door behind him, departed. The malignant glimmer in his eyes praising the release of the unholy devil with every flutter of his damned soul.
Long had it waited in the ruined catacombs of desolation, waited patiently for the forbidden gathering of the faith-full, waited as time withered its dank hair and wicked spirit. Till, at last the door opened on grating hinges and the still air wafted into motion, it was released.
He glided down the alleyways, a broken silhouette, following the nauseous scent of embalming fluids. His cadaverous face warped into a sickly, loathsome leer that seamed to tear from ear to ear, bleeding bubbling drool and sprouting lengthy, pointed fangs. He turned from the alley onto a street spattered with radiant pools of moon light that spilt down from the gaping holes within the clouds, and if looked close enough, one might notice, no shadow flicked at his heels.
And with that, he cackled blasphemously and faded beyond the macabre fog that enshrouded the city at the midnight hour, the limping slap of his feet on the cobbled streets slowly bleeding to a dry silence.
A clock chimed in the distance, and so passed the midnight hour.
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