The Castle by the Sea
Daily Flash Fiction Challenge: Story #8
The waves crash on the black rocks below, the grass beneath my feet green. The cliff is high, the water too distant to splash me, but I hear the orchestra of tides and shores, water meets stone. The sky is gray—it is often gray. The castle is a ragged splinter piercing the air, the dark, crumbling stones mossy and crusted with lichen. I can see into the old courtyard through the fallen wall. The turret teeters above.
I run across the lawn barefoot. I do not remember where I left my shoes. I never remember where I left my shoes. I run, the wind whipping past, but I do not feel it. I do not feel the grass.
It should be cold. I am not cold.
A long, winding road, like a ribbon laid along the ground, stretches from the castle lawn into the distance. It is paved. I do not remember it being paved. I remember a dirt path, trundling over in a rented car, choking on exhaust. I run from the road, back to the castle, stumbling over fallen stones. There was a walkway here. I remember it. But it has disappeared beneath the grass.
I run up the staircase of the tower, the stones worn smooth and slippery. At the top I look out. The sea, the road, the hills, I can see them all. I turn and I see her. The Lady, standing by the stairs. I remember seeing her before. Her dress is draped over her frail frame, a white cloth is wrapped around her head and neck. She stares at me. I remember she stared at me before. She always stares at me. But she never speaks.
I run past the Lady, back down the stairs. I remember I ran this way before. I run across the courtyard, grass springing up between flagstones.
A rumble outside, an engine. I saw something moving on the road when I peeked over the edge of the tower wall. Someone must be here. I poke my head around the corner and spy a car making its way toward the castle. My castle.
When I told Mother it was mine, she laughed. But it is mine now. Mine and the Lady’s.
The car—a shiny, rounded thing I’ve never seen before—parks in the paved lot. I don’t remember a paved lot any more than I remember a paved road. Everything is so new. A family climbs out, father and mother, three children. There’s a boy who looks my brother’s age, only a few years older than me. I remember my brother. I remember him telling me to stop running.
“Not much to look at,” mumbles a teenage boy at the castle.
“It’s very old,” his mother says. “It’s filled with history.”
“Bet it’s filled with rats,” the teenager mutters.
His sister, slightly younger, smacks him on the arm.
The younger boy spots me and runs closer. “There’s something over there!”
“Be careful,” the father warns. “The guidebook says the cliffs can be treacherous.”
The boy runs ever closer, and I scurry away, skirting the outside of the castle walls.
“I think there’s a little girl here,” the boy says, out of sight now.
“I don’t see any other cars,” the mother says. “And no one lives nearby.”
“She’s wearing a dress and no shoes.”
“There’s no one here, Tommy.”
I run across the lawn, toward the cliffs. I don’t like other people coming to my castle. It is mine. I share with the Lady only because she came first.
“Isn’t there supposed to be some medieval woman haunting the tower?” asks the daughter.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” says the teenage boy.
I keep running toward the edge of the cliff. I remember this part. I remember Mother yelling not to get too close.
At the edge…I never remember what happens. I am running around my castle, mine and the Lady’s. I am running across our lawn. My bare feet fly over the green grass. They slip over the edge…
I am there and then I am not.
I do not remember.
I do not remember…
The waves crash on the black rocks below, the grass beneath my feet yellow, faded from winter. The cliff is high, the water too distant to splash me, but I hear the orchestra of tides and shores, water meets stone. The sky is blue—it is often blue. The castle is a ragged splinter piercing the air, the dark, crumbling stones scrubbed clean. I can see into the old courtyard through the fallen wall. The turret teeters above, propped up by a wooden scaffold.
I run across the lawn barefoot. I do not remember where I left my shoes. I never remember where I left my shoes.