The Tower


The walk up the steps seemed longer in the dark. Stopping for a moment to catch my breath, I lifted my head and stars filled my vision. I refocused on my destination, the black shape of the tower at the top of the hill. I took a deep breath before continuing the long climb up the stone steps, my eyes dropping back down to my feet. I wasn’t expecting it to be so quiet up here. Faint sounds still made their way up the hill from the town behind me, but even they seemed to be getting more distant by the moment. Before me was nothing but the shadow of the tower and silence. 

By now I was two thirds of the way up, the stairs starting to broaden as the top of the hill flattened. I should have been able to make out details of the tower, the lights of the town reflected on the steps and the grass around me, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and even though there was no moon, the sky was clear and bright with stars. Yet there was no reflection on the tower itself. Its black mass loomed over me, swallowing the light. I frowned to myself, there should have been some detail where the arched doorway broke though the structure. The crenellations were clearly visible, but nothing below that. It seemed odd that the whole area was deserted. Just a few hours earlier the place was heaving, people picnicking in couples and groups, enjoying the sunset. I had felt more than a few eyes on me at the time, I seemed to be the only single person on the hill. I had put it down to the fact I was a stranger, I knew no one in the town, and had stopped on an impulse, having spotted the tower on the hill from the road as I approached. I hadn’t planned on stopping, and certainly hadn’t planned on climbing the hill in the dark, but somehow the impulse had taken hold. 

A sudden noise made me jump. As I glanced to the left, I saw a dart of movement down the hill. It was just a rabbit, I realised, calming myself. The last few steps led me to the sloping path heading straight to the base of the tower itself. By now I could see the shape of the doorway, light filtered through the opening. The light felt subdued, not as bright as the light around the tower, and even close up, the tower was a deep shadow, with no visible details. I walked around the structure, avoiding the doorway I had curiously walked through earlier. I could have sworn a lot of the earlier crowd had turned to watch me walk through the doorway, although when I turned back to look at them, they were all watching the setting sun, as if in a trance. There was no way I would walk through that doorway at night. 

As I reached the back of the tower, the lights of the town were visible through the doorway. They seemed to  shimmer in a strange manner, very different to how they would normally look. I took a step back to try and compare the two views, to see what the difference might be, and entered a pocket of complete silence. There had been the slightest breeze throughout my walk up the hill. That was now absent, along with any residual sounds from the town itself. The light felt different, more liquid than light. Although this took place in the space of a couple of heartbeats, time felt slower, as if I was moving through water, resistance and pressure weighing me down. I managed another step backwards, and felt the pressure disappear in my head. Gasping for breath, I stumbled backwards, almost collapsing to my knees, my heart racing in my chest. There was nothing in front of me to explain what had happened, and the air was now clearer through the doorway, the lights of the town shining brightly. Giving the tower a wide berth, I broke into a run as I reached the pathway, only stopping to look back at the top of the steps. Surrounding the tower were the silhouettes of the town people, standing motionless in the dark. As I turned, stumbling and tripping down the steps, I felt their eyes on my back.

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