Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Duel For Lady Branford's Hand

Look, a young man on the ground. His name is Lawrence Hamilton and he is dying and before his twentieth birthday. He is puffing up blood in spraying bursts. He’s wearing a dark blue petticoat, stained a darker shade by a sucking wound, a bullet hole. He’d been shot by a duelist’s bullet in a fair tournament.
George Branford was the other duelist. Ironically, he won the duel but he ended up dying first. His body is somewhere around here, in several places. Oh, look there. There’s his hand. I can tell by the ornate sleeve.
Lawrence’s second, his younger brother, has just died. His head should be bouncing into view any moment now. There it is, Charles was such a handsome man. Now claw makes mar his tender cheeks and that look of horror. Nothing would ever sooth that fear. He’s not likely to be chasing the girls about London anymore. Yes, I know. That was in poor taste.

Do you see the smoke that crawls across the field. The women, dressed in their elegant party dresses, are fleeing it. There is a thing inside that smoke. It might pursue with less lust if they would just stop screaming. Indeed, something is in that smoke, something with teeth, claws and a malice not found outside of man. The thing inside of the smoke has legs. I am quite sure. You can see all six of them. Just now, leering out from the smoky dregs. Look, the foreleg is crushing Mary Branford right now. She was the reason for the duel, you know. You see, Lawrence Hamilton had implied that he was familiar with Mary in the presence of George Branford, which he was. Lawrence had had her repeatedly over the course of the past year. She’s dead now, her skull crushed into the grassy soil. She was such a pretty thing. George Branford had her as his ward for almost six years before he made her his bride. The mean, old hags about town had a good laugh at Branford for taking such a young bride. Seventeen years old, I believe.
He found her in an orphanage, don’t you know.
The groundskeepers may never repair the grounds. The beast had torn the earth up in great mounds and it has thrown men down the hole from whence it came. They screamed as shadowy figure sunk fangs into their flesh. You see what you miss when you insist on being fashionably late?
Come now. We might want to retire inside. We can still see everything, I assure you. It’s just that the creature in the smoke is coming closer than I would like. Come, I’m sure Lord Branford has a nice Port or Sherry that we can sip. He won’t miss it, I’m sure. Yes, I am just wicked. Come now, up the stairs.
See now. The blood is beading on the window glass. Were we outside, the blood would have ruined our nice dress. Oh, see there! The last of the girls have fallen to the beast.
Oh, the wind is kicking up and the smoke is clearing. The beast is finding form. Arms, massive arm like black pistons. It’s all black as pitch. My word. Oh, the beast has gotten at the horses. I was right, it has teeth. Fearsome sharp, would you agree? Do you see it ripping into Lady’s hind? She was to be yours. I know, we’ll get you a new horse, a better one.
Oh, look. Lawrence Hamilton is still alive. Some spirit to that man, I dare say. He’s dragging himself, ruining that pretty petticoat. I thought I might have taken it once this was over. I know it’s bloodied and torn by a bullet, but I thought I could take it to the tailor. I’d need to let it out a bit anyway. Yes, just a bit.
Say, when do you think that this affair with the beast might end? When the creature winds down. Of course, silly question.
Oh, look there. Hamilton is going to Mary Branford. Silly man, he might have saved himself, but he’d rather play ‘Lover-boy.’ He’s cradling her now and there in the distance, the creature is coming. Its mane, its beautiful mane, rippling in the wind. It really is a beautiful thing. It’s like the centaurs of Greek legend, but made wrong. But still, it’s made quite right as well. It’s face, it has a man’s face. It has the face of a Moor, at the very least.
Hamilton doesn’t see, maybe he doesn’t care. He’s cleaning the dirt from her bloodied brow. Oh, my. He’s kissing her. His face is so pale. Surly, he should be dead for loss of blood.
The creature, its towering over them. Do you see its shadow? The shadow nearly reaches us. Hamilton must know that he is soon to be killed.
Oh, my. It’s teeth. It’s bearing its teeth. Isn’t it a wonder? Isn’t it breathtaking? Am I? I hadn’t realized that I was teary eyed. I’m being silly. I’ve gotten caught up in the excitement.
Oh. Oh, my. Hamilton is dead. He is still and the beast has done nothing to him. How odd. Is the creature moving toward the house? It’s shadow seems to loom closer, wouldn’t you say? Do you feel that? I can feel the ground shutter beneath my feet. The beast is coming upon us, I am sure of it. I would say we should flee, but the horses. The beast had gotten to the horses and we can not out run it on foot. I fear we will do as well as the women in the party dresses. Why would it ignore Hamilton? Of course, I’m sure you would not know.
Oh, lord! It is upon us now! I can hear its booming breaths. Oh, god! The beast, the beast is tearing the roof from the house! It will bring it down on our heads! We must flee! We must run, even if it means dying under its heel!
Do you hear it? Do you hear its roar? I can feel it in my bones. Keep moving, damn you! It draws near!

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