Tom Gamble and Amy Alley

Amy Alley
Inspiration piece

Tom Gamble

Soft, loamy soil underfoot.  A dark, starless sky above, dusky though, like a stretch of rich cloth, heavy and thick lording over everything.  Trees, such tall trees!  Sharp white sentinels standing tall and straight, reaching up from the ground towards that hazy expanse, branches stretching out as if to clasp it, embrace it, yet all bowing towards each other.  Enclosing, guarding perhaps, protecting?  Trees that form a corridor with living walls, straight as an arrow and stretching on off into the distance further than seemingly possible…  And yet, clearly there must be an end to the expanse, eventually, as a bright glowing light shines out of it.  Too bright to look directly at, yet too alluring not to try.  Not white, not yellow, not orange or blue or any color at all, really, but all at the same time, like a rainbow compressed into a single ball of ever shifting tones and shades.

Elam Havisher looked towards the light, or at least tried to.  After what felt like an eternity but could have been mere moments, he finally tore his eyes away, letting them fall to the great brown carpet beneath where his feet should have been.  For some reason he couldn’t see them, though he was too awestruck at his surroundings to wonder at this strange twist of his personal situation, and instead concentrated on taking in as many of the details around him as possible.  The trees beside him stretched higher and higher towards the cavernous vault of the sky, towering above him imperiously, sternly, almost reproachfully, if such a thing could be said of a tree.  Elam wanted to reach out and touch them, feel the smoothness of their bark under his fingertips, yet he desisted and simply stood watching instead.  What kept him in check he couldn’t possibly say, though perhaps it was the same force that had obscured his feet from view.  The glittering light glinted just at the edge of his vision, tugging his glance back towards it like a magnet draws in a piece of polarized metal.  Elam wanted to go to it, perhaps see if it was really as far off as it seemed, but here he was rebuffed again.  Before he could make another turn or even manage so much as a blink the light began to fade.  It didn’t dim, simply began fading from view, followed by the rest of the environment around him.  The trees became ghosts, their long branches fading to wraithlike fingers, the ground giving way to that heavy darkness, pure and absolute, which made the dimming light shine that much brighter for the brief instant it remained.  Then Elam was alone in the dark, utterly and completely alone.


Lady Havisher clutched the silk handkerchief tightly to her chest, her knuckles turning as white and pale as the fabric itself as she sobbed silently to herself.  She had swung between inconsolable and industrious, manic and depressive, for the last fortnight, and the coming day looked to be much of the same.  Lord Havisher ‘harumphed’ to himself and turned from her side, striding towards the great glass window and looking out at the wet, cold environs of his estate.  Rain pattered against the glass and ran in rivulets much like Lady Havisher’s tears, though where hers did no more than dampen her handkerchief and give her swollen, red eyes, the tears of the sky brought life and nourishment to the land all around.  It had rained without stopping for the last five days and nights, and there had only been a few brief interludes of grey dryness during the week prior.  Lord Havisher grumbled to himself, something uncouth under his breath about the bloody countryside and returning to the city soon enough.

Perhaps, he thought, it would be good for her to get away from this place…  A return to the civility of city life might be just the thing when- he straightened and gritted his teeth, forcing himself to be optimistic, for her sake at least, IF he doesn’t pull through…  Despite medical ‘advances,’ Lord Havisher still trusted the quacks over the doctors, though none of them seemed able to break little Elam free of his terrible fever…  Lady Havisher stirred and shuddered, a tender cough turning to a sob as she turned to look at the frail form entombed within the tremendous bed.


Elam woke, or perhaps he merely opened his eyes, or maybe simply regained consciousness of sorts.  It was difficult to tell exactly due to the darkness which enshrouded him so completely.  He knew, though, that one moment he had been unable to see, to feel, to sense anything of his surroundings, as if existing in a vacuum the likes of which he had the barest understanding of thanks to his tutors.  The next moment, however, he knew without knowing how he knew, that he was no longer alone.  The velvet darkness still wrapped about him like a shroud, dense and thick like morning fog rolling in off the Thames, but without the cold and damp; instead it simply was.  Turning whatever passed for his head and rolling about his semblance of eyes, he searched those endless depths for some sign of the presence, unable to call forth to it out of a combination of fear and trepidation and awe.  After what felt like an eternity, the darkness seemed to soften and coalesce before him, into a specter vaguely resembling a human form.  It twisted and stretched, tendrils of black on black becoming first pale limbs, long and thin and yet instilled with an undeniable power…

The spectre, for at that moment Elam was convinced it was no thing of the earthly world he beheld but surely a spirit from beyond, motioned towards him, a gentle beckoning as if inviting him to come closer.  Elam was hesitant at first, and recoiled from it, attempting to huddle back and pull away but to no avail, as the figure advanced upon him regardless.  When it was within a few brief paces the features began to resolve into something much less alien, the limbs sprouting fingers as though drawing arms through sleeve’s ends, bare feet settling down onto nothingness as though it were solid ground, even a face resolving at its top.  The face had a grave expression, with soft eyes the same color as that entrancing light he had seen before that seemed not even to notice him, but rather look through him and far past.  As though sensing his reticence, soft pale lips twitched into the faintest hint of a smile and a familiar voice rang through the void around them.  “Tis not your time, young one, to tread that long walk.  Some day, true, but not this day, it shall be yours.  Return now, to those who love you, and do not wonder too long at what has transpired here…”

With that, the Pale Lady before him began to fade from view, just as the wondrous scenery before had.  Hands and feet returned to shapeless tendrils of smoke and fog, revealing the deeper recess of blackness behind, and once again those effervescent eyes were the last to go, fading without dimming, and still staring straight through him without truly seeing him at all.  When the darkness closed around him again he finally found his voice, though all he managed was a soft, whispered ‘Thank you.’


Lady Havisher coughed softly into her handkerchief, choking back another sob.  Her glance strayed from her only child’s silken tomb to the straight and tall figure of her husband at the window, a sentinel standing guard over the room and all the estate below, an unmoving and unfeeling counter to her manic and depressive emotional being.  As she gazed at him standing there a rustle from the bed drew her attention back, and she blinked in surprise as she saw the pale hand of little Elam twitch and draw across the blanket.  Her breath caught in her throat and she did not dare trust her eyes, not wanting to be drawn in by that fickle, cruel temptress, hope only to have it all dashed away.  A few moment later, however, the still figure stirred again, a soft whimper emanating from its pale lips, and she immediately stood from her chair, kneeling across the bed and clutching her boy to her chest, doubting her sanity all the while.  Afraid, more than she’d ever felt before in her life, she whispered to his cold, clammy ear, “Elam?” and pressed her own to his lips, felt the slow yet sustained breath emanating followed by a brief whisper, “Thank you…”  Crying anew, she clutched him ever tighter, wailing and startling her husband and crying out thanks to god, the heavens, any and all she could imagine, for she knew then that the fever had not claimed her son and he would indeed remain with them upon the earth.

One Comment

  1. Posted February 28, 2011 at 3:44 am | #

    This grabs me. It grabs me!