Gothic Story: Raven - by Nightwind

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Raven - by Nightwind

Ah, Halloween! It's the most magnificent holiday of the year. After all, it is only on that special day - or should I say special night, that the world truly celebrates that, which is called the supernatural. In truth, there is no supernatural. What is perceived as such is only evidence that other worlds - other realities exist side by side with our own. Oh yes, it can be argued that at Christmas there is celebration over the birth of a child, which according to the New Testament, was born of an immaculate conception. Still, it is only at Halloween that we truly celebrate the existence of these other realities. On the next Halloween take a good look around, and you will see; for, alongside those wearing the costumes of the most recent pop-culture rage will be the ghosts and goblins. You'll see little girls dressed as the fairy princess and their mothers dressed - very attractively I might add, in black as they attempt to mimic the true benders of energy - the witches.

On this glorious night one can see the sometimes tormented faces of numerous jack o' lanterns - their eyes burning with a fire from within. It is an Irish legend, which tells us of Jack's agreement with the Devil and of his carrying an ember of fire from Hell in order to light his way as he forever wanders through the darkness trying to find his way back to this world.

For those who follow the old religion, this special day is called Samhain; it is the beginning of the new cycle of Nature - the beginning of the long darkness, which envelopes much of the northern hemisphere until the celebration of Candlemas, when ritual is dedicated to Brigid, the goddess of fire and inspiration. Samhain is believed to be the time when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, and it is not uncommon to hear of contacts made by the living with those who have departed from this world. How else can we explain that Mexico's Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead, is observed on the two days following our Halloween? The celebration of the Day of the Dead is a custom that originated, not only from our European traditions, but additionally, from the indigenous people there. They too understood that the veil between the worlds is the thinnest at this time, and I know it.

As for me, I have long known that Halloween is not just one day out of the year. It is a special time of the year that lasts for days. There is no mistaking when it has arrived, for you can feel it with every falling leaf that cascades back down to the Earth on a late-October afternoon. You can smell it in the fragrance of the dying and decaying leaves as they surrender their life force to the never-ending cycle of Nature in order that life may begin anew when the warmth of the sun returns the following spring. You can feel Halloween's eerie presence all around you as the autumn wind whistles through the trees - trees, which are slowly being stripped of their summer bounty.

Yes, Halloween is real and magnificent. It truly is a time when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest; this, I know from my own personal experience. Relax dear reader, as I tell you my Halloween story.

Wednesday, October 29

It was a beautiful afternoon to be walking along a quiet two-lane road in the country. I say the country; this, even though I live only a mile or so from my newly-adopted community called Fox Grove, a relatively small town with a population of about 1,500 nestled in the Arkansas Ozarks. The neat thing about Fox Grove is that you're either in it, or you're not. I mean - one minute you can be walking past the Brown Café and Service Station and then - suddenly, you're on a trip to nowhere. Only the two-lane highway and the mountains lie ahead. It doesn't matter whether one travels north or south, each bend in the road - each mountain slope, once circumvented, reveals another marvel of rustic farmland and landscape.

Fox Grove truly seems magical to me. Oh, the town is typical enough with its café and service station, a few stores, a community center, post office and motel, but drive, or better yet, bicycle or walk just to the edge of the business district and you'll feel it too. Suddenly, you're a part of the land and the landscape. You don't just see it; instead, you feel it. I'm not talking about the feel of the warm sun on your skin, or the wind blowing through your hair, although that happens too; I am talking about how a person, if he or she is tuned in enough, can feel impressions from the land. Each natural vista, each farmhouse with a rusting old pick-up truck brings memories - impressions that speak stories to the soul - memories that you realize are not necessarily your own; these are impressions that belong to everyone that is sensitive enough to be aware of them. That's the kind of feeling that I'm really talking about.

I recently bought an old homestead here. It's on about five acres of land, which lie south of Fox Grove. The homestead has a sizable garden area that is enclosed within a trellis-like fence from which some long neglected grapevines still hang. Then there are the centurions, as a friend likes to call them. These are the few ancient oaks that stand watch as they gaze into the surrounding landscape.

After having experienced one of the first of the autumn's cold spells, this day seemed like a good one for walking the mile or so into town. The rays of the sun felt a bit warmer than they had the past couple of days; it was a delightful afternoon for a walk into town in order to buy a few supplies.

Having finished with my necessary business in town that day, I was about to set off for home when I noticed that a new flyer had been stuck to the bulletin board at the community center. Interestingly enough, it featured a drawing of a beautiful young woman stirring a cauldron. She was dressed in black, and wore a stylish wide-rimmed black hat. Interwoven throughout the flyer were the words,

Dark Gypsy: A Halloween Concert
Friday, October 31 at the Fox Grove Community Center
8:00 P.M. till ? - B.Y.O.B

I'd heard of Dark Gypsy. Friends who had heard them play say that they are a very talented rock band, one that specializes in music that is a little darker than one hears in the mainstream. But here, I asked myself. I can't believe that the local evangelicals would allow this band to play right under their noses - in a town like this! This is going to be interesting!

At that moment I decided that - evangelicals be damned, I would attend the concert. After all, what could make for a better Halloween than hearing a goth band, and maybe - perhaps, meeting someone interesting.

On the return trip home, with my backpack half filled with cereal grains, bread, and a few other things, I decided to cut through the cemetery that is situated just west of my house and property.

The Fox Grove Cemetery, as it is called, lies on the west side of the dirt road that separates it from my property. It is not a particularly large cemetery, and only encompasses some two acres of land. Of course, I can walk the road that leads in from the highway; and, at times I do. Still, I often cut through the burial grounds as it's quicker, and holds many mysteries and impressions of its own as it is considered to contain the remains of some of the town's founding families. On the south side is situated an abandoned church with a bell tower. The townsfolk say that the church couldn't hold enough parishioners to pay the bills; so, when the last minister passed away a few years ago, no one was sent to take his place. The structure was boarded up. It is said that when a strong enough wind rips through the area, the bell still chimes as if swung by an invisible hand. Since I was still a relatively new arrival to the Fox Grove community, I hadn't heard it yet.

It was nearing sunset when I reached the cemetery. Upon entering, a crow called to me. Ah yes, the crow, I think to myself, messenger of death, and harbinger of magick. "What is it that you are trying to tell me?" I asked quietly.

Often the cawing of a crow is not directed at a human being; after all, crows have their own social systems and communicate with one another often. Still, there are other times when one must listen - respect the wisdom and await the manifestation of the crow's message. At that moment I felt that this must be one of those times. An omen had been delivered to me. This wasn't the first time that such a thing occurred in my life.

The crow cawed again. Looking up, I could see her sitting high in a tree branch. She was looking down at me. Realizing that my arrival home would be delayed somewhat; I sat under the old oak tree that stood next to the church. Then, I waited for something to happen.

With the setting of the sun came the twilight; which in turn, deepened as if in some mad rush to bring about total darkness. I looked toward the east and noted the rise of the waxing moon. Then, upon gazing back to the opposite end of the cemetery from which I sat, I saw a woman walking past the further-most grave markers - a beautiful woman! It was hard to see her well in the deepening darkness, but I could discern that she had dark hair - long flowing black hair, and I could see that she was wearing a full black dress, which perfectly accentuated the curves of her body.

How did she come in here without me seeing her? I asked myself. Did she come in through the woods instead of through one of the entrances? Why would she walk through the woods with it getting so dark?

Suddenly, she paused and looked in my direction. Her gaze was electrifying! Suddenly, I was overcome with a need to meet this woman - this woman whose face I could not see, but whose spirit and essence I felt like I had known for ages. My rational mind struggled to keep up with this sudden turn of events: Why am I so affected by simply seeing a woman in the cemetery? Besides, who is she? I've never seen her before, so why should I get so bent out of shape simply because she looks my way?

The answers were not forthcoming; I responded to her gaze with a simple wave - a wave that somehow did not seem to be an appropriate response to the electrifying jolt that she had just sent me. Then, turning toward the nearby woods, she continued her slow walk and then…she disappeared from my sight, just as quickly as she first appeared to me.

Getting up, I headed in her direction. Why is she walking through the woods with it being so dark? Doesn't she know that she can get hurt?

There was no sign of her when I reached the far end of the cemetery. It was as though she hadn't even been there. Surely there would have been the sound of breaking branches and rustling leaves if anyone was walking through the woods. Instead, only the sound of a few crickets and the night's first hooting of a bard owl permeated the silence of the evening.

Confused, and with a growing obsession with a woman I had only seen from a distance, I made my way home - home, where I would ponder the extraordinary events of the evening as well as attempt to rationalize a growing and almost burning desire to first find, and then consummate a type of communion with this goddess of darkness.

Thursday, October 30

The day was an absolute blur, not that I attempted to do much of anything other than contemplate the events of the previous evening. Truth be told, it was hard to concentrate on anything other than the vision of that beautiful woman walking in the cemetery. I still felt some of the electricity and raw excitement I received when she looked at me. What a mind-blowing experience! Sure, I know that I'm sounding more like a love-struck teenager than a middle-aged man, but as hard as it might be to believe it, that's exactly how it all went down.

Throughout the day, I kept gazing into the cemetery, hoping against hope that she would re-appear. It didn't happen, and except for the occasional crow that came to the ground in a search for food, the burial ground remained virtually unvisited.

When late afternoon began its transition to evening, I strolled across the dirt road and re-entered the cemetery. This day had been somewhat warmer than the previous, so I comfortably re-took my position on the ground, leaning against the oak by the church. As I waited for who knows what to happen, I passed the time watching the day turn into twilight and in turn, the twilight deepen into a darkness that soon found itself penetrated by the nearly full moon. Watching the large moon slowly rise behind the trees, which in turn became dark silhouettes bathing in its light, was truly a mind-altering experience. The occasional calls of the bard owl and the slow chirping of the crickets, now inspired by the warming temperatures, only added to the night's magick. Still, she never appeared that night, and other than Nature's own magick, nothing noteworthy took place. Finally, when the moon had risen over the trees and with great disappointment, I made my way home.

Friday, October 31 - Halloween

Halloween morning started off sunny and warm. With a day and a half's time between my seeing the woman in the cemetery and this beautiful morning, my obsession with seeing her again began to wane. Did I really see her the other night? I asked myself. Or was it simply an illusion? During the course of the day, I continued to glance into the cemetery from time to time - just in case, but not as frequently as the day before and there were no expectations. Once again, I found myself able to focus on other things; in particular, yard work that needed tending to. Besides, it was a perfect day for getting things done. Why waste time obsessing over someone I may never see again?

As evening approached, I got ready for the concert. After cleaning up from the day's work projects I had a light dinner, threw a six-pack of my favorite ale into my vehicle and headed into town. While I didn't wear a costume I did make it a point to dress in black for the night's event. The full moon was rising in the east as I turned onto the highway that led into town.

I arrived at the community center a around 7:30 and took a stool that was positioned by a makeshift bar, which in turn, stood opposite the stage. Others were beginning to stream in. Some were dressed in their Halloween finery while others, like me, simply came as themselves. It was a friendly crowd, and for me, was a great opportunity to meet some new people and perhaps, make friends. Many of the ladies looked particularly appealing dressed seductively as witches, vampires, hookers, and other sirens of the night. This is going to be a great time; I can tell!

Through the door, which was situated just to the right of the stage, the band members were bringing in their last pieces of equipment, which by the looks of things, would be contributing to a delightful musical event. I made note of the fact that Dark Gypsy would be making use of guitar, bass, and keyboards; the latter hopefully, would add a symphonic feel to what promised to be some kick-ass music.

At just about eight o' clock sharp Dark Gypsy kicked off their first set for the evening. The first couple of songs were hard driving but riveting with a well-balanced combination of guitar work, growls, and a wonderful, but eerie sound coming forth from the keyboards.

Then I heard it - the chopping keyboard riff that sounded like the intro to Tristania's Deadlocked. I listened, not missing a note. "they are playing it!

This group's introduction was a bit longer than the original version, but I didn't mind; I absolutely love the song. I was totally unprepared for what happened next however, because as if from out of nowhere, She took to the stage - with a violin in hand. "Oh my God! It's her!"

I must have shouted because the lady standing in front of me turned and gave me a strange look. My reaction was to smile somewhat embarrassedly and throw my hands up in the air. It didn't matter however, because that beautiful dark angel that I encountered in the cemetery two nights earlier now stood on the stage, only yards away from me. As she smiled, I realized that she was even more beautiful than I first imagined, at least for me she was. Again, she was attired in a long black dress, lips painted black, violin braced against her shoulder.

The first notes from her instrument seemed to take me to another land. Although, now standing, I was clearly listening to music in the community center, the visions that I was seeing - no feeling and experiencing, were definitely of some other place - some other landscape. It was a very rustic landscape, with farmland and large haystacks scattered throughout a meadow. Stalks of corn and scarecrows stood in the foreground as if showcasing the mountains, which stood in back of the fields. This was no ordinary landscape as it was familiar and yet - yet it was somehow alien, with a feel and energy that was impossible to put into words. Most importantly, I felt as though I'd heard her violin before - countless times before, over the endless eons of time. As she continued playing hauntingly, and with a gypsy style, I found myself becoming more and more mesmerized, not only by my attraction to her, but by the irresistible sound of her violin and the rest of the music as well.

Suddenly, the introduction ended. She lowered her instrument, approached the microphone and began to sing:

You've had your last regrets
Reached your final depths
Deepest pits

She sang like an angel - like a siren from the deepest hours of the night - from the darkest, yet most beautiful recesses of my soul.

Stepped aside for the world to pass you by
Chose to leave the fear
You are stuck in a world of deadlocks

I'd heard this song before and I'd always found it to be beautifully haunting, but now, with her presence on the stage - her voice and rapturous playing style on the violin, I was completely hypnotized - awe struck.

Left with the shame
Will somebody out there
Give me the blame?

When the song finally moved on to its conclusion, I couldn't contain my applause and howling. She looked in my direction and gave me a smile that was unlike any that I had ever received before. At that moment I realized that we had a deep connection. She knew! She had known that I was in the crowd all along. She hadn't just come here to perform. Oh no! I was convinced that she had come to connect, or perhaps more accurately put, to reconnect with me.

The music continued for a while, with the object of my affections often re-taking the stage in order to sing or play her mesmerizing violin solos. I waited somewhat impatiently for the band to take a break between the sets. It's not that I wasn't enjoying the music, because in fact, the performance was absolutely awesome. More important to me at this time however, was that I wanted the opportunity to meet, to talk with, and hopefully, get to know her. Still, there was the deep-seated feeling that on some level, I already did know her, but how could that be? None of this made any sense, but at the moment, it really didn't have to. I knew what I was feeling; that was good enough for me.

After another forty-five minutes or so, Dark Gypsy took their first break for the night. Before I could even make my way toward the stage I saw her heading in my direction.

"Hello," I told her. "I just wanted to tell you that you're all doing an awesome job up there. Your music's…well…perfect, and if you don't mind me saying so, your vocals and violin playing are hypnotic."

She smiled and took my hand. "I'm Raven."

"And I'm…"

With another smile she cut me off mid-sentence. "You like to write under the name of Nightwind."

I was taken back by this revelation. "You seem to know an awfully lot about me for a person I only saw from a distance walking in the cemetery a couple of nights ago. That was you wasn't it?"

"You know that it was," she responded somewhat seductively. "If you'd search far enough within yourself you would realize that you know me quite well."

On the one hand, I couldn't believe that this conversation was taking place, but on the other, I had to admit to the deep feeling I'd been experiencing - that I'd known her for ages. Trying to remain cool in spite of my extreme attraction for her, my current state of euphoria, and the reeling of my rational mind, I responded to her with a simple "You know, I have been feeling a little bit of that. My, but you're perceptive!

She smiled again. "What are you drinking?"

"Just my old Guiness standby," I told her. "Would you like one?"

"No thanks, I prefer wine myself. I consider it to be a little more…shall we say… sensuous? I have some over by my instrument. I'll be right back."

To say that I was experiencing a heightened state of excitement would be an understatement. Hopefully, I was playing it cool and wouldn't blow the situation by saying or doing something stupid. Still, it was hard to contain my excitement over this turn of events.

Raven returned within a couple of minutes and our conversation continued for another ten or so. "It's time to start our second set," she told me, "Then I'm going to have to leave."

Before I could ask her if we could get together again she added, "Why don't you meet me in the cemetery tomorrow night, say at around dusk? There's something that I'd like to show you."

"Twist my arm why don't you," I responded jokingly.

With that we embraced. Although we'd only conversed for a few minutes, it came naturally. Then, looking deeply into my eyes, she kissed me sensually on the lips. "Until tomorrow night."

"I'm looking forward to it," I told her graciously.

With that, Raven rejoined the band and within a minute or two, the music resumed with the next hour or so being an absolute festival of musical ecstasy. She continued to keep me, and likely the rest of the crowd, entranced with her vocals and enchanting violin style whenever she had the opportunity.

True to her word, Raven disappeared after the last tune had been played. Shortly afterward and still in a state of disbelief over the events that transpired on that night, I got into my vehicle and headed for home. I didn't think that I would sleep well because undoubtedly, this had been the most magical Halloween I'd ever experienced; and, I still had much to look forward to.

The gothic story continue here: Raven Story

Written by: Nightwind

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