Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Ballad of Maude Clare: Part Seven

JACK TIAMAT WAS not what he seemed and a dark entity was warning her against him.
     Determined to learn some things, Maude biked to Snake Hollow the next day as the light was fading to red. Gliding through the shadows beneath the moss-draped oaks, she heard music, eerie and faint, as if a party from some distant era remained here as a residual echo. The sound made her skin prickle.
     When she emerged from the trees, she skidded to a halt and thought she'd lost her way.
      The abandoned house had been replaced by a mansion that shimmered in the heat haze. Guests in pretty clothes were scattered across the mown lawn. Cakes and colorful drinks glimmered on wooden tables. A small orchestra was playing beneath an arch of ivy and daisies.
     Maude set her bike against a tree and moved forward.
     The house...
     She looked quickly away from it, at the guests, the men in suits and the women in sleek gowns. No one seemed to be over the age of twenty. Maude, wearing  a peasant blouse and bellbottom jeans, moved unnoticed among them as they conversed or danced. When she passed a coppery-haired girl in white, seated on a crimson divan, the girl shimmered. Maude closed her eyes.
     When she opened them, the girl was gone. In her place sat a white dog with red ears.
     The instinct to run became overpowering. She carefully returned her attention to the impossible house which seemed to have been repaired overnight. The door was ajar. Beyond, she saw a posh parlor, and the enormous painting of a girl draped in orange silk resting her hand on the neck of a giant black salamander.
     She moved forward, up the steps, into a hallway with red lamps and black-painted walls ornate with wooden masks -- leafy faces and horned,slant-eyed and flower-crowned. She shivered as she entered the parlor with the giant painting hung over a black marble fireplace. It was a place that reminded her of embers and volcanic glass, with crimson velvet furniture and an entire wall of books bound in hues of red and black. Bird skulls and twisted seashells and metal keys like thorny flowers had been placed on the shelves.
     She turned to stare at a white-haired boy in an ivory shirt and jeans. He held a hobbyhorse with scarlet ribbons swirling from its staff and an abalone shell spiraling from its brow. "Are you Maude Clare?"
     "I am." Maude eyed him warily.
     "He wants to see you."
     "Jack." He smiled and gestured with the hobbyhorse as if it were a wizard's staff. "The prince of bestial virtues."
     Maude realized she was being summoned. She scowled. "Well, he can come here, to me."
     The boy bowed and slid away. She shivered and waited.

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