That Awful, Thrilling Terror


     The tower was on a bare hill that overlooked the trails on the outskirts of town. Why there was a tower there, no one knew, but it had stood there since the town was built, and it shall stand there for a century more.

     It was solid, but the elements were slowly doing their work, wearing the stones down, carving the cracks and mortar into disfigured lines and holes. The wind that wound through the small, broken places chortled, low and deep, about something dark, in a language no man has ever learned, and the trees that surrounded that lonely hill chided any passerby with their whispering leaves: “Turn back. Turn back!”

     My name was Laura in those days. I used to wear my long black hair in a lengthy braid, and a silver sash around my waist. I was visiting my aunt, who lived in the town, and decided to take a walk on a chill autumn evening, and as the trails were conveniently located adjacent to her house, that was where I headed.

     My aunt was a woman firmly grounded in reality: Though she knew the rumors of the tower, she saw no sense in frightening me with them, so I entered the woods unwarned. All was well as the sun sank beneath the horizon and the light waned, but that was when my path bent towards the tower I had seen poking above the skeletal limbs of naked trees. It had piqued my interest, so even though it had grown dark and colder, I insisted on pursuing my way, leaves and gravel crunching underfoot as I advanced on the hill.

     I found a narrow stream, flowing black in the shadows, at the base of the hill. I hopped over. The chill vapor that rose and floated round the banks made the hairs on my back of my hands and neck stand up.

     The tower was above me, stark against the graying sky. There was just enough light to choose my footsteps as I trudged through the thick-grown grass towards that ever beckoning summit of despair.

     I felt it growing as I approached—that cold dread in my stomach that was both sickening and alluring. It’s the feeling of rebellion, I suppose, of willingly risking your sanity and safety for…what? That heady rush of adrenaline? The feeling of invincibility you have when you survive? It’s when you know you have a responsibility to yourself, but choose to ignore it. It’s when you gleefully face the shadows and whisper the names of the demons themselves, daring them to show their faces.

     Unwittingly, I did so. I crept to the tower and around its weather-beaten curves till I came to a door, which hung broken and splintered, as if thrust aside by some behemoth in its haste to escape the chortling noise I now heard from the pitch blackness within. The dread in my stomach solidified further, but that small, inane smile on my lips grew. I stepped up to the opening, placing my hand upon the weathered stone as I leaned toward the whispering shadows.

     And then I understood. I learned the language that no mortal should ever learn—what the shadows whisper when in the stealth of night they creep round your lonely feet on a stranger’s road. I heard what they said about the depths of their horror and the height of their thrilling terror, and, like the fool I was, I whispered back, with a sneer on my lips:

     “Show me, why don’t you?”

     My scream rang across the woods.

     These days, when the townsfolk dare approach the looming edifice on the hill, there is an incessant weeping alongside the chortling, and on an autumn evening, just after sunset but before darkness falls, a long scream winds through the skeletal trees.

     My name was once Laura. Now they call me Banshee, the Voice of Death.

By Rachel Lianna

 (Read more of Rachel Lianna’s works at Robin Hood West)