Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Conspirator By Dean Russell

There was a damp, still quality to the cold air as the guide led us further down the dimly lit stairwell. The stone walls became oppressive the further we got from the surface like hands imploring us to go no further. The corridor opened onto a myriad of cells which had long been decommissioned. We were free to explore the cramped, human hovels.

I bowed to enter, trying to resist the sensation of being buried alive. I imagined the months and years wasted away in this stone coffin. Despair was tangible. I ran my hand along the wall and felt the cold, hard condensation. I felt a groove and saw a word etched into the chalkstone. Atone. There was a scrapping noise behind me as the elderly guide entered.

“There’s a tale that belongs to this cell” he began in a faltering tone. “They say the man who occupied this cell was a conspirator. After he died they found sheaves of his correspondence. It seems that he wrote letters to the Inquisitor everyday pleading his innocence. He wrote in beautiful, flowing verse of justice, hope and love, of freedom and rights, of high and virtuous values. He spoke of his intentions among the poor and illiterate, the sick and maltreated. His devotion to improve the lives of the less fortunate.”

“Among these epistles were found vile replies from the merciless Inquisitor scrawled in sharp, black scratched handwriting condemning the man; reminding him of crimes, his guilt and shame; tormenting him with all that he had lost; goading him for his naivety; torturing him with the dereliction of his duty to his family; squandering his youth and health on apparitions and spectre; languishing in a squalid cell whilst his household lay in want, open to threat and exploitation.”

“Bitterly the condemned man remonstrated in the most eloquent terms for respite and equity for his children, proclaiming the injustice befallen him and his devout Christian heart. His flowing prose ran from the page like notes from a lyre yet they failed to instil even a moments pardon or grace from the Inquisitor. His violent responses echoed in his tempestuous hand, scratching and scrawling at the paper with the most vile hatred, directly opposed to the sweet entreaty of the condemned soul.”

“What became of him?” I asked, engrossed in the emotion breathing like a rib cage within the walls.

“He grew weaker and eventually died before receiving reprieve or pardon.” replied the guide as he turned to leave.

My lungs had constricted and I was struggling to breathe. I steadied my hand against the wall.

“But do you know the most haunting thing they discovered?” he continued as he slipped away. “Correspondence with the outside world was strictly forbidden.”

“How could that be?” I said perplexed. Sweat budding my brow. “That would mean… not a single one of those letters… came from outside of this cell.”

The truth slowly dawned on me as the door clanged shut and the footsteps faded away.

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