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The Halloween Project 2018 Day 14: Cinque Terror - Vernazza

My final Halloween Project tale for 2018, posted November 1st - All Souls Day. This quintet of stories, although not horror, frame a ghost story. It was larger and more difficult than I anticipated, but very rewarding. Enjoy Marco's final chapter of his 500 year odyssey.

 

The Cinque Terror Quintet - A Ligurian Ghost Tale

Part V - Vernazza - year 2011 - October 25

 

The rainy season continued in the morning. Few tourists on the streets. Waiters pulled chairs tighter under awnings while casting an occasional eye to the sky. No shirts and trousers hanging on clotheslines. No children playing. The town remarkably quiet. Marco moved silently throughout Vernazza. His centuries of wandering cast a sense of foreboding. Hundreds of Octobers had come and gone, and now, today, something was different. He knew, but could not tell. Marco possessed history, and faint memory, but no voice. Around noon the black sky opened. A deluge of water began and thundered over the tops of the hills beyond. Drumming across every rooftop, the rains ran from buildings in torrents that grew in ever increasing volume and velocity. People ran from doorway to doorway. Men emerged on second floor balconies looking up and down the street. The small river that ran through the steep center of town grew, swollen, large, and jumped its banks. Water, ankle deep, flowed toward the bay. Marco was unaffected. He could move through the rapidly increasing waters with ease. Just as he did through air, cliffside, sea or sky. And where he went all the months before and beyond October, he could never know. Standing solitary in the middle of Via Visconti the water now up to a man's knees, the flooding passed around, in and through Marco. He could watch the cataclysm about him, the panic, the screams from high above street level. No one noticed him despite the rain and water. Their concerns and fears were elsewhere. Turning he saw chairs and tables, umbrellas, broken windows and planks, clothing, small machines, and debris he could not name all flow by, tumbling and churning in the growing maelstrom. New sheets of rain pummeled Vernazza, harder and harder still. Water continued to rise. The strange machines with four large wheels that carried people quickly from place to place careened down the swollen waters upended to be buried under the Mediterranean. The river had ceased to exist, now a gouging, rushing disaster burying shops, exploding windows, carrying debris in one resolute direction. To the sea.

Marco turned to hear a grunt accompanied by a high pitched squeal. At the corner several meters away an old man clung to a wire cable that was attached to a building. It had housed a pasticceria but was now a broken shamble, water rising to the rooftop. His face and eyes were upturned to a balcony beyond his reach. There a young woman cried with a screaming fear. Her arms stretched downward, imploring, without effect. It was then that Marco came to the understanding that the old man was not alone. With one arm clinging desperately to the cable, in the other he held, in a grip so tight that nothing could relinquish, a boy. A young boy, perhaps five or six, keening in a high pitched cry, sobbing, arms outstretched for his mother, too far above. For almost five hundred years Marco had waited. He had searched for understanding beyond his ethereal life. He had done terrible crimes. Sins against mankind and The Lord. His soul had never rested and wandered, never finding respite. And now there was a boy. Moving to the old man in the ever increasing depth and fury of the water, Marco stretched out his arms. Sensing a movement, the old man in his anguish, turned and saw a movement, a shape, a sheen in the water, in the terror and death of the flood. Marco leaned close, opened his fingers, in a universal gesture, saying without words, "Give me the child. Trust me." The old man, in a moment of faith and hope, relinquished his grasp, and handed the boy to Marco. The mother above screamed as she also realized that some experience beyond her comprehension was happening just below. The water continued to rise and Marco with it, the boy held aloft, face above the raging, cascading torrent. He lifted, floated, held the boy above all threat. A sudden grunt and Marco peered down. The old man, exhausted beyond all repair, lost his grip on the cable and careened off, head bobbing only once and was gone. The young woman above screamed out one word, "Papa!" and looked down to her son. Marco lifted, offering the life of the young boy to his mother. The woman grasped her child and pulled him to her breast, between tears and relief. She peered down into the face looking up at her. A face filled with longing, with regret, with relief. She could see black matted hair, features even and lined. She could see eyes that were tired, filled with too much of the world. "God bless you!" she intoned against the storm. A light surrounded Marco. An encapsulating ball of clear, white brilliance. It shone as the waters in their murky darkness destroyed Vernazza. Marco rose slowly beyond the flood. The air gathered him into itself. He lifted beyond the tallest building and floated toward the hills. He passed the cemetery where he had spent many hours, many years, over centuries. He passed into the lowest levels of terraced vineyards. He rose, still surrounded by a starlike fire. The cliffs approached, replete with the trails that he had coursed forever. He passed above those cliffs. Rising, ever rising, above the hilltops, beyond the tallest peaks, he continued into the rain heavy clouds. Finally above the storm, Marco passed into the clear, star crossed sky.

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