Haunt Me Still

Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell Read Free Book Online

Book: Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Lee Carrell
warm.
    I jumped back, my heart thudding in my chest. So there had been a fire up here last night. And from the grass beaten down in a circle just outside the fire ring, a dancer, too. For a moment, I stood poised to run.
    But the day was bright and beautiful, and I was clearly alone. Besides, I told myself, there’s nothing inherently ominous about a bonfire atop a hill on a clear autumn night. No need to bolt like an addled antelope, at any rate. I’d come this far—I might as well look at what I’d come to see.
    I turned and looked northward. Far across the valley, the Highlands rose in waves of deepening purple. Somewhere out there, fringing the feet of the mountains, lay Birnam Wood. Dunsinnan must go to Birnam Wood, Sir Angus had said. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
    The reverse had not been good news for King Macbeth, at least in Shakespeare’s telling. For a while I stood roiling with frustration, staring across the valley. At last, though, I made myself sit down in the grass with my back to the cairn and pull out both my apple and the book. If Sir Angus’s words were any indication, the play itself worked in some manner as a clue. I couldn’t reach Birnam Wood without wings, but there was no better place to read Macbeth than here.
    When shall we three meet again,
    In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
    When the hurly-burly’s done,
    When the battle’s lost and won.
    That will be ere the set of sun.
    Where’s the place?
    Upon the heath.
    There to meet with Macbeth…
    Fair is foul and foul is fair,
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.
    Even read silently, the words had the eerie rhythmic quality of a spell. In the distance, I could still hear snatches of the tractor’s droning, its sound winding around the clank of the quarry closer to hand and the trill of birds swooping overhead. Somehow they all seemed to twine together in a rhythmic accompaniment to the Shakespeare.
    The birdcalls grew harsh and more insistent. Lower down the hill, I heard the whinny of a horse and then a sound I knew only from the stage: the clash of swords.
    I woke with a start. How long I’d dozed before tipping over into dreams, I had no idea, but it must have been some time, because the warm afternoon had dissolved, leaving behind a world swathed in a cold gray blanket of mist. Low in the southwest, the sun had become a silk-wrapped pearl. By its position, the time looked to be late afternoon. If that was right, I’d slept a long time. I was gathering up my book and my half-eaten apple when I heard the whisper drifting on the wind, so that I couldn’t even tell from which direction it came: “ Thou shalt be queen hereafter. ”
    I froze. But all I heard was the wordless sweep of the wind up over the summit. I still have one foot in my dreams, I thought. Gingerly, I stepped toward the path leading down through the old ramparts of the fortress. And stopped. At my feet was a gleam of metal.
    I bent down for a closer look. A long single-edged blade of blue-gray steel lay half-hidden in the grass. The hilt, lying toward me, was black with glints of silver. I was reaching out to grasp it when I saw the foot.
    At the edge of one of the old trenches, someone lay stretched out in the grass, covered by a heavy blue-green gown shimmering like peacock feathers, except that it wasn’t feathered. It was scaled. I stepped closer. It looked like Ellen Terry’s gown, the one she’d been painted in as Lady Macbeth. It seemed to ripple in the grass like a long serpent, draped lengthwise, as it was, over—over whoever it was. By the narrow delicacy of the foot, a woman, and young.
    Instinctively, my fingers wrapped around the hilt. Sliding the knife from the grass, I stepped closer. She didn’t move.
    I lifted a corner of the gown and saw a fall of flame-red hair. Aware of a dull thudding that must be my heart, I lifted the gown farther. What lay beneath I glimpsed only for an instant, but it is branded in my memory: her hands bound

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