Ghosts

ghosts

Jonathan clutched at the sheets, his knuckles white on the linen of his bedspread. Sweat poured down his temples and rolled onto his cheeks, mixing with his tears. Unintelligible words escaped his lips every now and then, as his head tossed back and forth on the feather pillow.

Title: Ghosts

Author: madmaximoff

Characters: William De Lancey & Jeremy Johns & Arabella Strange & Jonathan Strange

Summary: Jonathan Strange’s ghosts come back to haunt him.

Notes: This story was written for the 2015 JSaMN Society of Magicians Halloween Party, for the JS&MN + ghosts category; the author has very kindly allowed me to post it here as well.  Please express your love by leaving a comment below.

~*~

Jonathan clutched at the sheets, his knuckles white on the linen of his bedspread. Sweat poured down his temples and rolled onto his cheeks, mixing with his tears. Unintelligible words escaped his lips every now and then, as his head tossed back and forth on the feather pillow.

Arabella knew not what he saw in the dark. She did not wish to. But this sight, of her husband in utmost terror of what horrors lay behind his eyelids, was not unknown to her, nor was it in anyway uncommon. Nearly every night since he returned from the Peninsula, and even more so after the Battle of Waterloo, when he slept he would cry bloody murder, toss and turn and wake with a scream before he came to his senses.

The first time this had happened, Arabella was awake in an instant, calling for the servants and pleading with Jonathan, pleading for him to come to his senses, all to no avail. Only after the housemaid had thrown a bucket of water over him had he awoken, pale and shaking not only from the cold.
Now, she just stared at him, sad eyed and even sadder of heart, as she waited for her husband’s visions to pass. She lay her hand on top of his, and rested her head on his shoulder, praying that this night would not be as bad as the last.

Jonathan himself was not unaware of his wife’s touch, but to him, it was not the hand of a loving woman. In his mind, it was the half rotten hand of a Neapolitan soldier, clutching at his wrist with a vice-like grip. The harder he tried to pull away, the harder the dead man held. He scrabbled at his arm until his fingernails tore his skin to bloody ribbons, and yet still the corpse held on. Before he could attempt further escape, another figure wrapped his arms around his waist, pulling him backwards. He looked back, and saw the familiar colours of the British uniform.

More and more hands grabbed at him, covering his view, and before his mind could register it, he was falling. The hands vanished into smoke, and Jonathan’s vision cleared to reveal a moonlit field entirely unknown to him. He seemed to be completely alone. He looked around, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a face that made his blood run cold. Colonel De Lancey stared at him with dead eyes, his skin white and stretched tight over his bones. His breaths were rasping and rattling, and brought a fear to Jonathan’s heart that he never wished to experience again. He scrambled back, unable to rise to his feet, turning away from De Lancey. But his vision was overtaken by a burned and bloody Jeremy, with a similarly rasping voice. Tears rolled down his face as he backed away. In the distance he heard a voice calling his name. The voice sounded kind, loving. He wanted to run to it, but could not will himself to stand. Instead, he curled his fingers into his hair, and brought his knees to his chest, and rocked back and forth in the dirt, trying to block out the nightmares.

As a magician, Jonathan was skeptical of any sort of magical being mentioned in folklore, other than faeries of course. But after his time at war, and the days and nights he spent amongst soldiers who feared that every day would be their last, he was sure of one thing; the dead who roamed his darkest dreams would haunt him until he was in his own grave, and that, in his mind at least, their definitely were such things as ghosts.

~*~

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