Short Story
                                            Eyes of the Ancestors
                                                                      By Alexander Long


      Lady Ginevra was wed in an exceedingly queer manner. Queer, at least, to a simple country girl.
Simple still for her noble birth and her expensive education. Maybe the reader, if raised in a more
metropolitan region, and accustomed to quicker ways of life, will find nothing untoward in this scene.

      A nineteen-year-old girl, walking down the aisle in a frosty white gown. A rabbit mask on her head with
towering tall ears, and polished black stones in place of eyes. She used to think that only rats and insects
had black eyes. But now here she was. At the closing cue of the parson, her groom drooped down to kiss
her with his Hound mask on. The ranks of nobility, sitting in rotting pews, whispering to themselves “Surely,
the eyes of the ancestors look on approvingly from beyond!”

      At the feast held afterwards, the girl was presented with a living hare, tied down on the table and
whimpering. With a knife handed to her from the groom, handed down to him from untold generations,
inlaid with the family crest, she plunged it into the still living beast. Blood stained her white dress, her white
mask. Nobody could see the expression on her face, except perhaps the prying, ghostly ancestors of her
husband, as she removed the knife and stabbed again. As rehearsed, she screamed as loud as she could
“May the ancestors find favor with this sacrifice!”

      Oh! The evil coppery tang upon her tongue! Left by the crimson trail of gore gouged out of that animal.
The heft of the weapon which she could not see through her mask. The obedience to a blind sacrifice, of
words that were not hers, but emerged from her lips anyway. Were these words she wanted to be
speaking?

      Lady Ginevra had met Baron von Kleist only three months before. Her husband, her hound. They were
introduced to each other at her society debut, where gay green garlands hung by twine from the ceiling
beams all along the hallways, and black ostrich feathers and white pearls decorated tables, and bouquets
of blue irises and red tulips stood everywhere you looked, to decorously celebrate her womanhood. Petals
of femininity littered the floor, and the whole atmosphere bespoke of a sizeable dowry.

      Ginevra descended the great grand steps of the Hotel Vanity, located in downtown Richmondinium, a
city several miles from her provincial village. A city where horses bustled alongside whizzing Benz Veloes,
and where eternal prostitutes congregated beneath garish glares of gas lamps at night.

      The debutante wore about her person an allegedly stylish dress, recommended by her allegedly stylish
aunt Cecilia, who was learned fashion. With her skinny cigarette held in its bony holder by her arthritic left
hand, she had pointed it out in that cavernous department store, declaring “Darling, darling, this dress is
indisputably you, and this designer is indisputably in.” One more drag on her smoke stick. One more puff
from her smoky throat.

      At the hotel, Ginevra’s solid silver heels clicked sharply on the stark stone steps. She blushed. Unused
to having so many eyes directed towards her, something near embarrassment gripped her. Jerome, her
rodent escort, whose head just reached her hip, held her hand and whispered encouragingly “Whenever I
get stage fright, Ginny, I imagine that everyone else is naked except me. Especially the very handsome
gentlemen.” She followed his advice, and a pleasurable titillation ensued, driving out all timidity.

      After a strange procession of distant relatives and alien acquaintances, of either her family or the
court, who thrust themselves upon her as extreme well-wishers, she divined her future husband, the Baron
von Kleist. Jerome’s whiskers twitched excitedly at her elbow upon noticing him, and upon noticing him
herself, she decided to approach.

      The Baron was easily twice Ginevra’s age. Which back then was not as much of a detractor as it is
today. He was in possession of a face and frame that begged to be eyeballed. And he was a Baron, which
was nice. His shiny black hair was combed back becomingly, or as Aunt Cecilia would deem, ravishingly.
His chest and his torso filled out the tailor-made suit in such a way as to suggest that he did not intend to
remain clothed forever.

      They greeted. They shook hands. They conversed. Their eyes protruded from their sockets to get a
closer look at the other. After a few minutes, the Baron asked her if she had ever ridden in a zeppelin
before. She replied that she had not, but would be interested in doing so. Jerome added that the interior of
the Baron’s zeppelin must be quite lovely, and that the fertile splendor of naked Mother Earth spread out
beneath one must make for a stunning sight.

      Several weeks of courting passed and then the two were engaged to be wed. The Baron took Ginevra
and Jerome back to live with him in his chateau out in the country, near Ginevra’s home town. He showed
her the bare room in the west wing that held his hound face and her rabbit’s. She giggled at his
explanation of the family’s unique marriage ceremonies. What a bizarre place the great big world was!

      So, there she was, offering a blind sacrifice to her ancestors-in-law. Watched by family, old and new,
total strangers, and certain relations which counted as all three. With dread she breathed into the tight air
space of her mask, and imagined she felt the blood dripping from her mask as if it covered her own face.

      The Hound arranged for the honeymoon to take place a week after their wedding, and on the eve of it
she could not sleep. Each time she clasped her eye lids she saw how the guests would have seen her.
Rabbit faced and covered in rabbit blood. Opening her eyes and keeping awake could not rid her of the
spectral weight in her right hand as it stabbed, stabbed, stabbed the small bound animal.

      Restless, she left her room. Paced the hallway. Stepped up and down stairs for the exercise. Twisted
her hair. Smacked her face to remind herself she wasn’t wearing a mask. Stopped to stare out a window,
in an area of the chateau she had not been in before, and looked at the moonlit courtyard beneath.

      In front of the fountain, which no longer put forth water, and whose angel statue had crumbled many
decade earlier, leaving two discomforting ankles on the dry pedestal, stood a figure. Ginevra had to squint
to see it since it almost blended in with the glaring white moonlight. Soon she made out a person in a
bunny costume which covered the whole body, huddling over and tearing into something in its lap with its
teeth. Then, from between two stone blocks in the wall next to the window, two black eyes opened.

      Ginevra woke up next morning, sun soaked in bed, with her husband holding her, thinking about what
an awful nightmare she had endured.

      That honeymoon she toured the Alps with great pleasure, as one does. It was half a week’s journey by
carriage, a full week’s journey by steamer, and another half week’s journey by carriage to reach the hotel
where they were staying their first night.

      As it commanded a direct view of the Swiss Alps, a stunning stunned sight, the window held Ginevra’s
attention for much of the night. Her eyes were allured by the phantasmal glow of moonlight shining off the
dead mountain tips. Fixatedly they watched where hushed snow lay silent and motionless, miles away and
overhead. “Love,” said the Baron around eleven o’clock “you watch those snow-capped monuments as if
they were about to move.”

      “Why don’t they if they are so cold and uncomfortable? Desolate up there where no life grows, only
rock. Worse than mere death for never having possessed life.”  

      “Some things are not meant to move, happy or sad as their position might be.” As his words stormed
her, she remembered her breath inside the rabbit mask as she plunged the blade into the hare.

      On the second day, they had climbed one of the shorter monuments, and slept in a tent. Underneath
the stars, who seemed to her like icicles and not great masses of fire, the wife dug her hands as far into
the permafrost as she could. Then she laid her face down on to the ground to give it a kiss. But the intense
frigidity repulsed her affection.

      Upon their coming home to the Baron’s chateau, after a cup of tea and the Baron leaving them alone
in the drawing room, Ginevra said to Jerome “This decades-old fortress is my tomb, which I am destined
to haunt before as well as after my bodily death.” The girl walked to the cold wall, cracked from years of
weight and atmospheric pressure. “Until it all crumbles and the roof collapses, this is where my soul will
remain interred.”

      The mouse, alarmed at such downcast sentiments coming from such a young person, still a teenager
and still a child, asked “What makes you say these things, Ginny?”

      She turned to him, and her eyes were like two aborted wombs, and her mouth the gaping maw of Hell.
“All joy has been massacred in me, Jerome, and I am left with the awful aspect of life, stripped of rituals
and ornamentation. I am left with the overwhelming face of nothingness, which this material world and that
spiritual one amounts to. I am left with the face of God. Which, having seen His pallor, and feeling His wrist
and found no pulse, I judge as lifeless as a mountain top. The rotting corpse of Heaven is what weighs
upon my heart.”

      Many whiskers drooped. Unsure what to say, the mouse chose to say nothing. To hug her instead
seemed more helpful. But she avoided his embrace, explaining that she could not bear to be touched. If
either of them had turned to look out the window, they might have seen something of exceeding interest, a
person in a rabbit costume exiting the forest. Such is the nature of existentialism, that it blinds us to more
immediate menace.

      A week passed and Ginevra returned to her regular disposition as if nothing too despairing had been
lamented to Jerome, which disturbed the rodent a great deal. Every time she greeted him or hugged him,
he waited for the next discomforting ankle to drop.  

      One morning Jerome found himself alone in the chateau after breakfast. He determined to find the
room where the marital masks were kept, to see what they looked like torn off of their wearers’ skulls.
Ginevra was out strolling in the green soaked light of the forest.

      Jerome was a nosy body, and had not yet found a chance to peek into that mask room. He thought
nothing of going through women’s purses and the drawers of friends and family. He could not help how his
furred hands instinctively clasped and opened any secret holder, to draw that thing out to the light and
make of it what he would.

      Ginny poked her head into the hollow of a great oak tree. The Baron had mentioned how an ancient
ancestor, a wizard who, being cat-fished by a goblin pretending to be a nice lady-fairy, was trapped in one
of these trees until Jesus came down and pulled him out. She imagined that a skeletal hand caressed her
cheek, and tickled the interior of her ear with its dry finger bone. Whispering “Stop it, stop it, you are just
terrible! Oh, what a lark!” When the living laughed, the dead said, “You’re one crazy bitch aren’t you?”

      Back at the chateau, the mouse was putting on the Rabbit mask and looking through it to the Hound
mask. Then he put it back on the hook, took down the Hound face and looked through it at the bunny face.
He quoted Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

      Whoa. That’s pretty, fucking deep if you ask me.

      The girl walked on. There were so many trails. After she’d walked one for any length of time, she found
that it either branched out into a new trail, or overlapped with another. They were all coiled on top of one
another and reproducing, like vipers in a pit. Sometimes she thought about how trapped she was in her life
and her marriage. Sometimes she didn’t think at all.

      The mouse heard a step echo down the corridor. Quickly he returned the Hound mask to its hook and
scurried up the wall. Shrouded by shadow in his steep perch, he watched the Baron enter the room and
strip. “Oh my,” he whispered to himself, whiskers twitching. The man walked to a door, heretofore
unnoticed by the mouse, opened it and entered, emerging a few seconds later completely covered in a
rabbit costume. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, dear reader, but to Jerome it elicited a gasp of
confused shock.

      Ginevra had found an apple orchard and was twirling in the center of it. She was laughing and singing
“Oh what a lark!” It appeared that the birds and the squirrels all listened to her in earnest.

      The Baron boomed “Now it is time to go hunt rabbits!” And Jerome, the secret finder made a secret
himself upon the ceiling, trembled. For the man held a hatchet in his hand.

      Time lay still all over her. When she finally collapsed dizzy from spinning, she did not know how much
time had passed, nor the amount spent on her gazing up at the blue sky. Lit by sensuous sun flame, the
hue was hypnotic, and the jumping shadows of the cirrus clouds, performing a jig across the tree trunks
and grass, even more so.

      I cannot tell you when exactly she stood up, and resumed her walk; exactly when she saw the little
corpse with its head up high in the branches of a tree. Blood staining everything with ghastly specks of
mortality. The ragged bite marks and missing chunks of soft stomach flesh missing. I cannot tell you when
she screamed, when she ran back to the chateau, when the thought came in to her head that some villain
must have killed and eaten a rabbit way out in the forest.
                                                                      .        .        .

      Dinner was decorated with candle flame. Emaciated absences of light spread out from the wicks on
the table, leering at the living who ate. Jerome sat on one chair, pointedly avoiding the Baron von Kleist’s
eyes. The Baron made blithe chatter about the roast and the sky and the rabbit population increasing this
time of year. “It’s that time of year” he said, “when God gets in the mood for you know what with all those
soulless beasts.”

      Ginny giggled, discreetly sloshing wine onto her lap and pretended it was her time of the month. “I
declare, it seems that everything in nature happens regularly, whether by month or by year. And that I
myself,” she held out her hand and spread out her fingers “am a collection of locomotive clock parts.
Hands, mouth, eyes, feet, skin, organs, all the rest. That having been wound up tightly at birth, I am
gradually winding down. That every tick on the clock is a click closer to when I stop moving.”

      “Little mouse, why do you not eat?”

      “I have seen you in your secret room today.”

      “Oh! Those eyes of my ancestors never stop observing from their shadowy perches. Have they nothing
else to do in the realm of the dead? Is Heaven just a retirement home where they sit around all day and
watch our goings on?”  

      “Scoundrel! How dare you pry into my business?”

      “Why do you dress up like a rabbit, like a madman, and speak of hunting rabbits?”    

      A plate shot on the wall, shattering into shards that sprinkled the floor. Vehement thumping on the table
followed. Ginevra, during the conversation, had witnessed a hand reach out for her through the roast. Her
fists pounded the table to keep the armies of ghosts at bay.

      The Baroness von Kleist stood up and hurried to the where the pieces of plate were. “See how my
soul cracks on the stone! See how my fragments shall remain at this chateau forever! I am dead! I died
and my blood is all over!” She then proceeded to screech the word ‘Dead’ repeatedly and to run out the
room.

      In a daze, Ginevra wandered the ancient hallways. She twirled. Laughingly she gagged on her mirth.
Something had broken inside her head, and she no longer mourned her immurement, her living death. She
was free of responsibility for herself, and passively open to whatever influence took an interest in her.

      Dead!

      Dead!

      Out of the corner of her vision, the Baroness spotted a hand, frosted with the pallor of Hell, point to the
door which led to the Mask room. Around the door, between the stones of the walls, eyes drowsily blinked
open to watch her enter the room again. Mouths on the walls, barely visible in the dim flickering light,
smiled invitingly, welcomed her to their family.

      No flames were lit in the room, and the sun had long since set, but an affinity for the dark had burst
beneath her eyeballs, and the girl was able to see the masks as clearly as at noon-time.

      Fingers pointed to the closet door. Mouths explained. Ginevra stripped and opened the closet, getting
out the rabbit costume, mask, and putting it on. The Baron appeared behind her to zip up the back. “It is
time now for you to hunt. Open your new mouth” Experimentally, she flexed her jaws, and the mouth of the
rabbit mask opened and closed. “You don’t need a hatchet like I do.”

      She followed him back out into the hallway and to the brightly-lit dining room. Not that she needed
these flames to see her prey. Not with her new ink black eyes.

      Jerome started up in shock. “What are you doing?” Instantly she hopped onto the table and buried her
teeth into his soft stomach flesh. The taste of evil copper ravished her tongue and saturated her senses.
Blood was all over and so were her friend's screams.

      Eyes of the ancestors looked on approvingly as she shook the ragged corpse and tore its head off to
unleash gallons of crimson. Another soul had entered their earthly fold, never to leave, until the roof of the
chateau drops down upon them.
About Alexander Long

"Alex Long is a university
student who has loved
horror ever since he
discovered Lovecraft
when he was thirteen. In
his works he seeks to
expand genre stories with
literary sensibilities, and
explore the
interrelationships between
sexuality, religion, and the
environment."
To read other short stories,
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