The Sound of Stone

A Short Horror Story

A figure, no more than a shadow on the backdrop of the granulated grey, staggered falteringly across the rolling plains. Their eyes were glossed, their gait unsteady, their movements mechanical. They trudged forward, each limb independent of one another, before their entire being gave in and they crumbled to the ground.

They tried to prop themselves up against one of the stones they found themselves surrounded by and, for a moment, some semblance of life was breathed back into them, pulling them forth from their shadowy confines.

The figure’s renewed lease on life amongst the living was retracted moments later as they slipped further into the darkness, going out in a shimmering shower of colour. Ultimately, though, they faded and became one with the night.

Cataclysmically strong tremors rumbled through the English plains, shaking the ground with a feverous intensity as the sky darkened and the moon bled a fearful red.

And then there were seventeen; once thirty strong, only a little over half remained. Two stones – two impossibly heavy, towering stones, designed to last for eternity – were all that stood against the fall of Stonehenge, and the old creature from the old story finally breaking free.

*

SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS LATER

There was an old story floating around about the impossible neighbour. The neighbour who’s been around for centuries longer than the oldest records of the oldest families. No one knew where it or its story came from or how much stock there was to it, but an old man once told Iona that every story ever told really happened, and that stories are just where memories go when they’re forgotten. She didn’t know the old man for very long, but trusted him implicitly, and for that simple reason, had taken up every opportunity she had to go poking around Stonehenge.

Others who, like Iona, believed the old story, said she had a death wish. They’d mutter to themselves derisively when they saw her heading in that direction. A couple of times, Iona even heard some of them placing bets on whether she’d return.

They’d make up tall tales about why she was so ardently attracted to the old stones: that she had an ancestor, long-forgotten and even longer dead, who was buried around the area; someone in her bloodline had helped create the structure and now she felt the need to help bring it down; Iona being born on a leap day meant there was something unnatural about her, and that she resultingly felt compelled to visit the creature from the old story; and so on and so forth.

As far as Iona knew, none of their tales were true. Of course, they were all technically possible, but that much could be assumed of anyone. No one knew where the stones came from with any degree of certainty – some people said it was wizards, some attributed it to ancient sun worshippers, and others still thought it to be the aftermath of a battle between the sun and the moon – so everyone was right, and everyone was wrong.

Iona’s real reason for visiting was far less complicated than anything anyone had made up: curiosity. She simply wanted to know – for sure – whether the old story was real. Whether the old man, the one who told her every story really happened and left just as suddenly as he appeared, was on to something, or whether that was just something he said the way the elders espouse seemingly profound wit that really means nothing at all.

In those rare moments she allowed herself to be entirely honest, there was a little more to it too. The entire affair had become something of an escape for her. A way for Iona to slip out of the mundane that weighed on her shoulders more heavily than the sky itself ever could and add a little magic to her life. Other than the explorations, her days consisted of little other than her apprenticeship a town over, the bike ride there, and reading by candlelight (or, when the clouds allowed it, moonlight). Those massive stones gave her something to look forward to, a chance to break the overwhelmingly lonely monotony, and she jumped in head-first.

During the day, the structure had proved to be entirely uneventful, a mere extension of the drivel she faced at the apprenticeship. The stones simply stood stoically, simultaneously painting and blending in with the backdrop of the plains. Iona had gotten her hands on just about every written record of Stonehenge, all the way back to its rectangular representations, and painstakingly poured over them, noting discrepancies and irregularities – anything even the slightest bit unusual. She combed through every inch of these oddities, turned over every stray piece of rubble, and riffled through each fallen leaf, but every exploration under the sun was for nought.

Eventually, she forsook the records and took to making her own, drawing and redrawing new maps every time she poked around. She organised them by date and time, having made it a point to dig around (sometimes literally, although she always made sure to cover up any record of her actions) at different hours.

The nights had, on occasion, seen short bouts of excitement, but nothing related to the old story had cropped up thus far. Iona’s first eventful foray into the night followed on the heels of a particularly frustrating day. Her bike’s chain came clean off the gear, snapped, got caught in a wheel, and sent her flying forward; as if the scrapes and bruises weren’t enough, it began to rain an awful torrent, drenching her immediately. She bellowed in anger, but her screams were mangled by the wind, subsumed by their noise, robbing her of her catharsis.

Too exhausted to even think about walking home, Iona slumped to the ground and lay back, giving in to the will of the elements, only to be graced by the sight of the looming stones, tall enough to have been seen from some ways away. Almost in a trance, she picked herself up off the ground and trudged over to them, slow, deliberate movements forcing her body forwards.

For a long time, she did nothing. She fell to the ground and slouched against one of the slabs encircling Stonehenge, her breathing gradually slowing to a calmer pace. The rain – still coming down in complete earnest – was now soothing, no longer hammering against her; instead, it arrived like an old friend, and she greeted it as such, smiling for the first time that day.

Then the sky cleared and the rain retracted, taking its newfound familiarity with it, once again leaving Iona alone. And that’s when it happened. She didn’t notice it under the particularly strong light of the moon at first, but the rock she was slouched against began to glow. By and by, the dull, imposing grey turned to silver, shining brighter with each second.

Iona scrambled to her feet immediately, ecstatic at the change in pace. The glow spread out from the ground up, especially strong along the line where the stone disappeared into the ground. One by one, the rest lit up too, each one just as bright as the first.

Iona could barely contain her excitement and ran from stone to stone, madly dashing through the structure, refusing to leave until every last one had reverted to their usual colour. Even then she didn’t go home; Iona slept under the stars that night, going to sleep happy for the first time in recent memory.

The stones had glowed a few times since, each time a different, no less dazzling, colour, each time yanking away Iona’s abject sorrow and replacing it with an enduring sense of wonder. That seemed to be the only real constant in the oddities – there was no discernible interval, no particular time of day or night, no identifiable trigger. The only constant between every feat of brilliance was that they always struck at her lowest days. It was almost as if they could tell she needed them to shine – her bespoke little pick me up.

Their final display took place on Iona’s worst night. On a night when simply existing felt like too much of a chore and each breath felt like it ought to be her last – a night upon which she wished everything would just fall silent. The worst part of it all was that Iona found herself staring down the barrel of a complete and utter lack of ability to understand why. Why she felt this way. Why it had gotten so bad. Why now. She asked herself each question and others over and over again, but her interrogation was entirely for nought.

On this night, Iona found herself in the midst of Stonehenge with absolutely no recollection as to how she got there. She remembered staying home from her apprenticeship; she remembered thinking if she wasn’t going to work, she could at least clean; she remembered instead spending the entire day in bed, too tired to even fix herself some leftovers. She did not remember walking to Stonehenge, much less being able to muster the energy to try.

Slumped against a stone – not unlike she was on the first night – she felt like she was little more than a shadow. A feeling of displacement was more familiar to Iona than the comfort of her own bed, but that night, she felt physically hollow. Suddenly feeling worse than she had at home – not that she had thought it to be possible – Iona pushed herself off the ground.

More accurately, she tried to push herself off. The back of her head, her back, anything at all in contact with the stone, seemed tethered in place, viciously holding her to the ground.

And then she began to glow. Just like she had seen the stones do so many times, Iona glowed fantastically bright. Slowly, she began to evaporate into a shimmering mist, each colour she had seen and loved now coming out of her, the burden of consciousness being lifted off her shoulders.

Her last thought before the ability forsook her entirely was that the old man – the old man she hadn’t known for all too long, but whom she trusted implicitly – was right about the old story. There was something beneath the stones. It had been reaching out to her all her life and it called out to her then more strongly than it ever had before.

Iona’s last action was to smile. She was finally done. The mist continued to surround and envelop her until they were one, until they – Iona and her glowing colours – were nothing but an engraved eddy on the side of a slab, interrupting its jagged, monotonous face. A person – a story – lost to time forever.

Cataclysmically strong tremors rumbled through the English plains, shaking the ground with a feverous intensity as the sky darkened and the moon bled a fearful red.

And then there were sixteen. One stone – one impossibly heavy, towering stone, designed to last for eternity – was all that stood between the old story and the collapse of Stonehenge, and the inevitable fall of the planet.


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