's 2020 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by H. Tom


This was the phrase inscribed in gold upon the throne where rested Moth. Moth the Second, Emperor of night, now lies entombed in depths no eye can pierce.

His portraits hang no longer on the palace walls, the mirrors wear shrouds, and black-clad mourners weep.

Beyond the mausoleum grounds a throng of hedges rises like a maze, redundant passageways extending and recoiling into forking, roiling veins.

Thorned floral arteries embrace the graves where ancestors are laid. Moth's tomb stands at the heart. Red leaves lend stone rough shade.

A four-edged spire thrusts an empty urn against the moon, its lifeless gaze displayed to all the world, yet marred with features.

Around the scene dim vegetation rustles, while mute creatures mount dumb monuments arrayed in slanting rows.

Murders of crows alight upon the mausoleum roofline and the pinnacles above, where the masons' lintels shove their grotsesques out of crevices, and weather-staining shows.

Beneath this sight, a murky pool keeps level water stagnant and obscure, the dust of frail neglect long filtered through the pure source of its liquid, where a pallid phantom doubles back the lunar light.

If, pinned in the chilling blindness of His cave, His Majesty retains His will or mind, He might reflect on what His absence stains - inspect His final resting place, and see the works wrought by more active brains for which aesthetics centered intellect.

The baubles of His funerary robe, now dark and motionless, were polished, carved, and sewn so nicely in the cape that He alone might wear its shape whose gaudy varicolored gems would strobe and flash for viewers wholly gone.

Scenes ranged along the walls beside the Emperor, hid from view, disclose to no one what their figures do, who skirt the bedside of their vanished spectator. Beyond all this: the iron door, with copper frames and bronze-edged panels, whose decorated hinges swing no more.

Names exhaust their channels: how died His Majesty? Not by degrees, not of ennui, not through disease - and not slowly.

An endless midnight shrouds the eyes of all who would observe the corpse. His moon is past. And yet, the sun mounts over Him, at last, drawing away the blight and the decay about His monument.

Dawn breaks the dim horizon in a burning stream of day, ignites the firmament in golden hues, and gathers to noon's zenith, as the splendor of the views uncovered from night's somber robe discloses distant news.

Who would exhume the body need not ask.

See the smile staring from His gold death-mask!