Markings

Billy was bored.  This castle sucks. 

The tour guide’s words went over his head.

  ‘The paintwork on the ceiling is from the sixteenth century,’ she said, gesturing towards the interleaved lattice-work pattern, which stretched across the beams, wrapped around painted faces of winged lions and other creatures of myth.  ‘The paint would have been made from iron oxide for red and yelllow,  soot for black, and chalk for white.  At the centre is the Green Man…’

She droned on.  Billy was bored.  He fingered the blade in his pocket as he glanced at the stone fireplace.  Mischief sparked in his mind.

Eventually the party left the room, leaving Billy alone.  He pulled out the pocket knife.  The blade scraped the sandstone as he scored his name.

  B – I – L –

He stopped.

Something had dropped on his head.

He reached up to touch the wetness, looking at his fingers.

  Blood.

He looked up at the ceiling and screamed –

  Fresh paint gleamed wetly on the beams above.  Iron oxide red.  Blood red.  At the centre, on the middle beam, grinned the Green Man, rivulets flowing from the gaping mouth, showering down in a torrent of bloody droplets –

The tour guide rushed in, followed by Billy’s anxious parents.  She saw the boy standing there, white-knuckled hands clasped to his face.

  ‘Are you alright,’  she asked in concern.  There was no response and his parents ushered the sobbing boy away, muttering reassurances.

Something glinted on the oaken floor.  A pen-knife.  The tour guide picked it up, calling to the family:

  ‘Wait a minute – you’ve dropped something.’

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