Peter Fowle lay in his bed, rolling his head from one side of his straw pillow to the other in perspiration. He grasped his sheets with sweaty hands, as if holding on to reality, and not letting his mind forever fall into the dream that tormented him.
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He suddenly woke, jerking sharply before going still. His eyes slowly scanned his own room about him as if not sure what was real any longer. You’re merely back in your room again, fool! Peter chastised himself, propping up against the stone wall behind him, and taking a deep breath.
Silver moonlight fell along his bedside in diamond spots, filtering through the grating at his window. Everything appeared to be much more still than normal. Peter rubbed a hand to his eyes, as to wake them up, and wipe away tears that had welled up inside.
There was a deathly silence that held in his room, save the deep inhaling and exhaling of his own breath. Peter looked up and out of his window at the full yellow moon nearly encompassing the whole frame of the glass.
Peter winced trying hard to force the vivid memory of his nightmare to the back of his mind, and focus on anything else, though it was in vain. Flashing images of faces, human and not, came back to haunt him unceasingly.
“Stop,” Peter managed a strangled sob, shielding his face, wanting harder than ever to leave the dream behind.
Peter writhed once or twice before turning and reaching out to a stand beside to his bed, and grasped something firm. He rested back against the wall, holding on to a music box that he treasured. It was given to him by his older brother James just before he died. It was the only way of remembering James after such a strange death, and a mysterious one it was…
Peter opened the box, slowly, to be greeted with the light tinkling of a song being played. This song had always made Peter feel better at times, and ease him of any fear that gnawed at his mind. Peter let himself fall to a trance of the hypnotic tune playing over and over.
The moon disappeared shrouded by a large black cloud, just as the music box had wound down ending in an awkward note. Peter’s eyes were half open, staring dully at the lumps of his feet at the bottom of his bed
…He mustn’t be tortured by these dreams any longer…not as long as he could help it.
Peter’s eyes shut, and his arms went weak, dropping the music box by his side.
* * *
Deep fall had come to Ravenharrow, the time when all turned banal. The sky was slurred over with gray clouds; the hills of grass turned brown and withered. And for what trees there were in the village, they lost their leaves, turning into grayish skeletons, reaching bony fingers skyward.
The bustle of folk doing their daily routines did not die out at this time however, and rather the only thing that changed was the kind of work they did.
Farmers mulled lazily over wheelbarrows full of harvested crops resting on straw, strolling through the dirt roads in the market area. Shop sellers called out their ‘reasonable’ prices to passersby holding their items for everyone to catch a glimpse of. The raucous cawing of crows pierced the chilled air, their beady black eyes scanning the ground for morsels to consume. The soft footsteps of townspeople on the roads muddled together, as stray cats chased field mice through the maze of moving feet.
Peter and the rest of his family was among these folk busily jostling their way around the thin paths amidst crowds doing their own tasks. Peter did not want to come along nor did any of his other siblings, however their mother explained once again about it being ‘market day’ and she needed all the help she could get.
Bronwen Fowle was a plump woman of her early forties, with long blonde hair she kept in a tight bun at the top of her head. Her face was normally no less red than her hair, and her lips were always pursed together in a serious manner.
Severn Fowle was a tall man with a somewhat sullen look about him, behind the black mane of hair on his head; kind when the occasion called, but otherwise highly stern.
Together, Bronwen and Severn raised six children, one of whom had died a year earlier. James, the eldest sibling, had been found dead along the Stony Pond a few miles from the town. All mourned for him, though life passed on, as everything passed strangely in Ravenharrow, and the next sibling in line was looked upon as the oldest and in charge of the rest.
This was Sloan Fowle, followed by Peter, then two twins, Lily and Hilda, and the youngest, Noah. These five children left were very well liked by those in the village, as anyone could see. People would smile at them extra kindly as they passed by, often times greeting them by name.
Today was once again ‘market day’ the time when all five children followed their mother around and helped to bear the load of items she bought.
Bronwen walked around different street markets, musing over food items at this time. She spoke with a sharp voice to the marketers, asking about the prices.
“Seven arcs, that’s outrageous! I’ll take it!” Bronwen, frustrated, shoved the seven bronze coins into the man’s hand, and then picking up a pumpkin off the market stand, handed it to Peter.
“Here, dear, hold this…oh yes, and can you manage these? Good.” She added, paying for five bright red apples and (tossing them in a brown sack) gave them to Peter as well. He teetered on the spot for a moment, suddenly under the weight of market items, though regained his balance, handing off the apples to his older sister.
“I don’t want these!” She remarked, though Peter had already left the spot.
“Alright, Sloan, it’s your turn, why don’t you carry this for me?” Bronwen purchased a small coffee cake from a baker’s cart rolling by, and set it down on her daughter’s arms not noticing the bag of apples already there.
Hilda and Lily had already gone off, chasing a cat, and Noah still walked obliviously along, clinging to the back of his mother’s dress.
Obviously, one of Bronwen Fowle’s largest tasks on market day was to gather her children back together again for the trip home…