Monster Masquerade – Julia’s Dream Part II, III and IV


Julia’s Dream – Part II, III and IV
(By Nick Gibbs Poetry)

Julia’s tale

During these hard months

Takes a different turn

But is equally redolent

Of unrequited tragedy


Richard was a gentle

Giant of a man

He filled a room

With his laugh alone

But rooms retain

No trace of laughter

After the fact

And with him gone

There was a hole

A vacuum that

Monstrous nature

Was over-keen to fill


Events rushed in

New faces in the village

To replace the menfolk lost

Hired labourers to till the soil

And bring in the crops;

However hard

She wished for it

The world kept turning

And the life within her grew


Son, daughter

A still-born corpse

The outcome mattered naught

For one so thoroughly unwed;

Thick winter clothes helped

Conceal accumulating evidence

But the sickness

Stole upon her

Every morning

And one day woke

Her aunt and mother

To grimly contemplate

The inevitable


They settled it between them

Julia must depart the village

To birth the child

In strictest secrecy

With relatives of relatives

A day’s ride away


What was covered in winter

Would be uncovered in spring

And far beyond concealment

By start of summer

So best delivered

Far from prying eyes

And loose gossipy tongues


Who knows?

Richard might be home by then

But he’s dead he’s dead

A little voice screamed inside

Though she knew it wasn’t true;

He was alive out there somewhere

Instinctively she felt it


They were connected

Heart stitched to heart

Across half the world:

She’d know if he died

She’d feel the blow

That felled him,

The cold steel

Run him through


But in the meantime

(And believe you me

It was a mean time)

She had somehow

To survive without

Her would-be spouse

And adjust herself

To the clamour of

A bustling new town

With all its strangers

Milling around

And amongst them

Her new-found relatives

Who proved

By quite some measure

To be the strangest

Of them all


There were two

Both of them

Equally unsettling:

Old Agnes

Who appeared to be mostly

Heavy folds of dirty linen

And possessed some knowledge

Of local herbs

To ease a difficult birth

Her flat declaration of this

Singularly failed

To fill Julia with

Anything like confidence

In the old lady’s competence


And then there was her son

Who might have been handsome

In a saturnine kind of way

But he was so sullen and removed

It spoiled the effect

And made him look aloof


Magnus by name

Less than


By nature he was

And tending rather

To the sullen

He appeared reluctant

In the background sometimes

But mostly dwelt upstairs


Julia’s new home

Was, in the round

A sullen affair,

Really more shed than shack

Much less a cosy cottage


Instant upon

Her midnight arrival

Old Agnes ushered her in

Pushed her past

A meagre hearth

To a joyless box room

With a straw-lined bed

And a dusty stump of candle:

You could see

The old woman

Was just dying to

Lock and bolt

The heavy door

Behind her


Julia unpacked

That first night

In a daze of tired ritual

And collapsed

On the scratchy bed

With a rough wooden bowl

Of something Old Agnes called

Broth for the Baby

Mostly it tasted

Of hot salted water

And some chewy leaf

Stewed past all identity


She couldn’t recall

Falling asleep

But always she’d remember

The waking up

In pitch darkness

Feeling there was

Someone in there with her


Some one or thing

There in the room

Knelt by the side of her bed

Sighing a sad and susurrant

Breath in her ear –

She cried Richard’s name

As if in litany

And the sighing died away


The next night too

It was there

Always in the dark

Never in the light


Long heaving sighs

Heart-rending to hear

Sometimes also

Shrill crying

As if from

An unhappy child


The days she spent

Walking the streets

And stamping her feet

Against the winter chill

Exploring the bounds

Of her captivity

Buying a few things

With the small allowance

Her mother had allotted to her,

Her figure and hair

Drawing attentions

That once would have been welcome

But now made her flinch,


That all could see

Her growing belly

Swelling with Sin


Still, though

She weathered

Their smirking looks

And throwaway comments

Preferring this

Very public torture

To the private one

Of staying at home


For, at regular intervals

Strangers came to call

Rapping at the door

For Old deaf Agnes

Who otherwise spent

Her diminishing time

In furious silence

Not speaking

Even to Magnus


These strangers

Came with ailments

Disfigurement of all kinds

Skin like rusty metal

Flapping sleeves for limbs

On sticks and crutches

With scar and blemish

They arrived on the hour

Pox-ridden urchins

Twisted old men

Coughing up

Their coin and lives

For a wave of

Granny’s magic stick

And her sprigs

Of precious herbage


Julia hated all of it

Every aspect of

This loveless pseudo-life

Her new home

Was by day

A waiting room of misery

And something entirely

Other by night


After broth and lights out

The same someone

Or something came back

Again and again

At first just to sigh

And then to caress

As she,

Frozen into place

Could only mutter

The charm of

Her absent Crusader


For a month

Our heroine put up

With whatever this was

Then one morning

There was a bright

Bead of blood

On her neck

Where she must have

Scratched herself

When gripped

By the terror of night

But no stain upon her fingernails

And so terribly terribly pale

That when she

Saw herself in the mirror

She thought she looked

Like a ghost

And her breath

Caught in her throat


Feeling unwholesomely faint,

She took to bed

And slept all through

The rest of the day

And into the next

Too sick for even her broth


There Julia stayed

Half in and half out of life

Dancing on the edge

Of an infinite darkness

That would at least spell rest


Some months passed

And life ebbed out of her

A little every day

To feed the growing child

It all looked rather one-sided;

Some black god

Slowly tearing itself free

From her womb

Whilst Old Agnes

Goaded it on


Roughly, I’d venture to say,

Around six months and six days

And as many hours past

That delicious meadow bank tryst

And source of all resultant woe

The remnant that was Julia

Stretched like leather

On its sickbed

And screamed a piercing shriek

That startled Old Agnes

Deaf as she was

Into to a shuffling

Creaking run

From her room:

Ready or not

The old woman


There’d be

Baby here soon


As for the mother

She rather looked

As if she might not be around

For too much longer

In Agnes professional opinion

– Thrashing now

In a cloak of her blood

Crying and screaming

For her Richard her Richard

As if he were a ward

Against this awful happening


For Julia there was nothing

Old Agnes could give

That could in any way help

Even if she wanted to;

At this rate of bleeding out

The poor girl had very little

Life left in her


What there was

Was even now

Spilling out

Soaking the bed

And turning the sheets

A rich wine red

The screaming went on

For a very long time


Richard heard

Of course he did

In his screaming skull

A distant faintest echo

Choking on his own blood

So copper this to taste

Richard heard it

Yes he did

Stabbed by spear

And clubbed by mace

Until his rusted suit ran red

To stain the plains of Jaffa


His namesake King

The Lionheart himself

Arrived on the scene

To feast his

Tired and hungry eyes

On the holy prize

Only to turn away again

In weary and hopeless disgust


So much then

For the Third Crusade

And Richard’s part

In that dismal charade

But yes I can confirm

He heard her soul

Calling in song to his

The sound seemed to come

from His stained and useless sword arm

Where A tickle of her fragrant hair

His memory of home


Over the strangled cries

Of dying men

And rending clash

Of steel armies

In annihilation

Richard heard

Something yes

Past the rasping of

His struggling breath

But caught not enough

To to be sure…




**FlyTrapMan is co-hosting this FUN event on his blog, as well!
(Click here to visit and follow his blog!)


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