THE GATHERING

When she came through the door, she heard the answerphone bleeping, telling her that she had three messages. The first was: “come to Glen Coe as fast as you can.” The second was “wear something dark”. And the third was “be prepared to have your life transformed.”

These were irresistible messages, of course. She set out at once in her car, knowing that Glen Coe was  many hundreds of miles away. It had been the site of a famous massacre, and she imagined the place to be threatening and wearisome. The journey took two days, and as she approached the Glen, she realised that thousands and thousands of other people had been summoned too. She could go no further by car, and so she changed into dark clothes, picked up her overnight bag, and left her vehicle by the side of the road. Then she walked in. 

 

It was a long way, and she saw from afar that the floor of the Glen itself was crammed with people: so many that the foothills were crowded with them too. Her bag was too heavy, so she left it hidden under a bush.  When she arrived, she was still on the edge of the crowd. As instructed, they were all in dark colours: black, navy, olive, charcoal, burnt umber. There were even some animals: panthers, black cats, brown dogs, all standing quietly. 

 

It was nearly dusk. Everyone was looking to the west. The colours were glistening in the dying light,and the vast crowd looked like an irridescent carapace. She realised that all the people - men, women, children, young and old, all races - were breathing with the same rhythm. Their coordinated breaths flowed in and out, slowly. It was as though the whole crowd was one set of lungs. She caught up with their rhythm. And then they started to sing. 

 

But she had never  heard a song like this.  Wild, high, keening and full of the most unslakeable longing.  If there were words, she could not hear them, but that did not seem to matter much. The melody, held on the quiet breath of thousands of people, spoke of desire. But for what?

 

Then, right on the edge of the crowd, on the far  eastern side, she saw it. It was like a sparkle at first, which progressed to a glimmer. There were no  fireflies or glow-worms this far north, she knew. So it must be something else.  Gradually, slowly, the glow progressed and moved into the crowd. No-one was hurt, no one cried. But she saw that they were changing.

 

The people were becoming golden. Their skin and clothes were like the sun. She saw them turn to each other and laugh: “I see you.” The animals were joyful too. The floor and the sides of the Glen were golden, as if the place were an enormous cauldron, but without scalding or pain. This was what a blessing was. 

 

She knew that none of them would ever be the same again. Gradually, Glen Coe would be  emptied of its people, but the light would sear and anneal all those who had seen it. The yellow colour might fade from their skin and clothes,  perhaps: but their breath, their song, their glance would remain golden forever.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |