Cleansing the Castle
by Tony Noland
Once upon a time, strange things began to happen in the castle. Tourists' cameras showed strange, ghostly images. Odd sounds were heard.
The snow globes in the gift shop all turned cloudy, showing the castle wreathed in a milky, opalescent fog, from the moat to the spires.
In the multimedia room, the video loop, which should have shown the 9 minute introduction to the castle's history, was the strangest of all.
Instead of the actors in costume, riding their horses and issuing proclamations, it began to show women, bent, haggard and weeping.
They filled the castle's courtyard, wearing brown and dark blue homespun, wielding mops and brooms. They wept as the cleaned the cobbles.
Over and over, the video looped, but the scene changes slightly as the hours went by. At first, the women cleaned in a slow, determined way.
Gradually, although it was hard to tell exactly how, they seemed more... desperate in their scrubbing, as though much depended on it.
After eleven days of the video looping, the women, still in the same positions, still with the same hair and mops and skirts, were defeated.
Listlessly, the pushed their mops across the uneven stones, tears streaming down their faces as they sloshed the slops back and forth.
At 11:10 am on Tuesday, May 14, the gift shop attendant hear a scream from the video room. She ran to see what the old women were doing.
In front of the screen, the ticket girl, the docents and Mr. McCarthy, the day manager, were all standing, frozen, staring at the old women.
They lay across the stones, naked. Their flabby, graying skin draped across the hard, cold courtyard. Their mops and buckets were gone.
As the video loop played over and over, it was the same 9 minutes. Nothing changed, nothing happened. The naked women lay in jumbled heaps.
On the fourteenth loop, the video started with the usual fanfare music over the credits. The scene shifted, showing the women, standing.
Behind them was the ice cream wagon and the neon sign that was installed last year. Over their shoulder, the EuroBank ATM and WiFi kiosk.
There was a look of feral rage in the women's eyes. They gripped the handles of their mops and brooms like quarterstaffs, and turned as one.
The video went dark. The gift shop girl was cut off by a pounding on the castle door. Under the repeated blows, the door began to splinter.
(This was a spur of the moment, extemporaneous story I spun out on Twitter this afternoon. Comments appreciated.)
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