William Hicks

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 should you find yourself outside the splintered gates of the Castle

Meriant in a snowstorm, do not panic. that smell isn't blood but

rusted chains beneath the snow. you can smell them only because

you were expecting to smell blood. resist the urge to chain yourself

by the gates and push instead through them. you will proceed into

darkness and find your way by whistling with pebbles in your

mouth. having made your way into the courtyard you will

experience one of the great wonders of the Castle Meriant.

abandoned as it was in the woods and not at the the top of a hill

covered in grapevines (which would leave tourists out of breath)

you will not hear any birds, but you will hear the echo of birds off

the remaining stone walls. it is important never to think you are

hearing the birds—it is so easy to go insane in the Castle

Meriant. especially in a snowstorm

 

 after listening to the echoes of birdsong for four days, you must

hurry, for there is a trapdoor in the northwest corner of the

courtyard that leads to safety and it is getting buried under snow

and more snow. any moment now it will be buried under so much

snow you'll never be able to clear it all and you will freeze to

death in the courtyard of the Castle Meriant. dig as fast as you

can (taking care not to sweat) until your fingernails scrape at a

rusty black iron ring in a trapdoor in the northwest corner of the

courtyard of the Castle Meriant. pull open the trapdoor and climb

inside taking care to thank the echoes of the birds for their

concerto. if you forget yourself and thank the birds, the echoes

will be offended and take the trolley home and complain to the

commuters about you and not come back till summer. if you

remember yourself, convert to epicureanism

 

 now you will smell blood from time to time, but don't worry. this

is not a dungeon but a cellar and it was used as a women's

hospital during the second world war. the blood you smell is

merely the blood of birthing rooms—just think of the placentas

discarded here! you will find no shortage of candle drippings on

the gritty stone steps and by ripping a hair from your living scalp

you may turn it into light once more. foxtrot your way down the

stairs and you will find four hospital beds lined up beneath a

shabby stuffed crow. forget to foxtrot and the crow will leave.

forget the foxtrot and your partner will leave. lay out on the

ground. if you fall asleep be careful not to dream yourself a

mother. it would be very dangerous to go into labour in the

Hospital Meriant in a snowstorm without the nurses nearby. feel

free to dream yourself a nurse. or a baby.

 

 epilogue: in the morning, leave the same way you came in. be

sure to thank the crow.

 

WILLIAM HICKS is a poet from Kennesaw, Georgia. He recently earned a Master's degree in physics, and he is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Brown University. He spends his days writing, his afternoons calculating, and his evenings explaining why he does both.