City Gates

Photo credit: Verity Cridland on / CC BY

They locked the gates at night. Thick renaissance walls form an impenetrable, two-and-a-half-mile circle that embraces the city. Three gates are the only access. The walls have protected the city since Roman times, and when the Romans left, the city improved them, making them taller, thicker and equipped them with cannons. At ten o’clock, the guards shut and bolt the gates. They guard the city and open the gates at dawn. Invaders never breached the walls, and people felt safe.

Locked gates that deterred invaders also made us prisoners, vulnerable to an assault from inside the gates. One deep dark January night, lit by a full moon, the assault began, and a young girl died. Her blood oozed, seeping onto the cobbled streets. Concerned mounted, and the constables investigated. Death arrived with the next full moon, the victim was an old man and tensions rose.

For an entire year, every full moon heralded the death of one of us. Thirteen people, brutally murdered, men, women, young and old alike, he didn’t care who he killed. Scared and unsure we looked for answers. They talked of leaving the gates open at night, some thought it foolish to lock the killer inside the wall. The constables instituted a curfew at dusk and tore through the city following every lead. They locked a merchantman in jail and we relaxed, thinking the worst was over. Until the next full moon brought another death. They released the merchantman, and we suspected one another. The constables interrogated everyone, desperate for clues. The citizens demanded they find the killer, but the murder’s the identity remained a mystery.

New Year’s parties were quiet, and we heeded our training. We locked the gates and secured our families behind bolted doors. We trembled in fear, hoping he wouldn’t find us. In January the full moon lit our city, the dawn came, and we unlocked the gates. The constables searched, and we worried. No one was dead that morning. Months passed, and the killer’s blade tasted no blood. Our lives returned to normal.

Thirteen years ago, a killer stalked our city, killing thirteen with each full moon then vanished. For thirteen years, full moons shone brightly, and no one died until last night.


Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

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