September 22, 2013 4 Comments
Finally…, I’ve had time to finish part two of my short story.
Hope you like it:
Thanks to Elin from Sweden for the moth! Check out her page here:
Her eyes flickered open.
For a second, she was lost, a castaway of sleep swept away in a storm of confusion and drowsiness.
“Jesus,” she mumbled, sitting up, rubbing her eyes.
Fatigue had taken control of her body, paralysing her thoughts.
Blinking, she forced herself to focus on the room
As objects came into view, memories slowly shunted into place.
And with it, a steady pulsing.
The monitor was awake.
“What the hell?” Memories snapped into place.
“Oh God! The monitor…, Mademoiselle Sanson.”
On the bedside table, a soft red light blinked for her attention.
She squinted at the tiny readout.
“Temperature dropping. Movement… and… sound! Jesus!” Heart pumping, she jumped up, the tiny device gripped tightly in her hand.
Slipping on her shoes, she opened the door and stepped silently into the corridor. The small lamp close to the clock at the end of the hall was still on. Shedding a friendly amber glow, it revealed enough of the carpeted passageway for her to see.
Across from her, Mademoiselle Sanson’s door was closed.
That room was not her concern: the white panelled door further down marked the primary objective.
Halfway there, she stopped. A sound left her frozen to the spot. Listening, her heart thumped in her chest.
From just beyond the door came the distinctive shunt of a chair being pushed across a carpet and the subsequent wood-on-wood tapping as the chair met the table edge.
Cool air stroked the back of her neck.
This was followed by another recognisable sound: a crack, like that of glass being hit, pierced the soft shadows of the hallway.
She held her breath.
“Focus,” she whispered to herself. It was the only mantra she knew.
She listened for footsteps.
But there remained only the methodical ticking of the clock, its inner workings gently marking out time… clack, clack, clack….
Trepidation fought with confidence as she waited.
But determination won.
She moved to the door.
How often had she stood before such white panelled guardians? Guardians that always keep their secrets.
Too many times.
Too many times waiting, preparing to go in.
But it was those few seconds, those silent moments of unease; those few seconds where you had a chance to back away; those few seconds before facing the darkness, the unknown.
Hands sweating, she looked down at the device again.
All movement had stopped.
Silence bred apprehension.
Her mind raced.
She clutched at the straws of composure, trying to control her breathing, her thoughts.
What had she heard? “The sound of the glass. It wasn’t the window going in,” she whispered, her breathing slowing.
“No…, something else.”
Looking back to the white panelled door, she put out her hand. Caressing the surface, her skin prickled with cold. The device in her hand blinked: red digits, decreasing.
“Looks like someone left the fridge open?”
Her breath formed tiny clouds before her, dissipating against the door.
The cold enveloped her.
“Getting colder. Freezing, in fact.”
She breathed into her hands and gently moved her feet up and down, trying to get warm.
“Come on, girl, focus. It’s nothing new.”
Reaching for the brass doorknob, spidery fingers reflecting on the cracked convex surface, she cast apprehension away and opened it.
Her breathing stopped for those fleeting seconds as it swung open.
A cold draught washed over her cheeks, taking her breath.
The “V” of light extended across the carpet.
She tensed her body, eyes scanning, expecting to see movement, something scuttling for cover….
The light revealed nothing.
Wasting no time, she fumbled for the light switch, bathing the room in light.
She stood ready.
Everything, the furniture, curtains, book shelves, and corners, appeared unchanged.
“No…, wait. The table.”
She took two steps into the room.
The round mahogany table, which had stood under a painting on the far wall, was now in the middle of the room. A brass candlestick had been placed upon a small embroidered place mat.
On the floor, close to the door, she saw her other recording device. Retrieving it, she placed it onto a nearby cabinet. Its tiny lights still recording activity in the room.
From behind, she heard soft footsteps approaching.
The gaunt figure of Mademoiselle Sanson, arms clutched around her nightgown, face as white as a mime artiste, appeared in the dim light.
“Mademoiselle Clements. It has happened again, has it not?” Her voice a shimmering whisper.
“From the looks of it, yes.”
“Oh, my…” The old woman put her hand to her mouth.
Shuffling along, she tentatively entered.
“Be careful, it’s very cold.
“It is always cold, here. I know.” Her was barely audible.
She inspected the room.
Her hand shaking, she pointed to the centre of the room.
“The table. It’s moved. Oh…, this has never happened before,” her voice was a croaking whisper; fearful of an intruder in their midst?
She looked back at the young woman, eyes full of foreboding in her ashen face, fear sending tiny tremors of fear through her body.
She looked to the curtains, eyes wide, mouth agape.
Clutching the lapels of her nightgown, she drew back. Her distress manifesting itself as a whine. Her eyes wide in frantic fear, she clutched at the other woman’s arm.
“I heard something,” her voice a fearful whisper. “Across there, by the curtains. We must get out. It’s an intruder!”
But Mademoiselle Clements didn’t move. Taking gentle hold of the old woman’s arm, she pointed across the room, to the visible gap below the curtains.
“There is no one there,” she whispered. “Wait here.”
The old woman reluctantly let go, and quickly sought safety at the study door, watching the young woman move to the curtains.
Fists clenched, the young woman approached the window. Cautiously negotiating the chairs, she looked for movement.
Had something soft brushed against the glass?
She stopped, listening.
With slow, decisive movements she gripped both sides of the curtains.
Holding her breath, she readied herself, her arms tense.
In one fluid movement, she drew them apart, curtain rings chinking like little bells.
There was nothing.
Just the curving alcove at her knees, the low window sill filled with ornaments, and above, the multiple dark panes of glass, painting her reflection.
A counter world spun in dim shadows, showing her the room and a thin figure over her shoulder, waiting expectedly.
But…, beyond…, only darkness.
A darkness so compelling, so deep, that she had to keep hold of the curtains: safety lines to reality.
“Come on. You’re tired. Concentrate.” She said to herself, confidence waning in full view of the abyss before her.
She blinked, bemused.
“But where’s the street gone?”
She leaned forward, looking right, down the street she’d followed.
“Where are the traffic lights? Has there been a power cut?”
She saw only darkness. No houses, no streetlights… what had taken the light?
She put her face closer to the glass, squinting into the black.
But it wasn’t really black.
It was different, it was… She put her finger to the cold glass.
As it touched the coolness, the darkness erupted.
Fearing the glass would crack, she pushed herself back.
Instinctively, she put her hands up to protect her face, shocked by the sudden mass of movement.
Stumbling back, hitting her back against the table, she turned and went down on her haunches.
She stared at the window.
No shards had flown across the room.
The window was intact.
Standing up, realisation put a nervous smile on her lips, and she let out an embarrassed laugh.
“It can’t be?”
Fluttering wings, thousands of them. A swarm of black moths all pushing together, a seething mass of speckled wings and antennae, all seeking the light.
“Moths!” she cried. “They’re only moths, Mademoiselle Sanson,” she said, grinning.
But the old woman didn’t answer.
“Only moths. Come and have a look.”
Turning around, she wanted to show the old woman they were but harmless insects. “They’re only…”
Mademoiselle Clements smiled at the old woman.
But those sunken old eyes didn’t register her, they looked right past her, into the night.
“Moths,” came the old voice. “Living in darkness, you pray to the moon. Old masters of disguise. Always masters of disguise.”
“Yes. They are. But it’s a normal phenomenon. Happens quite often, especially with houses like this one.”
“Houses like this one?”
“Yes, old houses with histories.” She wanted to keep smiling, chase fear away. “Come and look. They can’t get in.”
Breaking her trance, Mademoiselle Sanson finally moved, going closer to the table, squinting at the window.
“But there are so many. What does it mean? Is it the light?”
“Partly. But there could be other reasons. Sometimes they follow special paths.”
“Paths? What kind of path?”
Mademoiselle Clements, her composure improved, moved away from the window, looking towards the shelves of books.
She’d have to tell her.
Couldn’t put it off.
She just hoped she wouldn’t know. The underlying truth.
“They are following a path here, because…, they were probably called here.”
She moved to the bookshelf. “I’ve seen it before with spiders, worms, and termites, that sort of thing. They’re sometimes drawn to places that are imbued with, shall we say, energy.”
“Part of this haunting, you mean? And they are the proof? But why?”
“Mademoiselle Sanson, as I was walking to the study I heard the sound of glass being hit. Not broken. Whatever made that noise also moved the chairs, the table, and the candle. It put out three chairs. There are only two of us in this house, Mademoiselle Sanson. So I think it had a reason for doing that. And the books, look at all these old books.”
She moved towards the shelves, her eyes scouring the shelves.
“I heard the sound of glass being hit. I thought it was the window, but…” she studied the first glass door. “Yes, here we are.”
She put her hand up to the glass.
She let her hand spread over the fractures, following them up.
“They weave a strange lattice. Such glass shouldn’t crack in this way. Am I right, Mademoiselle Sanson?” she asked, looking around.
The old woman nodded.
The young woman continued her examination.
“A book has been pulled out,” she said, going up on tiptoes. “But…, I can’t quite read the title. Mademoiselle Sanson, could you help me?”
“It’s a book of deeds.”
Her answer was immediate, her tone unsettling in its confidence.
The young woman’s hand hovered over the glass, hesitant.
“Yes…, you’re right.”
Her mind contemplating that sudden tone.
The old woman broke her concentration.
Shuffling around the table, she put her hands on one of the chairs.
“Three chairs, you say. Why would it do that?”
Mademoiselle Clements fixed her stare on the books.
“Yes, why would it do that? A good question. I expect it wants to talk.”
She stared at the books.
So many books which shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t still exist.
Ancient spines spun by binders centuries ago.
Tales that were silenced, hidden, stolen, taken away from prying eyes. Trophies of a kind.
Mademoiselle Clements’ thoughts raced, digging up facts she’d heard an eternity ago.
A voice had told her about the burning of feudal title-deeds. Burning them for a reason.
She let her hand float over the glass, mesmerised. Would they tell her something?
But her thoughts were once again disturbed by the presence: a pervading pressure on her temples and the coolness in the air, as though it was thickening.
The cold spun a web of icy prickles across the back of her hand and a cool draught wafted across the back of her neck.
The temperature was dropping again.
She looked at the old woman.
To her astonishment, she saw that it wasn’t only her voice that had changed, even her face seemed… different…, more colour seeping through her veins.
Even her eyes, flitting over the antique ledgers, bore a sharpness she hadn’t noticed before. Her posture too, was more erect, the stoop hardly recognisable.
“It wants a séance. That’s what you wanted to tell me, isn’t it. A séance to find out.” Her voice had a sudden, unsettling air of confidence.
Cold air wrapped around her.
The moths buffeted the window.
The old woman turned to her visitor.
“It’s getting cold again.”
“If it is here to talk to us, if it has something to say, then I’ll need you to help me. I want you to tell the truth, especially if it wants to know specific things.”
“The truth!” the old woman spluttered, her head cocked to one side, her ashen complexion coming to life. “What do you mean?”
Her eyes, forming dark slits, studied the young woman. A slanting sneer revealed a brooding suspicion, an unease.
It appeared she’d let a mask slip away from her face, momentarily. In that moment did that face belong to another Mademoiselle Sanson?
The air was freezing now, suffocating.
A presence was amongst them.
Mademoiselle Clements tried her best not to show her sudden dismay at the woman’s outburst. Instead, she looked to the book shelf.
“The books could, for some reason, be attracting it? Memories locked into the paper. We should…”
The light dimmed, shimmered, brightened and returned to its normal radiance.
Cold air clawed at her throat, and her breath clouded into small plumes.
It was happening again.
A deep resonating knocking, an unsettling sound, rose up from deep below the house.
Like a mighty hammer it pounded the floor, shaking objects on the cabinet, rattling doors.
Another came and then another, great thunderous sounds that sent ornaments shifting along the sideboard.
As the intensity and frequency rose, the book of deeds moved.
In quick, shifting spasms, it twitched, trying to free itself, pushing against neighbouring books, bucking for space.
Whatever invisible force was at work soon lost patience, for, within seconds, the book started banging against the shelf. Its agitation growing as it hopped up and down.
The two woman, stunned by the sound, stared at the book, their faces frozen.
Mademoiselle Sanson, once more a fearful stooping creature, fretting and tearful, called across, he cries pitiful.
“What does it want…?”
But her cry was silenced, as the presence demanded their attention
An invisible hand pulled at the book, drawing it out, hammering it repeatedly against the glass.
As the sound shook the table from deep below the house, the book banged against the glass again and again.
Mademoiselle Clements could take it no more. She quickly moved away from the glass, across to the old woman and the apparent safety of the hallway.
Behind her, the cracks in the glass grew longer, spreading the length of the door.
As she pulled the old woman into the hallway, the sound beneath the room reached a terrifying crescendo.
“Cover your eyes it’s going to…”
But her words were lost as shards of glass flew out, pushed out by the powerful energy controlling the book.
The ledger itself was propelled from the shelf.
As it landed on the carpet, the booming sound ceased abruptly.
The two woman, faces white from the shock of what had transpired, stood in the hallway.
And, as the moths resumed their fruitless attempt to enter the house, Mademoiselle Clements felt a presence, an icy cold hand caressed her cheek. In her mind it called out
“It is here.”
Her body trembling, the old women looked up, her face terror stricken.
“What… what does it want?”
She looked at the three chairs.
“About the house?”
Mademoiselle Clements looked down at the fallen book.
“I hope so…”
To be continued…