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Friday, 29 July 2011

The Black Rose (novel) : Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – Resolve


“I want to know what’s up there!”, she had hissed through clenched teeth. She just couldn’t understand why Ann didn’t want to support her theory that someone in the house attacked Julian. “Who?” She asked. “I don’t know.” She replied, acknowledging her partial defeat against her will. Why did she feel like she’d already lost the debate?
“Of course you don’t. Why and how, Eliza? Why would anyone do that, especially Henry and Hawkins.”
“I don’t know.”
“Henry maybe strange but he’s always been good to you, both of you, hasn’t he?”
“He has.”
“And I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly like Hawkins either, but to think her capable of something like this.
“It sounds crazy, but no other explanation makes sense.”

“Sense? You actually believe you’re making sense?”
“Yes.” She whispered. “In comparison.”
It was no use. Ann believed the bat thing. All the internet articles in the world could not persuade her otherwise. She was on her own again.
“Liza, please. You’re paranoid.” Ann sat down next to her and put her hand on her shoulder. “You’re tired and upset, it’s quite understandable in a time like this. You couldn’t be anything but too tense to look at this clearly right now.”
As if.
“Get some sleep, girly. You’ll feel much better in the morning trust me.”
“Maybe you’re right. I really could use some sleep.” But it won’t change my beliefs one bit.
“Alright then, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?”
Eliza turned away and folded her arms. She was crying, but she bit her tongue to get her eyes dry. She nodded.
Ann looked at her with a worried eye.
“It’s fine, go, I can use some time to myself. To clear my head.”
“I understand. Good night. And hang in there.”
“Sure.”
I’m not giving up. But I’m so... tired, I have to... She stretched out on the bed and fell asleep instantly.

Aw. My back hits the glass hard. The girl keeps coming closer. I have to get out. She upsets me. I’m too afraid to turn around and keep facing the faceless girl, but my fingers are frantically searching for an exit on their own. I feel the glass up for cracks, openings, but the surface is always just as smooth. The girl is just a few inches away from me. She raises her horrible head. I scream. Only now I realize how much she resembles me. My sounds are swallowed up by the absent walls. Nothing but resonating silence. The girl grins, an evil crooked smirk that looks faintly familiar, like the echo of something she had long forgotten. Then the apparition freezes. I hear a child screaming. The cries are everywhere, want to help, it is so hard to determine where they come from.
“Hello? Where are you?”
“Help!” I hear again, it is as if the child calls to me from under water. I take a step forward and look around. The mirror is liquid again. Its surface wrinkles. There is a form behind it, a dark shape, like a shadow on the surface of a pond. The waters are suddenly still.
I see him clearly now. It is Julian. He looks at me desperately, I can’t hear him anymore, but I see his lips move and the shapes they make: “help, please, help.”
His little fists bang onto the glass, even that sound is swallowed by the mirror.
“Julian!”
I place my hands on the glass against his, I cannot feel his warmth, only a chill that runs down my entire spine.
“Honey.”
He’s crying. He’s scared.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m right here, sweetheart.”
His cries and the banging of his fists and palms intensify.
An arm from the other side of the mirror wraps itself around his throat. He fights.
“Julian!!”
The glass won’t budge, no matter how hard I smacks into it with my shoulder.
The arm detaches from the mirror and expands into its own silvery, liquid and semi-transparent body. The creature’s features are not to be determined, I can’t help but look straight through them, I can’t grab it, it evades me, but one thing I can tell for sure:  the thing has  the same crooked grin. where did she see this smile before? The being drags him away.
“Hang on, Julian, I’m coming, baby!”
I run forward with my arms stretched out before me. I fall through the mirror and seem to drop down a considerable distance.
“I’m not baby.” I hear his voice say in my ear.
I land with a slight thud. There is something soft below me. I look around. I’m in my room, on my bed.
“Help me, Eliza!”
He’s calling to me again.
“HELP!”
His voice becomes fainter. He’s being pulled away by that thing. I’ve got to get to him, catch up.
I try to get up, but my body is heavy as lead and the bed won’t let go. It’s like I’m glued to it. My sheets are like giant white snakes and tie themselves around me, they keep pulling me back and make the knots tighter till I can barely more at all. I try to scream, but there is no sound. My pillow floats above me like a white cloud, then it drops on my face and smothers my cries. I can’t breathe. Help...Who can help me? Julian? I’m supposed to be helping him. There’s no one else here.
Finally the sheets loosen. Everything is back to normal. I try to free myself from the lifeless linen mass on top of me and want to rise, but a weight keeps me pressed down. I can feel a warm hand on my mouth. I reach for the pillow and push it out of the way so I can see. It’s Ann.
She puts a finger to her mouth to tell me to be quiet. She’s laughing. What is she laughing about? What’s she doing? I want to scream at her, ask her what the hell is wrong with her, but a cry of pain breaks through the unnatural quiet from the other end of the hall. It cuts straight through my heart.
“Julian!”
Ann dissolves immediately. I got to my feet and run for the door. I dart through the hallway as fast as I possibly can, but the hall won’t end. No matter how much I try, I can’t get one step closer to Julian’s room, the distance just stays the same.
I run and run until my vision’s blurry, I see spots of white. I’m exhausted. I’ll black out. I stop, frustrated, why can’t I get to him? I lean against the wall panting.
A hear a squeak. There is a door in front of me, it opens.
“Julian!”
I rush in, hold onto the door frame and stumble on, still dizzy.
Julian lies outstretched on the bed, hands folded, eyes closed. I failed...
The ground is suddenly dangerously close, I’m sinking. Something is pressing my shoulders down, my chest, the weight is just too much to bear.
“No, Julian!!”

“Eliza, Eliza! Are you alright?” Ann was jerking her shoulder.
Eliza looked at her. It took a minute to get through to her that she was awake.
“It was just... a bad dream, that’s all.”
“You were screaming.”
“It was nothing.”
“I had to stop you from getting up. I was afraid you’d go sleep-walking down the stairs and trip. You wouldn’t be the first.”
“That does sound like me, doesn’t it? “
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, it was nothing.”
Ann sat down next to her on the bed. “So what was it about, the dream?”
“Julian.” She shivered and clutched her sheets around her. “He was calling for help, my help, and I couldn’t get to him. He needed me and I wasn’t there.” She wiped the tears away. “I abandoned him.”
“You haven’t abandoned him.”
“But I failed him nevertheless. I wasn’t there to save him.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You can’t blame yourself for what happened to him. Besides, Julian is going to be alright. No harm done.”
“No harm done? What about next time? And so long as I don’t know and personally eliminate the cause of his injuries, whatever it is, there can be a next time. Who says he’ll be so lucky then? I might as well fail, and this time he could very well be dead.”
“Don’t talk that way. You’re making too much of a deal out of this. Why can’t you just be glad everything turned out so well.”
“Well?”
“Given the circumstances. Besides, it is thanks to you that he’s still alive. If you had checked on him an hour later, you really might have been too late. But you got to him on time. There is no use in tormenting yourself over nothing.”
“Maybe you’re right.” She rose. “But I still don’t like the whole thing. You can’t blame me for trying to protect my little brother. Especially since there’s no one else left to.”
“I don’t have any siblings, so I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I understand.”
She smiled. “Thanks. And I’m sorry for waking you up in the middle of the night.”
“It’s alright, I was still up.”
“At this hour?”
“Can’t sleep.”
“Perhaps you should try. This really isn’t healthy.”
“Look who’s talking... You’re quite the night stalker yourself.”
“Hm. I don’t know if there’s any more sleep in it for me tonight though, I’m too afraid I’ll have another dream.”
“Well, I’m going to try to turn in. Take care of yourself, alright?”
“Will do. Goodnight.”
“’night.”
The door fell shut. What to do with her time? She picked up a book, but the words were just tiny black blurs on the page.
Should she go see the attic again? Ann wouldn’t thank her for it, if she went without her, but she couldn’t wake the poor girl now. Maybe just a little peek?
She threw on a translucent long vest over her thin nightgown and headed for the stairs on as light a foot as she could. It was chilly. She clutched the fabric. Did someone leave a window open?
She put her hand on the rail and was about to make the first step when she heard the notes of piano-music from the drawing room, quite clearly this time. Was it Ann? She had heard her close her door, she was in the room next to her after all. Perhaps she just didn’t hear her open it again. She’d take a look downstairs.
With every step the music became louder, she could almost taste it in the air. A melody sweet, yet so darkly melancholy. It was infatuating. Like the soundtrack of dreams.
She was desperate to know who played such a tune. It was quite unfamiliar to her. It wasn’t one of those classic songs played so much they were almost banal despite their original genius. This was something else. Something real. Pure and unspoiled.
She crept through the halls and sprinted to the door. The music was still playing full swing. The same hypnotic rhythm, over and over.
Improbable though it was, it hardly came as a surprise to her that she found the room empty, yet again. But this time, she was sure of what she heard. She wasn’t imagining things, there was definitely something going on. Something potentially paranormal. She wondered if there couldn’t be some truth to Ann’s ghost stories after all. Maybe it was the skinned count haunting the castle. Maybe not.
She caressed the surface of the piano and the keys. It didn’t feel any different than usual.
With a feeling of an unfulfilled desire aching inside, she retreated to bed, having nothing else to do to pass the time till morning.

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