Beneath the Dust

My 2005 attempt at NaNoWriMo.. lessee how well it goes this year. ^^; A series of interconnected short stories, all taking place in the same room, over the course of maybe a hundred or two years, showing the similarities despite the differences in the human experience over time, showing what remains in the room even when the people have gone..

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Maman, must I really stay

in this room alone?" Casting her eyes about, she tries to hide her dismay in a low voice, but her attempted subtlety does little to aid her case.
     "Cecelia Marie, you ought to be ashamed!" The older woman's rebuke is sharp, but also murmured softly, to maintain polite appearances. "I know the Perkinses haven't done at all well keeping house, but that is why we ladies are here to help today. And I do think you are quite old enough to manage neatening up a few piles of clothing and such by yourself."
     Sighing softly, she forces a weak smile and nods her acquiescence. "Of course, Maman." She waits for her mother to leave the room, and listens as her cheerful accented voice weaves among the soprano chatter of her fellow members of the church's Ladies Society. Turning about, she then lets her eyes drift resignedly around the room. Though the piles of ragged, dirty clothing are large, the various pieces of furniture, fabric, knock-knacks, toys, broken diningware, and other sundry items are jumbled in hopeless disarray, it is not the mess which had prompted her childish request. Being both eleven years old and her mother's daughter, she knows well how to approach the work set before her.
     What troubles her is something far more nebulous, not easily explained to a bustling mother. There is some feeling of dinginess, some sort of ugliness, which her inner senses cringe at the thought of touching. She shakes her head vigorously, golden ringlets brushing against rosy cheeks.
     "Now, I mustn't disappoint Maman," she gently admonishes herself, as she straightens her gloves (her oldest pair, with the small stain of a drop of tea on the inside of a thumb). "Perhaps it is only the dirt and old dust after all. Certainly there could be nothing dangerous in an empty old room."
     After letting her gaze meander a moment and take in her surroundings, she decides to begin near the window opposite the door, thinking that perhaps if she clears some of the piles from the windowsill, the extra light allowed in will brighten things somewhat. She straightens the grey-blue cap on her curls, and runs her gloved hands down her apron, ensuring it is properly smoothed over her dress - it may be her work dress, but she has no desire to dirty it any more than need be. There are still a number of people about the house, and think of walking home with a smut-covered dress! She flushes brightly at the very thought, and sets gingerly to work, sifting through a pile of fabric and clothing.
     At first, her motions set dust into the air about her, and she coughs delicately, knitting her brows. The initial cloud clears most of the debris from the pile, however, and so she progresses through countless bits of fabric remnants and old clothing. Sorting them into separate piles of dresses, shirts, pants, and mere scraps, she wrinkles her nose occasionally at the dreadfully unfashionable old prints. It seems little wonder that they should be so dusty, and so long untouched! Before long, she has settled into a pattern of routine, nearly folding and placing in more careful piles the various fabrics. Though she would like to place many pieces in a pile for discarding, and knows that she ought not make such decisions for others, and waits for the adjudication of one of the ladies.
     She works diligently, and has soon reached the window, which stares blankly out toward the street, no curtains nor other dressings to often its gaze. The discolored paint is peeling away from the old wood of the sill, and she picks idly at one fragile curl. A long-dead vine lines the bottom of the window frame, its clay pot mottled from moisture and nutrients once pulled from now-barren soil. Clucking her tongue in unconscious echo of her mother, she gingerly sweeps the detritus on the sill into a small pile, then brushes it into a scrap of stained fabric to be thrown away. The pot, she sets aside a moment, intending to empty the depleted soil out the window into the neglected flowerbed beneath it. Frowning, she pushes at the window frame, making small sounds of frustration as it refuses to move. Pausing for breath a moment, she moves aside a child's chair, and steps up against the wall, directly in front of the obstinate window. From her new ground, she is able to gain better leverage against the stubborn wood, swollen by the warmth of late spring. Pushing again, se feels the frame give a tony, begrudging slide, and gasps in surprise as it quickly shoots upward, giving her barely time to stop pushing.
     She leans her light curls out the window a moment, feeling the late morning sun brighten her cheeks, and the rain-sweetened breeze freshen her spirit. "There now, a bit of air will help this old room loads, I bet."
     As she shifts her weight back to the drab interior, her hand jerks toward her apron in unconscious reaction, and she gasps involuntarily, having felt something brush against her glove. Her eyes quickly dart about - and she smiles abashedly to herself. "Only some old letters, the breeze must have moved them..." Inquisitively, she pulls the crumbling papers free from their place, jambed in along the window frame. Thin brows furrowing, she turns the bits of paper over and over, holding them up to the light, peering closely. Each piece is perhaps the size of her palm, the edges ragged and torn. The paper is a little thick, like that of a novelty book, however no lighthearted amusement is clumsily printed on the pages.
     Nothing at all is printed on the papers, nor written by any hand.
     Shrugging, she sighs and sets the scraps on the pile of trash. "I suppose no-one really ever finds mysterious old love letters... It certainly would be nice to." Turning back to her work, only half of her sight is locked in the room - the rest slips into idle daydream. A young woman, with her hair neatly pinned up and a soft flowing dress cascading down her slim frame, glides gracefully across the room to stand at the window. Peering out, her soft eyes scan the dusky, twilit street, and after a moment smile softly at her hopeful folly. With slender, delicate fingers, she carefully folds together a few small slips of paper, covered in fine script. She lovingly tucks he letters into the frame of the open window, fussing over them for a minute or so, tacking care hat they will remain in place until their recipient should come alone and retrieve them. Suddenly footsteps approach from another room, and---
     She turns quickly to a new pile, a few tattered jackets and old toys jumbled between long-unused furniture, bringing her attention back to the task at hand. Remembering the several small children in the Perkins family, she discards only those toys which are broken beyond all hope of repair - though most are quite aged, she knows they may yet be enjoyed. She smiles wryly as she lifts a rag doll from the pile, noting that one braid seems to be missing. Memory weaves through imagination, an she can see a younger brother, rather like her own, laughing and jeering as he runs from his sister's room, stolen doll dangling by her patchwork arm from his chubby fist.
     "Cecelia? How are you doing, dear?"
     Turning quickly about, she looks up at the beautiful yet imposing figure of her mother. hair tightly pinned, fine features firmly set, neat and exacting even in her work dress and apron.
     "I've gotten all the way to the window, Maman, and I'm almost to that cushioned chair over there. All of these are new, sorted piles."
     She nods, looking critically over the young girl's work. "You've done well, but do keep yourself from dawdling now, we still have much to do. I will send Ann in shortly, to help you here once she has finished her portion of the kitchen."
     She smiles and nods in acknowledgment, the dull, endless task ahead brightened by the prospect of someone to talk with. And Ann is an enjoyable conversationalist, always full of the most interesting stories about everyone in town, overheard from her mother's visitors at tea. And she had been meaning to ask if Ann had learned anything new about their school teacher's new beau - a few of their classmates had seen him once or twice, and he was terribly handsome, but little more is known of him, and they are all dying to uncover more.
     As her mother's footsteps recede from the room, she folds the coat in her arms, and adds it to a pile. Stepping in front of the window, she gazes through it a moment more, breathing in the spring air, her eyes passing idly through the years, seeing the trees grown smaller and larger, unnamed faces passing between them. her hands work of their own volition, folding a patched skirt, as she daydreams the ghosts of the room into amiable forms, changing them from fearful to familiar, extending her own fantasies of gossip, amusing herself while waiting for company to entertain her.

Monday, February 13, 2006


That last story was the final one I worked on for NaNoWriMo, for anyone who was keeping count. I got most of the way through it, and then basically died. meh. And then.. that wasn't exactly the easiest story to go back to, as I'm sure you can imagine. So I wrote about a page more, somewhere between December and February, and finally made myself finish it. Then it took awhile to get back on track.. so as of five minutes ago, I've just about finished the next one. ^^; So yeah, a little bad. This'll be number eighteen, and I've gotta have.. oh goodness, really, like twice this amount for the site. Here's hoping I get lots of spurts of inspiration in the next few weeks. I'm thinking I might start writing some of them a good bit shorter, though.. thinking about the venue for these, that really might be a better idea in any event, and with some stories, they really don't need to be terribly long. (Part of the problem is that when I switched over into a new notebook, the new one was physically larger, as well as college ruled. Yeah. So I'd been used to writing like near ten pages per story in the first notebook, which is really like three or four pages in the new one. But I felt I should write like seven.. so, yes.)

I'm done rambling. Really. Just letting you know updates will be a little all over the place.. hopefully not too unreasonable though, I reallyneed all these stories done in like a month or two. So.. cheers of encouragement much appreciated. ^^;;

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The room is dim,

the only light that which spills beneath the door, trickling over the worn wooden floorboards, a pale gold stream caught and held back by the coating of dust on the floor. Small bits of dirt and debris cast disturbingly long shadows behind them, stretching back to merge with the deeper shadows which fill the rest of the room. There is little else which can be made out in the room, but there is a strong sense of isolation, of emptiness. The windows are blocked by heavy drapes, and behind them thick dark paper covers the glass, letting through neither light nor peeking eyes. There is an uneasiness here, a sense of fear and unrest, and a heavy, dank odor. Silence hangs heavily in the thick air, which seems to make mere breathing difficult. It is musky and warm, as an old unused attic in midsummer's heat, though the room is on the ground floor; there is no air movement, the blocked windows which have long been unopened drawing in only heat.
     Muffled by the dusky atmosphere, there is the sound of slow breathing, and what might be sobs, mixed with a few unintelligible sounds. The voice is human - but what it produces are far nearer the fever-induced mutterings of one long-ill then they are to words. Yet there is a plaintiveness to them, a haunting sense about the high, soft sounds, which give way for a moment to sudden light prattlings, as of a young child's first babblings. At times the sounds form combinations almost like those of words, but the tongue is clumsy and slow, even these chatterings slurred and unintelligible.
     A sudden loud thud resounds through the wall, causing it to shudder violently, and the voice to halt in a frightened gasp.

     For a long time, there is again only the faintest sound of breath in the musty silence and blinding dark.

     Some time much later, there is a knock on the door, and a low voice. "Stay back, don't come near."
     There is a slight soft scuffling, as of one being startled awake, but then silence returns, only breath and darkness. The warning is not necessary - she knows she cannot approach, and the pain from rebukes for her few attempts are more than enough reminder. Though she does not understand the words, she has learned their intent.
     Also, the brightness beyond the doorframe frightens her, she cannot look toward it without searing pain. She shies away as a sliver of bright light slides across the room, swallowing a whimper of agony. There is a light thump on the floor and a slightly louder grating sound - and though her voice is silent, she cannot hold back her stomach's eager plea nor her mouth from watering. In spite of her want, she dares not look up for fear of the brightness and the sharp words which might come. The words pain her ears; they have grown to hear the smallest details in the still room, and do not take kindly to sudden loudness.
     There is a sliding thud as the door closes tightly, followed by the shimmering sound of a chain and the heavy clunk of a bolt thrown, though she does not know what these last two sounds are. Nor does she stop to wonder, they are customary and she has long grown used to them. Besides, there are more immediate concerns: She immediately scampers across the floor, her palms and knees callused and long used to the rough wood, hardly noticing the occasional splinter unless they become infected, as they sometimes do. Delighted, she finds her prize well within her reach; there have been times it was not so.
     One particularly terrible instance persists in her vague memory - her sustenance had been once thrown to the other side of the doorway. By mistake or design, she did not know nor consider, for the motives of other persons are not a concept she has ever been exposed to. All she knows is the chain which bids her ankle to the immense wardrobe will not allow her to reach even the door, let alone beyond it. That time, she had tugged futilely at the chain, to be rewarded only a chafed and bleeding ankle for her efforts. She had tried to find something with which to reach out and move the food closer, but had found nothing which extended her reach more than a foot or so. Even in the dim gloom of the lightless room, she had known it was not nearly enough, and had cried until the wall again shook and made a loud sound, startling her for a time out of her hunger and thirst.
     And she had not eaten until food was brought to her again some very long time later - she has no concept of hours or days, but knew only that her stomach ached with want and her tongue felt large and dry in her mouth.
     But happily this is not the case now, and she eagerly begins picking away bits of the slightly stale bread she has gathered into her lap. She pinches off a tiny piece at a time, eating the smallest morsels slowly. After a few of these, she reaches for the crudely-made tin cup, obviously ancient and abused, never washed. Lifting it to her lips, she delights in the slick wetness as she allows a small trickle run over her lips and tongue, savoring it in her mouth a moment before letting it soothe her throat.
     She shakes her head in glee and contentment, feeling her long matted hair tease lightly over her face, but making no sound. The outside voice is still too near in her memory; she will not risk doing anything to hasten its return. It frightens her.
     She takes a few more pinches of the bread, and a second previous sip of the water, then almost reverently places them in a specific place against the wall. This is as she always does, eating only enough to quell the pangs which twist her insides and keep her from sleeping when she is tired. She does not know when she will be given more. In one certain place, demarcated by some means only she knows, is where after each meal she sets aside what she does not ingest, so she is always able to easily find it in the ceaseless twilight of her world.
     This place is all she remembers. She has no knowledge of anything other, only silence, solitude, hunger, the taste of bread and acrid water, the sleek restraint of metal around her ankle, the ever-present drag on her leg's every motion, the rough bare floor, the feel of dust and oil on her skin, hair falling into her eyes, darkness and thirst and a feral anxiety.
     Yet there must have been a time where once she had contact beyond the fearful voice through the wall and the door. For when her body has taken what it needs from her scant meals, her memory holds that she has always used a bucket to one side of the room. Though, it is possible that she merely used it without forethought once, and then upon realizing some days later that it had been emptied, she had continued to use it. There are times now when it goes for a long while without being mysteriously emptied. More than once its contents, gradually added to as they are, more than filled the bucket, and the pungent liquid spilled over onto the floor, gradually seeping in and between the wooden boards. Eventually the smell had grown so bad she had begun to constantly wretch dryly, and she had barely been able to eat, as the smell had soaked through her tiny store of water and bread, spoiling the taste. She fell into a troubled sleep, feeling hot and cold at once, waking in chill sweat and violent stomach cramps, but too weak to move. This continued for a very long time to her, until upon one waking, she found the smell greatly lessened. Her eyes slowly and hazily focusing, she saw new food on the floor near the doorway, and had eaten eagerly, no longer caring in what pain she had so recently been in. And she continued to use the bucket, and it was empty with slighter greater frequency.
     Having set her precious food aside, she sits still for a time, feeling her body digest. She curiously touches her hands to the small area of distended skin - what was meant to be the softly chubby belly of a child, but now hangs from frail bones with far less cushioning surrounding them than there ought to be. She gurgles quietly, feeling the inner workings of her stunted, scrawny body in amusement, her palms pressed flat against the thin skin guarding her insides.
     Once her stomach has quieted, she curls up near the wardrobe, on a patch of floor that is ever so slightly worn smoother by her having laid thus countless times. She closes her wide eyes, and sleeps, seeing no more colors with eyes closed than with eyes open.

     When she wakes, it is to a light trickle running down the side of her leg, and she scuttles over to hold her groin over the bucket. She shakes her hips a little to cast off the warm drops, then wipes herself with one hand, wiping her hand in turn across the peeling paper on the wall.
     Idly, she pads softly around the room, trailing her hand over the walls, her fingertips tracing an invisible filigree. Her lips move in motions of her own creation, though they make no sound. What games are played are all her own, and she has no words to describe them. Her ears perk - she skitters on all fours over the worn, dirty boards, to kneel up by the panes of paper-covered glass, ducking behind the rough drapes. She seeks no new and wondrous vision before her - sight is one of the senses she pays least heed, for she has long known there is little to see in a dim, bare room.
     Pressing her ear to the rough paper, she feels the smooth coldness of the glass window she has never seen. And she holds herself perfectly still in excited wonder, as she hears a soft pattering on the window, steady and soothing. The sound of the rain is all she knows of it, yet it is enough for her to love. The sound caresses her, as loving fingers she has never felt against her young cheek. She shivers in delight, the thrill inside her too deep for her usual expressions of happiness.
     She remains beside the window until at last the sound slows and fades away, when she places a palm plaintively against the covered window. The drops which seek out the windowpane are the nearest that she has to outside contact, the soft staccato of their conversation the nearest she has known to kindness.
     Lightly, she taps her fingertips against the silent hidden glass, in echo of her now-absent friend. Her eyes fall slowly closed, as the soundless darkness of her isolation again pulls her in to dreamless sleep.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Oh God, how could I have---

I never meant--- I didn't know I--- Of course I knew, but I tried to forget I thought--- I thought---
     It was so easy to, I never thought I would do something like this, I never thought I could--- But she made it so easy, she told me time and again it had to be right, it couldn't be wrong if we felt it that strongly, and truly loved one another, and we did, but--- oh God, how could I have done it? All my life, I never understood, but now I do, it was so easy... too easy... and now I'm torn apart and so is all the world with me, or at least my world, and I can no longer see beyond that...
     And it was there, just there! Every thing in this room is now and then and for always connected to her. There, she often took books from the shelves, or left me notes hidden between the pages of my favorite books. There, she once perched on the table, holding her arms out to me, and I embraced her and we laughed, she felt so warm in my rms. There, her light foot tread on the golden-hued boards, as we danced to a new song which the radio played. There, her dress brushed against the chair, as I leaned her against the wall and kissed her with such passion... There, we closed the drapes, hiding as young lovers from the outside world... There, we lay together, on the sofa, and... and made love. We held each other so many times that I cannot begin to count, we embraced and caressed, there was madness of kisses, our bodies yearned so strongly for each other, we could never long resist.. And oh, it was such heaven to hold her, and to be held by her, to be so close against her warm full bosom, to feel the softness of her skin and gentle grace of her curves and--- and it felt so right! We were so happy while together, so filled with warmth and comfort... and she told me she loved me, and I knew - do I still know? - it was true, her eyes could not have hidden anything from me. We loved, and still she loved him, and I... I let her love me, for oh, God, I loved her! My every thought was to her happiness, all of my concerns were bent on how to please her... I gave no thought to myself, for I had no need to - she knew before I did myself what I most needed. She knew me far better than I knew myself...
     Ha. Far better, it seems... I would never have known I was a man capable of loving another man's wife. I wonder is she saw that within me, and so chose to--- No, I cannot believe that. She loved him, and loves him still.
     I was an unexpected accident, a small scratch on an otherwise smooth surface, a rough spot on a polished floor. I am a stain that can never quite be removed, as she is to me. I can never be rid of her, though I should never see her again.
     But I will... I shall see her on the street, or in the company of friends, at holiday parties and on social visits.
     For if I ended my friendship with her husband... there would be many questions I could not answer.
     And for all the times that I will see her, all the rest of my days, never again will I see her in my arms. May God strike me down if ever I do. I have sinned enough for one lifetime in my past, I will seek to make my future as blameless as ever I may, in hopes that I may be forgive. Does He not say that He will wash us clean, if we truly seek forgiveness of Him? But I have sinned so deeply, and...
     And do I truly regret what I have done? It tears me so deeply inside, thinking that I could, even now, when it has ended, the knowledge of this, I could ruin entirely what might otherwise have been a full lifetime of joy for them. I would shatter that trust, and true trust is so rare, and so precious, but I have jeopardized that for them. And that knowledge will forever blacken my soul. But... She gave me so much, together we had so much. Never had I truly trusted another soul as I did her, never had I felt my heart be so safe as with her, never had I felt confident in myself, as she allowed me to be... And she was - is - so beautiful, I remember her lips and skin and touch, so caring and tender and delicate, her fingers so sure and skillful. And her eyes, ah! They could melt me in a moment with love, or pin me to a wall with their dominating desire. And her desires ran so hot and passionate.... Her heart and body needed more than one man could provide... and I do not think that such a trait could change so soon, nor, by all appearances, has it. And I wonder what lies in the future of such a woman, when she has promised herself to one man, and already broken that promise once.
     I want with all my heart to have been different, I do not want to be merely one of a string of lovers. And... I do not want her to have to maintain a string of lovers. I do not want her to have to lie, or him to be lied to... and most of all, I could not bear to see her hurt. I know how I have hurt her... I, who knew her better than everyone but him (better, in some ways). And still I was insensitive, and still I broke her heart, and still I did not have it within me to keep her happy. I was not enough, no matter how I longed and how I tried, I always fell short, I could never---
     But we were not meant to be together, we should never have been... though then, it felt so right... God, why did You blind us so? Why fool us into feeling so strongly, and letting us love so strongly that it was more than enough reason for us, more than enough justification for anything we felt moved to do, why--- Oh God, why did You have us ever meet? We have each other so much but now all of that and more is gone, and even the memory is tarnished and stained, even the most beautiful moments have become disfigured, and my chest is torn open every time I think of her, I do not know if it is in hate or in longing but it hurts, God, why let me hurt so deeply? Why wound me so? What purpose could this disaster hold, I know I was wrong, I helped her to break man's most sacred vows but God! You gave us so much love that we grew intoxicated and could not see, I did not know--- but I did! I did and I ran from the truths which tore me from within, I ran from what I knew was right because I was happy. I was happy, I felt--- I felt loved, and important, and cared for, and...
     And I was no longer alone.
     And I knew she needed me. She needed to be told, so often, that she was loved, and she needed to be loved, body and soul, she needed to know she was beautiful. Mirrors lie and so may lovers but she trusted me...
     I do not know if she does still.
     And I do not know myself any longer, that I have done a thing like this... How can I trust myself when I have betrayed my own morals, which all my life I have held so tightly to? Who am I now, for I am not the person I claimed to be, I am no longer the person I made myself, I am---
     I am no longer who I once was, and never will be again. I cannot be what I once was...
     She made me feel so much myself, even as she was slowly siphoning my self away, too slowly for me to notice it... I was subsumed by she who was my only desire, I let myself be overrun. I looked only to her, and hers was the only opinion that mattered, I simply accepted that I had been wrong, and took the reprimands when they came, and then tried... oh God, how I tried! All I wanted was for it to work, but of course it couldn't, sin begets only sin and sorrow, what is grown of sin will never bear the fruit of true happiness. And yet I tried so hard to make it so, I nourished that diseased plant with all of my soul, letting it feed even on my very self, and did not realize it began to strangle me as it grew, taking more and more from me, and trapping what was left...
     I feel I make this too dramatic, yet... yet despite the distance I have forced myself from it, I can still feel her influence on me, I still... I know how easily I could go back, I no longer understand it but I remember how happy I was... I know how securely I blinded myself, though I do not know how it happened... and that is all the more reason I feel its power, for I know not what warning signs to look for. So I keep myself far away... though I long for the innocence of our indiscretions.
     I was happier in my sin than I am in my righteousness.
     I cannot return to her, but nor can I return to who I was before, I am changed and do not know how to find my way...
     I still think of her at night, when my arms ache from having no-one to hold, and my breast cries for hers to be against it... I remember what bliss it was, to lie with her, on the sofa just there, and see her eyes gazing with such love and assurance into mine, and feel her relaxed and trusting in my arms, and the taste of her lips and skin... There is no detail I do not remember, of her body, of her voice, of her laugh, of her gestures and expressions... There is no sensation which I cannot yet feel in my memory, through I shall never truly feel any of them again... I think of her at night, but she will not come to me, nor love me any longer, not even in dreams.
     And I fear that she might, and I miss her so terribly, and---
     I do not want... I wish it had never happened but I do not regret our love, I--- I am stained for ever and a part of me will always be dark with guilt. I am forever grateful for the love she gave me, so many things I needed I would never have gained were it not for her. There is nothing which can be reconciled, I am forever torn in twain, I do not know if I can ever be whole again.
     I had thought she was the answer, we loved so deeply, and gave so much, and shared and felt so much... and it was all--- The love was not wrong, we truly felt it, no regret will ever change that. How can loving someone be wrong? But I--- what we did was so wrong, I do not know if I can forgive myself, I only pray that God may. But what in my world is certain if I will betray even the principles I hold most dear? What sort of person would---
     But it felt so right, to both of us...
     We loved, and we loved fully and deeply... and I wanted to love, there was so much to love about her. So many things about her I admired, I found so much beauty in her, so generous and warm...
     It was so hard to let go, and I am so frightened of letting myself near her again, for I know how much power I gave her over me... and I dare not let it happen again.
     But we were so happy... When we were together, the thought of her being another man's wife never passed through my mind, all I thought of was what I could do to please her, and show her how deeply I loved her. I never questioned, only loved. And I know she yet loved him, as well as me, and I knew he did not suspect, on the rare times I thought of the truth of our situation....

     It would tear him apart if he knew.
     It would tear them apart.
     And I am the cause, I---

     Yet how can I say that love was wrong? It was true between us, it filled out eyes and thoughts and hearts, there was nothing we would not have done for the other, I gave her all I had... and sacrificed even my morals for love.
     And I no longer know what is left of me...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

She often sits up late at night,

when the house breathes softly and can rest, with no voices ringing off of its walls nor feet trampling its floors. The family wonders little that she naps frequently in the day, attributing it to old age alone, but she lets them continue in their illusions, for Heaven knows they would protest and insist it is not healthy for her. As if at this time of life, she cares two figs about what is healthy! In any event, this is the time she keeps to herself, and basks in as a cat in a warm sunbeam. The shadows drape around her as a comforting shawl, and the rich silences soothe her ears. Things move with a comfortable slowness at night, a pace she quite likes. She is no longer in any rush to reach the rest of her life - it has passed, and she is content, feeling no need to press ever-forward, but enjoying to its fullest each moment which comes.
     She sits for a time on the chaise beside the window, looking out past the heavy curtains to see the silvery landscape the moon has painted, with trees stretching dark fingers up to mingle among the stars. Smiling to herself, she remembers when she would have climbed the branches, unladylike as it might have been, just to get a little nearer to the alluring brilliances scattered over the night sky. Yet now, she feels far closer to them than that could ever have brought her - she has learned that the soul and imagination may travel many places the body cannot.
     Getting slowly to her feet, hardly noticing the stiffness she has long grown accustomed to. Crossing the room, she stands before the bookshelf, a thin frail figure, but yet retaining some of the grace it is clear she once possessed. The pale rose of her dressing gown and white of her hair stand in sharp contrast to the richly hued bindings of the books, particularly when an outdoor breeze brushes aside a tree's leafy branch, and a moonbeam falls further into the room to tangle in the shimmering silk of the dressing gown. Gently, she pulls from the shelf three books, setting them quietly down on a bit of empty shelf. She reaches back into the opening they have created, and pulls from the shadows a simple green-bound book, a navy blue ribbon marking a page. She folds this small book beneath her arm, and replaces the other three books, before stepping away and sitting in the rocking chair, which rests beneath the window nearer the bookcase.
     Setting the book in her lap, she reaches to the side, where an ornately-carved end table sits. On the lower shelf of the table is a wooden box with a prettily embroidered handkerchief laying atop it. Reaching inside, her long frail fingers fumble for a minute, then draw out a pencil, letting the box close again as she removes her hand. Turning her eyes back to the still-closed book resting in her lap, she lets her gaze linger, tracing lightly over the subtle entwinings of light and shadow on her silk dressing gown, and the contrast of the deep green suede-jacketed book against the soft rose. Smiling, she runs her fingertips tenderly over the time-softened forest tones, enjoying the pleasure of a nicely-bound journal in which to write. Opening the book, she flips slowly through the warm cream-colored pages fill with small, clear handwriting, written with the careful grace of many years spent in practice. Stopping every now and again to neatly cross out and change a word or phrase, or add a note in a margin, she continues through the pages, not in the least aware of the time which passes. At last, she reaches the end of the writing, and pauses, holding her pencil over the paper a long moment, before lifting her eyes and setting the pencil down to rest.
     She closes her eyes for a time, then slowly opens them. Though the light is dim, it is yet clear that time has not dulled their color, nor their sense of beauty. Again her eyes follow the moonlight, but now as it spills into the room, as a gently breath from the heavens. The golden wood of the floorboards is turned silver, and all the room is paled, coated in the brilliant dusk of stardust. She breathes deeply, sighing in contentment. She has never know another room which captures the beauty of night nearly so well as this. The moon makes graceful the room's age, turning the scars and abrasions of years passing into silver filigree. There is an ever-present sense of substance to the shadows and grey places, and she feels that if she only looks close enough, she will see the translucent figures of those who sat in the room long before herself. But her eyes have grown weak, though they yet shine with interest - she does not call the unseen forms aloud, for she knows that if she is silent and willing, they will whisper soft stories onto the pages before her.
     She gazes for a long moment on a particularly bright patch on the floor, her eyes tracing the outline of the light beside an area of slightly darker shadow, the light seeming to almost shy away from the old stain. After a long moment, her eyes grow brighter, and she immediately sets pencil to paper, nodding and smiling to herself as the words flow with hardly a thought from inspiration to inscription.
     Silently, her thoughts glide between the years, sifting through insight and memory and impressions, faces and voices, things both seen and dreamed. And as her mind finds things useful or especially pretty, it sets them aside, readying them for consumption by the every-flowing words. A lifetime of experiences seen and felt by one in constant sensitive wonder are funneled and channeled between the lovingly worn green covers.
     The light of stars and the moon lap softly against the draping folds of her dressing gown, which shimmers and quivers as she rocks slowly in the chair, and tangle gently in her hair pale as the light itself. All things shimmer quietly in the silence, as if touched by evening dew and then frozen into place, the only movement is that of her hand and the chair, yet neither is any more than that of branches in an evening breeze. All is still, yet filled with life, though it is contained, as breath hushed and excited. For a moment the peace is broken by a clock somewhere chiming the late hour, but even that seems muffled by the dusk, and she does not hear it.
     She writes, and her senses are bound within the world she creates, not in the least aware of things physically around her. She sees in dreams now, painting them real from corner to corner, in fantastic colors and extraordinary details granted to the senses. Each word is lovingly and perfectly chosen, her hand moving far slower than her thoughts, for in this way, by the time she comes to write a word, it has been revised many times and she is certain it is the right one, when it is written in all the clear beauty which it is deserving of.

     The time passes, the moonlight slowly moves on, gracing in turn each corner of the room, lingering a long while before leaving the room altogether. It is dark for a time, then dim but heavy with promise. The light holds back as long as it may, until the anticipation can be contained no longer, and the brilliance of morning light fills the silent room. Gradually the light warms, from new white to golden, bringing an opposite but equal beauty to the furnishings and decorations of the room, bringing the colors to fill saturation, rich and deep. There is a prolonged pause - and then sound arrives.
     Light footfalls outside the room, a few quiet clatters from another room, perhaps the kitchen, and later heavy steps from sleep-hazed feet stumbling from bed. Smell enters in next - bacon and eggs, rich and salty, floating lightly over the underlying sizzle as they cook; coffee a thicker cloud between the two, pungent and percolating. A distant hum of voices, the ringing sound of dishes and utensils, and finally the softer sounds and louder voices as people move into the day.

     A figure in prim simple dress enters the room, moving toward the window to further open the drapes, but starts back suddenly, seeing the sleeping form in the chair. "Oh! I'm sorry, ma'am, I didn't see you there, you surprised me... Ma'am?"
     Two other figures enter the room, older than the first but younger than the one just beginning to stir. "Oh, Mother! Whatever are you doing in here? You'll catch a death of a chill, sitting out here through the night, and really it can't be good for your back, you know how stiff it gets, now really, Mother..."
     Her eyes gradually open, slowly focusing on the anxious and frustrated faces in front of her. Smiling softly, she folds her hands discretely over the book in her lap. "Oh dear, did I fall asleep here again? Oh dear. Do give an old woman a minute to collect herself. Have I missed breakfast, then?"
     "There's some we kept warm for you, ma'am. Shall I set it out for you?"
     She nods graciously and smiles. "That would be lovely, thank you. Oh I don't need help getting up, do stop fussing!" she laughs softly, shooing the others out of the room.
     Though reluctantly, and not without further admonitions and words of concern, they are soon out of the room, and she is again alone. Smiling, she stretches, looking around her and drinking in the warm splendor of the fresh sunlight, noting with interest how complete a transformation the room undergoes with a change of light. Now, the long-used furnishings look lived-in and comfortable - though they have lost the ethereal delicacy the moonlight wrought of them, they now feel solid and reassuring, quite friendly really.
     She slips the pencil back into its box, then slowly rises to her feet, holding first the to chair arms and then to the bookcase for support. The stiffness is set deeply in her joints, muscles and bones, and though she has long since grown accustomed to them she is still aware of the various deep-seated aches throughout her body. Yet they do not by any means overwhelm her - she will not allow them to - and gradually she stands before the bookcase. Again pulling out the three books, she sets them aside, and holds her small book to her breast a moment in tenderness of affection, before placing it against the back of the shelf and replacing the other books as before. Taking a step back, she nods in self-approval, for there is no hint of her hidden book to any eye which might perchance scan the shelves.
     "Rest well, my little book," she murmurs softly, a light smile playing about the corners of her lips and in her eyes. "For some day, you will be held by the hands of many others instead of only mine. But for now, rest and keep silent your dreamy secrets."
     Chuckling softly at an old woman's whimsy, she begins moving toward the kitchen, fingers and eyes yet lingering on every detail of the room, ever searching for new tales to spin.

[note - btd project]

For anyone who might not know, I am not finished with these stories. Not only am I writing a few more, but I'm also constructing a much larger project around them. For my capstone for graduation (big huge culminating project for us media arts kids), I'm making a website, flash-based, which will basically be the room all of these stories are set in. You'll be able to look around and see the room itself, some furniture and objects and things in it, and by clicking on different areas, different stories (final, edited versions - better than what you see here) will come up. Not going to be nearly as simplistic and straightforward as that, of course, there will be drawings and sound and some things that you the average viewer won't know about, but things will change and things, and it will be very good. I'm really excited about it. This won't be done 'til May, and even then, we'll see if I can afford web space right away or not, I don't know. But, if you'd like to see what progress I'm making, and pleasepleaseplease drop a comment with aaany feedback at all, idc how big or small or anything it is, it'd be hugely appreciated.. oh right the link. BtD update blog. Also a blog for class, so don't mind the occasional homework assignment.

There are only a few more stories left that I've finished writing, I'm starting a few more, but once I'm through the back-log, updates will be more sporadic.

Friday, February 03, 2006

She sits on the bare wood floor,

her palms resting flat against the worn grain. Motionless, soundless, she sits, her very breath subdued, her very thoughts stilled, as if the very air has grown heavy and slowed every aspect of her body. Only there is not the slightest struggle, as there would be if she were not perfectly willing. But she is entirely calm, calmer than most five-year olds are able to remain at any time other than sleep.
     A light breeze brushes the delicate strands of her auburn hair, though no window is open in the little-used room. She smiles, her eyes remaining closed, as she greets someone unseen with a hushed young voice: "Hello. Will you tell me another story today?"

     "Oh yeah? Well my house has ghosts in it!"
     A small crowd is gathered in the largely-empty room, which is used by the ragtag groups of boys as a meeting place when the weather is disagreeable, as the rain is today. Their eyes look at him carefully, their expressions ranging from skepticism to awe to sheer terror.
     "No... how do you know?"
     "My sister hears them talking sometimes."
     "Wow, really?"  "Ah, no way."  "She isn't scared?"  "This house?!"
     "Hey, isn't your sister a baby still?"
     To his credit, he only flushes slightly before recovering his cool. "She's five, and a lot smarter than you, I'll bet."
     His remark is met with jeering laughter, but the other boy, perhaps a year older, does not back down. "I bet she makes up stories to tell just to get everyone's attention to herself, just like you do."
     Switching allegiance as quickly and surely as only young boys eager to look good can, they now catcall in the opposite direction.
     "I do not, I was just sayin' the truth! She really does talk to them, and no kid that little could make up the stories she says they tell her, and I sure ain't sittin' around all day tellin' my little sister stories."
     There are chuckles, but the burden of proof still rests on the younger boy - it is his reputation still on the line.
     "Sure, sure, easy to say, but how you gonna prove it?"
     Thinking rapidly, he glances around the group of boys in search of inspiration. In a moment, he finds it: "Say, Harry, ain't your older sister got one of those boards that lets you talk to ghosts?"
     "Yeah, she's got a talking board, sure."
     "Think we could borrow it somehow? That would settle things pretty quick, wouldn't it?"
     The boys nod in thoughtful approval, though a few of the younger ones look nervous about the endeavor.
     "I heard some preacher say the devil talks through those," a young voice pipes up, only slightly hesitantly. "He told my papa that it ain't natural to try talking to those as what's already stopped living."
     "No-one said you had to come if you're a little yellow chicken," jeers another in answer, and the group's laughter sends him back into the meek and humble posture of the smaller boys.
     "When can you get it, Harry?"  "Should we do it at night? That's when ghosts are out mostly."  "Wouldn't it be too dark to see nothin'?"  "Nah, ghosts light themselves up, everyone knows that."  "How many ghosts do you think there are?"  "Wow, right here, maybe even in this room, right now..."
     "Quiet!" commands the older boy, whose line of questioning had led to the proposed trial. "Now, Harry, when do you think you can get this board?"
     "Well..." He pauses a moment in deep consideration. "I suppose anytime after Thursday night. She's having friends over then, and they sometimes use it. But I know she'll be out Friday night, she always sneaks back in real late and sleeps most of the next day, so as long as I get it back by suppertime Saturday, it's okay."
     Turning to the boy who professed his house contains unworldly spirits, the older boy continues his stern questioning. "Tim, can you arrange sometime between Friday and suppertime on Saturday for us to meet here?"
     "It can't be too late, Mom won't want all of you in here keeping people awake, and she cleans most of the house on Friday, but Saturday is fine."
     "Then Harry, you be sure to get that board by Saturday. Everyone else, get your chores done early or sneak out, and be here by exactly one in the afternoon on Saturday."
     Various consents are called out, and the group begins to break up, heading for the door out of the room, the infallible clock in each boy's stomach alerting them it is nearly dinnertime. Gradually, they file out, chattering eagerly about the plans made for a few days away. Timothy is the last to leave, picking up a few stray pinecones and pebbles the smaller boys dropped, to prevent a scolding from Ma, before moving to leave the room as well.
     The older boy hangs back a minute also, and tosses a wadded-up gum wrapper casually at the younger boy. "Hey Tim... don't cut out on us, alright?"
     Grinning confidently, he crushes the gum wrapper in his hand with the rest of the debris. "Not a chance, Mike."

     Later that evening, he pulls his younger sister aside, taking her into the spare room, where they can talk in private. "Hey, Gracie, do those voices you hear still tell you stories?"
     She giggles, plopping down on the floor, playing with a small pebble. "They're not voices, silly, they're people, they just lived a long time ago. Well not all of them, some of them didn't live so very long ago. But they tell me such int'resting stories."
     He chuckles and rolls his eyes. "Uh-huh. But you said they talk mostly when you're in here?"
     "Uh-huh. This is their favorite room, partly because it's mostly quiet in here, and there aren't other people bothering them. But they like it too because they remember a lot of things about it, and there are lots of things they recognize. They tell me lots of stories about things that happened in this room. I ask them to lots of times, because then I get to feel like I'm part of the story, too!"
     Smiling at her youthful enthusiasm, he pats her short hair gently. "Do you think they would mind talking to some of my friends on Saturday, Gracie? I promise I'll make them be very quiet. And the... the people you talk to, they don't even have to talk out loud to anyone, Harry's going to bring something that... Well, it will sort of let them write things to us. Do you think they'd come?"
     She shrieks with laughter, throwing the stone across the floor and watching it roll beneath the small end table in a corner. "Silly Timmy, they're always here! There are bunches of them, and some of them are always here."
     He shivers slightly, suppressing the sudden fearful urge to look around himself.
     "They don't really like your friends, they're too noisy and rough. But if I ask nicely, and they boys are quiet and not mean, and my friends don't really have to talk to them, I guess it's okay."
     He laughs happily, jumping to his feet and picking his little sister up, spinning her around as she laughs in delight. "Thank you, Gracie! I promise to buy you a candy, with my very next allowance, how's that sound?"
     Her eyes go wide. "Will you buy me a peppermint stick? Really truly?"
     He nods, grinning broadly. "Really truly."
     "Hurray!" she cries, and the moment he sets her down, she goes running merrily out of the room, laughing joyfully.

     Having gotten his mother's consent to have a group of friends over on Saturday afternoon - as well as her assurance that she would leave them undisturbed - he makes a final check of the room, pushing the spare furniture a little closer to the walls, to ensure there is space for everyone on the floor. Harry had given him a rough size of the talking board, and they had decided it would be best to lay it on the floor, rather than try to balance the thick wood on the small end table.
     Just as he pushes aside a box of old records, Grace calls out his name. "Timmy! Your friends are here!"
     "Okay! Show 'em inside, Gracie, have them come back here."
     Quarter of an hour later, after a prolonged period of disorganized scrambling, minor fights, and overlapping voices, the various boys are seated, excitedly but calmly, around the large board set on the floor. Being a few feet across, there is not enough room for all of them to sit directly beside it, which was cause for a great deal of initial dispute, but the internal ranking of the boys soon had the trouble resolved.
     A sudden moment of rare silence falls on them, uncertain of what should be done next. They look at the unassuming slab of wood before them curiously - though this is the first time many of them have seen one, all have heard stories. It is a rather simple thing, nothing inherently unusual about the large, heavy black letters which cross the warm gold colored board in a smooth arch. Beneath the letters are printed numbers in a line, and beneath them, the words "Good Bye". In one corner is a detailed man-in-the-moon, in another a crescent moon and star, each with ominous dark clouds behind. The words "yes" and "no" are set beside the two moons. In the lower two corners - well, there at least is an image giving indication of the board's true substance, sending shivers up the backs of the younger boys. Several hands rest on a planchette, but one woman has taken her hands from it - behind her is a shadowy face, floating in midair, doubtless a spirit long-departed from the living world.
     As the eldest boy present, Mike feels a duty to both begin and officiate the proceedings. "Well Harry, explain to everyone how this works."
     The principles have been discussed, debated, questioned, doubted, wondered over, gone over a thousand times in the days prior, but each one present now feels a formal introduction is proper. In any case, the younger boys might have forgotten, and should be told again.
     "Um, well... This smaller piece of wood with the glass in it is called the planchette. You put your fingertips on it, really lightly, like this. No pushing is allowed, that messes things up. You can do it with one person, but I think it works better with more. You ask it a question, and if there's a spirit nearby, it'll move the planchette to spell out answers for you. But you can't make it mad, or it won't answer you. And if you really make it mad---" He pauses his narrative for dramatic affect, as well as to look around and be sure his audience is paying full attention, then drops his voice: "Sometimes, the spirits will do things to you. Sometimes it's just stuff like messing things up when you leave the room. But sometimes, they'll attack you in your own brain and make you think of the most horrible things. One of my sister's friends told her that some man in her town had done something to get a spirit really mad, and a fire started in the room!" He looks around again with a solemn expression and smug heart, as he sees the grave fear stamped on every face from his warnings.
     After a horrible pause, during which every boy's worst nightmare plays out bin his imagination in the most excruciating detail, Mike clears his throat. "Well. We'll be real polite then, and no-one say anything mean about ghosts, alright? Especially things like you don't believe in them, they really hate that. And it's stupid anyway to be sitting here waiting for answers from ghosts if you don't even believe in them. So anyone who don't proper believe in ghosts and things, you better get out now. If you're scared, too. I won't say this isn't risky, but I'm gonna see what it says."
     There are nods of agreement all around, with only slight hesitations here and there.
     "So how do we start it, Henry? There's not a switch or somethin'?"
     "Well, like I said, some of us should put our fingertips lightly on the planchette, like this..."
     "We better only have a few of us, it'll get too crowded, and it has to be men we know won't push it. Harry and I, and Tim of course. And I suppose Rick, you can too. The rest of you, don't crowd or nothin', and keep quiet. It helps if we all focus on the question being asked, right?"
     Harry nods. "Right, and keep kinda quiet."
     Tim nods as well. "My sister told me the ghosts don't usually like you guys, you're too loud." A few chuckles answer his remark, some in agreement and just a few in scorn that he should so fully credit the word of his baby sister.
     "Harry, you know the most about it, so I think you should ask the questions. You can start whenever you're ready, and I'll punch out the first kid who makes too much noise."
     "Okay. So everyone, just think about the questions, and don't talk too much or make loud noises, especially all the sudden. And don't move real fast, no matter what happens." Harry waits a few moments, closing his eyes and breathing slowly and deeply, until complete silence has fallen on the room. He recalls to mind the words his sister always says when she and her friends start asking the board questions, and intones them in as grave and deep a voice as he is able to find. "O Spirits who yet linger in this mortal world, are there any of you present here with us now?"
     Feeling a slight motion beneath his fingertips, Harry opens his eyes again, watching as the planchette moves over the golden grains of wood. There are a few hushed gasps and whispers. Mike gazes sternly at the hands of the others, making certain no one is pushing it, watching for any betraying strain of muscle - but he sees none. Tim looks in awe, knowing that the delicate, smooth motion could not be cause by any of the young boys, or by any usual movement of wood against wood.
     As the motion stops, Harry reads out the word revealed by the glass eye in the planchette: "Yes."
     Further gasps from the surrounding group are abruptly silenced by a sharp glare from Mike, and only the faintest of murmurs pass between the gathered boys.
     "Now what?"
     "Ask who the spirit is," suggests Tim gently, his fingers tingling a little, his stomach fluttering with a volatile combination of uneasiness and excitement.
     Trembling a little, having only once actually used the board before now, and not a little worried about what they might be communicating with, Harry clears his throat. "O Spirit from the other realms, what is your name?"
     The planchette begins to move again - directly to the word "No".
     "No? What's that mean?" Mike looks in query at Harry.
     "I... I'm not sure. O Spirit, do you have no name?"
     More quickly this time, the planchette skims over the alphabet letters. It pauses on the letter "F", then slides until it reaches "O", where it pauses again, and so on through several letters, called out in turn by Harry.
     "F... O... R... G... E... T. Forget! It must have forgotten its name! Wow, I bet he's been dead a long time, then..."
     "Ask him how long!"
     "Shh! Anyway, anyone who doesn't remember his own name ain't gonna remember what day he died on, stupid."
     Harry now looks to Tim for a suggestion, sensing that he will have the right sort of idea.
     As well he does. "Harry, ask... ask if it's a man or a woman."
     "O Spirit, when you lived, were you a man or woman?"
     The planchette moves with frightening rapidity, eliciting gasps from even the boys touching it.
     Following the veritable torrent of words, the planchette drops to a dead still. Every eye in the room is wide with fear, and every spine tingles with the sense of a ghostly presence, perhaps just behind them! A few of the boys do look around them, in sheer natural reaction.
     Mike swallows hard, trying to keep his voice even. "Guess that was the wrong thing to say... D'you think she's mad, Harry?"
     His skin uncommonly pale, Harry stares at the wood beneath his fingers. "I... I don't know. But we should be real careful. And ask something nice next."
     Softly, recovering from the initial fright, Tim speaks again. "Maybe ask how she's feeling? That's real polite, that couldn't make anyone mad."
     "Yeah, good idea!"
     "Try that."
     "O Spirit... um... How are you feeling?"
     There is a pause before the planchette begins to move again, and they wonder for a moment - some in secret relief - if it will move at all. But it does, much more calmly than before.
     "I'll bet saying so much before made her tired," suggests Rick.
     "But sad... I hope we didn't make her sad. Ask her, Harry," Tim requests.
     With understandable wariness, he does. "Spirit, have we made you sad?"
     The planchette moves calmly to the word "No", and the communal sigh of relief is audible. Yet the breath released is quickly drawn back in, as the planchette begins to move again.
     There are looks of compassion here and there, but no-one will say any words of sympathy - to do so would break the unspoken code of this and every group of boys. No such weak emotion is shown, at any cost, to do so is to be unmanly, and is inexcusable.
     "Now what?"
     All faces turn to Tim, who thinks for a long moment, then shrugs. "If she's tired, maybe we better let her go. We could ask if there are other spirits here."
     "Good idea. Do it, Harry."
     "Spirit, we know that you and tired, and will let you rest. Are there others with you?"
     "TOO MANY NOISY" The planchette pauses a moment, as if uncertain.
     "Go and rest, spirit," Timothy whispers gently. "Thank you for talking to us." To their astonishment, the planchette moves again, this time running slowly over the words "Good Bye".

     Silence hangs in the air for a long moment, and several of them shiver, feeling as if a chill breeze had just moved past them. After a minute or two, the eyes of Tim and Mike meet across the talking board. "Well? Do you believe me now?" Tim asks - but has too much respect for the other's age and thus rank to allow himself a smile of satisfaction.
     Mike nods solemnly but grins as well. "Yeah, you proved it alright. But what should we do now?" He turns his attention to the group at large. "Since everything's set and we have a couple hours before we have to get the board back. Do we wanna get another ghost to talk? Or just stop now?"
     Inside each boy's mind there is some part which pleads to stop now, in some a larger part, in others a smaller. Yet before the thought has fully formed, it is overtaken by a louder one - the sense in each of them that the group would look down on such cowardice, even were every one of them to feel the same. Besides that, there is the overwhelming drive of boyhood curiosity, which rules over nearly all else. And so:
     "Keep going!" "Yeah!" "I wanna know just how many ghosts there are in here." "Can I try?" "Can't the rest of us get a turn?" "Can I ask a---"
     "Shh! What did I tell you? Keep quiet, or none of them will come near us," Mike hisses, his eyes narrowing threateningly. "And you can't all try, there's not enough room. And I don't trust all of you to not move it and mess things up."
     Harry takes his fingers off the planchette, sitting back a little. "Someone can take my spot though." He looks at Tim, who nods, accepting the role of speaker.
     "And mine," volunteers Rick, moving back among the others.
     "Alright, lemme see... Craig, Nate, you guys can come up," Mike decides. The two boys move into place, with a mixture of pride and anxiety. "Like this? Are we doing it right?"
     "Yeah, you're fine," assures Tim. "Should I start, then?" Mike nods his assent, and the group becomes hushed again in anticipation.
     "Is there a spirit here with us?" Tim asks, not choosing to speak in the impressive flourishes Harry had - but the rest had been tiring of those anyway. Somehow, this felt more real, as if they were really just talking with ghosts, same as they would talk to each other.
     "Spirit, do you have a name?"
     The boys sit in silence, waiting for the planchette to elaborate. But after a full minute has passed, it has not again moved. Puzzled, Tim asks again. "Spirit, what is your name?"
     At last, the planchette moves slowly and steadily over the large capital letters:
     Tim shudders, feeling a chill along his spine. There is again an audible intake of breath from the other boys, but to their credit, they do not speak.
     "Spirit, y--- your name is Timothy?"
     Taking a deep breath, convincing himself it is simply a coincidence, Tim continues. "Alright... Timothy, how many other spirits are in the room with you?"
     "FIVE NOW"
     "Five? Whoa..." "Five now? Does that mean there are usually more?" "Could be less." "Yeah but we know one just left..."
     "Shh!" Mike again reprimands, for though the boys had spoken barely above a whisper, he is becoming uneasy, and fearful of upsetting the spirit. There is something about this one which is creating a knot in his stomach, far more than the previous ghost.
     "Let's see... Spirit, how do you feel?"
     There is a hushed titter of laughter, quickly silenced by Tim, whose hair is prickling on the back of his neck. "Spirit, what are you hungry for?"
     The planchette begins moving with frightening rapidity, barely pausing on the letters: "H...U...N...G...R...Y...F...O..."
     The door into the room opens, but only Tim looks up, the rest are far too transfixed by the board. "R...B..."
     "Gracie, what are you doing in here?" he hisses quietly, his fingertips still on the moving wood. "Didn't Mom tell you not to---. Gracie, what's wrong?" he asks quickly, suddenly taking in her wide, scared eyes.
     She hurries over to stand behind him, eyeing the board in fear, words tumbling from her in a quivering whisper. "Timmy, you should stop. I know--- Juliet just told me, she was talking to you but she left because she was tired but--- she said someone else took her place and--- and Timmy, it's one of the mean ones. The others won't let him tell me stories, or even talk to me at all, I don't know what he did but Timmy you should stop---"
     Faces pale as her hushed voice breaks the breathless silence, and a few of the smaller boys whimper in fear.
     "O...D... Hungry f-- for blood---" Mike's voice squeaks out, his hands shaking, though still frozen on the planchette, which continues to move.
     Tim takes his hands from the possessed wood, turning to Gracie and hugging her protectively to his side. "What should we do? Can you talk to them, can the others help us?"
     Her young body is trembling. "I... I'm scared. I don't know if I can talk to him, I don't know if he let me anyway---"
     "No, Gracie, don't talk to him, it's too dangerous! But could you try the others, and ask them to help us?"
     She nods solemnly. "I can. Wait."
     Pulling herself free of his arms, she scampers to the other end of the room, near the window and bookcase, where a small patch of sunlight falls on the golden wood of the floorboards. She sits down, her skirt spreading in a circle about her short legs. Taking a deep breath, she closes her eyes.
     After a moment, her breathing becomes subdued, as if she is falling asleep. Tim watches her intently, anxious and concerned, but with a little curiosity and awe as well, having full faith in his sister's ability.
     She smiles, and speaks in a soft voice. "Hello again. I'm glad you're not sad any more. Can you help my brother's friends?"
     "E...A...V...E..." The planchette moves from the arch of letters to the corner showing the full moon, then the corner with the crescent moon, then the lower corners, back to the full moon, passing with increasing rapidity from one corner to the next, without rest.
     "Harry! What's going on, what does that mean?" No longer is there calm and leadership in Mike's voice - he is as frightened as the rest.
     "I... I don't know, I've never seen it do this before..."
     "Take your hands off of it!" "Yeah, don't do it anymore, I'm scared." "Don't touch it!" Yet despite the growing pleas from the other boys, those who remain touching the planchette continue to do so, transfixed and near frozen by fear.
     She giggles softly, nodding in sympathy. "I know they're loud, Juliet, I'm sorry... Can you please try to help them anyway? For my sake. My brother's over there too, and you know he's a nice boy."
     Their eyes go still wider, hearts pounding in terror, as the planchette moves back toward the letters, each of them scared half to death of what it might now spell out. Quickly, the planchette begins passing over the alphabet, moving from the letter "Z" back through, and they wait without breathing for it to pause on a letter.
     But it does not.
     Her breath is stilled as well, but a gentle smile remains on her lips, and she nods in apparent encouragement from time to time.
     Tim looks worriedly at his sister, ready at an instant's notice to scramble over to her side, but so far respecting her and her voices, knowing she needs space and no interruption. His stomach knotted, his heart pounding, a constant stream of emotion runs through him, chills and fear and an almost claustrophobic sense of being surrounded.
     The planchette is moving slower, but still it does not stop, as it continues its constant skimming through the alphabet. The boys sit silent, waiting anxiously for any hint of communication, uncertain and scared. Someone is whispering, and it takes a moment to distinguish the words, but gradually they can all make out:
     "Our Father, who are in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day..."
     Moving more slowly than ever, faintly, as if exhausted, the planchette finally reaches the letter "A", and haltingly, ceases to move. There is a long pause, with no one yet daring to speak, hardly daring to breathe, terrified it begin again to slide over the board.
     She smiles warmly, and whispers to someone unseen. "Thank you... I know you don't really like him, I don't either. Thank you very much. Will you come tell me a story tonight? I have to go now." A moment later, her wide eyes open, clear and happy. "Is everything okay now?" she asks her brother, who sits in still awe and relief, the dark feelings which had held him in silent terror moving away. He turns back to look at the board, and sees the planchette motionless. His still-soundless friends are just now beginning to take their fingers from the planchette, trembling not a little. Smiling weakly, he nods to her, mouthing a "thank you". She gets to her feet, and walks from the room, giggling brightly without a care, the sound a sharp contrast to the continued silence of the usually rambunctious boys.
     Shakily, they at last begin to move back from the talking board, though it is a few minutes yet before all feel secure enough to take their eyes from it. Harry reaches over, and nervously removes the planchette from the board, setting it on the floor, taking his fingers from it as quickly as if he had been burned.
     Clearing his throat, Mike is the first to speak, trying valiantly to regain mastery of himself. "Well, Tim, I guess you pretty well proved yourself."
     The group around him nods in agreement, a few of them now managing smiles. Tim grins brightly and nods, relieved in countless directions at once.
     "Here," Mike continues, looking warily back at the board. "One of you help me take this back with Harry, and we'll just have time to do somethin' else before supper."
     The boys jump up almost instantly en masse, laughing and chattering as the grave mood is broken, full of nervous energy and utter relief to be getting away from the now-ominous golden wood and black shapes - as well as the room they now know contains numerous ghosts. Noisily, a few of them carrying the board between them (out of the safety felt in numbers more than actual need for its weight), they begin leaving the room, moving only a little more quickly than usual.
     "And hey, Tim!" one calls out from amidst the small crowd. "Tell your sister she's alright."

Saturday, December 17, 2005


apologies for the lack of updating, final projects and exams got to be a little more hectic than I'd anticipated. and now I'm home, and I've forgotten my external hard drive at school. soooo.. there's a *slight* chance I'll re-type some things, this may end up being updated, but if there's nothing 'til mid-january.. yeah.

on the up-side, I did some reasearch online for the story which I'd started near the end of nanowrimo, and haven't finished yet, so I may go back to work on that later today (if I feel I can handle the depressing nature of it, wheeee!).