A heavy black shade had been overwhelming the sky for many hours, intensifying in colour with each long, drawn out minute that passed. The only visibility of my surroundings that I had was from the tiny spark of light created by my lantern. This delicate flame was keeping me company- and offering me a source of comfort in the back of the rickety, jolting carriage. The flicker of the flame somewhat entranced me, the slight warmth produced by it drawing me in, studying the flame and its beauty. I had never been one to be afraid of the dark; the still of night was a beautiful contrast to the lively daytime. Nightmares were things created and concocted within the mind. The idea of fear was simply a product of an over-active imagination, and I had been instructed to suppress the idea of any impossible creatures created in the darkness of my room. My childhood years seemed to be a distant memory, despite the reality only being a few years prior. A lot had changed since then; I had grown up too fast, and tragedy had fallen upon me that had aged me beyond my years.
I had been anxiously awaiting the arrival at my uncle's house since embarking upon the long journey at the first glimmer of morning sun. I had never met nor heard of this distant uncle, nevertheless I was now to be forced into this stranger's care. Part of me felt apprehensive, the other half filled with intrigue about where this twisted adventure would lead me. If this visit had occurred under happier circumstances, perhaps better feelings might have been at hand. In fact, my presence would mark a reminder of the grim occurrences that had taken place all too recently. For a brief moment sadness consumed me; I was absorbed with a sense of remorse. My heart beat fiercely against its constricting prison of a ribcage, threatening to break free at any given moment. For a split second, air seemed to have escaped my lungs, leaving me feeling faint and gasping for breath.
The carriage jolted me brutally from my thoughts, allowing me to regain my senses and recover my composure. The driver was a reasonably small man who was dressed in full brown attire, with the exception of a pair of black gloves. Throughout the long journey he had only uttered a few abrupt and harshly whispered words, which came about from my futile attempts to initiate conversation. Despite being a summer night, the air had an eerie chill. A thick shield of fog clung to the narrow dirt road, as though crouching in anticipation; an army of trees surrounded the area, peering over the lone path menacingly. The carriage crashing like thunder pierced the still atmosphere of the August night. A faint outline interrupted the cloak of blackness that consumed the sky, although I was unable to decipher what it could be. My eyes strained to concentrate and focus on the shape in front of me. Minutes passed and the formation was still unclear. I closed my eyes, defeated from the aching caused by deep concentration, leaving my mind to wander and conjure up different possibilities. What I envisioned was somewhat unusual; I pictured a wall that stretched all the way to the furthest reaches of the sky, and extending as far as the eye could see in width. Unable to go around this wall, we would be forced to turn back and go to the place I used to call home, returning to my old life and better times. Gripped within this vision, reality suddenly pulled me back in with the clearer visibility of the form; it was an old manor the size of a castle. We were now entering through the immense iron gates into a courtyard area with cobble flooring that made the carriage tremble.
We had arrived.
I stood in front of the threatening iron clad door, and glared at the brass lion door knocker. I felt tiny in comparison to the towering wooden entrance which would mark the start of my new life. I held my breath and closed my eyes, curious to what would lay behind the opening. I elevated my hand, hesitating for a brief moment before finally lifting the lion's head, slamming the weight of it back against the door and sending a thunderous tremor to invade the inside of the manor. I stood waiting, clutching a bag that contained my only possessions firmly in hand, as if set to flee at any given moment. The echo of footsteps coming from inside added to my anxiety and caused my hands to quiver. A muffled screeching noise came from the opening of a spy hole in the door. The thought of someone staring at me made me uneasy and I looked at the ground, squirming slightly at the thought of a beady eye gazing at me. Finally, I heard the grate of an rusty latch being lifted after what seemed like hours, the door let out a deep grown and then slowly opened revealing the stranger behind it.
I stood awkwardly staring, examining the unusual features of the gentleman before me. He had ghostly pale skin contrasted by jet black hair, which only contained a few slender strands of grey. He was wearing a dusty black suit with a red bow-tie and black rimmed spectacles that covered his washed out blue eyes. An inquisitive expression was on his face; he seemed to be examining me the same way that I was him; trying to gather some form of first impression. The silence continued for a few more moments, the awkwardness was overwhelming. I knew I had to fracture the silence that had formed around us.
"Hello sir," I smiled awkwardly, and waited for a reaction.
"Ah, I presume you are Lucia?" he replied curiously, tilting his head sideways.
"Yes sir and I deem you're my uncle, although I am yet to be informed of your name," I subtly stated.
"Yes, yes, I am certainly, child! My name is Victor Gorman, and this is my dwelling, Mersington Manor, where you shall now reside." He pointed a willing hand towards the interior and gestured a beckoning signal to enter. I complied obediently and followed his signal. The door crashed shut behind me making the marble floor shiver. I glanced around, unable to disregard the dust ridden surfaces, and the cobwebbed entangled chandelier that once would have been a superior attribute of the majestic opening of the manor. The staircase was great in size and was roofed by a grimy and once red carpet. This was the conflicting image to my previous quaint and sanitary home, the sight of my new abode made me aware to how I longed to go back to when things were well again, but I knew that times had now everlastingly and irreversibly changed.
"You have been travelling for a lengthy time now; dark has been upon us for many hours. Perhaps you should rest, and we can have more of an introduction upon your awakening?" He tilted his head again towards his left shoulder, as if he was attempting to rest on it.
"Yes I believe it is time to slumber; I set off when the sun first rose and now it has since declined from the firmament," I replied willingly submissive. In spite of being curious towards the newly acquired ambiance, my eyes had since given up and were struggling to remain open. "Where is it I shall be sleeping?" I asked inquisitively.
"Follow the staircase until you arrive at the top floor; at the end of the passageway you will find a doorway which will lead into your bedchamber" he elucidated while gesturing towards the staircase.
"Thank you sir," I politely replied and began walking towards the encrusted staircase.
"Lucia, one more thing... This residence is old, occasionally it has been known to emulate strange noises, and drafts of wind go through easily which will effortlessly smother your lantern flame. If anything similar occurs please do not be alarmed, just accept it as an attribute to the age of this manor. Do you understand?" He possessed a somewhat concerned expression on his face, crumpling it as he spoke. I nodded at this, and began to scale the staircase.
I had been in my bedchamber for an hour unable to drift asleep, gaping at the silhouettes fashioned by the lantern on my bedside that were flickering athwart the ceiling. The window drapes were slightly parted, permitting a beam of moonlight to shine throughout the elongated room, slighted misted by the presence of the murky night air. A breeze from the exterior rattled my window lattice, adding to the chilled air in the bedchamber. The draught gave my exposed face a chilled feeling. I did not associate summer twilight with use of heat constricting methods, such as the pile of blankets resting on me. I didn't want my memories to be contaminated by new ideas unfamiliar to my customary associations.
I did not want my memories to wane. They were all that remained.
Suddenly, a piercing strike upon my window lattice made me jump, and interrupted my deep thoughts. I swiftly redirected my eyes towards the window, and peered through the drapes to the moonlit yet misty night; there was nothing visible to be seen. I resolved that it must have been a predominantly strong gust of wind, and merely rolled over so my eyes were gazing towards the oak door and watched the flames of the lantern dance across the wall. At that moment all went a sinister shade of black that was only intermittent by the wisp of moonlight; the lantern had extinguished.
I lay in the dimly lit room pondering the idea of relighting the lantern; however, a further draught reconfirmed my determination to stay enclosed within the warmth and safety of the bed. I remembered my uncle's words before mounting the stairway, therefore the darkness was not concerning or surprising, however nor was it welcomed. I peered back over towards my window lattice; there was another powerful flurry of wind that lifted the drapes up from their previously comfortable resting place, leaving them seemingly floating in the air as if being lifted by some invisible being, and sent a shudder down my spine. I twisted back over to face the door; against the identical wall was a diminutive wooden writing table that held a cracked mirror. I momentary looked into it seeing if I could perhaps see my reflection from my current arrangement, I let out a shrill cry.
It was not my reflection that I saw.
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