Monday, November 19, 2012

The Girl in the Ghost House - Chapter 2

The Girl in the Ghost House

Chapter 2

“Excellent dive!” The old man yelled as he set the bow down and smacked his leg, “And good form as well.”

“What! You almost killed me!” Evelyn didn’t usually take a tone like that with her elders but she did have a point, the old gentleman had almost killed her.

“Ah, yes, well, I promise my aim will be much better next time!” He beamed at her, “Now then, do you fancy a cup of tea? Faucet?!”

From the other side of the room there was a loud clicking and whirring sound and as Evelyn shone her flashlight on the corner a metallic clockwork man walked out from between the trees. He bowed stiffly to the old gentleman.

“Ah, Faucet. Excellent. Be a chap and fetch my arrow.” The old man put a normal looking telescope down on the table beside him and Evelyn wondered if it was his telephonoscope. “Oh, and put the kettle on. The young lady and I would like some refreshments. See if we still have any of the thin, wafer mint cookies. There’s a good lad.”

Evelyn still stood to the side and watched the clockwork man walk towards her. Faucet had gears in his head and gears in his chest and small tiny gears in his fingers. As he passed her by he sighed and yanked the arrow out of the wood, before walking past Evelyn and giving it to the old man.

“There now old chap, stop all that sighing and melancholy.” The old man was looking at the tip of the arrow, “People will start thinking that you’re actually capable of feelings and that kind of rot.”

Faucet sighed and shook his head and Evelyn thought for a clockwork man he really did have the saddest face she’d ever seen. But her thoughts were interrupted as the old man began cackling loudly and rocking back and forth.

“I did it! Haha! Thought I couldn’t touch the blighter but this proves it!” He held up the arrow and Evelyn could just faintly see a small black feather impaled on it.

“Looks like a magpie. Or maybe a crow.” Evelyn trained the flashlight on the gleaming black feather.

“Ah, but that wasn’t anything like either.” The old gentleman stroked his massive white moustache. “No, he’s a cheeky buzzard but I’ll get him one day. Ah, Faucet, thank you.”

The clockwork man didn’t say anything but just placed the two teacups down on the table and then walked over to a window between two of the trees and looked out.

“Excuse me, sir. But what’s wrong with Faucet?” Evelyn sipped from the very sweet tea.

“Well, he’s seen a lot of action and I’m afraid he must have dislodged one of the gears in his motivator.” The old man called the clockwork man back and pointed to an empty, heart shaped space between some of the gears in his chest, “See, and without his motivator I can barely get him to do anything.”

“Can’t you make a new motivator for him?” Evelyn asked, sipping from her tea.

“Problem is, can’t seem to find any more bronze in the house. Can’t make the gear out of anything but bronze. I’ve had to use parts of other machines to make new ones.” The old man sipped from the tea cup, “But unfortunately, it would be much too much bronze to try and make a new motivator for Faucet.”

“I see.” Evelyn did understand but she still felt bad for the sad clockwork man.

“Now, let’s get down to business.” The old man said putting his teacup aside and rubbing his hands together, “You’ve done me a great service today, little miss. Not only did you unlock my daft door, but you also helped me nick a feather off that thing.”

“What thing?” Evelyn asked, glancing down at the feather again.

“Ah, well, I’ve been hunting it for years. It keeps coming for me. For everyone in the house.” The old man leaned forward, “The Thing with Black Wings.”

“What is it?” Evelyn asked swallowing the last of her tea.

“Well, now, it’s hard to explain.” The old man stroked his beard. “It stays in the dark. Attacks when you’re least expecting it. And it’s very fatal. That’s what I have my telephonoscope for. For keeping track of it.”

“But sir.” And Evelyn paused trying to find the right words, “If the Thing with Black Wings is here in the house, why don’t you just leave?”

“Well, I would if I could.” The old man looked away embarrassed, “But I’m afraid that’s out of the question. None of us can leave the house. This is where we are doomed to stay for all eternity.”

“What do you mean?” And Evelyn felt a tiny bit of fear.

“Oh, my dear girl, I am so sorry. Didn’t I mention it earlier? We’re all ghosts.” And then to prove the point the old man reached through the small desk next to him, and waggled his fingers at her.

Evelyn did not believe in ghosts. But it was hard to argue with the man who had just passed through a solid table. And she felt her heart skip a bit as she brought her shaking teacup up to her lips.

“Now, then.” The old man brought his hand back up, “As I was saying, since you helped me, I will help you. I’ve got some things here. Let me see. Ah yes, how about this.”

And he drew a box full of yellow and green rings out of the cushions of the chair he was sitting on. Evelyn looked over the rings and had a strange, sickening feeling just from looking at them. She swallowed and replied quietly, “No... no thank you.”

“Are you sure?” And the ghost picked up one of the rings, “These rings can transport you to other worlds! They’re quite a laugh really.”

“No, I’m happy with this world. Thank you.” And Evelyn was relieved when he put the rings away.

“Hmmm, well, no ring then... Oh! I know!” And he turned on the spot and reached through the back of the chair before turning back with a small crystal bottle that looked like it had glowing water in it, “Here, this. It’s the first light of the first guiding star caught on the purest water. When you call on it, it can be a light for you in dark places.”

“Um, well, but I already have a torch.” Evelyn held up the flashlight, “Thank you anyway.”

And as she slid off her chair to go the old man called, “Wait! What about this! You need something to protect yourself with.”

And he pulled out a bronze bow with gears all over it, looking similar to his own. Then he picked up his telephonoscope and drew out the smallest end of it and snapped it off. The old man rummaged through his chair’s cushions and drew out a shiny bronze arrowhead. And he fletched it with the shiny black feather.

“Here, we go.” He handed her the small bow and the single black feathered arrow. “Now you have something to protect yourself, in case the Thing with Black Wings comes for you.”

Even though Evelyn was not really sure she wanted the bow and arrow, she smiled and said thank you.

“Not at all. Now, let’s see you try shooting it.” The old man said with a jolly chuckle. “Go on then.”

Evelyn put the arrow into the bow and pulled back, the small gears on her bow whirring and turning before there was a click and the arrow was set. Her arms wobbled a bit and the arrow fell from her grip to the floor. She picked it back up and pulled back again, making sure to put it into the thread right this time. She aimed at one of the trees and released, the arrow falling out as the bow snapped back.

“You must make sure you’re fletching the arrow in securely.” The old man said, “And watch the string. Don’t let it catch on your arm. Hold the bow steady. Good. Good. That’s much better. You don’t want a nasty bruise later.”

And after Evelyn had fired several shots, many of them flying off in different directions even though she hadn’t changed her aim or form at all, the ghost of the old man laughed good naturedly and told her she was doing just fine and that she was welcome to return to practice whenever she wanted.

Evelyn thanked the old man who said she could call him the Professor and so she left the ghost of the Professor and Faucet the sighing clockwork man in the attic and climbed once more down the stairs, the beam of her yellow flashlight the only guiding light to the door that still stood ajar. She had the bow slung across her shoulder, but she was unsure of how much it would help if she actually ran into the Thing with Black Wings. But somehow it did make her feel a bit better.

When Evelyn reached the hallway, she glanced first back at the dark bathtub. She could see the pale figure of Martin the Mouse sitting on the ledge, probably talking to the boy William in the bathtub. And she wondered if he was a ghost too. It would make sense why he was there in the middle of the night. She wanted to go ask him, but just then the singing started again.

Evelyn turned and faced the blue rimmed door. The singing was pulling her in, closer and closer. Her hand reached forward and she gripped the doorknob and began to turn. But the door was shut tight. Her hand slid into her pocket automatically. And she pulled out the key. It was ice cold. She slid it into the doorknob, turned it counterclockwise twice and heard the bolt slide inside. She still had the key in her hand as she opened the door and stepped into the room.

It was a beautiful bedroom, covered in soft blue silks and white gossamer curtains over the furniture. At the far side of the room a woman sat in front of her dresser, combing her black hair as she sang. Her pale skin glowed like moonlight and when she turned to Evelyn, her eyes were shocking blue like the sky.

She didn’t say anything. She simply started to quicken the pace of her singing. She turned on her stool to face Evelyn. Her long, thin pale arms were bare like tree branches covered in white moon light. She beckoned to Evelyn to come closer with her long fingers. Evelyn stepped forward, getting closer. She beckoned more. Evelyn stepped closer and her hand holding the key stretched out before her. The woman continued singing as she nodded and suddenly Evelyn wanted nothing more than to give the woman the key.

Her hand was over the pale glowing hand of the singing woman. Her fingers peeled back one after the other. The Singing Lady looked on eagerly. Almost hungerly. And the key dropped out of Evelyn’s hand and disappeared behind the quick grasp of those long white fingers. And suddenly the song stopped and Evelyn felt cold and sick.

“Thank you, my dear.” The Lady sang even as she spoke.

“Who are you?” Evelyn whispered.

“That is no concern to you.” The Lady sang more as she turned to her mirror and dropped the key into a glass bowl filled with other old keys. “What does concern you is this. You have until sunrise. Go find some place in the house to enjoy your final few hours.”

“Why?! What happens at sunrise?” Evelyn asked, feeling afraid.

The Lady sang and laughed at the same time in icy tones.“If you are still in the house by sunrise, you’ll die, dear.”

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