Monday, January 14, 2013

The Girl in the Ghost House - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The air inside of the conservatory was damp and warm and humid. The heavy glass door swung shut behind Evelyn as she stepped inside. The conservatory looked less like a greenhouse and more like a jungle, with a fogged up glass roof peaking out above the high tree tops.

Trevor stayed back by the door and scratched against it, squeaking at Evelyn in frustration. He wasn’t very happy that Evelyn refused to listen to his warnings. And she simply kept walking forward dragging Faucet with her. Trevor stamped his foot in frustration and gave a high pitched squeak before scurrying after Evelyn.

“Hello.” Evelyn stepped on a twig that snapped loudly. “Is anyone there?”

The bushes to her left began to move and Evelyn turned and backed away from them. She was a smart girl and knew there was nothing scary about moving bushes. They were just bushes after all. But what was in the bushes making them move? That could be something unexpectedly nasty. And so Evelyn backed away from the thing in the bushes.

“Hello. I’m sorry.” Evelyn licked her lips that were wet from the humid air, “I’m looking for the Gardener. It’s important.”

The bushes went silent. Evelyn held her breath and Faucet’s gears were clicking and ticking next to her. Trevor had grabbed hold of her bootlace and was tugging and squeaking. She looked down at Trevor and then heard the snap of a twig behind her. Evelyn spun around and faced into the green and black shadows, taking a few more steps back. A low growl came from the giant ferns in front of her. Evelyn wasn’t afraid of moving bushes but she knew only big animals would make a deep growling sound like that. Animals who would enjoy having a little girl as a snack.

So Evelyn spun around and ran for the door. At least, she ran towards where she thought the door ought to have been. But she hadn’t realized that as she had been walking and turning she had gotten lost. There were only thick tree trunks and dangling vines and massive ferns with feathery leaves in all directions. Trevor was pacing back and forth, he didn’t know the way out either.

“Hello! Mr. Gardener!? Are you here!” Evelyn yelled into the misty interior.

“I can hear ya just fine!” A man yelled right next to her, causing Evelyn to jump to the side.

“Who are you?” Evelyn was breathing very fast, “Where did you come from?”

“What sort of question is that!” He was tall and thin and pale and had light brown hair and a light brown beard that he scratched as he thought. “Actually. Come to think of it. I can’t seem to remember how I got here.”

“But... but you are the Gardener, right?” Evelyn got up and dusted the dirt off of her coat.

“Now, don’t go making accusations and such!” He was getting angry again, “Though I figure I must be.”

“Why?” Evelyn asked before she could stop herself. She had already seen that he only seemed to get angry the more questions she asked.

“Why! Well! Isn’t it obvious!” He scratched more at his beard. “I’m in the garden, aren’t I?”

“I thought it was a conservatory.” Evelyn mumbled but he didn’t seem to hear her.

“And furthermore!” He stopped and snapped his blue suspenders, “You called for the Gardener and I answered.”

Evelyn was about to point out that what he has just said did not actually make any sense at all. But she had seen how easily he got mad and decided to rather ask him about the Singing Lady. “Sir, if you don’t mind, do you know the Singing Lady.”

“Oh, the pretty lady! Pretty singing lady! Lady that sings.... Prettily!” And his eyes got a far off look as he scratched his beard again, “You know, I think I remember now...”

“Yes?” Evelyn asked, leaning forward.

“Yes, I do remember,” He turned his far off look to Evelyn, “I don’t think I had a beard.”

And then there was a loud growl from one of the nearby bushes and Evelyn grabbed Faucet’s hand and scooped up Trevor and started to run again. She had only gone a few steps when she remembered she had left the absent-minded irritable gardener behind. But when she turned he was nowhere to be seen.

“Mr. Gardener?! Mr. Gardener!? Where are you!” But there was no reply.

“We’ve got to find the door.” Evelyn sighed as she set Trevor down.

Trevor ran forward and disappeared in the ferns beside her. Evelyn called for him to stop and ran after him, pushing the massive leaves aside like curtains. And she had gone so far that she felt entirely lost when she finally found Trevor. He was scratching at the glass.

“Trevor! You wonderful little mouse! You found the wall!” Evelyn scooped him up and gave him a small kiss on his soft head, “Now we can follow the wall back to the door!”

And Evelyn ran back to the clearing and found Faucet and dragged him back to the glass wall. She wiped the fogged up glass and through it she could see over the abandoned field and far below the small row of dark houses with tiny street lights shining in between them. Like stars on the ground. She thought about her mom and dad and how she would miss them if she was trapped in the house forever like the other ghosts. And she knew she couldn’t let that happen. She had to get her key back. Trevor the mouse looked up at her with big questioning eyes.

“I’m sorry Trevor but we can’t go back yet.” She patted him on his head. “We have to find the Gardener and get my key back.”

Trevor squeaked in reply and set off back into the ferns. Evelyn ran after him, dragging Faucet behind her, the ferns and branches smacking aside as they ran. And then they were there. They came out at the very center of the conservatory. It was a clearing and dominating its center was a giant tree. Its branches spread out over half of the conservatory roof and it’s trunk was as thick as Evelyn’s whole bedroom at home.

“What is this place?” Evelyn whispered.

Trevor disappeared between the roots of the tree. As Evelyn looked over it she noticed small, pale yellow flowers all over the tree that were open and glowing ever so faintly. They covered the entire center of the conservatory in a soft, dull white glow that spread out through the foggy inside. She was still busy looking at the flowers when there was a clacking of wood and zipping of rope and a platform covered in ivy came sailing out of the branches.

Trevor was on the platform and he gave a small squeak. Evelyn and Faucet climbed on board and Trevor made several squeaks towards Faucet. Faucet sighed and nodded his clockwork head and grabbed hold of the rope. He began to hoist the platform up, higher and higher until they were up in the tree.

“What is this place?” Evelyn whispered.

The top of the tree had a massive sailboat in it, made entirely of glass and bronze. The small pale yellow flowers were all over the vines that hung around it, and thick ropes of ivy had grown all over its lines and sails. Inside something was moving, like a cloud or a twisting shadow.

“Shhh.” Evelyn put her finger on her lips to Faucet and Trevor as she pulled her small bronze bow out and notched her arrow. True, she didn’t think she could shoot any better than before. But if the thing in there was the Thing with Black Wings, at least this time she would be able to surprise it. Not like last time. Evelyn reached the door on the ship, gripped the bronze doorknob and turned it slowly.

“Trevor! Faucet! Come look!” She called as she lowered her bow. “You won’t believe what is inside here!”

The mouse and the clockwork man inched forward until they were next to Evelyn. The inside of the glass ship was astounding. The small pale yellow flowers were all over the inside, the vines they grew on all came from one massive plant at the center, and from which bloomed a giant pale yellow flower that glowed like the moon. And in the air all around them were thousands of pure white moths, all fluttering and fanning the air with their wings, letting the sweet smell of the flower blow towards Evelyn.

“What is this place?” She whispered again.

“It’s a sort of butterfly garden.” And a man dressed in a beekeeper’s hat stepped out from behind the massive flower as he watered it. “Be with you in a tick. Just have to finish here. Please, make yourselves at home.”

Evelyn looked around. There wasn’t really any place to sit or make herself at home. The entire inside of the ship was covered in vines and flowers and moths and boxes. She was about to say something about it when a moth nearly flew into her mouth. She choked and coughed and spat.

“Here you go.” And suddenly Evelyn found a beekeeper’s hat on her own head. “That should do the trick. Can’t have you eating any more of the moths! They’re really not very tasty.”

“Thank you, sir.” Evelyn said looking closely at the man now that he wasn’t wearing his hat. He had short blonde hair that was curly and pale blue eyes that sparkled like he knew some sort of joke. His skin was almost as pale as the light coming from the massive flower in the room.

“I don’t know about being called, sir.” He chuckled as he rummaged through the leaves and flowers and boxes, “Sorry. Been awhile since I had a guest. Now where did I put that... I had a flan... if you’d fancy a bite....”

The man spun around and held a plate with a greyish mass covered in blue fungus with purple mushroom growing out of it. The man was smiling, looked down and saw the way the flan looked, then threw it over his shoulder. Behind him Evelyn heard a crash of the plate.

“Never mind then. No flan.” He went running back and forth, “How about a cup of tea! Bet you’d love a cup of tea! Probably the reason you came.”

The man disappeared in a pile of boxes and Evelyn walked over slowly before calling out, “Actually, sir. I’m not here for tea. I actually came because I’m looking for someone.”

“Oh! No tea then?” He looked up sad as he said it, holding a broken flower pot, “But I just found the kettle.”

“I’m sorry.” Evelyn tried not to laugh, “But I really don’t have much time. If you don’t mind me asking, are you the Gardener?”

“The Gardener? The Gardener.” The man got a far off look in his eyes as he tapped his chin, “I think... that is... I might be... I’m not sure...”

“What do you mean?” Evelyn asked, trying not to get frustrated by all the people in the conservatory who didn’t seem to know who they were.

“Well, you see. It’s all a bit... a bit fuzzy...” He opened his mouth as if he was about to say something before shutting, spinning on the spot and snapping his fingers, “I know! I have a book! The book will know if I’m the Gardener! Back in a tick!”

Evelyn sighed and Faucet sighed and even little Trevor sighed as he shook his head as if to say that the man in the beekeeper hat wasn’t all there. Evelyn would have agreed with Trevor. She wasn’t too excited to see how the man’s book would look.

“Ah! Here it is! Found it! I found it!” The man yelled excitedly as he ran around the corner with a brown paper bag in his hands. “Here you go, one for each of you.”

And he placed a small, golden colored toffee in each of their hands that glowed slightly like the flowers glowed.

“It’s a special toffee made from the nectar of the flowers! There’s nothing like it! I used to love it... well, I think I did.” He scratched his head, “Anyway the book will tell us.”

And then from behind him he pulled out an old, battered, green journal. He flipped the pages open and dust fell out of them. He had read for a little bit of time before he closed the book and looked very sad as he looked at Evelyn.

“I remember now. Well, partly anyway.” He sighed, “I’m dead. I’m a ghost.”

“Yes.” Evelyn said, and then after a moment, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I guess I should have suspected.” He sighed, “Anyway it makes a lot more sense now.”

“So, does your book say anything about the Gardener?” Evelyn asked hopefully.

“Well, its all sort of pieces here and there.” And he smiled at her, his blue eyes twinkling, “But I think I’m the Gardener. Or, at least a part of the Gardener.”

“A part?” Evelyn looked at Trevor who shrugged his shoulders.

“Yes.” He looked out. “You see. I’m not like the others. I didn’t die in one place. I died all over the conservatory.”

“That’s terrible.” Evelyn gasped.

“Yes.” The Gardener nodded, “It was the lion.”

“That must have been what we heard growling in the bushes.” Evelyn said and Trevor squeaked and shivered.

“Yes. The lion.” The Gardener winced as he spoke about it, “Because of that beast I am scattered all over the conservatory. And each one of me only remembers small bits and pieces. So I’m sorry but I can’t help you.”

“But you have to do something! I need to get my key back from the Singing Lady.” Evelyn paced back and forth, the moth’s parting before her like a curtain of fluttering wings, “Doesn’t your book say what happened?”

The Gardener opened his book and paged back towards the front section, but the pages crumbled and turned to dust and fell out of the binding like sand, “I’m sorry. No.”

“But. But there has to be something.” Evelyn said turning back and forth, “What about the book. How did you get it. If you can’t remember how did you write it down?”

“Oh, well.” And he flipped the pages to almost the very back, “Ah yes, it says here that a boy helped me. A very brave boy. He was looking for his key too. And he needed me to remember.”

“Yes?” Evelyn’s heart was racing, “And what did he do! How did he help you remember?”

“Just a moment.” The Gardener flipped through the pages, “Here we go. Yes, the boy connected all my lost memories together.”

“How?” Evelyn knew she was running out of time.

“Oh, well he just took the nectar from the flower and spread it out all along the perimeter of the conservatory.” The Gardener smiled and shut the book, more pages turning to dust and crumbling away.

“How does that help?” Asked Evelyn already scanning the rows and rows of jars covered in nectar.

“Well, you see, the moths love it. He let the moths out and they descended out on the perimeter creating a perfect circle of living things, touching wing to wing.” He smiled dreamily, “Yes. I can almost remember it. It was a pulling feeling. The circle of life he made pulled us all towards each other. And once we were together we had all of my memories back.”

“But then what happened?” Evelyn asked, looking at the moths all around her. “Why are you... broken like this again?”

“Oh, well, the nectar couldn’t last forever and eventually the moths flew away and the circle was broken and so was I.” He sighed, “It’s something like sympathetic magic or something like that.”

“So, if I spread the nectar all around the edges we can get you back together. Even if just for a little bit?” Evelyn was already grabbing jars and handing them to Faucet.

“Yes.... yes it should work! It should!” And he was getting excited as he said it, “Oh this is exciting! I’ll let the moths out right now!”

While Evelyn gathered the jars on the platform she heard the rustling of wings. When the Gardener had said he was going to release the moths she had thought he meant all the ones inside of the glass ship. But it was a moment later that she realized that those were not the only moths he meant.

The sails of the ship were filling like hot air balloons, getting fuller and fuller. Inside of them she could see the millions of small dark shadows that could only be the moths. Their soft glow lit up the ballooning sails like giant light bulbs. And then the sails broke and the moths exploded out of them like a shower of glowing wings and pieces of light. They flew all over the conservatory and lit the misty green world up with their light.

“Alright!” The Gardener was high up in the tree. “I have two more cages to set free. In the meantime, start spreading the nectar!”

Faucet lowered them to the ground and Evelyn grabbed a few jars and handed them to the clockwork man. Then with Trevor leading the way and with a jar in each hand Evelyn made her way to the glass walls of the conservatory. She screwed open the lid of the jar and the sweet smell erupted from inside. And then the moths were all around her.

“Get off! Get off!” She yelled as she swatted the moths away and began spreading the golden nectar next to the glass wall, “Hurry Faucet! We have to get this down before the moths eat it all!”

Faucet grabbed an open jar and began pouring the thick, sweet golden nectar as he took of running along the wall, his gears clicking fast. Evelyn grabbed the other open one and started running the other direction. Moths were swarming in clouds of dusty wings and iridescent eyes around the nectar behind her. From high above the tree line Evelyn saw another glowing white sail billowing out against the glass ceiling of the conservatory.

“Who-who’s there?!” The piece looked a bit like the Gardener, but he had a massive nose and tiny eyes.

“Can’t talk!” Evelyn yelled running past him with the trail of shimmering moths behind her. “Have to hurry! To fix you!”

“W-wait... what?!” The Gardener with the big nose and small eyes yelled after Evelyn, “Oh, no. You can’t! He did it! The boy did it last time! It was not a good thing!”

But Evelyn was already gone through the tall ferns and couldn’t hear his words of warning. She kept running, pouring the nectar until she reached the corner. She was just about to start running further along when she tripped over a root and fell, sending the jar crashing open. Above her the sail opened and a hurricane of white winged moths came like a massive wave towards her. And in the middle of the rushing flapping wings she heard another sound. The sound of ticking gears. It was Faucet, running towards her along the wall with his jar almost empty, a wall of white wings behind him.

“Faucet!” She managed to yell before the moths were all over her.

Cool, bronze hands reached through the swatting dusty wings and picked her up as if she didn’t weigh a thing. And the Faucet carried her back towards the main tree. As they were passing through the dense foliage they saw a different part of the Gardener. He was tall and thin with reddish hair and freckles. His blue eyes met Evelyn’s for a second. And then the lion jumped out and seemed to swallow the ghost. It’s eyes were blue and its teeth were sharp and its claws were digging into the ground. And then it spoke.

“You are not the ghost I seek.”

Evelyn swallowed and shook her head.

“But you still assist him.”

“Wh-what do you mean?” She asked inching away from the massive animal.

“You are helping to bring his pieces back together.” The lion’s mouth opened and it growled. “You are on his side.”

But before Evelyn could say anything a jar of the nectar crashed in between her and the lion and a hurricane of white wings swarmed down between them. She looked back and saw the Gardener in the tree wave to her to come up with Trevor next to him squeaking anxiously. Evelyn and Faucet ran back as fast as they could. By the time they were at the top the moths were not swarming as much anymore. And the lion was gone.

“We should be safe for now.” The Gardener with the curly blond hair said as he started rummaging through his boxes. “What we need is something to defend ourselves with!”

“How did a lion even get in here?” Evelyn asked searching down below to see if she could spot the lion in the ferns.

“Probably came with the jungle. Ah, here it is!” And he pulled out a long telescope. “Now, let’s see. Where are you?”

“Can the lion get us up here?” Evelyn walked further along the massive branch they were standing on.

“Shouldn’t think so.” The Gardener muttered as he kept looking, “Ah! There you are!”

“Is it the lion?” Evelyn was back next to him looking down below.

“No.” He put the telescope down. “It’s me.”

And then they started arriving. One by one pieces of the Gardener started arriving, flying up the tree as if they were being pulled up by strings. They were glowing faintly and as each one arrived the Gardener in the tree glowed a bit more.

“I remember!” He was smiling and laughing and Evelyn smiled too. “I remember everything! I came to the conservatory. I was hunting. I wasn’t a Gardener at all! I was the Hunter!”

“And do you remember anything about the Singing Lady?” Evelyn asked as more parts of the Hunter started to arrive.

“Yes. She was the one. She asked me to find it. To stop it.” And then the Hunter started to get angry, “It was all her fault! She made me do it! She said she would give me my key back if I stopped it! She lied!!”

“I’m trying to get my key back too.” Evelyn said stepping away from the furious Hunter, “Can you remember anything else?”

“She wanted me to destroy the lion. He sent it. She didn’t tell me but I should have known that he sent it.” The Hunter just shook his head. “She will never let you have your key back.”

“Who sent the lion?” Evelyn asked. “Why did they send it?”

“The Man with the Music Box.” The Hunter yelled and turned, “Come on then, little kitty! Where are you! I’m back! I will find you! You will be hunted!!!”

“Please, Mr. Hunter!” Evelyn was yelling over the roar of the lion and the sound of millions of wings and the man laughing, “Why did he send a lion to kill the Singing Lady?”

The Hunter didn’t seem to hear her at first but then turned and said shakily, “Because she still loved him.”

And that was when the lion jumped out of the tree branch next to them and the Hunter and the beast both tumbled out of the tree down towards the conservatory floor below. Evelyn yelled for the Hunter but he didn’t answer. Faucet lowered them to the ground but when they got there the Hunter was nowhere to be seen. Neither was the lion.

“Now what do we do?” Evelyn sighed, looking around at the butterflies that were beginning to fly around the conservatory.

“We put them back.” Came the voice behind her.

She turned and saw the Hunter. Except it wasn’t him. It was a part of him. The part with the blond curly hair. The part that she decided to call the Gardener. He was busy snagging moths with a net on a long pole that stretched out like a telescope.

“Are you alright?” She asked turning back towards him.

“Sure. Well. I mean, I think so.” And he smiled at her as he directed the moths back into the glass ship.

“But. The lion. It. It came for you.” Evelyn felt really cold in the warm conservatory.

“I think it does that sometimes.” He frowned as he tried to remember. “So, what will you do now?”

“Well.” Evelyn tried to think. “I still need my key from the Singing Lady. So I have to change her mind.”

“How will you change her mind?” The Gardener scooped up more of the moths.

“Maybe I can’t. But maybe the person she loved can. Maybe the Man with the Music Box can help me.” Evelyn sighed, “But where is he?”

“I have no idea.” The Gardener smiled. “But I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Evelyn liked the Gardener much more than she liked the Hunter. And she almost didn’t want to leave the conservatory. But she knew she had to as she heard the deep chime of the clock in the hallway begin to chime three o clock in the morning. She had to find the Man with the Music Box. And she to figure out how to get her key back from the Singing Lady.

“Come on, Faucet. Come on, Trevor.” And she made her way towards the door of the conservatory. “Maybe Lacrymosa knows where the Man with the Music Box is.”

Evelyn walked out of the conservatory and pulled the heavy glass door shut behind her. At least, she thought she had pulled it shut all the way. But she didn’t. And as she walked away, the door creaked open just a bit. The misty fog spilled out of the door like a wave of water. And in the fog something was walking. And that something walked into the rest of the house with a low growl.

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