Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Girl in the Ghost House - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

The house was quiet by the foot of the stairs except for the occasional creaking that came from the old wood. The cat that sat on the stairs looked lazily down towards the part of the wall covered in cracks, where Lacrymosa, the girl behind the painting, was standing staring up at a corner where the ceiling was flecked and stained.

“No, I really think it looks more like a butterfly. Or a moth.” She giggled sending more cracks along the wall, “I saw some once. When I was in the Conservatory. When William came and let them all free.”

The cat didn’t even seem to see the stain. It just kept licking its paw. Lacrymosa was about to say something to the cat about it when there was a flutter of wings in the air in front of her. A flutter of black wings. The cat hissed and disappeared.

“Oh, it’s you.” She smiled. “I was wondering when you’d come visit me again.”

“Lacrymosa, who are you talking to?” Evelyn said as she came around the corner with Trevor and Faucet in tow.

“Oh, he was just–” Lacrymosa looked around but the Thing with Black Wings was gone. “Oh, he must have left. Oh well. How was the Conservatory, dear?”

“Lacrymosa, what do you know about the Man with the Music Box?” Evenlyn said as she sat down on the foot of the stair. The Cat on the stairs was back, watching Trevor closely and the small mouse hid behind Evelyn’s rain boots.

“Oh, him? He was one of the first ones here.” Lacrymosa giggled, “In fact he was the first one that the Singing Lady trapped.”

“Why? Where is he?” Evelyn looked from Lacrymosa to the old grandfather clock in the hallway that showed only three more hours left before sunrise. “I have to find him and I don’t have much time.”

“Oh, well, yes. He’s in the Basement of course.” Lacrymosa yawned, “You know I was down there for a very long time once. I was nailed to a board that was keeping a door closed.”

“Thank you Lacrymosa.” Evelyn said as Trevor started to run along the floor towards the basement.

“I was there for so long. Until William came and broke the door open.” She giggled as Evelyn disappeared, “But I guess that’s why he got in trouble. For opening the door to the Man with the Music Box.”

From the stain on the ceiling there was a flutter and the Thing with Black Wings was back, standing in front of Lacrymosa. The shadows were deep and the Thing stepped closer. In the darkness behind it there was a low growl and two glowing green eyes flickered as the lion from the conservatory stepped out. It hunched its shoulders and dug its claws into the old wood. And then it jumped at the Thing with Black Wings.

* * *

The door to the Basement opened with a creak and Evelyn couldn’t see a single thing down in the darkness. She knew that it was just a basement and that there was no reason to actually be afraid of the dark. But she also had seen all the dangers in the house and knew that there really could be anything down there. She sighed and put her hands in her pocket and felt something there. It was the toffee she had gotten from the Gardener.

“Hmmm, I wonder.” Evelyn unwrapped it and the smell of the flowers filled her nose.

Faucet turned his head sideways slowly as if he was trying to figure out what Evelyn was doing. Trevor was at the foot of the stairs, squeaking and pointing down them with his nose. Of course he could see fine but Evelyn needed some light.

“Here we go.” She licked the toffee and her spit on the candy made the smell ten times stronger. From behind her came the papery sound and the next moment there was a large globe of glowing white moths all over her hand and the toffee trying to get to the sweet nectar. She held her hand up to look down the stairs. “It doesn’t look that full. Just a bunch of closets and wardrobes.”

Trevor hopped down the stairs one at a time and Evelyn took Faucet’s hand and led him down as they walked into the basement. All the walls were covered in closets with their doors closed. The stairs even ended at a different wardrobe door. Evelyn held her moth light up with there was nothing else in the basement.

“I wonder if the Man with the Music Box is inside one of these wardrobes.” And she and Faucet started trying to open the doors. But all were locked. Except for one. The one at the very foot of the stairs.

Evelyn opened the wardrobe and what she saw nearly took her breath away. The stairs kept going down further and further into the wardrobe as far as she could see. It was as if she was inside a giant pit with the stairs going down further and further. A gale of cold wind blew up and made her hair and her jacket billow out. And that’s when she faintly heard it. A tune on the breeze. A tune like a music box being played.

“That must be him!” Evelyn shouted and started to go down the stairs. She wanted to run but she knew that running down stairs is dangerous, especially when their strange stairs leading down and down and down into the dark of a magical closet in a haunted house. So she and Trevor and Faucet made their way down the stairs.

They had gone a while before the stairs turned and went a different way down. Then they started seeing them. Every few stairs there would be a closet door or a wardrobe. Most of them were boarded up or had locks and chains over them. A few of them had large claw marks. And a few of them rattled and shook as if something inside was trying to get out. Evelyn tried to keep her distance from the doors as she kept walking down the stairs, wanting to run even more now.

The music was definitely getting louder and Evelyn was sure it was a tinkling type of sound like a wind up music box. She also noticed the door were beginning to change. They were looking older and a few of them were shiny and black and very thin and oddly shaped. That was when one of them opened and Evelyn stopped. Inside she saw the Singing Lady.

“You!” Evelyn said before the door shut. She pulled the door open but inside was nothing. Just a closet wall. “She was here! Faucet, you saw her right!”

Faucet just shrugged his shoulders sadly. Evelyn took his cold metal hand and started going further down the stairs, following the music. A few of the doors tapped as if someone was trying to get her to answer them. But she decided after seeing the Singing Lady she wasn’t going to open any more doors. And then she heard it. Her mother’s voice.

“Evelyn? Is that you?” The voice came from the door next to her.

“Mother?” She asked, stepping closer to the door.

“Evelyn, darling why are you down here?” Her mother said in a shaky voice.

“I’m trying to get my key back from the Singing Lady.” Evelyn said, “How did you get down here, Mother?”

“Oh, I came looking for you.” Her mother spoke through the door, “I was so worried about you. You know I don’t like you sneaking out at night.”

Evelyn was just about to open the door when she heard her mother say that. Evelyn stopped. Her hand was right over the doorknob. From the other side of the wardrobe her mother said the same thing again.

“You’re not really my mother.” Evelyn stepped away from the door. “My real mother loves that I explore.”

“Come now, dear.” The thing with her mother’s voice said, “You can’t really be serious. No mother would let her little girl go explore ghost houses in the middle of the night.”

“You’re right.” Evelyn said stepped closer to the door and whispering into the keyhole, “But my mother is like no other mother.”

And so she turned and walked down the stairs and up above there was a roaring screeching sound and the door of the wardrobe shook as if someone was pounding against it with their fists as the thing with her mother’s voice yelled, “Don’t you walk away from me young lady! I am your mother and I do not approve! I do not approve!”

Evelyn was very upset by the thing with her mother’s voice. Because for a moment she thought she had really found her mother. And no she missed her mother and her father even more. She was thinking so much that she almost didn’t notice that Trevor had stopped in front of an old looking door with faded yellow paint on it. She kept walking before she felt Faucet’s hand tap her on her shoulder.

“What is it Faucet?” And the clockwork man raised his hand to his ear as if he was listening and Evelyn gasped, “You’re right! The music is getting fainter! We must have passed the door!”

And Evelyn and Faucet ran back to where Trevor was on the floor shaking his little mousey head at the two of them.

“Sorry, Trevor.” Evelyn said as she pushed the door open.

The inside was a grey room. There were instruments leaning all over the walls and sheet music covered in music notes scattered all over the floor. And sitting in the very middle of the room was the Man with the Music Box. It was a man dressed in clothes like a circus ringmaster, with a big, black velvet jacket, a faded red vest, and a massive black top hat. In his hands was a small music box that he was turning slowly, making the song. At first he didn’t even notice Evelyn until she shut the door with a click. He looked up. Evelyn almost dropped her toffee moth light. He had sad brown eyes and instead of lips and a mouth he had a zipper.

“Are you the Man with the Music Box?” Evelyn whispered as she kept looking at the zipper. It was closed tightly.

The man nodded and then looked from Evelyn to the side of the room. Trevor was pulling on a large pair of bagpipes that wheezed and squeaked. Evelyn called for him to stop but the mouse must have found some cheese because he would not stop pulling on the bagpipes.

“Anyway, sorry about Trevor.” Evelyn spoke to the Man with the sad eyes, “I was wondering if you could help me.”

The Man looked at Evelyn and then at the bagpipes.

“You see, I have to get my key from the Singing Lady if I ever want to see my parents again.” The Man nodded and then looked back down at the bagpipes.

“Trevor, stop it.” Evelyn nearly yelled, “He’ll stop it. But please sir, isn’t there anything you can do to help?”

The Man nodded but looked down at the bagpipes again.

“Fine. I’ll make him stop.” Evelyn walked over and picked Trevor up but the mouse wiggled and tried to hold on to the bagpipes as she did, “Trevor what has gotten into you! Stop being so–– ow! You bit me!”

She had dropped the mouse and was holding her hand. Luckily it wasn’t bleeding but Trevor was already back at the bagpipes pulling on them and squeaking furiously. Faucet sighed and walked over and Trevor squeaked more at him. Faucet bent over and slowly pulled the bagpipes to the side. And there underneath them was something on the floor.

The Man’s eyes went wide and he nodded his head. Evelyn walked over and picked the thing up. It was a bow. Not a bow like her golden geared bow she had received from the Professor. No this was a bow like the kind used to play a violin. Except that this one was a bit bigger. The Man with the Music Box dropped the music box and it fell to the floor and broke into pieces and gears. He held out his hand. Evelyn walked closer and placed the bow in his hand.

As soon as it touched his pale white skin there was a flickering in the air in front of him and something appeared. It was a cello. Like a giant violin that stands on its end. It was pitch black and had stars carved in silver on its body. Silvery strings glistened across its neck. He placed his fingers on the black cello’s neck and let the bow slide over the strings.

And Evelyn could have sworn that as he played the notes it sounded like the notes said, Thank you.

“Did you just talk with your cello?” Evelyn asked, wide eyed.

Yes, the Man with the Cello played back.

“But why don’t you just use your voice? Is it the zipper?” Evelyn sat down on a big drum across from the Man.

Yes, he played, she did this to me to stop me from singing or playing ever again.

“The Singing Lady?” And he nodded as Evelyn kept going, “But why? Why did she do this to you? And why stop you from talking?”

Because she was hurt and afraid, he played, and she had to stop my music.

“I don’t understand.” Evelyn whispered and the man’s eyes grew warm and soft.

All music is magic and power, the man played, whether on an instrument or whether sung. It is some of the most powerful magic in the world. That is why the Singing Lady sings.

“And so why give you the music box?” Evelyn asked looking at the pile of gears.

So I could only play one song over and over again, the Man played, and so I could never play our song ever again.

“What do you mean, your song?” Evelyn felt a small flutter of hope in her chest.

Long ago we were in love and we had a very special song, he played as his eyes filled with tears, and that song’s memory is what she is trying to forget. Which is why she has locked me down here. So she never has to hear it again.

“That’s it!” Evelyn said jumping up and grabbing the Man’s hand, “That’s how I can get my key back! If I can play your song to her she will remember who she is and then we can get out of here!”

The man seemed to think for a moment and then played, it could work. But how will you let her hear? She won’t come down here and I can’t go there. And I can’t play that loudly. Not on my cello.

Evelyn looked down at Trevor and sighed. Then she looked at Faucet. “I’ve got it! The Professor! Who lives in the attic! He has this thing! The telephonoscope. It can reach far and carry sound. I can use it to get the song from you to her!”

You gave me my bow back so I owe a debt to you, the Man played, I will help you. What is your name?

“Evelyn.” She smiled, “Thank you, sir.”

Go now, he played, I will get the song ready.

And then he played a few notes and all the papers on the ground flew up in a whirlwind and started to cascade around the room, shuffling back and forth as if finding the right order. A big group of them flew up and lifted Trevor and Faucet and Evelyn off the ground and started to carry them up and out of the room. They flew over the stairs, passing the doors, going up higher and faster as they rose towards the opening far above them that Evelyn knew was the basement door.

“Thank you, Trevor.” She said, hugging the mouse, “I’m sorry I grabbed you earlier.”

The mouse squeaked and shook his head as if he was still angry at Evelyn. Then turned and rubbed his soft velvety head against the side of her face. And she knew that he was saying that he had forgiven her. Then he nipped at her finger once more, as if to say she better not do it again.

“I promise I won’t.” Evelyn smiled and then the next moment they crashed through the Basement door in a pile of paper. “Ow, my head.”

“Meow!” Came a small voice next to her ear.

Trevor nearly jumped out of his skin as he ran to hide inside Evelyn’s pocket.

“Cat from the stairs?” Evelyn was confused. “How did you get down here? I thought you were stuck like everyone else?”

And that was when Evelyn noticed that the cat looked different. It was lighter and didn’t have any stripes. And it’s paws were bigger and it’s tail had a tuff of brownish red fur on the end. She stood up and walked to the foot of the stairs.

“Oh! You’re back! I just knew you’d be back!” Lacrymosa was giggling, “Did you find him?”

Evelyn wasn’t paying attention. Because midway up the stairs the cat was still sitting there cleaning it’s paws. She turned and looked back at the other “cat” and realized that it wasn’t a cat at all.

“Lacrymosa.” Evelyn whispered, “Was there a lion here earlier?”

“Yes,” Lacrymosa giggled, “Big and yellow with sharp teeth and big claws.”

“What happened to it?” Evelyn looked at the small yellow cat, “Don’t tell me that is it.”

“Oh, but it is. I think it’s so much cuter now!” Lacrymosa sighed, “Adorable and fluffy!”

“Yes.” Evelyn said looking around, “But how did it happen?”

“Oh, that’s easy.” Lacrymosa laughed, “It was the Thing with Black Wings.”

Evelyn felt a chill go through her and pulled her bronze bow out just to be safe. She went back and found Faucet. She led him back to the stairs and looked up. The cat was still there. She looked back at Lacrymosa and asked, “So you say we can’t go up as long as the cat is awake?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Lacrymosa giggled sending cracks all over the wall, “But sometimes it will let people pass for no reason. Or it will just disappear. A cat may look at a king you know.”

“I don’t know what that means.” Evelyn said, “But we have to get to the top of the stairs.”

And so she started to walk up the stairs, Trevor shaking in her pocket and Faucet being pulled along behind her. The cat did not move. It just kept watching her. She kept walking, Faucet’s gears clicking slowly behind her. And then she had one step left to go.

“Excuse me, Mr. Car.” Evelyn whispered, “Would you be willing to move? We really need to get up the stairs.”

The Cat just looked at her. Evelyn thought about jumping over it or maybe just stepping beside it. But for some reason the closer she came to the Cat and the hole in the stairs, the colder it got and she didn’t feel right about trying the jump.

“Please, Cat.” Evelyn said loudly, “We need to get up––”

And then there was a flutter of wings behind her. Of black wings. And the cat vanished. Evelyn saw it fly behind her in the corner of her eye. But instead of turning and shooting she grabbed Faucet’s hand and jumped over the crack and ran up the stairs. Because Evelyn knew that usually its very unsafe to run up or down stairs because you could slip. But sometimes it’s okay if it means you’re running away from something unsafe. Like a Thing with Black Wings that could make giant lions turn into kittens.

Evelyn reached the top. The door to the Professor was still crunched in half and shut. So she and Faucet and Trevor ran into the bathroom instead and shut the door tightly behind them. From outside the door she heard the wings flapping. And then there was nothing. Everything was quiet again.

“So, you’re back.” It was the boy William looking at her over the edge of the bathtub. “So, how goes your quest. You only have a few hours left you know.”

“I know that.” Evelyn said and let Trevor out of her pocket so he could scurry to the bathtub rim and tell William all that had happened. “Anyway, I have a plan now. I just need to get the telephonoscope from the Professor.”

“She grabbed you?” William wasn’t even paying any attention to her as he talked to Trevor, “Well, I guess if she apologized and promised not to do it again.”

“Are you even listening?” Evelyn said crossly.

“Yes.” William turned his sad eyes to her, “But it won’t work.”

“What?” Evelyn was even more cross now, “Why not!”

“Because the Professor won’t give it to you.” William traced his finger sadly across the porcelain.

“How do you know he won’t?” Evelyn folded her arms.

“Because.” William looked up at her with his sad, sad eyes, “Because I had the same plan. And he wouldn’t help me either.”

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