"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

By the Candle’s Light (part 2)


Part One of the Story

The darkness was never ending, and the corridor we found ourselves in gave no sign of stopping. Whispers of dry crawling things echoed around us.

Whispers of other things accompanied them. Voices, I think, though indistinguishable. Like when I left the ballroom, but the noise of my Aunt and Uncle’s guests still followed me down the hall. Was it hours or years ago that I snuck away from the party, looking for a quiet place to read? Instead I found Eugene, and together we stumbled upon a hidden passage at the back of my Uncle’s library.

Now the door sealed shut behind us, and we had no choice but to go forward.

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Eugene held the candle aloft before us.

“How long do you think this is?”

“Well it can only be as big as the house…” My sentence drifted off. We had no way of knowing what was before us.

A fact proven in the next moment when my foot slipped off a stair edge. A shout of alarm and a couple unladylike swears came out of me (how displeased my Aunt would be!) In my fall I took Eugene down, too. He grabbed my arm with one hand, with the other reached for the wall.

Perhaps he saved us from a roll down the entire staircase, however long it may have been. Instead we stopped a little way from the top. My palms and knees stung. Ancient stone was cold under my hands. I could hear Eugene moving in the darkness next to me. Heard a raspy sound as he tried to catch his breath. His hand found mine, warm and solid.

That’s when the gravity of our situation hit me.

Our light was gone. Even if we found the candle we had no way of relighting it.

I said a few words a lady should never say in polite company.

“Careful now or I’ll tell your Aunt.” There was a touch of humor in Eugene’s voice.

“Don’t joke, this is serious.”

“Obviously I know that, Florence.”

Oh, this is not good. This mess is my fault, isn’t it?”

“You’re giving yourself too much credit. However, you do have a point.”

I gave his arm a light punch. Then it was back to serious matters. Both hands gesturing around like a blind woman, I sought out the stone wall for guidance. A soft brush of fingers against my arm, and a moment later Eugene took my hand. Raspy breathing sounded in my ear. Darkness still hung over my sight like a veil, suffocating and blinding.

“You hear that?”

I listened. Eugene’s soft breath somewhere next to me. Crawling things scurried in unseen places. The rasping continued.

So I was wrong; it wasn’t him.

Fear flooded me; locked my knees and put a cold pit in my stomach. I felt I couldn’t catch my breath. Still I took a step forward, treading cautiously so as not to tumble down the rest of the stairs.

“We’re not alone?” I whispered.

No answer from Eugene, but he led us forward. He realized the same; we couldn’t stay here. Not with some hidden being, watching us (because what else could it be doing?)

The stairs continued for a while, almost as long as the initial corridor had been. It was hard to judge how long exactly, but it’s possible we were under the house now. Moisture made the wall cold and slick, glowing ever so slightly in washed-out green. The boy by my side was illuminated palely; almost sickly looking in that same light.

Light. My breath caught. We were surrounded by light.

Eugene must have noticed the hesitation in my step. “Keep walking.” His voice was low and odd.

I looked around as my eyes adjusted to the new lighting. Then I saw it. The things from which light originated from. They drifted all around us yet kept their distance. Faint spectral shapes, floating high in the air. Painfully slow, following our path.

Both our paces quickened. The ghostly shapes moved ever so slightly closer.

In the dimness the end of the corridor could be spotted. A dark patch at just the right height suggested a door.

At that point we broke into a run.

I don’t know if the wisps followed. They blurred in my vision; streaked past in green-white hazes. Finally there was the door – just a few feet away. I found the knob but it refused to turn. Hands slick with sweat, I couldn’t grasp it. Eugene pulled me away and aimed a kick at the door. Another, and the lock splintered. Again, and if gave away.

I don’t know which one of us made it inside first. The sanctuary of the place was all I cared about as we leaned against the door – to catch our breaths but also to prevent entry.

All was quiet. The ghostly wisps didn’t follow us. I slid to the floor, wiped my hands on the fancy dress Aunt gave me recently and took a look around.

The room was small to begin with, but all the more so because of its furnishings. Paintings hung on every inch of every wall. Large ones in heavy gilded frames. Small ones in simple wood. Paintings of pretty views, of fruit bowls and dinner tables. And of course, portraits.

I instantly hated them.

Painted eyes stared down, judging. Their noses turned up, their clothing suggesting wealth and station far above what you could ever hope for. They just radiated superiority.

In a way, they remained me of Aunt.

Uncle a little less so, because he married into the posh life of manors like this one and fancy parties every week. But Aunt definitely, whose only desire was to turn me into the perfect sociable lady my mother never was.

“I get the feeling I know every one of these people,” Eugene said. “Seen them at a million parties.”

I didn’t need to give any words of agreement. I was just glad I found someone who hated that kind of life too. My mother hated it, too. Often told me so when she was still alive. I think she would have liked Eugene.

“Fortunately we are masters at escaping their company.” My book was a solid, comforting presence in my pocket. I never had much of a chance to read it. Until we got out of here, I definitely knew I wouldn’t.

“Evasion and escape. Should turn it into a business.” A pause as he considered our situation. “This can’t be the only door.”

“Of course not. I bet there’s another hidden passage.”

“You seem very convinced.”

I stared at him. “Well yes. We stumbled our way through one already. What’s to say there aren’t more? Plus this is a very old house; anything could be hidden here.”

He stood up, helped me up too. “It would be most obvious if it were behind one of those paintings.”

“Perhaps too obvious?” But I was already inspecting the nearest one.

We searched all of them. An older-than-antique chair was pulled over to reach higher paintings. We even looked at those too small to fit a person through, just in case they had secrets of their own. A tick layer of dust covered everything, dulling gold sheen on frames and turning already dark paintings even darker. Both of us were bore black dust smudges on our hands, faces, and clothes. Getting it clean – and explaining it in the first place – would be a pain.

“I still say it’s too obvious,” I declared after at least an hour of searching.

I spoke too soon. The painting Eugene was inspecting crashed to the floor with an almightily sound, splintering wood and damaging the canvas. Eugene leapt away, hands in the air like a child caught reaching for the sugar bowl.

“I swear, that wasn’t my fault.”

A beat as the noise faded.

Hands flew to my mouth as a giggle threatened to burst out. It didn’t work. A moment later even Eugene was laughing.

When we regained out composure, the sight before us didn’t register fully. At least, not instantly. A square hole now occupied the space where a painted lady once reigned from. She stared disappointingly at us from the floor. I shoved the painting aside to make space in front of the hole.

“She’s not as bad as the rest.”

Eugene stared at her. “You’re joking, right?”

“There’s just something about her…” Oh great, I’m defending a dirty old portrait now.

And yet it wasn’t that bad. A candelabra with a single lit flame stood by the woman’s elbow. In her hand were flowers, either chrysanthemums or delilahs, though based on their dark color I guessed the latter. Maroon-black delilahs, matching her dark dress. I recalled looking through old fashion books in Aunt’s sitting room. The woman’s clothes somewhat resembled Victorian mourning attire.

A deep and pressing sadness gripped me. All previous laughter was stripped away. A sob escaped my lips.

“Florence – Flo! What’s wrong?”

Eugene took my hand; I pushed him away. The feeling passed and I was left with and odd sense of loss within me. I kicked the painting away; I couldn’t bear to see the woman’s face, feel her grief (or was it the artist’s grief?) pressing upon me again.

“Let’s go. Now.”

I climbed through the hole in the wall and found myself staring up a spiral staircase. Eugene followed after a moment’s hesitation. I was already mounting the dust-covered metal flight.

“Flo, what happened?”

I didn’t answer, no matter how many times he asked (and it was quite a lot.) Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could. The feeling was just too odd. A sadness that wasn’t my own. How did that happen? Who was the woman? Who had she lost? Or, who had lost her?

It doesn’t matter, I told myself. It was old news. It didn’t concern me.

All I had to care about was getting out.

“You just passed the door.”

I stopped in my tracks. “But the stairs keep going.”

“Maybe another flight or so. You can sort of see another door up there. Perhaps ceiling? I’m not sure; it’s too dark.”

I contemplated the situation. Two doors; no way of knowing which would lead us out of here.

A draft picked up, cold against my legs and rustling my skirt. With it came a soft whisper. Not the first time I heard it. So long ago in the library I stood, Eugene all but a stranger to me, when I felt something similar. That was just before I discovered the hidden corridor.

Now it was leading me again.

“The one above,” I said with such certainly that Eugene didn’t even question.

This new room was filled top-to-bottom with books. It was bigger than the painting room, though mostly in the fact that it went up a full two or tree stories. Every day since coming to live here I lamented the fact that my Uncle’s library was filled with fake books, meant to look pretty in front of guests. All this made up for it.

Bookshelves that big usually filled me with joy, yet for some reason I treaded carefully. I shivered in the cold air, wishing I wore more than a silly party dress. Eugene took my hand. Warm yellow light spilled out from behind me.

Expecting him to be holding a candle, I turned. “Where’d you get–”

It was not a candle. It was floating figure by the door through which we had just entered.

“You see it too?”

I glanced out the corner of my eye to see his reaction. A nod; small but confirming the sight in front of us.

Features materialized on the figure. Hair tied in a bun at the base of her neck. A plain, somewhat modern dress. Smile lines in the corners of her mouth. A face so similar to the one I saw every day in the mirror. A face I never expected to see again.

My knees buckled, and I was glad Eugene was there by me.

A single word escaped my lips. “Mother.


For part three

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About the Contributor
Daria Okruta, writer
Daria Okruta is currently a senior. This is her first year working at Dakota Planet and she hopes to make it a good one. In her spare time she likes to read and write. In the near future she hopes to publish some of her novels.
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