"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 3)

By+the+Candles+Light+++%28part+3%29

For the first instalment

For the second

 

Pale golden light shone softly on the bookshelves encasing us. Shadows grasped at our feet, repelled by the light. The figure hung in the air before us, silent; watchful. A familiar face, not quite smiling but definitely keeping something to itself.

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My mother. That’s who the figure resembled. My mother, who had been six feet under for nearly a year.

Eugene had his arm around my waist, holding me back. I could no longer tell if it was necessary. I didn’t know how to feel. A second ago I had wanted nothing more than to run to the figure. Not a day passed when I didn’t long for her warm embrace. But now, staring at her in this form, I could feel something was off.

“Back away slowly, Florence,” Eugene whispered in my ear. The ghost tilted its head as if to catch his hushed words. “It’s not the first ghost we’ve met, and the others weren’t so friendly.”

Perhaps he was right. The passage we found in my Uncle’s library led us deeper and deeper into darkness, until suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of wisps. They’d chased us into another hidden room, and that led us here; a hidden library somewhere within my Aunt and Uncle’s house. A library that appeared to be haunted my mother.

“But I know her.”

“I don’t think that’s your mother, Flo. Not anymore. Please, let’s get out while we have the chance.”

At those words the ghost lifted a translucent hand and beckoned us to follow. Eugene and I exchanged a look. Should we risk it? Should we follow? I wanted to. Oh, how badly I wanted to! But there was more that Eugene’s arms keeping me back.

The ghost didn’t wait for us to make up our minds. It floated behind a tall bookshelf, taking its warm glow with it.

“I’ll risk it.” I pushed myself away from Eugene and followed it.

It didn’t travel a long way. A desk stood between bookcases, dwarfed by their stature. Moving aside so I could approach, the ghost simply watched. Hesitant glances its way every so often, I checked every drawer in the desk. Most empty. One had a lighter and candle. In another, a dried rose, its color so distorted it appeared blue.

Another look at the ghost; a subtle change in her stance, and I came across a bundle of papers tied with blue ribbon.

A soft hiss filled the air. Eugene was there, gesturing to move away from the ghost. A look of sadness came across her transparent face when I picked up the bundle.

“Old letters?”

She nodded. Then the ghost of my mother extended her hand towards me, mimicking the motion of cupping he cheek in her palm. She used to do that often. Waves of cold rolled off her and she never actually touched my face.

I wanted to reach for her, wanted to draw her into my warmth until she shook off all frosts of death.

But I knew that was pointless. My mother was dead, and so was my father. A whole year since their murder and nothing could reverse it.

Golden light faded. The ghost’s translucent figure faded into nothingness.

“Florence–” Eugene put a hand on my shoulder. “Flo?”

Darkness hid wet trails on my cheeks. I wiped them away as I turned to face him.

“I’ll be alright.” I hoped I would be.

I fumbled among the desk drawers, searching for that candle. The lighter wouldn’t work on the first, second, fourth try. My hands shook too much. I thrust it to Eugene and plopped onto the ground, banging my head against the desk. A sob escaped me, though it may have been from a different pain.

Light sparked. Again a candle’s light encompassed us. Eugene sat down next to me.

“Can I ask how she died? Sorry if that’s–”

“Someone broke into our home; in London. Went straight for the master bedroom. My father died shielding my mother. I guess you can tell she didn’t get lucky. I wasn’t even there. Off at boarding school. Never had a chance to – to – ” Another sob, and I brought my knees up to my chest.

How had things turned out like this? Not too long ago I was bored out of my mind at my Aunt’s party. Then I had met Eugene, and excitement found us when we found that passage entrance. Now all that faded, consumed by my grief. A year really was too soon to talk about it.

But I guess I didn’t mind Eugene knowing. Why, I didn’t know. I had met him barely a few hours ago.

He took my hand.

“I want to get out of here.” The rustling of my skirt as I stood made the candle flutter.

And yet, it seemed to lean in one direction. A doorway, just across from us. The darkness had hidden it before and the ghost’s light hadn’t been bright enough.

“I don’t care where it leads; I need to leave.”

So we did. Eugene opened the door, cautiously, so that no more surprises met us on the other side.  It was clear.

The door led to another corridor. Unlike the first, whose walls were made of ancient grey stone, this bore a vintage floral wallpaper. Door every few feet broke the continuous pattern of faded ivy and no-longer-red rosettes.

“Want to pick one at random?” Eugene asked.

“I don’t want to turn back.”  Yet by now I was starting to worry we’d never find Uncle’s library again; and that was assuming the secret passage’s exit would still be within this house.

“We’ve trusted the candle this far. Third time’s the charm, right?” Meaning, I hoped because it had led us in here, it could lead us out.

We stood still. Nothing; not even a twitch. It burned steadily.

“Random it is.” Eugene put his hand on the nearest door.

Beyond was, as far as I could see, a mess. Boxes and suitcase were stacked hap-hazardly, clustered, and leaving only a narrow walkway for us to follow. Other odd junk poked out from amid the mess; an artist’s easel, a bookcase with most of its shelves broken, and a wardrobe bearing a huge lock. A persistent ticking noise surrounded us, faint yet hard to ignore. Spider webs covered all of it, giving the illusion of cloth one drapes over unused furniture to keep it from getting dusty.

The path opened into a space cleared off boxes. In the very center, a grandfather clock. The hands on its face had been ripped off, leaving silver little nubs in place. They pointed to just after midnight. Though it stood unmoving, not even the minute hand jerked, the ticking noise grew louder.

It reached a crescendo and – the pendulum within its web-covered case swung.

Not sound accompanied it.

Worse of all, it seemed there was no other way out but the way we came.

I sat down on an old travel trunk. “Great, now what?”

“Retrace our steps?”

I shrugged, and pulled the bundle of papers out from my pocket. The first was addressed from my mother to someone named – I struggled to make out the smudge – the same name that accompanied hers in the police reports the night after her murder.

The letter was addressed to my parents’ killer, some twenty years prior.

I scanned its contents. Their revelation only made things worse – the man had been something of a lover to her.

Holding the paper loosely in my hand, I let the first flutter to the floor as I searched the rest of them. There weren’t many letters, and they weren’t consecutive. A period of nearly five years separated the first and last.

The last was a letter from him.

My breath fluttered as I soaked in every word.  He wasn’t writing a love letter; he was angry. Angry at my mother for marrying someone else. A threat of revenge; a promise of a curse. Murder. I knew he could only be talking about the thing he would commit nearly fifteen years later.

The rest of the papers spilled out of my hands.

“Why’s your aunt’s name on that case?” Eugene’s voice shook me out of my thoughts. I glanced at the one I was sitting upon. There it was, clear as day and embezzled on a metal plaque. Patches with the names of exotic places covered the worn leather – every European nation; Africa and both Americas.

“Here, move out of the way.”

I gathered up my mother’s letters and Eugene worked on the case. The latch, despite being without use for so long, gave away with a struggle.

Inside were lady things; gloves and such. A couple books (I never took my Aunt for a reader before; she hated it when Uncle brought me thriller novels.), broken pens, and crumpled flowers were strewn about inside.  At the very bottom, after a big of digging, we found a photograph. Of two people were focused in on.

Eugene held it up to the candle.

“’My dear Lizzy, forever and always.’ Signed, er, I can’t read his name.” He chuckled. “Never took you Aunt for a ‘Lizzy.’”

“Same here.” She was always Aunt Elizabeth or just Aunt to me.

The couple posed in from of the Eiffel Tower. The woman, so clearly my Aunt based on looks along yet so clearly not her, had her arms thrown around the man. They couldn’t have been older than their twenties; a time long before the Great War. She looked radiant, the way you’d expect brides to look on their wedding day. Full of happiness I’ve never seen on her, full of love for the man beside her. A man who was clearly not my uncle.

Eugene gave a low whistle. “Well, looks like your family’s full of drama.”

I said nothing. The letters along with the photograph went into my pocket. They fit right alongside the hard outline of my book which I never had a chance to finish.

It was odd. What were all these secrets about my family that I was just learning? Why so much loss and pain in them?

A cold draft picked up. Bare skin on my arms tingled. Not for the first time I wished for warmer stuff than the party dress Aunt bought for me.

She was always doing that, trying to run my life from the clothes I wore to the people I socialized with. Uncle occasionally brought a book banned by her as consolation. Otherwise he stayed aloof. I have seen examples of happy marriages, and they weren’t it.

The candle flame danced. The ticking of the dead grandfather clock grew louder.

I abandoned those thoughts immediately. There was the answer we sought!

Eugene ran his hands over the floor. I brought the candle closer, intending to help look but he had already located the outline of a trap door.  A broken pipe was produced from the junk that surrounded us. In a moment it gave away and we stared into a square hole of pitch darkness.

“I’m not doing ‘lady’s first,’” I said, not tearing my eyes away from it.

“I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I made you go first, now would I?” He put the candle into my hands. “Don’t drop it this time.”

He disappeared into the void.

“Eugene?” No answer.  “Eugene!  Say something, right now! Let me know you’re not dead!”

Silence, and – “Pass down the candle, will you? It’s not very far.”

His hand was there to take it. Then I swung my legs through the hole; took a calming breath.

“Don’t worry, Flo. I’ll catch you.”

My trust in him was had already solidified. I jumped.

I landed in his arms, so, so very close to him. In the light of the candle, I think he may have blushed right before he hurried to put me down.

Embarrassed looks from both of us; we both turned away. Why did it feel weird to get so close?

“Let’s… let’s move on.”

“Good idea.”

Except we hadn’t gone forward enough before we were completely surrounded by pale, glistening white orbs. They melted and expanded into vaguely human-shaped figures, similar to the ones we encountered near the beginning of the passage. Malice radiated off them. Eugene gripped the pipe; I hadn’t noticed that he brought it down.

Then the ghosts flew in on us.

 

Continue on to the final instalment…

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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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