After the bricked up revenant of a child bites Elisabeth on the hand, her world starts changing. Something in The Marsh is stirring.
This is the fifth part in a short story series that began as just that, a few unrelated short stories. Last week began to tie in a vague plot in Witchcraft and Conspiracy, this week returns to the Victorian era following Elisabeth after An Absent Child. Pieces are beginning to fall into place for the paranormal brothers, but that is one hundred years in the future.
The links are below and may contribute to a better plot understanding.
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Elisabeth spent the following week avoiding both cellar and room at the top of the stairs. It was now noticeable that each time someone passed the latter on the landing. They all subconsciously swerved giving it a wide berth. As far as she was aware none, other than herself, had actually opened the door at all. It was like it didn’t exist. Inside, her mind said otherwise. Something else was bleeding out, and it was that darkness saying “keep out” deep inside the conscious of passers by.
Not her though. It had called her in to show the way to some unhallowed folly – tomb – lying in the middle of The Marshes. A path only visible from the window in a long disused child’s room. At night she still saw the way in her dreams. During the days since the cellar, Elisabeth had systematically walked the grounds. Always failing to see anything other than an overgrown copse, way out beyond the gardens and surrounded by bogs and wetlands. Even the trees seemed, at ground level, to have no discernible order, and try as she might even the window of the avoided room was nowhere in sight.
Today she was sitting in the day room overlooking the gardens whilst reworking the bandage covering the hand, that was what? Bitten, scratched, snagged on a nail? Elisabeth knew bitten was the correct answer, but was reluctant to consider it a reality. The further she got from that night the more it all seemed unlikely.
How could the cellar hold the ghost of a bricked up child who was able to sink teeth into the palm of her hand? Something irrational said it could. Moreover it made the hairs on her neck stand out and a chill shudder ripple through her body. The unwrapped bandage again showed signs of blood. On her palm the two tiny punctures were clearly visible and still not healing properly. Her physician was somewhat perplexed by this, and convinced carbolic soaked bandages were essential to prevent infection until the wounds knitted together. Elisabeth sighed and reapplied fresh dressings. A most strange bite she thought, two tiny pin pricks where there should be more marks if it were truly teeth.
Her husband, Albert, was away in London and unlikely to return for several weeks. Part of her thought the draw might be a mistress, but that was merely justification for Jonathan. The move here was partly to axe that connection and ensure complications concerning her unborn child’s father would remain silent. With Albert away again, old regrets returned and she found her thoughts becoming untoward and focussed on memoirs of her ex lover and his penchant for experimentation. In particular, the rush she had found whilst blindfolded.
She felt herself becoming unnecessary and shook her head in an effort to displace the feelings of wantonness. Being alone in a big house made isolation all the more potent. She had needs and they were no longer being met. Being discovered with a paramour would not befit her status and leave her in ruins. She enjoyed the indulgence, but was not in love with Jonathan. It was better he was no longer in the picture. Rising Elisabeth decided fresh air might cleanse the senses and wash away the licentious thoughts.
Outside early morning sunlight was dappling through the trees and the garden was half alive with birdsong. She stood on the threshold of the patio doors, that were now swung outwards. Half alive she thought, how can that be? For a reason she knew not, Her mind was picking up nuances that, previously, had been unnoticed. Drawing out emotions, sounds and feelings that were now more exact. It was like a slumbering part of her mind had woken up and brought new depth to existing sensations. Perhaps that was why the brief thoughts of Jonathan had seared the images of lust into her mind a short while ago.
Returning to the garden, she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Half alive it was so obvious now. In front and to the right there was the sounds of life. Insects chattering, leaves rustling and birds. How could she have not noticed the birds before? They were so loud and distinct. The left was dead. Or possibly just incredibly silent, or afraid to speak out. It felt wrong. Opening her eyes she glanced toward the island way out over The Marshes.
Her eyes burned with a new clarity. Things seemed sharper, more defined, and yet to the left colour was greyed out and the wetlands exposed leaving the path to folly clearly visible. Solid ground wending a course through the marshes, edged by the wisps of mist washing against the land. Surrounded by sedges and reeds that were now withered leaving desiccated revenants of what lay there only minutes before.
Elisabeth held her breath, tracing the walkway back from island to the edge of her garden where it joined what should have been a random stand of trees. Except they were no longer random. Skeletal oaks marched to the bog shore, forming a corridor leading to the base of the house. Exactly where the two collided was hidden from view, but she guessed at directly below the room that chose not to reveal itself. She was aware of the quickening of her heartbeat echoing in her chest and resounding in her ears. Feeling her pulse forcing the blood round arteries and veins as her eyes watched the line where daylight met grey, where silence and decay existed on one side and life on the other.
“My lady, will you be taking breakfast shortly?”
Elisabeth turned slowly to see her maid standing just inside the day room. For a moment she considered the girl before her as rather pretty with a delicate white neck in which the life pulse was acutely visible. Briefly, her eyes flashed crimson imagining the red liquid coursing round her veins. Then it was gone, but not before the maid searched for the floor avoiding eye contact. It was like her mistress had dipped into her very soul, leaving her feeling violated and, for the first time ever, scared by what she had just witnessed. It was the eyes, they had turned the colour of blood. Albeit briefly, but they had. Filled with horror and surrounded by obsidian where the whites should be.
“Alice, is everything alright? You look as if you have seen a ghost?”
The maid reluctantly looked up again expecting the worst but finding Elisabeth smiling down upon her.
“You eyes Ma’am, they were wrong for a moment, but it may have been me. They is perfectly clear now.”
She was trembling. Something Elisabeth picked up on immediately.
“What do you mean…wrong
Alice took a small step backwards.
“They looked like you was possessed by the Devil.”
Thoughts of the grey line outside flooded into Elisabeth’s mind.
“Alice, would you be so kind as to look outside and tell me what you can see?”
“It’s alright, I won’t bite.” Unlike the child in the cellar. “Just tell me what you see over The Marshes. Anything odd about them, that sort of thing.”
Alice tentatively moved to the threshold between day room and garden, half expecting something to be entirely wrong with the world.
“It all seems the same to me, just grasses and bogs and an overgrown bit of land in the distance.”
“And the sky?”
“Blue as blue Ma’am, suns out and no clouds at all.”
Elisabeth moved behind her casting her own eyes across the vista. Nothing out of the ordinary, no half alive or dead swamp. There was one change though. Now she had seen the causeway to the island to her it was clear as day. Winding through the tufts of sedge leading toward the aisle of trees that now, also stood clear amidst the stands that had, previously, appeared randomised. Her gaze dropped again to the nape of the maid’s neck exposed under the bun her hair was tied up in. She placed a hand on the girls shoulder watching in slow time as a finger nail deftly traced a path over the pale skin before her hand settled more firmly turning Alice round in an arc so they were both moving back inside.
“I think perhaps I shall take breakfast now after all.”
“As you wish Ma’am.”
“And Alice,” it was an afterthought, “have you ever heard anyone comment on anything strange about this house?”
The maid paused by the door leading to the kitchens.
“I have heard rumours Ma’am. The cook won’t go into the cellar on her lonesome on account of strange noises. And there ain’t no-one that will go near that room atop the main stairs an account of the girl that was murdered by her parents long ago. They say going inside sells your soul to the Devil himself.”
Elisabeth went cold. They looked like you was possessed by the Devil.
“Do you know why they murdered her?”
“They say she was possessed by a demon and, being God fearing folk, her parents did her away. They never found no body though. Probably lost in The Marshes. They never found the father neither. The girls Mom said the house devoured him. More likely the bogs claimed him too. She ended up in Bedlam and that was the end of her.”
Elisabeth remained quiet and allowed the maid to leave and organise breakfast. She knew part of the truth. The child was not bog bound, but bricked up in the cellar as, in her words, a monster. The room clearly needed exorcising and bringing back to life, but could it truly devour people? More likely the father may have seen the route into the folly and wandered over the marshes to investigate. Possibly losing his footing and falling in, never to be seen again. But what of the Feriante? The girl seemed perilously afraid of him, if it was a him. What if the father had made it across and found something inside the folly and come to some disagreeable end there? Little wonder the mother lost her sanity and ended up in the asylum.
She turned back toward the patio doors and stepped outside. Everything seemed normal now. The folly was hidden beneath foliage, the path had blended back into the marsh, and the trees no longer looked purposeful, but randomly strewn across the gardens. Birds drifted left to right and the grey line was lost to a blue sky filled with early morning sun. Elisabeth drew a deep breath deciding to place the earlier unsettlement to one side for now. It was obvious she would need to visit both cellar and room again. Perhaps even look deeper at where the trees had led beneath the window. It was doubtful she would have courage enough to follow the marsh path. Although if things continued she might follow the child’s mother into the lunatic asylum. Reminding herself “I do not believe in ghosts,” she stepped outside.
As she moved from shadow into full sun, a most curious thing happened. The early morning warmth settled onto her exposed right arm. Except this time it grew unbearably causing her skin to boil forcing her to recoil backwards, screaming in pain. She watched steam fizz off her arm, before small flames charred her flesh, filling her nostrils with the acrid stench of burnt meat. Tripping over the threshold in blind panic she fell, catching the side of her head on the low table between the sofas in the day room. Her world went black.
She awoke on the very same floor with Alice knelt over her and dabbing a cold compress onto her brow.
“Ma’am are you alright?”
Elisabeth tried to sit up, but the room was spinning so she chose to remain prone. Her mind still felt numbed pain; mostly from the bruise and pounding in her head.
“My arm Alice, what has happened to my arm?”
The maid continued to soothe her forehead.
“Nothin ma’am, it seems you took a fall coming back inside. The physician will be here presently. Just you stay restful.”
Elisabeth’s eyes dropped onto her arm and were greeted by pallid white skin. Not even a mark. Bedlam for you I fear.
Looking up, she watched the pulse of blood throbbing in the maids neck.
If you made it here, then thank you for taking the time to read. Like I said before, these add back story to other books. And yes, I know they need tweaking, but if they become a manuscript then that is where the transformation from short story anthology will turn into the real deal.
Shares or comments are welcome and if you want more then please say so lest I distract…something I am very good at doing !!
© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.
It’s time to mooooove! Or maybe it’s too late? Is it that her infidelity, her indulging in one of the big 7 that made her susceptible? Hmmm…all the questions! Great installment!
If it were me I’d have moved out ages ago!! However, that’s because I know what’s going on! Elisabeth will soon too; but as you say, a shade late on that one! I’m making notes of comments too. I fully intend to turn these into a book proper and finish it.
Yes! How wonderful!
Oh lord. Terrifying. How do you think these things up?! (Love it by the way).
I don’t, they are just there!! Blame it on misspent youth, RPG and a mind that travels in alternate realities lol. Actually, I just start writing and let things unfold. Someone said recently I should do a post on how I go about writing. I guess comments show part if the process as I do turn a quick reply into an essay!
You are most kind too Hayley, thank you for taking the time to read and comment x
Gary, you scare me.
Why thank you Jennifer. High praise indeed 🙂 Wouldn’t be much of a paranormal cum horror tale if it didn’t have some scare factor. Mind you, I am not a fan of gore for the sake of it so there’s none of that I my stuff 🙂
This is very gothic. The bite and how Elisabeth experiences the changes fascinate me. I think I’d be MUCH more freaked out about it though. Why is she so calm(ish)? Is it just denial?
I’ve written another piece called Dragon Stone where similar psychology is at play. I’m interested in how minds process things and the hypothesis here might be that if a change is occurring then it might not be immediately obvious to the person; outside looking in it is, but inside looking out what, when or how would you see the changes as frightening if they are part of a “natural” process. In this piece things have only just started happening too. The next one will be where mental turmoil occurs. I think you are potentially right about the denial thing too. We see a big difference, but she is scared and hasn’t yet associated the child’s bite as important. Consider, if you were ill and hallucinating or feverish would you assume you were becoming something else entirely or just a bit off colour due to an infection? You are right though, I could have written this very differently and had her “freaking” out, but then I also know her character profile and what she does before this and later down the line 🙂
Thank you for the considered comment too. I’m not sure if I just muddied the water more here!!!
I think I see where you’re going here. She’s trying hard to think it’s normal that she got bit by this statue, and all the while she’s experiencing strange changes–like a frog sitting in water that will eventually boil–though not yet. Looking forward to where this leads. I am now officially hooked.
I like the frog analogy! I think the trick in writing is to try not to influence a character by what I’d do or think, but let them be them. I figured an innocuous bite (albeit after a very strange occurrence) might not automatically be associated with what’s happening now. There’s about a two or three week interval between that and what happens here. Scrooge is a good one to compare with when he is denying the existence of Marley’s ghost as a bad bit of beef; he finds excuses at first because he doesn’t want to believe in spirits. Eventually he has no choice in the matter. Maybe I ought to write that post on how I write after all!!
Gary…Gary…Gary…OMG what have you written? LOVE is not the word. Are you a famous horror author in disguise?
Ha-Ha, that would be a nice ruse to have! One day maybe; trouble is persuading a publisher to agree with you!!!
Mind you, the one out with them at the moment is very different and more a psychological thriller. I do worry that people liking this might be in for a shock there !!!
Riveting, Gary. A captivating tale, indeed. As Elisabeth eyes the maid’s pulsating neck veins, I wonder if she is destined to be a vampire?
If memory serves, the one before this is where she got bitten by a small child. I’ve not yet written the final parts of this but the intent was to infer what you say at this stage 🙂 Elisabeth has featured now in another story I’m writing too. One that precedes this series as it happens and why this paused because I want to redo this as a novel too 🙂
Thank you so much for commenting too x
This is very compelling reading Gary, very impressed and just the sort of thing I love to read. 🙂
Thanks Marj, I have put them up in rather a random order this time. Hopefully they don’t actually need true chronology and can stand by themselves at the moment. I just need to try and keep my writing in view more rather than lost under other things 🙂
Oooo, that’s an evil place to end the story! LOL! Wonderfully atmospheric, and you did an excellent job letting us see her gradual transformation (I’m forever “telling” instead of “showing”). I especially like how she constantly questioned herself and tried to rationalize things – definitely upped the creepy factor for me! Nicely done, as always, Gary!
One has yet to return to this particular plot line in this series! I know what you mean re show not tell. I try hard to avoid being direct there and let the characters flow. Might be misspent youth with RPG helps there. Using out of character information was verboten! Its a similar principle in writing. I can’t use something I know about a character that they don’t unless its actually happened to them. Approach it like that and you are (my opinion) far more likely not to start telling and better empowered to show it instead. Hope the remaining bits keep you equally intrigued 🙂
Thank you x
Creepy!!! I really enjoyed this Gary!
Thank you Ritu, I love creepy in case you hadn’t noticed 🙂
Erm… yes… it had come to my attention!!!
Thank you for the contact! I am an avid fan of horror and love nothing more than the lure of the supernatural.
My pleasure Anne. This one is part of a series I wrote ages ago so is not as polished as I’d like…yet!! Like you I love this genre of writing too. I’m actually writing books on this theme too. Thank you for popping over to me relatively new blogging attempts 😊
Wow, Gary. Another great read. I would happily pay “retail” to read your books. Thanks again for taking the time to post so we can all enjoy.
Most generous indeed once more my fine friend. This series was not more than an experimental run at something I wasn’t sure about. Feedback suggest it needs compiling and modifying to turn it into something moe like a book…I shall think on this one 🤔
I liked your blog, good article, I invite you to my blog:
I appreciate the comment so thank you 😊
Will pop over right now !!!
I’d admit to finding this “blood-churning”–but, to do so might just tempt Elizabeth to seek me out 🙂 As ever, Gary, this is suspense, imagination and word-landscaping at its finest…and I like the irony of–given practical considerations–Elizabeth resisting her lustful ‘real-world’ urges–paired with the foreshadowing of other-worldly-urgings that are on the horizon (so to speak). This is awesome…I really appreciate the opportunities to read your writings while you novels are in the works. Fantastic work…thanks for sharing, my friend. We are moving to our new (old) home on Friday, so I doubt I will be submitting anything until next weekend some time….lots occupying my mind–so, I’ve been managing to jot ideas, but haven’t mustered the inclination to hammer out a post 🙂
Thank you as ever Truly for the positive words. I’m nearing where the writing stopped in this series now. I have three more before it ceased wondering if it was going to work as a story with these extracts as bones to put flesh on so to speak. My ambition to continue was more focussed on whether it might produce (obviously worked out more deeply) a novel at some point. I think is might now, the comments have been most generous recently.
Exciting re the move too…don’t clutter your mind up with distractions this week and I shall look forward to your post when it has the time to be constructed 😊
Very Gothic! Nail (only) biting.. Like the step back in time as well…
Thank you Samantha…again !! I’m guessing it’s easier having seen the others first…bit of a strange mix really…beginning with the end of Elisabeth, then moving back in her past and leaping forwards to our time with the Carmichael brothers. Not sure if it works but had to give it a trial run here first before investing ages fleshing it out and improving it in a novel…maybe !!
I would say the back/forward works, because the individual pieces seem smoothly written-stand alone stories in their own right. Have you seen/read “The Time Traveller’s Wife.” I enjoyed the film but was disappointed in the book because it seemed too…bitty.
There’s definitely something to be published here! (In my humble opinion anyway)I like this sort of book so…what happens next?? Will you keep the titles as chapter headings?
As stand alones, which is his they were originally conceived, they may work. I think to blend them into one continuous read though there is some (loads) of work to do just to tie each chapter together. Not seen that, no….will look out for it now though !
What happens next? Well, it’s getting near to catching up with where I left the story first time round. Another three posts and I will need to write more. I don’t usually use chapter names in a book. Just numbers. I think I shall probably stick to that convention.
Thanks for the feedback too !!