“When you play with fire in a ghost house then expect to get burned.” Diary of Jonathan Webster, insane. Incarcerated, Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1876.
Local businessman Jonathan Webster was, today, accused of setting a fire with intent to incapacitate and murder Albert and Elisabeth Beechwood and their unborn child. In addition the remains of an unknown female, also with child, were discovered in an upstairs room.
Being of unsound mind the accused was spared the hangman’s noose and admitted to an asylum for the remainder of his days.
When inquisition as to motive was applied by the prosecution the only words uttered by Mr Webster were, “Get out of my house.”
Extract from “Letters of The Amanuensis – Fire-starter”
The business man who dabbled and turned insane.
So the parchment declared. Extracts from old newspaper cuttings transcribed into his library archive. The scattered aftermath of an event that turned history.
Insane? The Amanuensis thought not. traumatized by events that filled his head with demons, yes.
Jonathan Webster, not an innocent. A murderer with a motive baited by a child.
He sat upright. A vision drawing deep breath. Children, always there are children.
On the desk his hands rifled more parchments. His eyes remained closed allowing thoughts to coalesce. Opening them he read the extract above again.
“No, I wasn’t in control.”
They say you were intoxicated and set fire to a house.
“It wasn’t me… well it was my body, but not my mind.”
“It’s the truth”
Of a madman.
“The house has demons.”
The Amanuensis rifled more pages. The house, not just any house That House, whose name binds it to past, present and future. The house resting on the edge of the Black Marsh.
Black again…. in his mind images flashed. Screams growing dimmer as bricks were laid.
How many demons?
“I don’t know, one rests in the cellar. She’s madness and vengeance.”
So you fired the house killing innocents.
“No…yes…but it was her not me.”
The child possessed you?
“Yes, yes… that’s it.”
And where is she now?
“Entombed in bricks. Bones and rags. Fingers torn and broken. There are signs inside as I tried to dig out of the darkness. He was a fool, possessed by his own defilements. He killed one of mine.”
This is no longer Webster is it?
“Good guess, Scribe.”
The Amanuensis felt a darkness connecting everything. He gazed into his candle flames. This time they stood unperturbed. Linear in time these events were not.
Too many unconnected deaths. Coincidences he believed not in. The library held everything. He just needed more time.
Always that confounded him. A library of eternity and not enough information to grasp the answers.
He closed his eyes. Ghosts, he would visit one tomorrow. Shed more light in the fired house. Not the child, the woman Elisabeth Beechwood.
A door slammed and Amelie could hear crying. She returned to her room and sat on the bed shaking. This time the door was left slightly ajar so she could see if things outside reverted to normal. They did not.
Settling back she felt her own baby move. Third trimester, it was agitated too. Her own husband was at a conference in Holland presenting a paper on something to do with particle physics. She was never quite sure what that meant at the best of times. CERN was just a word meaning big vacuum tube thing where other things you couldn’t see flew round in circles crashing into other invisible things that were even smaller. Did her head in, although a scatty memory and interrupted sleep wasn’t helping and made dealing with things you could see tricky at the best of times.
Downstairs she heard a different male voice.
“My apologies for being so late Torrie, the meeting ran over slightly.”
“Not to worry Alfred, these things happen.”
She lies well, thought Amelie.
There was the sound of breaking glass and a scream. Amelie moved back to her vantage point, this time daring to look over the bannister. What she saw made her heart beat a shade faster.
Flames were expanding from drapes that were drawn across two windows to the left of the front door and opposite the base of the staircase. Glass was strewn across a tiled mosaic floor and the curtains flapped in a breeze from outside fanning the fire that was now spreading.
Alfred moved toward the door, but staggered away as he opened it falling backwards, his head covered in blood. Jonathan stepped through, a hammer in his left hand. It was stained red and dripping, leaving a trail of blood on the floor.
Elisabeth’s mouth opened and closed as she stumbled against a table that offered temporary support. Her face was white. She spoke in a terrified whisper;
“What the hell are you doing Jonathan?”
He glared back, eyes filled with the red mist and staggering with the gait of a mad man riddled with liquor wielding a raging slur,
“If I cannot have you then no-one will.”
He moved toward the table, Elisabeth backed off. The flames were moving across the room and behind her. She turned too fast and tripped, crashing her head against the corner of the table before landing on the mosaic. A pool of red liquid grew from her hair.
Jonathan dropped the hammer and fled.
I know these might appear confusing. More so if you have just dipped in. The A to Z is themed and written from the Amanuensis point of view. This is, by sheer coincidence, also my own looking back at my manuscripts and seeing them as all connected rather than the separate entities they were first assembled as.
Each letter is adding to the story of our Scribe.
It’s harder than I imagined because I don’t want to reveal spoilers of huge extracts that might give away too much.
It is, however, an insight into how my mind works as a writer. Questions asked by the Amanuensis are generally the same ones I explore when trying to assemble a story idea. I just write in the gaps afterwards. Savvy?
As always, feel free to pass judgement in the comments section. All words are welcome.