I thought this might be fun as I’m a lover of colours and as there is a different hex/RGB each day there is a new invitation/try to produce something creative – until the ‘challenge’ is over at the end of April.
Your contribution can come in any form – art, poetry, flash fiction, a tale of a miscellaneous memory – anything, the only caveat – it has to be inspired by the color of the day. You can join in every single day or simply post at your leisure. – Color Your World, 120 Days of Crayola
Why not join me? 🙂
Here is my contribution towards today’s colour –
Note: A little later than planned, but now it’s done! This one ran away with me, I’d aimed for only 500-1,000 words. So, you may want to read it in two parts, or when you’ve a quiet ten minutes for yourself. Please let me know if you liked it.
Sepia they were, I believe that is what they call it. The people looked strange – stiff and staring, devoid of smiles. We’d bought an old Victorian house that was in drastic need of repair although the roof was pretty much sound. But there was rot and decay in places, broken windows, a blocked chimney. We renovated it down to the very bones. It was whilst I was pulling up a decayed wooden floorboard that I found the sepia photographs bundled up with velvet ribbon inside a small, rusty tin box.
My twin sister and I were moving in together. I was getting a divorce from Michael, and she, the flighty artist, wasn’t into serious relationships. We’d just turned 40, still young enough to do something interesting with our lives.
I didn’t show or tell Teresa about the photographs right away. I suppose a part of me was thrilled by their mysteriousness and I wanted a secret for just myself. I’d been battered emotionally from living for ten years with a man who tried controlling everything I did, so, I think, it was quite understandable. I needed my own space to breathe.
Teresa was still in London wrapping up things there, her business interests and the remaining possessions from her home, the flat she’d bought outright the year she made it big six years ago. While I did my best overseeing the renovation work, making sure the workers did things right. I wasn’t brilliant at telling people what to do but I still had something left of the excellent managing skills I used to have.
“How’s it going Twin?” My sister asked on the phone. I could hear soft chatter in the background, I guessed she was at the gallery.
“Good.” I said, staring at one of the sepia photographs I was holding. I had been going through all twelve of them.
“Good. Did the new boiler get put in today? Has the kitchen arrived yet?”
“Yes and yes. Tim’s coming over tomorrow to fit the new kitchen units. But the counter needs an inch off the end; he can obviously do that too.”
“Good. I don’t think I can come up to Norfolk this weekend, there’s a problem that needs sorting. It might even be next Wednesday when I can come, I am sorry.”
I asked her about the problem, she told me about it and said the matter ought to be soon resolved. So, it looked like I would be spending another week sleeping alone in the house. Which I didn’t mind – I had my trusty West Highland Terrier, Angel, and a classic book containing the short stories by M. R. James for company. No, I didn’t mind at all, that was until the middle of that forthcoming night.
I’d fallen asleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms, the room at the top of the stairs directly opposite the room in which I’d discovered the sepia photographs. As usual, since leaving Michael, I had quickly dozed off still holding the book I was reading. The only light in my room was that of the full moon beaming across the quilt, and at the bottom of my bed where Angel slept. But when I looked at him, upon abruptly awakening, his eyes were open and his ears were pricked and he was visibly sniffing the air.
Had he heard something? Was that why I was now awake? Had a noise awoken me?
I concentrated for any unusual sound. Living out in the middle of nowhere with fields surrounding the house one side and a wood the other, a person hears all kinds of nocturnal creatures – owls, foxes, pheasants… Our nearest neighbour was the village pub a twenty-minute walk away.
There was nothing, and, yet, Angel was still in that state of alertness. He wasn’t the kind of dog to make a fuss for no reason.
“Angel, what is it?” I whispered to him. So softly that only he would hear if there had been a human intruder.
He answered me with a low throaty growl. His bright eyes fixed on the closed bedroom door a couple of yards from the foot of the bed.
I felt afraid at that point, my heart started to hammer. I was thinking that we had a thief, although there was nothing really of value to steal – unless the large American style stainless steel fridge counted. However, no one was going to be running off with that! There wasn’t a T. V. or a music system or even a computer.
Slowly, guided by the bright moonlight, I found my mobile phone in the pocket of my cardigan left over the back of the chair by the bed. I didn’t want to be viewed as a fool if I rang the police and they found no one trespassing; I had to be sure. One of the builders had left a large hammer behind, on the windowsill. I grabbed it because it was the only thing I could think of protecting myself with.
Then a fox cried out, its sound wailing like a small child. Other than that and afterwards, there was silence.
Feeling suddenly cold despite it being July, I put on the cardigan over my cotton pyjamas. I glanced over at Angel and his growl – louder this time – made me physically jump.
I heard it then. A sound like the tapping of fingers on wood, then, a scratch – long and slow. I’m sure it came from the closed door of the room opposite, the one in which I found the sepia photographs.
Of course, I knew then that it wasn’t something human. This frightened me more – that it wasn’t a person or persons rendered the hammer and phone useless. Being too afraid to investigate, I pushed a few of the moving boxes up against my door. They were heavy enough to not let anyone push the door open from the outside. I thought it may not hold back whatever it was from coming in, but nonetheless, I felt somewhat safer.
The rest of the night I tried to keep vigilant by trying to stay awake but sleep finally fetched me in its embrace. I had horrible dreams. I dreamt of people, stiff, with wide open eyes, and hostility in their hearts. They walked towards me in jerky movements. Their colouring strangely sepia, as if they’d emerged from the photographs.
Yes, I had tormenting dreams that night – and the next.
I dreamt of dead people.
When morning arrived and the daylight with it, I felt a little less apprehensive. Angel was amusing himself with a ball as if everything was right and normal again. I stretched and climbed out of bed.
I glanced at the bedroom door: to my dismay and horror, the packing boxes had been moved completely away from where I’d stacked them. The door remained closed. It – whatever it was – had apparently been inside my room to have been able to move them. I abruptly sat down on the edge of the bed, a chill running through me.
I quickly phoned Teresa. She wasn’t answering.
“O. K.,” I said to Angel, summing up courage, “let’s investigate.”
Downstairs, I heard the carpenter, Tim, knocking on the front door. There wasn’t time to investigate.
“I hope I didn’t come too early, Tamara.” He said eyeing my pyjama bottoms.
“No…I just didn’t sleep well last night. Coffee?”
We drank mugs of strong coffee and somehow, everything about last night, I spilt out to him. Tim was excited, he had to see the haunted room at once.
“Tim, this isn’t really fun, you know. I was terrified last night.”
He apologised, but the glint in his eye didn’t leave. I pointed out the space where the floorboards were no more and where the rusty tin of the sepia photographs was stored and hidden – for goodness knows, how long. With daylight shining through the window it was hard to imagine just how frightening and real last night had been.
“Can I see the photos?”
“Don’t you have a kitchen to install?”
“I’ll think about it.
He made a mock pleading face.
“The kitchen.” I said firmly.
While Tim made a hell-of-a-noise doing what he was paid to do, I took a shower to freshen up. After getting dressed in capri pants and a sleeveless top, both in blue, I tried phoning Teresa again. This time I got her voice mail.
The anxiety that was born of these preternatural happenings, bubbled beneath, like some kind of simmering stew about to boil over.
It was nearing lunchtime, I’d missed breakfast and was hungry. I offered to make the carpenter a sandwich in my brand new sparkling kitchen.
He said nothing of the photographs as we quietly ate the cheese and sweet pickle sandwiches, seated on the front doorstep in the sun. We hadn’t an outdoor table or chairs.
“You’re local, aren’t you?” I said suddenly.
“Do you know anything about the history of the house?”
He gave me an odd look.
“You do, don’t you. You know something, I can tell.”
After a while, he said: “Everyone around here knows the stories about Rose Cottage, but it doesn’t mean they’re true.”
“Tell me anyway – after all, my sister and myself have just bought the place, we ought to know too.”
So, he rather reluctantly told me the story. It wasn’t a pretty one. Mrs Mary Evans, had over a period of twenty-five years poisoned to death, three husbands, a brother-in-law, two mother-in-laws (the third one was already deceased), and all six of her children. It was rumoured there could have been more fatalities – during this time people went missing and other children could have existed. It was a sickening tragedy. Now, the really crazy part was the bit about the witchcraft: Mrs Mary Evans wasn’t a mere greedy psychopath! She was a witch to boot! After being judged guilty, they hanged her.
“Some say she cursed her accusers and put a curse on Rose Cottage. If she couldn’t be happy living here, then no one would after her – ever.”
I choked on a sandwich crust. Outwardly, I blamed the stringent flavour of the sweet pickle.
Tim patted my back so the choking would stop. “Don’t worry,” he said, “They’re only silly stories.”
His serious face didn’t convince me.
I tried phoning my twin twice more that evening. Why she wouldn’t make contact with me was unusual. As the sun set late that night, I could not help worrying about being alone in the house with whatever it was. I ended up sleeping on the settee in the living room downstairs; with my arms around Angel, and a large stick under my pillow.
I had the most vivid horrific dreams of my life that night. The hostile dead were back again, only this time they’d brought a friend: the woman was small and slight of build, her eyes so black they were the eyes of something inhuman, her hair severely pulled back off her thin face into a bun, and, the clothes she wore had she not been sepia-coloured, other than her eyes that already were, were black – a long full skirt to her ankles, over the tops of her pointy boots, and a waistcoat over a high-necked blouse. Her mouth, with the lips too thin to be called lips, was set in a downward cruel line. She looked to be in her 70s, although people back then aged a lot faster than they do now.
The shuffling corpses gathered nearer, their eyes staring and wild. Their hostility speaking volumes in the silence.
Her completely black eyes within the lined, mean face, danced with glee. Alive and restless like the burning flames of a fire. She conveyed everything with just those evil eyes.
Her lips never moved, she didn’t utter a word.
But she made it known to me that she wanted her sepia photographs back. Or, there would be trouble.
At six in the morning my phone rang waking me. My parents were calling with shocking news: Yesterday, Teresa had become very ill; beginning with a burning fever which then saw her fall into a coma. I’d an inkling that the strange disturbances in the house and the bad dreams were connected with my twin’s sudden rapid downturn in health. In short, Mrs Mary Evans was really a witch – and my house was cursed.
“Let me take copies of the photos first.” Tim said when he came round a couple of hours later. After breakfast, I’d phoned him with the update concerning Teresa’s poor health and the nightmare of the witch, and he asked if there was anything he could do to help. I hadn’t had time to make new friends yet, the village was unfamiliar territory, and, so I welcomed his friendship- although, I knew, he was excited about the preternatural happenings.
The only way we could copy the sepia photographs at the house was by taking camera pictures of them with Tim’s mobile phone (I didn’t want the ghastly things on mine).
We bound the images of the dead staring people with the same velvet ribbon and set them back inside the rusty tin. And, then, we lowered the box into its former resting spot. Under the place where the old floorboards had been.
“I’ve done what you wanted. Now, you must leave us alone. Let Teresa come back.” I said, my voice firm, replacing the dusty silence of the room.
A tapping of fingers on the door came in reply. I knew we were going to be alright again.
Lunchtime, my mother phoned, telling me amidst the happy sobs, that Teresa had come out of her coma. She was fine.
Next Wednesday my twin finally came home. Her arrival coincided with Tim laying the new floor in the room opposite mine.
“Are you going to tell her?” Tim later asked me in a hushed voice. Over mugs of coffee, standing in the kitchen, whilst my twin was upstairs.
“I thought about it…but, no, I decided against it. I wouldn’t want to scare her, especially after the coma thing. There hasn’t been a disturbance or nightmare after we replaced the box.”
“Good thinking.” My new friend said.
An odd expression then crossed his face, he paled. The mug of coffee he was holding fell to the floor.
“Tim! What’s wrong?” I bent down to him.
I could hear Teresa rushing down the stairs, her feet thumping on the wooden steps. She stood in the doorway, horribly surprised as anyone would be. “Call an ambulance! Quick!” I screamed. My mobile phone wasn’t on me.
But before she could reach for her phone from her trouser pocket, she put something on the kitchen counter. A small rusty tin box.
“I wanted to tell you what I found under the old floorboards, upstairs…” She said.
Why not join in? Color Your World 120 Days of Crayola with JenniferNicholeWells.com
Copyright – the colour chart by colourlovers.com; story/artwork by Faith McCord
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.