Monday, April 25, 2011

The Shadow Princess- Part 6

An eerie shiver jolted down Miss Genevieve's spine as she reread the last sentence. My family is hiding a dreadful secret. Her heart raced, ears straining for every creak and moan of the old structure, her normally steady nerves abandoning her amidst the house's crushing presence. Unexpectedly, there was a soft pattering along the carpeted hallway. Miss Genevieve poked her head out the door, peering into the gloom, hoping against hope Stephen was awake and searching for her. The noises ceased when she turned her gaze towards the corridor, but there was no living soul there. Nothing to account for the footsteps she was certain she'd heard. The air grew cold and stale, her breathing shallow as she turned back to the study. An etched silver compact lay on the desk. Until her dying day Miss Genevieve could never explain why she felt the overwhelming drive to pick it up and open it. Her pale reflection stared back at her from the small mirror, but that wasn't all that stared back. Behind her stood a woman dressed in funeral black, face heavily veiled. Miss Genevieve quickly turned, but there was no one there. Yet, when she glanced again at the mirror, the sinister figure remained. And icy hand gripped her shoulder, skeletal fingers of one long dead digging into her clavicle. Genevieve shrieked, fleeing the room in mortal terror, the shattered mirror on the floor catching the last rays of the twinkling light before the lamp was snuffed out.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Shadow Princess- Part 5

Winter was exceptionally harsh, even for the rugged townsfolk, and proved to be entirely too much for Stephen's fragile constitution. Miss Genevieve's visitations remained a source of comfort for the young man, but also became a necessity as his health deteriorated. The first floor drawing room was converted into a sick bed and daily the librarian sat by his side taking the role of nurse as well as friend. Twice she offered to stay the night, but even at his most acute he was adamant she not remain in the house too long after sunset. He offered no explanation and would accept no refusal. Although she did not speak of it, the shadow princess remained in the forefront of her mind. When the fever was upon him, Stephen screamed in terror, desperately attempting to escape a malevolent shrouded figure hovering in the periphery of his consciousness. When he rested between feverish fits, Genevieve took to wandering, exploring the crumbling structure despite Stephen's repeated warnings not to stray past the front rooms. Dark, dusty hallways led to countless locked doors keeping prying eyes out and the ghosts in. One of the few unlocked entries was Miss Matilda's private study. The drawers of the carved writing desk were brimming with papers and correspondence, a lifetime of letters, ledgers and lists. Buried under a stack of neatly folded newspapers sat a bound leather journal, M.W. stamped into the cover in gilded script. By lamplight, Miss Genevieve began to translate the hurried scrawl of the sprightly adolescent incarnation of Miss Matilda Westerfell captured on the yellowing pages in fading ink.

June 7, I saw the woman again today as I played by the pond. As I stared into the water, she suddenly appeared next to me, her face concealed by a heavy veil. When I turned to look, there was no one beside me. Mother refuses to talk about it, telling me to put it out of my mind. She is worried, I can tell. I did a terrible thing and fibbed when she asked if I had only seen her twice. I do not think I shall tell her about the other times I have seen the shadow princess. I would not want her worry her further. Roderick is ill again and she has enough on her mind. 

June 22, After a hushed discussion with father, mother covered every glass in the house. I tried to take the covering off to brush my hair this morning, but she slapped my hand away. Father warned me not to disobey mother in this regard, but he will not tell me why. In the meantime, I made a boat for Roderick to play with since he's too weak to come to the pond anymore. I floated it in a bowl of water in his room until mother found out. Roderick could keep the boat, but mother made me dump out the water. I do not understand what terrifies her so. 

July 13, My heart is breaking. Early this morning my sweet, innocent little brother went to God. I miss Roderick terribly. Mother locked herself in her room, but I can hear her sobbing. The house feels oppressively sad. I took his little boat to the pond today, letting it sail the glassy water as we always intended to do together. That was when I saw her, but this was time different. Her reflection appeared as it always has before, but she lifted her hand and waved before disappeared into the gloom of the pond. I never felt so alone and afraid as in that moment. I have the odd sensation my ghostly playmate is not as benign as I imagined her to be. I am convinced she is somehow connected to the death of my brother. My family is hiding a dreadful secret, one which I am determined to discover.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Shadow Princess- Part 4

Time marched by, and the fascination of the locals with their mysterious guest morphed into unease. More often than not when the library closed at five-o-clock, Miss Genevieve could be seen making her way down the long dirt road into the woods, but what went on behind the foreboding wooden doors remained an enigma. Despite frequent attempts by the locals to engage their librarian in conversation, she maintained Stephen's confidence. He was a private man, and over days and weeks spent in each other's presence she had earned his trust, something she did not take lightly. However, as she got to know her new friend, the eccentricities remained. While they strolled from time to time in the woods surrounding the house, never had Stephen ventured into town. The mirrors and glass in the home remained covered, his answer regarding the odd practice vague and unsatisfactory. And while in the home, she was always in Stephen's company, never allowed to be on her own for more than mere moments. The house filled her with immense dread and if it wasn't for Stephen's charming presence, she would never step foot in the horrid structure. It was why she was hoping he'd hurry back as she stood in the formal parlor waiting for him to fetch a book. The glimmer of gold caught her eye as the edge of a painting on the wall winked in the low lighting. She drew closer, pulling aside the cloth to see what was hidden. The hem of a woman's satin dress and a treasure chest of gems so real she would swear they were more tangible than paint and canvas popped into view. A strange force urged her on. After all, the painting was within reach. She could examine the portrait and replace the drape before Stephen returned. If she was careful, he'd never know it had been disturbed. A flurry of dust billowed into the stagnant atmosphere as she tore down the cloth and gaped at the painting. A stern woman sat in a high backed throne, dressed in the finest satins and jewels. Piercing emerald eyes stared down with disdain, her regal presence so consuming, Miss Genevieve nearly missed the mirror on the wall behind the woman. Small, discrete, but clear as day there was a feminine figure in a dark dress, her face obscured by shadow. The sound of a book thumping against the floorboards made the librarian's heart skip a beat. Stephen stared wide eyed at the painting, bizarrely enthralled just as Genevieve had been. He suddenly raced past his guest, snatching the cloth and covering the portrait, hands shaking from fury or fear she could not tell. Miss Genevieve was bewildered as to why her host reacted so violently to the painting, but whatever the reason, she felt the consuming urge to apologize for prying. 
"I am sorry, Stephen. I should never have taken the covering off." 
"No, you shouldn't have," he snapped back. 
"Who is she?" 
"The long dead Lady Beatrice." 
Miss Genevieve had the distinct impression she should let the matter rest, but her nagging inquisitiveness won the day. 
"And what of the other woman, the one who's reflection's in the mirror?" 
Stephen blanched in terror, pupils dilating widely. He firmly grasped her wrist, pulling her closer, his harsh whisper ringing in her ears. 
"If you value your life and mine, never ask me again. There can be no discussion of the shadow princess."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Shadow Princess- Part 3

Miss Genevieve was the sensible sort who did not believe in phantoms, spooks or things which went bump in the night, so the overwhelming sense of unease while entering the house caught her unawares. The young man answering the door was no more than thirty, pale and wiry as if he'd spent much of his life in a sick bed. He appeared genuinely happy to have a guest intrude upon his solitude, the smile on his thin lips enhancing his prominent hawkish features, skin pulled taut. He introduced himself as Stephen, Miss Matilda's great nephew, recently having competed his studies at Cambridge. Although Miss Genevieve was exceptionally well read, she never traveled. At the age of twenty-five she had barely been beyond the borders of the state in which she was born. It was for this reason she assumed she found Stephen oddly enthralling, hanging on his every word as he chatted about life abroad. The hour grew late, the sun sinking below the horizon, and Miss Genevieve reluctantly excused herself, promising her host she'd return to continue their delightful conversation. It was once she was on the forest road she noticed a weight lifting from her shoulders as if something in the house had been wrapped around her, quietly smothering her. Another bizarre detail struck her as strange. Every mirror was covered by a heavy, dark cloth; every picture frame turned face down. Not one reflective surface had she seen. Very odd, she thought to herself, making a mental note to ask Stephen about it when next they met.