Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Into Thornwood || Chapter Five

By Becca
 After the goof up, I figured I'll just stick with the schedule. 
So, ready or not, here's the next chapter!

Chapter Five

                  Dax’s eyes flew open. He sat in the armchair, the fire burned low and the cat was gone. He listened carefully, wondering what had woken him. It was a sound, a creak? A floorboard, possibly… was someone else here? He tried putting weight on his leg; the pain had lulled since last night. 
There it was again. Not the floor, more like… a hinge, like a heavy door squealing on its hinge. There was another noise, a humming, like the inner workings of a clock, gears and springs and-    
“What are you doing in my house?” 

Dax leaped from the chair at the inhuman voice and faced the strangest figure he could have imagined. Its head was a diver’s helmet; small glass portals covered the metal. The whirring seemed to come from inside the massive metal body. Its form was human-like. Two sturdy legs, made from a structure of pipes supported a cylindrical torso with a door in its chest. Two jointed arms hung by its sides and the hands had individual fingers; delicately built. Its head turned with a groan and repeated the question in a crackling buzz. 
                  “What are you doing in my house?”  
Dax stared, for once in his life at a loss for words. After a long pause, he held out his hand. 
                  “Mr. Eilert?” 
The head rotated slightly, aligning one glass circle with Dax’s face. He would have sworn the thing was making eye contact, if it had eyes. 
Then he struck upon a name for it, could it be an automaton? He had seen contraptions that moved by themselves, much smaller then this beast, that performed simple tasks. Cecile had a music box shaped like a birdcage, with mechanical birds that chattered and sang like their living counterparts. But this was an entirely different species from the small toys Father brought home.                
What was it designed to do?
                  “Please, sir…my name is Dax Bellerose. I was simply delivering your groceries, when wolves attacked the wagon. I escaped and sought shelter here. Please, I saw no one last night, I would not have trespassed if I had known- I only want to go home.” The grandfather clock chimed seven times. Dax could see cogs turning inside its head.
                  “That’s a shame.” Its voice twanged with a metallic echo. 
                  “Yes, I am sure you see the predicament I am in. As for the groceries, Mr. Abney would hardly charge anyone for something they did not receive…so if I could just go…”
                   Dax stepped back slowly, with this thing’s cumbersome build he guessed it could not move too quickly, but he would not dare a chase in his condition. 
                  “Thank you for your hospitality.”  Not looking back to see if it followed, he stumbled to the veranda. Diamond was nowhere to be seen.
                  “Diamond! This is a fine time to be adventurous.” 
The jungle sparkled with dewdrops in the morning light. At his whistle, Diamond appeared from behind a gazebo canopied in honeysuckle. She whinnied and trotted over to him, her muzzle wet from a morning graze. 
                  “Come on, lets get out of here.” 
With a groan Dax pulled himself onto her back, and road to gate.
 It stayed closed. 
Dax dismounted and fell against the iron, shaking the gate with all his strength. There was no apparent lock, yet it held fast. 
The metal creature stood on the porch, watching. Dax turned around and saw it.
                  “Why don’t you open the gate?’ He yelled. “Why can’t I go home?”      
                  “I’ve been alone for so long. Then you came, I can’t let you leave now.” The crackling voice carried across the garden.
                  “But I have a family! Two sisters who depend on me, I have to go home!” 
                  “How nice… a family. Do they love you?” 
                  “Of course they do. Now please let me go to them.” Dax lowered his voice. What kind of nightmare was this?
                  “You are a lucky man to have people who love you.” 
He was utterly confused. 
                  “Yes, the Lord has blessed me…”
                  “I have no one.” The distorted voice sounded miserable-
A new sound caught his ears. Hoof beats and crunching dirt, a wagon was coming. He stared past the iron bars and saw a horse come around the bend. 
                  “Hello?” He called out. Dear God, get me out of here.
He knew that voice. Cecile jumped from the cart and ran to him. 
                  “Oh Dax I was so worried! When you didn’t come home I thought-“ Her words choked with sobs. Dax reached through the gate and took her hands. 
                  “I am alright now. How did you get here?” 
Frank jogged up behind her.
                  “There you are! You’re a rotten chap to give your sisters such a scare. And what have you done to my father’s wagon? He’ll skin you alive when he finds out.” 
                  “I am dreadfully sorry about that. Could you get me out of here? The gate’s stuck.” 
Together they strained at the gate. Dax threw his weight against it, Frank and Cecile pulled, the gate groaned. 
                  “It’s closed tight.” Frank said. “How’d you get in there?” 
                  “It opened-“ Dax started to say; when at that moment the gate did open, swinging noiselessly, to the amazement of Frank and Cecile. “Like that.” He finished, smiling at their shocked faces. 
Dax took a step and his leg collapsed. Cecile reached out and caught him.
                  “What happened to you?” Frank put his arm under him and shouldered some of the weight. 
Dax winced “A wolf bite,” Cecile opened her mouth to speak but Dax stopped her. “It’s not that bad, really. I will be fine, please take me home.” Frank helped Dax to the wagon. 
                  “Wait, Diamond is still there. ” Dax looked into the garden, “Where has she gone now?” He glimpsed her swishing tail as she ambled behind a grossly overgrown topiary.  
                  “I’ll fetch her.” Cecile gathered up her skirt and went after the wayward horse. With sudden suspicion Dax looked to the porch. The automaton was gone, but a sick feeling crept into his throat.  

Cecile has stepped into wonderland.  The city was deprived of green, except she supposed, for the moss, lichen and tough little weeds that sprouted in the cracks. 
Here it was gorgeously verdant. 
                 Flowers had been left unattended for years and escaped their plots and trellises, roaming the property like wild creatures. Roses, with blooms the color of a maiden’s blush, climbed up the walls of the mansion, the leafy tendrils curling around a second story window and higher still. Her eye traveled up with the vines, admiring the architecture of the building, such care and detail in every small design.
As she came around a gazebo she found Diamond, tearing mouthfuls of grass and munching happily. Cecile took the leather bridle and turned to the gate, her gaze lingering on the mansion. 
                 It was the largest house she’d seen, more like a castle. It must have been magnificent in its day; she would love to see the inside…  Her head tipped back to see the row of windows around the highest turret, and caught a pair of eyes looking down at her. She smiled and lifted her hand to wave, but the face vanished. 
                 “Cecile, come back! Run! Leave Diamond if you have to, just run!”  She whirled around at Dax’s yell.
                 The gate was closing. 
Cecile rushed forward, leaving Diamond behind and a trail in the dewy grass. 

                  “It can’t close.” Dax grabbed Frank and shook his arm. “It can’t! We won’t get her back if it does.” 
             Confused, but properly frightened, Frank ran to gate and a tried in vain to halt the massive doors. The resounding clank of iron sent a cold shudder through them. 
Cecile reached the gate breathless and cried out. 
                  “What is it, Dax? Why did you close the gate?” Her eyes darted wildly from Dax to Frank. 
                  “I didn’t -“ Dax stopped, the nausea overwhelming. There it was, walking down the stairs. The distant steady clank stabbed his heart as each heavy footfall brought the automaton nearer. Cecile glanced behind and yelped. 
                  “What on earth?” Frank exclaimed.  
A bolt of pain shot through Dax’s leg as he vaulted from the wagon, rushing to the gate. “We have to get her out! Come, Cecile, can you climb over?”  
                  “Why? What is going to happen?” 
                  “Just do as I say!” He yelled. 
She gripped the vertical bars, hands slipping with the dewdrops. The metal flourishes proved as footholds, but four feet off the ground they curled up and Cecile was left stranded. 
                  “What now?” She demanded, her knees trembling.
                  Frank held his hand up, “It will be okay, Cecile. Look at me.” The black bars cut across her face. “Take my hand,” 
Stretching down she found his fingers, interlocking and closing around her small quavering hand. 
                  “We are going to get you out of here, I promise.  Can you get to the wall?” 
She looked over; the gate was mounted on a high brick wall, smothered with overgrown roses and ivy. Cecile nodded, let go of his hand and began inching towards the wall. Dax stared through the gate; the automaton was coming.
                  He knew not what the thing would do with Cecile, and did not wish to find out.        
Cecile put her hand into the twisted foliage, and wrapped it tight around the first vine she found. Thorns jabbed into her skin. Jaw clenched, she reached for a second hold. The wall was seemed to reach the sky, and every inch was agony. 
            Frank and Dax’s voices prodded her on, but her will was failing. Blood trickled down her arms and it hurt so terribly. With a quiet snap, the next vine she grabbed broke. 
            For a moment she was weightless, and then crashed to the ground at the automaton’s feet. 


  1. Ooooo, an automaton! Cool! This story is getting better and better. What kind of man lives in this mansion with automatons and an overabundance of roses? I can't wait to find out more about him.

  2. Thanks everyone! You's really encouraged me with such a enthusiastic response to the story.


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