Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Into Thornwood || Chapter Seven

By Becca

Chapter Seven
                  The automaton reached for the latch, hidden among the carved molding, and opened the door. Pushing aside the ivory curtain, it entered the room. The girl whirled around and stepped back, bumping against the wall.
                  “I’m glad to see that you’re up and about. How are you feeling?” He cringed at the harsh sound of the voice. She did not squeal, or faint. She just stood, quivering, and did not answer.
                  “I heard you speak earlier today, so now you’re just being rude. I didn’t mean for you to get hurt.” 
Her eyes leapt up, glinting with green fire.
                  “If you didn’t intend to hurt me why did you kidnap me? Be true to your word and let me go.”  
He couldn’t help but smile. There she was, the girl that tried to climb the wall.  “I cannot do that.“
                  “Where are Dax and Frank? Have you done anything to them?”
                  “They left long ago.” 
That did not seem to bother her. She glanced at the window, acting strangely calm. 
                  “Of course they did, they have gone for help. Dax would never-“
                  “Abandon you? But people do that all the time. They die, stop caring about you or simply disappear and leave you to rot.”
                  She did not respond to his words, but changed the subject.
                  “Who else do you have in this house? How many more are there?”
Her accusation startled him. 
                  “There is no one else.” That truth haunted him day after torturous day.
                  “No, I saw a face in the top story window. Who else is here?” 
                  “Only me.” 
                 Her eyes narrowed. “What do you want? If you were hoping to receive a ransom, I am afraid you will not get very much. We are poor.”
He studied her, standing straight and tall, head held high. The tattered dress supported her statement; even before the damage it wasn’t a fine garment, but her demeanor said quite the opposite.  
                  “I have everything money can buy. I don’t want a ransom.” 
 She hesitated; a question perched on her lips.
                  “Then what do you want?” The words came slowly, almost a whisper.
                  “I want some company. It is too quiet here and it’s driving me insane.”
Her face changed, as she must have realized what he meant. She backed away and glanced at the window, the fireplace, the ceiling, anywhere besides the hulking automaton. 
                  “I will not mistreat you. Thornwood is yours if you behave civilly. All I ask for is some conversation now and again, and another beating heart within these walls.” 
Her gaze returned, a challenge brewing.
                  “If you expect that I will remain here with you, you are badly mistaken. Dax will come back for me, and he will get me out.”
                  “If he does not?”
                  “He will.”
The faith she had in her brother was intriguing. Was her undoubting assurance real or simply a ploy in trying to convince her release?
                  “What if the wolves attack again? What if a runaway carriage hits him on the way to the police? What if no one believes his story of an automaton kidnaping his sister and he’s thrown into a home for the insane? What will you do then?”
                  “I will escape.”
                  “Any attempts of escape will only bring damage to yourself, as you have already experienced.” 
Sweat beaded on her brow, and the trembling started again. 
                  “What if I do not behave civilly, as you said? What if I refuse to speak? If I live here in complete silence and do not ease your insanity, what then? Would you let me leave? Or would you watch me die slowly within your walls, hopeless and heartbroken?”
Oh, she was a clever girl. A tear slipped down her cheek and her lashes swept up over those innocent eyes. The guilt rose in his throat like bile. He swallowed hard.
                  “I would rather have a fellow inmate, heartless and cruel as they may be, then a future of complete solitude.”
The tears began a puddle on the floor. Silent tears. He turned to leave, but when he reached the door he stopped.
                  “Does the brave maiden have a name?”
He looked at the quivering form, now curled on the bed. 
                  “Refusing to speak won’t help you. I only ask for your name, do not make me out to be a monster. ”
She must be so afraid. 
                  “Please, you must understand. My existence is stagnate. Never changing, never shifting. I live, only in that sense that I am not yet dead. I am decaying in this prison. You, my dear, are a long awaited breath of fresh air.”
A few moments passed while he stood in the doorway. That confession had never been spoken aloud. 
                  “Dinner will be at seven. The dinning room is on the main floor, the first door on the right. You may find a dress to wear in the wardrobe, I believe they would fit you.”
He stepped into the hallway and went to close the door.
                  “Wait!” She was sitting up, wiping the tears away. He waited.
                  “My name is Cecile.”
The face of the clock read seven minutes past seven.
Steam rose in wisps from the soup.  
Was she going to come?
The automaton rushed to the door at the sound of her voice, Cecile’s voice. Rusty joints screeched, echoing in the dining hall.
There she was. A wave of nostalgia took his breath away as he remembered the last time he had seen his mother’s dress.  The moonbeams streamed down from the skylight, flowing down the steps. Cecile descended the stair like a queen, hair swooped across her forehead and tumbling over her shoulders, shining gold in the silver light. 
                  “Please forgive my tardiness, my hair was a frightful mess.” Her lips curved at the corners and she tucked a tendril behind her ear with a broken laugh. That vile feeling came again; he breathed slowly and hoped it would pass. Stepping off the last stair, her eyes left the floor and turned up to him, hands clasped. Realizing he should do something, he offered his arm. Cecile failed to hide a shudder when her fingers touched cold metal; he longed to feel the warmth of her skin.
As they entered the dining hall, Cecile drew in her breath with a gasp.
                  “You have electricity!” She was looking the glittering chandelier, mouth agape. “I didn’t expect, with a house this old I mean-“
                  “Yes, Mr. Eilert was interested in electricity. He almost wired the entire mansion.“ It offered a chair and then took the seat beside hers. They sat in silence for a moment when she bowed her head, closed her eyes, folded her hands… she was praying. He turned away, gaining a sudden interest in the wallpaper. 
                  “May I ask where Mr. Eilert is?” Her voice pulled him back. A dozen responses leaped to mind, each revealing too much for his comfort… 
                  “He left a long time ago.” 
Her face asked for another answer, but her lips parted only for a spoonful of soup. “My complements to the cook, the soup is delicious.” 
                  “Your complements would fall on deaf ears, for the kitchen is entirely automated.” 
Her eyes widened. “Truly? That is a wonder. Did Mr. Eilert do that as well?” 
                  “Yes, he invented many labor saving devices, the kitchen is only one of them. His wife was not in good health… he tried to ease her life with the inventions. The entire house is buzzing with them, it runs like a clock. Bernard Eilert’s Automated System for Thornwood he called it, the B.E.A.S.T.”
Cecile listened intently, then asked, “Are you a part of this “B.E.A.S.T?”
This is your chance!  Tell her! Come now, it would not kill you to tell the truth. Why else are you keeping her here?  
But if you tell her this, it will not stop there. She will want to know all of it. Are you ready to relive that? Can you endure tearing open those wounds? 
                  What will happen if you don’t? 
She stared at him, the long pause growing suspicious.
                  “Yes,” He said eventually, “I’m part of the B.E.A.S.T”


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