It was everywhere, on wallpapers, pastel canvasses; the dust, wrapping almost all members of the corridor, along the entire way down the hall.
Which corner of the house is leaking, I wondered.
Getting into my robe and fastening it, I scuttled down the staircase.
”It can't be from Emily's room, I closed it myself in the evening and mine too. Perhaps, the dining hall windows or the guest room panes were left open.”
It was not until I missed a step that I went toppling down the stairs and before I could get back on my feet, I realized that I was in a water pool or perhaps a muddy ditch.
"Oh, coconuts!, my back, Awwwwww!" It pained, yes it did and that too severely and for a while I thought, it was fractured, almost, my backbone.
"Aaahhhh....." I groaned as I got myself seated against the last step of the staircase, almost completely drenched.
There was no one, not a single entity in the house that could help me.
“Mom and Dad had been out since 5 in the evening, out of the city making their 18th anniversary momentous and here I’m sitting helpless, with my seven-year-old sister playing in her room quietly.”
"It hurts so hard, the bamboo floor and the edges of the staircase.
I grasped the bulbous wooden head that marked the end of railing for support.
"You can, Tom, move yourself, man!", I goaded myself. After some time I realized that it has dropped somewhat, the pain in my back and knees and I helped position my back erect.
Yes, it was not the case I took it to be. My vertebrae were intact, no fracture had occurred.Had it been the case, I would have never been able to get back on my feet.
"Oh, coconuts! water on wooden flooring”. The surges of pain that inflicted my body made me neglect it. The water would ruin it.
"Mrs. Backfoot, Mrs. Backfoot", I yelled aloud in anguish “where the hell are you?“ it echoed in the hall and the rooms. I hobbled through the guest place toward the dining hall, calling for her.
And there she stood, in the kitchen the old lady, in her 80’s, half deaf, with her back hunched, quarrelling with the pans, chopping Asparagus on the wooden board with an expertise and ease, side by side. I wonder if the lady knew how to cook meringues or olios or other delicacies, besides the boring oatmeal’s and comfort food she made daily.
"Mrs. Backfoot", I called.
"Yes Mr. Tom, how may I help you,” she addressed to me with her genuine facial gesticulation, stuttering. Her humble addressal cooled down my temper.
"Mrs. Backfoot, How can you be so careless. You left the eastward panes open, see the guest room. It’s flooding almost, costing our wooden work," I remarked in an alarming tone.
"And see the canvasses, the pottery all has been layered by dust".
"I beg my apologies Sir Tom; I will clean it in an hour."
"You should. Before mom and dad show up. They will be here anytime."
Though she always kept up to her words, no doubt (irregardless of her age), I began helping her, closing the window and shifting the wooden near the fireplace to get dried up. It had rained cats and dogs outside from morning. Leaving her wiping the floor I hobbled upstairs for I was shivering like anything.
The clock by my bedside said 8:30. I slept for almost an hour or two, my pillows and my sheets assured that I had a good sleep. I leaped out of my bed and getting into my shoes and walked out of my room. Before I make my way to the library, I must have a look at my little sister who has remained neglected for the past few hours. I could hear the plopping of the rain, thumping the rooftops every now and then. It had never rained that long, not in Yorkshire at least.
The door was left ajar and as I opened, it creaked. My eyes studied the room.
A Teddy and by his side sat the blonde porcelain dolls, yes a lot of dolls, I opened this morning for Emily lost her favorite one named Caroline. The tea party with them was over and now she lay in her bed like a tired lamb. The poor maid tucked her in the bed but forgot to turn out the light. With an air of contentment, I switched off the light and moved out leaving the door opened. She will sleep for long, I know. Navigating down the stairs, through the hall, past the kitchen where Mrs. Backfoot stood working I moved to the library. Yes I perambulated the guest room and it stood the same as expected, clean and intact; she kept her words.
I opened the door of the library while hundreds of cockroaches went skittering off into darkness. Rain might be troubling them outside, so these creepy creatures walked into trouble me.
I turned on the incandescent bulb and it threw the area into light accessing almost every corner. The place seems to be less welcoming to rest of my family members but the musty smell of yellowed pages fills my nostrils, every time I flung open the door and tempted me to enter therein, to survey the shelves and to find some good stuff for myself to read.
This, British Library, as I called it because of the grand collection of British works that overflow the shelves, has constantly fed the reading appetite of Salvatore family for the past 90 years, I being the last heir perhaps, using it. My fingers and my eyes scrutinized the stacks in the shelves, scanning each for the name.
"The Rape of the Lock!" My last read that was left half way.
"Yeah! There it is."
I dusted it off and drew out a chair and comforted myself resting my legs on the table top."
A tempest was raging outside, the weather has turned bad. It felt hard, beating a staccato rhythm against the caked window panes. The preternatural rain dampened my entire day.
I can’t focus. Only 10 pages till yet and my head was pounding by now. It aggravated me, the lullaby, the same lines from past 5 minutes, and I had been ignoring it but by and by the pitch was dwindles, creating petulance in my temple.
On the other side, the obstreperous weather and the rain, slapping so hard consistently against the wooden flanges, were intervening in my comfort. The thunder claps would startle me every now and then and so I can’t deny that this night is worst of all the previous ones. The rising and the falling notes were getting on my nerves. It had repeated almost 30 times by now. Mrs. Backfoot, It can only be her making Emily sleep again. But I wonder for Emily had never demanded one so far, ever since she was five.
It was not until I put back the book that the bulb blew out plunging the library into darkness.
"Oh, coconuts! An electricity cut off at this hour of the day."
"Good heavens!” I peered into the darkness, cleaning my glasses, approximating the drawers for candle sticks, blindfolded. Yes, there were they, on the other side of the table, I remembered but now they were missing. My hands investigated the depth of drawers and unexpectedly I discovered both, the matches too, in the last drawers.
I could hear the quavering and warbling of birds in the lutes and pipes, that remained hidden betwixt the planks. The sound though was genuine, of warblers, but the severity of the darkness poisoned its plausibility and now it daunted me.
The sickness of darkness was increasing and the matches refused to light. My heart was throbbing and I was running out of patience. Finally, to my relief, one of it caught the spark.
"Fewwww...", I sighed heavily ,my nostrils whistled. I then began to search for the candle stand, while the candle flame revealed the untouched and worn-out corners of the library, filled with cobwebs.
"Cobbler cobbler mend my shoe, Get it done by half-past two
Half past two is too much late, Get it done by half past eight."
This time, it almost echoed the hall, the voice was much more pronounced and personified. I hurried my pace, contemplating the dining hall, the kitchen and the guest room too but could find no one. Climbing upstairs, I moved toward Emily's room, I was damn worried for her. The corridor was never as long that it seemed then, only 10 steps and I would be standing outside her room. But with each step the door seemed to distance away from me. I was almost running, until I looked down. No, I wasn’t. My legs were static. The darkness and my worries intoxicated me to delusions.
I opened the door and dashed into the room. I would have fallen downas I had nearly forgotten about the dolls and the Teddy. Getting on my haunches, I began to collect them and as I lowered the candle and kept it on the floor "aaaeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...", bewildered, I shouted and dragged myself back .They were not the familiar faces, indeed if one could call it a face. Fear surged through me. I was totally befuddled, what happened to teddy and the dolls, the teddy's head was worn out.
The air was invading the room from the narrow space amidst the window flanges. Lullaby, by now, has ceased and the curtains fluttered like flags and pennants. I curled up in the corner. I cried. I seemed to have disturbed them, the dolls who sang that song of sleep, perhaps. I have tried but it didn’t work, the door lock has jammed. It demanded repairs I knew it, from the last two weeks it was not functioning and I forgot to mention it to my dad. Now I can’t escape this intimidating room, trapped in my own house.
"Where are you Emily", I cried “where, where…"
The thunder flashes lit the room projecting the tilted silhouette of a figure looking like a woman or a girl, I couldn't tell if it was Emily or Mrs. Backfoot or someone else but it was someone on the other side of the bed.
Something was crawling up my leg. I was annoyed. Saliva was coming out of my mouth. How come those broken hands and dolls drew near me, on my leg there was one climbing up.
“No, no nooooo.....". I ran toward the door banging almost but it failed to open. This night no legitimate power could open it.
"Mrs. Backfoot help ...plzzzz..Help.“
The maid that was never important to me could only help me out of this room.
Before I could understand anything something pulled my legs and my jaw hit the floor. "Awwwwww... my my glasses, glasses...where are they."
I was yelling on the floor for help, peering into the hazy surrounding. I can’t see without them, the glasses. I should find them.
Searching for them I crushed something beneath my knee.
“Oh no, Coconuts! My glasses, no, no how can I crush them.“
I lifted them and put them back on.
I lost my one eye for one glass was broken. I could see, yes through one eye, those lifeless contorted faces of the dolls, stabbed and burnt by someone, their twisted torsos, the potsherds, one of which chiseled my hand which now bled so profusely.
"Emily can you hear me my doll. Where are you?” I cried in dilapidation.
I was exhausted, with every drop of the blood that splashed in the blood pool on the floor. I will die, I knew, anytime that could happen.
"No don’t leave plz don’t", but the candle has by now almost guttered out and giving a final sputter it went out plunging the room into the darkness.
I was not alone in the room, I knew, there was someone on the other side of the bed but my head refused to turn around and see. The cotton plugs proved incapable to stop the blood.
Nonetheless, I gathered up the courage and hobbling side by side I moved.
"Hawww... Mrs. Backfoot", I was frozen for a moment. I stood staring the corpse of Mrs. Backfoot. There she laid, pale ,on the floor ,with her eyes and mouth open ,a condition known as rigor mortis.
"Emily!" I ran on my knees and embraced her tightly. She sat in a corner, unconscious. She was alive, yes I could hear her breath, she was alive yet unconscious. I held her tightly in my lap resting her head on my shoulder giving her warmth.
I won’t die now, for now, I have a reason to live, I thought.
"Oh dear ,I was so worried for you ,soo worried."
The moonlight sentineled me and my little sister.
"Cobbler cobbler mend my shoe
Get it done by half-past two”.
She lifted up her head and a quizzical smile danced on her face.
Emily, Emily, Eemmilllly…
"It can’t be you, it can't be it caaaaaaannn..."
And that's when the moon submerged into the clouds.