Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blurred Edges Chapter Six

Lying awake that night, Claire listened to Martin’s heartbeat, her back pressed against his bare chest beneath the comforter. The steady thumping noise coming from his him was allowing her to slowly lull to sleep, despite the many noises echoing throughout the manor. Creaks and groans of wood shifting in the walls made for haunting melodies, while the sound of harsh winds beating against the windows added a slightly erratic rhythm to the beat.

All of this together was keeping her from sleep, however.
Reaching out to take hold of her glasses off the nightstand, she slipped them on before lifting Martin’s arm off of her upper torso. He grumbled in his sleep and turned over, never truly waking up as he wound the comforter tightly around his legs. Reaching for Martin’s phone, she flipped it open to see what time it was, the brilliant luminescence blinding her for a moment.
Squinting, she made out the time. “Two forty two? God I need to get to sleep!”
Claire fell back on the bed, tugging at her shirt uncomfortably. The bed was comfortable enough, though slightly musty, and her pillow was fluffed goose down, and felt as if it had never been used.
So why couldn’t she fall asleep?
A low, long creak of the door being pushed open caught Claire’s attention. The Christmas lights had been unplugged, the generator turned off; they were in absolute darkness now, save of course for the flashlights they kept on their sides of the bed. Claire lay still as a log, listening to the door opening slowly. Closing her eyes, she fought against the urge to turn her light on.
It’s not real, I’m just imagining it! Claire thought, crawling beneath the covers and pulling them over her head like a child terrified of a thunderstorm. Martin grunted, rolling back over to slide an arm around Claire, pulling her in close.
She looked out from beneath the covers, panicked at the idea that something might be in the room with them. Finally building up the nerve, she turned on the flashlight and waved it across the foot of the bed.
Nothing. Nothing but strands of dead Christmas lights and a painting on the far wall of a man on horseback, several hunting dogs running by his side; the room was empty. Waving the beam of light towards the doorway, Claire’s breath did hitch in her throat when she noticed that the door had opened on its own, the heavy oak sitting against the wall instead of sealed up flush with the doorframe.
Sliding out of Martin’s grasp and out of bed, Claire padded over to the door, each step careful and measured. Her bare feet on the cold floor were silent as she made her way to the door, slowly closing it on noisy hinges. As she finally pressed the heavy door closed, she twisted the lock until she heard a distinct tumbler click from within the oak piece. Turning to go back to bed, she stopped as she noticed a light coming from the room that had been labeled as a nursery. The dark door leading to the secondary room was slightly open, a flickering light dancing from within.
Doing her best not to hyperventilate, Claire stepped over to the door leading to the nursery and pulled it open slowly. Her eyes burned at the sudden brightness of an oil lamp sitting on a table. Slowly, her eyes began to adjust, allowing her to take in the room for what it was.
Books. Shelves of books lining the walls, with books stacked on a small dusty table, a small oil lamp resting atop one of the stacks. Dust was layered throughout the room, with no visible signs of entry or movement in the grime, save for the ring where the oil lamp sat. Walking slowly into the room, her hand tracing the dark wooden shelves, Claire made her way over to the lamp. Looking it over, she would hazard a guess that it was from the late nineteenth century, made mostly from brass with gold filigree curving out from the handle. The glass case holding the flame within was chipped, a spider’s web of cracks radiating out from the single mark on the smooth glass.
Setting down her flashlight, Claire reached over and picked up a book, blowing the dust of the cover. The thick tome bore no title on the front, nor on the spine; curious, Claire opened the book up, flicking through the pages of the book until she reached the middle. I hand drawn picture of a man’s forearm dominated the page, the limb split open with notes in the margins in a language she didn’t understand.
“Must be a medical book,” Claire muttered, closing it and setting it down gently. “Might be worth something…”
Picking up the oil lamp, Claire flipped off her flashlight so as not to waste batteries, and made her way around the room, looking at the books on the shelves. Almost none of them had labels or titles; instead they seemed to be organized by size and context. Pulling down random books to look through, she found that most of them depicted surgical procedures, always with handwritten notes in the margins. She created a small stack of books that she could have examined by a collector, spending thirty minutes finding books in good condition, all by the light of the mysterious oil lamp.
Yawning, Claire decided that it was probably time to head to bed. She had a pile of books ready to be appraised, along with several hundred more waiting for a chance to be looked at.
“This little library might be a treasure trove if we market the books right,” Claire said to herself, holding the lamp high enough to look around the room. A glint from the ceiling caught her eye, the light from the lamp reflecting off of something shiny. Raising the lamp higher, Claire’s breath hitched in her throat.
In brilliant red swathes, the low ceiling of the library was decorated with a large pentagram, the shining color of the circle around the dark sigil telling Claire that this was freshly painted. Reaching up tentatively, she brushed her fingers over the edge of the circle, her fingertips coming away with goopy red slime that carried the heady scent of blood. Rubbing her fingers together, she stared at the half-congealed mess in her hand before looking back up at the ceiling.
Blinking, she raised the lamp even higher, to chase away the shadows in case her eyes were playing tricks on her; the pentagram she had just seen, just felt, was no longer there. Looking down at her fingers, she could still see the congealed nastiness she’d pulled away from it, the cold blood chilling her digits to the bone in the cool night air.
Wiping her hands on her shirt, she moved out of the nursery-turned-library and back into the bedroom. The flickering light of the lamp danced madly as she entered the room, a cold chill sweeping past her and out through the open door.
The same door that she’d closed and locked.
Frowning, she reached out and closed the door once more, this time not bothering to lock it. Fuming, she went into the bathroom and turned on the faucet, washing her fingers clean of the red stains.
“I don’t like this place,” Claire muttered to her own reflection, reaching up to run a wet hand through her blue locks. “Something about it is making me see things.”
Her reflection merely looked back at her before breaking into a wide smile. Claire backed away, shivering at the look on her doppelganger’s face as it continued to stare at her from within the mirror.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the mirror said her reflection’s voice shrill and distant. “Leave while you still can.”
Claire blew out the light in the oil lamp before dashing back to the bedroom, her hands probing the dresser for her bottles of medicine. Flipping on her flashlight, she read each of the labels before she found the one she was looking for. Popping the cap, she shook out two angular blue pills and downed them in a single gulp, closing her eyes as she counted backwards from ten, hoping to chase away the images that kept appearing before her. Heaving a sigh, she opened her eyes and turned to look over at Martin’s sleeping form, his back rising and falling slowly in time with his light snores.
“This can’t be happening to me,” Claire whispered, shivering in the cold. “I’ve been doing so well for the past few years. I can’t have a relapse right now, I just can’t!”
Somewhere deep in the manor, a low groan of wood echoed in response. Claire climbed into bed, turning off the flashlight, and tried to push the images of the bloody pentagram and the flabby man away from her mind as she drifted off into a feverish sleep.

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