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This old house, how cold it feels; gone are the days when I could find comfort inside those familiar walls. The mechanical lights have failed me, this small log fire has quickly become my only source of warmth and light, yet the rain that slings down – splashing against the windows and leaving translucent trails down the fogged up glass – threatens to fall down the chimney and snuff it out, leaving nothing but the ghost of a flame.
How miserable is this night. Locked in a place that holds so many memories, so much so that they fill every nook, cranny and crevice until the library is the only place I can have the smallest chance to escape myself; these dusty, decrepit books are to be only thing that can make me forget.
I begin to wonder through the room, around the many tall bookcases, hoping to lose myself in a different world. I come across a book that I had loved since I was a babe, one that spoke of magical creatures, of lands afar, of people, languages and scripts long forgotten. One that brought joy to this desolate soul. I slipped it off of the shelf, careful not to cause it any damage to those withered pages, and moved to sit in the singular plump, purple armchair near room's singular window.
I open the book and start to read, fingers dancing over the pages, mind drifting off into the depths of my imagination. Time seemed to slip by effortlessly, almost like it refused to touch this one room, the rain that fell so quickly and so easily before grew few and far until it was nothing more then a soft trickle and the fire roared on, making shadows and sparks dance across the walls gracefully, almost seeming to mimic the movements of the characters in my book. I – for the first time in what feels like centuries – smile contently, suddenly feeling comforted by the orange light.
Eyes start to feel heavy, wanting to close yet not wanting to miss the shadow's dance. Head begins to grow foggy, making me unable to focus on the printed text of the old, fusty book. The room started to grow dim and blurry, even though the fire was as bright as ever, it's content drifting in and out of focus rhythmically, like the slow beating of a drum. The soft crackling of the fire lulled me into a sense of comfort, making me feel safe and almost begging for me to fall asleep. My eyes eventually fluttered closed, embracing the darkness like an old friend.
Lost in the worlds my mind would create, dreams and visions seemed to swim across my eyes, mixing together until they formed into something more solid, the lucidity of this reminded me of the old Super-8 films and how their images would flicker with each new slide. Suddenly, I felt myself being ripped from this charming show and back into the old library, still vaguely lit by an orange flame. The cause of this disturbance, I couldn’t seem to find until a soft tapping rang through the near-silent room.
The noise came from the window that I found myself rested against, this caused no alarm as I would often find birds or the odd cat sat on the ledge outside, always leaving me in a sense of awe, wondering how they could stand to be up so high and on such a small platform. Leaning closer to the cold glass, I tried to spy the perpetrator of this small disturbance but, alas, no such luck befell me. The lost creature that had once stood on the small ledge must have been long gone as there was no trace of it's arrival, not a feather or a hair. I slumped back in the chair, any hope of sleep would allude me now, my mind too awake to find any form of rest.
I scooped up my beloved book, which had since fallen to the dusty, moth-bitten carpet in the wake of my slumber, flicking through the pages to find where I had left off. Disappointed to see that the shadows that had once danced across the room how now faded, clinging only to the darkest corner as the fire began to die down; the magic of the book seemed to fade with those dear shadows. I placed the book down, finding no further comfort from it, before curling up in the chair, leaving myself to my own dark thoughts. I knew I would find no peace in this though, as I would only be dwelling on the interlinking past of this house and mine, thinking of all the past emotions which, seemingly, would never grace me again.
That was when the soft tapping returned. However, this time it seemed to be coming from the library door. Curiosity enveloping me, I clambered up and trudged towards the door; could this be a visitor? Someone to pull me out of the depression of the recent events that had seemingly taken a tight hold over my life? Doubt racked my mind, telling me how it would not be logical for someone else to be in this place, let alone knocking on the wooden door of my safe haven, even so, that tiny sliver of hope still stood strong, willing me closer even if I only went and inch at a time.
The tapping ceased, quickly replaced by a childish laugh that echoed down the outside corridor, reminding me of childhood when me and my siblings would run through the house, knocking on every closed door to see who we could disturb and if they would chase us. A low whisper suddenly hissed in my ear, uttering but a single word:
That word unnerved me for reasons I was yet to understand. I turned away from the door but the moment I did so the tapping came back, however this time it was far louder and seemed to be coming from the inner walls themselves. The room shook from the volume of the taps which quickly turned to thuds and bangs. Books slipped off of shelves, crashing to the floor and making the noise seem louder still, some would fall close to the fire yet never close enough to touch the flames. It felt as if they were teasing me.
I started to scurry through the room, collecting up the books and gentally placing them back where they belonged. However, even with my working diligently, the books fell as quickly as I could re-home them. That was when the sound of smashing glass made me stop dead in my tracks. My heart skipped a beat. There was only one object in this room that was made of glass. A photo frame.
I ran over to where the noise came from, eyes tearing up as I looked at the mess on the floor. Shards of glass lay scattered on the carpet, the frame its self had broken and splintered and then there was the photo. Oh that photo. It lay amongst the glass, luckily unharmed from the fall it suffered. I picked it up, flipping the paper over to see the image that meant so much to me. It was a photo of me and my sweetheart on out wedding day. Memories flashed before my eyes, showing me things that I had long tried to forget. All the ups and down of our relationship; it's start, our wedding and it's tragic end. My husband, the love of my life, died only seven years after our wedding. A road accident. One that breaks my heart to even think about. I clutched the photo to my chest, salty tears starting to run down my face, hitting the floor silently.
After what seemed like an eternity, the low, gruff whisper echoed in my head once again:
Then, as if on autopilot, I slowly folded the photo in half, slipped it in my pocket, rose to my feet and trudged towards the chair, flopping down into like an old, beaten rag doll. I surveyed the damage done to the room; books covered the floor, fallen at odd angles with random pages laying scattered near them from when the old spines just couldn't keep them in any longer. Then there was the remainders of the photo frame laying in one corner of the room sadly, looking as if it has been thrown rather then falling down itself.
The overall room had seemed to take on a much darker appearance than before, the shadows had spread across the walls, no longer dancing beautifully but swaying ominously like they were trying to move forwards, trying to get closer to where I was sat. The fire no longer crackled softly, it hissed and spat like an angry cat, looking much larger than it had just moment ago. I wanted to leave the room, I wanted to run from it and the house that held such painful memories. I wanted to run and never turn back.
I heard that tapping, that horrible tapping, once again; this time it was back at the window. I turned my head away, not wanting to see the kind of creature that was standing there, seemingly intent on causing me so much grief. It steadily grew louder and faster, as if the creature was angry that I refused to look it's way. The shadows swayed faster while the hissing and spitting of the fire grew more violent. I squeezed my eye shut, painful tears still leaking out of them, scared of what was going on around me. The violent and angry noises again caused me to remember such hurtful things, specifically my parents.
They would fight tooth and nail, their screams and shouts ringing through the house at all hours of the night. Sometime my father would lash out, leaving mother with fist-shaped bruises and bloody red cuts all across her body. At times like this I would take my sibling and we would hide in the attic, scared that one day fathers anger would turn to us instead even though it only ever happened when he had been drinking. I heard that whisper again, this time it seemed much softer, as if the creature could feel my emotions and pain. It called out:
The tapping once again ceased, along with it the hissing of the fire as it dimmed back down to it's soft crackling. I slowly opened my eyes, almost scared as to what I would see, and to my surprise the room was how it was when I had first entered it. The books no longer lay scattered on the floor, but back in their shelves where they belonged. The shadows no longer coated the wall, they had gone back to hiding in the darkest corners and the photo frame was no longer in a broken heap on the floor, it sat on a shelf with it's photo on proud display.
This cause me to think. Had I gone mad? Had the pressures of arranging yet another funeral finally gotten to me? Had the pain of so much loss over the years suddenly grown too much to bare? Dear god, I hoped not.
I blinked back any remaining tears, trying to take the events from just a few minutes ago from my memories in the hopes of getting back on with my life. No such luck. They stuck, not matter how many times I told myself that I had just imagined it, no matter how many times I told myself that I wasn't mad, that I had just dreamt the thing. It didn't work. All of it seemed to real to have just been the work of a lonely woman's mind. To my dismay, it seemed so much more real when I heard a voice that I had grown to know and hate within such a small space of time. That low, gruff whisper that rang out inside my head:
I tried to ignore it at first but the voice became instant in it's dark mutterings.
“Nevermore.” I closed my eyes and covered my ears, trying to think of happier things. It didn't work.
I felt my eyes welling up again as I shook my head.
With that I snapped, jumping to my feet with eyes screwed shut, screaming and crying with all my might. Wanting this to stop, wondering why it was me who was plagued with these visions. Why not someone else?
“Demon!” I screamed, clutching my head.
“Thing of evil! Be thee now, voice or devil! Leave me be! Please, I implore! Don't utter those cursed words 'nevermore'!” Eyes wanting to open, to survey their surroundings and see where this voice was coming from. Mind forcing them closed, terrified at what they may see. I started to feel flames licking my body, burning me, making me feel like a chunk of meat over a fire.
Pain shot through me, making my muscles scream and my head spin. Senses overwhelmed; feeling of being burned, that terrible voice being drowned out by a sudden roaring flame, the sickening smells of smoke, wood and burning meat. My eyes won the fight, slowly opening only to be stung by a black smog and the room that had quickly filled with a ghastly, amber light. There were black stains coating the far wall, they seemed to be moving with every second. I focused on these stains, trying to make sense of what they could mean. Then I saw it. The shape they made. A face, an old, scarred, demonic face that mouthed a word that had quickly began to fill me with such fear. Over and over those lips moved as if calling a ritual chant.
“Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.”
My body gave up, collapsing underneath me. My vision faded, engulfed with darkness. I was gone.
I awoke with a jolt, heart racing and lungs screaming for air. I quickly came to my senses, realizing I was still curled up in that old, plush, purple chair by the window. The library, though now filled with shadows, remained intact. The fire was never there. It was all a dream, a terrible, ghastly dream. Thank god. Although I had no way of knowing what had caused such horrific visions, I was comforted by the thought that I was safe and non of it was ever real. Just the imagination of a lonely woman.
I snuggled back down in the chair picked up the book, which had long since fallen to the floor, and flicked through to find where I had left off. But then came a noise that made my blood run cold. A tapping. Hard, blunt noise that echoed through the room. I turned to look at the window; heart, that had only just calmed, sped up once more. There was a bird sat there, tapping it's beak against the glass. It's black, unfeeling eyes stared into me as if it was trying to read my soul. A bird that could only mean death and depression. A single, black raven.
Written by VasilisaTheAngel