The sky was dark as if the sun itself was giving up, and it might as well have died already; she never saw it anymore. What light made it to the ground was always cold and grey, emotionless like a constant shadow that hung over the House. Then there was the shadow of the over head clouds that never seemed to leave or let go of their rain; they were always dark, never light. It had been that way ever since she was brought here.
Her fingers brushed against the windowsill as she walked by, watching the crows gather in the bare trees outside. They landed there every day; the only movement in the moor. They landed and sat still until the cold wind ruffled their dark feathers. Ivory-like eyes would shimmer in the dull light and then they would take off, leaving her alone again. It had been like that ever since she was brought here.
Eyes focused now on the dust clinging to the window pane, she ran a soiled cloth down the wood, clearing it of the weightless specks. Then she trailed that cloth along behind her in her hand, walking past the pictures in the hall, her eyes readjusting to the lightless dim. The faces in the paintings seemed to watch her, attentive to her every move, watching her dust the halls and clean the windows. It had been that way ever since she was brought here, back when she had first stepped foot into the House.
“Make the windows clear, sweep the floors, light the lamps,” she had been told, “dust the shelves and our frames, then you will be alright.”
She looked up at the pale face of the woman in one of the paintings, the painting at the end of the hall, the portrait of Lorraine. Her skin was smooth and white; her blue eyes were cold and lifeless. She was beautiful in a distant way with her shoulders set back in pristine posture and her lips pursed silently. She looked only remotely alive, but anyone who stood in the House knew that she was indeed dead.
The girl lifted the rag to gingerly clear the dust from the frame, making sure not to disturb the image or knock the picture askew because then there would be punishment. She pulled her hand back to study her work; a dull but dustless frame. Then she turned down the next hall, dusting in the dismal light of the windows and then in the shadows of the walls, the walls with the old Victorian wallpaper. It was the wallpaper that was faded and crisp. It had the repeating floral patterns discolored with age and the dark stains in the oddest places; it lined the hallways like an ominous memory trapped in the back of the mind.
She looked out the window she was dusting, letting a soft sigh escape lungs. It always seemed that, during the day, it was always twilight, and when it was twilight it was night. At that point one began to wonder if it could possibly get any darker out there. It always did. Ever since she was taken away and brought to the House it had been like that.
With the slow twilight setting in, she began to light the small kerosene lamps that lined the halls of the House. One by one they lit up the darkness, casting her shadow on the portraits lining the many walls, and when every light had been set to flicker, she headed quickly toward the top floor of the House. Her feet took the steps of the staircase two at a time, hurrying to reach her room. It was the only room where she would be safe, safe from them.
She turned around and fumbled to lock the door. Then she sought to steady her heavy breathing, trying to calm herself before the House woke up. Her hands clutched a sickly white sheet, stone still in wait, and when the clock on the second floor tolled for midnight, she shut her eyes tight trying to block out the noise.
The House creaked and voices could be heard through the walls. Outside of her safe room, the dead were waking up again, reliving the events that led to their demise. She could hear the echoing notes from the piano on the first floor, the crystal clink of glass against glass and the call for a toast, the laughter in the halls, the women gossiping in small groups, and the maids working in the kitchen. Then came the screams as they would slowly die; they would fall, one by one. When they all laid in blood, staining the walls and carpets, the last would be left with a knife, but not for long.
Then they would all return; they would return to the paintings.
She cried as the sounds kept burrowing into her mind; she wouldn’t sleep tonight, like every other night since she had been brought here to the House. It was always the same. She would clean the house and light the lamps, hide in the room and then listen to the all die all over again.
Her hands covered her ears, but that would never save her from the sounds, the noise. The shrieks of a ghost knew no boundary. All in a moment, something hard and cold fell upon her foot and her eyes opened, searching the floor for the source. On her hands and knees she crawled about the wood planks until her skin touched what was small and solid. Picking it up in the dark, she studied it with wide eyes. She held the pebble in her hand and then scrambled silently to her feet, lightly stepping as to not disturb the master of the house, the phantom who had taken her here. He was the only one with the blood on his hands from a massacre that nobody but the ghosts remembered.
The open window was across from her, it was one that looked out upon a garden laced with nothing but the death radiating off of the spirits in the House. When her gaze ran over the wilted garden on the ground, she saw a pair of eyes; eyes that she hadn’t seen in years. They were the eyes of a human.
“Come down,” his voice whispered through the air and she could see his hand beckoning her from below. He had come to get her out of here, to take her away.
She didn’t ask who he was, she didn’t need to know. She just turned around to lift the sheet from the floor, its long form trailing paths along the dusty floor of this room. Quickly, she tied it to the foot of a wardrobe by the window and threw it outside, watching its white color fall limply down.
He would lead her through the dark of the moor until they reached the forest. Then they would go until they reached the brick road that ran into the city she had been stolen from long ago. She would leave the House forever, never to return and never wanting to return. Without her the House would continue its cycle, day after day, the way it had been since the Devil visited.