We are stories written in blood and bone. Our bodies may perish, our spirits shatter, but the world remembers, one way or another.
I write this down lest I forget. My mind seems to be distracted lately, and my thoughts are tenuous. Is it from the lack of sleep? I thought I could adapt quickly to my charges’ nocturnal schedule, but it is proving to be difficult for me. Lessons held by candlelight from dusk until dark leave me bleary-eyed with the beginnings of a headache. The peculiarities of this household have only added to my disorientation.
The children themselves were uncanny, to say the least. They were quiet and well-behaved, which I then attributed to a rare condition that had lent them a grave demeanor. When asked, either one would answer correctly yet without the enthusiasm that was common for their age. I feel as if they already knew the lessons beforehand, and were just going through the motions. When instruction was done for the night, they would politely take their leave and head back quietly to their rooms.
Lord Graeme was no different. The night I had arrived, he took one long look at me without saying a word. The only welcome I received after was a curt nod and a flash of dark eyes. I, who was used to my late father’s warm and loving regard, had never felt such cold and calculating scrutiny in all my young life. I was then instructed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Nox, to never directly approach the master, and to address any concerns to her instead. I was not to disturb him under any circumstances. Thankfully, I have not seen him again since then.
I do know how Mrs. Nox does it, yet she manages to have the meals ready on time without a cook in service. On the occasions that I would venture down into the kitchen, everything is kept in readiness, but the signs of food preparation are missing. Then when I go to the small sitting room adjoining my bedroom, the food has been set down, hot and delicious. Mrs. Nox is not the chatty sort, and our conversations have been confined to the terms of my employment and the rules of the house. She is as forbidding as the food is comforting.
Edric, the coachman and gardener of the estate, has never spoken to me from the moment I was collected and brought to Blackmoor. I have not even fully seen his face, as it was always partly obscured by that huge hat he wore. He seemed just a formidable, hulking presence to me on the rare instances that I would catch a glimpse of him from a window.
The rules of this house only served to heighten my uneasiness. Aside from being mandated to not approach the children outside the time for study, and to never seek out Lord Graeme, I was to stay inside my sleeping quarters after my late evening meal, and under no circumstances, venture outside the manor after dark. When I heard this the first time, an unexplained chill went through me. Mrs. Nox’s firm, steely gaze, however, allowed no opportunity for questions.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
It has not been a week, which I was told was my trial period before I was officially accepted as governess, yet I now desire to leave. The strangeness of this place and its people have affected me somehow. At first, I thought it was the unusual routine imposed on me, staying up until late to instruct the children. I found myself waking up in a stupor, for sleep has lost its usual restorative effect. I suspect that I have been having nightmares, but I could not recall a single one. In the sitting room, my morning meal would always be ready, but there was no one around. And even though I was used to being alone, the silence of Blackmoor during the daylight hours was draining.
I have taken to writing more often in my journal for the lack of conversation. It was a small consolation, to hold my late father’s precious fountain pen in my hand. However, when I read my past entries, it seems like a haze has settled in my mind and I couldn’t remember these moments that I had written about. I see the pages and my handwriting, but it feels like these are not my thoughts anymore. I am listless, empty.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Tonight is All Hallow’s Eve. At dusk, Mrs. Nox informed me that Lord Graeme had decided to hold a special dinner for all of us in lieu of lessons with the children. I was invited, no, directed to attend. I wanted to excuse myself at first, since I felt that I may have been taken ill, but the command was undeniable.
It was my first time being in the dining room and sitting at the table. My feverish mind was mildly surprised at the lack of tableware and linens. Then I was shaken out of my daze when I realized that they had all been waiting for me. Even Edric and Mrs. Nox were there, seated nearest to me.
“Please forgive me, I have not been feeling well lately,” I apologized with head bowed, feeling the embarrassment add more colour to the febrile flush already on my cheeks.
“It is quite alright, my dear. You are the guest of honor after all.” a deep and rasping voice answered.
With dread, heavy and blooming in my chest, I looked up. It was Lord Graeme who had spoken, a tired, sad smile on his lips that did not quite reach his dead eyes. And the children, my pupils, had Halloween masks on. Masks that looked too gruesome to behold, masks that moved when they smiled at me for the first time…
My scream was still being born when Mrs. Nox’s and Edric’s hands were suddenly upon me, clawing at me... then tearing me apart.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
There are still moments when I remember the horror and pain and I am overcome. I lash out by breaking a few plates in the kitchen or throwing the dining room chairs about. Most times however, I sit down and write, a deep sadness for what I have lost weighing on me like a thick blanket. I can see the pages and my handwriting, but I cannot feel my beloved father’s fountain pen in my hand. The tears flow but the ink remains unblemished.
The Governess of Blackmoor by Lekz Umali
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Written by @lekzumali
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