|Forum Home > Fiction > The House of Thibideaux, pt 4|
That evening, Matthew and I sat across from each other at the dining room table. Once again we were alone. Unlike the evening before, none entered to serve us, and not once had someone bustled around cleaning. It was not likely to see a soul- or a body- doing either, but normally one could hear the work, or feel the presence of it being done. There was neither in this place.
I had changed my clothes, for they had been covered in blood, but the crying in my ears I could not cease. The woman had not only cried for her son, but to me as well. For me. Even when Matthew came, she could not be torn away from me, instantly she drew her hands tighter around my waist. I remembered her from childhood, but nothing more than a face. She had found some sort of solace in me I did not retract, nor reciprocate.
``He was not where he was supposed to be, nobody was.'' Matthew nodded. ``I told you, I told it would start. It was not as soon as expected though. It will get worse, much worse my brother.''
``Where is the girl?'' I barely ate.
``I told you she would not return. Neither threat nor promise could help her now.''
``Last night, when you took me to my room, where did you find me?''
``From the reading room, directly to the room. Where else? You like to have gone out like a light.''
For the day, that was all. He did not even mention that he had found me during the night, I wondered if I had only imagined it. I could see the sun drawing deep into the house and decided to retire. What I had been through the night before, and on this day, was enough and I wanted to sleep it out. Often, up North, I heard they had gave new birth mothers complete bed rest, ridding themselves of the evils they carried in their minds, curing their bodies as well. At times they went insane, but I decided this was the time to chance my favors of fate and see which way I would fall.
But lo!, between down and up, I had bidden a chill and all that I knew was that I landed suddenly in bed. The window was closed when I woke. The curtains were as well. My eyes deceived me (as usual), but I knew myself to be in the room again, yet I could not be. I reached for something, anything, to prove myself wrong ... that I was not there. But lo!, again, as I stepped out of bed, the floor creaked.
I flung the curtains wide apart, tugging the window to and fro, back and forth, never would it budge. For sure I would have since they had been fully open just the night before. A note I retrieved from the planks as I searched round its edges bade only these words:
... which made no sense, not currently, since bidding my current time would only reveal morning. Or would it?
The door creaked ever so lightly as it opened. I almost expected the world to crumble down around me, as you feel it in a dream. You know the one I speak of. I know you do, dear reader, the feeling I speak of- you know it all too well. A numbing of the senses, a sort of tingling. It is when you know everything, all things, but know nothing at all. Not where you are; or reversed- you do not know a thing at all, but know exactly where you are, then upon waking- everything blurs and you are just as unsure as the nature of your dream- only that it was there. You cannot put a finger upon it, but it plays over and over deep within your mind.
It squeaked and lulled, the door that is, as I pulled it to a close. I remembered my shirt and grabbed for it, but it too had been moved. For the moment, I gathered my senses and went straight to the stairs. I strained to walk, and sensed that I was actually falling down, but knew I needed to go up. I teetered, then tottered, as if the walls and halls were adjusting themselves within. I dared not wake Matthew, not at this hour and even if I could find him. Or get out of this prison. Come morning though, I surely would speak with him of matters at hand tonight. Certain, as brothers do, he was pulling some Tom Foolery upon me. I was not certain as to how much, but some things he was surely doing himself.
This time, the stair door was fully opened, the kitchen was emptied, and the back door was open as well. I went right in but snuck a lookout, first, before I fully wandered out- or around- the house. Behind me, I remembered to leave that door open. Something was happening, I know not what. A shadow passed here, and then over there, and one straight across the yard. I do not know how long I had stood there, watching at the window. In all I had counted five, at least what I saw, and none of them carried a single light, so I knew they were up to something. One even circled the tree, almost emerged from it. Never had it been bad enough, nor wrong, to have to walk in the darkness without light, but now they surely did so. And they acted so strangely about it as well. They went about as if they had lights, standing upright, never glancing to see where they set their feet or who might be watching them go.
And it struck me, altogether, as odd, for I had not thought this as seeing it. Why had they shown no fear, nor crept, as they went upon their way. After such events as Matthew had explained, and what had happened earlier in the day, one would think they would. They strolled around as in full light of day. In all of my sneaking in darkness in youth, never had I seen such a soul to act in this manner. Lo! yes, the moon was bright, but a man, a non-free man that is, to walk the way they had- was unthinkable.
Even now, I laughed. Here I was, creeping around in fear, while they walked freely among themselves in darkness. Who, I questioned, was really the slave? Would any of them return as I had? Another half laugh, I knew the answers before I thought the questions. I only thought I'd grown smarter when indeed all I did was forget.
Before I knew it, I had crept my way round the bottom floor and landed back into the kitchen. It was now, that as I peered through the window again, that I knew dawn would break soon. I shut the door, alas, as it had been open this entire time. Lo and behold, as I headed back to investigate my surroundings below and the stair was gone again! The door had vanished and my abandoned room secured somewhere below. There was no entry to be found at all! I had seen no movement within the house but my own, and I had walked this floor alone. It had taken no real time at all; I had seen no shadow nor heard no sound.
It was now that I ran through the house in panic, down the corridor and up the stairs. At first, I thought myself to have found the hidden place again, the other room, but I had come up when really I should have been going down to find it- I checked the study instead with a thud thud of my heart racing. What lay within frightened me more than the realization of a floor that disappeared when I left.
The girl, yes- the slave girl! She sat there in a chair! Matthew's chair. I do not know if she saw me, but she indeed was as real as could be. I know not where she came from, but there she sat. Pretty as pie. In the far corner of the room, she looked almost... alive. I knew she was not; I panicked, and ran from the room. And there! Rue! On the bedroom door- my shirt was tied!
Yes, indeed!, there it was!
I pulled, I tugged. I even shoved the with brute of my strength to open the door up wide. Desperate, I slammed my fists to the wall. It was then that the door squeaked open, but only just a bit. Nothing had changed and it was exactly as I had left it, exactly where I had found myself the morn before. With so much to ponder, not a thought rolled through my head. It had gone silent despite the events. All I did was question what had just happened, I could not think correct.
I was sure she was dead, but who was there to tell? And was she really? Was she even there at all? I had not actually checked and I feared too much to go back. I panicked and wandered in and out the room, was it even the one I had been in before? I questioned that as well. My heart raced and beat as it never had before. I rested upon my bedside to stop the shaking from taking over as well. The silver bowl, indeed! Had not Matthew mentioned it to me? The thought swelled within me, the door, the shirt, the shooting, I could no longer tell truth from lie.
Before I knew it I had lain back across the bed and fallen asleep, then aroused back to life by a thud, thud, thud. I knew I had escaped the night, but not from what part of it. The air was stifled, though the window had been opened wide, the door as well. I staggered as I felt the shirt I held fall from my grasp. Yes, it was still the room, the one I supposed I should be in; alas- I had expected myself to be so! Since my arrival not a thing had been as it should, so one could only expect the unexpected. Night would bring the terrors to make you question the day.
Again, the kitchen was itself, a simple breakfast laid out for one, and another had already eaten. Had I known then- right at that moment- what I know now, I would have eaten more, but the thudding continued to call me. I had heard it in the kitchen, which is why I had come such a way, but the food that was there I ate.
Unsure if it had been there before, or I had simply overlooked it, I saw it now- the gate in the backyard. A clear shot of it just a hundred yards or two back beyond the tree that stood. Had it been there just two days before, or not? His body was good but his own mind he doubted. It was tired, and weary, and not slept well in many a nights and the few he had grabbed had been spent in vain.
Surely he would find Matthew outside, but in the kitchen he was not. The men continued the chopping. Thud, thud, ... thud, he heard and saw as he walked the yard round, then through the back gate. It had been up kept, much better than the front gate to say the least. Thud, thud, thud, the thudding of the tree, soon they would bring it down.
Hidden by a line of smaller green trees, the fence was revealed of stone, almost too high for a grown man to see over- the arch over the iron gate as well. It had been built so long before that moss and ivy grew in it rather than on. The gate opened with a surprising ease, for it looked like it had not been used much as of lately. I almost remembered things now, but they flew out of reach before I could grasp them.
As I ventured further, it became its own little forest; I was almost alone if not for the sound of chopping. I knew myself headed East, almost alongside the fields, for on my left headed out further into the forests, the South, the woods that held the water. The Voodoo Queen, as my mother would tell- could bath unto these waters and walk free and young again, and so she had lived for oh so many lives. It was then that I stumbled upon the graveyard. I had been told my mother lay here, but words told are far different than reality done. I noticed that few had died since my leaving, since the trees still surrounded it, and few flowers long past dead were rarely replaced.
The trees- themselves- created a barrier between the yard and the fence, and the fence and the graves, and making my way further in I noticed her stone. I only made note, because of its size and sitting in the unlikeliest of place. It should have been moved to keep the area clean, but it was not. Another slave's trick, no doubt, just as in the house, only another could see it- yet none could ever truly fix it- if they even saw it.
To know she lay below me, I became entranced. Indeed. Had I not heard it, I could have lingered there for days. An eternity perhaps. Yet it continued, a moan, a murmur, some mumbling in my ears. Had it not continued, unceasing, I might have paid no head. No gate, nor trail, exposed itself to me, but the sounds cleared me a way to its source.
Had I known it then, I might have taken the grave as a marker itself, directing me to the spot I needed to go. I had not noticed the thudding to stop, and the tree beginning to fall. The sound I was still trying to follow. It fell, and fall it did, indeed. No sooner had I mangled my way through briars and bushes did it land in the trail behind me and a whiff of wind had pushed me on. I knew that some of the longer branches had landed amongst the graves, and broken the stones as well.
Had I figured my senses before, I would have noticed the way they were cutting while I watched, sparing them the whipping later for such an offense- I knew Matthew would not spare them for this one. This darkness had crept back in me just then as I thought; I did not seem to care. Of the dark, or the others. It was the part of me that wanted to ride home when I got the letter. Why else would I have left out so quickly, and rode on so directly?
My thoughts had run amuck, so I gathered them when I saw the trickle of blood fall unto my hand. Perhaps it was the moan I heard first, but together I pulled back too.
``Matthew!'' I gasped, then fell to my knees before him. He was sitting like a child cross legged, rocking to and fro. I shook him but his rocking did not cease. ``Matthew!''
He raised his head and shivered. ``They're coming.'' He rocked again and again; his nerves were shot for sure.