‘Vernon Hall’ Chapter One

The coffin was empty. Where was her body?

I was petrified. My head was dizzy and my body sluggish from the horrors of the night; yet I compelled myself to stand up. My vision was blurred and my senses benumbed. I shielded myself from the penetrating rays of daylight which streamed in through the stained-glass windows. I again looked into the glass window of the coffin to ensure I was not concocting a nightmare. But I was not. It was actually empty.

I let out a cry, but then I realised it was pointless. Who would come to my rescue? Indeed there was no one in that house but her and me. Even if I had died at that very moment, no one would have known for days. It took me a while to regain my senses and recollect consuming the entire bottle of laudanum the night before. There was no other way to sleep for I had had countless sleepless nights; there was no other way to alleviate my anguish, my wretchedness – that was the only remedy I was forced to resort to. Perhaps I was hallucinating? Perhaps it was nothing more than the mere after effects of laudanum. So I looked into the coffin again a third time.

But this time I was not hallucinating, I was not delirious. Not only was the coffin empty, but the stone floor was stained with drops of blood. I took a moment to locate what part of the house I was in and I suddenly remembered I was in the tower. I walked carefully to the spiraling stone staircase and embarked upon my descent. From the top, all I could see was a hollow darkness below, as if I were descending into a pit of lost souls, an abyss; I was entering unchartered territory and yet until the night before this had been my very own home. Well not quite mine, it was hers, but what was hers was now mine. I had always sensed an ominous presence here in this house which had centuries ago been a Catholic monastery, but not so much as I felt it at that very moment.

I saw torn pages scattered all the way down the staircase. I bent over and picked one to find it was written in Latin from the ancient Catholic manuscript. My head was heavy and pained excruciatingly – the paper dropped from my trembling hand and I held on tightly to the bannister and made my way down painstakingly.

When I finally reached the first floor I felt an icy breeze. It’s strange the windows from the lounge were wide open. I never left them open especially not at that time of the year. That side of the house overlooked the sea and it was extremely cold being the middle of winter. I leaned my head out of the window and saw the silver sea shrouded by the early morning mists. It was indeed a very misty morning and it almost presaged the arrival of something I dare say….evil. I shut tight all the windows one by one. The pain had extended from my head to my back, my arms and now my legs.

I dragged myself out of the icy lounge; the embers in the fireplace had died. It was a carcass of a house like an abandoned ship stranded in the middle of icy waters haunted by deadly creatures. I was that cursed captain who had to witness the death of an entire crew and endure the doom single-handedly.

A sound suddenly interrupted my morbid thoughts. It was a sort of rustle. The rustle then turned into creaks, thumps and then there was silence. My heart raced as I saw her bed-chamber door ajar. Someone was in there.

I slowly dragged myself to the door and gently pushed it wider. The window inside her room was opened and the icy breeze struck my face. I confess I visited her room every day in her memory, staring at her portrait which hung on her bed-chamber wall, lying on her bed for hours and weeping for her; opening her wardrobe and reminiscing all those moments I saw her in those lavish garments. But I never opened that window. I walked directly towards it, when I heard the rustle again from behind and I spun around. My hands were cold and numb and my heart palpitated intensely. My tongue was numb too, I tried to speak but I could not. I saw her standing before me, by the wall.

It was Amelia in the white dress, the same dress she was buried in. The whiteness stained by the blood dripping from her mouth. Her curls were as auburn as they had been when she was alive and she stared blankly at me with her beautiful emerald eyes.

“Amelia?” my lips quivered as I spoke her name. I could not believe I was talking to her again. I was trying not to frighten her, but most importantly trying not to frighten myself.

She had adored me like a daughter so I knew she would reciprocate lovingly though I had foreseen it to be a painful reunion. But instead the blank stare turned into a glare filled with fury. Her emerald eyes were now a glowing red; she took a step forward to peer at me. I had never in those two years seen Amelia in such a wild fury.

Horrified as I was, I attempted again,

“Amelia, it is I, Eleanor, I’m trying to help you. Don’t be afraid”.

It was in fact I who was terrified, nay terrified was an understatement; there are insufficient words to describe the fear that overcame me as I saw her glowing red eyes. She again took a step forward still glaring at me when I heard the Latin incantation. It did not come from one source; it seemed to come from every nook and cranny of the house. She covered her ears and closed her eyes in fear.

“No, no” she cried painfully.

“Amelia, don’t be afraid, I will protect you”, I cried.

But it was too late, the Latin incantation grew louder and louder until I could bear it no longer and neither could the poor woman, if I could call her a woman, a ghost, a lost soul whatever she had now become.

Covering her ears with the soaring noise of the incantation she let out an agonising scream and I ran to her rescue.  That’s when I suddenly woke up and realised it was all a dream from years ago, or rather a haunting memory which had returned to torment me.