“Why won’t you show yourself?” When the voice still refused to answer, I ran my fingers on the walls, groping for a light switch. There was a chandelier for heaven’s sake, so its switch must be here somewhere. Right?
“What you’re doing is pointless.”
I almost jumped at the sudden interruption but managed to catch myself in time. “Is it?” I quickly moved to the next side of the wall, telling myself he could only be lying. What kind of house in this century wouldn’t have any kind of electrical lighting?
There had to be a switch, and when I did find it, he wouldn’t be able to hide himself from me anymore.
“The chandelier doesn’t work.”
I stiffened. “But there’s electricity—-”
“I didn’t say there wasn’t. It’s only the chandelier that’s disconnected. None of the lights in this house—-”
“No.” I started shaking my head even before he finished speaking. “I don’t believe you.”
“Suit yourself,” the voice murmured.
And suddenly, the voice was too close, almost like he was standing right behind me.
“But don’t say I didn’t try to stop you from wasting your time.”
The hairs behind my neck rose, and this time, I did jump. I whirled around, hoping to finally catch a glimpse of him, but at the same time dreading it if I did.
And yet…there was nothing.
Nothing except another shadow that blurred past me in great speed, larger than life, and too fast to be human.
Frustration seethed inside of me, and I clung to it desperately. To be mad was to forget that I was scared, and I wanted that. I needed that.
Spinning wildly, I challenged, “Stop playing games with me and show yourself!”
“I am not playing any games with you.”
“Then show yourself!” Stalking to the fireplace, I grabbed one of the books stacked on the mantel top and began throwing it at the shadows, one after another. “Show yourself!” But the books struck nothing but air, and my trepidation grew as I watched the books fall soundlessly to the carpeted floor.
Where was he?
As if sensing that I was about to break down any moment, the voice started speaking again, this time in a soothing tone. “Calm down, ma belle.”
Unfortunately the words did anything but, and a desolate laugh escaped me. “Are you insane? You expect me to calm down when I’m talking to my would-be killer—-”
The voice from the shadows cut me off, saying levelly, “I didn’t have you brought to my island to kill you.”
“Then what am I here for?” I cried out.
But again, all I got was silence.
Silence that was made worse by the vastness of my gilded cage, the darkness that seemed to spread throughout the room like a plague—-
But what I despised above all was the way the silence waltzed tauntingly with the shadows around me. Even knowing it was just my mind playing tricks, I couldn’t help hating and fearing those shadows, with the way they seemed to enjoy mocking me—-
You’re already insane. You’re a coward. You’re already dead. You’re a ghost.
I squeezed my eyes shut as I shoved the insidious thoughts out of my mind.
No! No! No!
And then suddenly—-
The faintest words, a whisper that was barely there, touching my ear.
Words that answered my question: what am I here for?
My eyes flew open and my hand reached up, my fingers touching my burning ear just as I felt the lightest breeze brush against my body and a shadow blur past me.
And then nothing.
He was gone.
This time, he really was gone, and I knew because the loss of his presence cut me deep. Why it was so, I couldn’t explain. Nothing about this place – nothing about him – made sense. All I could be certain of was what he made me feel. It was like being burned alive one moment and then drowning in a fathomless sea of emptiness –
Could it be so because of his words?
Those unbelievable, impossible words?
My arms dropped limply to my sides.
Surely I must have imagined those words.
Surely – surely he couldn’t have said that he had me brought to his island…to love him?
Be Our Guest
“The master visited her in her room last night,” Mr. Flamme, the night-shift butler, reported eagerly as he joined the rest of the morning staff in the service kitchen.
There were excited gasps all around, and the man’s chest puffed with pride. He did like the attention so much, and as the kitchen helpers and housemaids fawned all over him, begging for more details, Mr. Flamme knew that he would be spying on the master tonight once more.
“How sure are you of this?” The head housekeeper, Mrs. Bouilloire, asked skeptically.
“I heard him prowling about the walls,” Mr. Flamme shared, “and so I followed the sound until it stopped—-” His voice lowered dramatically. “In the tower room of the east wing.”
The excitement inside the kitchen rose in palpable levels.
“That’s where the mademoiselle is, isn’t it?” Nana, one of the younger and prettier housemaids, asked with a giggle.