Vines on a Wall
The place Millicent called home was nothing more than a converted warehouse in a small street opposite a row of nearly empty houses. She’d bought it two years ago after she’d saved up the money to move out of Ben’s pub, which he had kindly been letting her stay in. Now, as she entered the tall oak doors, she smiled at her little place. To her left was a small sofa and coffee table directly next to one of two large windows. In front of her was a kitchen, albeit small, and then a door leading into a bathing room beside it. There was a staircase to her left, which led directly up onto the platform on which her bed laid, the headrest against another giant window. Twinkling lights were wrapped around the handle of the staircase, ready to flicker on as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Millicent walked towards the kitchen, dogging the wooden dining table, and set her cardboard cup down on the side. For a moment she stood and watched as the steam curled up and up. Like vines on a wall, she thought. Millicent then proceeded to head towards the wardrobe that was concealed beneath the staircase and dig out a fresh pair of black trousers and a blouse the colour of the forest. She changed quickly, and left her clothes out on the sofa, which still retained its original brown colour despite the leather starting to peal. Millicent swapped her sandals for a pair of brown boots, and then grabbed a coat from the hanger beside the doors. Then, as quickly as she had entered, Millicent stuffed her keys in her coat pocket, and left, heading towards the docks.
Although it was warm earlier, autumn was starting to set in, and Millicent shivered inside of her burgundy coat. The docks were about a ten-minute walk away, and when she arrived she found her tiny blue boat waiting for her. It was tied up next to a few other fishing boats that were pointedly larger than hers, but Millicent ignored how her legs already felt like cramping as she stepped off the wooden docks and into her blue boat. It was about the size of her dining table back home, and had two paddles. She leaned over, untying the boat from the dock, and used a paddle to slowly steer her way out of the mass of boats and into the Shalbic Sea.
The island she was headed towards was visible from her place out in the ocean, and would only take her ten minutes at most to reach. Millicent rowed at a gentle pace, a gentle ache beginning to build in her arms. The view from the Shalbic Sea was spectacular, though Millicent preferred it at night. Now, she could see tender puffs of smoke coming out of chimneys and ships coming in and out from the other ends of the dock, trading goods from the Continent. Millicent shook her head as if shaking the distant memories she had of the Continent and continued rowing. It was not long until she reached the sandy bank of the island, and Millicent hopped out of her boat to pull it to shore. She was glad she’d worn boots.
Without any further thought, Millicent left her boat on the bank, dusted her hands off on her pants and then strode towards the manor house. The island was exceptionally big for what it contained, although Millicent had never ventured further than the cobblestone path leading to the front doors. The path itself was a pretty one, surrounded by woodland and wildflowers, and when Millicent stepped out into the clearing that revealed the manor house her jaw dropped as she took in the magnificent view.
The manor house was made of white stone, and stood out against the stark woodland. Bluebells grew in the front gardens in patterns so intricate that a gardener all the way from the Continent must have designed it. The sun shone on the manor house itself, as if guiding Millicent towards it. She walked down the path, brushing a strand of dark hair behind her ear before walking up a staircase made of the same stone as the house. Millicent was two steps away from the doors (which were considerably larger than her) when they swung open, revealing a man that could only be in his early forties, with hair the colour of wheat swept to one side. He took one look at Millicent and stepped aside to let her in. Millicent flashed him a friendly smile and shuffled inside.
Inside was less impressive that what Millicent remembered it to be. The walls were all painted the same off-white colour, and she knew that they were in the Doctors’ private house above the complex. The man that had let her in through the front doors now began pacing away, leaving Millicent to run to catch up to him. He led her through an area that seemed to be an open plan kitchen and dining room and then through a long corridor. At the end of the corridor was a door painted the same colour as the walls, and the man approached it with what seemed to be caution. He knocked once, twice, until a voice sounded from within.
The man turned to Millicent then, and said in a wearisome voice, “go on.”
Millicent turned away from the man and entered the room. She recognised it immediately. The large brown chair hadn’t moved from its place behind the oak desk since the last time she’d visited. The walls were still painted green like the colour of the forest outside.
And then there was the man in the chair.
His eyes were grey and his hair was white like the overcoat that hung loosely from his shoulders. He sat forwards in his chair, with his hands folded on top of his desk. The grin he gave her was feral.
Millicent shivered at the sound of her name on his lips, “Doctor Ellsworth.”
Doctor Ellsworth looked at her and gestured to the chair opposite him. She took a seat, shifting one leg over the other and hanging her coat on the back of the chair. When she was done fidgeting, she faced Doctor Ellsworth. They sat in silence for a few minutes, until finally the Doctor spoke.
“Millicent,” he said again, as if he were tasting the name. Then, he smiled, “how have you been feeling?”
Millicent wrung her hands in her lap, “Okay.”
Doctor Ellsworth raised a pointed eyebrow, “Okay?” He paused for a moment, “What about your headaches?”
At that, Millicent raised her head and looked into those grey eyes. She had been visiting Doctor Ellsworth for little under three months about the headaches that had mysteriously started to plague her. At first, they had only been a dull ache. But as they got worse, and there was nothing that anybody could do about it, she was referred to Doctor Ellsworth. And now, three months later, her headaches were finally starting to subside.
Millicent finally spoke, “They’re getting better.”
“Would you still like to take the medication?”
The question caught her off guard, “Yes.”
Doctor Ellsworth began to rummage around in his drawers and then brought out a small white box no bigger than the palm of her hand. Written on the box were the letters EO 12. He then made his way around the desk and stood behind Millicent, placing two hands on her head and pressing firmly.
“Does this hurt?” He asked. Millicent winced as his hands moved to her temples and then to the top of her head, and apparently that was answer enough. His slim figure moved swiftly back around to his side of the desk and brought out a second white box, but on this box was written a different set of letters. EO 11. He pushed them towards Millicent.
“Take two from each box, three times a day.”
There was no kindness in the way that he spoke to her, but Millicent thanked the Doctor anyway and made to leave. Before her hand reached the doorknob, the Doctor touched her shoulder. She hadn’t noticed he was following her.
“I’ll see you next week,” he said. Millicent nodded, and left the manor house the way she had come. A cool breeze blew as she walked back down the path towards her boat, and the bluebells seemed to shrink away from her. When she reached her boat, she found that it had been moved by the incoming tide and now sat directly beside the path. She scowled and dragged it onto the water before stepping in, double checking that her medication sat in her coat pocket. It did.
As she started rowing, Millicent sat back and glanced at the manor house. In the window, on the top floor of the enormous building, was a figure. It was slim, tall, and yet it was not Doctor Ellsworth. She was about to turn back towards the city, but then the figure raised its hand.
Millicent raised her hand back at the mysterious figure, and they watched each other until they were both smudges against the horizon.