Centuries Long Forgotten

Talia is a girl living in the late 19th century. She has an abusive father and her mother is supposedly dead. One day, Talia stumbles upon a mysterious, uncanny stone wall. What will she discover behind it?

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1. Short Story

I’ve always been the type of person to fantasize about what would have happened if some events had not occurred in my tragic lifetime that began in 1880. What would it be like if my mother was still alive? If my father was non-abusive? What if I could be  heard, not just seen as a naive fifteen-year-old whose opinion does not contribute at all to the grand scheme of things? Day by day, I yearn to have a different life, one where I can make an impact on the world, a life where I matter.

I sit in my crude room, barely even phased by its lack of furnishing and animation, and look out from the terrace at our manor’s grounds. Ever since my mother died five years ago, the atmosphere of Blackbourne Manor has never been the same. It’s missing the life that Elise Blackbourne always nurtured here. The grounds do not flourish and thrive as they once did. The songbirds have yet to resume their sweet melodies. My father’s home just seems devoid of happiness. I think that’s what caused him to become abusive towards me. My mother’s death had such a catastrophic impact on everyone, but took a greater toll on Alan, my father. Some days he verbally abuses me, telling me how “worthless” and “inadequate” I am to him. Other days, he resorts to throwing dishware at me or slapping me across the face.

I’m shaken from my thoughts as I hear Father calling me from the first story. I must go meet him immediately, as I’m fearful that he might grow impatient.

“Father! What may I do for you?” I hesitantly call, worried that he will throw some unnecessary retort at me.

“Go out to the blacksmith’s and bring him to me at once. He has insufficiently completed the task I have asked him to do for me, so I must release him! Oh, and do not dirty your rags. I paid hard-earned money for those!” He sends me off with a devilish smirk.

Here’s another instance of his cruelty. I am forced to dress in these tattered garments that are a vulgar shade of beige and have ripped seams and holes adorning them. These rags don’t go well with my complexion and physical features either. I’m lean and about five-foot-seven inches tall with cool undertones to my skin. My hair is a wavy mess of strawberry blonde that flows down to my waist, my eyes are a bright hue of emerald green, and light freckles line my pale face.

The blacksmith’s shop is just down the trodden dirt path off to the left of the entrance to my father’s manor. As I walk to deliver the message, I come across a stone wall overgrown with foliage and vines, hidden behind our old spruce trees. I’m quite sure I’ve never laid my eyes on this mysterious structure before. It gives off uncanny vibes to me. I have a feeling that something peculiar lies behind this wall. Maybe I can slip out of my room and inquire into it tonight. On the contrary, maybe I’m not destined to discover what’s behind the wall. After all, Father has never mentioned it before. I could get into terrible trouble if I were caught sneaking out. But my curiosity overcomes feelings of dread and worry. I shall come back here tonight.

It is time to get back on track from my slight detour. Ah, yes, the blacksmith’s shop is just around the bend from here. Tyson will not be very pleased with the devastating news I was ordered to bring to him. His occupation here is all he has to support his family of three. Without my father’s employment, he could become a vagabond on the streets.

I walk down the rest of the length of the dirt path, up to Tyson’s front door and knock. “Tyson, are you in here? I was requested to deliver some news to you.”

“Yes, come in, come in, my dear Talia. Is it of good tidings?”

“I’m afraid not, Tyson. My father... well,”

“He’s letting me go, isn’t he?!” I stand there in silence, awaiting his inevitable outburst. I begin to hear a deep growl rising from the depths of his chest, growing thunderous and more volatile as it makes its way up to his mouth. Tyson lets out a booming yell of despair as he realizes what this news means for his future and family. His gruff figure towers over me as he inches closer and closer. This cannot be good.

“GET OUT!” he roars in my face.

I take no time in rushing out the entryway back to the manor. My feet kick up dust and stones as they fly swiftly behind me. I try my best to curve around the side of the manor to the brick wall that I am so familiar with. This is the route I always take in order to evade the wrath of Father. As I’m pulling my right foot up to the seventh ledge that juts out from the wall, I lose my balance. My legs are still trembling from Tyson’s outburst as I tumble, twenty-eight feet down, to the beckoning ground. It appears to envelop me as I am welcomed into the tough soil which is encrusted with a thin layer of crumbled rocks. I must be dead, I think, as I descend into a seemingly endless void of pitch black.

What happened? Where am I? I open my eyes, blinking away the veil of darkness that I was once shrouded in. Gerta, my father’s head servant, is leaning over me, breathing out vile fumes in my face.

“Sweetie, do you remember anything?” she says, showing me her rows of crooked, sepia teeth.

“W-What happened? I thought I died.”

“No, darling, you aren’t dead. Actually, you are quite unharmed. You just have a few minor grazes that we can clean up with no problem. We found you lying on the ground, unconscious, a few floors below your window. I’m still unaware of what exactly happened to you.”

All of my memories of this event come swirling back to me in a flurry. This cannot be right. How am I not injured, or even dead? I just fell twenty-eight feet down to the ground. I must keep this to myself. I do not want anyone to be suspicious of my predicament until I figure out what has happened to me.

Oh no! Father must be extremely upset with me right now! I never convinced Tyson to return to the manor with me.

“Gerta, may I see Father now? I need to apologize for something.”

“Yes, you may do as you please. He is just down the corridor, lounging in his office. Well, go on now.” I tiptoe down the dimly lit hall, careful not to disturb Father from his business. Here is his office. The doors that lead to it are made of dark oak wood, which is abundant in our region. I creak open the doors and find my father facing away from me, sitting in his elegant mahogany chair, imported from America.

“Father, are you dissatisfied with me for not bringing Tyson back to you? He had such a colossal outburst, and I feared he was too hostile to bring back. I feel extremely remorseful for this.”

“Talia,” Father replies as he swivels around in his chair and faces me with a menacing glare. “I told you to bring him back here! Under no circumstances should you have disobeyed me. I also do not care about how you were found unconscious on the ground outside. It is a trivial matter to me, and should not be used as a petty excuse. I have decided to confine you to your bedroom for a month. I will not mind your absence because you are worthless to me. Be on your way now. I do not wish to see you at dinner tonight.”

I acknowledge his statements, and slowly turn around, dreadful of the month to come. Why must Father despise me so? All I want from him is to be treated as his daughter for once, not some piece of waste.

My room is down the hall and up the winding staircase from here. I follow the intricate designs on the baseboards as I step forwards, one foot in front of the other. I feel so emotionless and hollow inside, like my heart has been torn apart and disposed of. I should be desensitized to this kind of rejection. Apparently I am not. It seems like it takes all of eternity to set foot in my safe haven, even though it is so bland. I have a grey bed resting in the upper left corner of my room, and a small, ebony desk stationed next to it. Across from my door is a terrace that overlooks the estate. I think it’s about seven o’clock in the afternoon now, based on the location of the sun. Soon, I should begin to get ready for my little expedition out to the stone wall tonight. I will pass the time by working on my knitting as I wallow in my sorrows. Lately, I have been collecting some various threads in order to create some new garments for myself. I do this for about three hours, and then stop, because I know that this time is after when Father turns into his sleeping quarters. Hopefully my stomach will not growl and awaken my father from his slumber, as I am ravenous.

I slip on a pair of ancient navy blue boots that were stowed away underneath my nightstand, and finish dressing for my late-night venture. It is now time for me to depart this room. Below my window and off to the right is a vine that stretches almost all the way to the ground. I slide my window up and tentatively step out onto the vine. It swings left and right, taunting me with the idea of my fall repeating itself.

Once I am safely on the ground, I retrace my steps along the path over to the stone wall. I find it exceedingly hard to see in this darkness. I should have better prepared. The lonesome owls are hooting in the trees as I make my way through the spindly branches and reach the wall, which is glistening in the moonlight. I think there must be a crevice from which some water is trickling out. The second I touch the wall to pull myself over, I find myself in a courtyard. It is broad daylight now, which baffles me. How is this humanly possible? The courtyard is surrounded by the same stone wall, and around the circumference of it are hundreds of pedestals separated by about five feet each. In the center of the circular courtyard resides an obelisk with a large manuscript lying upon it. I wonder what it contains in its text.

I perambulate over to the pillar, careful to not disarrange the neat rows of multicoloured antirrhinum that surround it. Lying inside the binding of the manuscript, I find a letter. It is addressed to me, Talia Blackbourne. What is this doing here? Who wrote this?

My dear Talia,

I miss you dearly. I’m so very regretful that I was forced to abandon you and leave you with that beast of a father. You must pay attention to what I write next.

You have a gift, one that you inherited from me. This gift is what enabled you to enter the courtyard without finding just an empty area. This gift is what will cause a supernatural thing to happen when you touch one of these artifacts that should appear to you just about now. The artifacts that you will see are from very significant but often overlooked points in the history of our world. Use your gift to do something, like I never really got the chance to do.

I must tell you something else that may come shocking to you. You were not born in this era, not 1880 like you have believed your whole life. You were born in the sixteenth century, in Ireland. I discovered my gift before you were born, and decided to start traveling via the artifacts. Talia, I must warn you to never touch an artifact from the future. You will soon see why. After you were born, I reached an artifact that led me to the mid-1800s around the time of the Trail of Tears and took you with me. This had not happened yet in the time that we were originally from, so I was stuck here, with you, in the same day, until our other time caught up with me. We did not age at all, and you have no memory of this because you were still a baby. After our old time caught up, there was no going back. I could not travel to the past anymore, but I think you still can. I relocated us to Framlingham, Suffolk, England. I met your father here and married him eight years ago, from when I am now writing this letter. Now on to the reason why I left you.

I was taken, forced to leave this era by the courtyard. The energy in this place believed I didn’t belong here, but for some reason, you weren’t affected. When It takes me away, I’m left in emptiness, because It believes that I do not fit into any century anymore. I do experience times that It releases me back here, so I am able to write you this letter. Also, Talia, both of us are unable to become critically injured. I have noticed that over the years I spent with you, and I thought that you might like to know.

I must go now. I can feel the energy start to pull me back. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see you again, but just know that I love you.

One last thing, use your gift to change the world.

Love,

Elise Blackbourne

I fall to the ground in shock after reading this. It cannot be true. There is too much to take in. I curl up into a fetal position and start to sob. My heart cannot withstand all the games that have been played with it. How is my mother still alive? I wonder if Father ever knew about this. Do I actually have a gift or am I just dreaming? I have to know the answers to these questions.

I am going to touch one of the artifacts. The inscription on the artifact most adjacent to the obelisk from my perspective reads that it is from 1786, definitely in my past, and is from Shays’ Rebellion. The artifact is a piece of paper that has words on it protesting against “the state and local enforcement of tax collections and judgments for debt”. I reach out to grasp it and an anomaly starts to take place. I notice a few shimmers in the air, here and there. I start taking closer looks, and discover, that if I look hard enough, I can see the stars through them. It is as if there is a sort of rip in my world, as if it cannot hold itself together anymore. Eventually, these “rips” become large gashes and deeps cuts. I see an instantaneous, blinding flash of light that lasts for only a split second. I fall to the ground in agony, shielding my eyes from the light and all the pain. Seconds later, there is a boom. Imagine breaking the sound barrier, but amplifying that by over a hundred times. I think I’m going to die. All the light, sound, and pain are too overwhelming as I tumble downwards. I close my eyes, hoping that this is all a dream. Everything is still.

I open my eyes, and to my astonishment, I find that a sign near me says that I’m in Massachusetts. I’ve just gone to the past. In that moment, I realize that I can use this gift to change the world. I can help save others, become a spokesperson for these events. I am no longer confined to my room in my Father’s manor. Maybe someday I’ll find my mother again. At the end of it all, I have no regrets.  

So, maybe you have seen me before, wandering around in the shadows behind the scenes of an important event. Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe you will choose to be incredulous about my tale. But one thing is for sure; I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I will continue to be an advocate for all those significant times in history that are overlooked, unnoticed, and disregarded. Because this, this is my chance to make a difference in the world, throughout all its times.

This is how I matter.

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