Memento Mori

(Malexmale) Struck by tragedy, Calael Black - a popular young artist - isolates himself in his new home in the countryside in a desperate bid to save his sanity. However, Semper Place is far from empty and abandoned, and the ghost that haunts the property is neither malevolent nor disinterested in him. On the contrary, the spirit of the beautiful Artemus Moon has been alone for too long, and the two isolated souls soon find themselves locked in a dark, toxic romance, reliant on each other for happiness.

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2. Chapter 2

Sleep did not come easy for Calael, who had always struggled when it came to sleeping in an unfamiliar space. Sleep leaves one vulnerable, after all, and Calael had always been one to gravitate towards the corner of a crowded room for the familiar security of two walls flanking him. This was his house now, yes, but a house and a home were entirely different concepts, and this bedroom did not even vaguely resemble something of his own creation. The bed was not his own, and creaked whenever he moved, springs prodding him indiscriminately in the back hard enough to leave deep red marks against his pale skin.

Even the wallpaper was paining him. It was a gaudy floral covering that looked as though it had once belonged to an old woman or a young girl. Calael was not of the belief that such dreadful repeated patterns belonged all over the wall, like some dreadful half ditched effort at a collage. Art was for small, dainty frames. Anything larger stripped the art of its very definition.

He rolled over to turn off the lamp, reaching out to touch the switch, but was startled as a cold feeling abruptly brushed over his fingertips; as though a chillingly cool breeze had rushed in from nowhere. He frowned a little, rubbing his fingers together to warm them.

However, barely a second after he registered this, the light turned off. Without warning, the room had been enveloped in a thick, crushing darkness.

There was truly nothing in the world like the darkness of the countryside in Spring. He was overwhelmed by it, and felt the sudden urge to pull his hand back under the sheets into the warmth, like the shadows themselves could reach out and grab it. 

More unnervingly perhaps was that he couldn't remember actually turning out the light himself.. His hand hadn't even touched the switch yet, and he couldn't imagine it being anything like his own, modern lamp that used a motion sensor; it was covered by a lace doily, for heaven's sake!

He swallowed hard, staring into the pitch black void of his bedroom, and fumbled around for his iPhone. He never let the device go far, and found it incredibly difficult to believe that it would be farther than his nightstand. Not the pillow, of course, never the pillow; the risk of flame was too great. But his nightstand was where he kept it, where it was easily accessible. Someone with an introverted personality needed something like a mobile phone to get by in the modern world, a crutch to depend on. An excuse to avoid conversation on the train, a means of keeping in touch with friends he was otherwise too drained to reach out to, and a tool to conduct his business.

So why couldn't he feel it?

He felt along every inch of the nightstand blindly, then let out a sigh, and followed the wire of the lamp along the click the switch again. Only nothing happened. He clicked it back and forth but the bulb would offer no light whatsoever. Had it died? He supposed that explained why it had turned off so abruptly, but the timing seemed absolutely inconceivable.

The thought now entered his mind that he must have left it in the kitchen. It was highly uncharacteristic of him, but far more plausible than any alternative, and it was facts and probability that determined the actions of a man like Calael. He shifted back the covers and carefully swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. The man could make out the narrow crack of light on the other side of the bedroom door, which served as his beacon in the night as he stepped surreptitiously through the midnight haze and towards the hallway.

It was exactly when he opened the door that the light behind him switched back on.

A chill raced uncontrollably down his spine. He grabbed the door handle, rushed from the bedroom and closed it over behind him, leaving it barely ajar. His eyes were a little wider now, before finally forcing himself to pull together and look at his precious facts. This house was old. The furniture was old. Therefore, lamps were bound to glitch, and there was no reason for him to be behaving so erratically.

Tugging the sleeves of his shirt down to his knuckles, he started down the stairs, feeling the distinct urge to be as quiet as possible. It was the kind of tiptoeing walk that one adopts when passing through a graveyard, entirely alone and bothering nobody, yet subconsciously fearful of disturbing the lifeless bodies six feet under. Calael did not yet feel at home enough to be in any position to disturb the peace of Semper Place.

He crept into the kitchen slowly, and browsed the counter tops, as well as each cardboard box left here earlier today. And nothing. An almost lost, disconnected feeling came over him in that moment, and he rushed back out of the room in a hurry to find the device.

However, his green eyed gaze was drawn back up to the landing at the top of the staircase; where light appeared to be dancing on the bedroom door, darkening and then brightening again in fast concession. 

Confusion washed over him. Slowly, he placed one bare foot on the bottom step, cringing at the low creak that ensued. It was a slow and nerve-wracked ascent until he could finally make out the source of the rapidly shifting shadows, and when he did, his breath caught in his throat. The lamp was now flicking, rapidly, on and off.

Calael stood utterly frozen, gripping to the banister so hard his knuckles turned white, and his jaw tightly set. Faulty electrics, he thought, desperately. Nothing more than a century of poor wiring finally surrendering to the passage of time! So why was he so on edge? Why was he so tense that a vein in his temple refused to stop pulsing?

There was one detail of this scene however that, for the longest moment, he had managed to ignore, until it started ringing. His mobile phone had been placed neatly on the border between bedroom and hallway, situated on the carpeted ground exactly where he had stepped moments earlier. The screen flashed with 'Dad,' blaring out a monotonous ring tone, which now seemed so horribly ominous. Calael's heart dropped into his stomach. A sense of panic came over him, like flames licking at the corners of his mind. The burning, nagging sensation that not all was perfect, and he couldn't successfully pretend that it was.

It took him far longer than usual to dart forward and pick up the phone, holding it to his ear as he turned tail and moved hurriedly down the hall into the other furnished bedroom, his own suddenly seeming far too eery to step foot in again tonight. No; that wasn't why, he amended. The light was broken, it was simply impractical!

"Dad," he began, in a strained sort of tone. "It's late, it's very late, what do you need?"

"It's half ten, it's hardly the witching hour. Thought I'd check in, make sure you still need me to bring groceries tomorrow," the man said calmly. His voice had always seemed to be a lower, hoarser edition of his sons, more the effect of age than of any natural trait. They bore the sort of similarity in speech pattern that gave the impression that Calael had grown up positively idolising him, and would continue to grow becoming more and more like him. Except, Seamus Black possessed an old, abandoned accent that he hadn't quite been able to escape, suggesting a far northern upbringing; a contrast to the perfectly articulate Southern dialect of his son.

The young man sighed petulantly, and propped the phone between his ear and shoulder as he walked around the bed to switch on the other lamp. Thankfully, this one did not flicker. "Of course I do, dad, I'm practically losing my bloody mind going without milk for my tea.."

"You sound stressed," Seamus observed, with awkward concern. "Care to talk about it?"

"Not particularly. Just, one question, I have to ask. Do you recall at the auction-"

"-Auction? You're an artist, you'll need to be specific."

"The auction for the house, dad. Do you recall them mentioning the year the house was built? And whether the electrics have been updated since?"

Seamus hummed for a moment in thought. "1919 if memory serves. So, it's not ancient. The place was renovated after the first family left, in maybe the early forties."

Comforted by the notion of almost eighty year old electrics, Calael sighed softly and nodded his head, before recalling that his father couldn't see that. He forced himself to roll back his shoulders for a sense of relaxation. "Right, yes, okay.. That makes sense. Be here at ten tomorrow, if you can?"

"You know I'm an early bird. Goodnight, son."

"Goodnight, dad," Calael replied quietly, and finally set his phone down as he heard the beeping of the call ending. The silence that followed was deafening. Yes, the age of the property potentially explained the electrics, but what exactly could explain that his phone had been moved?

Deeply unnerved and mentally scrambling for a logical excuse, Calael crawled under the sheets, wrapping them around himself for comfort as he burrowed into the bed. He set his phone down on the nightstand, aligned with the lamp where it ought to be, and shut his eyes; though sleep would not come easy that night.

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