A Wonderful Nightmare

What was her name? It had been so long that she had carried on in this world apart from the one she'd known for so long that she seemed to be losing herself, the one thing Mr. Andrews told her to never do, lest she be lost in the annex of her mind forever. Though, as she examined her journal she had come to wonder why anyone should ever want to awaken from such a wonderful nightmare?


2. Awakening the Sleeping Shadows

   It was later on that night when Vincent (My step father's actual name) finally decided that it would be appropriate to show me to what would be my room. It was a nice room, white walls and elegant trim with a large and cloud-like bed to slumber upon. Hannah helped me set up the changing veil in the corner of the room away from either the door or the somewhat large window on the opposing wall. When the candles were lit and the sun faded to twilight I must say, my new room took on an almost somber but mesmerizing feel. The candle light flickered, causing shadows to dance among the fringes of the room like phantom dancers come to entertain the manor's new master and guests.

   "Mistress, is everything alright?" came Hannah's soft and caring voice; her stare told me that I was concerning her with how much I seemed vacant in mind. Breaking out from the mesmerization of the shadows I looked into her deep sapphire, almost lavender colored eyes in the din of the candle light and put on a smile to alleviate her fears. 

   "Aye, Hannah, all is well," I placed a hand reassuringly onto her shoulder briefly, "I suppose the excitement of today has just proved a bit much for me. If you'll kindly excuse yourself, I wish to retire for the evening." She nodded as she presented my with my nightgown and removed herself from the confines of the room. Once she was gone I took time to more thoroughly examine my new abode; a meek dresser with five midsize drawers and a basic mirror, clouded from age. A quaint little work desk and chair. A little lamp stood guard over the desk with a container of age old, viscous ink  inside it. The final accent to the room was a covered frame and a small door that seemed to lead to a closet that, but ofcourse was locked. "Ah how queer to leave such a fine work covered, never to see the light of day," I whispered as I uncovered and gently ran my hand against the oil covered canvas.

   "Twas a happier time then..." came a voice from the shadows; I almost dropped the frame out of shear fright and surprise, spinning around though there was again, no one there. Cautiously, I turned around and as I reset the canvas onto its spot on the wall there was the feeling of firm but gentle hands on my shoulder. "Thank you for uncovering it, they do look better, being able to see the light of day once again."

   "Who are you?" I whispered, unknowing of just who was behind me. The hands let up and I once again turned around, I beheld the sight of a young to middle aged man with slick dark hair and wire rimmed glasses which reflected a rosy hue to them. He wore the attire of a butler underneath his cast black overcoat; in one hand he grasped onto a rather strange top hat that had what appeared to be tattered bat wings. His eyes were dark but, in the candle light seemed to glow a hazy pinkish red. He cordially bowed as he answered me in a quiet manner.

   "My name? Well, for now, I suppose the name of Andrews will do for now," he smiled slyly as he reset to his standing posture and replaced the hat upon his head. "Yes, that will do; I am Mr. Andrews, caretaker and watchmen of this estate." He took my hand in his and gently placed an icy kiss onto it. "It is my humble pleasure to meet your acquaintance miss." Looking around, he inhaled deeply before letting out a mournful but seemingly satisfied sigh.

   "Well, for a caretaker, you've not done your job too well," I snorted slightly, "The entirety of the estate is in ruin; what've you been asleep or something?"

   "Something along that tangent, I suppose," he answered as he removed a copper key from his coat and plunged it into the keyhole of the locked closet. There was a deafening click that seemed to echo not just through the room, but also into my very being as the lock released and the door clicked open. I watched in curious terror as the strange man reached into the closet and withdrew a small container of tin that, upon opening it the man proceeded to rummage through it until he smiled as he plucked forth two things; the first was a simple but elegant ring of deep amethyst wrapped in silver with beautiful etchings made into the band. The second object was a curiously queer looking object, cylindrical in shape but with five ivory disk like bands wrapped amid the the object. 

   "What are those?" I queried as he replaced the tin into the closet and shut the door, carefully re-locking the door as he turned and moved swiftly to the desk. Sitting himself comfortably into the chair he lit the oil lamp and beckoned me to his side. "Hmm, they look like that of some trinkets a child might collect."

   "Well, I suppose the young lord could be almost childish at times but," he stopped as he locked eyes with mine, "He was an intelligent and caring soul none the less. Tell me, do you know what this cylindrical object is?" I looked at it with complete bewilderment as my mind tried to grasp what the devil this... thing before me could've been. The only thing that I recognized was that on each of the disks was one of the twenty six letters that made up the English Alphabet. "Some sort of word puzzle?"

   "Almost," he smiled as he whimsically fumbled with the disks, "It's a mysterious device envisioned by a great man known as Da Vinci; it's an enigma or codex as some call it. Oh how my master loved such strange things, now, the point of this is simple; inside is a secret message but, the only way to get at it is to solve the codex within the disks."

   "Or you could just smash it."

   "Ah, but if you try to force it or destroy the enigma than a phial of vinegar based acid will spill all over the message and destroy the text before you could ever hope to extract the message," Mr. Andrews replied as he stood up, placing the enigma into my hands. He then slipped the ring onto my left forefinger as its slenderness allowed to be placed in such a way that it was a perfect fit. "Now, my dear sweet mistress, I must ask if you are willing to solve the enigma that my young master left behind before his disappearance?"

   "Why can't you solve it?" I asked with distrust in my voice. His minor smile vanished into melancholy as he stepped back and sighed.

   "Because, twas not for me to solve," he answered, "His last instructions were simple; should I not return this night than wait for the day when another shall arrive to this room and seek out their assistance," he looked out the window into the impenetrable blackness of night, "That's what my master asked, so, that's what I've done. So please, mistress, I humbly request you help me and play along with this game left behind by young Master Crawford, I want to know what he left behind all those nights ago, I want to know where I can find him, please... help me, help him... help us..."

   Something screamed in the back of my mind not to get involved, something about the phantom before me just seemed to trip all forms of red flags inside my mind but, something about the sincerity and devotion he shared towards his master of so long long just seemed to pull on me... So I said I would help but, where to begin, now that was something I would like to have known.

   "We shall have to begin with the ring on your hand," he suddenly spoke, as if reading my mind, "I'll have you know that ring was my master's mother's ring before she passed on, it was a precious treasure to him."

   "So what, does that mean I'm to locate and rummage through his mother's belongings? Are they even still here after so long a time has passed?" I asked examining the ring a bit more closely, hoping that the little inanimate object would reveal something to me.

   "Not in this realm of existence," he whispered, "We must traverse the veil, peel back the layers of time as if it were nothing but a shroud to be cast aside," he moved me to the bed where, suddenly in his grasp I felt quite faint and soon fell into the void of unconsciousness. 


   "Young mistress, awaken," it was soft, the voice calling to me, but it was quite insistent that I open my eyes and relinquish the wondrous sleep I was in. "Hurry, we must begin our search, please, awaken!" There was a gentle but firm nudging of the shoulder and begrudgingly I opened my eyes. 

   "Wha... Where are we?" I queried as the room I once knew was no more, instead I was laying on the forest floor somewhere outside. All around there hung an eerie blue fog and every now and then strange puddles of water sprang up from the ground, casting strange reflections if one looked into them. Standing up I felt lightheaded and collapsed, but instead of landing on the ground I fell into a pair of strong waiting arms.

   "Ah, you're awake now, that's wonderful," he smiled as he helped steady myself. Mr. Andrews was, as time went on more of a gentleman than I initially thought, yet there was still something unnatural about him that stuck in my mind. "Now, in these woods must be the first clue, but where are we to look?"

   "That's the hundred schillings question, isn't it?" I smiled wryly as I became independent of him. As I took my first steps I realized I was barefoot as the cold and wet ground beneath me sent shivers up my spine. "Now that I think about it, where are we?"

   "I was hoping you knew," his face was stern for a brief moment before twisting into a cheshire grin. "Don't worry, this is simply a dream brought on by the ring you wear and the power that dwells within the walls of the manor."

   "My dreams?" I answered in minor perplexity, "Well, how queer to think that you'd be in my dreams and what's more, why I would ever dream of such a bleak place..." I left off as a sudden sharp pain filled my head and I collapsed to the ground in agonizing pain as these.. flashes raced through my head, but what were they? The scenes that flashed before me made no sense... what were they? Memories perhaps? No, couldn't be... atleast not my memories... but then who's were they?

   "Mistress! Is all well!?"

   "Do I look bloody well!?" I screamed at him as he tried to help me to my feet, "Really, what kind of idiot would see a maiden fall in pain and then ask if she's well? What kind of ruddy imbecile are you!?" He looked a bit offended at this so after I took a moment to calm down I apologized.

   "I'm not exactly sure what happened to you but," he left off as he pointed at one of the innumerable puddles around us, "I believe I know what you saw and, where in this realm we are..." Upon closer examination of the puddle I saw what I had just seen in those painful flashes, but, they were now projected in the water like some sort of moving picture, much like the ones I've seen at those carnivals before when I was only a bit younger than now. "It's official, we are in the Forest of the Forgotten... truly this is a dreadful and dreary place."

   "What is this 'Forgotten Forest?'"

   "It is a place where long repressed or forgotten memories dwell, along with dreams that were allowed to die and never fulfilled," he answered with a harsh undertone as he examined the woodlands around us. "You feel that melancholy and tension in the air?"

   "Yes and, to put it nicely, it gives me the creeps," I answered in a quiet drawl as I edged closer to him with the impending notion that something sinister was approaching. I felt safe in Mr. Andrew's grasp though the dark look on his face told me that something was not right and he didn't wish to be here either.

   "The atmosphere here is built upon the sadness and regret of the forgotten and dead," he whispered as he stepped back and lifted me into his arms, "The tension is caused by the very same spirits who feel the presence of someone who doesn't belong... like us, now, please keep quiet and hang on to me," and before I could utter a word he had by some feat, leaped high into the fog and came to rest upon a thick branch well above the ground. Below us stood several creatures that at first appeared to be human but, upon further inspection one could conclude that these poor unfortunate souls had long since lost their humanity as they now resembled a ghastly embodiment of death and disease. 

   "What do we do now?" I whispered in a most discrete manner into his ear. He responded with another inhuman leap as he began to jump from tree to tree in seemingly infinite leaps and bounds through the fog of this seemingly dead canopy...


   I was sitting down to breakfast like any other day, bored out of my mind. Looking down at my plate I scoffed at the pathetic sustenance before me; eggs and strips of finely seared bacon with a side cut of steak and toast.

   "Pathetic things these were," I muttered to myself as I poked at the eggs with my knife, "You all could have lived with such potential couldn't you have? You, steak could've been a prize winning bull at a county fair but instead I have butchered you and will consume you, same for the bacon." Looking at the eggs disgusted me the most for they resembled sad eyes, begging for any mercy I could show them; I hated them so with my knife I popped those ugly bulges and mutilated them all until my once lovely and well presented breakfast was nothing more than a disheveled mess. "Ah that's better... now I can eat."

   "Young master, is all well?" Twas my caretaker come to see me, a fellow servant in tow. 

   "Alister, what news have you about the sudden disturbance earlier today?" I asked with quiet curiosity as he drew near, filling every fiber of my being with euphoria; I loved being in Alister's company, twas the only real place I felt any comfort anymore.

   "Yes master," he whispered into my ear with a hint of whimsy and sinister glee. "The cloaked man with the red glasses has returned to Ebonshroud..."

   "And..? What else?" I smiled cruelly as he drew me to his face with one of his gloved hands. We were so close I could almost rub my porcelain smooth cheek against his icy cold one as he continued.

   "He's brought in a girl... In a white gown and dress." That comment froze me in mixed terror and apprehension. I shot up and grabbed him by the collar, the sweat beginning to fall over my brow.

   "A girl!? Are you sure!? In a white gown and dress!?"

   "It would seem so, young lord, the man's transcendence between realms is what caused the quake earlier and the girl has awoken the shadows in the forest, though, I'm not entirely sure why," he responded with his normal cool, emotionless attitude. I felt anger twist into fear, and then fear into sinister thoughts as I knew who had come with the man with the red glasses; her, the girl who abandoned me long ago. 

   "Thank you Alister," I smiled cheerily as I excused myself and returned to my study. As I closed the doors behind me I fell into a quiet giggle of madness and giddy. "You won't escape me girl, you won't leave me this time... I won't let you..." Walking over to and sitting into my chair I smiled as I hid in my own arms as the shadows began to dance about the room excitedly; Awakening the shadows meant only one thing... Mason was trying to escape this world and I knew that I couldn't let him, nor would I ever want to.... If I had to be trapped here, then so would he...... And so would dear, sweet little Carrie.....


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