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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1. Chapter 1

Fate; the destined order of events outside of a person's control. The rush of life against the ever present tide of death. Some supernatural, earth quaking force that decides the final moments of heroes and the downfall of villains. 

By this definition, perhaps it wasn't fate that led our young artist to Artemus Moon. Perhaps fate does not care for such a mundane tragedy as that, nor does it bother to cultivate the kind of fondness that can form between two individuals who's happiness is planted solely in each other. 

Perhaps fate did not put the first paintbrush in Calael's little hand, nor give him his devastating affinity with candles, nor drive him to purchase Semper Place.

 It is a cynical view. But perhaps less cynical than to believe that there is no such thing as fate, and Calael's insignificant death was merely the product of his own self-ruin.  

The truth is that fate deals in death. It is the force that pushes us through our lives towards that ultimate finality. And those events that tend to happen along the way, which we so aptly call 'life', are merely side effects to be tolerated, of our spiral towards that ever-present end. Side effects that only we control.

Our story truly started not with a death, but with - like many tales of tragedy - a new beginning. A 'fresh start.' With the young artist, Calael Black, stepping out from his car and gazing in muted dismay at Semper Place.

The man had swallowed hard, and attempted desperately to conjure up a spark of optimism. His new property might have been rather opulent, long ago; but years of abandonment had seen it fall into disrepair. 

The lavish home was an early nineteenth century build, constructed from a kind of cream and grey limestone, yet carrying an unnerving essence of green now that time had descended upon it. The black tiled roof had been equally unloved and was coated in sheets of thick moss, sprouting with weeds wherever a space for life had become readily available. In fact, it could have been a garden in its own right, certainly more impressive than the dead, colourless demesne that surrounded the property. Calael thought that the grass could barely be described as grass at all; it more closely resembled straw, or a meadow that had faced the Arctic tundra, and it was curious therefore that such a scent of petrichor seemed to fill the air.  His gaze scrolled further up still to observe four large, dark chimneys and the long, looming windows; large enough to fit the length of a person gazing out.

Exhaling deeply, he forced himself not to be perturbed by the glaring issues with the property. It had been a complete steal at auction, and he hadn't traveled so far from everything he knew to live in first class conditions after all. The man wrapped a hand around the handle of his leather clothes case and began to power towards the door, the fuel of determination taking root once more. 

Calael swiftly produced the key given to him by the real estate agent and fitted it into a rather dubious looking bronze lock. Hearing it click, he pushed on the door and took a slow step inside, reminiscent of a soldier entering a mine field.

The first thing to hit the man was the stench of damp wood. Creaking floorboards were a macabre soundtrack to his slow, startled entrance to the hallway, wide eyes following the oaken staircase up to the first floor, then back down to the living room door directly opposite. It seemed that his new furniture and boxes of belongings had been situated wherever there was space for them to be squeezed in among the old, abandoned assets of the house. He couldn't help but think as he all but tiptoed into the room that it was eery to see his contemporary black velvet couch pushed in alongside a plush, red-leather recliner of the 1930s. The ground floor of the house was now reminiscent of one of the modern art displays he'd visit in London; a vast display of contrast and opposites.

His gaze landed on a stack of his paintings wrapped in three sheets of bubble wrap each, leaning against the wall. He'd considered transporting these himself, as if a single canvas was damaged  he was going to be on the phone to the moving van company within minutes with a bone to pick. Thankfully though, they all seemed perfectly unharmed, and the saccharine smile on his lips could remain stressfully intact.

Sighing, Calael set his suitcase by the stairs, and began his exploration of the rest of the ground floor. He'd realised it was going to be a fixer-upper, but his dad definitely hadn't warned him about exactly how much work this property was really going to be when they purchased it. He supposed he shouldn't have expected a palace, considering he hadn't even been here in person yet.

 It had been a sort of spur of the moment buy when it went on sale at auction. He'd been there selling his art in a somewhat miserable state, yet there was Semper Place, almost criminally inexpensive for such an illustrious estate isolated deep within the Lake District; just waiting for a man such as himself to make the bid. With his father's help on the down payment, it had been his. He had found it a little strange that such a house would be available to rent rather than buy, but he supposed it had worked in his favour, so he didn't question it too much. Sometimes it was best to ignore the nagging details when everything else was so undoubtedly perfect.

But looking at it now, this house was far from flawless. He had a lump in his throat as he surveyed the kitchen, with its copper plated sink and dirty counter tops, an almost ominous vase of long-dead lilies in the windowsill. It was the polar opposite of his old apartment in London, with it's chic, modern decor and artistic aesthetic, so lovingly doted on by both himself and Harry.

Harry however was a thought he did not need to bring into this house, and so he banished all comparisons to his old apartment, and focused on the new. With difficulty. The cold feeling that it brought remained even after he tried to pull himself together.

Calael braced both hands on the cleanest spot on the counter, and exhaled deeply. It came out shaky. He had no excuse to be so miserable, he felt. He had a home again now, a corner of the countryside all to himself after a lifetime of only ever visiting once or twice a year. So why were thoughts of Harry still haunting him? This was supposed to fix it.

Maybe it would simply take time. Maybe he needed to wait it out, make this place as beautiful as he could manage by himself and give it that modern, bohemian style that had always reminded him of his childhood home. His parents had been a little richer than the average couple, yes, and it was all new money; they'd built their lives on success they'd dragged up from the dirt with raw, hard work, something he had always admired in them. And the old house had been a testament to the contemporary lifestyle they'd always wanted, and gotten.

They didn't inherit their middle class status. They acquired it. Just as he had acquired Semper Place, with only a hint of help from dad. That element of harmless help could be said for any family, no matter the social class, couldn't it?

He straightened, and took another deep breath, stronger this time. "Pull yourself together," he muttered, into the aching silence of the room, and then stepped through the doorway into the dining room.

This space was a little different. The aged wallpaper looked like maybe the last owner of the house had begun to change it for something more modern, but given up halfway, leaving the room suspended between two eras. The old, mahogany table however was still here, the embellished legs engraved with intricate designs, and the face of the table itself curiously scratched in some places, as though carved into with a knife where a child had slipped whilst learning table manners. It might have been sweet, if Calael didn't know the age of this house and it's original furniture. He couldn't recall the year, but it had been constructed prior to the nineteen twenties, and for someone who had grown up in buildings no older than a decade this was a rather eery place to be. Remnants of the original family were scattered everywhere; and he knew it was all attributed to them, as he'd been told quite plainly by the real estate agent that this house had a terrible track record when it came to long term ownership. It was held for just short of a decade by it's first ever occupants, and after that it had barely managed to capture the attention of any individual, couple, or family, for more than a year at a time.

Calael knew the connotations of this, and he had heard talk. But he was not a superstitious man. He attributed the peculiar history of the home to simple economics. It was, after all, a property to rent, and renting was never intended to be a permanent scheme for most. Calael refused to have his fresh start ruined by any shadow on the wall or bump in the night, and the chill that went down his spine as he looked at those scratches on the table was to him more emotional than paranormal.

Before very long, he had moved upstairs to explore the bedroom, guest bedroom, a rather lavish looking bathroom and an additional, unfurnished space he intended to make his art studio. Again, he told himself that though it looked like a retirement home now, before long it would be his, and his father would be coming tomorrow to help with that; likely bringing several bags worth of groceries too. It was late in the afternoon already, he was tired from the drive, and he only had to sleep one night in an old bed before he could replace it with his own; the likes of which was flat packed and propped up against the refrigerator downstairs, taking far more effort to construct than he was currently willing to exert.

He forced an almost ridiculous looking smile, and told himself was all going to be just fine.

Of course, as the man busied himself moving boxes into their appropriate rooms ready for unpacking tomorrow, he had no way of knowing of the presence at the foot of the stairs that, at this very moment, was watching him with a crystalline gaze. Calael passed straight through that very spot on his way to plug in his kettle, and these nonchalant activities in the tranquil silence of Semper Place gave no inclination that he was not, in fact, alone. He was not alone in the slightest.

Artemus Moon was watching him, through the transparent haze of the other side. All at once he was there, and yet not there, the space he occupied entirely accessible to be passed through with ease, and yet undeniably occupied. At least, Artemus himself could not deny it. His own existence was fact to him, not mere belief. But this new occupant in his home was blissfully unaware of him, and Artemus planned on making him aware.

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