Within a Dream, part seven

Fiction By Hannah W. // 6/29/2011

 

We entered the dining room and found it empty of guests. The tables were now a mess of used dishes and unfinished finger sandwiches. Molly snatched one off a silver tray as we passed, popped it whole into her mouth.
            “Watercress again,” she said, wrinkling her nose as she swallowed. “I have half a mind to go out back and kill it all.”
            “What?”
            “Oh. I forget that you haven’t seen the whole place yet. It feels like you’ve been here so long already.” We paused outside the kitchen doors. “I’ll show you what I mean after we eat,” she said. “But only if you behave yourself, all right?”
            “You mean if I keep quiet.”
            “Yes. And don’t take more food than everyone else does. They’ll turn on you for sure if you do.”
            “You make them sound like a pack of wild dogs,” I said.
            “They are.”
            She pushed the doors open and we stepped into the crowded kitchen. A few slightly younger girls were scampering around, dunking empty plates and dirty silverware into a large stone sink.
            “Come along,” Molly said, pulling me by the arm into a long, narrow room. A similarly proportioned table took up most of the space, and rickety wooden chairs were squeezed in around it. Some people began to take their seats, while the kitchen girls brought out platters of leftovers and thick-crusted bread with a slab of white cheese.
            My stomach growled so loudly that those seated near me turned to look. One wan-faced girl asked, “What’s your name? You’re new here.”
            I felt Molly’s presence beside me, her eyes staring into the back of my head. But some other force, some greater pressure made me answer, “Ellen” in a cracked voice.
            The girl gave a nod of acknowledgement and turned away from me.
            Molly whispered in my ear. “Remember what I told you.”
            “I do,” I whispered back.
            “Then what was that?”
            “I couldn’t help it—”
            My explanation was cut off by Sergio, who now stood at the head of the table and addressed the room. “Before we eat, I would like to introduce our new friend Ellen,” he said, gesturing for me to stand.
I rose up out of my chair for a second, my legs still bent under the table, before I ducked back down again. Molly was frowning, not at me, but out into empty space.
           “Let’s make her feel at home,” Sergio continued. “Now. Pass the plates around, move along.”
            Plates were distributed, and everyone took their share of the food. I cut myself a slice of the bread, a slab of the cheese, and snatched up a few bits of leftover sandwiches. Too hungry to hold out any longer, I wolfed it all down within minutes, barely tasting it. Afterward, I longed for seconds, but I didn’t dare take more. I just sat and traced the ivy design on my plate with my fingers, not listening to what little conversation there was, until at last others finished their meals and stood up. Molly nudged me with her elbow and beckoned for me to follow her. We left the room, taking our plates in hand. Molly dropped hers in the sink as she led me past it, and I followed suit.
           “Here,” she said, maneuvering around a table littered with various knives. “The stairway I told you about this morning.”
And she disappeared—or seemed to. I followed, darting up the few stairs after her.
“I’ll take you out back,” she said, “even though you didn’t listen to me.”
            “Nothing bad happened,” I said. “I couldn’t help it, all right?”
            She snorted. “It’s called a lack of willpower.”
            I let it go. I didn’t know how to explain the strange pressure I felt, the nameless force that had made me speak my name even though I hadn’t wanted to.
            “Never mind,” she said. “I forgive you. We have to hurry, though, unless you want someone to see us and drag us back to work.”
            We both took long, quick strides, gliding side by side down halls that seemed to stretch endlessly before us. Finally Molly said, “We’re almost there”, and sure enough we came to a wide, iron-gilt door, which she unbolted and shoved open. “The great outdoors,” she declared.
            I stepped outside. Fog curled just as thickly here as it had out front this morning, but I could see at least a few feet all around me. I shivered in the cold, damp air, but Molly stood beside me reassuringly.
            “There.” She pointed straight ahead, and as if on cue, the fog parted slightly to reveal a dark, smooth shape in front of us. A pond of sorts, I realized. We stepped forward to stand at its edge.
            The water was clear, but its depths were impenetrably black. I couldn’t tell how deep it was. It seemed like it might reach down forever. I stared down at it and saw my own reflection, rippled by the breeze.
            “The Pool.” Molly’s voice startled me. “There’s the watercress, see?” She pointed out clusters of round, green leaves that seemed to float just above the Pool’s surface. “They grow in water. Hence the name.”
            “Oh.”
            Molly crouched down closer to the water, lowered her voice. “Sometimes the younger ones tell stories about the Pool.”
            “What kinds of stories?”
            “Oh, silly ghoulie things mostly,” she said. “But I think you’d like some of them anyway.”
            “Yeah?”
            “Yeah.” She fell silent.
            I wanted to press her about the stories, but the dark grey sky and the glassy water and the way she curled tight around her knees like she was so forlorn made me silent, too.
            Finally she stood up, brushed herself off. “We’d better go in,” she said. “They’ll be looking for us soon.”
            I nodded and followed her back inside. But even out of the cold, I felt a chill down my back.
 
            The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I stayed at my post at the front door until dinnertime, which was much the same as lunch, except there was more food to go around. Afterward, though, Sergio stopped me as I was about to slip out of the kitchen.
            “No need to remain at the door all night,” he said. “I’ll lock up.” A spark lit up in his eyes. “I won’t let any night prowlers get in.”
            “You would know all about night prowlers,” I said before I realized that I was speaking clearly, not muttering under my breath as I’d meant to.
            “Is Molly rubbing off on you, or have you always had a sharp tongue?” He smirked. “Oh, that’s right. You can’t remember.”
I bit my lip, seething.
Sergio cleared his throat, abruptly businesslike. “Oh, Molly probably hasn’t told you— eight o’clock, everyone is expected to go back to their rooms. Except the guests, obviously, though they usually turn in early anyway. The rule is just to minimize disturbances to them.”
            “Eight. Fine,” I said, and turned away.
            “And Ellen?”
            I stopped.
            “You haven’t seen the half of it yet.”

 

 

Comments

Oh my...

This is a great story, Hannah! I kind of got behind on the last few chapters, but I'm all caught up now. What I'm really curious about is that strange thrumming. What is it coming from? And of course, there are all the halls and passages and creepy people that I want to know about too, but I've played enough hours of Myst that I really think the thrumming should be investigated first. That's what I would do, anyway.

Keep it coming!

Mary | Thu, 06/30/2011

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

........

Dearest, Hannah... I am liking this story more and more and more!!!! Please keep writing! I want to know who Sergio and Molly are and what on earth this place really is!!!!

Elizabeth | Thu, 06/30/2011

************

The Holy Spirit is the quiet guest of our soul." -St. Augustine

just...

this is just awesome. I love it. And, though I don't like to make early predictions on characters, I do like Sergio. :)

Bernadette | Fri, 07/01/2011

Oh, Sergio, that was low. I

Oh, Sergio, that was low. I like you, but that was really cold. As if YOU remember anything.

Wait... do you?

Anna | Sat, 07/02/2011

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

 It just gets better and

 It just gets better and better.

I seem to be the only one who doesn't like Sergio... he's creepy.

Renee | Mon, 07/04/2011

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