My Name is Not Rosalind

Reads: 170  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 4  | Comments: 13

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
A young man on a tramping trip becomes lost in dense fog. He finds his way to a mansion where no mansion ought to be and begs shelter for the night. A psychopathic countess admits him in the belief that he is a reincarnation of her dead daughter.

Submitted: April 20, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 20, 2017

A A A

A A A




1935 – Somewhere in the Kingdom of Prussia

Tears streamed down the Englishman’s face as he cradled the dead Countess Katharena in his arms. He cursed the oddly dressed stranger who had arrived at the mansion the night before. The stranger had been alone with the Countess at the time of her death, and had since disappeared without trace. Now the Countess and her daughter Rosalind were both dead.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the world, a boy called Andrew was born; a boy with a destiny that had already come to pass.

 

1950 – Somewhere in the New Zealand bush

The distance from Red Hut to Green Hut would have been about ten miles. That’s sixteen kilometres in today-speak, but this was before the country went metric. Ten miles doesn’t seem far, but it sure is when you are unfit and lugging a heavy pack on your back. It was their second day out and Andy’s second day of wishing he had stayed at home. His older brother, Tom, thought it would be a good idea to take Andy along. The kid needed toughening up. A tramp through bush country with Tom and his two mates was the last thing that Andy wanted, but his brother could be very persuasive.

Andy had been on camping trips with his mates, so he already had the right gear. His commando sole boots had been broken in by the simple process of wading through a stream and allowing the boots to dry on his feet. His alpine style leather shorts were not typical garb for a tramp through the bush, but Andy liked them. They saved his bottom from getting rope burns when double roping down cliffs. An old rugby jersey, a worn oilskin parka and a battered leather cap completed his ensemble. The only thing he lacked for three arduous days of tramping was stamina.

It shouldn’t have taken them more than three hours to get to Green Hut, but it seemed to Andy that they had already been slogging through the mist soaked bush for longer than that. The track took them uphill for most of the way. The mist that enveloped them from the start grew denser with each step. Imperceptibly, it thickened into a fog that became so dense that Andy could barely see the back of the man in front.

So intent was he in keeping the bobbing grey shape ahead of him in sight that he missed his step. He might have recovered from the stumble if the heavy Mountain Mule pack on his back hadn’t thrown him off balance. He tumbled some way down a grassy slope and came up short against a stand of manuka. By the time he scrambled back to the track, the rest of the group had been swallowed by the fog. He had been tail end Charlie, so nobody noticed his sudden disappearance. He called out. His voice sounded flat, muffled by the thick, damp greyness around him. He listened for a reply, and heard nothing but eerie silence.

Andy hurried forward to catch up on the others, but his legs were not up to the extra effort, so he slowed down. There was no rush. He knew that, as long as he stayed on the track, he would catch up with the others sooner or later. It was a sensible plan; but the track was not well defined here, and the fog was now so thick that he could barely discern the ground before him. It took only a moment’s inattention for him to lose the track altogether. He spent some time casting about for it, but to no avail. He could have passed within an arm length of the track, and still not have seen it. He became disoriented. He had no idea in which direction he had been heading, or even from which direction he had come. To make matters worse, dusk was fast approaching.

The sensible thing for Andy to do now was to stay where he was for the night. Come daylight, if the fog lifted, he would soon find his way again. Someone would most likely be out looking for him by then, too. He stepped into a nearby clump of bush with the idea of making himself a shelter for the night. Unbeknown to him, the bush was on the brink of a steep bush-clad slope. Down he went, crashing through branches in a flurry of broken twigs and foliage. These slowed his fall to some extent; but he was nevertheless stunned by the sudden stop at the base of the slope.

By the time he came to his senses, the fog had lifted and the night had closed in. He looked for his pack so he could get his torch from it, but the pack was nowhere to be seen. It was most likely caught in branches somewhere back up the slope.

As far as Andy could make out, he had landed at the edge of a gravel road. That was odd. He had studied a survey map of the area before leaving Red Hut, and there was no road marked on it anywhere near the route that his party had taken. He scrambled to his feet. The road looked well maintained, but it was far from new. He looked around. Behind him was the bush clad slope down which he had tumbled. Across the road, the land sloped away more gently. Not far away, he could see a line of trees outlined against the night sky.

Andy’s eyes began to water in the chill night air. He blinked and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. When he opened his eyes again, he saw that the line of trees had changed shape. He now saw what looked like the outline of a mansion against the night sky. Andy blinked again. The outline became clearer. The shape was indeed that of a mansion. It was three stories high, with a steep roof, dormer windows and several tall chimneys. Andy didn’t understand why he had thought at first that the mansion was just a line of trees; but he understood even less why a mansion had been built out here at all. Who would do that? A wealthy recluse, perhaps?

Despite the incongruity of a mansion so far out in the bush, Andy was too cold and tired to question its existence. Having lost his pack, he lacked the means to keep warm, and he had nothing to eat or drink. The mansion could be his salvation. The lights that he could see in some of the windows looked warm and inviting.

Andy made his way up the gravel drive to the portico that sheltered the main entrance. He lifted the ornate brass knocker that was fixed to the studded wooden door and let it drop. It fell with a heavy clunk that echoed round the cavernous entrance hall beyond. There followed an eerie silence. He was about to knock again when the door suddenly swung open to reveal a balding man immaculately decked out in black tails, pin striped trousers and grey waistcoat. A grey cravat encircled the winged collar of his shirt. He looked the image of an old time English butler, which is precisely what he was. He did not look pleased to see Andy.

‘Well?’ asked the butler sternly.

‘Uh, I’m sorry to disturb you,’ said Andy, ‘but I’m afraid I am lost.’ He gazed in awe at the interior of the mansion. It was immaculate and richly furnished. ‘I wonder if I could use your telephone.’

‘Telephone?’ enquired the butler. ‘There is no telephone here.’ He made to close the door.

‘Wait,’ said Andy. ‘I have lost my pack and all my gear. I am cold, tired and my feet hurt. Could I just shelter here till morning? I promise I won’t be in the way.’

‘No,’ said the butler firmly. ‘You are not welcome here. Please go.’

Andy hesitated. The butler leaned forward and spoke urgently and sotto voce into Andy’s ear. ‘Go away. For your safety’s sake, you must leave now. It is not safe for you here.’

Just then, a lady appeared and stood with regal dignity at the foot of a curved staircase. She wasn’t very old, but nor was she very young; somewhere about the middle, Andy thought. Her floor length lavender gown was overlaid with a sheer fabric that drifted about her like a fine mist. She might have been beautiful were it not for the cruel twist of her scarlet lips. Her black hair was pulled back rather too severely in a kind of bun at the back of her neck, and her eyes were dark against the paleness of her skin. For some reason, her appearance sent a shiver down Andy’s spine.

‘Who is it, James?’ she enquired. She spoke with a trace of an accent that Andy could not identify. She was, in fact a Prussian countess. Her eyes fell on Andy.

‘Rosalind! Is that you?’ she enquired eagerly.

‘No ma’am,’ said Andy, ‘I’m …’

‘So the prophecy has come true. I am so pleased,’ interrupted the Countess with a smile that gave Andy no comfort at all; ‘but what are you doing in those dreadful clothes?’

‘I fell down a …’ began Andy.

‘No, not now,’ the Countess interrupted again. ‘I am too tired. I was about to retire to my bed when I heard the door. I shall sleep well now that you are here. We will talk in the morning. James will take care of you for tonight.’ With that, the Countess raised the hem of her dress a little, turned and mounted the stairs with aristocratic grace. Clearly, she was a lady whose decisions were not to be questioned.

‘Lady, I think you have mistaken …,’ began Andy.

‘Shut up you damned fool!’ whispered James harshly in Andy’s ear.

‘But she thinks I’m …’ began Andy. James clapped his hand over Andy’s mouth and held it there until the Countess was out of sight.

‘All will be explained to you in time,’ said James, removing his hand, ‘but this would not be a good time to question the Countess. Now that she has seen you, it is best that you should stay. The Countess will expect to see you in the morning.’

‘She called me Rosalind,’ said Andy. ‘My mum said that I would have been called Rosalind if I had been born a girl; but how could the Countess know that?’

‘A remarkable coincidence no doubt.’ said James. ‘Are you hungry?’

‘Well, yes, I am a bit.’

‘Come with me to the kitchen. I can heat up some leftover meatloaf for you. Then I will show you where you can sleep.’

Andy had an uneasy feeling that he ought not to stay here. Something about this house disturbed him greatly. Did it really appear out of nowhere, or was that just his imagination? He pushed the thought out of his mind. Right now, he was cold and hungry, and the lure of a hot meal and a warm bed could not be denied. He pulled off his muddy boots and stepped over the threshold onto the polished wooden floor, leaving the world as he knew it behind him.

***

Andy was sitting at the kitchen table devouring a plate of reheated meat loaf when he began asking awkward questions.

‘How come this house is so far out in the bush?’ he asked.

‘What do you mean?’

‘A house like this doesn’t belong here. Jeeze, it doesn’t even belong in this country. I can imagine it some place more like Transylvania or something. It looks too old to have been built here.’

‘Prussia,’ said James.

‘Prussia?’

‘Yes, Prussian architecture.’

‘Oh.’

Andy took another mouthful of meatloaf.

‘The Countess must be very rich to own a place like this,’ he said. ‘Does she have many servants?’

‘No. Just me.’

‘But the house is so clean and tidy. Do you look after it all?’

‘Of course. It isn’t so much really. Most of the rooms are disused and closed off.’

‘What happened to the servants?’

‘Enough!’ said James sharply. ‘No more questions.’

‘But you said you would explain …’

‘Later!’ said James in a tone that left no room for further discussion.

Duly chastened, Andy continued eating in silence. Then something caught his eye in the dim light of the passage beyond the open kitchen door. It was a girl, and she was staring at him. She might have been about Andy’s age, but it was hard to tell exactly. She was prettily dressed in a style that seemed old fashioned to Andy. Her white dress was trimmed with pink and dotted with what might have been little pink flowers. The dress had a Peter Pan collar, big puffed sleeves and a flared skirt reaching just below her knees. Her waist was encircled with a broad pink sash tied in an enormous bow at the back. She wore white stockings and white slippers. Her fair hair was tied back with pink ribbon in twin pigtails. There was something strange about this girl. She glowed with a kind of iridescence that made her clearly visible in the dim light. Andy thought he saw a tear running down her cheek. What startled him most was the girl’s face. It was the same face that he saw every time he looked in a mirror!

‘James’, cried Andy, daring to break the silence. ‘Who is that?’

‘Where?’ enquired James.

‘There,’ said Andy, but the girl had gone.

‘There’s nobody there,’ said James.

‘There was a girl …’

‘There is no girl,’ said James harshly. ‘You are tired and you are imagining things. Now hurry and finish that up and I will take you to your room.’

There was a girl, thought Andy. I can remember her in every detail. What is James trying to hide from me?

Andy was sure that he had just seen a ghost, but why did she look so much like him? Could they be related in some way? Or was this just another coincidence? He remained deep in thought as he finished the last of his meat loaf and rinsed the plate off in the sink.

‘Come with me,’ said James. He mounted the curved staircase with Andy padding along behind him in his socks. James stopped and opened a door part way down a corridor in the opposite direction to the one taken by the Countess. He turned on the light, and then stood back to let Andy enter. Andy stepped into the room and came to an abrupt halt.

‘I can’t sleep in here!’ he exclaimed. ‘This is a girl’s room.’ His eyes took in every detail of the room’s decor and contents. The wallpaper was decorated with bunches of pink flowers on a white background. Pink lampshades matched the pink floor length drapes that bordered two sets of windows. On the bed lay a beautifully gowned doll with a delicate porcelain head. The doll was accompanied by a well worn stuffed bear and an ugly stuffed monkey. A pink dress with a frill hem lay across the foot of the bed as if it had been laid out ready to wear. Andy glimpsed other dresses through the partially open door of an old fashioned wardrobe.

‘There must be another bedroom I can use,’ said Andy.

‘No,’ said James. ‘This is the only spare room that still has a bed in it. You can sleep here or you can sleep on the floor in the kitchen. Your choice.’

‘OK, I guess I’ll sleep here. At least the bedspread isn’t pink; but I could do without that dress on the bed.’

‘That’s Rosalind’s dress. It was laid out ready for her to wear a long time ago; but she is gone now. This was her room. The Countess has insisted that it be kept just as it was when Rosalind last slept here.’

Andy immediately thought of the girl ghost who he had seen from the kitchen. ‘Rosalind died?’ he asked.

‘Yes, but the Countess knew that she would return to us.’ James gathered up the dress and hung it in the wardrobe, pushing several other dresses aside to make room. He closed the wardrobe door, and then turned to an antique tallboy. From this, he withdrew a garment and offered it to Andy. ‘Here, you can sleep in this tonight,’ he said.

‘What is this?’ asked Andy.

‘It’s something for you to wear in bed. You can’t sleep in your clothes. They are dirty. I will take them and brush them off for you.’

Andy took the white cotton garment and shook it out, noting the embroidery on the bodice and the frill around the hem. ‘This is a girl’s nightdress,’ he protested.

‘Of course. This is Rosalind’s bedroom. What else did you think she would wear to bed?’ said James.

‘I think perhaps I will just sleep in my underwear … if that’s OK with you,’ said Andy.

‘No, that is not acceptable,’ said James sternly. ‘The Countess would be most upset if you were to defile the bed with your unwashed underwear. Again, I give you the choice. The bed or the kitchen floor.’ Andy was too tired to argue. He reluctantly took the nightdress from James. After all, who would know?

‘The bathroom is next door,’ said James. ‘You can wash yourself and change in there, but be quick. I will be back to collect your clothes’.

The bathroom fittings were old fashioned but looked near new. A hot bath would have been good for Andy’s aching muscles; but he thought it unwise to keep James waiting, so he settled for a wash. James was waiting for him when he returned to the bedroom with the nightdress flapping about his legs. He dumped his clothes on the foot of the bed.

‘You said that the Countess wants this room kept just as it was when Rosalind last slept here,’ he said. ‘Won’t she be mad at you for disturbing stuff in here, and at me for sleeping in her bed?’

‘Oh no, young sir. You see, you are Rosalind. This is where you belong.’

‘What? Hang on a minute; that was only to be my name if I had been born a girl. I’m not a girl. My name is Andrew!’

‘I am sure you will find the bed quite comfortable,’ said James, ignoring Andy’s assertion. He gathered Andy’s clothes up from the bed and headed for the door.

‘Wait …’

‘Goodnight,’ said James as he closed the door behind him.

Perplexed, Andy looked around the room. This isn’t right, he thought, but better than the kitchen floor. I don’t understand why the Countess thinks I am Rosalind. The idea is bizarre; but we can sort that out in the morning.

He switched on a small bedside lamp before turning off the centre lights. He took the doll, bear and monkey off the bed and put them on top of the tallboy. Then he climbed into bed and turned off the lamp, plunging the room into darkness. Andy had almost forgotten how very tired he was. Minutes later, he was sound asleep.

***

It seemed to Andy that he had barely dropped off to sleep when he awoke with a start and found himself sitting on the edge of the bed. Fog-filtered daylight flooded the room. He looked down and saw to his dismay that his legs were now clad in white stockings. They peeped out coyly from beneath the skirt of a white dress that was dotted with tiny pink flowers. It was the same dress that the ghost girl had been wearing. Good grief! That talk about him being Rosalind had been on his mind as he fell asleep. He must have climbed out of bed in his sleep and dressed himself in Rosalind’s clothes. Andy panicked. He had to get out of these clothes before James or the Countess saw him. Except he couldn’t. The buttons high up at the back of the dress were out of his reach. Jeez! That meant somebody else had dressed him. He couldn’t have managed the buttons on his own. Nor could he have tied that big bow behind his back; but how had someone done that without waking him? The meatloaf, thought Andy. James must have put something in the meatloaf to make him sleep.

He tugged furiously at the dress but the buttons and the sash kept it snugly in place. There was no way he could get out of these clothes short of cutting himself free with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors; but where would he find those? The dressing table! A pair of manicuring scissors, perhaps. Not very practical but he had to try something. As he moved toward the dressing table, he saw himself in the mirror and received another shock. His short fair hair had grown longer and had somehow braided itself into twin pigtails. He tugged on one of the braids and found to his relief that he was wearing a wig; but his relief was short lived. There were no scissors in the dressing table! He stared at himself in the mirror. Rosalind stared back at him. In a fury, he tore the wig from his head and flung it at the image in the mirror.

‘My name is Andrew,’ he screamed.

Just then, the bedroom door burst open and the Countess stormed in. Her vivid red lips were curled back in anger. She was now clad in a gown of fine blue silk that flattened seductively against her body as she strode over to Andy. Without hesitation, she struck his face with a vicious open handed blow.

‘That is not your name!’ she shrieked.

The force of the blow sent Andy sprawling backward across the bed with his legs flailing in a flurry of petticoats. His eyes flooded with tears of pain, shock and fear as he scrambled off the bed. The blow had knocked the anger out of him. Now there was just terror. He could see murder in this madwoman’s eyes.

‘M … ma’am, I …’

‘Don’t call me that. I am your mother damn you!’ She leaned over him menacingly.

Andy backed away until he was hard up against a wall and could retreat no further. The Countess followed. With her face almost touching his, the Countess spoke to him quietly, almost in a whisper, but with chilling menace.

‘Your name is Rosalind. Do you understand?’

‘Y … Yes.’

‘I want you to repeat after me, “My name is Rosalind”, can you do that?’

Andy opened his mouth but the words would not come.

‘Say it!’ exploded the Countess.

Andy cringed against the wall. The Countess’s blazing eyes bored into him. At last, he spoke in a hitching voice that could barely be heard.

‘My … name is … is … Rosalind.’

‘Good girl,’ said the Countess quietly, patting him on the cheek.

Andy struggled to regain his composure.

‘But … I’m … I’m not …’

The Countess quickly cut him off by clapping her fingers and thumb over his mouth and squeezing his cheeks together with cruel force.

‘Don’t you dare!’ she said. ‘Now, you will be a good little girl for mummy or …’

Andy suddenly squirmed out of her grip.

‘No!’ he yelled. This is all wrong! Why are you doing this to me?’

The Countess’s eyes blazed with uncontrolled fury. She grasped Andy by the throat with both hands and squeezed with all her strength, crushing his trachea. Andy would have screamed with pain; but he could not draw breath. He clawed ineffectively at her wrists. His vision blurred. Blood flowed from wounds made by the Countess’s sharp fingernails. Andy’s strength drained rapidly away.

At last, with her fury spent, the Countess’s eyes softened. She relaxed her grip on Andy’s throat and hugged him to her bosom.

‘Oh Rosalind, my sweet little girl. Why do you vex me so?’

Andy said nothing. He lost control of his bladder. He was dying.

***

Andy awoke next morning warm, comfortable and disoriented. He wasn’t in his own bed, but where was he? Slowly, his memory of the mansion and of James bringing him to this bedroom returned. Then he sat bolt upright and broke into a sweat as memory of his terrifying encounter with the Countess hit him. The madwoman had come close to killing him. Or had she? He felt no pain. He was back in the nightdress that he had worn to bed. He jumped out of bed and examined his throat in the mirror. No trace of bruising or of any blood. All of the evidence now before him proved that what had happened to him in the night hadn’t happened at all.

If that had been a dream, it was like no dream that he had ever had before. Every second of his ordeal came back to him in terrifying detail. No, it wasn’t a dream. Something paranormal had happened. He did not know what; but there was something weird about this house … something dangerous.

It was with some relief that Andy saw his clothes neatly folded on a chair on the other side of the room. James must have slipped into the room with them while Andy slept. He felt much better when he was back in his own clothes. He wanted to see James but not the Countess. With any luck, she would be a late riser. He made his way cautiously down to the kitchen where he found James preparing breakfast. There was no sign of the Countess.

‘Good morning, young sir,’ said James brightly. ‘I hope you slept well.

‘Not exactly,’ said Andy. ‘I think its time you explained to me what is going on here. Who is Rosalind? Why does the Countess think I am her? Do you think I am Rosalind too, or are you just humouring that lady?’

‘Ah, so many questions,’ sighed James. ‘It’s quite simple really. Rosalind died just three months ago. The Countess was distraught. She consulted a mystic who promised her that Rosalind would come back from the dead and would soon be reunited with us. Then you arrived looking exactly like Rosalind … except for your clothes and the length of your hair. That could hardly be a coincidence.’

‘But you tried to turn me away,’ said Andy.

‘Yes. Until the Countess saw you, I thought I might be able to save you from what lay in store for you here; but I am glad that you stayed. Rosalind was our only child, and you are all that we have left of her.

‘You were her father?’ Andy’s eyes popped open in surprise.

‘Yes, the Countess is my wife; but she no longer remembers me as her husband. Her mental health is … ah … not the best. I took on the role of her butler so that I can continue to serve her and look after her. I am still very much in love with her.

‘OK,’ said Andy, ‘but dead bodies don’t come back to life … except maybe as zombies.’

‘Rosalind isn’t a body any more. Her spirit left her body when she died. The Countess believes that she has come back to us in a new body … your body to be precise. I am sure you have heard of reincarnation.’

‘How do you know you weren’t being conned?’

‘Conned?’

‘Yeah. This mystic could have taken the Countess’s money and told her whatever she thought the Countess wanted to hear.’

‘Yes, I thought that at first, and I accused the mystic of fakery. That turned out to be a big mistake. The mystic was both genuine and very powerful. She flew into a rage at my accusation and put a spell on this house.’

‘What sort of a spell?’ asked Andy doubtfully.

‘The house is in limbo,’ replied James. ‘As far as the real world is concerned, the house does not exist. It will stay in limbo until the Countess and Rosalind are reunited.’

‘The house was here for me last night,’ Andy said. ‘How do you explain that?’

‘Ah yes. The house would have to come out of limbo to admit Rosalind. The house admitted you. Therefore, you are Rosalind. A reincarnated version, of course. You look exactly like her.’

‘If you think I am Rosalind, why do you call me “sir”?’

‘Because I know that you have reincarnated as a boy. In her mental state, the Countess does not see you that way. She thinks that you have reincarnated as a girl just like Rosalind. I will not destroy that illusion. Will it help you get used to the idea if I call you Miss Rosalind?’

‘I would rather you called me Andy,’ said Andy. ‘There is one big flaw in what you say.’

‘And what is that Miss … ah … Andy?’

‘If I’m Rosalind, I was reunited with the Countess last night. So how come the house is still in limbo?’

‘You have yet to embrace the fact of your reincarnation,’ replied James. ‘The spell will remain until you admit that you are Rosalind.’

‘Well, that’s not going to happen,’ said Andy. ‘Rosalind was a girl and I am a guy.’

‘Not as far as the Countess is concerned. She may be delusional but she sees you as a girl. She will be most unhappy if you attempt to deny it.’

Andy said nothing. What James said was just credible enough to be true, but that didn’t make it so.

‘You know what?’ he said at last. ‘I think this mystic of yours got it wrong. The real Rosalind might be out there somewhere but it’s not me. Your mobile house picked up the wrong guy!’

Andy moved over to the door and turned to face James.

‘I’m leaving now. Give my regrets to the Countess … not!’

With that, Andy padded in his stockinged feet to the front door, sat down and pulled his boots on. James followed, but made no attempt to stop him.

‘You just wasted time putting those boots on,’ said James.

‘I told you,’ Andy said as he tightened the laces of his boots and clambered to his feet, ‘I’m leaving now.’

‘No you’re not. The Countess is waiting for you.’

‘You can’t stop me from walking out of here.’

‘No, but you will have nowhere to go. Do you not understand what limbo means? There’s nothing out there.’

Andy got to his feet and wrenched the door open. He strode out onto the porch and stopped after taking only two paces. Something was amiss. From inside the house, he could see daylight streaming through the windows. Out here, beyond the portico, there was nothing but inky blackness. Andy stepped slowly backward to the door. James reached out and pulled him roughly inside. Andy’s heart sank. Until now, he had pinned his hopes on the house still being where he had found it. How could he escape from a house that did not exist in the real world?

With his mind racing and getting nowhere, he allowed James to lead him to a richly furnished parlour. There, the Countess awaited him. She sat like royalty in a high backed wing chair with a gilt frame and red velvet upholstery. She surveyed Andy’s rugby jersey, his leather shorts and his mud stained boots with distaste.

‘Sit!’ she said.

Andy sat.

‘James, my breakfast!’

‘Certainly ma’am.’ James bowed stiffly and left the room.

Andy lowered his head under the Countess’s disapproving glare. A grandfather clock ticked away seconds, and then minutes. Nobody spoke. At last, Andy raised his head and stared directly at the Countess.

‘Rosalind is dead you know,’ he said.

‘You stupid girl. You are not dead; but I am offended by your manner of dress. It is hardly fitting raiment for a young lady of breeding. Why are you wearing those disgusting garments?’

‘Because they are mine,’ said Andy defiantly.

‘No they are not!’ said the outraged Countess. ‘Your clothes are upstairs in your bedroom. Go to your room at once and come back to me properly dressed.

‘No!’

‘How dare you talk to me in such manner?’ The Countess dropped her voice to the same sinister tone that she had used the night before. ‘Now listen to me Rosalind. You will be a good girl for me or …’

‘I am not Rosalind,’ said Andy calmly. ‘My name is Andrew.’

‘That is not your name!’ shrieked the Countess. ‘Your name is Rosalind.’

‘No,’ cried Andy, leaping to his feet. ‘My name is not Rosalind and you are not my mother!’

The Countess flinched as if she had been struck in the face. After moments of stunned silence, she emitted a long, wailing scream and collapsed to the floor. James hurried into the room, his face a mask of anxiety.

‘Step aside boy,’ he said. ‘Let me see her.’ He felt for a pulse.

‘Did she faint?’ asked Andy.

‘She’s dead,’ said James tonelessly. He took her body into his arms and rocked her gently, with tears streaming down his face. He really loved her, thought Andy. In spite of her madness, he really loved her.

Without turning his head, James said, ‘You can go now, young sir. The Countess has no need of you now.’

‘But …’

‘Go, damn you. Just go!’

Andy went. James was right; the Countess had no need of him now. In death, she would be reunited with Rosalind in the afterlife. The curse would be lifted. The house would soon return to the time and place from whence it came. He hoped that the house would have the decency to release him in his own time and place first.

Andy ran to the door and stepped out onto the porch. He still couldn’t see anything, but that was due to a thick morning fog. The inky blackness was gone. He stepped cautiously down onto the gravel drive, except the drive wasn’t there any more. Just stones and course grass. Beyond this, he could see a partially overgrown track. He looked back over his shoulder. The mansion was gone too. Andy tried to remember what it had looked like, but the harder he tried, the faster his memory of the mansion faded. He stood with furrowed brow. Something weird had happened to him overnight, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember what.

He reached the foot of the bank down which he had tumbled last night. There was his Mountain Mule pack. It must have broken free of the restraining branches in the night and fell the rest of the way down the bank. He heaved the pack onto his back and set off down the track. Hadn’t there been a road here last night? Maybe not. His fall down the bank followed by a night in the open had left him dazed and confused.

It wasn’t long before he came across a search party. Uncertain whether this was the boy they were looking for, the leader asked Andy his name.

‘My name is Rosalind,’ said Andy.

For a fleeting moment, the leader thought he saw before him a pretty fair haired girl in a vintage dress with a big pink bow at the back. He blinked his eyes. The illusion was gone.

‘Rosalind? That’s a girl’s name isn’t it?’ he asked.

‘Yep,’ said Andy, ‘but I think you misheard me, mate. My name is Andrew.’

 

End




© Copyright 2017 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Joe Stuart

Charlotte's Ghost

Short Story / Humor

The Game is Over

Short Story / Other

The Thirteenth Boy

Short Story / Humor

Popular Tags