Chapter 1: (v.2) The Mansion

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 285
Comments: 1

Morgan sat on the end of the old wooden dock dangling her feet in the water, watching the ripples that her kicking feet sent out into the water. How long would they last if it weren’t for the waves lapping them up and returning them to shore? She wasn’t sure how long she’d been here. Either at the dock, or the old wooden mansion whose unusual residents had taken her in. She wasn’t sure of anything. She spent most of each day staring out at the water, wondering if she could gather the strength to throw herself into the ocean. 

A speedboat was docked off to the side of her, with a small fishing boat tied alongside it. She’d been told that there was a third boat, but one of the employees had taken it on a long-term product acquisition. She tilted her head up to bask in the sun’s rays. Despite the warming spring day, she wore a long sleeve shirt paired with loose genie pants. Morgan was still hiding the bruises that she didn’t want anyone to see. Deep and tender blacks and blues, the marks on her body sent a cold shudder through her spine each time she looked at them. Her arms and face were clear; they almost always were—the long sleeves of her shirt served as armor against the world. They would only know what she wanted them to. She blindly searched for the pack of cigarettes at her side, found the box and pulled one out without looking down. It took her shaking hands several attempts to light the cigarette; she relished the first long drag of soothing smoke and nicotine. 

Morgan idly wondered where she could get some pot; that would probably do the trick better than cigarettes. Perhaps it could even stop the incessant shaking in her hands that she had been desperately trying to hide since arriving at the large mansion tucked behind her. The wooden building was built against trees 50 yards from the shore. Inside were the remarkable individuals who had taken her in. They were nice, she was pretty certain. They’d tried to talk to her, when she first arrived. She had fleeting memories of introductions: Abby, demon; Henry, demon-bond; Nacht, in charge, obviously crazy; Prudence, peppy psychic and Henry’s sister. Morgan thought they’d said there were more who were out doing whatever it is they do—but she couldn’t remember the faceless names. She took another long drag on her cigarette, blowing the smoke out slowly and rubbing her ear absentmindedly. 

The face of her watch clocked the time she had been sitting on the dock at nearly twelve hours. Surprise bubbled across the numbness of her mind; she thought it had only been an hour or two. Heaving herself to her feet, she noticed that another pack was nearly empty—how many had she gone through today? She dropped the small stub of her cigarette onto dock and twisted her foot atop it before brushing the ashes into the ocean. Where had she put her ashtray? She wondered how long it would take to smoke enough to die of lung cancer; if not that, maybe skin cancer would get her. She had been spending a lot of time in the sun. 

Morgan was careful to find small ways to be helpful; in her fugue her resources were limited, but she knew that dishes must be done, food must be cleaned up. More than anything she didn’t want to be sent back. After both breakfast and dinner—she never made it inside for lunch—she waved off help, did the dishes, and cleaned the kitchen for the residents of the strange home before returning to the dock.

Once she’d found cleaning a hassle. A distraction from living. Now? It was different. It was almost life. The day that Morgan arrived at the Mansion she’d been unable to eat. She had politely pushed food around the plate to mimic the appearance of eating then sat silently at the table, her hands folded primly in her lap. The noisy conversation and laughter were deafening to her ears. Her head pounded, and all she could see was the dust in the air, the sticky streak on the counter--watermelon juice dripping from the cutting board. There was a piece of uncooked macaroni, dust, and grease stains on the floor and in the creases between the oven and the cabinets. She couldn’t eat anything cooked in this kitchen. Morgan didn’t hear the questions they tried to ask her. The ringing in her ears and pounding in her head were too loud. 

She volunteered to clean up after dinner, asking for extra cleaning supplies. Several hours later, the fridge, stove, microwave, and cupboards had been moved, emptied, cleaned, and replaced. Every utensil cleaned, pots and pans scoured, floor scrubbed, and each nook and cranny reached—a pen encased by a rag allowed her to scrub the dirt from even the tightest corners. She discovered several old spoons, and strange looking oddities underneath behind the stove and fridge which she carefully set aside. Each time someone passed the doorway, her eyes tracked them carefully, her body inclined slightly to ensure that no-one was every directly behind her. When they left her alone to her work, she released her bated breath grateful to continue without interruption or comment.

Her work was nearly silent. She was careful to avoid bumping pans against each, cleaned one item at a time to avoid clattering metal, dried them, and gently placed each item back exactly in the newly sanitized cupboards and fridge. When she had replaced the last item, she stood back, looking around the room. It would do, not perfect, but it would do. She stepped back, unsure of what to do now. She walked out of the kitchen, keeping close to the wall. The wooden hallway felt suffocating. She knew it was only 10 feet, but it felt like it took 10 minutes to traverse the unfamiliar floor. The doorway opened to a dimly lit room filled with shelves; stocked bottles of rainbow liquids, shriveled claws, metal discs—all of which could make—or unmake—marvels in the hands of someone with the right knowledge and skills. Magic. Her hands brushed against the glass of both familiar and unfamiliar herbs and flowers. 

“You should be careful.” Her heart jumped into her throat, but she turned slowly to the voice. “There’s a lot of things that can hurt you in here.” She nodded numbly; eyes averted as her fingers fell away from a jar of unmarked nightshade. “Why don’t you come out? It’s supposed to be locked.” Morgan nodded, padding out past him, turning around and hovering with her back against the opposite wall just out of reach, waiting to see what the man would tell her to do next. “You, uh…” he shut the door locking it behind him, she flinched visibly at the noise of the door closing and the sound of the key turning the lock. At least she wasn’t inside, at least he couldn’t see her. “Uh…” he paused awkwardly, as he turned to her lurking form. “We’re going to have some drinks in the back, would you like to join?” The thought of sitting amongst the cacophony of the group again filled her with horror. What did he want? She couldn’t tell. Why would he ask? “You don’t have to! It’s totally fine if you’d rather call it a night, or… you did a really spectacular job cleaning the kitchen.” His feet continued to captivate her attention. “You didn’t have to do that.” She should respond. He’d asked a question; he was trying to make conversation—she wished she knew what he wanted. Maybe she shouldn’t have cleaned the kitchen? Her insides trembled; she didn’t know the rules anymore. What were the rules?

She opened her eyes and found herself in a grocery store. She had no idea how she got here. She looked around, Pruscilla. It was frustrating when this happened. She could guess that she’d asked to go to the store. It had been years since she’d been to a grocery store. She found herself standing with her palm pressed against cold glass—a freezer. Her forehead joined her palm on the frigid door. When the cold started to burn her skin, she moved away—food probably wasn’t why she was here. She wandered the perimeter of the store, there were so many things and so many colors. She’d forgotten that there could be so much in one place. Her hands touched things lightly, caressing things that she’d missed—putting a few in her handheld basket—colorful bottles, hair-ties, brushes, makeup, lotion, facewash, soap, toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, razors, elastic bands. Things that somehow hadn’t made it in her mad rush to pack. She moved around the store mutely collecting the items she’d need. She came to the large display of cigarettes, hesitating. He wouldn’t approve. She bought a box anyway. 

She wasn’t sure how many days she’d been there when the man from before came and sat next to her on the dock after dinner. He was always friendly, but his usual exuberance seemed tempered in the face of her apathetic exhaustion. She slid the box of cigarettes and a lighter closer towards him by way of welcome but did not move her gaze from the horizon. He waited a few more moments before clearing his throat. “Margaret?” It took her a moment to realize that he was talking to her. She wasn’t Morgan Johnson anymore, or even Morgan Ganymede. She was now Margaret Guthrie. “I don’t know…what you’ve been through. But it’s obviously taken a toll on you.” If he’d hoped that would move her, he would be sorely disappointed. She remained a stone. “We’d—I’d like to help you, if you’ll let me.” He thought he saw her breathe in more deeply than usual. She rubbed her fingers together to soothe burned skin, putting out the spark of a cigarette she’d thoughtlessly let burn down to skin, “This place… a lot of people come here hurt. Magic. Powers. Demons…life. They take their toll on us. Nobody ends up here without being pretty broken.” 

Slowly, Morgan turned to him—he shuddered as he looked into the deep blank emptiness in her eyes, “You can’t make what happened any better, Henry.” She moved to take a puff from a cigarette that was gone. Her eyes focused on her empty fingers, and then dropped hopelessly to her side. 

“No, I can’t… Nothing can ever make it better.” He paused to let the message sink in. “The only thing you can really do is to stand up. Keep living. I know it’s hard…”

“I’m tired of standing up.” Her voice echoed with the hollowness in her eyes and unspoken words: I stood up when my family was murdered, when I caused my brother’s permanent possession. I stood up when I was abandoned by people I loved. I stood up as a single mother for each of my three children. I stood up each time I was raped. I stood up when my son overdosed, when he came home violent and angry; I stood up when my second son became a sex addict, when my daughter was murdered. I stood up at every turn…And then I betrayed everything and everyone I ever loved, except for one. And He took everything and everyone from me. I tried to stand up. But I couldn’t, and I don’t think I can stand up anymore.

Morgan pulled out another cigarette and lit it. She turned her gaze to the rising moon. “And I am tired of living.” She looked longingly into the depths of the water; she couldn’t swim. She would do it. She would kill herself. She wanted to. But for one small fact: she didn’t deserve to escape this pain. 

Henry was silent for a long moment. “I know it must be unimaginably difficult—” 

“Go away.” She cut him off “Please. If I am a burden here, I will leave.” Her whole body felt like a string ready to snap. What if he hurt her for her rudeness? She’d not meant to be so abrupt. She tugged on her earlobe, grinding her teeth. 

“No! No, we promised to take care of you, and we will.” She didn’t respond, nor turn around when he left, but the tension melted from her body. He reminded her of someone she had loved, once. He was probably dead now. 

~ ~ ~ 

One day, when the sun was high, Morgan found herself staring at her fingers and standing up. She left the box of cigarettes on the dock, and slowly made her way back to the Mansion. The name was a little on the nose, she thought, given that the building was, in fact, a mansion. She hesitated when she reached the door—but slowly pushed it in. The same cheery face that had met her on the dock greeted, “Hello! Welcome to th—Maggie!” Henry stopped abruptly. She blinked, unsure of how to respond. It felt like an eternity since she had communicated with anybody. 

“I, uh. Hello.” 

“Did you run out of cigarettes? I can get you some.”

“No.” after a long pause she tried again, “I…” she couldn’t find the words. She still wasn’t sure why she was standing there. She blinked owlishly. “Can I help with something?” 

“Uh, well. Do you want some lunch?” He eyed her rail-thin frame. “Because we could grab a bite, and then you could clean up.” She nodded numbly. “Hey Abby! Pru! Who’s making lunch?!” The lithe woman with piercing yellow eyes and bright purple hair stuck her head out of the back room.

“You are. Hello, Margaret.” Morgan raised a hand in a weak greeting while Henry grumbled something she couldn’t quite make out about cooking and long trips and not his job. Abby moved back into the back room, “Call us when you’re done with lunch.” 

“How long have I been here?” Morgan asked, as she followed Henry into the kitchen. 

“Uhm, a week and a half.” Her heart dropped. It felt like an eternity. That’s it? She went through the motions of making lunch with Henry and cleaned up with Abby and Priscilla before returning to the dock. Morgan dragged herself up to the house for lunch every day after that. 

Submitted: September 14, 2019

© Copyright 2022 Cody Ryan. All rights reserved.


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Pink Wish

very interestingly written story with believable content

Tue, July 27th, 2021 11:11pm

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