Captive of the Light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a cursed mansion and a journey that two girls share of love friendship and forgiveness.

Submitted: January 25, 2012

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Submitted: January 25, 2012

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Captive of the light

By Lily Ramsay

1.

(2006)

As the removal truck unloaded our furniture, we were left standing outside the ominous brick estate, Pembrooke Manor...Tom of course thought that this was great, I suppose as any 12 year old boy would have; it came right out of a movie set. I however was not convinced; here we were hundreds of miles away from home and anything remotely familiar all because some long lost grandmother had left us this spooky old house to my father in her will. Dad had insisted that this was going to be a refreshing change for us all and mum had tried to act enthusiastic for his sake.

Us city people needed a change apparently, well give me a house on the beach and I might had agreed but not stuck out in the middle of the English country side with a screaming baby sister in my arms and an annoying little brother, and wait for it... no internet connection!

****

As dusk settled, so did the reality of our situation. We were to spend tonight all by ourselves in a freezing old manor in which a decrepit old lady met her death. Not exactly a perfect start to our summer holidays.
Oh and that’s another thing, summer, please, what a pathetic excuse for summer it has not stopped raining since them moment we set foot off the plane. Back home its thirty degrees, here I bet it’s at least only ten degrees. Honestly the things we put up with.

“Lauren!” came Tom’s whiny voice pulling me out of my negative somewhat grumpy thoughts. “What” I snapped although it was pretty obvious what he wanted seeing as we were still standing outside with only a thin umbrella over our heads. Right, I thought, the keys, now I do have them...somewhere. As I instinctively reached into my carry bag juggling Grace in my other arm. “Are they there” asked Tom, an edge of panic to his voice, to him I gave no reply, I just passed Grace and crossed everything crossable in my body that I hadn’t lost them for good...mum and dad would kill me!

After what seemed like hours of searching, the dread finally kicked in, it was pouring with rain, we were in a foreign country and I had my brother and sister to look after by myself until tomorrow and we had no access to any shelter! Great!

Night, enclosing us into a world of blackness as we huddled under the porch of our new home. I caught sight of a flickering light in the distance. Although I told myself not to get my hopes up I could not stop myself from feeling some kind of lift in my spirits. It was getting cold and I knew that when Tom woke he would be hungry. My attention wavered from the light as Grace stirred in my arms however when I glanced back up into the haze I realised that indeed the light had moved closer.So close as such I could now make out the figure of a girl, about my age standing approximately five metres in front of me holding out something within her enclosed fist. She made no attempt to move forward and figuring that she might be able to help us with our predicament I placed Grace gently on the deck praying she wouldn’t wake and moved cautiously towards this girl.

At first glance she seemed rather wild and untamed with long unruly black hair that fell down her back and piercing green eyes that seemed to transport you to another world. However on closer inspection you realised that she had small dimples in each of her cheeks and a frail but nimble looking little body, she couldn’t be any older than fifteen. When she noticed me studying her intently she shyly looked away and put up veil of tumbling black locks between us whilst keeping her arm outstretched. As she uncurled her wrist the object within took the shape of an old ancient key. I gazed curiously at the key expecting an explanation but all I got was a slight turn of the head as she dropped it into my hand. It was cool and smooth like an antique, something that would sell for millions on the Antiques Road Show. As I marvelled at the peculiar object, I felt the girls’ stare on me. When I drew my eyes away from the mysterious object I noticed that she was pointing toward the manor and the doorway. I turned to observe the entry wondering if the key fit the rusty lock and how, if it did, was it possible that she had come to have it
. I was so caught up in my own thoughts that when I turned back the strange girl was gone and in her place was a crumpled note reading “Caro” in a boyish scrawl. Seeing that, I lifted my eyes from the piece of paper and caught sight of the girl wandering towards the night sky...the moonlight glowing a pathway before her.

2.

Remarkably the key had fit the lock. I had successfully got Grace to sleep and I had left Tom in what was to become the living room listening to his iPod when I wandered outside to the porch. Everything seemed so still and quiet like the whole world was slumbering.

It was at that point I really started to become curious about this queer girl who seemed to lack the ability to speak. What did the note mean; “Caro”, and how on earth did she have the key to this old disintegrating manor that had ruled this countryside for centuries?

****

As planned the next day mum and dad arrived with overflowing suitcases and hugs all round. There was nothing said about the key situation or the odd girl from the day before, it all seemed like a dream, a fragment of my imagination.

The days went by and we settled into our routine, the furniture was put into place although it all looked quite undersized and unadorned in this grand house. We each got to choose our bedrooms which gave room for an argument as Tom and I each wanted the tower room until I scared him off with a horror story about it; I told him the in the olden days it used to be the place of execution and the murdered souls still roam the tower, seeking vengeance. This alarmed him so much though that he wouldn’t even climb the stairs leading up to it. Therefore claiming me my tower.

****

Of course, as any normal family there were rules to be set in place:

1. No yelling inside because it echoes.
2. Tell either mum or dad if you are going beyond the back garden.
3. Must wear shoes outside
4. Ensure that you aren’t wearing shoes on the carpeted areas
5. No, under any circumstances enter the attic!

Most of those rules were the same as back at home; my parents were fairly quiet people and set in their ways. But the one rule that that baffled me and left me pondering the reason behind it was the one about the attic. Why were they so adamant that we were not to cross the threshold to the attic? Was there something we weren’t supposed to know?

****

So the week progressed uneventfully. Mum made a few trips to town and came back speaking of all the town gossip and friendly people she had met, while dad got stuck into creating an office for him to work from home in. He chose a dark den in the back of the house that was warm and cosy. He said that it was the perfect inspiration for his new job., we left him to it.

Tom spent most of his time wandering the grounds and bringing home stray dogs he found trekking aimlessly through the fields. He always had always had a soft spot for animals, even at home.

I spent my days decorating my room and settling into our new life. I had found a telescope in one of the many spare rooms and dragged it up to my tower. It was positioned by my window that gave a full view towards Willowcombe, our town. It was beautiful, with gable thatched and shingled roofs and winding cobblestone streets.
At that moment, forcing me to stick my head back in doors, a icy gust of wind blew through the open window and with it brought a crumpled piece of paper. I caught it just in time before it flew through the tower door which was standing just ajar. I carried it back to my chair by the window and curled up. I took a deep breath and unrumpled the dirty paper. There in the centre of it were the words that read:

“Meet...clock tower...Midnight”

The note indeed was uncanny and odd but there was something else about it that made it slightly more sinister. When I pulled the previous note out from my pocket that read “Caro” the handwriting matched. It was written by the same person. And that person obviously wanted something from me.

3.

Once I was sure that everyone at home was sound asleep, I quietly pulled on my overcoat, boots, stuffed pillows in my bed and made my way down the creaky stairs toward the front door. Without a glance back I heaved the door open and stepped out into the mystic night.

Hurrying down the lane, I had the sneaking suspicion that someone was following me and although I turned back on countless occasions and saw that nobody was, I just could not shake off the sensation.

Everything was eerily quiet, nothing to be heard except the rustling of the leaves in the trees as I made my way to the church. My mind was churning. What or who were ‘Caro’ and what on earth was the connection to this place or person. Another thing that was troubling me was the reference to the clock tower, why there of all places and what was I was meant to do?

I had become so caught up in my own thoughts that I didn’t even notice the church looming in front of me. I stood out front for about five minutes, wandering whether to go inside and in the end decided to make my move. The door swung open easily and I was left standing inside a huge hall. The clock tower is what the note had said but where was that? All I knew is that it was elevated. I went around the rows of wooden benches and found a narrow spiral staircase leading up toward a platform. Seeing as it was my only option I started up, taking it slowly, not wanting to slip. When I finally reached the top I looked around for any sight of movement but there was nothing. Maybe the note wasn’t for me maybe it was a coincidence that the two happened to fall into my lap.
Just when I was getting ready to leave I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and what seemed like blissful sighing. In my panic, I ducked behind a supporting beam and prayed that the sounds went away. They didn’t. By this stage I was breathing hard and fast. The blissful sighing continued and then the sound of dripping started. This continued for a few minutes and then nothing. My warm bed was calling and I was about to get up and move when a note fluttered to my feet.
“Lauren...”
My breath caught in my throat and I hiccupped as I recognised the same boyish scrawl. That was it I had been found out. I might as well emerge from my hiding place. I crept guardedly out of my hiding spot only to see a shadow of a girl with something running down her arm...blood!

****

I stood there awestruck and bewildered. There facing me was the girl from the first day we had arrived. She was just as wild looking and her green cat-like eyes shone in the darkness. She had a melancholy look on her face, like she was in another world. The blood had subsided and in its place were angry red lines etched into her skin. She noticed me looking and nodded. From her pocket she pulled a penknife and demonstrated how she would slash her arm. She tucked the knife away, looked up and smiled. There was no denying it, she was beautiful. But obviously very troubled. As I stared at her gaping arms, a million emotions surrounded me; ‘but why?’ I heard a pencil scrawl and looked up to see her holding out a piece of paper

“because it makes me feel better, I know why I am hurting”

I didn’t realise I had spoken out loud, I looked at her in wonder, only imagining the things that would have happened in her past to drive to such desperate measures. At that moment a wave of realisation swept over me, “you’re Caro, aren’t you, and you’ve been sending me the notes?” Her face broke into a smile that could melt the hardest heart. She nodded as she acknowledged that I had been right. “How come though?” Her hand became busy again. When she was done she held out her notebook for me to read:

“I’ll tell you everything tomorrow”

I nodded in agreement. We stood there awkwardly for a minute or so just staring at each other and taking everything in. Abruptly she tore her eyes away, bobbed her head as a farewell and scurried down the stairs. I was left standing their clutching her notes and staring at the bloodstains drying brown against the timber.

4.

The early light woke me as it spread into my room announcing that morning had arrived for another day. Urrggg I was so tired! After I had returned from the church, I had laid awake for hours, pondering Caro and her past and what she would tell me today. Again I wondered about her capability to speak, she could understand but did not utter a word. Today, would she tell me what happened or write it down?

My mind, a mush from lack of sleep and mysteries surrounding Pembrooke manor, I got up and dragged myself down for breakfast. Tom was already at the table and Grace was on the floor playing with her toys. I mumbled a good morning and made myself a piece of toast. We didn’t speak but I was happy to be alone with my thoughts.

Later that morning, while I was up in the tower soaking up the rare sunny day and trying to get into Wuthering Heights, I heard my mum call out, “Lauren, could you come down sweetie?” Sighing and putting my book down, I wandered idly down the long series of staircases.

When I reached the garden I saw Caro standing by the wall hugging her sleeves over her wrists and my mother trying to be polite and make conversation. When she saw me relief swept over her features and she hurried over to me.
“Honey”, she breathed, “is this girl alright, do you know her, she won’t talk!”
“Don’t worry mum, she’s just shy, it’s ok”.
When I turned back to Caro she had a knowing look on her face, like she knew what went on between my mum and me. I beckoned to her to come in, knowing that it wouldn’t do any good to speak to her. She followed obediently and smiled at my mum one last time before she ducked through the doorway.

When we reached my bedroom, she let go of her sleeves, allowing them to ride up a bit and reveal some of her scars. I tried to remain indifferent but I must say that it was difficult. I sat down and looked at her expectantly, she through back her head let out a bitter laugh, then smirked. “Come on!” I said playfully not expecting her to relent easily. Finally with a sigh she took out her leather notebook and pulled a piece of parchment out. Reluctantly, after great hesitation, she handed it over knowing her fate was now in my hands.

I began to read:

Once upon a time there was a girl. Her parents used to fight a lot and eventually she was put into foster care. In and out, a different family every month. The young girl could never understand why her parents couldn’t keep her like ordinary children and although that never happened she still believed that her parents loved her very much.

One day when she was out playing with her new family, they received a call. It was bad news; the little girl’s mother had died. She was devastated. The new family did everything they could to try and comfort her but she would not stand for anything. She screamed and yelled all day and night, but refused to speak, she rejected any food and stayed up all night staring at the one photograph she had of her mother. In the end the foster family decided that she needed to be with her real family to mourn the loss together.

They sent out letters to her remaining family explaining what had happened and that she needed someone to help her through this tough time. They received lots of responses and in the end settled for her grandmother and two great aunts living in a little village called Willowcombe.

When they explained to the little girl what was going to happen she became even more unhappy than before. She had grown fond of this family and wanted to stay with them however they insisted that she go, they said that she would have a better life and that these ladies had always loved her. The girl wasn’t convinced.

When the time came for the girl to leave, the whole family came down to the train station to say good bye. Her foster parents both told her that they loved her and would always remember her. They gave her sweets and remaindered her five times which stop to get off at to the girl, it meant nothing.

The train ride was uneventful. The little girl ate her sweets and cried some more. When it became time to get off she smoothed her clothes in the hope to make a good impression so them maybe her aunts would keep her.

She stepped off the platform into a small quaint town. There was no-one left on the platform so she started to make her way down the stairs when she heard her name being called. Startled, she turned and found herself being engulfed into a huge bear hug. When she was released she was staring into the face of a sweet looking old lady. “oh thank goodness you’re here at last, I’m sorry I’m late” since the child still couldn’t bring herself to speak, she smiled gratefully at the old lady and slipped her hand into the wrinkled one of her grandmother. “Well then dearie” she said gently, “why don’t we take you home and have a nice cup of tea while you meet your aunts, they’re so excited to have you here” again the girl smiled gratefully and trailed after the lady, thinking that she may have found herself a family who loved her.

Weeks then months went by and the little girl was happy. She had aunts and a grandmother that loved her and spoiled her, a warm bed at night and hot breakfast every morning without fail. They accepted that the girl wouldn’t talk but made the best of it.

One morning, when all had been going well, there was a knock at the door. The girl was up sewing with Grandma Elsie when Auntie June came up looking very alarmed. She motioned to the girl and announced that her father was here to take her. He had bought a place in the village and was willing to let her visit them but he wanted to take her home now.

There were tears but eventually her father got his way and took her home. But he lied. She was allowed to see her beloved great aunts twice but after that he said that she didn’t need that mothering anymore, that she was a lady now and should start acting like it. The girl wept and eventually stole one of her father’s razor blades. She ran it all over her skins but eventually drew it across her wrist. She cut to deep and was rushed to hospital. The girl was admitted to a psychiatric ward for three months. Occasionally her aunts came to visit her, telling her that they loved her so much and that they would write and they did until her father found the letters and forbid them. When the girl finally came home her father announced that he had been offered a job overseas and that he would be leaving. He told her that she could come with her or she could stay home in Willowcombe by herself. She chose to stay in the town she had come to love. The next day he left.

At the beginning her father came home every two weeks but slowly the lengths of time grew further apart. The girl didn’t mind, she visited her aunts and grandmother they grew old. She was home by herself for months at a time however she grew to love her own company.

As the years went on her aunts and grandmother grew old. They no longer cooked meals for her and when she was thirteen her first aunt died from a heart attack. Things were pretty morbid after that. Especially when nine months later her second aunt died from sadness of losing her sister.

So now there was only one aunt, the eldest. The girl nursed her to her death; often hearing stories about her son who lived in Australia and his family, two gorgeous girls and a young son. The girl was with her to the old ladies last breath...and then... everything changed...

5.

By the time I finished reading Caro’s story I had tears blurring my vision. When I glanced up I saw Caro sitting up very straight on my bed, rocking backwards and forwards staring at me with her intent emerald eyes. I was speechless, after reading Caro’s story I felt that I knew her so much better, the poor girl had had such an awful life and even now she was living by herself with no family close by. I reached out to put my hand over her but she retracted immediately and held it tightly in her lap. “Sorry” I offered. But she only shrugged and pursed her lips. I had ruined the moment. We stared at each other a moment longer before she gathered her bag up and headed towards the door. “Can I see you again?” I asked a little desperately. She merely shrugged and stalked out of the room, her head held high.

Later that afternoon, after re-reading Caro’s story over and over again I decided that I needed to consult my father about these long lost aunts and if I had any cousins. I wandered down stairs, preparing what I was going to say. When I reached the den, I lifted my hand up to the door to knock, when I heard and tired “come in Lauren”. It was like he knew what I wanted.

Standing in his office waiting for him to say something, I took in all the mementos. My father had never seemed a sentimental man but here the shelves were crowded with photos of Tom, Grace and I from the time we were babies.
“So, Lauren, what is it that you were after, hmm?”
“Well”, I began nervously, “I was wondering about the old ladies, you know that used to live here...”.
“There’s a book in the library about it, off you go now, I have work to do, sorry”.

As I meandered through the halls that would hopefully take me to the library, I took in the portraits covering the walls from bottom to top. They stared at me with their knowing eyes, having seen the families moved in and out for the past centuries. The dramas that had occurred . They held long lost secrets in their bottomless eyes, secrets that I would never know.

When I reached the library, I was overwhelmed; there were books from top to bottom. Where to start?

There were countless titles about the town and the history of it and even a few on Pembrooke manor, but nothing stood out. I continued skimming the bookcases, clambering up old ladders to get to the higher shelves and continually running my finger along the fragile spines of the old books, collecting a cloud of dust on my fingertip. Just when I was about to give up, I came across an old battered copy of Pembrooke a History. I retrieved the book blew off the dust and settled into an old arm chair ready to commence my reading. Just as I was about to open the book to the first page when I heard approaching footsteps.
I tucked the book behind me and tried to look casual (as if that was going to happen, here I was in a library with no book) as my mother walked in. She had a pensive look on her face, like something was troubling her. I smiled at her as she walked in wishing that she would go away and leave me to my reading, but no.
“Lauren”, she began carefully, “you know that girl who came over today,”
“yeah”, I answered carefully, wishing for her to go and find something else to do.
“Well she didn’t seem like the kind of girl who you would... you know, become friends with”.
“She’s fine mum; honestly, she’s had a hard life and is just a little shy that’s all...”
“Well I’ll let you get back to your reading, I’m going into town for a little bit, could you look after your sister?”
“Yes mum”

****

Later that afternoon, after my mum had returned, I finally snuggled up in my big arm chair in the tower and settled down to my book. The first page I opened to had a map of the manor and the grounds. It hadn’t changed at all considering the amount of years it had been here. The next page I turned to had a floor plan each of the levels, from the basement right up to the attic. It showed hidden rooms of which I was sure to explore. Just as I was about to turn the page, I noticed words scripted in with heavy ink just above the attic diagram. I pulled the book up close to my eyes and squinted, trying to make out the words but they were too small and blotchy. With an exasperated sigh, I set down my book and bounded down the stairs to my father’s office.


“Dad, please tell me you have a magnifying glass” I pleaded. He reached into his draw and pulled out a very expensive looking one.
“Be careful with it” I sent him a grateful smile and raced back up to my room. Once I had calmed down, I gathered up the book and turned to that page sucking in a deep breath I placed the magnifying glass over the script; it read;

“This is place of danger where the unimaginable comes true and the real world is lost...”

My mind backtracked to the weird attic rule that none of us understood. Was this somehow connected? I put my head back down to study the notation. Something was familiar about it. As I lowered the glass to it, it hit me. I knew this writing; it was Caro’s, it matched the other notes.

It was late, but I had to find Caro. I ran out of the house at full speed dodging questions from my family. I sped the whole way to the village centre when it occurred to me that I had no idea where Caro lived. I ducked into the local pub and asked some old guy. “Up on the hill” was the response I got but it was better than nothing. Standing in the town centre I got a good view of the surrounding areas, to my left was a hill and too my right was another hill except on that one stood my home, Pembrooke manor. So I headed off to the left, my eyes fixated on the tip of a roof I could just make out peeking over the hill.

When I reached the top of the hill I could see down below a little house nestled in the forest. Sucking a deep breath I made my way to the door and without time for a moment’s hesitation I knocked loud and clear.

Just when I was beginning to think that I had the wrong house, the door edged open a crack. Peeking from behind I could make out one focused green eye.
“Caro, it’s me, Lauren, could I come in? I have something really important to tell you”. The door creaked open a tiny bit more and a hand gestured for me to come in.

6.

The house was bright and warm hence the roaring fire. When Caro came back into the room she was holding her leather notebook out toward me. As I peered over to see what she had written I noticed that she had fresh pulsing lines on her wrist. I tried to ignore the fact. On the notebook she had written:

“Why are you here? Is everything ok? What do you want from me?

I nodded and said “I need to ask you something, I found something that you had written today”. Was it my imagination or did I see a flicker of fear dart through her eyes. Well if I did it was gone as quickly as it came. She nodded and turned on her heal, disappearing round the corner. I stayed where I was my feet planted to the ground until Caro returned wearing a frustrated look on her face. She stared me up and down and then pushed me from behind toward the stairwell. She led me up the stairs and stopped at a door. From her hand motions she told me that this...was her bedroom.

The door flung open and I let out a surprised gasp at what I saw. Her room was not like anything else I had seen. It was an attic that had been turned into an Aladdin’s cave. Hanging from the ceiling was lanterns. There was a huge canopy bed and she had a huge Moroccan tent in the far corner. Of course there were the ordinary things like a desk and bookshelf. As I observed the room I discovered to my horror a carving block of knives sitting on her bedside table. When she caught me staring she walked over and stood in front of them while staring down angrily at me. I merely shrugged and hoisted myself up to her bed. Eventually she resigned herself to the fact that I was staying and sat down opposite me. With Caro staring fixedly at me I started to explain what I had found.

****

By the end of my tale Caro was shaking uncontrollably. I was at a loss as of what to do. Something I had said had obviously meant something to her. In the end I went down and fixed her a hot cup of tea and left it by her bedside, only hoping she wouldn’t start slicing herself to shreds.

When I opened the back door, preparing to go home, I was shocked that sun was peeking up on the horizon. I hadn’t realised in the least that I had spent the entire night with her. I didn’t even feel tired.

The village was deserted. Everyone tucked up in their warm beds as they should be. I picked up speed as I neared Pembrooke hoping that mum wasn’t up baking or dad hadn’t spent the night working.

When I slipped through the door the manor was eerily quiet. I snuck up to my bedroom and pulled on my pyjamas hopping into bed and waiting for slumber to come and take me away to a place of peace. But I couldn’t sleep, it was morning and soon my parents would wake and everything would be happening as normal. I was worried about Caro, I wondered what had a struck something so deep in her. I knew that she was sensitive about the subject of Pembrooke but she had never acted like that before. Urggg, I might as well get up. With my mind going in circles like that sleep was a distant dream.

The sun was completely up when I came downstairs. I was so so tired but there was no way I could nap now, not with everyone up. Mum noticed straight away, “didn’t you sleep last night Lauren?”
“No mum”, I replied irritably, “I didn’t”. To that she had no come back and left me to finish my breakfast solo.

For the rest of the morning wondered around the house like a zombie. Picking up little tasks and then leaving them when they became too complicated. All I wanted to do was go and see Caro but for some reason I was scared to. By about midday I finally gave up and retired to my room. As soon as I flopped onto the bed I was asleep, prisoner in deep sleep...

****

I was awoken when I felt a weight on the foot of my bed. The first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes was that the afternoon sun was streaming in, I couldn’t have slept that long. The next thing was the shadow a figure sitting on the end of my bed. I blinked profusely and pushed myself up, right into the face of Caro.

We stared at each other for a moment before I actually registered that she was here sitting at the end of my bed. “Did mum let you up here?” I asked. She shook her head and walked to my window. She gestured to the vine leading up. “You climbed it?” I asked incredulously. She nodded like it was no big deal. Then she started scribbling on her notebook. I waited patiently trying to flatten my bed head hair without it looking obvious. I must have failed because when she glanced over she let out a nonchalant snort. I scowled and after a few more moments she held out the notebook.

“Sorry about the other night, there’s a lot of history in that attic that I have been involved it, it just took me by surprise”.

I nodded reluctantly and handed back the notebook. I busied myself with making my bed and Caro stood there hugging her sleeves. Sometimes I just wished she would talk. “Is there anything else?” I asked, more sharply than I intended. When I saw her face, a look of surprise and hurt I felt bad. “Sorry” I apologised, “I didn’t mean it like that”. Again she nodded but her hand became busy. I waited, studying her. What an unusual creature she was. When she was done she held out the book almost shyly.

“You’re my only friend; please don’t go to the attic”

Smiling at her bewildered, I nodded, hoping that it hid my confusion. But still, the fact that she had called me her friend was something big. I couldn’t help it I went over and put my arms around her. She felt stiff and thin when I held her but slowly I could feel her relaxing into me. We clung to each other for a while but then she pulled away breaking the connection we had just made. She packed up her things and headed towards the window. Suddenly, I couldn’t help it. I called out to her “Caro, haven’t you ever had any other friends” she nodded and smiled sadly remembering. Then she held out her papers. It had already been written;

“Yes but that was before...”

7.

For the next couple of days I saw nothing of Caro and I missed her. I was restless, I kept expecting her to come through my window or my mother to call frantically that she was here. In the end my mum got sick of my endless pacing and sent me into the village for some bread, personally I think that she sent me just to get me out of the house.

On my way I thought about everything that had happened since I left Australia three weeks ago. Things that I would never had imagined in my wildest dreams. Firstly Caro, I think, although it’s sad to say, is my best friend. But I want her to tell me more about the attic. What’s so bad about it and why won’t mum or Caro tell me what’s happened, they just tell that I can’t go there. It’s not fair!

I had become so entwined in my own thoughts that I didn’t even realise when I reached town and walked straight through it, heading directly for Caro’s house. I stared up wondering whether she was home and reminded myself that all mum wanted me to do was get bread. I was about to turn back when I glimpsed two figures by the window. Who could that be I wondered? She said that her father never came home anymore, hadn’t for years and years. When I glanced up again to the upstairs window I saw Caro watching me curiously. I looked away quickly, embarrassed that it seemed like I was spying on her. Maybe I’m going crazy, there was probably no-one there at all. All of a sudden the door flung open and there stood Caro. Hair blowing in the wind, dressed in black she looked like some kind of goddess. She beckoned me inside and as I followed her through the doorway, the smell of cookies wafted around me “mmm, smells good” I commented, “I would never have thought of you as the cookie type” she shrugged and told me through words that her aunts and grandmother used to bake so on her good days she did too. When I had finished she proudly showed me her healing scars and wrote that she hadn’t cut in two days. Apparently this was a huge achievement so I congratulated her, countering if we could make it three. Although her smile wavered, she shrugged and cleaned up my mess. “Well”, I announced as I pushed back my chair, “I’d better get going, I promise mum I’d get some bread for her”

“Maybe I come too? I’d like that I think...”

She wrote. “Sure” I answered, genuinely surprised but glad for her company. The silence was comfortable as we set off. I asked her a few questions but only got a nod and shake of the head as a reply. Nothing more was expected. The question I really wanted to ask was about the attic, hoping that our declared friendship would allow her shed some light on the subject. I didn’t want it to seem out of the blue but the subject of Pembrooke never came up.
Once inside the bakery, she started scribbling on the notebook while I bought the bread and when we stepped outside she showed me.

“Could I come over now, to your place?”

I was taken aback I have to say but I nodded and told her that mum would be happy for her to stay for dinner if she wanted to. Caro shrugged and tucked her notebook away, demonstrating that our conversation was over.

Although Caro wasn’t the person mum was hoping to see she hid her surprise well when I turned up with her.
After all the polite greetings (which nobody meant) were over Caro charged up to my room knocking over everything thing in her way including our new dog, the latest addition to the menagerie that Tom had created.

When she reached my room she wasted no time finding what she wanted. From under my mattress she pulled Pembrooke a History. How she knew it was there I’ll never know. She flopped down on my chair and opened straight to the page of the floor plans. I held my breath; secretly that was what I had been hoping for, some excuse to bring up the attic. Shaking her head slightly she scribbled something on her notebook and grabbed my hand pulling me through the doorway and up into the unknown.

Through spiral stairways she pulled me and round bends, she never stopped, she didn’t even puff. Many times I tried to ask her where she was taking me but all she offered was a shake of her head. Her grip on my wrist was like iron, she was not going to let go no matter what happened. Round more bends she pulled me through cracks in walls until finally before us stood an old oak door, a streak of light seeping from underneath it.

Clutching my chest and panting I leaned over. Caro waited impatiently with only the slightest touch of red on her cheeks. When I finally regained my posture I stood up and looked her right in the eyes. “Right Caro”, I said “where the hell are we?” without any slight indifference she pulled out her notepad and showed me what she had written earlier;

“The attic, don’t ever go in there”

8.

It was around midnight but I couldn’t sleep. My mind had been going a million miles an hour, rethinking Caro’s visit and wondering why everyone was so intent on keeping me away from the attic. I wondered whether the whole purpose of asking to come over was to take me to the attic just to prove that it was not somewhere I wanted to go. Well if that was it, it did the contrary. I was only more curious now that I had seen the attic and had a vague idea of how to get there.

In the end I got up and slipped on my slippers. I rifled through my draws looking for a torch and sighed discontentedly when I found that there wasn’t one. So, I tiptoed down to my father’s den and dug through his draws until I found one. Sneaking back up to the tower I pushed open my window and laid the flashlight down. Sticking my head outside, I turned to face the direction of Caro’s house. “I’m sorry” I whispered into the breeze, letting it carry my words right to her...

****

My bare feet dragged reluctantly up the dusty wooden stairs. I stifled in a sneeze, not daring to wake my oblivious family, all probably fast asleep. I squinted blindly into the endless darkness. “One leg at a time” I said, reminding myself to walk steadily. “There... at last” I thought, happily pleased with myself.

I was standing at the top of the narrow staircase with Caro’s words ringing in my head, well so far there was nothing bad about it, I hadn’t died or anything...

I had managed to make it this far. Blurringly, I made out the shape of the old oak attic door. Just like it was when Caro had brought me here, large and threatening. The only difference was the light. When I had come here before there was a beam of light seeping from under the doorway. ‘Oh well’ I thought to myself, I had probably just imagined it, I said out loud, trying to shake off the jittery feeling which was engulfing me.

I took a deep breath and lifted my trembling hand to the door, and, with a huge surge of energy I turned the handle, letting the unknown wash over me like a thick mist.

I stepped inside and stared incredulously at my surroundings. Where was I? According to Caro and I guess my mother’s rule the attic was something like a life threatening journey on which nobody embarked on.

I slowly tiptoed cautiously; dodging as many spider webs as possible and attempting (somewhat unsuccessfully) to determine which direction would shed the most light and allow me to explore this intriguing space.

Moving slowly, I was aware of the blackness that enclosed me. I glanced around, a little disorientated, and then my eyes rested on what appeared to be an old dusty chest which was visible only by a small ray of golden light seeping through a small gap in the roof.

The more I stared at this peculiar chest, the more I felt captivated by it. While I clumsily stumbled towards it, I felt entranced by its aura. I moved closer. A sharp pain began to travel through my body with each step. It lingered in my legs as a stood before the chest.

Despite the pain I was feeling, I astoundingly noticed that the chest itself had begun moving closer to me. “How can this be possible?” I thought, my heart pounding hard in my chest.

I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths and reassured myself that this was probably not happening at all – it was all just a figment of my imagination. But the pain felt very real. Damn Caro for making me curious! When I opened my eyes the pain had intensified, and the chest now sat before me! My head started to spin. What was going on?!!

Fear engulfed me. Despite my distress, I turned and ran, trying to find a way out, but instead of reaching the oak door, I ran directly into a wall, bounced back from the impact, and landed on the floor. Frustrated, I collected myself and ran in the opposite direction, desperately hoping to find something safe – anything! All I found was the continually looming darkness which as though it was immersing me. I was overwhelmed.

****

The next thing I knew, I was wakened by unfamiliar sounds. I lifted my head. My body was stiff and sore, although the pain in my legs had subsided. Trying to identify my surroundings, I caught sight of a filtered shaft of light passing through one of the beams above. I felt a glimmer of hope rise within me. This was not just a ray of light; it was a ray of life to me.

I pulled myself up and moved towards the direction of the light beam. I reached out, almost trying to grasp it with my hand, and closed my fist tightly around its glow. As if by magic, warmth and strength was instantly generated through my weary body. I did not want to take my hand away from this source of shining light, but I knew that empowered by its strength, I could find a way out of this nightmarish enclosure.

Suddenly, while considering my next move, new light shafts began illuminating the gloomy space, infiltrating the threatening blackness. One, two, three.... then six! I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I could now move effortlessly, as if walking on air. I was drawn to the light, I could not turn away. My insides were floating. Only a sense of peace and good prevailed. The feeling was glorious and I didn’t want it to end.

I remained still, basking in the light – my whole body felt reawakened and alive. The golden beams widened and glowed before me. Multiple shafts of light emerged towards the corner of the room and I was spellbound.

Before I could restrain myself, or consider my actions, I was taking giant leaps towards the golden glow. Approaching it I could feel the heat rush into me. It was pleasantly nurturing and secure, and I noticed that it was focused directly towards the small chest I had stumbled across earlier.

Realising this I reached towards the trunk, and at this very moment the light and heat became so intense that if felt as though I was suddenly being suffocated. How could this joyous feeling become so threatening? Before I knew it, I felt drawn into a vacuum, hauled into the light, pulled into the unknown. My fight to stay grounded was useless; the power was greater than me.

The light had been extinguished....... The warmth had disappeared.........

******

I felt the surface beneath me, cold and dewy. My body had melted into the earthy smell of ground below me. I slowly became aware of my surroundings. They seemed somehow familiar, but yet quite different.

Rain began to fall, and this awakened me further. I tried to focus my vision. I knew this garden, it was my own. I knew this house, it was my home. Looking through the windows I recognised this family – were these my parents? They looked so much older. Was this my little brother he looked older than me and what about Grace, was she this young lady that stood before me?

Huddled on my front lawn, I slowly and shockingly came to the realisation that I had been a captive of the light for longer than I could imagine...Caro, had been right...


Captive of the light

Part 2

9.

(2012)

Caro

She glanced over at Pembrooke, as she did every other morning, glowing in the sunlight of daybreak, hiding the secret that no-one ever spoke of. She had known it was going to happen. It was bound to. That manor was cursed.
She’d never forget what it felt like, the heat of it. Like you can’t breathe and you’re trapped. There’s no way out. Only the chest is there and the closer you get to it the more it hurts but you can’t help it. You have to go, you have to give in, and you have no choice. You become captive of the light.

****

Going through her morning rituals she thought long and hard about Lauren. She had been her best and only friend. It had been six years and a week ago since she ‘disappeared’, the same time that she herself had been captive. But Caro had to face it, she wasn’t coming back. Lauren was gone forever and there was nothing that she could do to change it.

****

Staring at herself in the mirror she saw a stranger she didn’t recognise. This was the 14 year old version of herself and she had specifically stayed that way just in case Lauren returned. So she would recognise her. She still had long dark tangled locks and immortal green eyes. She kept fresh scars on her wrist so that Lauren couldn’t mistake her with anyone else, it was only Caro who did that and Lauren knew it.

Holding up one piece of her unruly ash black tresses she looked disdainfully at it. It had never been cut since she was born and it was nearing her ankles. She wrinkled her nose in disgust and without a second though pulled out her penknife and hacked it at her skull.

Long tumbling locks fell around her, cascading to the floor. Well she couldn’t stop now could she? She madly hacked away at the rest of her head watching her curls fall to the floor around her.

Half an hour later she was finished. The girl staring back at her looked foreign. She still had the eyes but her head was full of uneven chunks of hair. She shrugged to her reflection and left the mane of curls in the bathroom.

She ran down the stairs enjoying the feeling of air running through her hair, like she could fly. She felt light and released. She figured since Lauren wasn’t coming back there was no reason to remain the same for fear she wouldn’t be recognised.

Sitting down at her breakfast table she felt a need to get out of the house. Like something was calling her. She thought that it was just claustrophobia but nevertheless she got her bag, penknife and notebook and headed out.

Just stepping out the door alone cause all sorts of up rage. It was no secret that she was known as the town loony. The abandoned girl who grew up alone, always had gaping wrists, cuts on her neck and who didn’t speak. Oh the reputations you earn in small villages...

By the time she made it down her driveway she had more people notice her than she had since she’d lived in Willowcombe. The postman, gardener, the weird man who rides his horses around her property all gave her huge stares with their mouths hanging open before she silenced them with one of her famous glares. She had lived by herself for more than half her life, she wasn’t used to people giving her attention.

Although just getting out of the house made her feel better she still felt the urge to go further. Once she was in the heart of the village there was no stopping the wide eyes and hidden whispers that were surrounding her. She held her head high and didn’t answer anyone who asked her anything.


Up until a few months ago she hadn’t uttered a word since her mother died but for some reason when she last ran into Laurens little sister Grace at the shops she had felt the urge to apologise. Of course all she got from Grace was a stony glower which actually appeared quite funny on the face of a nine year old, but she had come to expect that. Ever since Lauren ‘disappeared’ the Middleton’s had always treated her like she was responsible. Even though Grace was a baby when it happened, she had obviously watched her mother and learnt her spiteful ways.

Although Caro continued walking down the cobblestone streets she really didn’t know where she was going to end up. Her father had always said to trust your head and ignore her body. There were a lot of thing her father used to say. But then he never came back after one ‘business’ trip. He was always away from long stints of time but he had been gone for seven years now and she had given up hope. Sometimes he wondered if he was alive.

She had become so caught up in her own messed up mind that she didn’t even realise where her legs had taken her. There in front of her stood Pembrooke manor looking as grand as ever. She thought back to the last time she had been here. It was the day that she had taken Lauren up to the attic and shown her where it was. That was her first mistake she made. She should never have shown Lauren, if she hadn’t maybe she wouldn’t have found it and would be here now. She didn’t blame the Middleton’s; it was her fault that Lauren wasn’t here. She shouldn’t have even told Lauren about the attic, she should never have brought it up.
But, there no use dwelling on the past as her auntie June used to say. And she was right it only made it worse. Quickly she wiped a tear away; she couldn’t remember the last time she wept. Probably when her mother died but crying was for babies... and Lauren, Lauren could get away with anything. All of a sudden, out of the blue came a yell; “Hey! You! Don’t move!”
With a sigh Caro stood, knowing that Mrs. Middleton had seen her. This was not going to be pleasant.

One hour later Caro was still at Pembrooke manor being reprimanded by Mrs. Middleton.
“You have no right to come and trespass on this land after what you’ve done to this family” were her last words before she stalked off with a defiant turn of her head, disappearing through entrance and leaving Caro standing outside in the grounds.

Since in the no one was left garden to yell at her, she decided to have a look around. Caro had not been here since she was fourteen yet there were no visible changes. She wandered round to the side of the house. There above her stood Laurens tower. How many times had she climbed up there? Sometimes when she was asleep, just to watch her and then those times when Caro didn’t feel like facing Laurens mother and she’d clamber up just to talk or write to her. Tears welled in her eyes and threatened to spill over to her cheeks. She wiped them quickly, wondering why she was crying so much.
There seemed like only one solution. Caro whipped her penknife out of her pocket and slashed it over her wrist. Blood seeped over the edges and she watched in wonder thinking about how messed up she was to be cutting herself at twenty years old when a voice interrupted her.
“That was always interesting habit...don’t you think you could have thought up another one other than slicing yourself to shreds?
She whirled around and found herself face to face with young man, Laurens brother.

10.

Lauren

I felt the surface beneath me, cold and dewy. My body had melted into the earthy smell of ground below me. I slowly became aware of my surroundings. They seemed somehow familiar, but yet quite different.

Rain began to fall, and this awakened me further. I tried to focus my vision. I knew this garden, it was my own. I knew this house, it was my home. Looking through the windows I recognised this family – were these my parents? They looked so much older. Was this my little brother he looked more grown up than me and what about Grace, was she this young lady that stood before me?

Huddled on my front lawn, I slowly and shockingly came to the realisation that I had been a captive of the light for longer than I could imagine...Caro, had been right...

****

Caro

There in front of her stood the young boy she had seen all those years ago, roaming the fields and collecting wild animals. He had been a sweet child. But she had never paid much attention to him; she never really paid much attention to anyone.
“Do you still not speak”, his voice came through, invading her thoughts.
She continued to stare and then shrugged.
“Guess not” he concluded.
They stared each other for a moment longer before he said
“I don’t blame you know, no one really does, it’s just that they want someone to blame and you seem most vulnerable”
She nodded considering and stood up. “Thankyou” she murmured so quietly, Tom wasn’t even sure if he heard her right but before he could question her about it, with a flick of her head she turned away and began to walk towards the gates. Just as she was about to pass through she heard,
“You know, I like her hair better long”

****

As she made her way back home, Caro tried to figure out what had brought her to Pembrooke in the first place. She hadn’t been there for at least seven years.

The Middleton's had always believed it was her fault. Somehow they had found out that she cut and for some reason that meant that Lauren had ‘died’ or ‘disappeared’.

Back at her cottage Caro made herself a cup of tea and clambered upstairs to her bathroom, prepared to clean up the mess she had made earlier. Picking up her silk strands of hair and piling them in the bin, she thought of it as turning another page in her life, finishing another chapter. Each foster home was one; chapter two was living with her aunts. Number three was psychiatric ward, four, was living by herself, five was meeting Lauren, six was after Lauren disappeared, and seven was now opening up before her. Who knows what it would hold...

Lauren

I pushed up off the ground. I felt stiff but strangely enough, well rested. I stretched and forced myself up into a standing position. Pembrooke manor. That’s where I was. It hadn’t changed. Everything seemed the same except for the people inside. The last thing I had remembered was a pain shooting through my leg and cursing Caro for ever making me curious, and then all went black.

From looking inside it became obvious that I had been gone for a large space of time.
‘No!’ I thought angrily, ‘get a grip Lauren, that’s not possible’ and yet there in front of me was visible evidence of my family, in years ahead.
I needed to find Caro and fast; she would know what to do.

Quickly, I stretched my aching legs and set into a sprint out of the grounds. Heading toward town, I remembered all the back ways, in which Caro and I used to sneak to each other’s houses when we were meant to be in bed.
I tried to keep my head down while I raced through the town. If I was right and not going completely crazy, then I should be a lot older than I looked and I had probably been missing for months, years, who knows?

I earned a few looks and whispers as raced through but I think that I was too quick for my image to register. Later on they would find out, and all would be turned upside down. But for the moment my mission was to get to Caro’s house, I needed her to help me.

I was out of breath by the time I finally arrived. For however long I had been wherever I had been the house had not changed much. A few extra vines growing on the walls and a spot of mould here and there but nothing other than that. I wondered if Caro had changed, if she even remembered me. Well there was only one way to find out. I lifted my fist and hammered on the door...

11.

Caro

Caro glanced up in surprise when she heard a knock on her door. The last time anyone had visited her was when Lauren was still here and even then she never knocked, she just walked in or demanded to be let in.

She had just finished in the bathroom when the knock came and she wondered absentmindedly down her stairs toward the door, still carrying the bin in her hand. With curiosity mounting she opened the door, right into the face of her beloved Lauren...

She could not believe her eyes; there in front of her stood her fourteen year old friend. She had stains on her clothes and looked as wild as ever. Blond wavy hair blowing in the wind and deep caramel eyes searching her face for any sign of recognition.
“Caro” Lauren whimpered and with that Caro pulled her into her arms, holding her tight, never wanting to let go.

Lauren

The door flung open. I held my breath but there she was, my Caro. Her hair had been cut short and she still had torn up wrists but she was my friend.
I couldn’t help it “Caro” I whimpered” and that was that, for the second time since I’ve known her she engulfed me in a huge bear hug.

I didn’t want to let go, I was afraid I wouldn’t get her back, but we had to. We stepped back from each other and stared, catching up on the time we had been apart. I fingered her wrists and cropped hair and she stroked my cheek and crooned.

Eventually we stepped in from the doorway. I sat down silently at her table wanting to ask if she has spoken but not wanting to ruin the moment. She handed me a biscuit that she had once told me her aunt taught her a recipe to. She looked so much older and in the end I asked, “How long?” she reached for her notebook and scribbled;

Too long... six years...and a week...

I gasped in horror and then gasped again as I realised she knew exactly what I’d been through. “You knew” I said more to myself than to her but nevertheless she nodded. We sat in silence for a little while and then when she took my plate to the sink and had her back to me I heard her first words she had ever spoken to me’
“Your family thinks that you’re dead, that you committed suicide or were murdered not sure which theory they’re up to now”
Before I could register this information I had to take in the sweetness of her voice. It was high pitched like a soprano but soft and gentle at the same time. I gaped at her in wonder before I realised the meaning of the words she had spoken,
“They think I’m dddead?” I stuttered. Caro rolled her eyes at me and wrote that with me gone for six years that that’s the conclusion one usually comes to. Good old Caro hadn’t changed a bit.

Caro explained to me in written word and by speaking just a little bit that at first they thought that it was suicide but then they didn’t find my body so they thought I had been kidnapped. That theory hung around for a while but then they thought that somebody had murdered me and for some reason they blamed her for it.

I was aghast, I mean I can’t say I expected any less but so many theories and none of them correct? It was a wonder and the only thing that was cert


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