The Red Scarf – Short Story (Part 5)

The Red Scarf [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

By J. A. Weymouth

There was an eerie silence about the derelict mansion when Henry returned.  Its stillness unnerved him.  It was in the trees, the overgrown shrubs – throughout the quiet grounds.  A curious sense lingered over him as he stepped towards the fallen passageway.  It was like stepping into a graveyard.

Henry felt unsure and wondered whether he should visit the room – the one with the mirror and ghost he thought was imprisoned inside it.

After avoiding the familiar traps that littered the path before coming into the room, he entered and realised how quiet the room was inside, almost peaceful yet incredibly lonely.

When he saw her he didn’t think it frightening like he thought it would be.  Instead, it was sad seeing her.  It was just like waking from a dream – or remembering one.  He wasn’t sure.  Her image was still smudged, blurred as it had been in the photographs so that it seemed to him that she was neither in this world nor in the world of the mirror. She was in between.  Her being struggled with the idiosyncratic existence as the mirror had trapped her soul but she was meant to be free.  It appeared to Henry as he looked closer that her image softly vibrated, struggling with her entrapment.

Henry trailed his fingers against the soft surface of the mirror then rested his palm over the place where her hand had touched.  At this, it was as if Henry could feel the restlessness of her soul.  He had realised that it had only taken a moment for each of their souls to coincide with the unique rhythm of both worlds connecting as each one touched the other.  Then, a strange sensation overwhelmed him as if being pulled by an unknown force.

The feeling lasted only a second but Henry moved by a strange urge to turn and find the girl standing behind him.

She was watching him as he stood to see her with a curious expression decorating her face.  Henry thought her pretty with her auburn hair tied up in a neat bun, the red scarf placed gently around her neck though hiding a shameful secret, and saw in her deep, brown eyes that still looked at him cautiously but with the same sadness that he found in those pictures he had seen yesterday.

He was about to speak but she moved towards him, very suddenly, even though she was standing as far as the other side of the room.  She had only taken one step and already she was in front of him with her hand open towards him in front of his face.  The movement was graceful and with her hand nervously meeting his cheek she spoke.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said with a displaced, little voice, ‘but I have to show you.’

And she did, with her touch, her memories passed onto him of the night she had died.

It was unbearable.  It was as if he stood by her side during her traumatic encounter with the older, vile man that had been chasing her and, in the end, had finally caught her.  He could not move as he flowed with every quickened step she took to get away from the man.  Henry barely was able to glance around to absorb their surroundings: forties London, war posters, apathetic scattering looks, and deafening alarms.

Then it came to her rape. Seeing everything, breathing, smelling the sweat on his face as he lay on top of her, then the blood… the blood as he scratched at her throat with a piece of the shared mirror; the vile man’s last pleasure as he finished with her.  Henry had absorbed all her senses, all her feelings, becoming her and it was too much to bear and yet, as he felt like he was going to pass, everything went black.

He woke to her hand on his chest.  It seemed too cold as he woke, and yet he was in sweats and shaking all over with the feeling of shamefulness from not being able to help the girl.  This feeling overwhelmed Henry for a long moment even though he knew that she was already dead and it had all been a memory.  With a sigh, and as he grasped the girl’s open hand to help pull him to his feet, he stood to find the girl gone and standing in front of the mirror, in the derelict room alone.

Angry, he took the mirror from its hanging, finding a sharp, dislodged piece of wood protruded from the collapsed ceiling; he swung and with great force and empathy, smashed the mirror against it and it shattered into a million pieces.  Henry fell to his knees and cried.

As he composed himself, and feeling somewhat at peace, he noticed a small light shining in his eyes.  The light irritated him.  Henry found that a piece of the broken mirror shone a new, morning sun into his eyes and picked it up to stop it from reflecting it into his eyes.  Before he threw the piece away, he noticed a scarlet thread attached to its side.  He picked at the thread and as he brought it in for a closer look, it vanished into dust.  Its scarlet particles shone like red glitter in the sunlight.

A soft breeze carried like a whisper and Henry then knew that the girl had passed with a final thank you in the wind.

~~~

Final part to come soon ~

The Red Scarf – Short Story (Part 4)

The Red Scarf [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

By J. A. Weymouth

The next day, Henry took the newly developed photos and began studying each subject to choose those that stood out and toss out some that he was unsatisfied with.  Those that he would decide to put up as part of his exhibition he started preparing them for larger sizes and the frames that he would later fit them in.

While Henry had placed his prized photos under the enlarger he noticed something odd about one of the photos that he had taken from his first photo shoot.  What he had noticed could not be possible.  At first he thought it was the speck of dirt or spot of light he tried to ignore while he had been trying to take the photo.  What appeared to be a disturbance of the lens was in fact a blur or a motion construed by something in the picture.  As he stared at the image, he slowly began to understand the shape – a blur of movement, like someone turning away.  Faint and distant.  It seemed to Henry like an outline of something small but distinct but almost as if it were a shroud of light broken by shadow.

As Henry stared closer, he began to think of it as something like a figure with the soft outline of someone’s head, crouched over in the very far corner of the room, as if in a strange way, that it was hiding itself from the mirror.

Adjusting the enlarger, and focusing the lens more, he then removed the photo and cleaned it for a better look.  It was distracting him.  But it was no good.  The motion was still there and as he looked at it closer, he realised the shape that formed in the picture had now moved.  The faint outline of a feminine figure became the centre of the photo.  She had raised her head as if something had caught her attention.  The movement was a blur but the gesture had never been so clear.

Henry was positive that he had been the only one present in the room at the time so it was impossible that someone else had been there at the same time as him.  He was sure since the door was the only entrance to the room, or at least, he thought he was sure.

Henry took the next photo and placed it in the enlarger.  It was another photo of the mirror.  Again he sees the disturbance in the picture.  He was sure it was a girl because now, unlike before, he could see the girl’s face.  It frightened him, the way the girl’s face seemed to move in his mind, but obviously it wasn’t possible.  Her figure in the picture seemed somewhat blurred still even though he could clearly see her as if someone had dragged their figure over her image, smudging the outline of her.

Something unnerving and cool coiled around his stomach as an idea throbbed inside his mind, itching to be thought. Soft drops of sweat beaded his forehead as Henry glanced over the photo again.  It couldn’t be.  He was certain that he had been the only one in the room at the time.  Not only that but he was sure the girl had moved, which was impossible.

The photo shook.  No, not the photo but his hands.  The idea that something that was not supposed to be there, in the picture, had moved physically, changing from one frame to another.  The impossible became more absurd with every new photo as he watched and trembled all over with each picture he picked up and put it through the lens.  Henry felt like screaming.  She was standing still, slightly turned but now facing him.

Each photo depicted her movement as she appeared closer to him.  Henry took the photos away as the image of her was large enough for him to see without the lens.  He saw her and realised, beginning to understand the unreal.  Hands still shacking, he looked at her closely and watched (still half denying and half accepting) her move before his eyes.  She appeared to struggle with her movement.  The outline of her stilled then blurred and stilled again in quick vibrating motions which gave Henry the impression of a hummingbird’s wings fluttering so quickly that it had stilled itself into a slow motion of beauty.  It was beautiful but frightening.  Her elegant neck twisted against the red of the slash in her throat – her eyes deep with despair.

The idea lashed out at him as he realised what this was.  He bit his lip as he thought the word.  Ghost.

Fear subsided as he held her picture and realised something.  The picture was empty.  He had blinked only for a second.

***

Henry had awoken the next day to red with the memory of the girl and her bloodied neck.  She had haunted him in his dreams that night but was not completely certain if the whole ordeal had been real, not unlike his nightmare.

Flicking through the photographs with a desperate need to confirm this ghost Henry tried to find his proof but found only pictures of a derelict room.  The pictures that had once been the photographs of the mirror were now blank.  All he had left was the reminiscence of a mirror in empty pictures.  There were no signs of the girl.

Starting to doubt himself, Henry went to the bathroom and washed his face.  The ice cold water jolted his senses but did little to remove the unnerving feel he had since the night before.  He was sure it was real, as any shocking truth could be.  He would have liked to deny it but the flashes of the girl’s disfigured neck had seemed as an all too real thing – and the insurmountable sadness that he felt from her.

He decided there was only one way to confirm it by going back to the mansion and seeing it with his own eyes.

~~~

The Red Scarf – Short Story (Part 2)

The Red Scarf (Part 2) [Part 1] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]

By J. A. Weymouth

A strange smell woke Fanny to a cold room.  Dawn’s gentle glow seeped through naked windows lighting the room as she sat up.  Dazed, she stretched wiping the sleep out of her eyes and taking in her surroundings.  The smell reminded her of floor polish when she recognised it.  The air was laden with fumes of a new coat.

Fanny Fahrner, seventeen years old – found it strange when she remembered.  The world became so much bigger and stranger as the memories tip-toed back inside, cautiously, unsure on whether they should return or to run away screaming.  When they did, she was sure she should be dead.  Not alive and well rested.

Fanny was in the same room though, exactly from when she was murdered.  Here she was, sitting in the same clothes, in the exact spot and feeling normal; without aches or pains sensing that her reality was more like a dream.

There was no sign of the wicked man who had chased her into the room either.  Nowhere to be found.  Her memories of the night before etched in, uncertain of what order they belonged in but the dread of that night, the fright of the chase and the utter helplessness of it all appeared to her like a terrible nightmare.  One that was beginning to fade.  The details blurred. What had happened?  She wondered.

Fanny was busy in her thoughts when she noticed the wall length mirror reflecting light into her eyes.  Her hand naturally came up to protect her gaze when she noticed something strange about her hand.  She turned her hand over and once again; not a hint of dirt speckled her skin.

Something else she noticed strange about the room that it was completely bare but the lone mirror, staring out in the corner of the room, not directly in front of her but shyly placed away.  No furniture lay, or painting hung.

Another important detail itched at her with an unnerving feeling.  The derelict room she had supposedly fallen into showed no trace of dust or dirt either.  It was like new.  The floorboards were polished and the wall a clean pepper green.

The only thing dirtied was the lone mirror and yet, here it stood proudly towering over her but alone in a furnitureless room; its arrogant frame shining in the light.  It was all too strange.

The rest of the room was naked, no dust or cracked paint or broken floorboards and the collapsed ceiling had been repaired.  Nothing but the lone mirror and the despondent girl was left in this room.

Fanny stood and went to the window to let in some fresh air when a worried sensation distracted her.  It was her scarf, pulling, tightening around her neck.  She felt the scarf needed to be loosened.  Fiddling with it she coiled her fingers around her neck, and pulled.  The scarf came free, though the feeling of something tight and uncomfortable still lingered, not chocking but enough to unsettle her.

Standing up, uncomfortable, the girl moved towards the mirror to see what was wrong.  As she came closer, although the dust on the mirror obscured her reflection, an oncoming sense of unease dawned to something new.  She moved faster, almost frantic as she swiped the dust away in a desperate stroke and saw the horror then.  An unkind feeling and knowing took shape in her mind.  It was the same “awareness” one felt in a nightmare.  But this was no dream – and her sense of panic would not disappear once she woke up.

It became all too real as last night’s events, the rest of what had happened – what she forgot, what she denied – came back to her.  The murder.  Hers.  How the man had strangled – had twisted and played with her – using the broken pieces of a mirror.  She had seen the pieces rip at her when he laughed.

It was this mirror, standing, staring – mocking her because it was this mirror that had killed her.   She had seen her reflection, strange, obscure – alien – as the man had taken her, the night she had died – its jagged edge cutting into her when he had finished.  Tearing.  The mirror had looked into her soul.

Death was her reflection as she screamed out at the girl with the bloodied neck, raw and open.  The laughing gash didn’t stop the scream.

Once, a long time ago, there stood an abandoned mansion resting on top of a hill, its proud grounds had decorated the land on the outskirts of a kind town, now fallen into shame and dust after war had eaten its pretty sites. 

In it lived a room, broken and collapsed.  The roof had fallen inside this part of the house and shattered a once beautiful mirror, long forgotten by its owners.  The mirror, in pieces, despaired in regret for being left behind.  In its loneliness it witnessed a horror and became a part of something again.  Piece by piece it grew strong as it captured the soul that screamed a scream that can only be heard in children’s nightmares.  The mirror kept a secret in the abandoned room. 

~~~

The Red Scarf – Short Story (Part 1)

The Red Scarf [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]

By J. A. Weymouth

It was a cool night.  Stone buildings were somewhat eerie in the dull street lights as shadows danced along the sombre walls.

The town’s narrow alley ways slowly diminished as sinister figures ran towards an open field.  A man with white twisted hair seemed somewhat feline in the shadows, as the girl running in front of him, attempted to escape his sight.  Her red scarf teased the man as it dangled in front of him, just out of his grasp.  The cat was chasing the mouse.

He was desperate to catch her scarf, for then he could pull her to the ground, and then have her, the man thought as the scarlet material flapped mockingly in front of him.

The girl’s breath felt short, and her legs struggled to maintain the race.  She could hear his raspy breath as he fought to catch up to her.

Several ominous faces looked down at her passively as the she ran by their windows.  She noticed them, and could not hate them.  The town’s red warning sirens had sung.  People were too scared to leave their loved ones and too afraid to risk their skins.  Shouts could be heard in the background, explosions; dull and distant.  An air raid was imminent.  Whispers and prayers could be heard in the dark.  War posters caught against the wind.

All emotion turned to terror, terror by the thought that evil was chasing her and by the horrifying realisation that nobody would try to save her.  Her only sanctuary was the lone semi-derelict mansion that stood clear just beyond the town’s edge, pass the stony walls.  Two dangers chased her, the bombings and the evil man behind her.  She was vulnerable from both.

A light shone through a window in the raggedy mansion.  It was a beacon of hope.  It was also a dead end.  She ignored the thought as she ran for her life.

Pain shot through the man’s side. A stitch pulled his chest.  Age was against him but his longing for young things and the thrill of the chase was as fresh as the day he first started his game of cat and mouse.  His hunger and neediness helped him draw his hand closer to the red scarf only to curl his fingers over a loose thread. He missed.  The girl had taken a sharp turn into a deserted mansion making him lose his chance of catching her then.

Up the stairs they ran and towards the door.  A light shone through its cracks.  If someone was in there, he might lose his chance to play with his young toy to save himself and flee.  If not, it would be the perfect mouse trap.   The cat licked his lips.

The girl screamed as she felt the man draw closer, her heart pounding in her ears.  Adrenaline pushed her forward, faster, dulling her senses and making the world seem slow.  She grasped the door handle and forced herself through while she heard a triumphant and despicable laugh from behind.  The world was still slow but she soon felt something pulling at her throat.  The man had caught her scarf and the thing was chocking her as it slowly unwound.

Seemingly innocent, a broken floorboard tripped the girl as her scarf loosened and came free.  And just as the adrenaline subsided, the world caught up to her.  She fell to the ground in pain.  The room went dark as she heard a horrid noise.  The man was triumphant, he had caught his prey.  And then she forgot.

~~~