~This is just a short prologue I wrote as a beginning to one of my stories, but decided to drop after I developed the plot silently slip into the forgotten ‘started stories’ file in my computer, my friends urged me to share it. Here you are!And if you have any suggestions for my writing style, please comment!~
When I was seven, I accompanied my parents to Valenhughe hall, a historical focal point on the outskirts of the small village of Kiristchen. The old church was barely standing, the walls faded and the stained glass windows only a shadow of their originality. Inside was not much better, and though it was the last of its kind, little could be done to save the monastery. It was at the mercy of time.
At the time, I didn’t understand why my parents would take me to such an ancient, rundown place.
“Mommy, can we leave now,” I asked, tugging at her arm. She looked down, squeezing my hand.
“Just a little longer, honey. Your father and I have to look at one more thing.”
“Okay.” My eyes wandered to the dust motes dancing within the colored squares of light cast down from the ornate stained glass windows that formed the domed ceiling. Reds and blues and greens blended together to form battle scenes, images of stories and times past.
“Is this the child?” A man dressed in all black asked. I turned to him, cocking my head, sending a dark curl loose from its hold and tumbling to rest against my cheek. His eyes widened.
“Yes.” My father said.
“Her eyes…” the priest looked from me to my father and back again. Yes, my eyes. Everyone noticed my eyes first. Violet, they said, the color of a demon’s they said.
The other children were frightened of me because of these eyes, which commanded such attention that even adults would shy away.
“She has the gaze of an old woman.” My teacher would say to one of the other parents, glancing back at me.
“As if she’s seen, things…”
“We know.” My mother cut him off. She squeezed my hand again. Once I had asked her why everyone was so afraid of me. She said:
“You are an old soul, Vivienne. You have knowledge that many children do not. You just haven’t realized it yet.”
An old soul…
“Well then, allow me to lead you,” The priest said, giving one last glance at me before turning and walking down a long hallway lined on one side with windows. They looked out over the monastery’s courtyard, all green grass and evening sunlight. In the distance you could see the wall that surrounded the area, a great mass of cement and barbed wire that seemed at contrast against the peaceful landscape. Beyond the wall was a sea of trees that seemed to extend forever.
“Come, Vivienne, not much longer,” Mother said, tugging me along. The priest came to a stop, pulling a key ring from a pocket in his robes and inserting one into the door’s keyhole. The door opened to real a dark stairway leading down to another, even darker hallway. I moved closer to my mother, so that my entire right side was pressed into her jeans. There were no windows here, only wall sconces lining the walls on either side. They had been previously lit, as if someone had been waiting for us. As if they had known.
“Mommy…” I whispered, heart pounding. I hated the dark, and I hated this dark more than any other. It was not like the darkness that pooled between the street lights in the city, or in the corner of my room where the night light could not reach: incomplete, broken.
This darkness,though, was thick and alive, dancing along the edges of what little light the fires provided, threatening to consume me whole.
“It’s okay.” Said my Father, and I felt the reassuring press of his hand on my shoulder. He had large hands, warm hands, and they seemed to suck the fear out of me.
“Here we are.” The priest opened another door and stepped out of the way. My father went in first, and then my mother and I.
We stood within a cave, the walls made of rough grey stone that was damp in places. More sconces greeted us, flickering playfully as they cast long shadows along the walls. The air here was heavy, not only from the moisture and the scent of raw earth, but also from something darker.
I did not like this place.
I stopped dead at the entrance, ignoring my mother’s pull as she continued to move forward. She glanced back at me, and I looked at her with wide, frightened eyes.
“No.” was all I said, my voice high and shaking. My feet wouldn’t move, and something hard had formed in my throat. My knees shook, as if all my energy had been swiped away the moment I had entered.
I turned, jerking my hand from my mother’s and running from the cave, running down the hallway, and up the stairway and into the light. Iran and ran until I hit something hard, sending me stumbling backward.
“Are you alright?” Someone asked, and I looked up at the person I had run into, a man.
Then I burst into tears.
The stranger’s eyes widened, and he glanced rapidly about the hallway before kneeling before me, running his hands along his legs.
“Um, ah, I’m, I’m sorry?” he attempted, offering his hand palm up. I continued to bawl, streams of tears dampening my cheeks and absorbing into my scarf, making it cold and wet. It was a gift from my mother.
I began to cry harder.
“Don’t, don’t cry. I’m sure whatever it is, it can’t be too bad…” The stranger said. He tried to move forward, but his foot caught on the edge of his robe, sending him stumbling forward, straight onto his face. I watched him, before bursting into giggles. The man sat up, rubbing the red mark that had formed on his forehead where he had hit the ground.
“I hate these stupid things.” He jerked at the fabric angrily. Then he glanced over at me. His forehead was the color of a cherry, in stark contrast to his dark hair, which was standing up in every direction.
He began to laugh too.
“Well, at least you’re smiling,” he said, shifting himself into a sitting position. I stepped forward, poking the red spot. His skin turned white beneath my fingertip.
“You look like a beet,” I replied. He scrunched his nose.
“A beet? I don’t even like beets.” We both laughed. The doorway behind him opened, and my mother came rushing out. When she saw me, her body instantly relaxed.
“Oh, Vivienne, you scared your father and I to death,” she said, kneeling down and wrapping her arms around me. Beet man stood up, dusting of his robes. My mother turned, smiling.
“Thank…”she started, but her words broke off when she saw his face.
“No problem. She’s sweet. I’m only glad she’s alright,” he said, returning her smile. My mother softened.
“Yes, yes, so am I.” Their eyes met, and then the stranger laughed, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Well, I’d better be on my way.” His eyes moved to me. “It was a pleasure meeting you…”
“Vivienne.” I replied. Then an idea came to me. I unwrapped my mother’s scarf from around my neck and walked up to him.
“Here,” I said, lifting the apple red fabric. He glanced from my mother to me, then leaned down. I draped it around his shoulders.
“Thank you.” I smiled, stepping back to admire my handiwork. He patted my head, his hand lingering before he straightened.
“Yes, well, on my way. Nice to meet you Vivienne. Julia.” He nodded to each of us in turn, before walking away. I took my mother’s hand again.
“Can we go home now?” I asked. Behind us, the door to the stairwell was thrown open, revealing my father, his cheeks red from running.
“Julia, Vivienne…?” We both turned, and I waved at him. Mother chuckled.
“She’s fine. I’m more worried about you at the moment, it looks like you’re about to pass out,” she said. My father glanced from her to me, before a ridiculous smile spread across his lips.
“I was held back in the stairwell.” He said, shrugging as he walked over to us, taking my other hand. My mother rolled her eyes.
“Oh. Of course.” She replied.
“I’m serious. You wouldn’t believe how many people wanted my autograph, being a famous historian isn’t easy.”
“Yes darling.” I glanced behind me before we left the hallway, back at the windows and the sunlight, and for a moment I thought I saw him standing there, at the other side, lifting his hand to wave goodbye. And then the door was closed, and I turned forward and let my parents lead me back to the car, and back home.