Oh and remember in the excerpt from Entertaining Angels, when I promised that Caroline and Elen would make a return?
They are side characters for this series.
Table of Contents-
- Not the Beginning
- The Shape of Things to Come
- A Key and a Door
- The Fox in the Lighthouse
- On the Shores of Nightmares
- The Gyre
- Shadows and Masks and Riddles
- Spiders and Philosophy
- All Roads Lead
- Halfway House
- To Find That Which Was Lost
- The Crossing
- The House of Light
- Rules of the Game
- The Queen of Shadows
- The Nightlands
- Treason and Betrayals
- Everyone Together
- A Sacrifice To Be Made
- The Fox At the Funeral
- The Centre
- An Ending of Sorts
- A Beginning of Sorts
Not the Beginning
My dad used to tell me stories. Stories of adventures, incredible journeys, fantastic realms. My parents raised my brother and I on a healthy diet of Verne, Bradbury, Asimov, and their ilk. They fueled my imagination and my early childhood.
My parents, both highly educated and respected in their fields, shared the passion and belief that all human fiction springs from the same place. My father called it a shared consciousness. Often I would overhear my parents talking about the Aboriginal Dreamtime, or the Celtic, Time Between Times as primitive understanding of this shared realm of stories. My parents believed all human imagination drew from the same communal source.
My dad spent days in his study at a time during his most feverish moments of research. A web of note cards and pictures spun around the walls of his study. He spent many hours weaving red string from picture to picture and tacking notes all across the board. He traced common themes and stories across geography and time. Linking and linking until he found connections. He believed that by finding where it all connected, he would discover the place that it comes from. Endless connections that I used to sit and follow forever
For at least a little while, fortune favored our family. What had begun as a side obsession became full time. A benefactor graced my parents with funding that enabled them to devote their full time to their research. They never told my brother and me his name, just that he shared their passion and wanted to see them succeed. The newfound wealth did not change our living in any major way. Except, we moved to a quiet place where my parents could study and research without many distractions. When I turned ten we moved to a rather old and large home on the coast of Maine. For two years, our life was happy. I enjoyed the seacoast, exploring the old house with my brother, and watching my parents explore their passion. I love them for the life we lived, and I thought it would last forever.
A week before I turned twelve, I discovered just how much I had to learn about life and how wrong I could be.
My brother and I sat at the kitchen table each with a handful of cards. The sunrise spilling in from the window cut a drastic swath of white across the black table. Andy looked over his cards at me; his blue eyes partially hidden by the unruly brown mop mom had the audacity to call a haircut. I gave him my best stone face, not giving anything away. He carefully pulled two cards from his hand and set them face down. Not taking his eyes off mine, he slid the cards to the center of the table.
“Two fours,” he said.
I laughed. “Liar. I’ve got three in my hand. Take it back.” Defeated he pulled the two cards back into his hand as well as an extra card from the deck. I looked away to thumb through my hand searching for the perfect cards to lay down. I did not dare try to bluff Andy. Even though he was two years younger than I, he always knew when I was not telling the truth. He always had an internal radar tuned in that could detect when I was not being honest.
I decided to try my three fours just to get them out of my hand when a scream ripped through the house. Both of us dropped our cards and for a moment, we could do nothing. My brain would not let my body move, rational thoughts and instinctive feelings fought for control. After what felt like an eternity, we became unstuck and ran toward the study where my parents spent their mornings. I crashed through the house, knocking over the table in our hallway. I heard a vase hit the floor and a shattering of glass followed by the sound of Andy’s feet crunching on the broken glass. When I got to the study, I bounced off the door. This marked the first time since we moved here that my parents locked the study door. Andy arrived moments later, phone in hand, pounding out 911. I heard him in the background giving answers to the operator, but I strained to hear any noise, any sign of something beyond the giant oak door in front of me.
No sounds escaped the room. No further screams. Terrified I continued to pound against the door. Crying out for my parents, Andy and I hit the door again and again. I paused and held my arm out to stop Andy.
“What is it, Allie?” He whispered.
“Listen. Do you hear that?” I held my breath and I heard a sound that I did not recognize. As I pressed my ear against the door, I realized that I heard the sound of my father sobbing. I redoubled my efforts on the door.
“Daddy!” I screamed. “Open the door! Open the door, Daddy!” My hands continued to strike the door. I ignored the pain while they turned different shades of purple and red.
Andy laid himself on the floor and peered under the door.
“Allie. Allie!” He said, “Someone’s moving. Someone’s moving.”
I looked down and saw two shadows bleeding through at the foot of the door. The shadows shifted as if someone walked toward the door. I called out to my father again, to no response. As I pulled back my right fist to strike the door again, a shuffling noise came from the study. As if someone approached the door. I reached for the doorknob but before I touched, a loud jarring thud shook the door. Andy and I jumped back. A small scream escaped my lips, and I pulled my brother close.
Distinctly now, it appeared that someone stood on the opposite side of the door from us. Unmoving. Silent.
“Mom? Dad? Please answer me.”
The door shook one last time. Rattling from top to bottom, and then flew open. No one there on the other side to greet us. Instead we saw both our parents on the ground. Both with blood coming from their nose and mouth.
I knew at once my mom was dead. The lifeless eyes staring into the distance. Strangely enough that did not chill me as much as the look of abject terror on her face. I pulled Andy close and buried his face in my chest, hiding his eyes from the scene. I stood there holding him openly weeping, tears crashing down my face onto him and him doing the same into my shirt. I heard someone screaming far off in the distance. It was making it hard for me to think or hear. It was only when I took a breath that I realized I was the one screaming. I hugged Andy tighter, and we supported each other from falling. We stood there like that until the paramedics arrived. Only then did we discover that our dad still lived. I overheard the words “barely with us,” but I took comfort in that one singular statement. It was then that my brain decided enough was enough, and I passed out.
I woke in a strange room. Darkness all around save the faint light from around the window curtain. After only a moment, I registered the white walls of a hospital room. As I slowly took in my surroundings, my brain checked off in cold calculation everything that had happened. I squeezed my eyes shut until I saw white spots hoping beyond all hope that I had a seizure or passed out and had a strange dream, anything but the reality that I did not want to face. I might have succeeded if I had not seen my Aunt Caroline sitting in a recliner next to my bed. She was asleep, but I could tell that she had been crying. An empty box of tissues sat beneath her folded hands. Her feature so clearly similar to my dad’s brought me to tears. I did not know why she slept by my bed, but I knew she could not bear good news.
I sobbed softly, trying not to wake her, but she heard my whimpers and as soon as she opened her eyes, I completely lost my composure. She leapt to my side and we embraced. I do not know who was crying harder, but we sobbed and cried, the catharsis of tears releasing the pent up grief that we were holding internally.
Without pulling away, she said, “Dear, I have some news about your mother…”
She did not get to finish. I let loose a mournful scream and when I closed my eyes, my mother’s bloody lifeless face filled my vision. I dug my fingers into her upper arms, the skin appearing white around my fingertips.
“No! No! No!” I screamed, holding her tighter. She responded in kind, gripping me with all her strength. Holding me as the waves of my agony washed over me. Finding my center, a place I could hold onto I composed myself and pulled away.
Looking squarely in her eyes, I asked, “Is my dad dead?”
“No, sweetheart. He’s in a room. They’ve sedated him and are observing him for a while.”
“And, what about Andy?”
“Andy’s in the waiting room with your Uncle Michael. We thought it would be best if you had someone here to be with you when you woke up.” She leaned away; the light glistened of the fresh tears streaking down her face, and took my hands into hers. Squeezing them gently, she brought them up to her lips and kissed them softly.
“My dear, if there is anything that I can do.” Her voice trailed off into a whisper of a sob.
I continued to cry and lay down on the bed. I faced away from my aunt, clutching the pillow and soaking it with tears. Caroline sat on the edge of my bed stroking my hair and softly singing old hymns to me. I laid there awake not focusing on anything. Letting her voice drift over me and take me away. Eventually, I fell into a restless sleep. Unfortunately, this was when the dreams started.
I knew I dreamed. I felt it obvious that I dreamed. I stood in front of our house outside on the porch ringing the doorbell. Finally, my brother answered.
“Oh Allie, welcome home. We’ve been waiting. Dinner is ready, and I have something important to tell you, but not yet.”
He escorted me into the house and down the main hallway. As we walked, the interior of the house began to change color. At first a subtle shift in the wall paint then more noticeable; every step I took deepened the shade of red that permeated my vision now. When Andy opened the door to the dining room, he stood by my side and leaned toward me motioning me to bend over so that we could enter the abnormally small doorway.
As I ducked my head lower, I took in the room. At the table sat mom and dad, but not as they normally were, they were as I saw them last. Blood running from their noses; Mom’s eyes vacant. At the head of the table sat another Andy. Then I remembered that he had something to tell me. I leaned closer to him, and I listened to the brother standing next to me without taking my eyes off the brother sitting across the dinner table.
His voice came out trembling, “It’s not right. We’re not going to be ok. We can’t go there or it’ll get worse.”
As the words left his mouth, the Andy sitting at the table stood up forcefully enough to send his chair rocketing across the room behind him. Placing both palms on the table, he glared at the two of us. I grew afraid of this version of my brother, and felt the desire to flee. As I turned to run, I found myself back in my parents’ study. Everything in organized chaos, as my mom called it. Books, notes, photos strewn around. I took comfort in the familiarity, until I noticed something different. Something out of place that I have never noticed before.
On my dad’s web of note cards and pictures, a new item had been pinned. One I did not remember. A picture of a small antique mirror now took the center spot in the web. All other items now connected back to this one by myriad strands of yard. It stood at the center, the nexus, connecting everything my parents had researched. Written on the photo, in my dad’s writing, were the words:
Is it a real place?
Is this the key or the doorway?
I woke to my aunt gently shaking my shoulder.
“Allie? Allison? Wake up honey, you are having a nightmare,” she gently whispered. At some point, she must have opened the curtains. The pale moonlight bled in through the window and illuminated her as she stood by my side. The light gave her a hollow appearance. I could tell she needed sleep, and she still looked as though she stood on the verge of tears.
I sat up and grabbed the straw cup beside my bed. Gulping down a mouthful of water gave me time to compose myself before responding to her. How could I tell her about the dream that frightened and stuck with me even in waking? A dream that I felt held secrets about my parents.
“I’m okay, Aunt Caroline. Really,” I hugged her again. Tears welling up again. “What are we going to do?”
“Sweetie,” she pulled me close and ran her fingers through my hair, her voice cracking as she said, “we’ll figure it out. Your Uncle Michael and I don’t have much to do now that Elen is in college. We can hang around with you guys as much as you need.”
I started to thank her but another wave of anguish wracked my body. The sobs convulsing through my body as I clung to her. She became my lifeline, my anchor in the storm. I clung to her until once again I faded into sleep. As I drifted off, I smiled when I heard her soft voice singing again. Once again lulling me back into sleep.
Whenever I try to remember my time in the hospital and the days afterward, I come up blank. I have heard that your brain does that to help you get over traumatic event. I do not buy that. If that is the case, then there is a lot that I should be forgetting about that day.
The hospital did not keep me long. After a day, I went back home. It did not feel like home. My aunt and uncle tried their best to make Andy and I feel normal, but nothing made it work. I am thankful that we had them to take care of us. They made the commitment to stay with us until my dad recovered. The police visited us frequently. The ever-nice police officers asked Andy and me many questions. I broke into tears during most of our sessions. The official statement from the police indicated that they suspected a break-in, assault on my parents, and a flight once Andy and I discovered the attack. Not for once did I believe that statement. I remembered what I saw and heard. I knew someone, or something, was in the study with my parents and disappeared once Andy and I opened the door. No one ran away from that room that day.
Once home, I spent all of my free time at my dad’s side. He could not come out of his comatose state. The doctors claimed that they could find no medical reason for it. They never talked to me about it, but I listened to what I could when they told my Aunt. After about two weeks, I grew frightened for my dad. I wondered if he would ever come back. I tried talking to him. Reading to him from our favorite books. Playing both sides of a chess game. Anything that would call out to him. Nothing worked.
I began to spend less time at the hospital with my dad. When my aunt left the house, I would tell her that I had homework to do. One day, after she left, I paced the hallway outside the study. The door remained closed since the day that my mom died, going on three months now. No one entered it. The study was now a scared space.
I paced back and forth, replaying the event in my mind. I kept looking to the door expecting the two shadows to be there. I could not figure out who it was. No one else occupied the room when Andy and I entered the study. I slowly approached the door. Gingerly reaching my hand out to the ornately embossed knob. When my index finger made contact with the knob, I felt a small jolt run through my arm. I could feel my chest beating in my heart; the rushing in my ears was deafening drowning out all the noises of the house.
I hate doors.
I slowly turned the knob; wincing as the latch clicked. With a burst of courage, I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The silence and emptiness startled me enough for a small scream to escape my lips. I looked around the room hoping beyond hope that my parents would be in here looking up a new lead or dancing to my dad’s records, as they were known to do.
Nothing. The sections of the carpet that my parents had fallen were ripped out; the only sign that something horrible happened in here. I looked around the room for anything to remind me of my parents. I picked up a few books here and there, thumbing through them and reading some of the notes in the margins. I scanned around the room taking in the books and cluttered desks, coming at last to the centerpiece, my dad’s crown jewel. The web.
It was not until my eyes focused on the center that I felt my stomach drop. There it was, in the middle of the web. At the center, the point that all the lines now connected to, was pinned a picture of a mirror and below the picture was a notecard written in my dad’s fluid handwriting:
It is a real place?
Is this the key or the doorway?
I screamed again. How could I have known about this addition to the map? Did I see it before? Did my mind notice it subconsciously when I found my parents in here? My mind could not wrap itself around the unknown. I backed away swiftly, turned, and broke into a run towards the door. As I ran, I tripped over a book on the floor, falling hard on my right wrist.
As I sat on the floor, clutching my arm against my chest, a glint of light from beneath the desk caught my attention. I reached and wrapped my hand around a handle. When I pulled it into the light, I found the mirror from the picture. The handle carved out of what seemed to be wood, with a gold inlay wrapping itself around the handle. The mirror itself looked to be old glass, with a few discolorations in the reflection. The handle felt oddly warm, as if it had already been held. I held it up and looked at my reflection. I did not look like the same girl from before. There was weariness in my eyes and face that I knew I did not have before. As I examined myself in the mirror, I caught movement in the corner of the mirror, as if another person were in the room with me.
When I spun around, I found no one standing behind me. I decided to use the mirror to lure them out again, so I went back to looking at my reflection with my back turned to the entrance of the room. Keeping my eyes glued to the mirror, I caught a blur of movement again. I waited patiently, and then I saw him.
Standing in the doorway. Bleeding from his nose. Crying.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and dropped the mirror. It landed on its back and three cracks appeared running from corner to corner. When I turned around, he no longer stood there. I ran to the doorway and looked to either side of the hallway, but nothing showed that anyone had been in the hallway. On the verge of crying again, I went back into the study looking for any clue to what I had seen.
When the phone rang, I jumped and clutched my hand over my chest. It rang again, and I felt compelled to answer it.
“Hello. This is the Aisling residence, Allie speaking,” I said out of rote habit.
“Allie, honey! This is your aunt. Your dad’s awake! He’s talking and doing fine. Go find your uncle and tell him to bring you out here. Andy is with me.”
I could not say anything. I looked over at the mirror and wondered at the timing.
“Allie. Are you there? Did you hear me…” Her voice trailed off. I could not focus on it anymore. I just looked at the mirror and felt a sense of dread grip my heart. I hung up the phone without responding and walked back over to the mirror. Still in the same spot on the carpet. Nestled amongst the long fibers of the brown rug. I picked it up and looked deep into the glass. Searching for any sign that it had played a trick on me. Then I noticed that the cracks were gone. The mirror looked brand new.
I threw up. I knelt to the floor and stayed there, the knees of my jeans soaking up my own vomit. I clutched the mirror and kept crying until my uncle arrived. He said something on his cell phone to someone, something about finding me and another statement about being on our way, but I could not focus on him.
The mirror consumed my thoughts.
This is tentatively the first chapter of Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever. Please if you have any questions, critiques, or comments, leave them for me below or get in touch with me through the contact page. In the rewrite of this chapter, I plan on fleshing out the details a bit more, taking out a bunch of the adverbs, and cleaning it up a lot. I know this is rough, but I wanted to share. I'm really excited about focusing on this more and more as To Tread the Narrow Path draws to a close.
Thanks for reading. Please like, share, +1, follow, etc...
Thanks for reading. Please like, share, +1, follow, etc...
Until next time,
If you have any questions about copyright information or reproduction of this excerpt please check out the copyright page.