Pauciloquent is she.
Flora, sunflower, the lover in my bed.
The blood doth rise and fall, to a beat.
Her heartbeat a tempo, thumping in my head.”
Sunlight has a funny way of invading the room. Varying shades of yellow streams peer through the cracks of fabric sworn to protect the fragile glass. Some days the pineapple hue can be warm and welcoming.
The lemon rind glare today is more invasive than usual. My intuition of something big on its way, is pervasive.
My aunt Flora is a funny bird. I never questioned it until recently. She is one of the select few with thick black-out curtains. Her excuse, since a tender age, was her late-night shifts. Now that she no longer works, the darkness prevails. I would be remiss if I said I never thought about it.
“How’s the job search going?” Mom asked. Her voice singing with the sound of eggs crackling in a pan.
“Nothing still. I haven’t heard from any of the companies I applied to, except one.” I lamented. Studying the cherry blossom walls more enticing than thinking of how my rejection affects me.
“Sorry, we moved forward with another applicant. I say they’re lying.”
“These are uncertain times.” The eggs jumped in the pan. Two small yellow clouds bound by flame.
“At least you still have a job.”
“Look, many people are still out of work. I have an idea, how about you keep aunt Flora company. She might know of someone looking for a fine employee like you.”
“She’s creepy to me.”
“What if she bites me?”
“Just because someone works overnight, does not mean anything. Flora still did her daily duties around the house and went to the store like everyone else.”
“Do you know if she will go back to work anytime soon?”
“That’s a question you can ask her when you get there.”
“I don’t know.” The brown sludge that sloshed in the cup no longer appealed to me.
“How about I call her, anyway?” Mom extinguished the flame before portioning out breakfast. “Why do you think Flora is creepy?”
“The way she dresses, the way she speaks, the way she is. It’s not just one thing about her that I find creepy.”
“Believe it or not, she has always been like that. I remember being kids and she would walk around with books on her head because she thought that’s what good women did.”
“How old was she when she did that?”
“I was six and she was twelve.”
“This validates my concerns with her.”
“You were an odd child too.”
“Was I?” Mom leered at me. The way she does when she is about to tell a wild tale. The storyteller in her freely painted the scene.
The year was 1996 when you were a wee lass of only (born 1987) eight years old. Grandma Betty sewed, by hand, a southern Belle’s costume for Halloween that year. The summer waned, but it was far too warm for you to be wearing such a heavy fabric, yet there you were frolicking in the dress.
I pinned the hat on your head so the wind would not take it. She happened to have sheep. You herded them as though you had done it before. I am still amazed by your imagination.
Your imagination scared me too.
When you were nine years old, you relayed a story of how a cousin of yours had a dog that dug holes in the backyard. The cousin in question had died years before you possibly could have met him.
“That was me?” I asked incredulously. Mom nodded her head, eyeing me as she ate her food. I stared blankly for a moment before I even thought about sticking my fork into the cooling eggs.
“You are not so different than either of us.” Mom smirked a devilish smirk. I have never seen her so amused.
I ate what I could. She cooked wonderfully, but I was enamored by her story. I insisted she call Flora after breakfast. Mom agreed, but I had to wash dishes. May that be the worst thing that happens to me today.
“Flora, Hi. I have a question.” Mom meandered into the living room, the nomad she is when she talks on the phone. I wish I could have heard the conversation. By the time I was drying the few dishes there were, mom wandered back with a grin. “Apparently your sister had the same idea and stayed with Flora for a few weeks.”
“Aww, I haven’t seen Miranda since she left for college.”
“She left yesterday morning. Flora said she would love to have you stay there for a while.”
“Do you think her house looks any different?”
“It’s cane friendly.”
“Funny.” I mused.
“It has been a number of years since you were up there last. I’m sure it looks different now. It’s been, what, eight years?”
“I guess it has been that long. I don’t think she’ll recognize me.”
“She might, I send her photos every year.”
“I’m excited about seeing her now. If not for her, for her stories.”
“You better get packing then.” Mom nudged me along.
I could not help but be overwhelmed. How long would I even stay for? It’s not like I have a job to answer to anymore. I had to dig for my suitcase in my closet. The last time I took a vacation was easily the honeymoon with my now ex-husband. I take small moments to regale how pleasant the beginning was. Beginnings are always pleasant and sweet. Until they are no more.
I am a single woman, thirty-two, with no kids and now no home. I had to move in with my mom. She allowed me back into her home without question. I am forever grateful for that.
Aunt Flora on the other hand. I know nothing about her, except she worked overnights until she had an injury of some kind. I think she slipped on a gravestone in the dark. It would be nice to quash old fears. I folded clothes neatly, adding amenities as I thought of them. Luckily, most of my belongings are still in boxes by my childhood bed.
It dawned on me that my room was left untouched. Miranda’s room had been transformed into a “hen den” as my mom calls it. My room was left as it was when I left at eighteen. Not that it mattered, I was now filled with questions.
“I just noticed you never changed my room.”
“Something told me you would be back.” Mom shrugged, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Ricky is a nice kid, but you are a free spirit. You need someone that can keep up with that. I think you would like a writer. They are introspective and intuitive.”
“What if I became a writer?” The moment struck me.
“What if you do?” Mom winked at me.
“I think I want to leave tonight.”
“I’ve never seen you so inspired. I’ll call Flora now.”
I buzzed with the sensation. I do not drink, but I am drunk with it. A revelation of creativity like lightning in pitch blackness. It is dazzling.
No time is wasted. I must revise my list of items for my trip. It is a small revision. My laptop bag and stationery are now a necessity. I’ve never written anything outside of an essay. This is a modern world where the internet exists. Videos and blogs should lead me in the right direction. I am one month divorced, my whole life turned upside down. Here I am, about to visit my Aunt’s house to seek out a niche.
“I hope you have fun with her.”
“I will text you when I can.”
“You are still my little girl.”
“Mom.” I groaned. No matter what age you are, that phrase still causes flustered embarrassment.
I waved goodbye to mom. The one thing I had that is mine, my car. I actively made it in my name alone. The alimony payments are what keeps the car with me. Alimony does not pay much, as we never had kids. It does pay for the car. That is all I care about.
Aunt Flora is a significant distance away from mom’s house. The scenery is pleasant, lush greenery along the way. The drive would be nearly two hours. Navigation contradicted my assumption, it stated I would be arriving in an hour and twenty minutes.
Although the navigation would interrupt my music, I insisted. The playlist I comprised for this ride consisted of childhood favorites. Not one song from the last ten years, for reference. The music made the first hour pass as though I had blunk. I know the phrase is “in the blink of an eye”, but I have a sense of humor.
“I don’t think I drove here by myself before.” I flicked between street signs, deciphering the navigation. The translation into real life application is proving to be difficult. “I think I turned on the wrong street. I think I’m actually sweating.”
Aunt Flora’s house is indeed different. The outside is no longer the same tan house I remember. She painted it a lovely shade of stewed cranberries, creamy frosting for accents. The navigation said, “your destination is on the right,” I said, “no way.”
Her yard is neatly manicured with a beautiful willow tree decorating the left side. In anyone else’s yard, this would be foreboding. I stride down the pathway up to her door. The same giant crow door knocker hung ominously in view. Upon thrusting the door knocker, it would trigger a recording of a crow “cawing”.
“Hello sweetheart.” Aunt Flora called before the many locks to be disengaged clicked.
“Hi, aunt Flora.” I said. I am mildly shocked by her appearance as the door swings open. She looks more like mom than I remember, except for her Victorian inspired clothing.
“I am profoundly grateful for your company. I have been quite lonely. Miranda stayed with me for a time, but she is a busy woman.” Flora allowed me passage before the pleasantries began. The door closed, activating the “cawing” sound as she engaged the door locks.
“Mom told me about that. How is she? I haven’t heard from her.”
“Oh, she is fine. You know Billy is now in high school? She brought him along with her.”
“Wow, I remember when he was born.” I remarked. The burning embarrassment of my shortcomings are glaring.
“As do I. So,” Flora paused as she clumsily plopped on her couch, “how are you?”
“I am divorced.”
“Oh, my poor dear. I am terribly sorry to hear that.” Flora rested her cane on her side table.
“Mom said she saw it coming.”
“How will you rebuild?” Flora offered tea. I am assuming Miranda bought her an electric kettle. Flora is an “old school” woman, and this addition seems out of place.
“Mom suggested I write.”
“I wrote a book once.” Flora said.
“You wrote a book? I had no idea.” In Flora’s fashion, she had the book ready to show me. “This is your book?”
“I wrote it as a young woman.”
The worn leather felt brittle in my hands. I almost did not want to open it. Flora insisted. “What is it about?” I asked reluctantly. I expected her to say something about a cryptid or something horror inspired.
“When my ex-husband and I were together, this is our love story. You are old enough to read it now.”
“Oh, I’m ok on reading that. Did you publish this?” Flora’s modest, blushing nod echoes her glistening eyes.
“It did very well.” I felt my stomach tie itself into knots upon hearing this.
“Is this your only book?” I admittedly hope she say yes.
“No, I wrote a book about a lonely vampire who lived alone on a farm.”
“So, a memoir?” I said absently. Flora fumbled with the drawer, perhaps she did not hear me. This book, unlike the first, had a beautiful cover of a woman resembling Flora, holding a mirror with a brilliant reflection.
“Fawnda lived in a rural town, yearning for love in its truest form. Alas, the spoils were not for her. Marriage is out of the question, as is children, for who would wish this affliction on anyone?”
“Do you mind if I read this?”
“My home is your home.” Flora said. She motioned as one would to present grandly, though she is unable to move as well. “Firstly, I ask of your assistance. Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” I said. I rose first, bearing my weight so that Flora can stand also.
“Thank you. I promise I do not ask much of your stay. It is more difficult for me to keep house now that I am injured. Dishes are easy for me to do, but dinner is a task.”
“I will gladly make dinner. What is for dinner?” I glanced at the thin frail numbers. it is nearly time.
“I don’t eat dinner early. In fact, this is breakfast for me.”
“I forgot about that detail.”
“I do not require you to mirror my schedule. Breakfast and dinner are the two I most rely on, in the middle of the night, I eat small when I am peckish.”
“I will try. I am here to help.”
“If you insist.” Flora led me to the kitchen where she presented a most perplexing contradiction of styles. The modernness of the room painted into a Victorian inspired décor is almost modern. Every room adorned with a different chandelier, each with candles melted into the spokes in which they hang.
“You have beautiful décor.” The eels squirming in me were begging me to leave. Flora is a lovely, if not, eccentric woman. Why did I want to leave? What is this squeamishness, I cannot properly explain?
“It came with the house.”
“Wait, this is original décor?”
“I was told never to change it.”
“Who is Albertus?” Flora studied for a moment, then hobbled to the hallway leading to the back garden. I impatiently followed her.
“The garden is a beautiful addition to the house. My ex-husband planted every seed by hand. It is the only thing left of him besides his ashes.”
“Albertus doesn’t mind the plants?” Flora shot me a fiery gaze, both amused and quizzical.
“You may roam as you wish. There is one room you are forbidden.” Flora beckoned me to follow, “the one room for which I’m forbidden.” What is with all these secrets? How come I never noticed this?
“Albertus’s room. You remember the one door that is to remain locked, the last time you were here?”
“No.” Flora turned slowly toward me.
“I am certain you were warned of this room. It is a condemned room. There is no floor. It collapsed a number of years ago into the basement.”
“I do not recall.”
“If you are certain. I know it has been mentioned at least once.” Flora’s eyebrows sought comfort in the bridge of her nose as she squinted. The visible frustration on her face made me feel guilty.
“I would remember such a thing.” I insisted. Flora’s demeanor shifted to appear nonchalant, the eels squirming urged me to run.
“Regardless,” she gestures me to follow, “this will be your room.”
Upon entering the chamber, room is too informal, the sight floored me. The queen-sized bed painted with maroon stitched dressing, accented by brown plush chairs. The bedroom is practically a living room.
“I hired a handyman to install plugs for electrical appliances. I know times are changing.” Flora said.
“I do not remember these furnishings.”
“Albertus allows some alterations, but not his décor.”
“You must explain this Albertus fellow.”
“He’s the previous owner. I know nothing further.” Flora insisted.
“Alrightus.” She shot me needles when I said it.
“I will be retiring to my room. You remember where my room is?” I nodded. “My medication causes lethargy. I need occasional rest. I will call if I need you.”
“Get some rest. I will be reading that book.” I presented the book to prove I have it with me. Flora nodded before turning down the hall. I hid in my new room.
The maroon and brown complimented each other in the way peanut butter and jam do. Peanut butter with its savory and salty flavor, marrying sinfully sweet fruit. “Legumes and me” will be the title of my memoir. I wasted more time than I wanted before I opened the book.
By Flora Villaume
Fawnda kept house, quietly. Doddering around in the comfort of pitch black. Fawnda adored the stars that speckled the sable sky. She refused to feast as traditional vampires, preferring her livestock as meals. Their blood richer and more gamey.
The cobalt of night beckoned deep sable black before she decided to treat herself. A bet she not often dares to make. The silence of the woods behind her abode is eerie.
What worries does a vampire have in the dead of night? Another vampire.
Fawnda stalked the trees, listening astutely for rustling or small sounds.
“Thou shalt not wander without an escort.” A male voice called from behind Fawnda.
“Doth thou know of my birth?” Fawnda retorted to the cool air. The figure emerged from the trees.
“Of birth is not my concern. A woman of any birth without an escort is a sin of the highest form.” He approached Fawnda with a toothless grin and a cigarette.
“I do not smoke. Smoking is for the poor.” Fawnda declared.
“I see. Then you see through my birth. William.” He introduced himself, bowing.
“The pleasure is all mine.” Fawnda said.
“What brings you to the woods in the middle of the night?”
“I believe I’m lost.” Fawnda paltered.
“Allow me to show you my quarters.”
“I would rather stay here.” Fawnda said before bearing her fangs and digging into William’s neck. William went limp quickly, overpowered by Fawnda. The crimson feast gushed onto Fawnda’s maroon dress, blending in as she had hoped. “It is merely broth,” would be an acceptable excuse for the stain.
“Effie, do you mind helping me?” Flora’s voice sliced through the air.
“Be right there.” I said. I marked the page and rushed to Flora’s room. “Is everything alright?”
“I do not mean to be a bother. I dropped my cane.” I entered the elegant purple room.
After reading her novella about a vampire, I am reluctant to bend near her, she will bite me. Flora did not bite when I retrieved her cane. I remain suspicious.
“I am getting a bit peckish. Would you like something to eat?”
“I could eat.”
Despite my suspicions, Flora ate normal human food. It is not possible to be a vampire and eat normal foods, right? Beef brisket slightly raw is still suspicious, but many people eat strangely.
“Don’t fret the dishes, dear. I will do that. Thank you for the marvelous meal.”
“Thank you for helping me. I agree, it was delicious.”
“I wanted to ask you. Why is it Ricky left?” I hesitated to answer. It is not that I am embarrassed, it is difficult to talk about.
“He told me he had feelings for his assistant. He claimed there wasn’t any relationship previously, but I can’t be sure. He wanted to divorce because he saw more promise in her. Then they announced a nationwide lay off within the company and he requested she stay, and not me.”
“I’m terribly sorry honey. I would be devastated.”
“Even if I had money, I’d still move back with mom.”
“I would have too. Especially after that.” Flora remained solemn, as did I. She perks up with a sly grin, one finger poking in the air. “How about dessert?”
“I’d like that.” What better way to brighten the mood?
“I have ice cream in the freezer and some brownies on the stove. Miranda’s secret recipe.”
“She makes the best brownies. Did you ever get the secret ingredient?”
“I would never conspire against Miranda.” Flora defended, then placed a hand over her mouth to whisper, “she uses evaporated milk instead of regular milk.”
“That’s it? I could swear she used something more exciting.” We laugh in unison. A small square of brownie warmed in the microwave with a heaping scoop of plain vanilla ice cream, makes for a delightful treat.
“What do you do when no one is here?”
“I am a boring person. I enjoy domestic duties, which I cannot do much of, but I mostly crochet and knit. I do watch some television. Occasionally I read.”
“That’s about what I expected. What if I picked your brain about writing?”
“That sounds like fun. I have neglected that talent for many years. Would you mind doing the dishes again? I will set up my writing studio for us.”
“You have a writing studio?” Flora seemed more surprised than I, for being amused by the thought of a writing studio.
“Absolutely. How long do you think it takes to write a book?”
“A few weeks, maybe?”
“Perhaps if you’re a mad man. It can take longer than that. To have a quality piece, you can write for weeks and barely have a viable chapter, let alone book. I’ll show you.” Flora said. Though injured, she hobbled as quickly as she could to the hallway. She was not visible, but her cane’s echoes are audible.
The few moments of silence were plenty to gather my thoughts. I have many questions about Flora and her home, but I need to begin where the silence roamed freely. The kitchen is a good start, though her drawers are boring and predictable. A junk drawer filled with normal items, pots and pans of varying ages and wears, and her fridge stocked with normal foods. I would expect a head or two in the freezer, though nothing of the sort appeared.
Flora’s dining room proved even more boring. The table seats four comfortably, five if they are young. Her living room seems to hold promise. Two large bookcases frame the back wall near the hallway. To my right, two large plush chairs with intricate carvings piqued my interest. In the center sits a coffee table with drawers, though their contents are visible, provided by the glass atop. Similar to an astute investigator, I wandered before I ventured into the room, she called her “writing studio”. Though I realized she never said which room. Perfect opportunity.
My intentions remain pure. I am merely looking for answers to my questions without sounding rude to my kind hostess. To bluntly ask “are you a creepy two-hundred-year-old vampire?” would be rude. Instead, I seek clues. This is proving difficult, however. I may need to ask her forthright.
The hallway alone is more sinuous and foreboding. How many rooms are in this house? I whispered. “There are eight in total.” Flora recited. Meeting me by her door. “I realize now, I never mentioned which room to meet me.” She smiled as she turned the knob of a door next to her room. The room is adorned with fairy lights and less gothic than the rest of the house.
“I like your decorations!” I said.
“My writing studio must exude creativity. This is my interpretation.”
“I love it.”
“Fawnda Vampira, this is my working copy. I keep every variation. I hope one day there will be an exposé on my work.” I marveled at the lemonade walls, and angel wing lights. Even the chandelier in this room mirrored the playful strawberry lemonade theme.
“Where do you even begin?” Flora brings out her array of notes.
“To begin such a task, you must figure out what genre you read.”
“What does reading have to do with this?”
“To be a great writer, you must be a great reader.” Flora said. She thumbs through her binder. “Reading is studying for a writer.”
“I never thought about it like that.”
“If you will listen to this old coot, you might learn something valuable.” The devilish grin matched that of mom’s grin. I question if they were not twins instead of sisters. Their age gap would be the only telling difference, though they are strikingly similar.
“I think I will start writing tomorrow. Tonight, I will listen.”
“That is a great idea.”
“I enjoy your book so far. It is outdated but savory.”
“I fancy the old English style writing. That is a start. You are a modern woman with a modern voice. Who is your favorite writer? Why are they your favorite writer?” Flora presented questions so provocative, I forgot my questions for her. I simmered in the boiling juices of inspiration. “Shall I leave you in the throes of passion with your thoughts?”
“You don’t mind?” Flora shook her head with a smile.
“Please don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Flora winked as she hobbled to her room, next door. I am determined to write, but my eyes wander too much to focus.
I snoop through her drawers, though all they contain are vast amounts of stationary. “A writer will sooner drown in stationary before a dry hand refuse to write.”
My discoveries do not satiate my hunger for answers. Nothing of interest in her writing studio led me any closer to a context. The frustration led me to rest my head against a blank page she left for me to begin my writing journey. Instead, my eyelids dribbled closed. Sleep beckoned me to join her.
Peach hued streams leaked through the curtains. I fell asleep with my forehead pinned to a sheet of blank paper. An oval of sweat stained the once bleach white page. “Knock, knock,” Flora said as she entered.
“I’m sorry.” I said reflexively.
“Don’t be sorry. I knew it was quiet in here.”
“What time is it?” Swiveling my head to meet the gaze of a clock, though no clock exists in this room.
“It is,” Flora glanced at her wristwatch “six in the morning.”
“I don’t even know what time you left.”
“It was early for me. The clock read almost eleven when I entered my room.”
“I meant to stay awake.”
“I’m surprised you were awake that late. I will be going to sleep soon. Do you want to take any of these items with you into your room?”
“I will leave them here.”
“If you’re hungry, feel free to eat whatever you want. I have some deliveries coming today. Do you mind getting them? They arrive around noon.”
“Not at all.” I smile, kissing her forehead. “Good night.”
“You have your cell phone?” Flora asked. I pad my jeans, I forgot to charge it.
“It’ll be charging.” Flora closed her door.
“Damn.” I whispered. I meant to stay awake. I guess now she will be asleep. I retrieved my phone and charger before the prospect of food enticed me to the kitchen.
There is no shortage of golden light in the kitchen. It is a flood of bright pineapple to stain the dark gothic decor. My phone chimes, mom. I call her immediately.
“Hello. How is it over there?”
“She showed me her books.”
“She has quite a library, doesn’t she?”
“I mean, the books she wrote.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. They aren’t bad, but they are outdated.”
“Indeed, they are,” I paused to pour coffee into a mug, “do you know Albertus?”
“He was the previous owner. Why?”
“I don’t remember hearing about him?”
“He died several years ago. I think she said something about his room not having a floor.”
“I feel like there is something strange going on here.”
“Flora is strange.”
“Do you think she’s hiding something?”
“I would not be surprised. She’s probably hiding her collection of bats.” Mom scoffed.
“She’s sleeping. I might do some snooping.”
“I love you. Be safe.” Mom said.
I replace my phone on the charger, but my intention of eating went away with the wind. I am far too curious about this Albertus fellow. I stride to the living room, where the ominous bookcases stand, to begin my investigation. I examine each book as they each sing a chorus of “pick me” as I stare. Then I realize, there is a book titled “Albertus” amidst the rows of spines. “I will read this along with her book.” I say quietly.
I rush to the kitchen where a small granola bar and coffee sit, then zip into the privacy of my room. The black-out curtain made it too dark. It is a fine sunny morning. I have no need for the darkness. I draw the curtain for light as it splashes on the covers. Even the coffee is discolored by the pineapple juice, pouring from the window.
Fawnda fancied a rich man. His birth is noble, his name of royalty. Fawnda had neither. She was doomed to poverty. The only thing saving her farm, besides her afflicted brother and his wife, were the livestock they husbanded. The marks of their feasts were covered easily, as the wounds healed quickly. Fawnda grew weary of her lifestyle, yearning for the spoils. Marriage and children were the gold nuggets she dreamt. These were not for her either. The afflicted were to be exiled and killed. Her secret must be kept hushed.
At least her brother had a vampire wife, though children would not be in their cards.
Fawnda moped much of the time, choosing to sit in the pasture with the livestock, crying.
Fawnda cried no more one day. She decided her birth and affliction were no more an issue, then dirt on her dress.
In the night, she wandered through the forest.
Fawnda sought company, no matter how old or how ugly they may be.
The forest relented and revealed a path to a town, she had never seen before.
The town was, by appearance, a vampire town.
The tall spires and fences were adorned with the heads of townsfolk adjacent to theirs. Fawnda recognized a few by their contorted deathly stares.
“What brings you here? You are one of us?” The man asked, eyeing Fawnda.
“What is this place?”
“The Vampira palace. How did you find us?”
“I merely wandered the woods until I could wander no more.”
“Have you any suitors?” The man asked, bearing his fangs. For he was no man at all.
“Suitors? Only one.” Fawnda said lustfully. Inching closer to the handsome, devilish vampire.
“Alright. I get it.” I said. I close the book wearily, nausea twisting my stomach. I did try to read it. “Albertus,” the cover creaked as it opened, “who are you?”
Albertus Mayweather, a man of humble upbringing. He is the man of many staples, many of which he is unknown for, selling his ideas for a profit. The man who fathered many children, the man who fathered many companies. Who is he really?
First, we must dissect who he was as a person before we discuss who he was as an entrepreneur. Albertus Douglas Mayweather, born in 1949 to Maybella Hartley and Douglas Mayweather. Both were significant to the community. Maybella worked as a medic nurse in World War II, upon returning to the states, she worked in a local mill. Illinois to be exact.
Douglas was a pilot in World War II, later becoming an engineer. Upon returning to the states, working on planes then space crafts for the government, he created quite a name for himself. Douglas was thrilled to become a father. His life goal, shifted, for Albertus.
Named after Albertus Magnus, the patron saint of natural sciences. Albertus the saint, was a scholar and philosopher. Making Albertus Mayweather a promise rather than a namesake. Albertus was destined to greatness from the moment Maybella was aware of the form growing inside her.
Douglas lived a fulfilling life, though he died before Albertus turned fifteen. Leaving Maybella and Albertus to his life insurance payout and her career. He was an only child. It arguably spoiled the child, as he had all Maybella’s affection and attention. Albertus wrote a book under a penname when he was eighteen. Titled “The Hen and The Crow,” he won several prizes for this achievement. The genesis of his success. This flow of income afforded his many hobbies.
He created many patented devices we still use today. Some of which were sold to others, his name no where near the items. Is there a purpose? What if he is hiding something?
The investigation ensues. A private source, a reliable source stated “he remains private for his mother’s sake. The achievements, though many and great, would be too much publicity for his dear aging mother.”
Sources also state, “Maybella died in 1987, approximately the year Albertus seemingly vanished. Where did he go? No one really knows.”
“It is possible he fled to his family’s farm, run by his uncle. Though there is a rumor he has been spotted in Southern Oregon.”
Where Albertus is, it is unclear. We do know his influence is felt around the world. If you are using an electric kettle, it is said he helped developed the original blueprint for it. If you have read a book involving crows or see devices with crows embellished, you may be supporting his accomplishments. Even to this day.”
I close the book, watching the dust swirl and dance in the light. “I feel like that created more questions than it answered.” I lean in the chocolate chair, melting along with the leather that it coats. It is day two. No need to rush for the conclusion. Yet I am inpatient for the outcome. I realize my phone is charging in the kitchen still. The time would be useful.
The screen glows, “it is almost eight.” Only two hours. A little snooping before the deliveries arrive might alleviate the curiosity. I start in the garden. Before I water any plants, the first step is to check the grounds. The soil is untouched by hoe or shovel, nothing disturbed recently. That is a good sign. I see no shoe prints, no feet, no marks deemed suspicious. I venture farther, deeper, for grave markers. No such stone or marker is visible.
“There has to be something. Why else would I feel this unease? It can’t be a baseless claim.” I whisper. Have I scared myself into madness? Perhaps.
The water soaks the dirt while the plants feast on the fertilizer I pour. Their leaves perk, outstretching to the sun then wave in glee as I move from one section to another. It is a beautiful day. It is not hot or cold. The sun-soaked garden is a peaceful oasis.
By the time I replace the hose, I forget why I even went outside. The vitamin D is a great assistance to my mood, though, now I realize that absorbed much more time than I expected. My phone read ten.
“A snack is in order.” I say. Though the trip to the garden alleviates some curiosity. I draw my attention to the door nearest to Albertus’s room. It speaks to me, or am I hearing things?
“Come hither” it whispers. I am sure I hear it. Clear as a gale. “I am here,” it says as I approach.
My hand touches the doorknob gingerly, the cool metal biting my hand as I turn it. The door gives way as I lean into it, allowing passage. I feel something tickle my forehead, as though a string or the like swung in front of me. I am correct. It is the light that caresses the stairs.
It is her basement. “The floor collapsed a number of years ago,” her voice swirls in my head as I glance around, perplexed, “it’s a condemned room.”
“Where is the destruction if that is the case.” I meander, using my phone as a flashlight where the small bare lightbulb’s light does not touch. More questions arise, for now I have more than I can even imagine answering in one day. “What do you have to say for yourself?” I whisper.
I peek up at the ceiling, which would be the room in question. No disturbance or failing construction is visible. I dodder around in confusion. “Why would Flora lie?”
Flora met me in the dining room. “Good morning.”
“Good morning. How did you sleep?”
“I slept well. I wish for this pain to subside.”
“I wish there was more I could do.”
“You are doing it, sweetheart. Would you mind making me some eggs and toast? Scrambled and lightly toasted.”
“I don’t mind.” I grab a mug and fill it with entertainment.
“Thank you, my dear. I hope it isn’t terribly boring here.”
“Not at all. I watered the plants and made some food. I read your book. I also read about Albertus.”
“I knew you would.” Flora smirks, eyeing me as she sips her coffee.
“He sounds like an interesting man.”
“He was.” Flora says absolutely.
“Did you know him well?”
“My ex-husband.” I stare at her like a deer catching the gaze of car headlights.
“Why didn’t you say that?” I laugh, all this stress for nothing.
“I didn’t want you to get nervous. He died in that room. I don’t want to alter the memory of him.”
“It is certainly more understood than ‘it is merely a condemned room’ without explanation.”
“Some guests become anxious or nervous. You are a tough cookie.” Flora and I relished the light-hearted moment. Though my curiosity never waned, I refrained from inquiry about the room.
“He must have been much older, then.” I prod, start slowly.
“He would have been 70 this year. I am aware of his seniority, but we were mad for each other. Even until his dying day.”
“I’m sorry.” I am sorrier I must ask in such a way. It makes me sound insensitive.
“Don’t be, he had a great life. He will have a better afterlife. I will join him soon enough.”
“You worry me.”
“I don’t mean it like that. I am saying when my time comes, I will be there with him. Eventually.”
“I remain cautious around you.” I wink. It is both in gest and in nervousness. My mind wanders away from me. Maybe a ghost inhabits that mysterious room? Perhaps his body lay on the bed after all this time? The flurry of possibilities makes for unreasonable anxiety. I hesitate before I hand her the plate of eggs and toast.
“Thank you, my dear.” I sit across from her, with tendrils of steam kissing my chin. The heat blazes against the window, barely covered by thin maroon curtains, appearing pink in the glare. I allow Flora time to eat. There is no rush. The eels in my stomach squirm and wriggle. Why am I impatient? “Thank you for watering my plants. I don’t remember if I thanked you or not.”
“You’re welcome. It is a gorgeous garden.”
“It truly is. Albertus did a marvelous job.” Flora nibbled her toast, then licked her fork. A finer compliment than the words. She rose, placing the dishes in the sink. “I will do those, in a few moments.” She said. Excusing herself to use the restroom. I obliged, sitting at the table. The avalanche in my head is starting to rumble. Perhaps it is boredom that seeks the rush?
“Yes, it is possible I’m merely bored.” I surmise. “That does make sense.”
“Or true concern.” A disembodied voice call to me. I swivel around in search of this male voice, but no source is found.
“Flora?” I ask. No response.
“You called for me?” Flora said, her voice from the hallway echoing.
“No, never mind.” I can hear her cane clatter along the linoleum in the hallway. The bending and cracking of the material leads me to believe she is retiring to her room. No offense taken, she is disabled and on heavy medications.
I opted for the living room. I sat in the dull copper chair, adorned with scribbles and sculptures. It is a lovely sight. With closer inspection, I realize the bookcases are built into the wall. Curious how the house has eight rooms, yet I have only seen four. Maybe there is a second level I am unaware of, was there always? I do not recall any of this adventure from my previous visit.
I follow the shadows, creeping behind the bookcase. There appears to be a gap, a possibility for stairs. I gather my nerve to investigate, inspecting the crown molding as I approach. I scratch my head, there is a narrow set of stairs right above Flora’s room. “Of course.” I said.
One step beckoned a second, then a third and before I knew it, I am upstairs. I do not remember any part of this. The baffling part is the lack of noise. I expected a squeaky, noisy trek, not a creak. I glance through the open doors, quietly stalking along, in case Flora might hear my steps. The furnishings are much older. Many layers of dust coat each room, from floor to ceiling.
One door remains ajar. This door is of interest. Not all the way closed yet closed enough to hide its contents. I realize now she mixed up the rooms. This room must be Albertus’s room. The floor had caved into the room below it.
I can see the floorboards and bed scattered like flotsam junk in the room below. It is a jarring sight, the wreckage in the room below is devastating. I can only hope no one was in the room at the time. The avalanche began. “What if Albertus was in the room at the time of the collapse?”, “Did Flora cause it?” I am getting ahead of myself. All this excitement for some drama? I wave the conspiracy away. Seeing the destruction for myself is enough to dismiss the concern.
“Effie,” the ethereal, disembodied voice returned. I spun around to find no one. I peeked into the giant hole, nothing. I peek in each room to make sure I am alone. No one. I curse my curiosity as I pad down the stairs, it is probably Flora calling me.
My eyes trace each shadow, each entryway before I emerge from the stairwell. I must not be seen near there. Flora’s door remained closed.
I saw a precarious sitting book, nearly on the edge.
“What are you?” I whisper, as though it called to me.
“Read me.” A whisper insisted. I resumed my stay in the copper chair, still warm from my behind sitting in the seat.
It was a chilly February night when the darkness cloaked the small serbian village near what is now Novi Sad, in 1725. Petar and his wife Jana settled into bed but the uneasiness he felt did not leave him as he snuffed the candle by the bed. He laid in silent darkness for a time as he listened to his wife’s breathing as it slowed easily, falling asleep easily. Petar stared wide eyed, at the open door leading to the living room. The feeling of an intruder in his abode filled his mind as well as the realization they had not dusted in quite some time struck him. Petar fought the urge to sneeze as he glanced through the specks floating through the moonlight filtering through the window.
Petar could not shake the knot in his stomach as he sat up, gazing at his sleeping wife next to him. He sighed softly as he leaned into the moonlight with a quill and paper to write his goodbyes, just in case an intruder truly stood in wait. The pale moon glowed ominously as he padded toward the kitchen to retrieve an implement of protection. Knife in hand, he glared through the windows and examined the shadows around him before venturing far enough to be visible. From what Petar could see, there was no one lurking, no one waiting, no one stalking around outside. Though adjusted to the darkness, he did not see the one shadow that was more out of place than a cell phone in the 18th century.
Petar returned to bed, whispering to Jana how much he adored her before curling up behind her and wrapping around her form to attempt falling asleep. This comfort was not to last, as the shadow had crept through the one window left ajar, where the shadow stole Petar from Jana. Jana awoke to the terrible slurping sound as the Shadow relentlessly stole him then allowed his body to fall to the ground with a disturbing thud. She screamed as the creature lunged at her without a sound.
Jana awoke as the sun filled the room with harsh blinding force. She was never disturbed by the sun before, but she was horrified by the sight when it pierced her vision. She rose, realizing the terrible nightmare had been a reality. She grabbed Petar with tears streaming down her face. Jana cried into the peaceful morning of the atrocity that befell her, a tragedy that left her a widow. Jana glanced to the table on his side of the bed where a paper hung off the edge precariously. Upon reading the note, she wept harder with tears spilling onto Petar’s still, but cold body.
Jana refused to lower her hood as she explained the situation to the priest helping her. He insisted she perform the ritual to cleanse his soul before burial, but with grief she expressed her concern that his soul might already be gone. The priest nodded slowly as he allowed her time to say goodbye before formalities, then burial. She whispered how distraught she felt to Petar’s corpse. She threw her arms and chest over him, his eyes shot open and a voice she’d never heard before said “you are carrying the curse with you, you killed the form but evil lives within you.” Petar’s face fell and he returned to his stillness as she wept uncontrollably. She ran to the priest and begged for a ceremony. After the funeral she would be placing him in the most secure tomb possible. The priest obliged with a frown.
Jana was restless all night, the first night in her marital bed alone, terrible visions filling her dreams as she poured cold sweat from the frantic panic she felt. The new moon left the sky darker than usual this night as she leapt from the bed in terror. Jana lit a candle and filled the void of silence with encouraging words or going through the motions of how her lovely husband would console her in times such as these. She went to make some tea but she glanced over at the moment when a blood curdling scream rang out, through the window she witnessed a silhouette of two figures dancing or fighting then one falling to the ground. The disturbing thud was followed by a squish then a slurping or hissing sound until it disappeared.
Jana rushed to the priest to express her concerns when he expressed some of his own. Petar’s body had disappeared from the holding tomb and a trail of blood led to the woods until there was nothing left of a man but some clothes and bones. Jana gasped before she fainted from the news. The priest urged her to seek refuge in the church in case the creature returned for her, which she explained her experience with Petar when she said her goodbyes. The priest scowled at her confession. “This is worse treason. The king will banish you.” Jana cried again, having lost everything now before a knot in her stomach twisted, but it was not her nerves. The priest watched in horror as he realized what it meant. “Either I banish you and you may live, or the king banishes you and you die.” The priest says sternly. With a sigh, she nods agreeably and turns to leave. Jana felt the defeat and sadness as she gathered what little she owned and embraced her banishment. Without a goodbye to anyone, she was given a ticket by the priest to allow her to board a ship to wherever they would accept her. Austria happened to be the next stop.
Jana boarded the boat with a single tote of clothes and several memories of Petar. With sorrow, she realized she was gaining weight and the feeling in her stomach was not hunger. Jana cried nearly every night but not before singing and telling stories to the form growing in her belly. It took nearly four months before they arrived in Austria. A very noticeably pregnant Jana kissed the dock when they landed, so happy she had made it safely and relatively in one piece. Jana had come such a long way from home without so much as a breath to her family, but here she was in Austria. A young sailor greeted her with a warm smile, he looked identical to Petar. She accepted his hand and walked with him into a strange new chapter of her life.
“What?” I said. I close it immediately to examine the spine and covers. It unearthed few clues to satiate my questions. I glance to the hallway, then around my shoulder. It appears to me, I am alone. “Memories stolen.” I recite, reading the inside page. “A short story based on a Serbian legend of where it is assumed vampires originate. I would never have guessed.