Shades of Truth
Prelude: Between Two Covers
"There are as many truths as there are stars in the sky; and every one of them is different." (1)
No one liked to go by the old mansion.
Everyone claimed it was haunted, one of the most haunted places around. And who would want to risk their health or sanity going close to such a dismal, lonely place where only the curtains held any proof that a person with any warmth and emotion ever lived there? Though ragged and moth-eaten, the curtains held a natural crevice between where they met in the middle, a space near midway to the bottom where the flaking paint on the walls was visible and the glint of the stained, grimed window. A space made as one looked out from when they were closed, holding back the cloth in order that one might wave to a loved one. So often was the action repeated that the cloths still whispered of being moved as they sashayed against one another, emitting dust and cobwebs. But few ever saw such an indicator of how things might have been within the place.
Sure, there were the usual actions of school-age boys daring each other to creep in an old, boarded-up window and tread on the dust-covered floor in search of excitement, more often finding mice and large spiders eating the insects that burrowed their way in through the various holes wood flaunted when no one took care of it properly.
More common than the attack of vicious poltergeists, it was the terrifying imagined sounds (or true ones, for the mansion was not above creaking and moaning in its old age as it had been before when younger; indeed, the floorboards had not dared to make a protesting sound when he had lived there) and half-seen nightmares lurking around the corner that drove the would-be famous darers back to their friends, candle forgotten where the breeze had blown out the puff of smoke. Of course, by the time he reached his friends, his heart would have calmed slightly and his mind, still full of its images, would grow even larger and new stories of bravery and sightings existed.
The stories of the mansion were, each year, more horrific and terrifying, gaining fantastic elements like how it held summoned ghosts by some necromancer, or some sort of demonic meeting that to view was to beckon death.
One fact was true of the ghastly tales; within the echoing hallways long turned to decay and rooms that had once held warmth, down the rickety stairs that used to be sturdy and along the walls now coarse and crumbling where once had been luxurious paintings of rich art; among it all, something of such fright and history had happened that would never give the building a peaceful, calm demeanor. Some kind of horrific event had been enacted out in its solitude and secrecy, making the phantasmagorias of today.
If a house were claimed haunted, there had to be a reason why.
But even the stories of why the mansion was empty, why they claimed it was haunted, even those increased in intensity and variety, no consensus met: a rabid dog turned on an abusive owner; a lovers' spat, both finishing silently with a bullet in them; a mother who had children and smothered them in her madness; and one of the creepiest, a young child who calmly and sedately murdered his parents with his bare hands, no emotion in his eyes.
The list of potential hypotheses was as long as the list of titles behind royalty's names. Most were blatantly false. Just a few had some elements of truth snuck in despite them, though the tellers would not have believed it themselves.
But far worse, far more horrifying was the actual story, the reason the mansion was boarded up and looking like a castle forsaken and discarded for a better toy. Yet, no one knew the truth, for it was locked away in history, in a time years past when the house had not been a decrepit, shambling reminder of past glories, but a glory in itself, in its prime and cared for, appreciated, loved.
You see, terrible things had indeed taken place within its walls. Things no one wanted to recall or contemplate, actions that just hearing about would make one ashamed. The truth was better laid to rest, forgotten and discarded, not even fit for a retelling in order to teach a moral. It is only within my bound covers, smothered with dust, decay, dirt, and pained through torn pages, that bits of the past can be recalled, and even the bits of remembrance I hold I am ashamed of.
Sitting here, quite silently, no one would guess how I am doomed to constantly relive the tale just as I am condemned to remain in this place forgotten, for even as the ink fades and the pages crust and turn to ash in one's grasp, the words are engraved into my very soul, my essence. The story will never leave my being or be erased so that a tale of great cheer and hope will decorate my insides and a picture of happy people adorn my exteriors.
If you wanted to know the tale, you came to the right place of the mansion. Here I lay on the floor, quite forgotten, utterly abandoned and despised, for as I said, I speak only the truth. The truth of one who was present when it all was happening, but even I know not all of it. But I can guess. My being is such that I can read between the pages.
I suppose it started as did anything of great import: with a regular, usual person living quite an ordinary life. But, of course, something out of the ordinary would transpire and change the course of events, make it so that the desired peaceful ending never would come about.
Years, many years ago, a young CEO and his brother had lived here…
A/N: This is just the prelude, obviously. Characters will be in the next chapter.
(1): Marillier, Juliet. Daughter of the Forest. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2000. 227.