Title- The Parsonage Attic
Disclaimer- I own nothing. Not even this computer—it belongs to my older sister.
Serena- YES, this IS a Northanger Abbey fanfic. Contrary to popular belief, Northanger Abbeyis not "the dead book." It is perfectly equal to ANYTHING ELSE written by Jane Austen. The writing is not inferior, and neither are the storyline nor the characters. I suggest you actually read it before you take other's words for it.
Anyway, this is just a oneshot taking place AFTER the book, please R&R!
The Parsonage Attic…
The storm came back.
It was the kind that whirled the wind, cracked the thunder, and pelted the rain. Like an orchestra, but none of the musicians knew the lyrics and just played any notes they wished.
Catherine knelt like a child with her elbows on the window seat as she watched the rain splatter on the windowpanes. Each droplet was like a bullet—shooting through the sky but stopping right before they hit her on the glass. And the rumble of the thunder was like the sounding of a shooting cannon—and the bright blue lightning was the glare and fire spurned from the great weapon itself.
The room was freezing. She pried her eyes away from the horrible storm, and looked over at the hearth and the dying fire within. She could get up and poke it with the iron set hanging above the fireplace. She could even call the housemaid, Nan and ask her to do it. But Catherine dared move. As if a sudden movement would make it all worse and possibly much more frightening.
The last time she could remember being so frightened was the night months ago she spent at Northanger Abbey in her own dismal lodgings. And that night had only been so frightful because of Henry Tilney trying to scare her, and her being fickle enough to take such bait.
But the storm had come back.
It was exactly like the storm that night at Northanger, and the whole room bore the same obscure forbearance as her chambers had, even though this house was a day's journey from the Abbey. Catherine did not like to think it, but it was horribly true. Her muscles refused to move with such a horrid fear that she stayed frozen right where she was. Her breathing, on the other hand, she could not control so easily. Her chest heaved up and down heavily, unable to silence herself. Her breaths were rushed and strained and uneven, causing her pulse to be as un constant as well. Her eyes were firm and wide, looking back and forth, peering in the corners of the dark (and growing yet darker) room through her peripheral vision.
Catherine could not see the moon. Only the dark thunderstorm clouds, and then jump… every time the thunder sounded. And as she began to calm herself again, she heard a clear and crisp sobbing noise. It was like the sounds of a crying child, but it echoed with the gloom of the house at twilight.
Her eyes began to roll backwards in fright. What on earth could it have been? Where was Nan, anyway? Perhaps a product of her imagination? But it had sounded so real. As if there really were a young child blubbering right outside her door…
Catherine blinked, and swallowed deeply. And forced herself back onto her feet. She slowly turned to face the dark, and horrible door, her mind racing with the possibilities of what she would find behind such a thing, and blinked a second time, forced her eyes open and walked across the room. She kept her mind black and like a good heroine she rested her hand on the doorknob, breathed her last, and swung the door wide open.
To see only the dark, empty hall. Where was Nan? Likely down in the kitchen napping, sleeping right through such a frightening night. But she could not so quickly forget the reason she had even opened the door—the horrid sobbing noise. Reason argued for her to simply put it out of her mind and go to bed. But a feeling inside her told her to walk down the long hall to see what she might find.
Catherine swallowed deeply again and continued down the hall, the floorboards creaked under the weight of her steps and caused her to whirl around… lest someone (or something) was following her. She was alone each time she did so. And then she heard a scratching noise. Like the sounds of fingernails against rough wood. It came from the ceiling. Slowly, as if in a dream she looked up, to see nothing but the white plaster.
It sounded again, this time louder. Scraaaatch. Scccrrrraaaatch. She gasped involuntarily and whimpered horribly in fear. What on earth could be up there? She didn't want to even think about such a thing. She wanted to run as fast as she could back into her room, lock the door, and hide under the covers. But would she be satisfied with that later? Would she let herself fall short of such an adventure? No, she would regret this every living day afterwards if she declined. She would see what it was in the attic making such noises. She would. See if she wouldn't.
She picked a candle up off of a table pushed against the fall, and felt around in the dark for a flint to light it. As soon as she had, the hall instantly was less dark, but the wavering of the flame caused it to look even eerier. And she held her breath and she walked up the narrow steps to the attic. She could feel her pulse pounding in her temples, and her heart seemed to be in her throat. She swallowed the large lump and peered in the dark attic.
Cobwebs hung gracefully as silk among the rafters, and it seemed to be a large, low room only full of decaying old furniture. Catherine ran small, pale fingers along the arm of an ebony chair, and admired the carvings done in the wood, although covered in dust it was. The thunder sounded again, suddenly and she screamed a small scream and nearly dropped the candle. The flame went out—just as it had in her chambers in the Abbey. Darkness was her only companion up in the lonesome attic. It pressed against her like sheets as dark as night and she began to feel laced too tightly in a corset, it pressed against her so hard.
She could not see a thing. Her vision was filled with only the color of pure black. She could not even see the stairs to go back down and she was far to frightened to move a muscle. Catherine was trapped. All she could hear for the first few seconds was her own heavy breathing. In. Out. Inhale. Exhale. It was rugged as it was before.
Her fingers trembled, and her knees shook. Scraaaaaatch. Catherine drew in her breath and dropped on to her hands and knees. She began to crawl back towards the door, blindly, holding her hands out before her. When at last she brushed her fingers over what she recognized as the wood of the door, she slowly reached up for the doorknob.
Why had she been so stupid as to try and come up here? She pulled on the door with all of her might. What had made it stick in the frame. Tears formed at her eyes, she whirled her head around, but still could not see a single thing. Thunk. Thunk. It sounded like footsteps… from below. Could it be Nan, perhaps? No. Tiny Nan could not be so loud when she walked—she was only fifteen and small for her age.
"Good God!" Catherine breathed, and put her hand to her mouth. Poor Nan! The girl was all alone downstairs with… whatever it was making such loud footsteps! When she thought of her housemaid's small, delicate frame standing before some horrible man that had broken in, she began to pull on the door harder, leaning all of her weight into the pull.
And eventually after a few kicks and bangs, the door did get pulled out of the frame, and Catherine fell backwards from the momentum. She knocked the back of her head the same arm of the ebony chair, and cried out, clutching her head. Nan! Nan! Her thoughts screamed. I ought to be able to take care of her—I am three years her senior!
"I am coming Nan!" she whispered, and threw herself back on her feet, as much as her head throbbed and her vision swayed, and she practically collapsed down the stairs, her legs wobbling. She fell forwards, and crawled the first few feet off of the narrow attic stairs and pushed herself back to a standing position. She threw herself forwards, and blindly crashed straight into someone.
It was a man! Tall and dressed in dark garb, his large hands folded around her shoulders, and Catherine involuntarily let out a small scream.
"Catherine?" he asked, rather amused, "Catherine, what on earth are you doing?"
She had by know realized that it was merely Henry Tilney—her husband. Catherine felt herself blush at all of the ruckus she had caused.
"I came home and could not seem to find you anywhere—where did you disappear to, love?" he asked, letting her go, but still holding on to his amused countenance.
"I was in the attic," Catherine straightened her skirt.
"Pray tell, why that was?"
"I heard a noise up there," she said, but then regretted it, knowing how amused he would find this particular story.
"Were you frightened?" he sighed.
"Love, this house is perfectly safe—I promise," Henry Tilney gathered her into his embrace again.
"I know," Catherine whispered, "It was silly."
"And why were you running towards the noises?" he asked after a while.
"I was going to save Nan," she replied.
"Ah, how noble of you, my dear."
"Did you hear that?"
"What do you suppose it was?"
"I have not the slightest clue—but I suppose we have our whole lives to figure it out, do we not?"
"It is rather frightening, though," Catherine admitted.
Henry Tilney held her closer and shook his head, "Ah, Catherine—you silly girl." And when she looked at him sourly, "But you are! Beautiful, but silly. Stay silly, won't you?"
"If you consider this being silly, then I intend to stay stilly until I know just what is making that noise," Catherine retorted.
"Good—I'll have to ask the ghosts that haunt this place to keep doing it."
"Do not say that!" Catherine yelped, pulling back, "I do not want to think about such things!"
He pulled her back, though she protested and rested his chin on top of her head, "Do you feel safe now?"
She thought for a few seconds before replying in the positive. Later, she lay in bed, the sleeping form of Henry Tilney next to her, she was just about to drift off into sleep…
Catherine curled up closer to her oblivious husband and stared up at the ceiling—from where they were coming from and sighed. And I, as the writer of this chapter, have only one statement to close with: Once a gothic novel heroine—always a gothic novel heroine.
Serena- Thanks if you read it, reviews would be nice…
Hope I got Catherine Morland right. Well, she'd be Catherine Tilney now, I suppose… Gosh, how she grew up! We all knew her as little Catherine Morland when Jane Austen wrote about her and now she's married, geesh! Well, enough of that, please review, and thanks again!