Evelyn Chartres Author
Clara – Page 10

First Blood – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Whoever said that getting there was half the fun, did not travel with a nun hellbent on completing her mission. For Clara the entire journey was a confused blur further exasperated by fatigue.

They would race from one train to the next at a breakneck pace. Clara felt as though her arm would be pulled out of its socket if she too a moment to catch her breath.

To what end? All for the privilege of waiting for the train or attempt a nap rest on uncomfortable wooden benches.

Clara spent the last leg of the journey in a comatose state. The two days of solid travel and transfers had driven her to exhaustion. In that moment she could have slept soundly just as easily in a dungeon as a bed made from twenty mattresses.

“Wake up child,” Sister Maria said loud enough to wake the dead.

Clara woke up in a start while her heart raced at a gallop. Her head hurt and she could barely focus, but once she did she set eyes on what was to be her home.

Somehow she had been transferred onto a horse and cart without her knowing. They were in the middle of a large gravel courtyard surrounded by several buildings. Based on this being a school, she assumed made up the dormitories and classrooms of the school.

Before Clara realised where she was, her escort had already disembarked. Sister Maria had hurriedly met with another nun from the school and seemed to be in deep conversation. Given she was unobserved Clara took in the scene in greater detail.

The horse and cart she noted were old and well used. The one at the reins looked looked like to be a farmer. He had white hair, shaggy beard, sunburnt skin and vivid blue eyes. His clothes were covered in dirt, his hands calloused and clearly fit in with what she expected of someone who worked the land.

The nearest and most prominent structure was a three story building. There were evenly spaced Windows throughout and an ornate metal roof and gables that would provide for a spacious attic. Clara had a feeling that she would be spending the bulk of her time there.

Another structure nearby was made of wood and stone. Clara could see through the windows and saw more nuns inside. She later found out that this was their primary dormitory.

“Miss Grey,” Sister Agnes said. “Since you are awake you may as well grab your things and join us,” she added.

“Of course sister,” Clara said while she complied.

Clara could see that while Sister Agnes wore a smile there was authority in her words. Given how she was directing Clara directly that woman was likely also the senior. Things were certainly going to get interesting.

“Now child. There are a few rules you need to know before we take you in,” Sister Agnes said.

Before any more words were exchanged both of the nuns looked behind Clara. Clara tuned to find a young man walking towards them, his black clothes and white collar a clue to his vocation. The man appeared to be overjoyed to see her, although she could not fathom as to why.

“Sisters,” he said while holding his gaze onto the new arrival. “Clara Grey is it,” he asked.

Clara looked flummoxed, she had not expected to be noticed or at least this soon. One quick glance from Sister Agnes and Maria told her this went against normal procedure.

“Yes Father,” Clara replied.

Sister Agnes attempted to bring some decorum by saying, “Father Michael I was just—

“Thank you Sister,” Father Michael said. “Just wanted the opportunity to see miss Grey before she got settled,” he added.

The priest winked at Clara then walked away. Clara could tell that the nuns were irritated, although it was amusing to see Sister Maria be on the verge of losing her composure. Perhaps this place would be more entertaining than she had initially been led to believe.

First Blood – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara was waiting on the platform with Sister Maria, while she may have had the same name as her sister the similarities ended there. This was a stern woman who had lived through hard times and Clara could guess where the conversation would lead once they left.

Clara was anxious, a maelstrom of emotions lay just beneath her calm exterior. A lot had taken place since her mother had been laid to rest; the chaos that invariably followed when a family’s anchor is lost.

A glowing light approached in the distance. At first it was as bright as a star and slowly it grew in intensity until Clara had to avert her gaze. The ground began to tremble and yet no one was worried, for them this was routine, mundane, certainly nothing out of the ordinary to have a mechanical mammoth barrelling towards them.

Clara was startled when Sister Maria pulled her back from the edge of the platform just as the whistle screamed out into the night. This particular train was been an express and had no intention of making a stop at this nondescript outpost.

Clara sighed, disappointed that her great journey was still on hold. In the distance she saw a small group headed their way over the boardwalk. Until that moment they had been the only ones waiting for their train.

Once their faces were illuminated by the light, Clara’s eyes brightened and she ran towards them. She jumped into Maria’s arms embracing her sister with all her might. It felt good to feel wanted and loved.

When Clara turned to Ada she noticed the family elder was holding onto a young man’s hand. She had seen him before, the son of a miner who had likely reached the age where he too would be going deep beneath the surface.

It took a brave (or desperate) man to go deep under the ocean floor to collect coal. To breath in that dust and not see the light of day for twelve hours a day, all the while surrounded by other men and dwarvish horses. Clara hoped he would at least be spared her father’s fate.

“Couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye,” Ada said a moment before she kissed Clara on the forehead.

“My train won’t be here until the morning,” Maria said as her voice trailed off.

Clara nodded, trying to keep from crying, although she found the stern gaze from Sister Maria did much to help. Originally Eva and Maria were supposed to head out together.

The Church had lined up work in a laundry for the elder sisters, while Clara would attend a school somewhere else. Now it was clear that they would each walk their own path.

“Congratulations,” Clara said while looking at both Ada and her beau.

It seemed a sensible thing to say, even though she could not bring herself to smile. She wanted to stay with her sisters, but they were too old to attend this school. Now it seemed that Ada would soon be wed, which effectively douse any flames of hope in Clara’s heart.

Ada keeled down to look Clara in the eye. It was hard to keep this moment from devolving into a shower of tears. They all knew what this moment meant for the rest of them.

“Thank you Clara,” Ada said. She then hugged Clara before adding, “Don’t forget to write.”

Another train came in from the distance, mimicking the actions of its predecessor except that this one slowed with a long deliberate squeal.
Clara even felt the rush of steam as the locomotive stopped by the cistern. There the engine would fill her boilers with enough water as continue on with their journey.

“Miss Grey,” Sister Maria said from a distance.

It seemed that this fond farewell would have to be cut short. The nun had no intention of boarding late so the girls could have some closure. A shame really, but Clara knew that this moment would be cherished for years to come.

“I have to go,” Clara said.

Her eyes welled up and a single tear streamed across her left cheek. This was going to be far harder than she had hoped.

“We will miss you,” her sisters said in unison.

“You’ll come and visit some day,” Clara asked.

Both her sisters nodded before they individually gave her a big hug. All three sensed it, but none would ever say it; this was the last time they would be together. For Clara this also became the last time she would see her sisters.

“Come now,” Sister Maria said with a hint of inevitability oozing from every word.

Her sisters gave the nun a dirty look and Clara concealed a giggle. She then ran down to the platform, grabbed her tattered suitcase filled with worn clothes and boarded the train.

By the time they were seated and Clara had noticed her sisters were already gone. That’s when the tears began to stream, not that she would gain any sympathy from Sister Maria.

Bring out the Dead – Part VI

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara woke up with warm glow of the sun warming her face. As her eyes fluttered open she saw the familiar settings of her room. She looked to her side and noticed that Ada and Maria we already up and about.

They were bound to be cross with her sleeping through part of the day. After all, every waking moment counted when it came to getting their chores done.

Clara sprung out from the bed and noticed that she had a new nightgown. It was one of Maria’s and hung loosely from her frame. She furrowed her brow trying to remember if she had worn it last night.

Sounds below got her attention, so Clara quickly got dressed then ran down the stairs and leapt over the second step. Clara expected to find her sister’s hard at work making breakfast or busy with this morning’s laundry; instead what she found surprised her.

Her sisters were sitting around the table filled with food. Clara could not help but salivate at the thought of all that scrumptious food being ripe for the picking. So what was the occasion?

Ada looked up when Clara landed on the first step. Her eyes and cheeks were red from crying and Maria was avoiding making eye contact. Clara thought it over for a moment and realised she had seen this once before.

“Where is mum,” Clara asked although she could guess the answer.

Maria began to sob uncontrollably at the mention of their mother which confirmed Clara’s worst fears. She must have passed in the night and sought to spare her feelings.

Ada swallowed hard, trying to steel her resolve before she could reply, “Mum passed away last night.”

Knowing the truth and having it confirmed were two separate matters. Those words hit her much harder than Clara had expected and reacted the same way her mother had when papa died.

Ada swooped in to console her, taking the weeping Clara into her arms. Her sister held her tight even as Clara shook violently from the sobs.

“There, there,” Ada said in a soothing voice. “It will be alright,” she added.
Alas for Clara no one was home. How could God see fit to take both her parents away?

* * * *

“What do you have to report Father,” said the man wearing a red cap with red accents on his frock.

There was an aura of authority surrounding the man, even if the bulk of his life had been spent serving the will of God. Opposing him sat a man in priestly garbs who had no distinctive features; a desirable feature for those of his particular calling.

“Your eminence,” Father Michael said to collect his thoughts.

When one a story this fantastical it proved difficult to convey without appearing insane. Even Father Michael found it difficult to believe and he had been at the scene.

Father Michael said, “I arrived on scene a fortnight ago; called in by the local parish. The local priest led me to a home where I found three found girls and their mother recently passed away.”

Father Michael hesitated for a moment before adding, “The youngest of the three had been found hours before asleep on the floor with a knife. The blade had caked in a green liquid that was also found covering the walls, floor and bed.”

“Green you say,” the Cardinal asked.

“Correct your Eminence,” Father Michael said in reply. “I will get back to this in a moment,” he added.

“Very good. Carry on,” the Cardinal said.

Father Michael added, “There was a path leading out of the room through the opened window. Some of the locals had gone out to find whatever had escaped the scene. Their bloodhounds found Father Andrews a couple of miles into the forest.”

Father Michael had no interest in mentioning the particularly gory details. How the eyes had been gouged out, nor mention the multiple stab wounds on the face and neck. It was a altogether disturbing scene to witness.

“Father Andrews has been dead for close to a decade now,” the Cardinal stayed in a neutral tone.

“Correct Your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Closer inspection showed that the face was nothing more than a mask fashioned from the skin of the parishes former priest,” he added.

Before the Cardinal could comment further Father Michael delved into the situation in greater detail. He wanted to get this out in the open so they could move onto the concerns of the living.

“It was a ghoul,” Father Michael said. “They feed on the narcotic flesh of the dead. People have a natural aversion to them and make excuses for the havoc they cause.”

“So this child attacked this creature,” His Eminence asked.

“Somehow she saw through its deceptions and was able to defend herself before she passed out,” Father Michael said.

“Passed out,” the Cardinal asked.

Father Michael nodded, happy that the subject was slowly going where he wanted. A dead ghoul meant the matter was closed, now there were three young girls who needed to be looked after.

“Yes, your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Their eyes have a certain hypnotic quality which lead to memory loss. When the child awoke she was unaware of anything that took place. She could not recall having dreamed.”

The Cardinal seemed to be deep in thought. The myriad of Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals he encountered on these missions rarely accepted a world which differed from scripture. This one seemed more accommodating to this truth as though this had not been his first time.

“What about the girls,” the Cardinal asked.

Father Michael sighed before replying, “They have no known living relatives. I was hoping that Your Eminence would see fit to make them wards of the church.”

Specifically he was interested in the youngest child. Anyone who could see past the veil and do so without panic had potential. The fact she had also destroyed one of these abominations further peaked his interest.

“I will see to it that they are appropriately placed,” His Eminence said.

“If Your Eminence would indulge me, I would be more than willing to arrange for their placements,” Father Michael said.

The Cardinal stared at Father Michael for a good long time. The man was not stupid and knew there was an ulterior motive to his eagerness.

“See to it,” the Cardinal said.

“Right away,” Father Michael said before letting himself out.

Bring out the Dead – Part III

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara often felt a rush when proven right. Tonight two of her fears were proven correct, but this time all it did was make her worry.

It seemed that the fruit of victory could be just as bitter as it was sweet. Unfortunately that bitter taste in her mouth would not settle until it travelled the pit of her stomach.

Now was not the time to worry or cower. Action was called for and Clara had it in her mind that hiding under the bed would prove to be advantageous.

Before the moon rose over the tree line Clara had stashed away a kitchen knife under her mother’s bed. Over the last few days her mother’s mental state had severely deteriorated; so Clara could have hidden a suit of armour, horse and squire under the bed without arousing suspicion.

Her sisters would have normally been a concern and would have said something if she had walked by with an axe. However, that type of weapon would need space for a swing and anything that thin had to move with finesse.

Since that man had left without putting much opposition she assumed it would not put up with any real opposition. Tonight she would be putting her theory to practice and wondered how it would play out.

Under the bed she hid in a dark room with nothing more than the silvery moonlight to illuminate the room. Just above, her mother breathed laborious, oblivious to the threat lurking outside.

Once the moon had travelled to the top of the window she heard a sound downstairs. At first, she thought her mind was playing tricks on her. Ada’s ghost stories late at night certainly did little to help.

However, through her jumbled thoughts she visualized the bolt catch being slid back. A moment later the door opened slowly causing a long creaking sound to echo throughout the home.

Clara waited and sure enough a soft thump was heard going up the stairs. One thump, two thumps, a squeak followed by a pause then a third thump. Their visitor had no trouble at all finding their way through this house.

As the steps approached mother’s bedroom they paused just out the door. Like earlier Clara heard the creature smell the air followed by a series of smacking lips. She swore she could hear it drool but doubt remained about this being real.

Clara opened her eyes and noticed two shadows under the door. The other side of the door seemed to be aglow in a vastly light. So powerful was the light, that it spilled into the room. This worsened once the door was cracked open.

Being basked in a hellish light, filled Clara with an intense desire desire to run out of the room. She fought the urge knowing that would be foolhardy. Instead she chose to hold her breath as the silhouette pushed deeper into the room.
Once at the foot of her bed she could smell it. The creature reeked of dirt and rotten meat. Why had she not sensed this before?

Clara gripped the wooden handle of the knife while she shifting her weight to prepare for an attack. Clara knew what this creature sought, it sensed how close her mother was to death and desired to feast on her decaying flesh.

Unfortunately the shift caused the floorboard beneath to creak. For a moment there was silence, it was as though time had stopped even as her mind raced. Was it aware of her presence? What should she do?

Quick as a flash Clara was greeted by long sharp teeth, a long thin nose and those glowing red eyes. In that moment she realised that those eyes had been the source of the hellish hue painting the room.

Clara could not help but stare into those glowing balls of fiery inferno. That was when the world faded to black.

Bring out the Dead – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Two years after the incident Clara’s life had gained a bit of normalcy. At least, as much as could be realistically expected when living in a company town when the family’s breadwinner and company employee had died.

Clara remembered how the company men had come to evict them shortly after the funeral. The townspeople had steeled their support and forced the company to relent. She never learned that those who had led this coup had been beaten to within an inch of their lives the week after.

Without their father the entire family had to work. Clara and her sisters spent the bulk of their days doing laundry for the neighbours. On occasion they would take random jobs from anyone in the town who could still afford to eat themselves after the work was done.

Her mother helped as best she could, seeing that her children were fed and clothed even if it meant more hand-me-downs. Come shift change, men would show to the door with their faces covered in coal dust asking if her mother was free.

Ada and Maria were clearly distressed by the processions of men coming in and out of the home. Clara was not certain as to why. Nor did she understand how the bed rattled upstairs.

Despite her inability to attend school with the repetitive and monotonous work Clara was quite happy. She rarely lingered on that night nor did she remember what had been seen or heard.

Children had an incredible ability to recover from trauma. The events of that day were dream like, distant, and none remained of the most traumatic events from that night.

Now if only her mother would get better. It seemed innocent at first. It began innocently enough as a sore throat, then came fever and headaches followed by a vile rash.

Times were lean that month for the kids. They had to work twice as hard doing laundry while Anna cleaned houses to get some food on the table. Nonetheless their mother got better and things returned to normal for a year or so.

Then her mind began to go, starting with her balance. It was one thing to see one’s father slowly succumbing to whatever was eating away at his lungs. At least his wit remained sharp until the day he died.

It was another matter entirely to see someone lose not only their ability to take care of themselves but also shed their core identity. This had been hardest on the children and haunted Clara well into her adult life.

Eventually the deformities came as a series of bumps which changed her appearance until she was unrecognizable. Eventually these deformities formed near the surface of her skin creating a purifying ulcer. Clara could not help but turn away when she was called up by their mother.

No matter how bad it got, some of the miners would still find their way to her door. Helmet in hand, they would ask to see their mother and showed disappointment once they found out the news.

In the back of her mind, Clara hoped that whatever afflicted her mother turned out to be catching. That would have been the only way to stem the tide of eternal visitors, especially this last one.

The last vestiges of sunlight could be seen from the side window when there came a knock at the door. Since her sisters were busy making supper, Clara was the one to answer.

She took a quick glance through the window and found a tall slender man whose proportions seemed off since he had the figure of a ferret or even a slithering snake. Clara could have sworn that his eyes were glowing like dark embers in the fire.

If it were not for the dark clothes, hat and distinctive white collar she would have refused to open the door. Her parents had always been clear that one of the clergy should always be trusted. So what could possibly go wrong?

“Hello Clara,” the priest asked as soon as the door swung open.

“Good evening,” Clara said in reply. She then thought it best to add, “Father.”

All the while Clara wondered how this man knew her name. At least his eyes were no longer glowing, although they were black as coal.

“Is your mother at home,” he asked.

Now that question came as a bit of a shock for Clara. This was a man of the cloth, not a tired miner. Still there was something peculiar about him and the whole affair felt off.

“No,” she said without elaborating.

“Really,” he asked while sniffing the air.

Clara merely nodded, in the distance she could hear her two sisters working in the kitchen. Why was he smelling the air? For whatever reason that seemed sufficient to confirm she was fibbing.

“Are you sure,” he asked.

Clara looked him right in the eyes and said, “Of course.” There was a momentary pause before she added, “She left a few moments ago to attend evening mass.”

Normally such a flagrant lie should have been discovered. A priest would have known that evening mass was not for another couple of hours. That being said, priests typically referred to her a child and so far this one had failed to do.

Once more the man smelled the air, raising his long thin nose while doing so. Although it was the reaction afterwards that got her attention; the man smacked his lips which sounded suspiciously like the chewing sound heard years back.

“You would not happen to be lying to me would you,” he asked.

Clara should have lost all composure by this time, but the fact that she had been right invigorated her. She looked right and the man with her steady steel grey eyes.

“Of course not Father,” Clara said. She then looked down towards the kitchen before adding, “We are about to have supper if you’d care to join us.”

This was a gamble, a bet that this man would refuse the offer. Honestly, there would be little enough to eat without the additional mouth to feed, but she assumed his palate was geared for another delicacy.

The man looked towards the kitchen and spotted the shadows of her two sisters. Clear there were others in the house was enough to change his mind.

“Mass you say,” the man said. “I’ll will meet her there,” he added.

“Good night Father,” Clara said in an unflinching tone.

“Good night,” he replied.

The man looked longingly towards her mother’s bedroom and then melted into the darkness. All except for those eyes which had that disturbing glow.

“Who was that,” Maria asked.

Startled by her sister’s question Clara stuttered, “Just a travelling bible salesman.”

Fortunately, she was not questioned further. As Clara closed the door she felt certain that this would not be the last time she would come across this man.