Neville 9. Consequences

The blades of grass came up along her legs, tickling her as she sat in the open field behind their house. Picking a dandelion, she twirled the stem between her fingers, watching the vibrant flower spin.

Lying back, she tucked her hands behind her head and looked up at the clear blue sky. Fluffy white clouds slowly made their way across like ships on the sea.

Viola had been out here since breakfast. Her mother had given her very direct orders. She was to stay outside and not bother her or her father today. The doctor would be around after lunch to see her dad and she had enough to deal with. Her mother thought whatever had been ailing Viola’s father was also what seemed to be making baby Edward seem ‘not himself’. She didn’t want Viola in the house where she could catch whatever it was.

So she was here, lying in the grass wishing she had been aboard one of those fluffy white ships in the sky. Anywhere would be better than here, she told herself.

Anywhere Neville wasn’t,

Her head was still sore from yesterday. After passing out, she had awoken this morning in her bed. Her clothes had been changed and she had been carefully tucked in. She wondered what her mother must have thought, finding her there on the floor.

Unconscious.

Sleeping to an unsuspecting mother.

Relief had poured over her when she had awoken this morning. She had missed the night. She hadn’t had to lay awake, wondering what Neville was doing in the shadows, or if he was even there at all. Instead, she had greeted the morning.

Letting out a sigh, she rolled onto her stomach and parted the grass. Peering into the dirt below, she watched as the ants scurried quickly past the strip of sunlight she was allowing them.

Boredom was beginning to set in, she realized. Pushing herself up, she decided to go for a walk. Stretch out her legs before she went in for lunch.

Walking into the woods behind her house, she instantly felt the cool breeze that lived in the shade. Kicking at small rocks, she bent down and scooped up a stick and swung it carelessly through the air.

Outside, her troubles seemed to ebb away. Away from her room and in the light of the day, Neville seemed like a bad thought and nothing more. She was free of him here.

Doubling over, she kept her face level with the ground as she walked. She wasn’t sure yet what she was looking for, only that she was looking. Skinny branches brushed against her as she walked, no one tended to the paths out here, not really. Her father had had attempted it years ago, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Viola was the only one who played out here, and she preferred it grown out. She felt like an explorer walking through the Amazon… or somewhere else she would decide that day.

Pushing a branch absentmindedly from her face, she continued with her nose practically to the ground.

Something heavy pressed against her forehead and she shoved it. It swung back and hit her with force in the same spot it had pressed before.

Groaning, she straightened to look at what was blocking her path.

Eyes wide, she stumbled, falling back to the ground. Scurrying away she screamed.

Her scream was like a siren.

The screen door could be heard swinging open on the porch, feet hurrying towards her as she sat there, screaming. She was unable  to stop.

Her mom was beside her, looking down at her. Her hands ran frantically over Viola, trying to feel any breaks or wounds. “Viola!” She shook her, trying to stop the screaming. “What? What is it?”

When she didn’t answer, her mother followed her terrified eyes.

Clasping her hand over Viola’s eyes, she scooped her up and hurried her back to the house.

Lifting the phone, her mom foaled a number before covered Viola’s ears with her hands and talking, frantically to whomever she had called. Despite her soft smile as she looked at Viola, her eyes were filling with tears.

They sat together waiting when her mother hung up. Huddled together on the couch, her mother spoke softly to her but she couldn’t hear anything.

All she could hear was a slow creaking.

The slow creaking of a taunt rope swinging slightly as it held the weight of her father, dangling lifelessly from the tree above. His eyes were wide and bloodshot as they stared down at her.

On his face, the most bloodcurdling smile.

Neville 8. Sinister

A thousand whispers filled every space of the house as Viola made her way up the stairs close behind her mother. It was deafening, she kept her eyes on her mother waiting for her to react to it all, waiting for her to ask her if she heard them too.

Instead she walked across the hall at the top of the stairs and into her parents room. She looked around for Viola’s father.

Brow raised, she turned and went into Edward’s room. Placing him in his crib, she left the room and walked back towards her own, all the while Viola was glued to the back of her heels.

“Viola,” her mother turned back to her, pausing before stepping into her bedroom. “Go on to your room while I check on your father.”

“But-”

“Viola!” Her mother’s patience was wearing thin. “Go on.”

Turning, Viola slowly walked to her room hoping she would be called back before she reached it. She wasn’t, and as she look back over her shoulder, she was given a stern look from her mother that forced her through the door.

Letting out a long breath, she wondered if Neville was upset with her. Her mother may not believe her, but she knew it wasn’t her father banging around up here. She had heard where the steps came from, felt where they went.

Standing with her back to the door, she looked around her bedroom. “Neville?” Her voice was hoarse as she said his name, suddenly afraid. “What are you doing up here?”

The silence made all the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end and her stomach flip.

She didn’t move from her place by the door, her open palms pressing up against the wood.

“The more intriguing question, dear Viola, is what were you doing down there? It seems suddenly your truest friend has become someone you’d rather get rid of.” His voice was smooth like silk, but she felt like he whipped her with his words, each one maker her more and more afraid.

Swallowing hard, she wondered what she should tell him. From the moment she met him he had seemed able to pull her words right out of her head before she even had a chance to speak them. Her heart beat hard at the thought that Neville may already know she was afraid, know she no longer wanted to hear his stories or play pretend.

“What had been your plan? I wonder. Telling your mother I was the one behind your father’s curious behaviour. Had she believed you, what then? Tell me, Viola. Dear friend. What then?”

His voice made her brow furrow and her throats close up. He spoke slowly to her, yet with this urgency. His voice boomed even though it was merely a whisper and all his sentences seemed to fall away, echoing.

Never before had his words so thoroughly chilled her, never had his presence felt so ominous.

Fear weighed on her, blurring her thoughts. “I… I just want things to go back to normal.”

“Normal.” He hissed the words. “Perhaps they will. After we finish our game.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to play anymore.” She told him.

“You promised.” The whispers surrounded her and she covered her ears, sinking down to the floor.

“Neville, stop it.”

“Viola… you are going to break your word.” There was a pounding on the ground. It was constant, getting louder and louder with every passing second.

Her eyes fogged over as she felt completely helpless. “Stop it Neville, please!”

Her words echoed back to her, all the whispers mocking her.

Play pretend, they sang to her. Play pretend. Over and over.

“No.”

Pain erupted in her ankles as she was dragged under her bed and into the darkness. Pulled away from the door, her head smacked off the floor and for a moment darkness danced before her eyes. Her ears rang, no longer able to hear the whispers as she blinked past the stars and looked up at the shadowy figure above her. His Darin hands clasped over her mouth as his shining eyes looked down at her. “So you don’t want to play? Fine. Do not think your insolence comes without consequence. You gave me your word. Your greedy promise. You got what you wanted. Stories, stories, stories and now… nothing for Neville. It doesn’t seem fair. No. I should show you the weight of your consequences.”

Viola slid across the floor out from under the bed. Neville had shoved her with such force, she slammed up against the wall and lost her breath.

His words danced around her throbbing head, filling her with new fear. Gasping, she pushed herself to her hands and knees. “Neville,” she coughed. “What consequences?”

His laughter was like someone trying to start a chainsaw, halting and alarming. “You’ll see.”

Silence surrounded her so suddenly she felt like she would collapse into tears of relief. The whispers were gone, the constant banging, all she was left with was the throbbing in her head which kept time with the heavy, panicked beating of her heart.

Neville had scared her, and not like he usually startled her for good fun. This was different.

Sinister, she thought of the word he so often used to describe the entity in his story.

How often had he called her foolish? Maybe she was. He had called her foolish just so often as he had suggested he was the sinister being from the story.

Why hadn’t she listened?

Collapsing on the floor, she curled into herself.

Neville had been her only friend. Could she have done anything that would have her anywhere else but where she was now? Was there something she could have done earlier, that would have kept their friendship as it was? Instead of this daunting thing that she felt trapped in?

Her mother didn’t even believe Neville existed, she would never believe her now.

Her head was throbbing, the floor around her swaying.

Closing her eyes, Viola fell into darkness.

Neville 7. In the Story

Her house was no longer a home.

Sitting at the breakfast table, she looked around at the people who had once been her family but now seemed like strangers. Her father stared down into his bowl of oatmeal with this look of blank focus, baby Edward sat with empty eyes opening his mouth when coaxed by the cream of wheat filled spoon her mother held. Her mother looked at the baby, eyebrow raised.

She must know something isn’t right, Viola thought.

“Mom,” She wondered if she should say something, if she should tell her mother about Neville and their game of pretend. Other times when she had told her mom about her friend, she had been chastised, told she had to make more friends, go outside more. Her mother didn’t believe Neville was real.

Even now, with all the odd happenings going on, there was no guarantee her mother would believe her.

Her father dropped his spoon. The stainless steel spoon clanging off the top of the table made Viola and her mother jump, their eyes whipping over to look at him.

“Honey,” Her mother reached out a hand and covered his with it. “Maybe you should go on back to bed. You don’t look well.” She told him.

He said nothing, just sat there staring blankly into his bowl.

Forcing a smile at Viola, who watched on with anxious eyes, her mother pushed back her chair and began gathering up her father. “Viola dear, you watch baby Edward while I get your father back to bed.”

Nodding, she watched them. Her father’s steps were unnaturally halted, like his joints were all frozen and each step broke off splintered pieces of ice. Her mother whispered to him as she led him out of the room.

Shifting her chair closer to her brother, she reached out and touched a hand to his head. He felt normal, but looking at him she knew he wasn’t. There was no giggling, no string of drool hanging out of the corner of his mouth, no banging of his plate on his tray, no throwing of his cup.

This was a ghost of who her brother once was.

And her father…

Viola pulled her hand away when her mother came back into the kitchen and sat down. Despite everything, her face was void of concern.

“Mother,”

“Yes dear.” She answered absently as she shovelled more food into Edward’s mouth.

“What do you suppose is wrong with father?” She asked her, more paving the way for the conversation she hoped to have about Neville than really searching for an answer.

Her mother let out a breath. “You know your father, Viola dear. He just works too hard.”

“I don’t think that’s it.”

Eyes wide, her mother waited for her to elaborate.

“You see,” She began. “I have a friend who is always telling me stories. The stories are always about the same thing. A little girl who likes stories. That is what makes them so intriguing… because I am a little girl who likes stories and she…” She stopped, realizing she was getting off track. “In the story, something happens to her family because she does a bad thing.” Viola was ashamed to look at her mother.

Letting out a sigh, her mother put down the spoon she was using to feed baby Edward and looked at her. “And what bad thing does this little girl do?”

Brows creased, she went through the story again in her mind. “She gives him something… something she shouldn’t have given him.”

“Gave who what?” She asked.

“Neville, I think. I think the thing in the story is Neville. The sinister thing. And she gives them her family’s souls.”

Her mother shook her head. “Again with this Neville character. You know Viola, if you spent a little less time in your room you wouldn’t get so caught up in your imagination the way you do. Honestly,” Pulling baby Edward out of his high chair, she carried him out of the kitchen. Pausing in the doorway, she looked back at Viola, sitting alone at the table. “I have enough to deal with around him without adding your imagination to it all.”

“It’s not my imagination.”

“Stop it Viola.”

“It’s not!”

“Viola,” She warned.

“Neville is real!

A bang upstairs had them both jumping. Their eyes were locked onto the ceiling as head thuds made their way across the floors upstairs.

Viola’s bedroom door slammed shut and all the butterflies were set loose in her belly.

“What was that?” Her mother shifted Edward’s weight on her hip.

Eyes wide, she wondered if she had broken a rule. “It’s Neville.”

 

 

I Am An Island

The wind was harsh at her back.

Each gust felt like it contained a hundred tiny needles that dove deep into every inch of skin. They pierced her, forming the back of her tattered hospital gown to her back and her legs.

The wind rushed up at her as she stood at the edge of the cliff while the waves crashed angrily against the rocks below. Shifting slightly closer, she taunted Death as her toes curled over the edge, bit of dirt and debris flaking off and falling into the hungry sea below.

Her matted hair flowed down her back, matted strands whipping wildly around her face as the wind attempted to use its force to tilt her that mere inch over the edge.

She stood firm, unsure why really.

It would be easier to close her eyes, open her arms up to the wind and let herself fall. The wind could whip at her, punishing her for all her wrongs as she fell forever. The jagged rocks would come up to meet her, the waves covering them for instances before pulling back into the sea.

So many nights she had found herself here, standing on the edge, looking down.

Her heart ached, longing for the cold arms of Death to embrace her. It had been far too long since she had been able to curl into someone arms, feel someone reaching out for her showing any signs of longing.

A thick tear escaped her eye before she clamped it shut, trying to picture the last person who had shown her any kind of kindness, any kind of welcomed companionship.

She couldn’t remember them. They had been stolen with her memories, and her sanity. There must have been someone, once. A single person who had smiled at her and opened their arms, welcoming her in.

There was more than this place. There was more than the cuts on the bottom of her feet, the bruises that trailed up her arms, the lines of anguish between her brows. There had to be.

Would she ever know? The thought kept her up at night, kept her running. It broke her heart in ways she knew would never be repaired, not while she was still here.

A sob caught in her throat, robbing her of breath for a single moment as it hitched and she couldn’t breathe past it.

What was she waiting for?

Looking down at the rocks below, she wondered if they would welcome her. She could imagine the way they would shatter her if she hit them, but had she not endured worse here?

Agony would become her for a moment, before the coolness of the waves numbed her and Death scooped her up, carrying her home coddled into his chest.

Yes!

Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back and opened her arms. She let the sob she was holding in out into the world around her as she leaned slightly forward.

Relief wrapped itself around her heart as the sob drifted away and she felt like she could finally breathe again for the first time in what felt like eternity.

She was falling.

Only for a moment, before forceful hands wrapped around her arms pulling her back. She was lifted off her feet, hoisted into the air as a burlap sack was thrust into her head casting her once again in darkness.

Kicking, she let out a scream as she realized she had once again let her opportunity pass, and she didn’t know how long it would be until she would get another.

“Let me go!” She wailed, and like always, they said nothing.

Thrown hard onto the floor, she scurried away as the familiar sound of a cellar door closing rocked her down to her very soul. Reaching up, she pulled the sack off her head and looked around at the familiar darkness as she became to weep.

“I am this island.” She whispered to herself in the darkness. Pulling her knees up against her chest, she dropped her face and waited.

In the darkness she tried to remember what warmth was, what comfort had felt like. What the world looked like off this island that had become her prison and her eternity.

High Stakes Poker- 3. The Tall Man’s Pot

His soul was as coloured as the paints on his palette. It had been that way for as long as he could remember. When he had been just a boy, barely able to string together the right words to make a sentence, he could already put his paint coloured fingers to paper in a way that was inspiring. 

Each beat of his heart was fuelled by colour, by visions of wonder and blissful creation. He lived for art, he needed it, he was it.

As he grew older his art became him. His work reflected his very soul. Tortured, he wanted the world to appreciate his work. Didn’t they see what he was showing them? Couldn’t they see the canvas was a window into his very being?

The world was blind. They saw beauty in mainstream. They couldn’t appreciate the darkness, the honesty of his brush strokes, the pain in the blending of his colours.

Pouring his soul into his pieces without any of the appreciation or understandings he had yearned for made him bitter. The world was closing in around him, surrounding him was a fog he could barely find his way through. Desperation became him, and defeat held him under the water, smiling as he slowly drowned.

The pain was unbearable. He could feel it down into his very core.

Suffering, he needed something to ease the pain, take the edge off. Drugs became the silence he needed to drown out the misery.

An overdose later, he found himself sitting in the dark. A table before him with smoking cards laid across them. A dark figure lifted a card from the deck. It floated blank between them. “Baptiste Jacques.” His name hung in the air, suddenly ominous to him. “You waste your gifts,”

“Where am I?” He felt uneasy, terror creeping up inside him in a way he had never experienced before.

“Shall we play?” With a wave of his hands, the cards were dealt.

Brow furrowed, Baptiste got to his feet, stepping away from the table and back into the darkness. “No. I don’t want to play. I don’t know how. I don’t play…” His hands rubbed through his short, wiry hair as he tried to calm down, tried to think. “What is this? Am I dead?”

Laughter came from all around him. It was loud and quiet, like it couldn’t be heard in the room around him but boomed inside his head. Bringing his hands up, he clasped his long, slender fingers over his ears and looked around.

Silence came so suddenly, it was daunting.

Leaning back in his chair, the dark figured disappeared completely as he whispered. “Not yet.” The chair slid out, almost colliding with Baptiste. “Come then, sit.”

“What are we playing for?” Baptiste asked.

“What do you think?”

Sinking into his chair, he propped his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. The rules seemed to be swirling around his head, like he had played this game a hundred time, knew all the rules by heart. How could that be? He wondered. He had never picked up a deck of cards in his life.

He already knew what was at stake, what really lay in the table between them. The ante had been paid, the moment the plunger sunk those drugs into his veins. If he won, he would get his life back.

But did he want it?

Without looking at the cards before him, he decided. “I want to be famous.” He said suddenly. “I want everyone in the world to know my art. I want to be the Leonardo da Vinci of my time. I want-“

“You want to raise the stakes.” He laughed. “Marvellous.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat. Baptiste picked up the cards and hoped he was also picking up the pieces of his life.

Good Intentions

She had always been a good person.

Running her forearm along her sweat covered brow, she reached down and pulled the cobblestone into place. “One stone, two stones,” She sang to herself. Her voice was hoarse, melancholy. “Three and four stones.” She laughed maniacally.

She liked to always give people the benefit of the doubt, liked to try and see the good in people. She held her tongue instead of spreading negativity, she liked to tell people they would win even if she believed in the pit of her stomach they wouldn’t.

Her life was not perfect, she had her grey days. Yet, she never let anyone else see them, never let them feel the way she did if she could help it.

Sighing, she groaned as she lifted another heavy cobblestone and pulled it into place above the other.

She was a good person, so much so that she would never have admitted to as much. Now, admitting such things seemed frivolous. She could scream it as loud as she wanted, until her throat felt as though it would bleed. No one would ever hear her.

Not here.

Her life was a chore. She always forced a smile, hugged people she hated. Opened her life to people she would much rather slam the door on.

She was a good person. “Five and six stones…”

Heat burned her cheeks. The hair on the back of her neck matted to her skin, beads of sweat pooled on the top of her lip. The heat was almost unbearable as she crawled over on her hands and knees, pulling another stone into place.

She was paving the way. If she could see where she was now, as the person she had lived as, she would laugh in disbelief.

She had been laying stone for hours, maybe months. She couldn’t tell anymore. Lifting her hands, she looked at her fingers. The tips were blackened, her hands shaking.

Getting to her feet, she swayed as the heat plagued her. Her lids drooped for a moment as she looked down at her work. The cobblestone was already covered in the soot that rained down from the blackness above. Lifting her face, she closed her eyes and let the flakes of soot dot her face.

Opening her eyes, the flames reflected in them as she looked ahead.

“I guess it’s true what they say.” She sighed as her chest heaved. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Neville 6. Strange

Viola snapped awake.

Shooting up in bed, she looked out the window at the night. Stars twinkled in the sky and the half moon lit the neighbourhood with it’s eerie light. 

Her throat was scratchy and itched. 

Throwing her feet to the floor, she stretched her arms above her head and let out a long, slow yawn. Rubbing at the sleep in her eyes, she trudged slowly towards the door, ignoring the sleepy weight to her feet. 

Reaching out blindly, her eyes still half closed, she held onto the bannister as she took slow steps down towards the kitchen. 

Surrounded by shadows, she crept slowly, the thin cotton of her nightgown brushing at her ankles every so often. 

In the kitchen, she paused. 

Hanging her head, she let her hair curtain around her face as she brought her hands up to cover her eyes. Rubbing her face, she tried to rouse herself enough to pour a glass of water.

Sighing, she walked over to the cupboards. On her toes, she opened the cupboard and pulled out a glass. Moving slowly to the fridge, she poured the water and stood there, drinking it in the pale glow of the fridge before closing it and taking what was left of her water with her.

More awake now, she looks at the photos lining the walls as she made her way down the hall and back to the stairs. 

The door to her father’s office moaned as it slowly opened.

Viola’s eyes widened, her shoulders up around her ears as she peered into the darkness. “Daddy?”

Her heart stopped as she slowly pushed the door open. Walking slowly, the water sloshing as the glass shook in her hand, she made her way to her father’s desk and turned on his lamp.

The room was suddenly basking in the soft light. 

Standing behind the desk, she looked around the room. It smelt of books and work. Inhaling deeply, she looked at the tall shelves lined with books, the leather bound chair in the corner by the window. 

Everything seemed to be in place. 

Pursing her lips, she raised her shoulders in a shrug as she let out a breath of relief. 

Reaching out, she decided it was just her mind playing tricks on her and she had better get back to bed. 

The curtain behind her shifted. 

Frozen, all the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.

Her mind screamed at her, telling her to run out of the office, up the stairs and into her room. But she was frozen, unable to get to her bed and under the covers where she would be safe. 

Turning her head slightly, she looked back over her shoulder.

Standing in the corner in his work clothes with his nose pressed into the curtains, was her father. His shoulders were hunched, his body rigid and unnatural. 

Just standing there.

“Daddy?”

Viola didn’t know if she should be relieved. Normally seeing her father in his office was the most natural thing in the world but something about the way he stood there made her heart leap up into her throat.

With her back pressed against the desk, she slowly inched along trying to get a better look at him. 

Tilting her head, she tried to see his face.

It was completely hidden by shadows as it hung pressed to his chest.

“Daddy? Are you alright?” Her voice was a forced whisper.

He said nothing.

Moving slowly away from the desk, she took a few steps to stand beside him. Leaning over, she tried to look up into his face. “Dad-“

“What are you doing in here?” His voice shook through her as he leapt towards her. Dark circles made his blank eyes look ominous as he reached out and grabbed onto the front of her night gown.

Backing up, she screamed as her back his his desk, her water toppling off, the glass shattering on the floor.

Hunched over her, he looked down at her. 

Through her.

“This is my office.” He said flatly. “These are my things… why do you always take things that don’t belong to you, Viola?” His lips curved into a malicious smile as he let out a sinister giggle. “A tie, a tie, a tie.” He murmured under his breath. 

“Viola?” Her mother stepped into the office. Her eyes looked over her husband, the terrified look in Viola’s eyes and the shattered glass on the floor. “Come here.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. Running across the room, she dived into her mother’s arms. 

“Something is wrong with him.” Viola whimpered.

Looking past Viola, she saw the way her husband stood there. He was still looking down at the spot Viola had been, his teeth bared and his face gaunt. “Honey?” 

He said nothing. 

Sweat slicked his brow. Leaning forward he pressed an open palm against his desk and leaning into it. Lifting a shaking hand to his head, he buckled, falling back into his office chair. “I feel like death.” He murmured. Dropping his hands, he looked around his office and then over at us. “What’s going on?” 

My brow furrowed. “Daddy?”

“I think you’re coming down with something.” My mother told him. “Come on back to bed, I’ll ring the doctor in the morning.”

It took him awhile to get up, eventually Viola’s mother crossed the room and helped him, ushering Viola up the stairs in front of them.

Back in her room, Viola slowly climbed in bed.

Something was wrong with her father. He had seemed…

She wasn’t sure. 

Hanging her hand off the edge of the bed, she waited.

Cool fingers clasped around her wrist. Tightly first, before loosening their grip to run long fingernails up and down her arms, tracing lazy circles in her open palm.

“Neville…”

“Yes.”

“Where is baby Edward’s rattle, and my father’s tie?” The question had eaten away at her all the way up the stairs, as she looked back over her shoulder and saw the slicked, confused brow of her father, the worried and wondering lines of her mother’s face.

Since her game of pretend, baby Edward had been odd. Like a piece of him was missing, along with his rattle. The same could be said now, of her father.

“I put them in a safe place.” He replied.

“Maybe we should put them back.”

“No.” His hand closed painfully around her wrist.

Wincing, she tried to jerk her arm free. “Ouch, you’re hurting me.”

“Why must you always be so insolent?” He asked her. “Of all I have given you, of all the countless hours I have spent telling you stories you practically beg for. I have been your friend when there have been none else and all I ask of you is one simple thing.”

Sighing, she waited for him to slowly loosen his grip. She left her arm there, dangling within his reach, despite her new freedom. “I’m sorry.” Her mind went back to the story, and the countless discussions they had in the dark. “Neville.”

“Yes.”

“Are you the sinister creature from the story?” She asked him, remembering him telling her he was.

“Yes.”

Silence filled the air between them.

“Neville?”

“Yes?”

“What does sinister mean?”