Author: WinterIsComing PM
Charlotte has witnessed a murder in her own home. Police and investigators try to find the killer, and she may hold the key to solving this murder and one much older. But there's a problem: Charlotte Mayeaux was murdered in 1920.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Mystery - Words: 2,149 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 3 - Published: 09-03-11 - id: 2949271
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So, this is my first Fictionpress story, and it doubles as my first story told in first-person, so honest critisicm is very appreciated! I own everything except for two lines towards the end. Without further stalling, may I present to you:
I listened to the music echo throughout the house, a haunting wail that had no words. I listened every day when Karina began to sing, even though it was always the same tune. The inarticulate crooning was a constant, and that comforted me. It felt safe, and I never failed to listen. I was good at that, listening. It was what had gotten me killed in the first place.
I sat quietly in my chair on the balcony, watching the moon as it perched among the stars. It was clear tonight, and cool. I remembered how Papa would take us out to the swamp on nights like these and paddle us through the murky water, the moon the only light in our wide world. That was how it seemed to me, at least. They were fun, those nights when Papa wasn't drunk and Mama didn't cry. I sighed and stood, walking back into the house. Those days were long gone, and there was no need to dwell on them.
The house had its own sound, a forbidding silence that rang in your ears until it drove you mad. Maybe that's what happened to old General Lighton, who paced through the house and muttered names like Jackson and Lee and Lincoln, things I didn't know about. He had been here long before me, and it showed in his gaunt skeletal face.
I could see Karina in the parlor, her pretty face stained with tears per usual. Her long blonde hair cascaded to the small of her back in tiny ripples. My own was a murky reddish, and only fell to my shoulders. Autumn girl, my mother had said. Her pretty little girl with autumn-leaf hair. But whenever I looked at it, I could only see the color of dried blood.
The two children ran down the hall, matching silvery-white blurs. "Visitors!" they chirped. "Visitors coming, visitors coming!" Both were rail-thin, and the little girl was covered with blue bruises. I suspected it was starvation that had killed them. She smiled at me as she darted past, stopping for a moment. "Visitors are coming, Miss Charlotte! Real visitors!" Her eyes shined brightly with excitement. "Jack saw them from the front gate, Miss Charlotte. They're coming!" The little girl—Marie, I think—grinned before racing after her brother.
Jack and Marie had been calling the arrival of visitors since 1809.
I walked through the house, smiling and nodding to the others that I knew and some that I didn't. There was Daniel, a gambling man who was constantly rolling his dice along the long dining room table, and Genevieve, who still bled from where the stabbing that had killed her. I tried to slink away when I heard the familiar thumping of boots behind me, but the hand on my shoulder came quickly. "Good evenin', Miss Charlotte," a voice said warmly. "A young lady like you shouldn't be roaming around, not this late at night."
I turned and plastered a smile on my face. Sure enough, it was General Lighton, hollow eyes staring out of a thin face. "Good evening, Monsieur," I said lightly, trying to recall Mama's lessons on courtesy. "How are you doing tonight?" I attempted to get his icy hand off my shoulder, but his grip was stronger than it looked. I warily eyed the musty bayonet at his side.
"Just fine, ma'am." His face turned stern, concern evident in his eyes. "Now, it's dangerous out here, Miss. There's a war going on, and the Yankees could be on us at any moment. Have you seen Derek Bradley anywhere? That rascal has a tendency to run off whenever there's trouble afoot."
My smile became painful. The general was not a bad man, only confused. He had deluded himself into believing life was still with him, a lie that hurt everyone. We were all dead, here in the house. A true beating heart hadn't entered in years. All that was left were us, pale imitations that were laughable in our falseness. I had learned something when the bullet tore through my body: death is just as cruel as life. There's nothing peaceful or merciful about it.
"I haven't seen him, Monsieur, but I will look. I must bid you a good night, general." I walked off, my smile evaporating as I absentmindedly traced the edges of my dress's messy hem. Even with a tailor for a mother, I had never had a talent for sewing. That had annoyed Mama to no end. I walked to my room, my haven away from the other residents of the house.
My room was exactly the same way I had left it. I had been the last resident of the house, although I was hardly the last one to die here. I sat down on the bed that had once been mine and closed my eyes. I could hear the sound of Daniel throwing his dice down the table, a clattering as familiar to me as breathing had once been. My father had been a gambling man, and it had cost the family much.
The room was silent, and I noticed that there was a bit of dust on the picture hanging on the wall. Now that I had...passed, there wasn't much I could do, but I insisted on keeping my room some resemblance of clean. Putting it off until later, I leaned back and rested my head on the pillow, eyes still closed. It was almost like sleeping, one of the many things I couldn't do now that I was dead. I opened my eyes and shook my head, ridding myself of the bittersweet almost-sleep. Those times had passed.
I sat in my room for a long time, listening to Karina's singing as it mingled with the nightly sounds of New Orleans. The Crescent City had changed since my day, but so had everything else in the world, if the newer residents were to be believed. Apparently, people had gone to space, and traveling through the air was possible. Mon dieu, I couldn't imagine!
I probably would have stayed in my room all night if I hadn't heard the noise of the front door being opened, an occurrence so foreign that it was hardly to be believed. My mind flew to little Jack and Marie and their 'visitors'. Perhaps the children had known what they were talking about this time. I patted my pillow once before rising to stand and walking out.
Karina was waiting outside, her teary eyes wide with disbelief. "Charlotte, did you hear that? Someone's in the house! Maybe we're getting a new resident today!" Despite the morbidity of her heavily accented words, the Russian woman's eyes were bright with hope. I knew she had died of a broken heart after her lover died in the war, and she was always hoping that he would return here one day.
I shook my head. "I think they're living, Karina. I'm going to look. Do you want to come?" Mama would have been proud of me then, using the good manners she had taught me. A girl of nineteen should behave like a young lady, she had told me, not like a wild tomboy. I had been nineteen for over ninety years now, and I still heeded those words.
Karina shook her head, her tear-stained face mournful at the idea that it was anyone but her beloved Henry. "No, you go ahead. I will be fine here." She waved me away, and I quickly moved past her and down the hall. I glanced through the house, the once-elegant paintings and curtain shredded or ready to fall apart. What would the living want with a place like this?
The other residents of the house had gathered to catch a glimpse of the living. I could hear Jack and Marie's excited laughter along with the soft murmurings of many others. We were a crowd befitting the enormous house, numbering fifteen in all. Footsteps approached, and all fifteen became silent at once.
It was a woman, I could tell, with hair that was obnoxiously orange and couldn't be natural. She carried something in her hand, a black box of sorts. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but I didn't like it. She was talking to it, and I stepped closer to listen. She wouldn't be able to see me, and that suited me just fine.
"This is the dining room, where the sound of dice rolling is said to be heard," she said, speaking to the black box in her hand. With a start, I realized that she was talking about Daniel. How did she know about us. "Singing also echoes through here at time, a song with no words every night," she continued. "Most of the locals say that it's young Karina Averin's ghost, singing for her lost love."
I bristled at the word "ghost". I hated it more than anything else in the world. It was spiteful, unnatural. It made me sound like I wasn't human, but a strange creature to be studied. I was just as human as this woman was, if not more so. Ghosts were things to be feared, and I was most definitely not a ghost. My dislike for this woman deepened with every word she said.
The woman walked into the parlor and picked up a picture, staring at it instantly. If I had been alive, I would have slapped her there and then. I knew the picture she was looking at, a photograph of my family and myself, one of the two I had left. Mama had used her entire week's savings to pay for that photographer to come. She had no right to touch it.
"Aiden, come here! You have to look at this!" she called, still holding the picture. I could hear footsteps again, and I could feel the eyes of the other residents on the woman and I. It took everything I had to make myself step away from the woman rather than assault her. The footsteps were much closer now.
"Aiden!" she called out again, turning at the sound of the footsteps. "There you are! I thought you would never—" The woman's eyes widened in surprise and fear, and she opened her mouth to scream for someone, although I couldn't have told you who.
A figure in black, tall and lean, flashed out of the shadows. He pressed a gun to her temple, and I closed my eyes when he pulled the trigger. The muffled bang and thump of a body hitting the floor told me enough. When I opened my eyes, both the shadowy man and my photograph were gone, only leaving the woman's body in his wake.
There was complete silence for a moment. It's always like that—the calm before the storm, I suppose you could say. Because after that moment of shocked quiet, all hell broke loose in the house. I could hear dramatic Genevieve's wailing and Karina trying to calm the frightened twins. General Lighton was in a fury, roaring about how monstrous the Yankees were for killing an innocent woman. Only Daniel remained quiet, staring worriedly at the corpse. He looked up and we shared a look of fear. I knew what this meant: more people would come, many more. The most recent residents had been runaways or drunks that no one had searched for. But considering the elegance of the woman's clothes and the wedding ring on her hand, they would search for her.
I looked around, from the tarnished beauty of the house to my long-dead companions to the dead woman. Each of us had entered the house, drawn in by its beauty, and each of us had been killed in it. Unlike the woman, however, none of us were rich, except perhaps Karina. It's been the ruin of many a poor boy, I thought. I closed my eyes, vividly remembering Papa's shouting, the glint off a diamond ring, Alex Moreau's handsome face, and the silence of the moment before the bullets tore through my body. And, God, I know I'm one.
So there's the prologue! This story was heavily inspired on a specific song, although I twisted the meaning a little, and anyone who can guess it gets a cookie. Reviews make the world go 'round!