I understand that this is very strange, and it may seem as if it makes very little sense, but each part of the story is connected in some way to another. It's a messed up time line; it's not in chronological order, as you'll realize. It's not meant to be a full, understandable plot. It's meant for you to draw your own conclusions.
I make reference to a poem; "The Garden of Proserpine" by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Just sayin', but reading it could help connect a few things. And I swear, I stole no ideas from Lemony Snicket in using it. ;) I got the idea for "Literatura Szhizophrana" from Danny Elfman's "Serenada Schizophrana", which a fabulous piece of music.
Warnings: The story contains homosexual relationships and moments of cross dressing, but it's nothing entirely explicit.
The room was large, and curiously in the shape of a triangle. An old grandfather clock sat in the center. The walls were entirely shelves of books, and a wide, dark wooden desk sat in front of the clock, a tall leather chair behind it. The girl in the seat was dressed in a tuxedo and a top hat, the biggest book Benjamin had ever seen in front of her. When he got closer, Benjamin realized the pages were blank parchment, and she was holding a quill over the blank page, staring unblinkingly down at the paper, yet not moving.
"Excuse me," he said, his throat feeling suddenly dry. "Who are you? Where am I?"
"I am the writer," she said, the quill poised over the parchment. Its feather was the biggest he'd ever seen, a beautiful peacock feather; the quill fascinated him. "I write things down." She looked up at him expectedly.
"Things?" he asked. "What do you mean by things?"
"Things," she repeated. "Everything. The way it really happens."
"Everything?" he said incredulously.
"Not everything in the world. There is another who writes the things that are bland. But anything else, the things he finds strange, I am to write. I am aloud to turn back the pages, but I may only go forward a page at a time. Anything else would be disastrous."
"Why aren't you writing now?" he said. "Things…they must be happening."
"You would think," she said calmly. "Yet my hand does not move."
"Do you…do you not control your own hand?"
"I do not," she said simply. There was a long silence. All that he could hear was the loud echo of the ticking grandfather clock. Still the writer's hand didn't move.
"If…if you're not…writing at the moment…" Benjamin said finally. She looked up.
"You wish to read of something in your past."
The writer took the book and began to turn the pages back. Finally, she stopped, still no where near the beginning. "Here."
He took the book, his hands shaking. His eyes scanned the page and he started. "How did you know?" he asked, looking up.
"I know who you are, Benjamin" she said. "I wrote your story."
"Wait," he said quietly. "Wait, did you write this…from…did you create it? Or are you simply documenting these things? Did you do this to me?"
"Someone else," she said calmly. "Someone else controls my hand."
"Who?" he asked.
"I have never seen her, or spoken to her. She lives in the highest tower of this castle, and she does not leave the room."
"How…how does she control your hand, then?"
"Magic," she said. "Everything is magic. You should read this story if you want so much to do so. I may have to write quite soon."
"Is this what you want?"
Claudia held out the dress, the red silk dress the color of blood.
"Yes," James whispered, taking it in his arms. "Yes, this." He stroked the silk carefully.
"Are you sure this will work?" she asked him.
"Maybe," he said. "Or maybe not." He did not take his eyes off of the dress.
"That will have to be the best chance," Claudia whispered. "The things I do for you." She handed him the rose in her hands, and whispered, "Je t'aime."
She stood on the top of the cliff, looking far below, where another girl watched the great river race down the mountain. She remembered the words of the girl below her.
"That no life lives forever," she whispered, her voice shaking. "That dead men rise up never. That even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea." She closed her eyes and breathed in the cold, mountain air for the last time, and finally she jumped.
Sadie's face was covered by the slender masque of the masquerade ball, as was everyone else's in the room. The peacock feathers seemed to falling out of the top of her masque, leaving a trail of beautiful feathers behind her as she walked.
"Do you have it?"
Sadie turned to Tyson and nodded. "Now we wait for them."
As if on cue, the room was overwhelmed with whispers and points, and Sadie turned, and she knew it was Claudia in the top hat and tuxedo, the cape and the cane in her hand, and James in the blood red dress. Sadie nodded to Tyson, and he slipped away, the cape swirling behind him.
When Claudia reached her, Sadie slipped the small jeweled box into her hand, and Claudia inspected it closely. She opened it, hidden from the view of the rest of the room, and took out the ring, the golden ring with the most beautiful ruby Sadie had ever seen attached.
"Take it, mon trésor," said Claudia, and she gave it to James.
"Thank you," he said quietly, slipping the ring on his finger.
"Its magic works fast," said Sadie. "Go now." James stood, staring at them, the nerves showing quite clearly on his face.
"You heard Sadie, mon chéri," said Claudia. "Go! Now." He stared at her helplessly. "S'il vous plait," she said pleadingly. He nodded and disappeared into the crowd of swirling capes and skirts and falling peacock feathers.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, their pale pink petals falling gently to the grass and the brick pathway with the moss breaking through its cracks. The breeze was just strong enough.
Emily sat on the bench, her heart pounding, waiting, clutching the parasol, glad that the white gloves could hide the strain of how tightly she held it.
"I see you waited."
She looked up into the Asian girl's eyes, her heart racing, finding it difficult to speak. "Of course I waited, Flora."
"I wasn't sure if you could be trusted."
Emily stood, facing the other girl. "You see that I can be."
The Asian girl reached up to her own neck, unfastening the clasp of her pearl necklace. "I see." Gently she fastened the necklace around Emily's neck. "For you."
Emily's eyes were confused, then suddenly wide open in surprise. Her mouth opened as well, and there was the slightest of a choking gasp, and finally she crumpled to ground, spread across the brick pathway and completely lifeless, the fallen angel. The Asian girl crouched to the ground and took the white silk purse from the dead girl's hand, and out of it she took a small, jeweled box.
"I must take precautions," she said quietly. "I'm quite sorry, darling. I'll be seeing you soon enough." She turned and left, leaving Emily and the deadly necklace behind.
"I'm sorry, Jeremy."
Jeremy had expected it all along, but it still felt horrible. He found that all the time he'd spent preparing and telling himself not to get too close to James, he'd fallen in love with him anyway.
"I didn't mean you any harm," said James. He was standing on the train platform, the same place Jeremy had found him on the night of Halloween, and now it was the same time, the same place, the same orange and red and yellow leaves spiraling down from the trees.
"I know," said Jeremy.
"It's better for us both, really," said James quietly. He was shifting back and forth, looking nervous and guilty and very eager to just get onto the train. "You can return to the sea, Jeremy, I know you've always missed it."
"I know," said Jeremy again, and he wondered why his vocabulary had suddenly dramatically lessened.
"I hope you won't be too upset, Jeremy," said James, and he sounded a little frantic. "I really hope you won't be too upset."
"I'm not upset," said Jeremy, and his voice sounded higher than usual, and he hoped James wouldn't notice. "I'll be fine, James. I wouldn't want you to be unhappy. You were always unhappy."
James nodded, looking even guiltier, and said, "It was never really anything for either of us, was it?"
Jeremy wanted to punch James good in the nose, he wanted to see him bleed, he wanted to see him cry, he wanted to see him in as much pain as possible right then, because how could he say such a thing? But he smiled, very faintly, and said, "Yeah. You're right. It was never anything at all."
James was on the train in only moments, and in only moments Jeremy was watching it disappear, the colorful leaves swirling around the wheels and the sharp contrast to their color that was the cold, steel tracks.
James was small, one of the smallest boys at the orphanage, and Claudia saw that the other boys picked on him. One day, while Claudia sat in her quiet corner as she always did and wrote in a small leatherbound diary she'd apparently been given by her parents (her parents...whomever they may be), she saw the other boys start with James. In Claudia's opinion, they'd pushed him around enough. She smacked her diary shut, the loud noise causing plenty of the orphans to stare, and stomped over to the boys.
"Why are you so cruel to James?" she asked them calmly. They stared at her, surprised. One, the one that seemed to be their leader, scoffed at the intrusion.
"Why not? He's small and he's ugly, we can do as we please with him."
The boy hardly had time to think before Claudia's fist had connected with his nose, and in minutes he was howling with pain. The boys retreated, staring at Claudia in awe and in fear. Beneath her sat James, his eyes wide with admiration and surprise.
"You're welcome," said Claudia, looking down at the small boy.
"Thank you," he whispered gratefully. "Thank you, miss."
She sat at his side, smoothing her skirt and glaring at the rest of the gawking orphans, her gesture quite obviously saying 'there's nothing to see here'. They looked away. She smiled at James.
"James," she said. "I think I'd like to be your friend."
"I believe this tapestry tells stories, Thomas. I believe it tells every story in the world."
Thomas reached towards the tapestry, gently touching the delicate threads. "Flora, what do you mean?" he asked, his voice hushed.
"It is either that or it is used to send messages," said Flora. "Messages from beyond this world."
"And what makes you think this?"
"It is different each time," she said quietly. "And each time, it is something that helps me, or warns me of something, or tells me of something important."
Thomas looked carefully at the tapestry. "Now," he said. "Now it has a jeweled box. And inside is a ring, one with a ruby."
"I can see, Thomas," said Flora. She looked frightened. "Thomas, I cannot find that ring. It has disappeared."
"Well," said Thomas. "Beneath it, there is a river, and beside it a mountain."
"That river," said Flora. "It is stained red. Do you not see?"
"I see." Thomas looked disturbed. "What does it mean?"
"I don't know," whispered Flora, her fingers tracing the red of the river. She lifted her hands away and gasped, for they, too, had been stained red.
"Flora!" said Thomas in horror, because it was no longer a stain, but Flora's own blood dripping from her fingers, and it never stopped.
His lips tasted wonderful, even if the taste of blood still lingered.
"Is this was you want?"
James looked up at William. "Yes."
William let his lips touch James's again, and he thought that this was not what he had pictured his favorite kiss to be like, because James was crumpled on the floor, wearing a dress, and he was bleeding, and the marble floor was cold enough to feel as if they were lying on a pool of ice.
"I have wanted you forever," said James.
William was silent, and he wanted to say he had, too, but he couldn't stand to lie.
"I have wanted you since you came to my bedroom window. I have…but I have only just realized it."
James didn't say anything, but his lips tasted wonderful, even if the taste of blood still lingered.
"I wouldn't get on her bad side," Susan whispered, and Martha turned, her eyebrows raised. Flora gathered her things and left quickly, not looking back. Susan watched her leave.
"I wouldn't get on my bad side, either," said Martha quietly, and she slipped a piece of paper underneath the table and onto Susan's lap. Martha stood and left, the train of her dress trailing behind her.
Susan picked up the paper, opening it slowly, gloved hands shaking. Written on the paper in beautiful calligraphy was "The last quatrain of the eleventh stanza of 'The Garden of Proserpine', by Algernon Charles Swinburne".
Sunlight filtered through the wide windows, making patterns on the wooden floorboards. The breeze blew through the windows and caused the curtains to billow out into the room. Someone was playing the grand piano, beautiful sounds weaving through the air. Sadie was lying on the floor, spread out and letting herself absorb the music, letting herself dream, and letting the half formed dreams fly out the windows and to the beach outside.
"Don't ever stop playing that piano," she mumbled. "It's so beautiful."
The only response was a smooth crescendo in the music, answering her with it's gradual loudness. Sadie smiled to herself. She never wanted to leave this place, this castle, this one room. Even dying did not seem to horrible here, because she'd die with the sound of the notes in her ears.
James felt the sting on his cheek and winced.
"Scum of the earth!"
The man hit him harder this time, instead of a slap a fist to his head, and he fell backwards, his head spinning.
"Look at you!" the blurred shape above James shouted. "Look at your clothes, look at your face! You are disgusting! You're defiling this man!"
"I'm not," James whispered, and the will not to cry was burning his throat.
"Shut up! You don't deserve to talk, filth!" And James felt even more pain than the last time, his head spinning violently, and he coughed hard and painfully.
"Stop it!" William's voice shouted from somewhere in the blackness. "He didn't do anything to me! I wanted what he did to me!" And James wanted to tell William to shut up, he didn't want him to be in pain, too, but he felt his heart swell because William did want it, too. But there was more yelling and cracking and James knew something awful had happened even though he couldn't see.
Colleen opened the music box. Its music was pretty, a haunting kind of pretty. She stared at avidly, watching the tiny figure inside turn. She could not tear her eyes away for the oddest of reasons.
"Pretty, isn't it?" a voice scoffed from behind her. She turned.
"Jeremy, what is this?" she asked.
"That," said Jeremy. "That is my music box. It was a…gift." He laughed a laugh with no humor. "I was very much in love with the one who gave me that music box."
"Oh," Colleen said softly. "What…if you don't mind me asking…Jeremy, what happened to her?"
Jeremy smiled his crooked smile. "He left," he said. "He left for someone much prettier than I."
"Oh, I…I'm sorry…I…I didn't know," said Colleen. "I didn't mean to offend you…"
"It's all right," said Jeremy. "No one would expect it. Not with Captain Jeremy." He gazed off into the distance. "Enough chit chat," he said suddenly. "Start with the organ, we haven't got all day."
"Jeremy…" said Colleen nervously.
"Play the organ for me, miss," Jeremy snapped. "You have seen what happened to last one who stopped."
"Mon amour," Claudia said, placing her hand on James's shoulder. "What is wrong with you?"
James stared, transfixed, at the mirror. "I don't know," he admitted, reaching out and touching the glass.
"You do not like what you see?" she said calmly. James shook his head.
"I'm horrible," he whispered. "I'm horrible and disfigured and ugly. I'm a monster."
"James!" said Claudia. He looked up. Rarely did she call him by his real name. "You are no monster. You're not even ugly, ma belle."
"Don't say that I'm beautiful," said James. "I'm not. If I was, he would love me, Claudia. Instead of…her. If I was a girl, he would love me." James stared even harder at the mirror.
"That isn't true," said Claudia quietly, but she knew she was lying.
"Don't," said James bitterly. "I can tell when you don't believe what you're saying."
"Odder things have happened," said Emily, smoothing the folds of her dress.
"I suppose," said Flora quietly, her fingers tracing shapes on the fogged up window, watching the rain pour down outside, easily crushing the delicate flowers in the window box.
"Benjamin has not yet returned," said Emily quietly. "I know it is the ring that has something to do with it."
"It isn't the ring," Flora sighed. "That ring is nothing but a ruby. It is us who condemn it." Emily reached out with the bottle of champagne, and Flora held out her glass, letting the older girl fill it.
"So," said Emily bitterly. "How, then, has dear William been?"
"Emily," said Flora quietly. "You know I do not love him."
"And you know he does not love you, either. You know that, Flora. You know he loves that odd boy, the confused one."
"He hasn't realized it yet, Emily," said Flora. "And it saves us, you know…from…rumors."
"Rumors," Emily spat. "And you come to my house every day, and you drink my champagne, and you act as if you are my best friend. You are no friend of mine."
"And yet you pour my champagne, and you do not turn me away. Emily, I'm not a fool."
"But I am," said Emily. "I should turn you away."
"Emily, you and I both know it. You never will."
Susan watched the activity around her with cat like eyes. She seemed bored with the goings on, yet watched carefully anyway, her eyes darting back and forth as she delicately clutched the glass of wine in her gloved hand.
"I have a question," she said suddenly.
"Yes?" said Annie, looking over at her companion.
"Those two," she said, gesturing towards two people who had just entered the room. One was a dark haired boy in a suit, looking around nervously. The other was a blonde girl with a long blue dress. She was watching the boy with a look of concern. "They are always together."
"Yes," said Annie, waiting for the question to come.
"She is always calling him pet names," Susan continued. "He seemed unbearably helpless. What is their relationship?"
"It's odd," said Annie. "They're by no means a couple. He isn't…the normal sort, anyway. She more acts as his mother."
"Doesn't he have a mother of his own?"
"No," said Annie. "He's very…mysterious. He virtually has no past. No family, no parents, no childhood. I'm sure she knows. That's probably part of why they're always together."
"I'd like to find out about his past," said Susan curiously.
"You like to know everything, Susan," said Annie calmly. "But I wouldn't try and find out much about him. It would be far too dangerous. They're…the both of them, they're…strange."
"I can tell," said Susan impatiently.
"It wouldn't do you any good to be mixed up with gender confused boys and…and witches," said Annie sharply.
"Witches?" said Susan, interested. "That girl is a witch?"
"Well," said Annie uncomfortably. "I wouldn't be surprised."
"What else do you know?" asked Susan.
"Nothing," said Annie. "I told you. No one knows much about either of them."
Sadie burst through the doors, her dress blowing behind her as strong, cold gusts of wind whipped through the room. The room itself was totally in contrast to the last time she'd seen it. The weather outside was terrible, thunder crashing and lightning flashing across the sky. The windows were wide open, rain pouring into the wide windows and staining the wooden floor, nearly ripping the curtains off of the curtain rods.
"Stop!" Sadie cried, even though she knew the weather would not stop no matter how much she yelled. She didn't want the piano to be ruined, even if he who had played it was gone. She ran up to it against the strength of the wind, her hair flying into her face, and used all of her strength to shut the lid over the keys. A particularly strong gust of wind blew through the windows, causing her to gasp and be pushed to the side. She ran behind the piano and collapsed onto the ground, rain pouring down on her as if it was raining inside, wind hopelessly tangling her hair and her dress around her legs. She laid there and cried for longer than she thought was possible, and the rain and the wind and the stormy weather never stopped.
William flicked the great purple cloth with the golden stars off of the cage, and there was a smattering of applause. Within the cage was a magnificent white tiger, watching the crowd with curious eyes. James thought the tiger was beautiful. He paid little attention to the man in the purple coat and mask and gloves.
"I'm going to make the tiger disappear," William said loudly, and there were a couple of laughs. Claudia, however, watched with wide eyes. James was glad he'd brought her.
"It's a beautiful tiger, isn't it, James?" she asked.
"Yes," James agreed.
William snapped his fingers, and quite suddenly, there was a puff of purple smoke, and the tiger was gone. There were gasps and loud applause, and Claudia had probably gasped louder than the rest of them. When the smoke cleared, James got his first good look at the magician; the man had finally removed the slender mask that had covered his eyes. James thought he had lost his ability to breath. This magician was much more beautiful than anything that he'd been looking at that night, or perhaps in his life.
"How did you do that?" Claudia asked with admiration.
"Magic," William said, winking. "Everything is magic." James wanted to say something to him, to have a conversation with this beautiful man, but he couldn't speak, and he felt horribly inferior. He just stared at the man as he walked away.
"James," said Claudia. She giggled. "James, you're staring."
"I know," James said breathlessly, and he realized then that he'd been holding his breath.
"He's very handsome," Claudia observed. "You couldn't really see it with that mask on his face."
"He's beautiful," said James quietly, blushing vividly upon realizing what he'd said.
Martha was standing over Susan, Mary and Esther at her side, their smiles taunting Susan with the fact she had not ever listened to advice. "We're not going to kill you," said Martha. Susan didn't believe her. "We don't kill people," Martha continued, almost lazily.
"What do you mean?" Susan asked. "How can so blatantly lie to me? I have watched you kill so many people." She squeezed her eyes shut. "You killed Tyson, you killed him all because of a piano."
"We didn't kill him," said Mary. "He killed himself."
"And you drove him to!" Susan shouted. "It's more or less the same!"
"It's nowhere near the same, dearest," said Esther.
It was raining harder than James had ever felt, and he felt like he was drowning, standing there shivering in the garden, raindrops dripping down his hair and his face, blinking rapidly, his clothes soaked through.
"Why are you standing outside in the rain?"
James squinted through the silver sheets, and suddenly his heart was racing faster, because it was William standing there, equally soaking wet and looking concerned.
"Why are you?" James croaked, hugging himself and shivering violently.
William didn't answer just yet, but he ended up very close to James. He wrapped his arms around the shivering boy. "I was looking for you." James' heart was hammering.
"Why? You haven't spoken to me since they took you away, William. And now you're back and you're acting like nothing happened. You can't do that."
"You ran away," said William, ignoring James. "Why did you come to Emily's garden?"
"I...I don't know."
And quite suddenly, William was kissing him, for the first time in so long, and James felt his knees buckle underneath him, but he didn't mind at all, because they could talk about this later.
Sadie sat and stared intently at the grave, her face stained with tears. She was gripping a violin, one she hadn't taken out in years.
"You played music for me," she said, touching the top of the grave tenderly. "I can play for you now. I hope you'll be proud."
She lifted the bow to the strings and played a song she had learned very long ago, one that reminded her of sun filled rooms and roses and dances and dangerous jewelry and poetry and rivers and magic and accidents and boys in dresses.
"Things here," said Benjamin, paging through the book in fascination. "They don't seem to have an order. Do you not write them in order?"
The writer looked up at him. "I write them where she tells me to."
"It's…it's so confusing," Benjamin said quietly.
"It is not truly meant for mortal eyes," said the writer, nodding and taking the book from his hands. "If you will excuse me." She dipped her peacock feather quill in the jeweled bottle of ink, and began to write more.