(A/N): Okay, this is kind of a version 2.0 of this story. I've gone back and worked on it a lot, and while I didn't change much, I did add a few additional sections and worked out a few of the rough spots. I stopped this story a while ago because I felt that I was being too heavily influenced by outside sources, and could hardly think of the story as my own. Waiting a while before opening it up again helped me to distance myself from that and have a new feeling for it. I know it's been forever since I've updated, but I have actually been working on this story behind the scenes and finally have some more to offer. So, for those of you still interested, I present to you once again: The Hallowed.
There was someone standing over her, but she could not see face or feature through the dim haze of her vision. Everything was a blur, as if her eyes were not fully formed, merely gelatinous orbs cradled by her skull. But she was aware of the man's presence. She could see the silhouette of his head drifting slowly in front of faint orange light, but her sense of sight would not oblige her further than this. Neither would her arms lift so that she could reach out and touch him, being locked down by weakness. Who he was, she did not know. He was set apart from her – beyond the grasp of physical and mental comprehension – and that realization made her drowsy.
Before her eyelids settled to rest against one another, she heard him speak from within the fog. His voice was distant, clouded as if it had come to her through a depth of water, and it resonated in her ears.
"It's time to wake up, child. You've had enough sleep."
Gradually, as if straining against the sun, she opened her eyes, but there was no one there to greet her. The room was dim, and she was alone. Her body ached, as if she'd been sleeping with every limb twisted behind her back in a position of restraint. Though she tried to think of a reason for her discomfort, she had no guess as to why she was sore. Groaning, she managed to lift her head, but only had a brief moment to look around the before her heavy, throbbing head fell back down against the feathery pillow behind it.
Where am I? Closing her eyes once again, she began to think about the room she had just glimpsed, trying to link objects to memory, but coming back with no recollection to put herself here.
She tried to visualize the room around her, remembering all she could about it – everything from the walls covered in rose-covered paper to the polished table with the lantern that lit the room dimly. She was lying on a bed that was soft and clean, with sheets of fine linen and a frame of carved wood. There had been a fireplace in front of her, unlit. There was a clock standing to the left of it, each tick making her head throb. The ceiling was what she remembered best, for it was what she had woken up to. It was faultless, and was of dark wood, accentuated with the lines and shapes of the boards running through it. Though she remembered the details of the room, she recognized none of them from before this moment. If her mind was a book, it was filled with blank pages, and only now was she jotting down these observations to be recorded in memory.
I don't know this place, she realized. I'm lost.
Since she recalled none of this – not visuals, smells nor sounds – she began to wonder what she did know, and found that she couldn't even recollect her own name. Nothing about her life before this moment would reveal itself to her, and though she tried, it still refused to surface. She was sure that she must have some history of life, and she wondered why she'd forgotten it.
Who am I? Why don't I know?
A new sensation was surfacing now to accompany her rising panic: she was cold. Her skin was chilled, and prickling bumps rose on her flesh. Though she was lying on a bed, she was not covered by quilts or sheets, and her dress did little to keep her warm. Managing to open her eyes once more to look down, she saw that the dress was of a pale golden color. It sloped across her smooth shoulders and let her look down into her own cleavage. Thin sleeves reached to her wrists, and her first guess was that it was a night gown, but the thick skirts told her that she'd worn it for occasion. But what? Strands of hair lay against her cheeks, and she lifted her hand to pull some away. The hair was long, and holding it in front of her face, she saw that it was wavy and golden brown.
She sighed and rolled a bit, thinking that it was only the strength of her curiosity that made her tired body feel able to rise. Managing to get up from the bed, she stepped onto the rug with bare feet. The carpeting was soft, and she felt it distinctly against the bottoms of her toes. She stood on legs that were weak, and stumbled, but with a few steps forward, she was able to manage herself. She looked down at her hands, pale with no jewelry or markings, except a bruise on her right wrist from some unknown incident. Looking up, she noticed a long mirror across the room and headed toward it.
The reflection of the glass was inviting and she stepped closer, anxious to know who she would see looking back at her. In the glow of the lamplight, she saw the girl who lived in the mirror. She saw her, but and they were wearing the same clothes, but she did not recognize her.
The girl looked back at her with large blue eyes. Her face was round and smooth, without blemish. Her hair hung in disheveled waves; her skin a bit pale, but her cheeks were pink. Her lips were full and were flushed from the cool air. She was young, in her late teenage years perhaps. Her body was long and thin, with humble round breasts on her slender frame. She would be modest to say she was a pretty girl, but she could admit without shame that she was beautiful – though frightened to no end by the fact that she did not recognize herself at all. By seeing her reflection and remembering none of it, she wondered how it was one could live within her own skin so long and suddenly not recognize herself, not to mention forget everything else she ever knew. How had this happened?
Shifting her eyes, she noticed some dark curtains near to the mirror, hiding the outside world from her. Turning away from her own image, she moved towards them, hesitantly discovering what she might, but curious nonetheless. Her heart thudded within her chest, but bravely, she gripped the soft material of the curtains and gave them a firm tug. They slid apart on the brass rod with a hiss, revealing to her a night sky with clouds that flickered from silent lightening within them. The wind blew roughly against the windows, whistling by, but there was no rain. This view of the sky, she took in without complaint, but what she focused on next disturbed her more than she might have expected.
Down in front of her was a vast forest of dark trees a fair distance below. It spanned out as far as her eyes could see, sloping down the mountainside, and that image combined with thoughts of confusion and panic made her feel confined within this space. She was trapped by the room and the structure and the trees. I have been made a prisoner. The young woman felt the rise of cold sweat over her forehead, and could not keep herself from emitting a sharp gasp. Quickly, as if it would help, she gripped the curtains and pulled them shut again, closing herself off even more fully by closing her eyes, making herself unable to see the extent to which she was trapped. She was not being foolish. She felt she had every right to be afraid.
Opening her eyes and prying her clenched hands from the curtains, the girl moved slowly back and seated herself on the bed. She bowed her head in an attempt to soothe the way it was spinning, but couldn't help to notice her shaking hands that rested on her lap.
Consider this, she instructed herself. This is apparently a large manor filled with fine things. It is not as though I was tied and gagged in a cage, or lost in a dark wilderness. This place is civilized and safe. Someone here will be able to tell me who I am.
She managed to calm herself by that somewhat. Her eyes lifted toward the door, but before she could take herself to it, something on a side table caught her eye. Reaching to the level surface that stood next to the bed, she lifted up a silver necklace with a locket ornament on its chain. There was a crack running along the edge of the pendant as if to indicate that the locket would open, and though she worked at it with her fingers, she could not persuade it to release. For fear of breaking it, she gave up the effort.
Is this mine?
She looked at the bedside table as if it would offer up evidence, and to her astonishing luck, she found a letter there. The paper appeared worn, as if it had been made years ago. Unfolding the stiff, yellowed note, she made out the characters easily.
My beautiful Celia,
I look forward to meeting you tonight. You've been on my mind since we met, and if you do not show up, it will surely break my heart. I cannot truly express…
A large water stain blotted out part of the message, and past it, several lines below the darkened spot, she could see a few more clear lines.
My dear, do not worry. I will protect you. You will not have to be afraid for long, for I will keep you safe. Do not doubt how I feel for you. Soon, we will be together forever.
The note was not signed, and the writing seemed somehow uneven, contrasting the lines above the smear in the writing to those after it, but it was enough for her mind to believe that this piece of paper belonged to her.
Is this letter addressed to me? Is Celia my name?
It didn't seem familiar, but she could not argue with it. She had nothing better to offer. Putting the letter under the pillow for safekeeping, the young woman looked once again to the locket, thinking that if the note belonged to her, so must this necklace. She fastened it around her neck, letting her fingers run down the cool chain. Her eyes moved toward the room's sturdy door, and she felt suddenly nervous at the thought of opening it. Not knowing what or who would be behind that door made her stomach feel as if it was filled with crawling spiders.
I have nothing but to gain from opening that door, she reasoned with herself. I shouldn't be afraid. I must learn who I am.
With that resolution, Celia moved to let herself out.
The sound of the latch retracting when she pressed the handle echoed down the dark corridor beyond. There were lamps lit along the hall, flames flickering in their glass globes, but the greatest amount of light came when silent lightning flashed through the large windows at the end. Sounds were dead here in this cold place, and except for her figure emerging from the room, the hallway appeared empty.
In the first moment that her bare feet came across the threshold, she felt unsure of whether or not she should call out for assistance. She did not know the faces that would confront her, and the thought frightened and embarrassed her. Instead of facing this fear immediately, she chose to wander down the hallway to the left, which opened up into further corridors. Finding her way in this place would be like a rat twisting aimlessly through a maze, but surely she would eventually weave her way to a reward – something that made sense.
She pressed on slowly, step by step, examining the walls to notice the numerous doors and lack of windows. How large was this place? How could anyone have need of so many rooms? Celia busied herself with wondering this until a small sound resonated against the silence, stopping her in her tracks.
The disturbance was very similar to the groan she had uttered upon waking. It was a tired, helpless sound – a sound of weakness and pain. It was near enough to Celia that she knew it had come from somewhere around her, but she could not designate its exact location. She took a careful step forward, pitting her ears against the strained silence to see if the sound would come again.
A different noise came instead, a latch being undone, and before she could associate it with anything else, a door several yards in front of her inched open. Instinct took over, identifying anyone who might emerge from that room as her enemy. She huddled against the wall as if there was a need to hide, awaiting the glimpse of the person she feared.
Why am I afraid? She wondered. Why am I not tumbling to my knees, begging for help to relieve me of this nightmare?
A black-haired woman clothed in dark, servant's dress with a white apron spread across it passed from beyond the door. She took exactly one step forward and then turned on her heels stiffly to seal the room behind her. Celia studied this, still thinking of the mysterious sound she had heard and wondering if it could have come from within that room. Just a moment before the door was shut and locked, Celia managed a glimpse of a strange pattern of shadows that vexed her further, but she didn't comprehend what she had seen before the thick wooden door banished the image. Turning the lock with a jangle of keys, the servant turned and moved down the hallway gradually without noticing Celia – even though she would have been in plain sight with a simple turn of the woman's head.
Celia's brow furrowed as she looked on, but felt somehow that she was not wrong for keeping silent. The maid moved away with steps that were slow and carefully measured, and once her shadow had disappeared, Celia took a quiet step toward the locked door.
What was that noise she had heard? What was the shadow she had seen? It was not as if she believed that she could get into the room, for she had seen it locked, but perhaps there was some way she might see into in through the keyhole. It was worth her effort. Waking up without knowing so much, there were so many things to be curious about.
She peered around the corner to view the hallway to the right, making sure that the maid had not sought to return. She was contented further by the distant sound of the woman's departing footsteps. Satisfied, Celia moved closer to the door, hearing no more sounds coming from within, wondering if she'd imagined the ones that she'd heard initially. She was still several feet away, but she began to reach out her hand, seeing the shadow of her arm stretch across the wall –
Celia gasped at the sound of the voice behind her, though it was barely loud enough to shock her ears. The address was from a strictly feminine throat, but came as a flat monotone. A cold chill ran up the girl's spine, and she turned abruptly, clutching her dress as if it would console her. When she saw the figure behind her however, she froze, her blood seeming to halt in her veins.
The woman's face was familiar, but this was not the sort of fortune that put one's mind at ease. Instead of being able to feel joy that she'd uncovered a memory, Celia was surprised to see the face of the same maid that had just come from the mysterious room and walked away from her. How was it possible that the woman had now turned up behind her?
"You are expected at dinner," the dark-haired maid said, refusing to acknowledge that she'd startled the girl.
Celia looked down at herself, knowing certainly that she was not in proper dress for formal dinner. She did not even have shoes on her feet, and her hair was a mess.
"But, I don't even…" she tried, but it did her little good. The maid reached out and touched her arm. The sensation was gentle at first, friendly in nature, but quickly became as harsh as a tightened vise. Celia winced, but the maid did not seem to notice her pain. The girl looked up toward the face of her captor, and the maid produced for her a very short smile.
"Please come with me," she said in a very bland way. "I will show you to dinner."