This comes from the 64 Damn Prompts on LiveJournal (by rashaka). I will, most likely, be working through all 64, because I can't bear to leave such a lovely thing unfinished. I will also include the song that has helped me write it/find inspiration/that I thought fit the mood.
P.S.~ Beware the D.O.U.S's! (Drabbles of Unusual Size)
Prompt 17: Missing Time
Music: The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie, by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
That house has no memory.
Blaise heard the words, but she could not understand them. Maybe it was because she was new in the town; maybe it was because she did not share the same creeping superstitions as the others in the small community. Maybe it was simply because she did not pay attention when they were spoken. After all, such fallacies were simple to write off under the bright sun, passing the borders of the once-grand estate on the way to school and never having to pause and consider the words.
That house has no memory.
But they were strange words, that much she could recognize. Memory? Houses? She could not see the connection there, nor make sense of the tone—reverent, whispered, fearful, ill at ease but still completely awestruck—in which they were spoken. Did they fear it? Worship it? She couldn't tell. Perhaps it was both, or perhaps neither, ands he could not pick out the underlying emotions.
If she had been a little less taciturn, a little more outgoing, Blaise might have asked someone. As it was, she passed the wrought-iron gates twice each day, looked at the gapingly dark windows like countless eyes in an expressionless face, saw the strangling, snarled ivy crawling up as though reaching insidiously for some unknown victim, and she said nothing. Even when, despite the light of day and the presence of others, she looked at the house and swore something was looking back at her, watching with quiet intent. If that strange gaze had been angry, or vicious, or even emotionless, she would have asked, or avoided that road along the edge of the estate. But it was not angry, or vicious, or even emotionless. It was sad, and lonely, and something very near despairing.
That, more than anything else, intrigued her.
Blaise was not one to give in to anything, but this curiosity she felt grew deeper every day. Whenever she passed the silent house, standing like some hulking beast on top of the hill, she would pause ever so briefly and look up at it. Sometimes, the tattered curtains in front of a window would flutter slightly, and she would wonder if it was simply wind, or if it was something more.
Her head told her that there could be no one there, that no one lived in the crumbling, collapsing house no matter what she thought she saw, and that it was most certainly the wind or a stray animal.
Her gut told her that it could not be the wind, not when every window appeared shut tight, and it only happened when she first looked and then never again.
After the first few months, the group that accompanied her home began to notice her fascination with the old mansion. At first they said nothing, because saying something to Blaise when unsure of her reaction was akin to prodding a particularly irritable cobra with a short stick. But, after a while, Seamus—the leader of the group, as the oldest, and the grandson of the mayor—could not contain himself anymore. That day on their way home from school, when Blaise stopped to stare at the faceless house, Seamus stopped, too.
The very first thing he said was the very thing that Blaise had not-heard from the others townsfolk so many times.
"That house has no memory."
But unlike the other townsfolk, Seamus actually spoke the words without fleeing afterwards, as though the mere act of speaking them would bring the wrath of—Of what? Blaise often wondered. The house? Its missing memory? Whatever lives inside of it?—something down upon them. Instead, Seamus simply stood there, with the autumn-chill wind whipping his brown hair and a grim look in his grey eyes.
And Blaise finally gave in and asked the question that she had wanted to so many times before.
"What do you mean?"
The silence between them stretched so long that Blaise almost thought that Seamus wouldn't answer—which was strange, since from what she knew of the other, Seamus could not stand silence. But then the boy sighed and returned his gaze to his companion, the look on his face one that Blaise could not read, a strange expression sitting awkwardly in place of the smile Blaise had never seen him without.
"It's an old story," he said softly, so softly that Blaise could barely hear him over the hiss of the rising wind. "There used to be a family that lived there, more than a century ago. But they were killed. The next morning, people found the bodies, all thirteen of them. Only one was missing, the youngest daughter." Seamus hesitated over that, as though it were the one piece of the puzzle that he could not fit in, and then shook his head to dismiss it. "They removed the bodies, and had funerals for them, and then came back to clean the estate and sell it. But after they finished cleaning it each day, and left, everything would go back to the way it was before. They couldn't change anything. The house wouldn't remember it."
A shiver that she would never have admitted to crept down Blaise's spine. She looked up at the mansion, wondering that she did not feel horror, only a strange, empathetic knot of pity in her chest. Despite the fact that she cared nothing for anything but family and honor, despite the fact that there was no one there to feel pity for, she felt it all the same.
It was, perhaps, inevitable that her curiosity should lead her up the long, straight drive, three weeks after her conversation with Seamus and two after graduation. She did not hide the fact that she was going there, did not sneak in like a common criminal, but walked tall and proud up the drive. Seamus and his best friend Jayden knew where she was going, and hadn't even tried to talk her out of it. Instead, they had told her everything she needed to know.
The door would be unlocked, they had said, just as it had been all those years ago, and it was. Blaise pushed it open, and it didn't even creak, just swung silently inward. It was midday, bright enough that sun streamed through the bubbled glass in the warped windows and fell like brilliant prison bars across the floor. Dust spun in the shafts of sunlight, disturbed by her nearly-silent footsteps as she made her way down the hall—but it was not the dust that Blaise would have expected for a house that had rarely been disturbed in the hundred years it had stood empty. Instead, it was a normal amount, as though no one had gotten around to dusting yet that week.
At the foot of the stairs, Blaise paused and considered. She had not come in with a plan, nor any idea of why she had come in the first place, but…
Her gaze strayed up the stairs. The fifth window from the left corner of the house on the third floor. That was where she always saw the moving curtain. If nothing else, she wanted to be certain that it was simply her overactive imagination. If it was not…
Blaise brushed away the thought. It was. There was no doubt. It couldn't be anything else.
The stairs didn't creak underfoot, which was somehow eerier than if they had. Instead, everything was in perfect repair. The wood shone as if polished, the paintings hung straight and devoid of dust, and the air was not heavy with the repressive smell of age, but alive with the lightness of cedar and clove. It was as if the house was occupied even now, kept lovingly clean and beautiful by a meticulous owner.
Blaise had been prepared for age and weight and filth.
She was not prepared for beauty.
The third floor was the same as the second, a long hall with rooms opening off of it, some doors shut and others open. They were the only indication that the house was older than t appeared, furnished in the style of a century past, though everything still breathed freshness. Blaise passed them without pausing, though her gaze was drawn to linger more than once. There were sketches on the wall, too, done in pencil, ink, or charcoal, and all were exquisite. Some featured a man, elegant and noble, with square glasses and without. Others showed a group of people, older than teenagers but not yet quite adults, of varying ages.
(An emotionless man with blank eyes. A man with wild hair and a wilder grin. A man with braided hair and a cloth tied over his eyes, as though he were blind. A woman, beautiful and elegant, with spiky hair divided into long tails. A tall, skinny man with a piano-tooth grin. A man sleeping in the sun. An older man laughing. A younger man with a wide grin and slitted eyes. Three men playing cards, one fat, one stocky, and one skinny. An elegant man with a sharp smile and neat glasses, standing over a microscope.)
Thirteen, Blaise remembered Seamus saying. Thirteen people were found dead in this house, with the youngest daughter missing. Thirteen people lovingly remembered in black-and-white portraits, with only one figure missing—the one who had drawn them.
The fifth door from the left-hand corner of the house opened slowly, beckoning her in.
Blaise stepped forward, drawn by something far more powerful than curiosity, and froze.
The curtains were drawn completely back, letting sunlight spill into the room unchecked, and a young woman—younger than Blaise, at least—sat on the window seat, knees drawn up, a sketchbook resting on them. She held a piece of charcoal like it was an extension of her hand, and smiled at whatever she had drawn. Then, slowly, she looked up, and turned that small smile on Blaise.
"You came back," she said simply.
And Blaise remembered, remembered kisses and caresses, long walks at midnight, the appearance of close friendship while in reality their feelings went much deeper. Remembered being young and foolish and inlove and thinking that simply feeling that emotion could lead to acceptance. Remembered stepping into the house with the smell of blood heavy on the air, of seeing what had been done, what the thirteen had tried to do—beat it out of her, kill the other, the perversion must die, YOU must die—but not seeing the one who had meant everything, absolutely everything to her. And the breath rushed out of her in a long shuddering sigh of relief and heartache that had been unacknowledged until now, and she slumped against the doorframe, a single word escaping like a prayer.
In a heartbeat, Gabrielle was at her side, the sketchbook fluttering to the ground, and her arms were around Blaise, and Blaise was holding her up, tracing long, lithely muscled lines that she had forgotten she remembered, and their lips were fusing together, sharing breath, sharing the taste of loneliness and solitude and rebirth, and Blaise wondered how Gabrielle—bright, sarcastic Gabrielle, with her magnetic personality and fierce loyalty and absolute kindness—could have survived for so long trapped in this house, outside of time.
She wondered how she could have survived, with such a large piece torn out of her soul.
"Blaise," Gabrielle whispered, breaking apart so they could breathe. She wrapped her arms around Blaise's waist and buried her face in her shoulder, and if she was crying, Blaise said nothing. "Blaise, you're here."
Blaise still said nothing, but wrapped her arms around Gabrielle in return, winding one hand in her brilliant golden hair.
"Yes," she agreed softly. "I am here. Forever."
A week later, a stranger walked into town, side by side with the Elric family's eldest daughter, and moved in with her. In the midst of the rumors and gossip this created, almost no on noticed that the estate on the hill had begun to crumble, no longer trapped in time.
Only Seamus and Jayden saw, and connected the two, and never spoke of it. Instead, they smiled at the couple, and threw them a housewarming party, and if anyone noticed that the newcomer's manners were a little out of date, they didn't mention that, either.