Haunted Piccadilly: Part III

He had suggested a weekend in Dublin two weeks ago when they were strolling through Hyde Park, and they’d decided this would be the perfect weekend to go. It was late summer, and the flowers in the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin, should be in bloom, so it was a lovely time to visit Ireland they thought. She had never been, but he had gone once before, about five years earlier around the age of sixteen with his family. He always wished to return, and he hoped that the next time he went, he’d be able to bring a beautiful girl with him; he was pleased to have achieved this at the age of twenty-one. The journey was quite smooth, and when they arrived, they checked into the quaint inn where they would be staying, just outside the city, so they could be somewhere slightly peaceful and quiet. They had to register as a married couple since the owners were rather old fashioned, and they were sharing a room, but they didn’t mind. Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and Sophia Edwards, happy to be spending the weekend in Dublin, away from the chaos of London.
Oliver and Sophia walked the winding streets of Dublin, visiting little shops and pubs along the way, walking by the water, listening to the music that was played on the streets; it was all quite lovely and welcoming, and they enjoyed every moment of their time in the city. While they were out doing a bit of shopping, Sophia found a jewelry store that she had to pay a visit, and see what pieces they had for sale. She found a lovely silver ring with an interesting design, and she decided to purchase it, and give it to Oliver when the timing was right. Oliver found a lovely little writing shop down the road, where he purchased a small leather journal that he could use to write down his thoughts, and maybe eventually begin to write in properly. He’d always envisioned himself a writer, but was never able to quite get there; something always seemed to get in the way. Oliver also happened upon a rather old edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which he thought he might want to give a read while they were in Ireland, Stoker’s homeland.

After their shopping excursions, it was decided that they should go out to the sea for a bit while they were there. So, they hopped on a train, and went out to a small village by the Irish Sea, where they could simply exist, and everything else would begin to fade away into background noise. The summer was nearly over, and they couldn’t believe September had already begun. Autumn had not technically started yet, but they knew it was coming, and they braced themselves for the change of seasons, which they never looked forward to; they both loved the possibilities and hope that came with summer, which all seemed to fade away by the appearance of the changing leaves, and gradual decay of the autumn season. Sophia had brought her copy of Pride and Prejudice with them to the small seaside village, and was pleased to read with the accompanying sound of crashing waves. Oliver was reading his new copy of Dracula, and jotting down thoughts in his small leather journal. As she read about the blooming love between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, she felt the time was right to give Oliver her gift. As he opened the box and saw the ring, Sophia said,

“When you’re so far away, I want you to have this to look at, so you can remember me, this weekend, and what we have. I want you to know I will always have you in my heart, no matter where you end up going, or for how long you are gone. Even in the worst circumstances, remember this moment by the sea, and remember that I love you.”

Oliver was terribly moved, and felt his heart swell, because truly, he’d never felt something like this, this feeling of contentment and certainty in a time of great peril, change, and chaos. They returned to Dublin and made love that night in the beautiful inn, as they prepared to return to a place that was about to be changed forever, in unthinkable ways.

The next morning, Oliver and Sophia returned home to London, and decided they’d have one last evening together before they returned to their normal lives and everyday routines. Just as their server brought over his pint and her glass of white wine, they heard the air raid signal go off in the distance, and knew they must take cover. They ran with the other patrons in an attempt to shelter themselves from whatever was coming next. The dawn of the London Blitz had just begun, and amidst all the damage and smoke, all Oliver could see was his silver ring, shining in the English moonlight, as the German planes retreated back from whence they came.

Original Work: Kelsey H. 4/9/2015

Haunted Piccadilly: Part II

He was running late. Unfortunately he forgot to turn the alarm on last night when he was on his phone, he’d been too busy messing about instead. He had started reading Dracula yesterday, and he wasn’t sure why the sensation to read that novel had come over him. But it kept him awake far too late, and he never set the alarm after answering his emails. He remembered Bram Stoker’s work being a topic of conversation when they walked through Dublin during their weekend away; that was so long ago, though, it might as well have happened in a different lifetime. But the words, the words he wrote, that they had talked of, resonated, and maybe it was the rain, or the chilly air, but the need to read Stoker’s work had come to him yesterday, so he read. And he read far too long, until his eyes were so heavy with sleep, he knew he’d be dreamless for at least one night. He was running through Bloomsbury until he reached Russell Square, and descended down the staircase onto the platform, headed for work. He liked this neighborhood, and was happy to call it home, and he enjoyed this tube station, because although it was busy, it was much less busy than so many others this time of morning. Mornings were always like this, just a blur of random people he’d never seen before and wouldn’t likely see again, but he enjoyed being a part of the London traffic, because it was familiar, and made him feel like he belonged somewhere, rather than nowhere like he usually felt. The tube was comfortable to him, because it revived memories of a life already lived in some ways; it was such a welcome and familiar feeling, and it brought him peace. And just a hint of sadness at times as well.
He stood in the corner of the carriage, against one of the barriers, and was able to balance his notebook so he could write little bits and pieces down as the train was heading toward its destination. But no matter what he tried to write, he always found his hand turn to doodling halfway through, and eventually he would begin to properly draw, and like clockwork, as though guided from an imaginary force, his hand would start to create the same picture over and over again, every single time.
Her hair, in the old style, swept up and away, how he knew her in the good times, before everything went dark so many years ago. Her face, the one he knew he’d never see again, but always hoped he’d find one day when he wasn’t really looking, around a corner or in a reflection of a shop window. He had known her when he was a different man, and he knew she wouldn’t know him anymore, as he was sure he wouldn’t know her; they had become different people, but he hoped something of their old selves would remain. He wore the ring on his middle finger, with the lovely design, the one she had picked out on that weekend away in Dublin. He thought maybe, even if she couldn’t remember him, she’d remember the ring, and what it had meant, all those years ago. The train pulled into the station, and he walked up the stairs, heading for work, when he received a text that he needed to pick up coffee for the team, before the big meeting this morning.
He turned right, but had to turn back and go left instead to fetch the drinks down the road. And that’s when he saw her. She was there. In front of him. The wind had picked up, and delicately playing with her hair. He noticed it wasn’t the color it had been they were people they were before, all those years ago. It had changed. Just like it always changed. This time she was a brunette, and it suited her. He felt his mouth dry up, his eyes get bigger, and like all the air had been sucked form his body. How long had he waited, how many years had passed this time.
“Um, are you ok? You look ill, do you need help?” she asked, her voice unchanged.
He stood there, unable to speak, his mouth still open, eyes alive and yet dead and lost, ghostly, shocked and searching.
“Sir, are you ok? Should I call someone?”
He closed his mouth, but kept staring. Finally, he took a shallow breath and spoke.
“Soph? Sophia? Wha-How? How are you here? What? Why? I-“
He took a step back, and heard the screeching of tires, and could feel the impact coming his way. And then-
Original Work: Kelsey H. 3/30/15

Haunted Piccadilly: Part I

She noticed the little leather journal he was holding in his left hand, as he walked into Russell Square station. That’s what she noticed first, and that’s why she decided to change her daily route that day, and hop on the same train, and take a trip down the Piccadilly Line. It’s London, she thought, eventually she’d get to where she was going. She wondered for a split second if following him was completely insane, or only slightly insane, and since she was feeling generous that day, she went with only slightly insane, and carried on walking down the carriage, closer to where he was standing. She felt that this might be the wrong decision, but she was already in the middle of it, so too late to back out now. She was someone typically led by impulse decisions, and trusting her gut instinct, so she figured she might as well give it a go, and see where this took her, metaphorically and literally to be quite honest. He had his earphones in, and was writing in his small leather journal, what she wasn’t sure, but she was curious. She was standing too far away to see though, and she didn’t want to further embarrass herself by standing too close to him. She was actually incredibly impressed that he was able to jot something down whilst standing in a moving tube car, but here he was. Talent, she thought to herself. He had a ring on the middle finger of his left hand which she couldn’t quite make out from her distance, but it looked interesting, and the design seemed familiar, like a ring she’d seen in a jewelry store before. He dressed kind of eccentrically, and that drew her to him if she was being truthful. She liked that he looked different from the other men on the street, and she admired his attention to detail in what he wore, and the simultaneous nonchalance of it all.
The train was slowing down, and the announcement was made that they had arrived at Knightsbridge station, and she saw the man was about to disembark, so she figured why not? She could take a quick walk through Hyde Park while she was over that way. He walked up the stairs, and she followed, and as she was about to turn left, as he turned right, he suddenly turned around and began walking toward her, although he was looking at his phone, having clearly received a message. He looked up just as the wind picked up, and stared right at her. Into her eyes. He has lovely green eyes, she thought. A nice face, pleasant, one you’d remember, so she took a mental photograph while he was standing there. The color had drained from his face though, and his mouth hung open, green eyes big and searching, shocked, scared quite frankly. Why was this happening? Clearly following him had been the wrong move. He looked like he might faint, though, and she felt nervous, so she tried to say something.
“Um, are you ok? You look ill, do you need help?”
He stood there, unable to speak, his mouth still open, eyes alive and yet dead and lost, ghostly, shocked and searching.
“Sir, are you ok? Should I call someone?”
He closed his mouth, but kept staring. Finally, he took a shallow breath and spoke.
“Soph? Sophia? Wha-How? How are you here? What? Why? I-“
She stood there terrified. How did he know her name? She didn’t know his, she’d never seen him before Russell Square. She was confused, and very anxious. He took a few steps back, and she heard the ominous screeching of tires that echoed for far too long. And then-
Original Work: Kelsey H. 3/26/15

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Conclusion

Emily awoke at some point, from what felt like a truly horrible nightmare, and stared at everything that was around her, noticing that she was in what appeared to be a hospital room, all white and shiny, everything smelling clean and new. That dream, she thought, it felt so terribly real, so present, she felt as if she could still smell the smoke that had been billowing around her. She remembered being in Yorkshire, the smell of Yorkshire on fire, how it all seemed so tangible, like an alternate reality. But where was she? Was she in Yorkshire? She could still see the faces of all the people from her dream, but she couldn’t remember any of them, they seemed like ghosts of some nightmare she was glad to have exited. It was all too strange, really, how alive everything had felt. But it couldn’t have been real, we’re not at war, England is safe and sound, for the moment, she thought to herself. It made her worry that her mind might be going to places she didn’t wish it to go, yet she was unsure of how to stop it from drifting away. Everything from the dream had begun to feel like it was fading, slowly, and she had trouble recalling key moments, which she truly believed had been real. Yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that the dream, the nightmare, would haunt her future somehow, in some way. She couldn’t recall how she had gotten where she was, or why she was there, all she knew was she felt calmer and more at peace than she had in ages.

She got up from her bed, and began to look around at everything that was there. She saw a small sink, several pillows sitting on a chair, what appeared to be a collection of poetry, and then she saw it. She saw the copy of The Bell Jar, resting on the desk that was in the corner, by the window. She picked it up, and thumbed through it, looking at her favorite novel, and feeling comforted by its presence. Something familiar, something that she was connected to in some way. She remembered purchasing it last year, around the time it came out, February, maybe March, of ’63, a somewhat sunny winter day, especially for London. She remembered returning to her flat, and reading it as quickly as she could, connecting with the main character in such a powerful way. She wondered why it was there, in that room, that hospital room, and then she began to wonder why she was there as well. She had had a nightmare, but why was she not in her bedroom at home, in her flat in Knightsbridge? That’s when it occurred to her that hospital rooms do not usually have desks, writing desks, where people work. She turned to face the window, and saw the familiar sights of London in front of her eyes, and yet that’s not all that she saw. To her shock and horror, she realized very quickly that they don’t usually have bars on hospital room windows, at least the hospitals that she had been in before. She felt the panic in her chest begin to rise, and she began to have trouble breathing. She swore she could smell the smoke in her nose again, feel it burning her lungs. Emily lifted her copy of The Bell Jar again, and was stunned when she smelled the faintest traces of smoke, confused, since she herself was not a smoker. She flipped through the pages, wondering, and that’s when she saw it. When she saw the publication page. There it was, a single sentence, written in a lovely hand, and that’s when it came rushing back to her.

“Emily, darling, I promise to read this book, your favorite, even though I think it’s still a great trick that the publication page says 1963, I love you, William. xx”

She felt sick. She felt disturbed. She felt unhinged. It was all a dream, she thought, it had to be, none of that had been real. October 13, 1944, what bollocks, she thought to herself. Someone is playing a great trick here, trying to confuse me, make me feel like I’m losing my mind, she thought, with great fire burning in her chest now. That familiar anger began to rise, and consume her, and although she hated it, it felt better than pain, or loss, or grief. She threw the book down, not wanting to hold it in her hands again, not wanting to see that sentence anymore. William, she remembered him now, the only one she could place from that dream. He was her husband, or was he? She wasn’t sure if she remembered a wedding, everything feeling so fuzzy and lost again inside of her mind; it felt like all of her thoughts were swirling around, mixing and confusing her, and making her question herself, and her existence. She then spotted the other item that occupied the desk, and realized it might be time to look through it.

The small leather notebook sat carefully on the writing desk which had also held The Bell Jar. She was terrified to see its contents, but knew that she inevitably and no choice, she had to look. She ran over and tore it open, desperate to see what was written inside. That’s when it all came crashing down. All of it. Every moment came flooding into her mind, and she felt as if she might drown, suffocated by all of the memories she was forced to relive. The first date in the notebook was January 1, 1945. The last date was yesterday, October 13, 1964. But it was truly the title page that destroyed her, and cracked her mind open like an egg, all of the contents spilling out everywhere, until she felt like fading into nothing but a memory.
From the Diary of Mrs. Emily Jane Turner, Widow, Patient Number 13, Bethlem Royal Hospital, London, England.
She knew it all now. The word Bedlam was scrawled all over random pages, and she felt herself sinking into the ground, quickly, losing herself and her sanity once again. The first page, January 1, 1945, tells the tale of what happened on October 13, 1944, in North Yorkshire, England, and the bomb that destroyed David and Margaret’s home. She remembered now. She remembered that last night wasn’t a dream at all, it was a memory. Every single page in this diary, this journal, was riddled with memories that she had written, over and over again, as if they had just happened for the first time.

Each date for the last 20 years was filled with the mad thoughts of a mad woman, on the brink of always losing her mind again. Her wedding day to William on April 15, 1942, their weekend in occupied Paris where they made love as gunfire went off outside, the summer of 1943 when she suffered a miscarriage, the time they spent in Yorkshire, older memories of growing up with her mother, father, and brother in her lovely family home in Cheshire. The accident that took her parents, the battle that claimed her brother. William fighting in Italy, and Poland, and everywhere else on the continent that the war waged on. The time she thought of having an affair, but decided against it. Time spent in pubs with friends and her husband, especially the one they loved in Bloomsbury. Memories of moving into their flat in Knightsbridge, the one she remembered still living in today. Although, from the looks of things, and where she was, it didn’t appear she had spent any time there recently. Memories of a life lived, of love lost.

After 1944, everything seems to have simply stopped for her. There are no entries in this journal, no matter the date, that mention anything happening, other than what had already happened in the past, prior to October 13, 1944. And then she knew. This wasn’t a journal of events that she had kept. This was the journal she wrote in every time her mind slipped, and she fell back into the past. That’s what she did when she lost her mental footing; she sat down at the desk, and wrote about where she was that day, whether it was her wedding day, or some random day in 1943, it didn’t matter. She had lost herself to her memory. And last night, Emily Turner lost herself to that fateful day, October 13, 1944, when she lost everything. Emily realized quickly the reason for this. Because yesterday was October 13, 1964, the 20th anniversary of William’s death. Of everyone’s death that was in that home in North Yorkshire that terrible night. She had been the sole survivor, and yet, she couldn’t explain how she could still smell the smoke, or how that sentence was written in The Bell Jar, in William’s handwriting. She had lost too much on that day, and all the time before, and it was clear that her mind had refused to ever let her move on from that point. That’s why she was there, in this institution, clearly recovering from another episode, another breakdown. Maybe she checked herself in because she knew it was the 20th anniversary, and she had assumed that she would breakdown again. It appears that was the right call in the end. She was stuck in a loop of memories and nostalgia, of mental instability, and debilitating grief. She realized from this notebook, that maybe there was no real way out. Maybe, she would be fighting this for the rest of her life, like a disease, a disease of the mind, her mind, so riddled with holes from the poison that had been eating away at it. She felt fine now, as the day had passed, October 13, and she felt well, as long as she didn’t read that sentence on the publication page of The Bell Jar, the one William had written, which she still couldn’t explain. Her hair still smelled of smoke, as did her skin, something else she would never be able to explain. But maybe that was ok. Maybe some things weren’t meant to be understood, maybe that had to happen for a reason. Maybe now she would be able to let that memory go, at least until the 30th anniversary, in ten years time. She looked back at the title page of the journal. Patient 13. Fitting, she thought, as she remembered that night; 13 sets of eyes, 13 people, 13 strikes on the clock, October 13…it all made sense. 13 strikes must have been the hint her mind gave to itself that it was all a memory. Yet, how could it all have been just a dream, when William wrote in the book? She decided to stop wondering, and accept it, accept that she had gotten to see her husband again, no matter how it had happened.

Emily was feeling well, until she look down on the desk, and saw the thin gold band, the one that had been on her finger last night. It made her throat catch, and she reached down, picked it up, and placed it back on her left ring finger. She felt it in that moment, the tight, tight string pulled once again inside of her head, as hard as it possibly could. She smelled the smoke again, wafting around her, as she inhaled strongly, allowing it to fill her. And that’s when she was gone. Gone again, the poor, mad woman from Cheshire. Emily Jane Turner was lost to the ages.
And finally, that last string snapped, and Emily awoke, groggy, and a bit lost, on what appeared to be a lovely spring day, at a charming registry office in Chelsea, London, that had a calendar on the wall that read April, 1942.

Written By:
Kelsey H. October 2014

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part V

Emily could see all of the people standing over her, looking down at her, trying to figure out what had happened, what was wrong. She didn’t want to see any of them, she didn’t want to be where she was, she wanted to be with William. He had been in the house, he had been there when the explosion occurred, and there was nothing that could be done, no way she could save him. She tried to run but she couldn’t; there was no escape from here, she realized, deflated. Her arms seemed to be pinned down in some way, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to free herself. Where was she? She had little recollection beyond the explosion, and no memory of getting here, wherever here was. Emily closed her eyes, and smelled smoke, and there she was, back again in Yorkshire, that night, tonight, or last night, or whenever it happened. She saw the house, smoldering, burning, destroyed; she saw herself on the moors, running toward the house, hoping for a miracle, hoping for anything other than what she saw right in front of her; the devastation, the pain, the loss, the overwhelming grief that choked her, suffocated her, until she was on the ground again. She rolled onto her back and looked up to the sky, trying to understand how, why, this had happened, why so much pain must live her heart forever. She had lost everyone now, no one remained, except her. She flashed to the white room; she flashed to the moors and the smoldering house. She no longer knew where she was, where she had been, nothing, it was all chaos and pain swirling around inside her devastated mind. When was this? Where was this? This white room, this damaged land, all of it lost to her slipping mind.

Her parents were lost, to an accident. Her brother was lost, to the war. Now William was added to the list of those lost to the ages, where they would live forever in her mind, and nowhere else. You can create eternity in your brain if you let yourself lose reality along the way, something Emily knew very well, and had accepted, embraced even. William had survived his time fighting on the continent, fighting for the right cause, fighting for King and country. But now, home on his own soil, far away from the bombings of London, and Europe, and everywhere else the war waged on, William had been lost. Sheer bad luck, bad timing, bad life, all of it an absolutely unbelievable mess. She should have taken him up on his offer to walk with her, he’d still be here then, she realized; and that realization was nearly too much to bear. She felt ill, very physically ill, and could barely even keep her eyes open. She felt a searing, sharp pain in her right arm, and began to feel quite tired almost immediately. She wished to return again, to see the house, see what remained, but she knew that would all be for nothing. Emily didn’t need to go check on the house, and see if anyone had survived. She’d been in London during the blitz, stayed hidden in the Underground during the bombings; she knew that no one could survive a hit like that. So she lay there, on the Yorkshire moors, staring up at the dark, English sky, filling with smoke, and wondered how a person could come back from all of this. The odd thing about that moment, though, was how it felt familiar, normal, as if she had experienced it before. As if she had thought that before, wondered how a person could survive. She felt as if she had been there at some point in her past, lying on her back in the countryside, seeing this house smolder and burst into flames. Why? How did it feel like she was having déjà vu? She let the smoke engulf her, inhaling it, allowing it to fill and burn her lungs, not caring about the damage to her organs, or her inevitable fate. She wished to burn. She wanted to burn with William, so she allowed herself to smolder, a mirror image of that house on the moors.

Emily still felt that throbbing pain in her arm, and felt another string pull very, very tightly in her head, that familiar pulling, that familiar pain that she had grown accustomed to, welcoming it into her mind, to set up shop and stay. Then suddenly, it was too much to take anymore, too much to accept, too much to live with. The string snapped, harder, and with more ferocity than ever before. This wasn’t like it had been the first or second time she felt the snap, where it was manageable, and she was able to maintain her surroundings and mind. Each string had snapped with more fire than the one before, and now it had reached the peak of its strength. The string snapped loudly, and began echoing, booming, shaking her head, until she was rolling, hands over her ears, screaming at the top of her lungs. Screaming from pain, from grief, from loss, from everything. She couldn’t stop screaming, her mind and heart overwhelmed by everything that had happened, and she continued shrieking and rolling and shaking her head until she felt another sharp pain in her arm, and suddenly felt tired all over again. Although this time, she gave in to the exhaustion she felt, and finally fell asleep, and she smelled the smoke wafting around her, and all the hands on her body. Those hands, whose hands? Where did they come from? She felt herself grow weaker, and her body fill with smoke, and she welcomed the slowing down that she felt, she welcomed the smoke as her savior.

Original Work: Kelsey H.

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part IV

Emily saw her self in a brightly lit hallway, all white and shining lights, unable to place exactly where she was. Was this a dream? What had happened? Was she not at a dinner party? She began to hear voices calling to her, calling from different directions. To her left, she heard a woman’s voice, softly saying “Emily, Emily?” To her right, she heard a familiar voice, William’s voice, saying “Emily, darling, are you alright? Emily?” She chose to turn her head to the right, to be closer to William. It seemed, now, in this bright white light, she was able to recall this man, this man she hadn’t remembered, a man who had seemed like a complete stranger to her, a man whose name she didn’t even know only an hour ago. Suddenly, all of that fear, that madness, that confusion, melted away. She turned her entire body onto her right side, to be closer to William’s voice, and she began to blink, and slowly open her eyes to see what was right in front of her. And there he was. William. She remembered him now, she remembered everything about him in fact. She was able to recall how curly and wavy his brown hair was in the morning when he had just woken up. She could remember how he took his tea, milk first, always. She remembered that day they spent on the moors, last year when they had come up for David and Margaret’s dinner party, here, at their Yorkshire home. She remembered their wedding day at the registry office in Chelsea, and how simple and beautiful it was, and how sad she had been that her family wasn’t there. Why hadn’t they been there? She struggled to remember…
She remembered moving into their flat in Knightsbridge, and how empty and lonely it had been since he’d been away at the war. She remembered the last time they’d made love, before he was shipped off, and how she had never felt more connected to another person in her life. She remembered them, William and Emily Turner, and how happy they had been for that brief, shining moment.

All of it rushed into her mind, and overwhelmed her already sensitive senses. How had she forgotten so many things? How had she forgotten the man she had chosen to spend her life with? All of her memories stopped, right now, as she was lying on the floor, and could think of nothing else between them. All of her memories of them seemed to be in the past tense. She couldn’t recall anything recent. As she looked into William’s eyes, he brushed his left hand across her cheek, and smiled a lovely, kind smile, the warmest one he had, that he saved for those he loved. She remembered that smile, and how he always used it with her. She closed her eyes again, remembering moments between them; a sunny, summer day in Hyde Park, walking along the Thames at midnight, having a pint at the pub with friends. Suddenly, flashes of other memories seeped into her mind, memories that did not include William, and seemed wildly unfamiliar to her. A destroyed building, a funeral, several funerals, being tied down to a bed, a hospital bed it seemed, crying constantly. Something was wrong, something that she couldn’t quite pinpoint, but it was off, and she was unable to go back to the happy memories she had been thinking of. Where was this darkness coming from? She couldn’t place of it, and that terrified her. She couldn’t remember such sadness from her past, and yet…her family. Why hadn’t they been at her wedding? Why couldn’t she remember them…

“Darling, shall we get up now? Let me help you.” She snapped back to reality as she heard William speaking, trying to help her up, and get her back on her feet.
“I remember it, all of it, you, me, us, everything, I’m so sorry I forgot, I don’t know how I could possible forget our life together. Something in my brain was so loud, it just kept making noise and echoing, but it stopped. I don’t hear it anymore, I just hear you.”
William smiled down at her, and she felt warm inside again, as she tried to push those dark thoughts out of her mind, and focus on the goodness that existed in this moment.
“William, I can’t remember my family…why weren’t they at our wedding?”
William’s eyes darkened, and his smile faded, a look of sadness, and concern, sweeping over his face.
“Emily, they passed several years ago…do you not remember? Your mother and father were in an automobile accident, in Cheshire, and your brother’s plane was shot down over the English Channel in 1941…I’m sorry to have to remind you of this, I loved your family as well, but I’m scared that you forgot them…why are you feeling so forgetful? Something must be wrong…”

Emily remembered now. She remembered her parents’ funeral, and her brother’s, and how after they were gone, she had no one but William. He had become her family, her source of support and love. She had needed him so much, which is why it was so hard for her to deal with him being gone for so long. But he was here now, with her, and they would have another chance to make life work, to make their marriage work, and to reconnect and find each other again. This was their chance. She was grateful that she was able to remember the beauty they had shared, that she was able to recall the lovely moments, the ones that had kept her going during her darkest days. How she could remember turning over onto her left side in bed, and seeing him asleep, chest rising and falling as he slept on his back, at peace, brown curls falling from his face and onto the pillow. Those moments were the ones that helped her sanity remain, and kept her from going into that dark place again. William helped her up, and wrapped his arms around her, tightly, making it hard for her to breathe, but it was the very best kind of hug, the kind that makes you glad to be alive, and have someone that loves you that much.

“Emily, maybe we should go for a walk, just a quick one, around the property, or through the moors, so that you can clear your head? Would you like that dear?”
Emily considered his proposition, but realized that she needed to walk alone for a bit, and clear out the rest of the bad memories that were lingering, of damaged properties and mourners and grief…she was sure those were simply memories of when she lost her family, but something inside of her just couldn’t accept that. Something inside of her kept pushing forward the notion that those weren’t memories. She needed to breathe and clear her head for a moment.
“Mind if I walk alone, love? I’d like to just clear my head, and my thoughts for a bit.”
“Of course, anything that you need. We’ll probably finish dinner and head into the living room for a drink or two, you’ll find us there when you’re ready to come back inside.”
“Sounds wonderful. I’m so sorry for all of my confusion, I must need a bit of rest I suppose.”
“Of course dear. Have a nice walk.”
William kissed her, and she felt so very loved in that moment, his lips were firm and lovely, yet toward the end, they began to feel as if they were disappearing, and losing their fire, as if they were no longer there…

Emily looked up into William’s eyes, and mouthed “I love you.” He returned the gesture. She made her way to the back door, turning around one last time to take a look at all the others, and went outside. She began to take a walk through the property, and then headed toward the moors just past the edge of their land. Emily strolled leisurely and calmly, trying her hardest to push all that darkness from her mind. It was beginning to work, and she felt more at ease than she had in ages.
It didn’t last long. Ten minutes after she left the house, she felt that string pulling tightly in her head again. She felt it get so tight, she could barely walk. Suddenly she heard it, that sound overhead. She remembered it from London, and knew nothing good would come from hearing it here. That all too familiar sound, roaring through the dark, Yorkshire sky, over the moors, and toward the home of David and Margaret Jones. As she began to turn back, she heard, and felt, the string snap in her head. At the same moment, she heard the explosion, ripping through the Yorkshire countryside, and realized that the destroyed building she had seen earlier wasn’t a relic of her past; it was living, breathing, and smoldering right now, in front of her. This time, Emily fell to the ground on purpose, hiding in the moors, in the hopes that whatever had happened was all just a bad dream. She couldn’t cry, or scream, or anything. She just lay there, unmoving, internally destroyed, lost, and shockingly, not very surprised. She closed her eyes, and returned to the white, brightly lit hallway, and saw her hands tied down at her sides, on those starched white sheets she seemed to remember the smell of…

Original Work: Kelsey H.

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part III

That sound, the echoing, was still going in Emily’s head, as she blinked over and over again, unable to focus her eyes. What was this information she had just been given? How was she meant to process this? Actually, how was she supposed to believe such a completely mad statement coming from a complete stranger? Husband? There was no way that this man, this unknown person sat across from her, could possibly be her husband. There’s no way that she could be married, and not recall that fact. She wasn’t that far gone, honestly, she wasn’t, there’s no way. She sat there, staring at her plate, at those damn potatoes, how destroyed they were. She twisted her hands together in her lap, and suddenly raised them up in front of her face, and decided to give them a look. She knew everyone’s eyes were on her, this woman, this strange creature observing her hands as if they were someone else’s, as if she had never seen them before, she knew she looked mad, and maybe there was a reason for that. That’s when she saw it. She saw the reminder, the little thing that made her mind snap back to some kind of reality that was choking her, suffocating her, as soon as she entered it; it was the thin gold band on the ring finger of her left hand. It was just there, this little piece of evidence, this little tiny ring that somehow validated this man’s claims. How? She didn’t remember ever wearing a ring on that finger, a finger meant for only one type of ring, yet here it was, wrapped around her, and she couldn’t escape the haunting feeling that maybe it was meant to be there. But why? Why was she so confused about her identity? About where she was? About who she was married to? Why was this happening? Emily cleared her throat, prepared to speak, and ask some questions that needed to be answered.

“I’m so sorry everybody, I seem to be struggling today, my mind seems to be in some kind of haze or something…I don’t seem to understand where I am, I mean I know I’m in North Yorkshire, in England, at a dinner party, but whose party? Why am I here? Why can’t I seem to remember my own husband? I just…I don’t know. Can someone help me, please? Who are all of you? How do you know me?”

Everyone sat and stared, unsure of who should speak, and what should be said, in all honesty. Everyone was acting rather uneasy about the whole situation, and Emily couldn’t really blame them to be fair. She truly could not remember why she was there, or what the date was, the year even, and she certainly didn’t recognize anyone’s face, not even her husband, William’s face, and that frightened her, very much.

“Darling, please, you must stop this silly game. I don’t understand if this is part of a performance, or if you’re trying to be funny, but it’s not funny, not at all, so please. Can we move on now?”
“Stop speaking to me like that, William. I asked a simple question, several actually, and I’d like some answers. Now.”
“Fine, let us share ourselves, so that Emily can rest, and calm herself. Go ahead, we’ll start at the head of the table and work our way down, if that’s all right?”
Emily shook her head in agreement.

They all introduced themselves, one by one. David, Margaret, John, Lillian, Sarah, Christopher, James, Rebecca, Andrew, Catherine, Scott, and Elizabeth. And adding William, that accounted for the 13 sets of eyes she had first noticed staring at her from across the table, what seemed like a century ago. The problem was, even with names, she couldn’t see to place them, she couldn’t seem to place any face with any name, and she realized that maybe she was too far from reality to actually return. The grandfather clock struck again, and she turned to face it, noticing it was 15 minutes past the hour. That’s when she saw it. She saw that the clock said 13:15, and she remembered that the clock had struck 13 earlier, when she’d heard that loud sound her head. How was that possible? It was not a 24 hour grandfather clock. It only went up to 13, that’s the number it simply stopped at. She turned around and saw out the window, and noticed that the sun was till setting. This was impossible. It made no sense. None of this made any sense. She couldn’t understand how, or why, this was happening, and also why no one seemed to notice, or care that the clock had struck an impossible time.

“Why did that clock just strike 13? How is that possible? Why did it happen? The sun is only now setting. And your names, now that you’ve told me, mean nothing to me, it doesn’t make any of you seem any more familiar to me at all. Who are any of you? Why do none of you find this strange? Why are you all just staring at me, dead eyed and blank faced? Look alive! Talk to me! Explain yourselves!” Emily cried, her frustration building to a head.
Everyone just stared, blankly, empty and unmoving, and she knew, in that moment, that something was terribly wrong, and not with her. With everyone, and everything, all of it was wrong and off, and just inexplicably upsetting. Not just her lack of memory, or connection to anyone at the table, but the fact that it seemed as if everyone else didn’t notice, or find it odd, that all of this happening in the first place.

“Emily, you and I were invited to dinner this evening at this home, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, or David and Margaret, as they introduced themselves. You know them, you do, truly, and I just don’t understand how you seem to have forgotten your entire life since we sat down at the table to eat. You were fine a half hour ago, when we were all in the sitting room, sipping on our cocktails, having a chat, and now it seems as if something has changed. When you sat down and began to eat, I noticed you held the fork to your mouth, filled with potatoes, but you never actually ate any, and instead set the fork back down, as your eyes went all empty and glassy and unfocused. I didn’t say anything, because I assumed you’d had one too many cocktails, but now I’m concerned, because I don’t understand. None of use do. Emily, this is an annual dinner party, we came last year, and the year before. Two years ago is when we were married, don’t you remember? We were married on April 15, 1942, at a little registry office in Chelsea, down in London, where we live. You remember that darling, don’t you? We live in a lovely flat in Knightsbridge. We came up here for the dinner party, and to get away from the bombing for a bit. I’m back on leave, you know, from the war, and I thought this would be a nice evening, a chance for us to get out and see our friends and spend time together, since I know how hard it’s been on you since I’ve been gone for most of our marriage, fighting several countries away. I know all of this has been a lot for you, but I’m here now, we’re together. It’s October 13, 1944, and it’s a lovely night, here, in North Yorkshire, England, where you are, we are, together. Now, let us enjoy it, please?”

Emily was stunned. None of that, not one thing, seemed to be real. She felt like she was in a waking nightmare. The war? Why was he going on about the war? She felt like the war was so long ago, so far removed from her, yet he was talking about it like was happening right now. 1944, yes, it was happening right now. Why did it feel like it was of the past? She suddenly felt very sick, and confused, and upset. She felt like that girl from The Bell Jar again, as she had earlier; stuck, trapped, uncomfortable. It was a book she loved. She even carried a small copy of it in her purse. She felt her purse next to her, and felt the book inside, and it made her feel comforted for some reason.

“Emily, how are you feeling? What’s in your bag that you were touching just now?”
“A book, a book that I love, by an author that I admire.”
“Oh yes? What book is that darling, let us see?”
Emily removed her copy of The Bell Jar from her purse, and handed it to her husband, so that he could see. He held it in his hands, and looked rather confused by it.
‘I’ve never seen this before, never heard of it actually. Have you read this? I don’t remember you talking about it before?”
“Well you must not have been listening, because I’ve read it several times, and talked about it nonstop. It was only published last year, rather new still.”
William opened the book, and turned to the publication page. His brow furrowed, and he suddenly looked surprised, and rather uneasy.
“What is it?” Emily inquired, unsure of why his face went like that.
“Is this a trick book? I don’t understand…”
“Understand what?”
“The publication date. You said it was published last year? This page says it was published in January 1963. I just don’t understand, how have you read this? Where did it come from? How was it published in January 1963, if it’s currently October 1944?”

Emily tried to swallow, but choked on nothing, and suddenly felt another tight string in her head snap, accompanied by a booming echo that reverberated long after she had fallen off her chair and hit the floor.

Original Work: Kelsey H.

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part II

Her eyes sprung open, wild and mad, looking like a woman on the edge, which to be fair to those that saw her, she truly was. She licked her lips, and felt her heart begin to beat faster, until it sounded like a drum rattling against her chest. She couldn’t place a single face that was sat at the table. She felt like she had accidentally stumbled upon the wrong home, hadn’t noticed, and everyone was too polite to correct her. Poor little mad woman, they must have thought. Maybe they were right, she thought to herself, maybe I’m as mad as they think I am, who am I to say they’re wrong, when I haven’t a clue where I am? But how? She wondered to herself. How was she sat at a table with people she had never met, that she didn’t know? How did she even get here? Where was she? She came to the startling realization that she had absolutely no clue how she had arrived at this home. Where was this home? She couldn’t recall greeting the host or hostess, meeting the people, speaking to anyone at all, in fact. And that terrified her, truly. How? The word resonated inside of her, as she realized she was obsessively stirring the potatoes on her plate with the fork she held in her right hand. She now realized she had begun to scrape the fork against the plate, and stopped herself, before anyone said anything. She was scared to hear anyone speak, scared of what they might say, of what they might ask, like for example, who the hell are you, and why are you here? She certainly wouldn’t have an answer. She was about to get up and simply leave the table, and run out the front door, when someone spoke. And what he said was not what she expected to come from his mouth.
“Emily, darling, are you all right? You haven’t said a word in ages, and your eyes look a bit off…do you need anything love? Can I get you some water?”
Who? Who was this man? And how did he know her name was Emily? How? She hadn’t said it, she hadn’t spoken, apparently in ages according to this man, however she didn’t remember speaking at all this evening. What was he referring to? What did she say before? She wished to ask, but she needed to know who he was first, and how he knew her name. He must have sensed her unease and apprehension towards him, because he spoke again,
“Emily? What’s the matter? Why do you look so scared? To be honest you’re beginning to scare me, why aren’t you speaking, answering my questions, talking to anyone? Why do your eyes look so terrified? Speak to me please.”
Emily summoned the courage she needed to ask the question she was terrified to ask. It felt as if another string was tightening in her head, and was about to snap and echo for an eternity. She licked her lips again, cleared her throat, and prepared to speak, as this man had asked her to.
“Well, I, I guess I didn’t know exactly what to say…I must ask something, however, because I need to know. And I apologize if this is rude of me to ask, maybe it isn’t my place, but who are you? I don’t know you yet you seem to know me…how did you know that my name is Emily? How did I get here? Who are any of you? I don’t recognize a single person at this table, yet you all seem to know me, and I don’t understand how that’s possible. I don’t seem to have any memory before I was sitting here, swirling my potatoes on this plate with my fork…so if someone could help me, I would greatly appreciate it.”
Everyone around the table sat in stunned silence, some with their moths agape, unsure of what to say. Then suddenly, the man who had spoken to her, who had known her name, closed his gaping mouth and began to laugh. He laughed uproariously. And Emily began to feel incredibly uneasy and scared. Why was he laughing? What was so funny? Did he, did they, think this was a joke of some kind? She interrupted their laughter to speak again, angry that it seemed like no one was taking her questions seriously.
“I guess I don’t see what’s so funny. Why are you all laughing at my questions? I wasn’t kidding, it wasn’t a joke. I am asking because I need an answer. Who are all of you? Where am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? Why are you still laughing, please, please answer me!”
Emily yelled this, over the sound of their wild laughter. Some began to quiet down, and wipe their eyes with the cloth napkins that lay across their laps.
“Emily darling, that was funny, truly, but let’s move on now, shall we?” The man said in a condescending tone.
“Not until I get a clear answer! Who are you, any of you? And where am I!” Emily yelled, full of anger and fire.
“Are you serious? You need to me to tell you who I am? Really? That will end all of this nonsense?”
“Yes,” Emily replied, as she felt the string in her head pull tighter and tighter on the verge…
“Alright, fine then. You are currently at a dinner party in North Yorkshire, England, just so you know, and you are Mrs. Emily Jane Turner. I happen to know this, because I am Mr. William Robert Turner. Your husband.”
Mrs. Turner felt the string in her head suddenly snap.

Original Work: Kelsey H. 2014

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part I

She’d been sitting at that table for what felt like 200 years, and she couldn’t pry her eyes up from the fancy plate that was now covered in the disgusting mess they call food. Didn’t even look like food anymore; rather, it resembled what she imagined her brain looked like on one of those days. The days she doesn’t like to talk about. But she wouldn’t think about that now. Way to ruin a perfectly fine plate, now soiled and covered in useless food she could barely put into her mouth. She felt like something was stirring deep in her lower stomach, that feeling again, resurfacing. It was a feeling that came around from time to time, always out of nowhere, always without explanation, and it had chosen to make its glorious return this evening. It was as if her insides had dropped from the roof of a building, and splattered across the ground. It was a sinking, aching, sickening, debilitating feeling, and it always made her wish to crawl into bed for the rest of the week. She remembered Sylvia Plath describe the bell jar that hung over her head; she guessed it was something like that. Suffocating, uneasy, unpleasant, painful. She used her fork to move the food around, and swirled the potatoes until they began to look like clouds in a sky of flowers, which decorated the plate. She felt unwell, in her stomach, and in her head. In her mind, if she was honest. She felt like something had snapped, like a guitar or violin string, and it made a loud, sharp noise when it happened, that continued to echo within her skull. Her left eye kept blinking, twitching, and she felt unable to sit still, as if her limbs were begging to walk off in separate directions. This feeling was never good; it always meant something bad was on its way, and she had to brace herself for the inevitable downfall of her sanity. She was lost in the thoughts that consume her daily; thoughts of time, thoughts of love, thoughts of lost moments and unstoppable endings. She felt her eyes get heavy, as she continued to stare down at the mess she’d made of her plate, and the lipstick stain she’d left on the rim of her wine glass, the color smudged from the multiple sips she’d taken. She considered taking a bite of the food, but realized something wasn’t right. She blinked several times, trying to focus her vision and clear her head, and figure out what exactly wasn’t normal about this moment. It escaped her; she was unable to pinpoint the reason for the feeling, only knowing that it felt as if the earth had tilted in the other direction, and it made her feel wildly uneasy. In that moment, she felt another string snap in her mind, and the echo it made reverberated for what felt like several minutes, but was only a brief second or two.

Suddenly, she came to the realization that she had no idea where she was. Whose plate was this? Whose glass? Where did it come from? This wasn’t her home. She only now realized this wasn’t her home, her food, her table setting, none of it. She felt her stomach drop and nearly leave her body, and she gagged slightly, feeling the sensation of nausea consume her. Where the hell was she? She decided it was time to look up. That’s when she saw 26 eyes, 13 pairs, staring back at her, unblinking, unsure, unfamiliar, unsettled. Who were these people? Why was she here? She felt another string in her mind begin to feel taut, and she knew it was on the verge of snapping. She met all of their eyes. She heard a clock begin to strike, a grandfather clock by the sound of it. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11…12…13. 13 strikes. In that moment, she knew everything was wrong. Everything was impossible. She closed her eyes and then-

Original Work: Kelsey H.