My fingers gripping at the edges of the well and the ancient ring of bricks that flaked away at the edges and sliced and pinched against my skin. I held on to the edges so that I didn’t fall. The darkness below. The void. My head spinning and the thought that I could pull the metal portcullis up and over and lean in towards the emptiness of space and allow my body to tumble across the edge and over. And falling. Falling through the darkness. Down, further and further and further towards the centre of the earth and the rivers of molten rock that bubbled away down there. So that when I eventually splashed through the rivers of fire, that the flames would consume my body in an instant. My flesh ripped away and the sinews of muscle that would stretch and snap. The bone that would dissolve and be crushed to powder beneath the weight of the rivers of fire that flowed above my head.
And I longed for it.
I longed for death so much.
A buzzing against the insides of my ears and the sound too much to bear that I closed my eyes and the darkness that rushed in.
“What’s a crappy old well doing hidden away in here?” A voice asked behind me. And the voice irritated me. It irritated me so much. And I blinked the pesky voice away and leaned in a little closer towards the darkness of the well as my fingers closed over the edges and across the metal portcullis. Flakes of rusted iron that began to bite down and splinter against the palms of my hands. The skin that was soft there. The scent of death that lifted from the centre of the well and my head that was dizzy against it and my eyes that were beginning to leach themselves of tears and my body and my bones that were shaking from head to toe. And before I knew what I might be possibly thinking, I found that my arms and my hands had moved towards the edges of the well and the padlock that was fixed there.
The sound of the voice that droned on behind me and the mumbo jumbo questions getting right on my nerves.
“Is that it.” The words continued behind me, as I brought my hand to close around the rusted old padlock and rattled it a little from side to side to see if the clasp would release. But the metal clasp held firm. And so, I brought my fingers a little tighter around the steel struts of the portcullis and pulled against it. A sharp cry of metal against rusted hinges as the portcullis shifted a little upon the ring of bricks.
“This place stinks Mandy.” The irritating voice continued behind me. “It’s smells like something’s shit in here.” The voice said. The scuff of feet behind me as the owner of the voice turned away from me and headed back towards the door. And I reckoned the owner of the voice would be walking right out of the woodshed at any moment given half a chance. That he would be walking out across the lawn and back through the thicket and along the path and all the way home towards the hospital and the dormitory and the rest of his loony friends that waited for him in there. “Come on.” The voice said, and the scuff of feet as they edged away towards the safety of the door. So, I had to think quick, I had to think real quick to grab the boy’s attention once more.
“What are you doing in here anyway?” I asked, and the mischief to my words and part of me thinking that I was beginning to lose control of my tongue and the muscles that were numb at the back of my throat and my taste buds that were tingling a little as though my tongue had completely dried out.
“What’s that?” The voice asked, the boys voice. The scuff of feet in the distance and I reckoned he was close to the door now. I reckoned the voice was close to the door. And we didn’t want that. We didn’t want that one bit.
“Why are you locked away in here?” I asked and the strength that was returning to my limbs I felt as I closed my grip against the metal bars and was sure that I might be able to pull the rusted old grate away from the padlock. My voice that sounded more like me. The baritone timbre not quite returned I thought, but not far away I thought. And when I swallowed, I was sure that I could feel my Adam’s apple begin to slip a little back down my throat to where it belonged. The vocal cords that were stretching thin in there and hidden away.
“You asked me to.” The boy asked. “Remember Mandy?” He said.
And there was that name again. That strange word.
“Mandy?” I said, repeating the word and the strange sound that it made as it passed across my tongue. My voice almost returned to normal I thought, but the boy didn’t seem to notice.
I shifted my puny hand towards the white overalls I found myself suited within and pushed my hand towards the collar so that my fingers fell upon the necklace that was hanging around my neck. Slowly I removed the necklace from my neck, being careful not to make a sound and brought the silver chain down before me. Upon the end of the chain was the rusted Iron key I had taken from the Lodge and the room within the attic where the children had died.
“I wonder?” I heard myself say as I brought the rusted iron key towards the padlock that remained fixed against the metal grill. The shadows had returned and licked against my hands so that they were barely seen from where the boy remained standing behind me.
“You asked me to come here with you remember. To see what Sister Dixon had been doing back here.”
“No. Not that you fool.” I said, and I probably shouldn’t have snapped but I was getting vexed by the young fool now and was itching to get to the point of the matter. My funny little fingers that placed iron key towards the padlock. My lips smirking a little as the little key settled neatly within the padlock. I turned the key clockwise and the clasp to the padlock flicked open. “What crimes have you committed. To be incarcerated here. Of all places?”
The sound of the boy scuffing his feet against the earth and I imagined if I were to turn and study him right now that the pesky urchin would have an expression of petulance against his sullen features that I wouldn’t much care for one bit. And so instead I remained busy with my little fingers and removed the padlock as quietly as a mouse. And I wondered to myself, how this frail body of mine could be useful to me sometimes. The smallest of places where I could hide.
“What, what do you mean Mandy?” The boy said.
And there was that word again. That irritating sound. Mandy. And I was close to spinning upon my heel and confronting the young boy and telling him what for. But I didn’t. Instead I leaned in gently and placed the rusted padlock to one side and brought my little hand around the metal grill and began to pull the portcullis upward. The shadows that were kind and danced a jig against my little hands. And the words that I spoke to cover the sound of the grating metal as the hinges gave way.
“I mean boy.” I said, and my voice almost better now, my voice almost mine.
“I mean it’s sometimes better to confess one’s crimes before the sentence is passed and the punishment doled out, if you know what I mean.” I said, as I brought the portcullis up a little further. The edges of the well that were revealed and the darkness that seemed to animate itself to life below. I peered towards the darkness and was sure that I spied movement down there. But I didn’t mention that to the young boy of course. And so instead I offered him a little more line and hoped that he might bite.
“And surely little Molly deserves the truth.” I said, as I peered towards the darkness and a smile that began to stretch across my mouth from cheek to cheek as I saw movement down there. “Poor little Molly.” I said, and my words repeating down towards the darkness and the movement I was sure I spied.
“What are you talking about Mandy? What nonsense is this? You’re off your head you are. Brandon was right. You’re a nut case. That’s why you’re chained up like that all the time. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be in here with you. No. It’s not safe. I shouldn’t have followed you. I need to get back. I’m going now. I’m going now Mandy.”
And the sound of the boy’s feet as he edged away from where I remained crouching upon the edges of the well. And the stupid boys’ words that grated against my bones and my tiny teeth that chattered against my gums as I leaned a little closer towards the darkness of the well. I narrowed my eyes and peered down and spied movement at the bottom I was sure. The shadows that folded in and about themselves and some creature that was climbing up towards me from the darkness. The feeble light of the window that illuminated the walls of the well and the bricks that were buckled and crumbling and all the way down. The darkness and the shadows and the feeble light. An arm that was revealed and as white as bone and hair that was lank with grease.
“Don’t go boy.” I said, and my voice that was almost mine but not quite. The tongue within my mouth that seemed to have stretched and swollen and the tips of my teeth that were pointed and sharp. “Why don’t you come take a look?” I said, and the laughter that rolled out and across my lips and the skin that was flaking away and my tongue that was wriggling away like a two headed serpent within my mouth. “Come take a look boy.” I repeated, my eyes that were wide and the flames I could feel that burned behind the edges as I peered down towards the darkness of the well. The creature that crawled towards me from the depths of hell.
“No.” the boy repeated, and the urchins voice all screwed up and scared now and the tears I could hear upon his lips as I figured he realised he should never have followed me all the way out here to this place. “No, I need to go now Mandy, I need to get away from here.” He said. The fear that was thick against the boy’s words and the taste of it upon my tongue. A heat that lifted from the centre of my groin and boiled and writhed within my gut as though my intestines were nothing more and nothing less than a nest of coiling vipers. “I need to get away from you!” The boy shouted.
And that was when the anger consumed me whole and I spun away from the well and lifted my hand out towards the boy. My fingers that were buckled and the skin that was grey and shimmered with scales and the pain that coursed through the whole of my body as the talons began to extend from the tips of my fingers so that I almost screamed aloud in pain as I opened my hand wide and settled my burning eyes upon the boy.
The wooden door that slammed shut beneath my will.
A thunderclap of sound that rattled through the building.
“Confess!” I demanded and the air that seemed to shudder against my voice and the timbers that rattled all around. My teeth that were piercing through my gums so that the blood began to flow out and across my tongue and the taste of it, the taste of it. So that I began to laugh as I watched the fear that contorted against the boys features as his mouth fell open and his eyes grew wide. He turned away from me and ran with lightning speed away and backwards. Back towards the darkness of the shed and the pitched fork that was hanging against the wall and had been waiting so patiently for him the whole time.
The pitiful sound that the boy made as he ran blindly against the pitched fork.
An empty thud as he impaled himself against it.
The sound of something soft and hard that popped.
And the boy screaming out in pain and shock and his arms that twisted here and there and his legs that kicked out as his body buckled and tried to pull itself back from the pitched fork that was pinned against his head. But it was no good and within just a second or two of protest and resistance the boy’s body fell quite limp. The fire that quickly dampened behind my eyes. I turned once more towards the well and peered down towards darkness. The creature that had been revealed against the shadows. A girl. Her face that was lifted towards the light and her hair that cascaded down behind her. Her eyes that were wide and inky black and her lips that were red like blood. The smile that was lifted against her cruel features as she peered up towards me.
“Let me out.” She said. And her voice that seemed to fracture and buckle against the insides of the woodshed so that every timber and every tool seemed to shake and vibrate.
“No.” I said.
As I brought my hand once more towards the metal grill and brought it up and over so that the portcullis closed with a grating clap of thunder.
“The worlds not ready for you yet.”
The desperate cries of pain from the girl on the other side calling out.
And I collapsed towards the floor and brought my hands about my face and gently began to sob.