The Graves Heir - Part 1

8 Januari 2016 Pojok Cerita   |    Vania Cheryl Antono

She was seated on an airplane, hands tightening its hold on the armchairs, causing her knuckles to turn white. On the seat beside her was an elderly woman who was desperately clutching a cross hanging on a string around her neck, muttering strings of incoherent words-prayers, perhaps-repeatedly and rapidly under her breath.

The plane shook tremendously once.

She felt herself jostled and the metal armchair smacked painfully against her ribs.

Screams and cries of panic were heard from all around her.

She stood up from her seat to find out what was going on, knowing that it probably wasn’t the wisest course of action, especially when she felt the floor beneath her feet tremble again.

"What’s going on?" A nearby passenger frantically questioned, holding her 5 year-old son close by. The mother’s eyes were wide with fear and anxiousness.

"What’s happening!?" Another passenger-this time, a man in a business suit-exclaimed with outrage.

All around her, she could sense the range of emotions felt by everyone. Fear, anxiety, panic, worry, incredulity, shock, anger; she felt a mild headache forming on her head as she gripped the seat head to support herself.

The plane rocked once more, causing her to stumble and fall to the ground. She lay there for a while, not seeming to understand what was going on around her and not having the strength to move.

Her vision blurred, everything looking unclear and shadowy. Her head continued to pound as she heard things being announced through the speakers. She didn’t seem to understand a single word; it was as if she was not familiar with the language anymore.

Nobody bothered to help her or even seemed to notice her lying on the floor.

More shouts and screams were heard.

She tried to ask for help but the only thing that seemed to come out of her mouth was a weak croak.

That’s when she felt the shadows of people around her start to move. They shifted onto their feet, moving and jostling and simply pushing one another whilst she simply lay there, waiting helplessly to be stepped on.

The air started to thicken with tension and sweat began to drip down her face. Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe anymore.

She choked, her fingers twitching at her sides-

"Excuse me, Miss...Miss Graves? Please wake up." An airport officer, complete with the clean, pristine uniform, questioned and Amelia Graves felt someone pushing at her shoulders.

She jolted awake, panting heavily from her seat in the airport bench. Amelia’s hands automatically wiped her forehead, which was damp and sticky with sweat. She sighed once she calmed down, thinking that she desperately needed a shower.

"Miss Graves, are you alright?" The airport officer asked again, voice full of concern-yet, a bit of impatience, if Amelia had anything to say about it. Amelia blinked in surprise, having already forgotten the officer’s presence.

Amelia cleared her throat and replied, "Of course, of course. I’m fine."

Expecting the airport officer to step away and leave her be, Amelia was surprised when she noticed the officer staying still in her spot. Amelia queried curiously, "Can I help you with something?"

"Your ride is here, Miss Graves." The airport officer answered, "Please follow me."

Amelia nodded in understanding and stood up, hands holding the handle of her wacky orange luggage. She felt her joints creak after sitting for so long but as the airport officer walked on, expecting Amelia to follow her, Amelia said nothing.

Physical pain I can handle. Emotional pain from losing your family member is another matter...Amelia thought in her mind, her heart clenching when she remembered her grandmother, who she used to be very close with before she moved to the city for better education.

Amelia shook her head to clear her depressing thoughts by the time the airport officer led her through the West Lobby, past the entrance doors and out into the parking area.

They stopped in front of a polished, expensive-looking Bentley.

Then again...all Bentleys look expensive. It’s just you who’s not used to seeing one...A bitter voice muttered in Amelia’s mind.

Amelia ignored the pessimistic voice and noticed through the corner of her eyes that the airport officer had stopped in her tracks. Amelia was confused at the airport officer. Weren’t they supposed to be getting to Amelia’s ride instead of just lounging about in the cold weather?

"Umm..." Amelia started awkwardly, "Where’s my ride?"

The airport officer gave a very tight-and equally as fake-smile as she explained in a tone of forced politeness, "This is your ride, Miss Graves."

Poor woman...She definitely needs a vacation. Amelia’s sympathetic side whispered in her head before a darker, bitter side added, or get fired from her job.

Amelia blanched as the reality of the officer’s words finally sunk into her head. She struggled not to stutter too much, "T-This is m-my ride? The Bentley?"

"Yes, Miss Graves. The Bentley that I believe is standing right in front of you as there are no other Bentleys in our line of sight, yes?" By the end of the question, the airport officer had rudely snapped.

"Mmm..." Amelia Graves mumbled, cheeks reddening from embarrassment. Without another word, she hurriedly opened the door to the Bentley, ignoring the fact that the chauffeur was supposed to do that task, and jumped in quickly.

The chauffeur didn’t say another word at his new employer and merely drove on, much to Amelia’s relief. She didn’t dare look back at the airport officer she had left behind; her cheeks were red enough as it was.

The car ride was silent, if not awkward, and Amelia had to press her lips together during the whole journey to avoid blurting out a random topic just to break the deafening silence that hung in the air.

Meanwhile, Amelia Graves’ thoughts were scattered and filled with the chatter of that pessimistic side of hers.

Oh, this is bad, bad indeed. What if she couldn’t handle taking care of the mansion? Perhaps she should just leave and ask the chauffeur to turn the car around back to the airport...dealing with that impatient airport officer was certainly better than dealing with the mansion! But then, she’d be a disappointment to her grandmother. And she certainly didn’t want that! Her pessimistic side was already over-thinking things.

Her optimistic side, on the other hand, soothed her with calming thoughts, she was a Graves for goodness sake! Her grandmother’s and every other family members before her has their blood running in her veins. If her grandmother at the age of eighty-five could handle it, then so could she!

Soon enough, Amelia was chanting in her mind, I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! I can-

"Miss Graves, we’re here." The gruff voice of the chauffeur interrupted Amelia’s thoughts.

Amelia Graves gulped nervously, all previous confidence traitorously leaving her. Inside her mind, her alarm bells were ringing and shouting, I can’t do this! I can’t do this! What was I thinking!?

"Um...Miss?" The chauffeur prompted again.

"Right. Of course. Thanks for the ride." Amelia stumbled over her words as she quickly opened the door by herself, ignoring the fact that it was the chauffeur’s duty to do so yet again.

The chauffeur handed over the luggage to Amelia and she murmured another hasty thank you before raising her head and getting a good glimpse of the mansion that was now left under her care.

Her eyes flew to the sturdy rooftop, to the old chimney that was puffing red smoke, the colour that reminded her of blood-Wait! Red smoke?

Amelia blinked before narrowing her eyes at the chimney again. The smoke was the normal grey shade. Amelia’s heart raced. Surely she had seen wrong a while ago...right?

The Bentley behind her had driven off a few seconds ago to park at the basement without Amelia noticing, which surprised Amelia immensely when she had turned around to ask the chauffeur if he had seen the same thing as she did.

Amelia was now vulnerably alone.

And that thought echoed loudly in her mind as she looked back at the seemingly mundane, ordinary mansion. She decided to continue her analysis of it before entering the building.

Amelia’s eyes swept through the dark grey-nearly black-walls, to the balcony far up on the third floor and past each and every single window of the building...

There was nothing out of the ordinary as Amelia counted the windows she had seen. One window...two windows...three windows...four windows...five windows-

Amelia’s heart skipped a beat for far out at the window nearest to the lake by the side of the mansion, Amelia swore she saw a shadow of a woman with something perched on her shoulders, resembling a...a mouse?

Amelia squinted closer.

A crow! Amelia realized.

Then, just as quick as it had appeared, the shadow disappeared, leaving chills down Amelia’s spine. Releasing a breath she did not realize she had been holding since before, Amelia tightened her grip on her luggage and rushed inside the mansion.

Some people might say that it was unwise of Amelia to enter a mansion that might possibly be haunted-based on what Amelia had just witnessed-but to Amelia, her rational, logical mind had simply reasoned that she was tired and was merely experiencing hallucinations.

Inside the mansion, the butler, a stoic man devoid of any expression in his face, and the Head of Staff, a round woman with a look so stern that it rivalled with Amelia’s college professors, introduced themselves and led her to the dining hall, where lunch should be served.

Amelia, surprised by the declaration of lunch, glanced at her watch and true enough to the Head of Staff’s words, it was lunch time. Amelia quietly followed the Head of Staff and butler, who escorted her wordlessly.

Once seated at the ridiculously long table fit for twelve, Amelia watched with interest as the cook, the old Ms. Henshaw, along with the help of the butler, heaped several dishes on the table.

As Amelia slowly looked at the roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh green salad and the rest of the dishes which caused her stomach to grumble, the staff retreated and left the room.

Amelia picked up her silver spoon and was just about to dig in when her eyes just happened to glance at the bottom of the spoon, where she could see a clear reflection of herself and...and a lady with a black gown and veil over her head looming behind her.
Stifling a scream, Amelia pretended not to notice and continued staring at the reflection, unable to look away for she was petrified. The black-veiled lady bent forward so close to Amelia before whispering slowly in her ear, a raspy voice that made her skin prickle, "la mort a marqué votre porte..."
Amelia, having studied a bit of French at her school, understood it and swiveled her head to the side, eyes wide and fearful but she saw nothing behind her. Her chest rose and fell quickly, matching the rapidness of her beating heart.

Amelia pushed her chair back and raced out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She leaned on her back to the door as her legs buckled unsteadily and she found herself on the floor.

The words of the black-veiled lady echoed in her mind.

la mort a marqué votre porte...

But what scared her most was that she understood what it meant.

Death has marked your door...

(To be Continued)