The dull roar of moving wind filled Heather’s ears. She shivered a little, looking for some point of reference to orient herself. All she could see where rocks and narrow passageways. An eerie amber glow was everywhere, emanating from a hole in the wall. It was too far and small for her to reach in to see what it was though.
Still, she tried. Heather tiptoed and stuck her hand in, trying to reach the strange object without success.
As she tried to stretch further, a low groan reached her ears. Her frantic eyes looked about and saw a large dark form crawling towards her…
With a gasp her eyes bolted open. Bright sunlight shone through her window. Birds sang outside, the smell of coffee and eggs reaching her nose. Heather sat there for a moment, trying to catch her breath. Her eyes scanned the room, which was familiar to her for the month she had been living here.
“Why do I keep having that dream?” She asked herself softly. Heather slowly slipped out of bed, pulling the covers straight and basking in the sunlight for a moment. The warmth eased any leftover feelings from the night terror. Taking a deep breath, she walked over to a pile of folded clothes on a crate, starting to get dressed.
She stood in front of a full-length mirror, idly staring at her face for a good minute or two as she put her corset on. She frowned a little at a handwritten note at the side of the mirror, which was a list by Elizabeth of what she needed to wear. While Heather certainly did her best to follow the woman’s rules, it was sometimes either too inconvenient or she was in too much of a hurry to care. Still, she supposed that’s why Elizabeth had written her a to-do list for such a simple thing.
Heather finished getting dressed, reaching to fasten the ties on her apron. However her hands fumbled and tugged uselessly at the apron ribbons. They were thicker and more stylish than her old apron used to be. She tried once again, then twice with no luck.
She felt bad for being this clumsy, but there was nothing to be done except try again and keep at it until she got better at it. With a defeated sigh and feeling a bit bad about herself, she exited her room and headed downstairs for breakfast.
Heather reached the bottom of the stairs of the lower floor, heading towards the kitchen while making one more half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt to tie her apron. Elizabeth or Tau’mi were nowhere in sight, but Janus was at a wash basin, standing on a stool and doing the dishes.
“Morning,” she greeted him.
“Morning,” he answered. Unlike her Janus didn’t look displeased to do the dishes. Just that atypical face of content that he typically had.
“Mom’s already running the store. Tau’mi is out on an errand.” He didn’t look up at her, scrubbing a plate.
Heather saw a plate at the table, which she realized must’ve been for her. She must’ve been the last one up. She stepped forward some, head hanging in embarrassment a little.
“Janus, can you please-”
She didn’t finish her sentence, unable to bring herself to say the rest. Her gaze was focused on the floor, barely noticing Janus looking at her and getting off his stool.
“Sure.” he said, a sigh leaving his lips. He didn’t look upset or mad as he took hold of her apron ribbons, walking behind her to tie them.
Heather clasped her hands together, wringing them in self pity as she did her best to look over her shoulder to check his progress.
Janus fiddled with the fabric for a moment before tying it with ease, pulling it snugly and arranging the bow evenly.
“Is that comfortable?”
Heather nodded, looking relieved. “Yeah. Thanks.”
Janus noticed her mood, touching her arm lightly. “It’s all right, you don’t have to feel bad. Tau’mi was horrible at it for awhile too. Both Mom and I had to help her lots of times before she got it.”
She managed a smile before plopping down at the seat where her food was. The family had been nothing but gracious towards her since the incident over a month ago. They tried to integrate the girl into their daily lifestyle the best they could, successful most of the time. However Heather often messed up; she got startled easily, tripping up or dropping things. Sometimes her mind wandered too much to mess up her task.
If only my life hadn’t been screwed up so bad. I would be living a normal life. Parents, maybe some siblings, maybe not traumatized like this. I wouldn’t be so frightened of the dark, having nightmares, keep seeing monsters and fainting everywhere…
The image of the cave flashed in front of her eyes again. The faint glow down the passageway. The dull roar and blackness. The insatiable desire to find what was the cause of that glow. The fear of the form she had seen.
“Janus, are there any caves around Ellowood?” she asked idly. Her hunger got the best of her, causing her to dig into the plate of beans, a poached egg and a biscuit.
“Caves?” He turned to look at her. “I don’t think so…”
Heather gingerly took a sip of her coffee. “Is there anything that’s happened weird around anything like that?”
“Weird?” Janus looked a bit skeptical.
“Yeah. Scary, creepy stuff. Or something like that.”
Janus looked back at her over his shoulder, amused.
“Trying to prove you’re not a scaredy-cat?”
“What gives you that idea?” Her voice had a defensive edge of it.
“The only times the other boys go looking for those kind of scary things is if they want a thrill or to show they’re brave.”
Heather couldn’t blame him. She must look weird wanting to go seek out something scary, especially somebody with her background.
“I…heard some people talking about it. I just wanted to figure it out, that’s all.”
Janus had gotten off the stool when she was talking, coming over to her. He listened intently, meeting her gaze when she looked over at him.
“So you’re trying to solve it?” His voice was quite earnest, without any judgement.
“Y-yeah.” Heather gathered her thoughts back together.
She looked at the young boy for a minute, forgetting that she was staring. Heather wasn’t really “friends” with Janus, and the idea of him being around still puzzled her socially. She never had siblings, and it was a completely new experience dealing with Janus. Elizabeth’s words filled her mind.
“Treat him nice. You can hold his hand, pat him on the head, give him things. Embrace him, play with him. Read him a book. Take him along when you run an errand. Think of him as a little companion that you’re invested in.”
“Can you go with me? Help me out and keep me company?” Her voice was soft, stumbling a bit.
Was that even a right thing to ask? Having a boy tag along with an almost-adult woman like her? On such a scary ‘errand’?
“Sure. Besides, I don’t think Mom would let you go too far without anybody with you. Just in case someone tried to hurt you again. We still don’t know what happened with your dad up at the house…”
Heather didn’t respond, trying to suppress the painful feelings from the incident. She pressed her lips in a flat line and tried to look as brave as she could. She didn’t want to think about it, nor did know what a young boy could do to defend her. Regardless, she rather some sort of company than wandering alone.
“Okay. Let’s go.” She shoved her plate away.
“Hey, I have to wash that now!” Janus teased, “We do that first.”
A while later, Heather and Janus were out and about Ellowwood. They had spent an hour walking around various spots to see if there was anything remotely to a cave. Unfortunately they had found nothing. Janus had vaguely asked one or two grown-ups that he was on good terms with if they knew anything, but with no success.
“This is turning nowhere fast,” Heather admitted dejectedly. She shuffled along one of the main cobblestone roads, hands thrust deep into her apron pockets out of comfort.
“I had no idea there wasn’t a single cave here. Almost every island I have ever been on has one of some sort.” Janus was quite baffled as well.
“What if it isn’t a cave? Is there anything like holes, burrows or shafts? Or anything even like that?”
Janus stopped walking for a moment, looking up at her with a bit of hesitation. Heather could tell that there was something he had thought of.
“What is it?”
“There’s kind of like a place like that. We might get in trouble, though.” His voice was apprehensive, unsure of he should tell her.
“What do you mean?” Heather didn’t want Janus to clam up on her. She sidled close, resting an arm around his shoulder and urged him to continue walking.
Janus sighed “A good while back, they were digging a well up at MacLean’s orchard. But something happened; they never finished the well. They got a bunch of people up there one day and quit working on it since. They told all the boys to never go to the place and said we could get killed.”
“Why?” Heather could feel her heartrate quickening both in anticipation and fear.
“Mom just said the hole was very deep and we could kill ourselves if we accidentally fell in. But…”
“The boys and some of the townsfolk say that they can hear screaming coming from the well now and then. Like a loud wail of a woman screaming and crying. That’s all I know.”
Heather held him to her side partially out of fear. The same feeling that she felt in her dream.
“Can you show me?”
“Mom’s not going to be too happy. What if he hurt ourselves?” Janus locked eyes with her.
Heather felt a pit of guilt in her stomach, taking a deep breath. “We’ll be careful, and the first sign of trouble, we leave. Maybe we should take some things with us first? Like a lantern and some rope?”
“Two lanterns.” Janus held up two fingers.
Heather squeezed his shoulder with a shy smile. Inside she was praying that they’d be fine.
“All right, two lanterns.”
It was later in the afternoon as Janus and Heather arrived at a large wooden fence off a dirt path, hidden away by several large bushes Heather’s height.
“Everything looks so abandoned.” Heather mused, approaching the fence cautiously. A low hill was visible beyond, the grass tall and peppered with weeds.
“Mr. MacLean had a lot of land. After his wife died, he stopped taking care of parts of the orchard. But I heard he’s supposed to plant new trees and trim everything next year.”
Janus had been carrying the lanterns, pushing them under the fence. Heather had the rope over the shoulder. She tossed it over as she placed her foot on one of the fence boards, starting to climb over.
“Are you really sure about this? What if Mr. MacLean catches us back here?” Janus had started up himself but paused.
Heather paused, having pulled her skirts up to make it over. One leg was already on the other side as she tried to keep her balance. She really hadn’t thought of the implications or consequences for trespassing.
“Guess we have to be real quiet.” Heather brought her other leg over and jumped to the ground, pulling on her skirts that had dragged behind on the fence. After fixing herself, the duo picked up their equipment, standing in place for a moment.
“Where now?” Heather asked.
“I don’t know. I never went to the well. I only know where the lot is.” Janus shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Let’s hope that went they stopped they left a clue so we could find it.” Heather patted his head and started through the tall grass.
The two spread out a little bit, within ten or twenty feet of each other. The land was a lot of small hills, apple trees scattered sparsely. A few had died and stood lifeless, one even having fallen over.
Heather had mixed emotions. If they weren’t on someone else’s land and searching for a horrifying secret to quell her nightmare, she would’ve been enjoying this a lot more. The walk was calming and it felt a bit liberating to be outdoors doing things like this, nobody griping at her how mannerly or ladylike she had to act. Even Elizabeth who seemed to be carefree to a point had to chide and remind her that she was a young woman.
She was starting to get attached to Janus. He was nothing but patient and kind with her. He wasn’t rowdy and antagonizing people like most young boys she knew; he seemed very thoughtful and quiet. He seemed to know that she had issues of her own. It helped a bit that she was able to be affectionate and kind to him herself, at least some sort of basic bond between them.
If only I could get a chance to actually get a relationship with Elizabeth instead of being some misfit girl she has to fuss over. At least I’m getting a taste of what its like to have a little brother around. I think…
Her name broke her thoughts. She looked up, seeing Janus standing twenty-five feet from her, motioning her over.
“I think I found it.” His voice was quiet in line of being sneaky.
She scooped up her skirts and quickly ran over, coming to a halt next to him. “Where?”
He didn’t answer, pointing to what appeared to be a large old-fashioned well, complete with a little roof and even a bucket. Heather grasped Janus’ shoulders from behind, unsure of their next step.
She took a deep breath, squeezing his shoulders before letting go. “Come on.”