Posted: Nov 11, 2018, 4:36pm
Three days had passed since her mother had died and Kara had not left her room. Her father had yet to return from his journey to Graymawl but a telegram had been sent and he was expected the following day. Kara lay curled up on her bed. She wore a black dress and overcoat befitting the mourning of her mother and she clutched a white silk handkerchief in her right hand "to soak up the tears" the doctor had said when he gave it to her. It had a letter A stitched onto the corner.
An aching emptiness overwhelmed her as she lay there in the dim candle light. In the shadowed room she watched the small clock above the fireplace, a gift from her father. She listened to the dull tick, tick as it worked its way toward six in the evening.
The fire had burned down to embers an hour before, but she had not moved to feed it. She welcomed the cold, it matched her mood.
There came a click and a creek and then a soft yellow light filled the room from the lamps in the corridor without.
"Miss Kara?" came the familiar voice of the Mechan.
She rolled over to see the hulking form of the metal man looming in the doorway. It carried a silver tray covered with a white napkin. Another attempt to make her eat.
"Take it away." she ordered and the metal man hesitated before doing something quite unexpected. He ignored her order and stepped into the room.
"I said take it away." she ordered again sitting up and gathering her legs within the circle of her hands. Her mouth dropped as the mechan stepped even further into the room and turned to close the door behind it.
"What are you doing?" Kara demanded, suddenly a little scared of the huge Tin Man. With the door closed the candle light flickered over his metallic form and green eyes flared bright as it approached.
"Miss Kara, sustenance is required at this time. You must eat." there was a tone to its voice that she had not heard before.
"I am not hungry." She bit back, "Now get out."
"Miss Kara you will eat or I will call the doctor and he will make you eat." and with that the Mechan placed the tray down on the bed and took a step back. She sat there frowning at the metal man and then down at the tray. It was silly to be scared of the old thing, it had never hurt her, it just wanted her to... her stomach betrayed her as it rumbled at the thought of food.
She slowly uncovered he tray and the smell of freshly cooked bread and carrot soup decided it for her and she began to eat hungrily. The whole time the Mechan stood there looking down at her with those glowing green eyes. It was impossible of course and she could not quite describe how but the thing looked pleased!
At last with the meal complete the tray was removed and the servant left the room without a word. She frowned as the door clicked shut and wondered what had gotten in to it to behave in that way. To her memory it had never disobeyed an order before now, good or bad. Mechans did as they were told, nothing more, nothing less. It was one of the reasons that some people considered them dangerous.
Glancing at the clock she read half past six and heaving a sigh she made to lie down once more and return to her grief, but the food had done its work. She felt a spark of energy within her and her mind was unwilling to sink back into that pit so soon.
Instead she sat up and placed the silk handkerchief on the bed before her. Carefully she unfolded it to reveal the bronze key. She picked it up and studied it for a moment. She missed her mother so much. She needed something, anything to cling onto. Perhaps this was the answer, perhaps there was something up there that would take away this pain she was feeling.
The matter decided she got down from the bed and crept towards the door. Opening it she peeked out into the hallway and listened for any sign of the household staff. Having served the evening meal she knew that many of them would have departed for the evening leaving only the cook, the head butler and her peculiar metal friend.
Satisfied the coast was clear she stepped outside and made her way to the right where she eventually came to the door to the attic. It was only then that the penny dropped. The door would be locked. Why hadn't she thought of it before! She was forbidden access to the attic by her father and to that end he kept the door locked at all times. Where could she find the key?
Dejected she walked up to the door and to display her displeasure grabbed the handle and gave it a shake. To her utter surprise it opened inwards and she almost fell through. She couldn't believe her luck! She glanced about sensing some trick in this, but who would play it. With her father away and her mother... gone, who would go up to the attic? Her father must have left the door open in his haste to leave, that could be the only explanation.
A narrow staircase climbed away from her into the darkness above and for the second time her heart sank. She would not be able to see up there and she had not brought a lamp. She glanced back into the hall but could see nothing at hand that she could take with her and at last decided to make her way up the best she could.
Stepping onto staircase she took a deep breath before closing the door behind her. She could not risk leaving it open and getting caught. She kept her eyes on the soft glow of the hallway light as it seeped through the frame and then readying herself for the climb she turned and froze as she saw the same glow seeping from the frame above.
The door had been unlocked and now there appeared to be a light on in the attic above. Could there be someone up there? Steeling herself she began to climb listening carefully for any noise from above or below. She came to the door and stopped. She could hear voices within.
"She said it was here." Came a whispered voice from within.
"Its just a pile of pink skin junk." Replied a second voice.
"She won't be happy if we don't find it." Said the first.
"It will be worse if we get caught." Replied the second.
Kara listened to the exchange in growing panic. Should she run below and raise the alarm? But what if they were gone when she returned and how would she explain her being up here? Also there was something about those voices that gave her pause. They sounded almost childlike, and the more they spoke the more her fear was replaced with curiosity. She crouched there as they argued back and forth obviously search for something. As the moment passed by small ball of courage welled up within her and began to expand. For the first time in days she was distracted from the grief that had consumed her and it brought a freedom that grew within her until before she knew what she was doing she stood up and flung the door open wide and stepped into the room.
"Who is up here?"
There was a clatter of movement as she entered and she saw that light was coming from a small silver glow lamp standing the centre of the room. She stared at it for a moment wondering where it had come from. There was a clatter if movement from the rear of the attic and the sound of harsh whispers.
“I know you are here.” She called out. The sound of laughter came from the darkness and she backed away towards the door. Looking around she spied a small lampstand, bereft of its shade. She made a grab for it and looked around the room once again, holding the item before her like a club. There came more whispering and a box fell to the ground making her yelp.
“I am not scared!” she lied, just as a tall hat stand fell over on the right hand side of the room. She looked over and while distracted something threw a large dust sheet towards her forcing her to spring back to avoid getting entangled. There was a loud smash and a sudden rush of movement near the attic window and she shrugged the dust sheet aside in time to see two small shadows spring from the darkness and through the shattered window. She made a leap for the glow lamp and held it up towards the intruders but it was too late. They had fled into the night, leaving her terrified and cold.
She stood there for a long moment staring at the night sky through the broken window. She could feel the cold air brushing against her cheek and she shivered. She remembered then why she was there and scurried over to the large vanity mirror at the very back of the room. She shifted it to one side with some effort and for a moment her heart sank. There was nothing there. No box with a V as her mother had indicated.
She was about to leave when the light of glow lamp caught the second mirror in an alcove to the left of the attic entrance. She had walked straight past it. Quickly she scrambled over and shifted the tall mirror to one side. This time it was there. A large box with the letter V engraved on the lip. She saw the key hole on the front and considered opening it there and then, but a quick glance towards the smashed window changed her mind.
Instead she picked the box up. It was heavy and it took two arms and some fumbling, but eventually she got it balanced just right and made her way out of the attic and down the narrow stairway to the hallway below.