Monday, May 20, 2013
Second Draft/First Rewrite of PROLOGUE
Second draft/first rewrite of the Prologue.
June of 1844
Romanian-Hungarian Border (Transylvania)
Nicolae Ganoush was a wanted man. For murder and treason. It was a late night and on the cusp of the beginning of Summer in 1844 when the young man of nineteen took his eleven-year-old brother, Sebastian, and fled Romania. A pale moon hung in the black, starless sky as the two boys fled into the thick woods of Transylvania in order to evade the Romanian officials that Nicolae knew would be on the hunt for him. He also knew that it was only a matter of time before officials in some of the neighboring countries would be alerted to be on the watch for the two young Roma slaves. He and Sebastian were on borrowed time and a long journey ahead of them. The boys would travel through the night, into the following morning, and wouldn’t be stopping to rest until the following night (and even then, they couldn’t afford to be still for very long). Anton Alexanderscu wouldn’t cease his pursuit of Nicolae until he had the young man’s neck stretched in a hangman’s noose.
Nicolae and Sebastian felt their way through the brush, keeping their steps at an even pace, despite Sebastian’s protests of being tired. The younger boy’s words would be met with Nicolae ordering him to keep his mouth shut. A hungry Sebastian held back his tears as the two boys continued deeper into the dark forest. The younger Ganoush boy tried desperately to keep up with his older brother, unaware of the incidents that had occurred just moments earlier. The boy had been a longtime asleep and hadn’t seen much of his brother that evening. He was suddenly awakened by Nicolae grabbing him and pulling him out from under the blanket. Sebastian had immediately noticed the blood on Nicolae, but the only explanation the older boy would offer when questioned was that they both had leave that very moment. The younger brother shuddered as ghostly clouds floated passed the full moon. They seemed to enjoy taunting the boys with a small amount of light before enveloping them in darkness.
Nicolae grabbed Sebastian’s hand as the two boys continued feeling their way through the thick, black brush.
“Keep close,” the older boy whispered.
They trudged on with the sounds of grass and leaves crunching beneath their shoes. The woods surrounded them, vast and dark. Anyhing or anyone could hide here.
Hide before they would jump out and eat us!
Sebastian forced the frightening thought from his mind. He could hear water running softly and knew they had come to one of the creeks that were in a clearing. The sound of water flowing over rocks and small branches was a soothing contrast to the heated tension radiating from Nicolae. The moon came back out from behind the clouds and cast it’s pale beam onto where the boys stood. Sebastian was relieved when he saw Nicolae unsling his bag from around his torso and set it onto the bank by the creek. The boy stood, silently watching as his older brother knelt down and began to roughly scrub the drying blood from his hands in the creek. He was grateful for the stop, however brief it would end up being. The haze of sleep had left him, but the pains of hunger grew.
“Nicolae,” Sebasian said cautiously, hoping that Nicolae had some food in his bag.
“What,” Nicolae replied without looking up. He had removed his bloodstained shirt, dipping it down into the water.
Sebastian was still able to see hints of the intensity on his brother’s face as he worked to remove as much of the blood as he could from his clothes and skin.
“I’m really hungry,” Sebastian said.
“Well you’re going to have to wait!” Nicolae snapped.
Sebastian flinched at his brother’s angry tone and the hot tears that had been in limbo began to form in his eyes. All he wanted at that moment was a scrap of something to eat and for Nicolae to tell him what was going on and why had they left their village in such a hurry. Sebastian was also tired of Nicolae thinking he was nothing more than a silly child. He turned to face the other direction so that his brother wouldn’t see the tears begin to escape down his face.
After an uncomfortable pause, Sebastian heard Nicolae say, “I’m sorry.” The boy dried the tears from his face and looked back to his older brother. In the moonlight, he could see that a genuine expression of remorse had fallen over Nicolae’s face.
“I’ll give you something to eat soon,” Nicolae said. “We just need to go a little further while the moon is still out.”
Sebastian responded with a slow nod and said, “Thank you.”
Nicolae gave his brother a sad, small smile and pulled his damp shirt back on over his head.
He got most of the blood out, Sebastian noted, but where did all of it come from?
His thoughts were interrupted when Nicolae picked up his bad and said, “Come. Just another mile and we’ll stop to eat. I promise.”
Sebastian gave his brother a small but grateful smile that was met with a dark, faraway look that sent chills across the skin on Sebastian’s arms. Nicolae carefully slung his bag over his torso before continuing his walk down along the bank of the creek. Sebastian folloed Nicolae, trying his best to keep up with his older brother’s quick, long strides. There was a strange tension between the boys. As they walked, Sebastian would sneak the occasional glance up at his brother. He could see something in Nicolae’s eyes. Pain. Pain among a mélange of other emotions that Sebastian couldn’t quite place. Then, something else occurred to him.
Eloisa! Why wasn’t she with them?
The boy was growing more confused by everything that was happening and he didn’t even know where Nicolae was taking him.
“Where are we going?” Sebastian slowly asked, breaking the silence between them and hoping that Nicolae would at least tell him that much.
Nicolae paused before uttering, “America.”
Sebastian’s eyes widened. America?! He looked up at his brother who kept his eyes forward, avoiding any eye contact.
“But…what about Eloisa?” Sebastian said furrowing his brow into a frown. “Isn’t she coming with us?”
Nicolae came to an abrupt stop at the mention of Eloisa’s name. The older boy gripped the strap of his bag and Sebastian thought he could see tears forming in Nicolae’s eyes. Nicolae tightly shut his eyes and said, “I’d rather not speak of her now.” There was a strain in Nicolae’s voice. Before Sebastian could say anything more, Nicolae turned and swiftly walked ahead and once again, Sebastian had to jog to keep up with him.
The two brothers moved on into the night, taking some of the darkest, most secluded paths through the woods. Sebastian snuck another glimpse at his brother. He saw a more pronounced pain, anger, and sadness on Nicolae’s face and the older boy appeared to be in a deep state of concentration.
Nicolae looks very sad and Eloisa isn’t coming with us…we left so quickly and we’re going to America… Nicolae was all bloody…the blood on Nicolae…Blood and Eloisa is not coming with us.
The chills returned to the skin on Sebastian’s arm as his mind swam with possibilities of what might have happened. Sebastian was known for having an active imagination and there were times when the images and scenarios he would come up with frightened him. Sometimes, they seemed real. Too real.
Lost in his thoughts, Sebastian jumped at the sound of a branch snapping somewhere from the surrounding brush. Nicolae had also heard it as he whispered for Sebastian to get back behind him as he withdrew his dagger from the sheath around his waist. The blade of Nicolae’s dagger glistened in the moonlight, silver and red. Sebastian focused in on the red that caked the blade, his heart beginning to beat faster. His attention was thwarted when a shadow emerged from the direction of the snapping. Both boys stood with anticipation, as a deer emerged from behind the trees, regarding the two boys curiously before scampering off down the bank of the creek, the same direction the Ganoush brothers were headed in. It was then that Nicolae noticed the stains on his dagger. He shot Sebastian a glance before quickly putting it back into the sheath. The look in Nicolae’s eyes told Sebastian to not ask any questions. The boys continued on, following the creek and the direction that the deer had gone in. They had barely gone another mile when the ghost clouds returned to form a curtain in front of the moon, leaving the brothers in darkness.
Well, at least I can eat now, Sebastian thought.
Illinois-Iowa Territory Border, United States
It was a beautiful late afternoon on the prairie near the border of Illinois-Iowa Territory. Jonathan Blake was taking his horse, Samson, out for a ride along the plains of the American Midwest. He had just finished his day of work for the town Blacksmith that he and his father both worked for and there was still plenty of daylight left, enough for the eighteen-year-old Irishman to get in a good, long ride before nightfall. Riding Samson across the open terrain was a much loved pastime for Jonathan, despite the risks of the frontier. He had come to know the area well, but there was always new uncharted territory to discover and that was the part of the adventure he enjoyed the most. But on this particular evening, Jonathan was not out to discover a new corner of the land. He was returning to a place where he found what he considered to be a new treasure.
Be still, my beating heart, he thought as he anticipated the possibility of seeing her again. Seeing her eyes, her lips…
Jonathan gently nudged Samson, quickening the horse’s pace. If there was such a thing as love at first sight, it was what Jonathan had experienced two days prior.
“Please, Lord,” he prayed aloud, “let her come back to me…”
Jonathan was the eldest son and child of Charles and Emma Blake. The family had come to America in the autumn of 1832. The Blakes had been a working class Black Irish family who had emigrated from Ireland when the beginnings of what would become the potato famine began taking place in some areas of the country. Charles Blake’s intention was to get some land near the Iowa Territory with his wife and their then two children. At the time, Jonathan was barely five-years-old and his brother, Brendan, was two.
Neither Jonathan nor Brendan were able to recall much of the boat ride from Ireland to America, but Jonathan did have the memory of getting off the ship, clutching his father’s larger hand with his small one as his mother held Brendan. The boat had docked at a port in New Jersey and it was overwhelming and exciting for little Jonathan to see all the other passengers filing off with them and taking in their new surroundings. Jonathan had been a curious child and could hardly get enough of everything that was happening around him as he took in how different the new country seemed from the Blakes’ native Ireland. Upon their arrival, Charles had only enough money to get his family over the state’s border and into New York. He was met with some good fortune when he was able to secure a job with James Livingston’s publishing company. Charles would work for Livingston Publishing as he tried saving up money while also providing his family’s needs.
Within a year’s time of settling in New York, Charles and Emma would welcome their daughter, Frances (or “Frankie” as family and friends would call her), into the world. The Blakes were all thrilled with the new addition to their family and considered the little girl to be a wonderful blessing. But with one more mouth to feed, the land out west seemed to be a far greater long shot than it had before. Charles and Emma had been considering the possibility of a permanent stay in New York after the birth of their fourth child, a son they named Isaiah. While there was a little disappointment on Charles’s end, the devoutly Catholic family had come to accept being thankful for the things they did have rather than covet for more. Charles had also found an unlikely friend in the very wealthy James Livingston and didn’t mind working hard for Livingston Publishing at all. James had even offered Charles a better paying position shortly following his trial period. The Livingston family would come to have a larger role in the lives of the Blakes than anyone would ever be able to imagine.
After five years, the Blakes would finally get their land out west. The youngest child of Charles and Emma, their daughter Rachel, would be born on the new land. It had been eight years since the Blake family had been living on the land Charles Blake had dreamed of buying for them. Jonathan had spent the ages of ten to eighteen, living in the farmhouse his father built with his own hands. He was thankful for the opportunity of riding the open trails with the late afternoon sun warming his shoulders. And thankful that he had met her.
Jonathan and Samson approached the patch of land where he had seen her, the most beautiful girl Jonathan had ever seen. A light wind from the east tousled his dark brown hair. The fantasy of pulling her close to him and kissing her beautifully shaped mouth played through his mind. He felt his groin tighten a little as he thought of her warm, honey-colored skin and the petite figure that was under her deer-skin garments.
Jonathan had figured the young woman to be part of the Dakota Sioux tribe that lived nearby. He had seen her two days ago while out on a ride with Samson. Jonathan had turned his horse onto the trail and had seen her, walking up from the opposite direction. Jonathan had slowed Samson down, approaching the girl with caution while also raising his awareness of his surroundings. As he got closer to her, he was able to hear that she was singing softly to herself and he was also able to get a better look at her. She appeared to be a couple of years younger than Jonathan, possibly sixteen years of age.
Jonathan’s heart was pounding as he brought Samson to a halt in front of her. The young woman had stopped her singing and was looking up at Jonathan with dark, curious eyes. Both Jonathan and the young woman were still as they regarded one another. His eyes traveled over her, from her moccasined feet, to her face, to her silky mane of black hair.
I’ve never seen such beauty before, he thought as his heartrate began to quicken.
Jonathan observed his surroundings again before turning back to the young woman. He offered her a friendly smile, wanting her to know that she didn’t need to be afraid of him and that he meant her no harm. But the girl’s curiosity evaporated and was replaced with apprehension.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Jonathan said softly.
She stood studying him for a few moments more before relaxing her defensive stance. Jonathan slowly dismounted from Samson and hooked the horse’s reigns to a strong branch on the tree that was the closest to them. When he turned back to her, their eyes were locked, her black eyes to his grayish-blue eyes. Jonathan watched as the evening’s light wind moved some strands of her black hair to flow around her face. He could feel his heart pounding harder in his chest as the world around him seemed to disappear to one where only Jonathan and the young woman existed.
Jonathan had felt his feet taking him toward her as she stood seemingly paralyzed and watching him close the distance that was between them. It wasn’t long before the two of them were standing face to face with one another and Jonathan was valiantly fighting the urge to scoop her up and claim her lips with his. He drew in a breath and opened his mouth to speak to her again and she jumped backward.
“Please. Don’t run away,” Jonathan said.
But she had already disappeared back down the path and into the field she had come from. Jonathan was inclined to run after her, but he was able to stop himself and instead, stood staring after her, questioning whether or not the incident actually occurred or if he had imagined her or if she was merely an angel who appeared to him for just a moment. The emptiness he felt at her leaving surprised him and the only thought he had had was that of seeing her again.
Jonathan had returned to that area over the last two days hoping to see her and maybe this time, she wouldn’t run away from him. But both times, he had come up empty. Jonathan had spent the last two nights, lying in bed and staring out at the starry sky. He thought of her asleep with her hair sprawled around her. He imagned lying beside her, holding her to him as they slept, feeling her sweet, soft breath on his chest after knowing one another in a way that only a lover could. And here he was, back again at the trail to make a third attempt at making those fantasies a reality.
Jonathan couldn’t help feeling a little caught off guard at the effect the girl had had on him. Of course, there were plenty of girls in the towns and neighboring areas, many of whom he did find to be quite beautiful. But none of them had done to him what the young woman on the trail had. Jonathan also knew that attempting to court and marry a Native girl came with many risks for him, but they were risks that he was willing to take. Despite the potential risks, Jonathan rode Samson onto the trail, happily infatuated and blissfully unaware of two Romani boys on the other side of the world. He hadn’t the slightest idea that Nicolae Ganoush--a young man only a year older than Jonathan--and his brother Sebastian--who was the same age as Jonathan’s brother, Isaiah—attempted an escape from a great danger through a dark forest with barely anything to their names. As Nicolae and Sebastian Ganoush stopped at the creek so that Nicolae could wash away the blood that covered him, Jonathan had stopped Samson at the trail and surveyed the area for the young woman while also keeping himself aware of what surrounded him. Jonathan began to nudge Samson down the trail as Nicolae and Sebastian stood up to follow the creek toward the Romanian-Hungarian border.
The three boys each had a purpose for their movement. Nicolae and Sebastian would pick up their pace along the creek as Jonathan slowed down Samson’s steps as he continued keeping watch for the girl he seeked out. Meanwhile in Romania, Nicolae stopped to give Sebastian the food break he had promised him. As the former Roma slaves took that brief, sweet moment to eat a piece of stale bread and drink a little water from Nicolae’s small flask, the Irishman from the American Midwest brought his horse to a hal as his heart lept with joy. She was there, walking along the path, singing softly to herself as she had been doing when Jonathan had seen her for the first time. She stopped when she noticed him and Jonathan could tell that she remembered him. Jonathan sat with an anxious anticipation as she slowly approached him, keeping her eyes on him. Jonathan offered her a warm, yet nervous smile.
Come to me, my sweet lass, he thought. There’s no need to be afraid of me.
Jonathan’s heart raced as the girl stopped in front of him. They gazed silently at one another before Jonathan gave her a softly spoken ‘hello.’ He could see the girl wince a little, but then that turned into a small, shy smile. Jonathan felt his insides melt at the site of her lips turning upward at him. He watched her reach out her small hand to slowly pet Samson and imagined what it would be like to have that hand adoringly touching him.
Jonathan drew in a breath and slowly dismounted Samson as he had done three evenings ago. The girl quickly shifted her gaze back up to him.
Jonathan then blurted out, “Please don’t run away, love. I’m a man of honor and I mean you no harm.”
The girl’s eyebrows rose and Jonathan cringed at his words, realizing he had called her ‘love’ when he really had no right to do so. He feared having offended her and that for sure, she would run from him and never return. But instead, the girl rested her facial muscles and brought the hand she was using to pet Samson with to the center of her chest.
“Kimimela,” she said. To Jonathan, her voice echoed the light, spring breeze that flowed around them.
“Is that who you are, lass?” he slowly asked her.
The girl paused, studying Jonathan as though she were trying to comprehend his words. At that moment, Jonathan wondered if she could understand him at all as he knew that many of the Native tribes spoke their own languages. Finally, the girl alleviated his unsurity and nodded.
“Kimimela…that’s your name,” Jonathan said.
She nodded again, this time with more confidence. Jonathan let out the breath he had been holding and said, “My name is Jonathan.”
“Jonathan?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said as a wide smile spread across his lips.
Kimimela returned his smile before bashfully turning her eyes toward the ground. She peered back up at him and said, “I like your voice.”
Jonathan felt his cheeks flush at her compliment of his Irish brogue. His heart raced with excitement as Kimimela accepted an invitation to take a walk with him along the trail, side by side with Jonathan pulling Samson along behind him by the reigns.
On the other side of the world, Nicolae’s also heart raced but for a very different reason. At that moment, Nicolae Ganoush was a young man wanted by the Romanian Law Enforcemant while Jonathan Blake became a young man wanted by a young woman with whom he would come to have a great love. A love that, for Nicolae, had become but a memory.
Plains, New York, United States
The Livingstons were one of America’s oldest families, having been in the country since the mid 18th century. They were among the founding fathers and one of the most prominent in America’s aristocracy, owning large portions of the land surrounding the Hudson. Many in the Livingston bloodline had held prominent positions in politics including that of Chancellor, mayor, and were even among the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Others in the family had practiced law and where highly regarded lawyers and judges. It was typical for a Livingston descendent to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, but James Henry Livingston would be one of those in the bloodline who would pave a slightly different direction with his inheritance.
James had been born in America during the colonization. He had a love for literature and science since his childhood. When he was a boy, James and his siblings would be taught by private tutors. A young James Livingston would find himself fighting to stay awake through the lessons other than that of Science and Literature.
At eighteen, James attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusets where he, at the request of his parents, took on a major in Business Law. James would go on to excel in his studies, despite Business Law not being his preferred choice of major. Being a Livingston came with the high expectation from those in society. James would become a member the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity during his second half of his first year. The fraternity had an emphasis in Liberal Arts and Sciences which allowed James to indulge in his true passions. Fate would also look favorably on him in his final year of school when he would meet a young woman by the name of Samantha Jo DeWitt at a party hosted by his fraternity. Like the Livingstons, the DeWitt family were members of America’s high end society, having emigrated from England and Holland around the same time the Livingston family had.
Samantha’s mother and father would approve of James courting their daughter and James would stay in Cambridge for a year following his graduation from Harvard to persue a relationship with Samantha. On Christmas of 1816 and with the approval of her father, a twenty-two year old James would formally propose marriage to a nineteen-year-old Samantha. The wedding would be set for the summer of 1818 and a newly married James and Samantha Livingston would move back to New York where James would begin practicing law.
After some futile attempts for children in the first years, Samantha would give birth to their son, Jesse Robert Livingston, in the spring of 1826. That was also the year James had stopped practicing law and officially opened Livingston Publishing. Two years later, another son they would name Samuel James would be born.
James’s publishing company had it’s main offices in New York City and he had been working on opening a branch in the newly founded town of Plains, an area just short of an hour outside of New York City that James had been among the founders of. He would oversee the building of the new town and would found the Plains Public Library. The library would be open to the public in 1832, the same year the Blakes would arrive in America. Four years later, Lawrence Henry Livingston would enter the world as the youngest child of James and Samantha.
James would reserve land in the area to build his family a holiday-weekend home following the birth of Lawrence. The two-story home was built on a large field that stretched back toward a forest that was part of the woods that covered the Appalachian Mountains and into the Northeastern part of Pennsylvania. James and his family found it to be a peaceful retreat away from the city and over the years, they would make frequent trips out, even inviting friends of theirs like the Blakes and the Flemings along.
On that evening in June of 1844, James sat in the carriage heading out to the holiday-weekend home where he planned to get some much needed work done. Samantha was at home in New York with the Livingston’s houseservants and her and James’s three boys.
At fourty-nine years old, the years had been very kind to James. His face was only slightly aged and there was the faintest touch of gray peppered into his reddish-brown hair. Even young women found him very handsome and a few of the more brazen ones had dropped hints of wanting to be a mistress to him, which was a practice not uncommon among the upper class. James was an exception to many of his more boorish peers, keeping his devotion with his wife.
The portfolio case that James carried with him contained paperwork that he intended to finish that Friday evening and into Saturday. The documents concerned new growths occurring with Livingston Publishing, new additions being made to the library, funding for the orphanage that his good friends, Cedric and Margaret Fleming, were building, and the letter to his other dearest of friends, Charles Blake.
James enjoyed the long carriage rides out to Plains. When he was alone it gave him opportunity to clear his mind and think. In the company of friends or family, it made for a pleasing ride of great laughs and conversation. On this particular evening, James savored the silence after a rather stressful work week. The only present noise at that moment were that of the horse’s hooves clomping on the road as it pulled the carriage and the occasional call of a crow or nighthawk out in the distance. It all had a hypnotic effect on James, lulling him into a trance.
James was shaken to attention and realized that the carriage was no longer moving and had arrived at the Livingston holiday-weekend home. The coachman, Bradley, stood holding the carriage door open, waiting for James to exit.
“Forgive me for asking, but are you quite well, sir?” Bradley asked, wearing a puzzled expression.
James gathered his portfolio case and replied, “Yes. Yes I’m quite alright.” He stood, shaking away the last of his dreamstate, and exited the carriage.
“My lord,” Bradley said with a small bow as James emerged with his boots landing on the dirt road in front of the house.
“Safe travels back,” James said turning to Bradley, “ and I will be needing a carriage back to New York tomorrow evening. Seven ‘o’ clock sharp.”
“Yes, Master Livingston,” Bradley replied. “Will there be anything else before I depart?”
“No. Thank you, Bradley. You are relieved for the night. Samantha and the boys have our servants in the home should they need anything.”
“Very well, my lord. I’ll return here tomorrow at seven ‘o’ clock,” Bradley said before returning to the carriage and riding it back to New York.
James stood alone in front of the dark, two story house, peering up into the top window as the carriage faded down the road. He was always amazed at the quiet stillness out there. A breeze traveling west lifted his cloak as he started up the pathway to the house. James was halfway there when he stopped to observe his surroundings. He looked ahead, squinting his eyes as he studied the distant woods as that feeling began to crawl in through him. The feeling that he was not alone. The feeling one gets when he or she feels watched. From the corner of his eye, James could see a small figure running across the field toward the woods. He turned to get a better look, only to find that the field lay open and empty.
Perhaps I do need a real holiday, James thought as he brought a hand up to massage his temples. From somewhere far off in the woods, the sound of a howling flowed back to where James stood. James felt his stomach jolt and quickly walked up the rest of the path as he made his key ready to unlock the door. He felt much relief as he shut himself inside the house, but was thankful nobody was around to see how on edge he was.
James made his way to a couple of the rooms, lighting some oil lamps before before he settled into his study, placing his portfolio on top of the desk, and put the documents in neat piles. He sat down at his desk, ready to focus his mind on his work and decided to begin with looking over the new paperwork concerning the Fleming Orphanage. With his pen in hand, he started to read over the form. But it wasn’t long before the words on the page began to blur together. James tried to ignore it and push through, but the more he tried, the worse it got. James finally gave up, slamming his pen down and bringing his hands to his face as he tried to will the throbbing in his head to leave. He lifted his head and shifted his eyes over to the liquor cabinet.
A drink…he thought, I could use a drink. Perhaps that will help…
James rose from his desk chair and grasped the edge of the desk, taking in and letting out deep breaths until the room ceased spinning. He slowly walked to the cabinet, opened it, and poured himself a brandy, swirling the dark liquid before taking a first sip. The sip was enough to dull any physical and emotional discomfort, but nothing could erase her from his mind. The girl he had encountered only a week ago.
Now, James Livingston was what one would consider to be a reasonable and sane man. He did attend the Presbyterian church with his wife and sons every Sunday, but with a passion for science and a being self-proclaimed Agnostic, James was one to always seek out logical explanations for things and never entertained anything outside of what could be seen, heard, and felt with the five physical senses. So one can only imagine the pains James was taking to explain what he had seen up at the Nathaniel Fleming Orphanage property. The property was not far from James’s Plains home and he was considering heading up there. He was considering going back up to the fourth floor of the second building and into that room in the center of the hall, just to prove that there was logical reasoning for what he had seen there. Just to prove that he also wasn’t going mad…
James was very fond the Flemings and was happy to help them in any way he could. He had known Cedric since his days at Harvard. Cedric had also been a Phi Beta Kappa and became a member of the fraternity during James’s final year at school. Although Cedric was only in his first year at school while James was in his last, the two became fast friends. Cedric and Margaret had been courting since secondary school and James and Samantha had been in attendance at their wedding as the Flemings had been at theirs. Cedric and Margaret ended up moving to New York following their wedding, not far from the Livingstons.
James had been up to the property to oversee the building of the orphanage a few times and it was nice to see Cedric and Margaret in good spirits. The tragic death of their young son Nathaniel five years ago had a devastating affect on them. But the orphanage, along with their daughter Maxine, seemed to have given them a sense of purpose again.
In the dim light of the study, James absently raised the glass to his lips, once again taking the sweet, warm liquid into his mouth. As the brandy trickled down his throat his thoughts went to her. The small, dark-haired girl.
James and Samantha went with Cedric, Margaret, and little Maxine Fleming to the property after having had dinner together. Cedric had wanted to show James the new building that had just been finished. All it needed was a little more furnishing. The building would house kitchen and dining hall for the students and teaching faculty along with classrooms, a small library (that Cedric insisted on name after James), and dormrooms for the class instructors. The kitchen and dining hall were on the first floor and the classrooms and library were up on the second. The third and fourth floors held rooms and living quarters meant to house the classroom instructors who would be staying on the property during the schoolyear.
Upon their arrival, James had wanted to have a look around on all four floors. He left Samantha, Cedric, Margaret, who were having coffee in the dining hall. Little Maxine ate a bowl of ice cream, but still appeared quite restless and bored as the adults engaged in seemingly endless chatter. The voices of Cedric, Margaret, and Samantha faded behind James as he made his way up the stairs with a lantern. He spent a considerable amount of time on the second floor, looking into all the rooms and feeling pleased that he had agreed to help sponsor Cedric and Margaret’s orphanage.
James then went up to the third floor feeling satisfied with how everything was turing out. He finally went up to the third floor, making his way to one of the rooms located halfway down the hall and entering it as he had the others.
James had taken a quick look around and was getting ready to leave the room when the flame in his lantern flickered out. He looked toward the window, expecting to see it open, making way for a draft to come in. But the window was shut and latched.
Strange, James had thought. He surveyed the room in an attempt to place where the draft may have come from, but there was no sign of any opening. James dismissed it as perhaps the latern having had run out of oil and decided to return to the first floor. The fourth floor was cloaked in shadow, but because it was early evening, there was still enough light streaming in through the windows for James to make his way back down the hall. He had seen all he needed to anyway.
I just need to be cautious in the stairwell…the lights still need testing…
James had turned back around and was at the doorway when he noticed what felt like vibrating in the floor. He frowned, puzzeled.
“An earthquake? Here?” he asked himself. If it was an earthquake, he had to make it down to Samantha.
He had stepped into the hall and felt the same vibration in the floor, this one lower and more pronounced. It was enough to cause James to fall backward into the room as he grasped the door frame to catch his balance. As he was trying to keep his mind clear enough to find a way back down to his wife, he felt the temperature in the room cool and the air seemed to grow thinner. There was a new scent in the room, the smell of tobacco smoke. It almost overwhelmed James to the point of causing him to choke, despite his years of spending Wednesday evenings in the cigar filled gentlemen’s club. Sounds filled the room, deafening unearthly sounds.
“What the devil…?” James asked through gritted teeth as he pressed his hands over his ears. He turned his head back to the inside of the room to see shapes beginning to materialize. A bed and a desk appeared in front of him. James shut his eyes tightly thinking that surely this was the evening shadows playing tricks with his eyes in the midst of a small earthquake.
Perhaps I’ve been working too hard as of late...perhaps I need a holiday.
The vibrating in the floor stopped to James’s relief. The smell of tobacco smoke alleviated as did whatever unearthly sounds were just present. James counted to ten and opened his eyes, expecting to see an empty room. But instead, he stood in a completely furnished room. He didn’t have much time to observe because that was when he saw her. The light in the room was still minimal, but he could see her, plain as day. She appeared to be about twenty years of age and she wore dark clothing to match her hair. James could hear his heart pounding in his ears as he watched her. She was standing on a chair securing a hangman’s noose to a hook on the ceiling.
What is going on here?
James stepped further into the room in an attempt to get a better look at the girl. He paused at the desk, placing his hand on the surface and nearly fell over as his hand went through it. A current vibrated through James’s body as he stood, trying to collect himself. He continued over to the girl and stopped right beside her as she finished securing the noose. The girl then stood, staring at it with blank eyes, though there was a stain from a single tear on her left cheek. James could see her delicate chin. He could also see the shadows under her eyes, and hollow cheeks as her face was on the gaunt side. He reached out to touch her arm and his hand, as it had done with the desk, had gone right through her.
James could feel another current pulse through him, followed by a sudden wave of sadness. Sadness, anger, anxiety, and a desire to end it all took over his being. The feeling was oppressing and paralyzed him to where he could hardly move. But it was when the girl turned in James’s direction and her eyes met his, looking directly at him, but not seeing him. Her eyes told a story of who she was and what had happened to her. Terror and anguish rose in James.
Oh dear God... “No…” he uttered out, slowly shaking his head.
He struggled to move his legs as the girl turned back to the noose, placing her hands around where her neck would go.
“No! Please, stop!” James managed to lurch out as the girl placed the noose around her neck and stepped down from the chair, suspending her small body in mid air, held by the noose that stretched her neck. James was then finally able to break free of whatever restrained him, lunging forward to grab the girl, hoping he could save her before it was too late. James ran into the wall as the girl, the chair, the bed, the desk, and all other objects in the room had disappeared leaving James alone, back in an empty room. James collapsed sobbing, lowering his hands to his knees, his eyes on the floor. He reached a hand up to wipe away the tears that had made their way down to his chin. James noticed broken lantern that lay on the floor in shattered pieces. James knelt down to pick up the lantern’s remains as he searched his brain for when he could have dropped it along with an explanation he would give to Cedric of how it had broken.
James remembered Cedric, Margaret, Samantha and Maxine for the first time since he had stepped into this room. He wasn’t sure how long he had been up there and surely they would be wondering what was keeping him. James rose back to a standing position, holding the pieces of the broken lantern as he checked the mirror above the sink to make sure he looked as he did when he had left everyone in the dining hall. He turned back around to exit the room to see a small figure standing in front of him. James jumped back, startled, but then relaxed when he saw that it was little Maxine Fleming standing in front of him, holding a lit lantern.
“Maxine!” James exclaimed. “Good heavens, I didn’t even hear you come in!”
“Sorry,” the little girl answered. “It was getting boring downstairs. Momma and Daddy said I could come up and find you.”
James forced a smile at the ten-year-old. “Well, thank you Maxine. Tell your parents and my wife that I’m on my way down.”
“Okay,” Maxine said.
James waited for Maxine to turn around and head back out of the room, but instead she stood, squinting her icy blue eyes as she studied his face and turned her attention to the broken lantern that he held. The little girl then turned her face back up to look at him.
“Are you well, Mr. Livingston?” Maxine asked.
James’s eyes widened at the question. He returned the little girl’s gaze and for a reason he couldn’t place, he felt his skin begin to crawl. Maxine regarded him rather shrewdly for someone her age. Of course, James would write that off as her brother’s death having had a terrible affect on her. She stood holding the lantern in front of her. Between that and the rays of the setting sun trickling into the room, her hair seemed to take on a red tint. Her eyes almost glowed as she gave him a rather peculiar look as though she could see right through him. James regained his composure, cleared his throat and said, “Yes. Yes, Maxine…I am. Run along and tell your parents and my wife that I’m on my way back downstairs.”
“Yes sir,” Maxine said. The little girl turned and headed toward the hall. She stood in the doorway, turning back around.
“Mr. Livingston,” she said, “your lantern is broken. How will you see down the stairs? The lights haven’t been installed yet, you know.”
James looked down at the broken lantern in his hand and said, “Why you’re absolutely right, Maxine. I’m right behind you.”
The little girl looked pleased with herself as James followed her out to the hall. As the two walked together toward the door that led to the stairwell, James could feel Maxine’s eyes on him once again. He looked down at the girl, giving her a quick smile.
“Mr. Livingston,” she said.
“Why were you crying?”
James stopped. “I beg your pardon?”
“I heard you crying,” Maxine answered.
James avoided her stare and said, “I wasn’t. Perhaps you were hearing things. Let’s get back downstairs.”
“I wasn’t hearing things,” Maxine said, her tone defensive. “I heard you.”
“I was choking on something,” James said. “Perhaps that is what you heard.”
“What would you be choking on?” Maxine asked.
“Look, it doesn’t matter,” James said, trying to control his rising anxiety. “Let’s just return to the dining hall.”
James turned toward the stairwell door when he heard Maxine speak again. “You saw her didn’t you?”
“The crazy girl,” Maxine said. “The witch who lives in that room.”
James’s eyes widened as felt a sick feeling enter his stomach as Maxine looked up at him. The girl’s voice dropped to a whisper, “Her ghost lives in the room. My momma and daddy don’t know. I also have dreams about her. Don’t tell momma and daddy, now.” Maxine laughed before she turned back to the stairs, practically skipping down them as James followed Maxine, who entered the dining hall as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
James still stood next to the liquor cabinet in his study, swirling and sipping his brandy as he recalled the events of that evening. The image of the dark-haired girl hanging by her neck was present in his dreams almost every night since that evening. He would feel her torment and anguish before waking up in a cold sweat. He would hear little Maxine’s words.
You saw her…the crazy girl…
James shook his head and gulped down the last of his brandy, allowing the liquid to burn the lining of his throat. He welcomed the sensation and poured another glass to take back to his desk.
Perhaps I should leave business with the orphanage until tomorrow, he thought to himself. James decided to take out the letter he was writing to Charles Blake, putting his other paperwork aside for the time being.
Finishing the letter to Charles did help with calming James’s nerves. He thought about another important document that sat in his safe back at his home in New York. His Last Will and Testament. James’s lawyer was coming that Sunday evening to aid James in making a couple changes.
James put the letter to Charles in an envelope, stamped it, and put it into his portfolio case as something completed. He turned his attention back to his paperwork when something in the hallway caught his attention. He had left the door to his study opened a crack. James felt his heart lurch as he saw a figure moving passed the study. He reached into his pocket, fishing out his keys and unlocked his bottom desk drawer where he kept his loaded pistol inside of a lock box. He picked up the firearm and crept out to the hallway, cautiously pushed opened the study door, peering down the corridor in the direction he had seen the shadow move in. James could see that the door to one of the rooms at the end of the hall was open ajar. He frowned, certain that the door had been shut when he arrived.
Armed with his pistol, he made his way toward the room noticing a soft glow illuminating the doorway. As he got closer, he could hear movement from inside the room, confirming that he was not alone in the house. James drew in a breath and peered into the crack in the doorway to see a figure standing at a dresser at the far end of the room near the closet. He kicked in the door, pointing his pistol toward the figure.
“Who’s there?!” James bellowed.
“Master Livingston, please!”
James lowered his pistol. “Winifred?”
It was indeed Winifred, the housekeeper of the Livingston’s holiday home. She lived nearby and came once a week to clean and make sure the home was in order.
“Yes, Master Livingston,” Winifred replied turning around.
James could see a bewildered expression on Winifred’s face. He let out an exasperated sigh. “Good God, woman! What the hell are you doing sneaking around in here?!”
“I’m sorry!” Winifred protested, “I had left my reading spectacles in here earlier today. I let myself in with my key and I saw lamps had been lit so I called to let you know I was here. You didn’t answer so I figured you were occupied…I…I’m sorry…”
“Winifred, it’s alright,” James said quickly, “I supposed I was so engrossed in my work I must not have heard you. I apologize for my outburst.”
Winifred nodded as she made her way passed James and headed toward the stairs. At the top of the stairwell, she paused and turned back to face her employer.
“Master Livingston if I may be so bold…please. Get some rest. You do not look well.”
James looked at the gray-haired woman and nodded his head before waving her dismissal.
“I’ll let myself out,” she said. “My son is waiting for me outside.”
James braced his back against the wall as he heard Winifred leave out the front door, wondering how he had not heard her call to him. As he stayed leaning against the wall in, a thought occurred to him, one that made him chuckle rather loudly. That had been the third time that week someone had made the suggestion of his not seeming well. First little Maxine Fleming, then Bradley, and now Winifred.
James leaned back against the wall, raising his eyes to the ceiling and his thoughts returning to the small dark-haired girl at the Fleming property. The girl he watched take her own life.
Her ghost lives in that room.
“Perhaps I’m not well,” James said aloud as a helpless feeling came over him, “perhaps I never will be again.”
Hector de Fuentes walked along the ocean’s shore, taking in the peaceful serenity of early evening as he went to a secluded area at the end of the beach. It was a place that only Hector knew of, a place he had been going to since the age of twelve. To a typical bystander who was not paying much attention, Hector’s place appeared to be nothing more than a cluster of large rocks in a pocket of the coastline. But at the age of twelve, Hector had been walking along the coastline early one morning before breakfast. He had come across the cluster of large boulders being slapped by the morning tides. It was the first time he had really taken notice of the rock cluster. He couldn’t explain the draw he felt to it, almost as though the area itself were beckoning to him to come over. Even as a young boy, Hector was fascinated by the unknown and what may lurk beyond the natural realm. This curiosity that Hector had was enough to give in to the draw of the rock cluster. He was cautious in his approach to it as he slowly approached the cluster, climbed the formation, peered to the other side, and couldn’t have been more thrilled at the discovery of the mouth of an underground cave. The boy had made his way down the slope of rocks and entered the cave’s opening. The sun’s rays trickled in through small openings in the cave’s walls and ceilings, casting beautiful shapes onto the already splendidly intricate rock formation sculptures that were nature’s imprint.
Hector had spent that entire morning exploring the cave and had completely lost track of time. He had climbed out from the rock cluster and had been running home up the coastline to find that his parents had been out searching for him. They had scolded him for running off and missing his school lessons with his other siblings. He had been grounded for the remainder of that week with the cave lingering in his mind. When Hector’s grounding punishment was over, he returned to the area he had found the cave in, hoping that his visit there hadn’t somehow just been a dream or his imagination. Part of Hector felt silly for thinking such a thing, but the cave had seemed almost surreal, as though it almost couldn’t be anything from this world. Of course living in Mexico, Hector had seen his share of caves with some of the most amazing rock formations. But this particular cave that he had found. It was…different. It was another world in it’s self. It was a place where he could go to be alone to think, read, and watch the ships sailing in the distance toward ports in Mexico and America. Now at the age of sixteen, it remained to be only his place, belonging only to him. It was also where he met Samuel.
Hector was the grandson of Ernesto de Fuentes, a Spanish nobleman who had settled in Mexico during the late seventeenth century, aiding in the country’s colonization. Ernesto would eventually bring his wife, Hortencia, and their three children, Isabella, Francisco, and Miguel over for permanent residence in Central Mexico.
Miguel de Fuentes had married a woman from a nearby Aztec tribe and Hector had been the third of their five children. Miguel had moved his family to an area near the coast of Tuxpan shortly after Hector’s birth. The family would visit Ernesto and Hortencia in Central Mexico and Hector did enjoy exploring the glades of the area, though none of them gave him the simultaneous feeling of serenity and andrenaline. Hector would sometimes joke to himself about wanting to be interred in one of the rock formations of the cave after his death, whenever that would end up being. The more he thought about that possibility, the more Hector came to realize that that was just what he wanted. Hector wasn’t afraid to admit to being a loner. He had friends his age and he got on well with his siblings, but he treasured the time he would spend alone, exploring his cave and the wonders it had to offer. And it did have many.
On this evening, Hector once again arrived at the cluster of rocks his cave was housed in. The evening tides crashed along the shore as he climbed over the rocks to where the mouth of the cave sat open and waiting for the boy. Hector smiled at it as if he were greeting a close friend before he turned to sit down on the rock that looked out to sea. It was here that he felt all of enterity was at his fingertips. He thought he could see a ship far away, sailing out from a port and fading into the setting sun. He could also hear voices and he knew one of them.
Hector shut his eyes, hearing the churning of the waves and feeling the salty sea air in his face. He listened with intent to the voices as he attempted to place their sources. Hector had the abilitly to see things, to see and hear people. As he concentrated, the images of two boys materialized, one who appeared to be about ten or eleven and one who appeared to be between eighteen and twenty. They had a similar look to Hector and the other people he knew in his area. The two boys were making their way through a dark forest. A forest in Transylvania, across the ocean from where Hector was. He could feel the anxiety and tension of both of them. He could feel their fear. He could feel the older boy’s torment and sadness that he attempted to hide from the younger boy. But he could also feel the protective nature that the older boy had toward the younger one and the responsibility he felt for his little brother’s safety. Hector was also overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of loss the older boy felt…the emptiness threatening to consume him.
Hector was relieved when he felt a sense of warmth pulse through him. Brighter. Happier. It was coming from a young Irishman far north of him on the border of Illinois and the Iowa Territory. A young man with wavy, dark brown hair, blue eyes that had a grayish tint, and the strong build of a laborer. This young man also felt anxiety, but it was different from what the first young man felt. Hector saw him approaching a young Native girl on his horse and the attraction the two of them had toward one another was obvious. He saw them walking together down a trail that was secluded (similar to how Hector’s cave was) and could hear the faint sounds of their voices. Hector could sense the young Irishman was trying to resist the urge he felt to take the Native girl’s hand (among his urge of doing other things with her) while they walked beside the young man’s large, black stallion. He could sense any unease that the girl felt earlier was leaving her. Even at the moment of meeting only for the second time, they seemed destined for one another, despite what challenges might be awaiting them.
The Irishman and the woman of his heart’s desire left Hector and in their place was the quaint, American town in New York. Hector knew that place. It was where Samuel’s family stayed on a holiday. Hector understood this as his own family also had a home specifically for that purpose. Samuel’s father stood in the hallway of the holiday home and to say that the elder Livingston appeared troubled was an understatement. Hector tried to get a feel for what was troubling Samuel’s father, but then he was taken to the Livingston home in New York City. He could see Samuel in his bedroom, sitting upright in bed reading a book. Hector tried to focus in on the title of the book, but was unable to make the title out. Like Hector, Samuel tended to be more of a loner. Samuel also looked a great deal like his father with the same reddish brown hair and blue eyes. Samuel’s older brother, Jesse also resembled the family patriarch but with darker brown hair. The youngest boy, Lawrence, resembled their mother a little more and had dark blond hair. The three boys all had their father’s eyes.
Hector remembered the day he saw Samuel in the cave. It was a year ago and he had seen the bewildered New York boy his age step out from a twisted rock pillar that touched the ceiling of the cave. But before Hector could think of the incident further, a low rumble vibrated below him, beneath the rocks and on the ocean’s floor.
The vibration that Hector felt had also been experienced by the four other individuals that he saw in the other areas of the Earth. For a brief second, Nicolae Ganoush, Jonathan Blake, James Livingston, Samuel Livingston, and Hector de Fuentes would give in and see a realm that was not of their own. It wouldn’t last for more than a second or two, but each man would see it and feel the magnetic charge pulse into their veins. All of their senses would be heightened as the veils thinned and the Earth tilted on it’s axis toward the Sun for the Summer Solstice. It would be forever etched in time. For the forthcoming generations.