The day looked as I felt when I traveled to stay with my aunt in the country. "For the fresh air" I had told her when I wrote to her two months before. As I drew up to her house in the cab she had sent for me, I almost felt a flash of relief. Almost. Aunt Rebecca's house is what one would call a "stately chateau". I didn't care how big her house was, the premise was and would stay "fresh air". The downpour had ceased during the drive, and so I entered Aunt Rebecca's house only damp.
She was there at the front door waiting for me, and endeavored to give me a warm hug, which I now hate to admit I shrugged myself out of, feeling it was not sincere. I would later find out I was wrong, but I did not know any better then. I would after the events that were soon to happen.
"Come in, my dear!" my aunt said brightly. "Let me show you to your room."
She led me and my few things up a long staircase to a hallway of rooms. Mine was on the right as we walked down.
"I am so pleased you decided to get over your writer's block here," said Aunt Rebecca as she led me into my bedroom. "I'm sure you'll find lots of things to inspire you! You can explore the house, the garden-"
"That old cottage?" I pointed out the window and Aunt Rebecca came to see what I was looking at. It was an old cottage, with a Spanish-style roof, and wide windows which were boarded up. Curious, I thought.
"Ah, that is the old guesthouse. It hasn't been used since I was away at school, just after your mother's and my sister, your aunt Jean, died. That's where she liked to work and write her own stories, before the accident…"
She trailed off, as if remembering for a moment. Then she turned to me with a smile. "Dinner will be ready in an hour, dear! I'll call you when it's ready."
She left the bedroom. I looked back out the window at the old guesthouse. It would be perfect.
That night after dinner I went out to the old guesthouse. Fortunately the old wood boards on the windows had not been replaced for some time, and so I was able to find one that was rotting and kicked it in to get through. The house was almost as dark as pitch, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I was able to grope for a chair and a desk in the darkness - I might as well go as I am, I thought to myself.
I stared into the darkness for a bit - it would be now or never, then. I took out and brandished my pen knife.
What are you doing there? I dropped the knife at the sliver of the voice I had just heard. I looked around to find the source of the voice, but was met only with the oppressive darkness.
I said, what are you doing there? Again I heard the voice, or rather felt it as a shiver in my bones. This time I looked behind me, and standing there was the illuminated figure of a young girl. She could have been no more than thirteen years old. She was looking at me most intently.
"Nothing," I answer after a moment. "I wasn't doing anything." She kept looking at me with her fixed gaze, not unkind, but unrelenting. I was compelled to tell her - to tell her everything.
"I came here for help."
She kept looking at me.
"Isn't that what writers do when they cannot write?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. Then she came to sit in the chair beside mine. She looked at me kindly and at the same time sadly.
The dead cannot help you. Death cannot help you.
I knew she was right. But oh how lost I was now. "Then what am I to do if not even the dead can help me?"
Now she was smiling. Oh my dear, help is not in the hands of the past, do not look back and inward onto it. Trust that the right things will come to you. And be not afraid to speak. You are a wordsmith, after all. I was afraid to speak, and now I have only this house. She rose, and turned toward me with the widest grin. Now get up and live.
I awoke to a bright dawn. I looked down to the pen knife in my hand, with which it seemed I had scrawled into the desk the words "be not afraid, be here."
What was here? I looked around and saw the old brick of the house, the undusted sconces and mantlepiece, the shine of the sun through the stained windows - ghosts of life whispering to me a story.
I ran to the big house and into my bedroom where I sought and found my notebook and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.
After what was probably hours, my aunt came and stuck her head through the door. "Oh my dear, you're writing! See I knew this was just the place for you to get over your block."
I turned to look at her, this time with a smile. "Yes, Aunt Rebecca, it's getting much better now."
Aunt Rebecca turned to leave. "Aunt Rebecca?" She turned back. "Yes dear?"
I got up to give her a hug. "I'm not afraid to speak anymore. And I hope you will not be afraid either."