I’m putting my writing prompt at the top this time because I’m going to try and connect the two. Perhaps you can too! 🙂
I found this abandoned castle while on holiday last year. I knew, as soon as I walked in, that this would make for a great tale. What I did not realize was that the ghosts that walk these halls will instruct me to keep it secret. “You may only tell your children, and their children,” they say. “Only after two hundred years, can our story be made known. Otherwise, this curse will forever be upon us.”
It was a beautiful autumn night when I was whisked away from my friends. We had decided to travel Europe to experience the many cultures in food and drink. Admittedly, I have always been one to get lost in my own thoughts and end up in a different part of town. So, this wasn’t the first time I had been separated from them. And to be honest, I don’t really remember what I had been thinking about before I stood face-to-face with this forgotten relic, miles away from any town. Perhaps it was the ghosts who called to me, placing me in a trance. Deep down, I feel like I was supposed to find this place. All of my questions would soon be answered.
As I stood at the precipice of the world of the living and deceased, something called to me. A voice. It was soft, melodic, and was carried by the wind. My feet were bare somehow and I now wore an old servant’s dress. I was called to the cemetery next to the castle, and I let my feet carry me over the soft moss that had overgrown this timeless cobblestone. Caressing my fingertips over the towering brick walls, I was greeted by wrought iron fencing and a gate that had rusted and fallen years before.
“Come in,” the voice said. “This is where my story begins. I have been waiting to tell you for a long time…”
I was careful not to step on any jutting metal but strayed from the path. Dozens of stone and marble graves scattered the grounds. One, however, drew me in like an insect to a flame. The extravagant sculpture of a crying angel shadowed over a plaque with what looked like silver lettering. As I approached it, the clouds opened up and gave way to a beam of moonlight. It shined upon the epitaph and I was able to read these solemn words.
Loved by many, but her heart belonged to one long since gone.
Perhaps she will find him in the afterlife.
“I couldn’t love the man my father had chosen for me.” It was then that I got my first glimpse of the spirit of Emma. She placed her ghostly hand on my shoulder and wept. “And then… the curse.”
“What curse?” I asked. All of a sudden, I felt a tug towards the front doors of the castle. As a neared the entrance of the cemetery I was jolted to another, less intricate headstone. An eerie green glow touched this headstone and a feeling of immense sadness washed over me.
Always chasing after what he could not have.
This time, another voice spoke to me. The figure of a man appeared beside me and beckoned me towards the castle. When I passed him, his handsome face flashed to a horrible disfigured one. My heart skipped a few beats. It looked like he had been badly tortured or disfigured in an unspeakable accident. I hoped to find out more in this place.
Surprisingly, the old oak doors were still intact. One thing I did remember was that they were shut tightly when I first arrived. Now, as I left the cemetery, they were wide open. The spirit of Emma flashed in the dark doorway and I stepped inside.
What a sight to behold. Crumbling stairs wound upwards to rooms where no one had set foot in a century. Remnants of old tapestries and rugs bearing stains and tears wrapped around wooden furniture that had become so rotten, they were nearly unrecognizable.
“You don’t have much time,” Emma’s voice called in my ear. “Your friends will be looking for you soon. Only a few hours until daybreak and my story will be lost.”
Honestly, I don’t know why I wanted to hear this ancient tale of tragedy. Something in me felt as though I knew this Emmaline Hanover. But there was just no way that could be true, she had died over five hundred years ago. Still, I let her spirit lead me further into the castle.
Again, I found myself in a room without recollection of how I got there. It was the dining room, no doubt. High vaulted ceilings boasted old stained-glass windows that were mostly intact. Some of the moonlight was obscured by creeping vines, but I was still able to see clearly enough. Immediately, I felt a shift in my bones and I was jolted back to when this abandoned place was bursting with life.
“I will NOT have my daughter marry a servant,” a booming voice said. A middle-aged man with a large belly appeared in front of me. He was jabbing his finger violently at a young, red-haired girl.
“But father,” the girl cried. It was Emma. “I do not love Gregory. I will not -.”
“You WILL do as I say,” Emma’s father grabbed her by the frail arm. “You are my daughter. MY property and you will marry whoever I say.”
Suddenly I felt the overwhelming need to run. The feeling in my stomach told me to turn here and open this door. Before I realized what was going on, I was outside again. But this time, I had traveled to the garden. There was a soft stream that trickled around a sitting area with a pavilion. I walked closer and saw Emma’s ghost, with her head in her hands. A man walked through me and I instantly recognized him as David, the man who was buried near the entrance of the cemetery.
“Emma, my love.” I felt myself gasp as he spoke. Again, an unusual sense of familiarity washed over me. “You must marry Gregory. It is for the best.”
“But I do not love him,” she wrapped her arms around David’s shoulders. “I love only you. There must be a way we can be together… I know! We leave this place and never return.”
David placed his hand on Emma’s cheek. “I wish it were that simple my dear. But we would have nothing.”
“We would have each other,” she corrected. “That is all I ever wanted.”
“I love you Emma,” David laid his forehead against hers. “More than life itself. I promise that I WILL find a way for us to be together. I could never see you so unhappy. For now, just pretend to be interested in Gregory. We will wed in a week.”
Emma leapt into David’s arms and they kissed. What they did not see was a woman with dark black hair hiding behind a tree, watching. But I noticed, and I had a sick feeling as to what would happen next.
The spirit guide lead me to the cellar. David and this mysterious woman seemed to be waiting for me to begin their conversation. Emma was nowhere to be found, only the young woman and the servant.
“I would love to help you,” she said. I didn’t believe her for a second, but David did.
“You can make me a prince?” he said. “Place a spell on me so Emma’s father will believe i’m royalty? Then we can be wed! This is amazing. Thank you!”
David took his leave, but the woman remained. “I love you David. And if you cannot be mine, then you will belong to no woman.”
That night, in the same cellar, there was a horrible accident. David was caught in a fire and could not escape. He screamed for help, but no one came to his aid. The woman who had promised to cast a spell on him had set the fire. I could almost feel David’s last words as this fiery reverie filled my vision, “Emma. I will always love you.”
“This happened a week after he promised me we would be wed.” The voice whispered and I was back in the garden.
The pavilion was overflowing with people from all around. Every one of them was wearing regal attire and smiling at the two joining hands in the middle. It was Emma and someone I did not recognize, but assumed it was this “Gregory” that her father had spoken of.
“Tears of joy my little girl!” Emma’s father boasted. “I knew you would fall for this wonderful man… now that the poor servant you were infatuated with has now been laid to rest.”
Emma’s ghost appeared next to me again. I finally got a good look at her face and noticed that it was becoming more decayed by the minute. “But they weren’t tears of joy. I had lost my only love, but I had no where else to go. I had nothing. So I had to pretend to love Gregory. But I never did.”
At that moment, I was alone. I could tarry on this ancient place in peace for a while. Perhaps the next part of the story I had to find for myself. I circled the garden. It was so serene that I thought I was hearing the faint sound of piano music. Beautiful chords added to the scene of rose thickets and beautiful Forget-me-Not’s.
“Those were always my favorite flower,” Emma’s voice whispered. “I did not realize that it would remind me so much of David.”
I ventured off of the main floor into the upper stories of the castle. Many of the rooms did not feel important as I walked through them. Still, the feeling of familiarity lingered. I knew this place, somehow, and I felt like I could spend an eternity here. Finally, I reached the bedroom corridor. Most of the doors were shut tight, but not locked. Oddly, it felt like someone was holding their weight against the other sides, almost to keep me on my task.
There was one room I was able to enter. A large, pillared bed sat off to one corner and two desks and a boudoir on the other. In between was a large door that opened to a balcony overlooking the rolling hills of Britain. I knew the story was almost complete because twilight had gone and the first rays of the new day were forcing their way through the horizon.
“I am so sorry about your beloved David, dear sister.” It was the witch. The one who killed David. Wait… Sister?
“Half sister,” Emma corrected. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Her eyes were puffy with tears. “But thank you Vivian.”
I wanted to scream at Emma, explain everything, but I knew that it was no use. These are just the imprints of life before. This scene had already happened. Instead, I simply cried. I was overwhelmed by sadness that matched Emma’s. I desperately wanted to hug her and never let go. This Vivian ruined her life, but the poor girl had no idea.
“You know,” Vivian smiled and reached in her pouch. “David did want me to share something with you. He came to me the night before he died and gave me this.”
It was a small note. I rushed over to Emma’s side and read it with her.
I do not know why we continue to play this game. We were only children, and the feelings were just that… childish. You had to know that there was no way we could ever be together. While I know that I tugged at your heartstrings through adulthood, I wish I could say the same of you. I do not love you… I was only hoping to marry you to get out of this life of servitude. I am sorry.
No. This can’t be right. David LOVED Emma. The ghost quelled my confusion.
“I should have known my half sister would do this,” Emma said. Her face was rotting away at the bone now. “David loved me and I knew Vivian’s handwriting. She had always been jealous, but I was in mourning. I was forced to lie to a man that I loved him. For five years I did this… until…”
Another shift. It was a year later. Emma was still wearing a black gown, as if still morning for her lost love. She stood on the balcony as a cold air softly touched her hair and dress. Slowly and carefully, she stepped up to the ledge and held out her arms. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and she turned to face the door, careful not to slip. A small child, HER child rushed into the room. It was her son.
“Mommy? What are you doing?” the little boy inquired.
“I cannot do this anymore.” Emma was whispering to herself. Her son could not hear her. “I cannot keep living this lie. I am undone.”
She took a step back and plummeted to the ground below. Her son ran over to the ledge to try and save his mother, but to no avail. There was no way she could survive the fall. I was at a loss for words.
“I did not survive,” Emma’s words hit me like a ton of bricks. “But I saw David right before I hit the ground. He told me that he loved me.”
“Why tell me this?” I finally had the courage to speak. I felt like, this time, she was listening to me. “Why me?”
“Because, dear friend,” Emma stepped back into the beam of sunlight as it burst through the sky. “You are me. Rather… you WERE me. And now that you know this, I can finally rest. Vivian did not want anyone to hear this tale, but I could only speak to someone who carried my soul in the future. Because you listened, I can now free David from the clutches of her curse and be with him for eternity. Thank you…”
And just like that, she was gone. I have never felt the same since. In fact, I ended up winning quite a bit of money and purchasing the old castle, restoring it to it’s former glory. Just for Emma, for myself… I kept everything true to it’s nature. I even wander into the cemetery from time to time and reminisce on who I once was…