Whispers by Oliver Williams

It’s amazing to think that even now they exist among us, inhabiting dusty corners of dark ceilings, or behind the shadow in the closet…

It always was curious, to those who believed, where the children went in those dark years. Some say they escaped and live in hiding, lest they be seen. Others, that they were found and taken to the hospitals and now live, in blissful ignorance. And there are others, who believe that they were taken by creatures: fiery-eyed fiends, slaves of shadows, or monsters from the abyss. The only evidence of strange occurrences in the perfectly ordinary lives of the missing children has been markings in homes. Sometimes found behind bedroom doors, sometimes on floors, sometimes on people. Scientists, detectives, professionals of the strangest backgrounds have not managed to decipher exactly why the message “Who is it?” is written at the site of the disappearances.

Young Sebastian Fawkes had never met his uncle Abbott. In fact, he knew nothing of him whatsoever apart from that he was disgustingly rich and that he lived in a countryside manor house with a single maid. When Matron bustled into the dormitory that fateful morning and announced that Sebastian was to be adopted by his uncle Lord Lucien Abbott of Gosling Hall and Priory, Sebastian was ecstatic.

Having packed his measly possessions in an old battered suitcase thrown at him by Matron, Sebastian waited outside the Orphanage in the cold until a huge, black and shining Rolls Royce pulled up. A kindly old man jumped out of the car and opened a door for him. Without a word, he climbed inside and settled himself down on the rich leather seats. He awoke when the smooth hum of the engine gave way to the crunch of gravel and when he looked outside he could see an enormous and elegant house, windows thrown wide, and between two beautiful gilded columns of pale stone stood a tall, smartly dressed man.

“You must be little Sebastian!” exclaimed Lucien Abbott, as he bent down to shake the boy’s hand. “I am Lord Lucien Abbott of Gosling Hall and Priory, but you may call me Uncle Lucien. I’m sure you’re going to love it here. Please, do come in. Miss Faye will show you to your bedroom.” Sebastian said nothing at all while he followed Miss Faye, the plump, kind-hearted maid, up several winding marble staircases to his bedroom. He was truly astonished by the magnificence of his new home. When he reached his bedroom he stood there, stunned. He could hardly believe it was a bedroom.

Miss Faye simply chuckled and said, “I’ll leave you to unpack, young man. Lord Lucien tells me that you are free to explore the house for the rest of the afternoon, but under no circumstances are you to enter the room at the end of the corridor. It’s kept locked anyway… Understand?”

“Yes, Miss Faye,” replied Sebastian, still too stunned to really register her words.

When Sebastian felt ready to believe this was not a dream, he sat down on his four-poster bed and surveyed the beautiful room. On the wall opposite was a large painting in a gilded golden frame of a young, pretty looking woman. Sebastian guessed she must be Lucien’s daughter, or perhaps Miss Faye in her younger, thinner years. The lady was wearing a lovely wedding dress and a veil, but you could still see her handsome, slightly gaunt face behind it. To the right of the picture was a wardrobe made of thick, dark wood and stood upon this was a small stone model of a cherub, or Cupid. When Sebastian got up and walked over to take a closer look, he saw that the cherub wore a rather disconcerting grimace, not what you would expect from such a model, and he said to himself “I don’t want you looking at me like that!” took the model, which was very heavy for its size, opened the wardrobe and reached right to the back and put the cherub there.

*

That night, Sebastian awoke suddenly from his comfortable sleep. For a second he panicked, not knowing where he was, but when the sudden realisation of his whereabouts came to him, he felt a rush of pleasantness, and relaxed. As he looked out of his window, he caught sight of the Priory. He got up and padded sleepily over to the window. The Priory was more of a ruin than a building. Sebastian assumed it had been knocked down, or ransacked by Vikings or another of the foreign invaders he usually dreamt about. As he gazed down upon the ruin, he saw a figure. Sebastian thought it must be Uncle Lucien or Miss Faye on a late night stroll through the ancient ruins, and made a note to explore there tomorrow. It was a cold night, and there was a faint screen of condensation on the window. Sebastian amused himself for a few minutes by drawing pictures of Vikings with his finger on a misty pane.

When he stepped back to admire his handiwork, he noticed something in the bottom left corner of the window. When he crouched down to take a closer look, he found he was staring at a short phrase in some language he did not understand. It read, “Wie is dit?” The way the words were written on the pane of glass rather spooked Sebastian, and he hastened to wipe the words away with his hand.

As he stood back up and took one last glance through the window, he noticed the figure again, but this time Sebastian had no doubt about it: whatever it was, it was looking right at him with a pair of intensely burning yellow eyes. Fear gripped Sebastian, and he shrieked in terror, and was found whimpering under his bedclothes as Miss Faye swept into the room to find out what had occurred. Sebastian told her he had had a bad dream, and she talked to him for a few minutes, before leaving him to sleep.

The next morning Sebastian met Uncle Lucien for breakfast downstairs, and was asked many questions about what life was like at the orphanage. Sebastian was only too happy to share his experiences and talked at great length after wolfing down four and a half pieces of toast and marmalade. Finally, Lucien asked him:

“So, Sebastian, what would you like to do today?” Sebastian, having completely forgotten what he had seen the previous night shouted, “I’d like to explore the Priory, please!” Lucien looked rather taken aback and, after a brief pause, said, “I’m sorry, Sebastian, but there is a service for the village people at the Priory today, and I’m sure you don’t want to attend that!” Sebastian laughed out loud and exclaimed, “What are you talking about, Uncle Lucien? The Priory is in ruins! Why on earth would a religious service be held there?” “I don’t know what stories Miss Faye has been telling you, young man, but I can assure you, the Priory is certainly not a ruin! Why, I had it redecorated just last year! Look outside!”

Sebastian, not a little confused, ran to the large French window in the dining room, and stared, awestruck. There was indeed a group of large stone buildings standing just across the driveway, with a few people lingering outside the door of the largest.

“But, Uncle Lucien, last night…”

“No “buts,” young man! Now, run along why don’t you, have a nice day.” And with that, Lucien Abbott stalked from the room. Not a moment afterwards Miss Faye bustled into the room (which reminded Sebastian of Matron) and said, “Right! It’s a lovely day, you go fetch your coat from upstairs and meet me here, and I’ll take you for a walk.

*

Sebastian and Miss Faye strolled through the small forest that surrounded three quarters of the manor grounds, and Miss Faye told many a wonderful story of Lord Lucien’s adventures in the East, and in the cold conditions up North.

“Is that Uncle Lucien’s job, Miss Faye?” asked Sebastian. “Do people pay for him to explore the world?” Miss Faye looked rather troubled, but Sebastian did not notice this.

“N-No. Lord Lucien is most interested in the behavioural patterns of children. You see, he used to work in an orphanage, not unlike the one you have just come from, but then unfortunately the children started to disappear… The case was never solved, I’m afraid. And to think it’s happening again right now! Grim times indeed, young man. Why, Lord Lucien couldn’t allow his own nephew to be in that sort of danger! Oh no, bless him. He is a good man, Sebastian, although he has seemed rather lonely since his poor wife died.”

“Is that her picture, in my bedroom?”

“Yes. Lovely woman she was too. Such a shame.”

“H-How did she die, Miss Faye?” She looked worried now.

“I don’t know! She disappeared one night! I was just asking her if there was anything else I could do for her, and she said, “No, thank you,” a-a-and the next morning… Gone. But let us not dwell, Sebastian. Look around you, enjoy the countryside.”

Sebastian, deep in thought, looked around in the gloom (the sun had just disappeared behind the clouds) and suddenly something caught his eye. He saw a figure clad all in white, presumably a woman, with its back to them. Sebastian stopped walking and stared. Slowly, to his horror, the figure turned around. Sebastian saw a face he never forgot: a wrinkled, bony face covered in scratches and cuts and a trickle of blood running down its cheek from the forehead. As he watched, paralysed with terror, the woman smiled, a menacing, sinister smile, exposing black chipped teeth, and that was when Sebastian noticed her eyes. There were no pupils, only discs of hot yellow, burning, looking at him, searing him. Sebastian stumbled backwards, tripped…

“What a mess! You need to be more careful young man!” cried Miss Faye. Sebastian sat up and his eyes flashed around for the woman. He was alone with Miss Faye. The sun was out again, and already the vision was fading from his memory.

“Sorry, Miss Faye!” he muttered. “I think I must have tripped on a branch on the path.”

“Yes, well. We must get you back to the manor and give you a bath! Look at your clothes!” Sebastian looked down and saw an array of muddy marks on his jumper. When he looked closer, he could make out what looked like a couple of words in spelt in mud… “siapa itu?” the words seemed to say.

“Look at this, Miss Faye, there’s a word on my jumper!”

“Don’t be so silly, boy! You must have knocked your head! All I see is muddy muddy muddy! Come, I must get you cleaned up!”

*

“Uncle, do you know how Lady Abbott died? Sorry, it was not right for me to ask.”

“If… She had ideas… Talked incessantly of inanimate objects coming to life. Said she noticed changes in the world through the night… Sh-she was frightened of… a woman. That’s enough talk. Now off to bed with you, it’s very late.”

*

A noise woke Sebastian that night. He thought he had heard whispers. And he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was not alone. The moon was full, and the room was glowing faintly with pale light. Another whisper. Faint, but near. Sebastian was terrified. He had felt nothing, seen nothing, yet he was absolutely certain that there was someone in the room with him. He looked over to the wardrobe. To his utter horror he saw the cherub, sitting there on the wardrobe, looking at him. How could it have been there? It was not alive! Shaking, Sebastian whipped his duvet over his head and whimpered. After several minutes, having summoned enough courage, he looked at the cherub again. Another whisper came, but this time he saw something move. He stared in shock as the woman in the picture smiled at him, exposing black chipped teeth. Her face was no longer young, but wrinkled and battered. Her hair was no longer short and shining, but curled, matted and grey. Sebastian cried out in fright, leaped out of bed and opened the door. As he looked down the corridor, he saw something that made his heart skip a beat, and he recalled Miss Faye’s words. “…It’s kept locked anyway…” The door at the end of the corridor was standing ajar. As he watched, petrified, a long, skeletal hand crept out of the darkness and grasped the door. Sebastian then saw a pair of flaming yellow eyes between locks of matted hair, and out of the dark void came the creature in the wedding gown, grinning at him. Sebastian let out a scream of terror, and once again Miss Faye rushed out of her room to find him crying.

“What is wrong, child?” she exclaimed. Sebastian pointed towards the door, not daring to look.

“Well there’s nothing there! What are you pointing at, boy?”

“Miss Faye… She doesn’t want me here, she’s trying to scare me away!”

“Who is this she?”

“The woman in the picture in my room! She asked me who I was!”

“Don’t be so stupid, boy. Ursula Abbott has been dead 13 years! Come downstairs, you need something strong to rid yourself of these infernal visions!”

*

After a large helping of brandy given to him by Miss Faye, Sebastian felt a good deal better. It was still 2am, so he bade her goodnight, saying that he should like some more sleep.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, thank you.”

Just as Sebastian reached the top of the staircase, he caught sight of the door to the right. “… Under no circumstances are you to enter the room at the end of the corridor…” Sebastian glanced down the corridor and saw his bedroom. But he, being curious by nature and feeling adventurous, turned away to face the closed door in front of him.

As the door creaked shut behind him, and Sebastian was cast into complete darkness, he had the fleeting feeling of déjà vu. Evidently Miss Faye had had a similar thought, because he heard her scream in worry seconds before the door clicked shut. He stood there, his courage ebbing out of him and seeping through his feet into the floor below.

“H-Hello?” whispered Sebastian. Seconds later Sebastian heard a cold, high-pitched wail from the darkness before him and he cried aloud and turned to the door. But it was not there. The screaming continued and Sebastian in his panic closed his eyes and kneeled down and put his hands over his eyes and sobbed. Suddenly, just as unexpectedly as it had started, the wailing stopped. Slowly, very slowly, Sebastian lowered his palms from his ears. Silence. Then, faint whispering. He could hear several voices, all whispering repetitively, but in different languages. It was gibberish to him. If he concentrated he could hear some of the words: “Kto je to?” “Nor da?” “Ki az?” “Quis est?” Sebastian’s body came alive again: he snapped open his eyes and jumped up and there was the door, right ahead of him. He seized the handle, wrenched it down, and opened the door. Ahead of him was another door, exactly the same as the one he had just opened, but as he looked at the wood through the half darkness, he could make out three huge words, perfectly understandable this time, scrawled across the door: “WHO IS IT?”

When the screams of Miss Faye were heard outside by the visitors to the Priory, the police were telephoned for, and it seemed some cruel person had also informed the press. When the bravest of the policemen had finally plucked up enough courage, he marched up the stairs, which were stained by a steady stream of thick, dark blood, and threw open the door. All he saw was a closet, cluttered with brooms and brushes. Nobody noticed the dark corner of the ceiling, which absorbed any light that was shone upon it. When searched for, Lord Lucien Abbott of Gosling Hall and Priory was nowhere to be seen. The headline the next day in the paper was: “Third child to disappear in one month!” And the question that so many gossiping people asked each other was, “Who is it?”