This story has been has been sitting around for a few years waiting to be finished and gathering dust (like the half-seen lumber in the attic in this story’s final part).
It was originally intended as a ghost story with the first half taking place in the 18th Century, and the conclusion in the present. But despite several attempts I haven’t been able to write the contemporary part. I now suspect that my intentions for this conclusion made technical demands which are beyond my capacities as a writer.
So I’ve tweaked and re-written what exists as a self-contained story. Coming in at just under 3000 words, even this half-story is too long for a single blog post, so I am splitting it down the middle and publishing it in two parts.
Other than a brief reference to the superstitions of a certain Indian tribe, it now hardly qualifies as a ‘ghost-story’. My inadequacy has spared you the insanity-inducing terrors I had planned for the story’s conclusion, so the good news is that you can safely come out from behind your sofas.
Like the other story I’ve published on this blog – Three Glimpses of a Holiday Snapshot – this is not an erotic story per se (though please feel welcome to treat it as such if the urge takes you). It is a story that uses intimacy between children and adults and child-sexuality as plot elements, and treats them in a way that a paedophile reader might recognise and find credible; or at least I hope so: paedophiles being, of course, society’s unacknowledged, and sole, authorities on these subjects.
The Attic Child
(C******* Hall, Shropshire, 1759)
Sophia knew that for a child of eight to take pride in her prowess at hide-and-seek betrayed in her a lack of achievement in those pursuits more commonly recognised as being proper to little girls of her age.
Indeed a certain suppleness, her diminutive size and her irremediably jejune limbs had blessed her with an ability to fit herself into corners, cupboards and cubby-holes to which her peers could gain no access. Thus had she lived out some of her most pleasurable moments – crouched in silence, in the soft, consoling darkness of some overlooked cavity in a house, knowing that for once the other children, in vain pulling curtains and peering behind ottomans and dressing tables, would have nobody in their thoughts but herself.
So she consoled herself, for she had come to realise that she was a plain, unremarkable child, and would remain so throughout womanhood, motherhood and old age.
The eagerness with which her uncle Jim would take her pretty elder sister, Emily, or sweet little Beatrice, with her dimpled legs and her winning gurgle of a laugh, on his knee; the way he would hold them close with his strong brown arms, covered in soft hair; the way his hands would become restless with the holding of them, as if his grasp were thinking other thoughts than those his mouth was speaking to mother: those ways, other than a perfunctory greeting kiss on the cheek, were not extended to herself.
She no longer felt jealous when her sisters pressed themselves closer to him, when they laughed at his teasing, and stared too long at his handsome whiskers and piercing blue eyes. Instead she’d turn to her needlework and think of dark secret places such as this one: places both of the world and hidden from it, places where she felt she truly belonged.
Plain in the looking glass, her hair thin and lank, not long and heavy like Beatrice’s, her clothes, even when new, never really fitting her thin frame, awkward and angular like the new-born foals in the stable – she no longer worried about being beautiful. She’d almost forgotten the fairy tales her father used to tell her where the princesses had beauty for the sake of which the princes would endure all variety of terrible ordeals.
Her Father. Whenever she thought of him she’d first remember the warmth when he’d wrap her in his arms and she’d smell the pipe smoke on his clothes and he’d sing quietly to her “close your eyes, my sweet little lassie…”. Half asleep she’d pull his beard and he’d frown and make his angry face, which wasn’t really angry because it would make her happy and he’d gently nibble her neck till she could no longer breathe with laughing and her mother would scold him for ‘working up the bairn’.
Sophia couldn’t remember when exactly he’d left. But it was sometime around when they became rich and moved into the big house. Emily and she (Beatrice had not yet been born) had been excited – exploring the garden with its lake, the pergola and coniferous plantation, and the house with its empty rooms, its staircases and tower, and the derelict out-houses beyond the hollow rhododendrons at the bottom of the path. Then came the nannies, some nice, some more ready with the stick or the back of the hand, and she saw father no more for he’d gone to Guadeloupe to manage an estate there.
And mother also busy, apart from at bed time when they would visit the drawing room and show her how well they’d learnt their lessons and have a kiss bestowed upon their foreheads before returning through the long passageways and galleries to their nursery and to bed.
She remembered when uncle Jim had taken them to see the soldiers and they’d watched them parade in their red uniforms, so tall, so handsome, she thought she’d never ever again see anything as beautiful as those men marching. When they stopped their marching they’d gathered round and taken turns giving Emily rides on their backs and stroked and petted Smudge whom Sophia held on the end of a long leather thong.
She remembered the night when uncle Jim had been telling them all about heroic deeds and adventures from his soldiering in the Sikkim, and scared them with Lepcha ghost-lore – how certain spirits could only be released from cold and lonely wanderings by being warmed by the love of a mortal.
That night, she’d not been able to sleep. Restless from vague dreams filled with soldiers carrying her high, so high, till one dived into the lake and drew her under the waters on his back. She remembered trying to hold her breath as he swam deeper and deeper into the dark depths, holding her breath till she could hold it no more and yielding to the aching need to breath something in, even if only water, knowing herself about to drown, but only to find that the water flowed easily through to her lungs and was light like air. Breathing like a mermaid she wrapped her arms tighter round the soldier’s neck, pulling herself against his bare muscular back fearing lest she lose her grip and get separated from him as he moved with powerful rhythmic strokes deeper and deeper into the thickening darkness, the water rushing and gushing about her ears. When they reached the bottom, there were rows and rows of many-coloured candles with long slow flames, which shone and wafted like fish in the dark and disappeared to pin-pricks of light in every direction. Strange but friendly creatures darted in and out of the darkness about them. The remains of a soldier’s uniform floated up into the darkness above them, flapping away with the slow wing beats and laboured rise of the heron over the village steeple. The soldier, who now was her father, took her from his back and held her close to his chest and lowered his face and, once again, after all these years, nibbled her throat, only this time it didn’t tickle, she didn’t laugh as she would have when she was small, but this time held herself still, breathing deeply and pulled herself closer to him wrapping her little legs as far round his muscular waist as they would go…
A door had shut somewhere far off in the house and she re-entered darkness and the silence of the nursery. Quietly she called for her sisters but no answer came from their beds.
Nor would sleep return. Thinking on the dream, she felt uncomfortable in her bed and flushed. A mosquito’s intermittent whine provoked her into sleep-banishing bursts of agitation. For what seemed like hours she tossed and turned. The sheets fell from her bed, and her night-gown would ride up over her belly. Eventually she got up and wondered out into the house, along its corridors and galleries. Till she found herself outside her uncle’s bedroom door.
She heard beyond it her uncle’s whispered voice. Another voice, a brief girlish giggle, but subdued and muffled, replied – a voice she knew to be Beatrice’s.
She gently pushed open the door and a sudden silence imposed itself within as she stepped into the room’s candlelight.
Her uncle, startled, stared back at her from his bed. He was lying on his back, bed clothes pushed down to reveal a swollen manhood; also naked, straddling his belly, hands resting on his chest, was Emily, her face likewise startled by her unexpected entrance, and lying next to her uncle on the side furthest from where Sophia was standing, one arm across her uncle’s chest, was little Beatrice who smiled at Sophia and said “Come onto the bed with us, Sophia, uncle Jim is being funny”.
Sophia took a step towards the bed but Uncle Jim stopped her with an urgent whisper “Go back to your room, Sophia…”. He paused, then “this bed’s too small for four, it might break…”
The three of them watched Sophia.
Sophia said “I wanted to show you my mosquito bite” and pulled her nightgown up to her chest to show the small welt that she could feel developing on her belly. Emily put her hand to her mouth and giggled; uncle Jim whispered “pull down your nightgown, you’ll catch a cold. And go back to your room at once…” Another pause “…or I’ll tell nanny that you’ve been bothering people by going into their bedrooms at night.”
Sophia left the room and returned along the passageways to her bed in the nursery, where sleep, before long, wrapped her in its velvet arms.
(to be continued…)