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Second Saturday Stories Presents The Wraith Chapter 9: The Confession

The unsupported floor above her strained and groaned. In the darkness she tried to get her feet underneath her but they continued to slip on the loose stones. In her frantic state she felt like skeletal hands were yanking her towards the gaping void that just swallowed Clark.
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Esther replaced her necklace and was holding the light while beside her Clark was concentrating on the device Merfey built. Every few minutes it let off a crackle or a snap from the speaker set in the center of it, and the level meter at the bottom of it would jump, but so far it didn’t leave the red zone. Esther flashed the beam across water pipes, radiators, an overturned gurney they had to wrestle out of the way. There was one stomach turning moment when she set the light on a yellowed eyeball in the center of the hall that froze both her and Clark in their tracks before realizing it was someone’s glass eye. 

“That’s kind of funny.” Clark spoke once their hearts stopped racing. “I’ve felt like someone has been watching me since we got down here. 

“Me too!” Esther replied “It’s eerie. Because if there is something, then Merfey’s machine or my crystal should be picking it up.” 

The pair of them found a small alcove with three couches set facing each other, a strand of picture wire nailed to the wall. Beneath is a painting of a frozen lake surrounded by evergreens sat in a heap of broken splinters and dust. Clark set the device on one of the couches and made his way to Ester. 

“Well.” he started, swallowing. “It might also be me, because I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you all day.” He slipped his hand into hers and spun Esther around. 

She smiled at the warmth in his words, even if it was a cheesy line. She offered her other hand to Clarks and allowed him to pull her closer. 

When they kissed the cold and the dark seemed to melt away, and Esther was lost in the warmth she felt moving through her body. Clark moved his hands to her waist and pulled her closer, both of them losing themselves as the moment stretched. Clark began moving his hands and Esther felt a pang of alarm. She liked Clark, and she wanted to get further than they had, but her memories and the feeling this place gave her killed the mood. 

“Wait.” she spoke around the kiss, but Clark was lost in the moment, his eyes still closed. Esther broke from the embrace “Wait.” she said a little louder. Clark moved to her neck, muttering around kisses. “What’s the matter? I thought you wanted this.” Esther bit back the giggles as his peach fuzz tickled her. He was right, a part of her wanted to go further, longed to, but this wasn’t the time or place. Giving herself to Clark here would invite negativity and damn any relationship they hoped for, Esther didn’t want to lose another person, especially one she was starting to love. If he felt the same way he would understand. Clark tried for second base again. 

“Clark. Stop.” Esthers voice was commanding and broke the spell Clark seemed to be under. When his eyes met hers instead of soft understanding she saw a raw anger. 

“Jesus Christ Esther I wish you would make up your mind. You’re as hot and cold as a god damned faucet. Why the hell else did you invite me here if not for- this” Clark gestured at one of the small couches. 

Beneath the heartwrenching remark Esther felt a seed of hurt bloom in her chest. It was one that could be weeded out and the remaining garden around it unscathed, or it could decimate the landscape of her heart like a garden’s early frost. 

“I asked you here to show you there’s more to this world, more to life. Certainly more to life than getting your rocks off.” Esther was angry now.  In the moment Clark Matthews seemed to be replaced by simply another male. One who sugar coated words and gestures to get what he wanted, only to move on after. 

“This sucks.” Clark spat “I should never have agreed to come to this death trap, truth is I just felt sorry you had to spend the afternoon with Metal Mouth, but I see from the way you cater to that god awful nickname maybe you’d rather it be him standing here instead. ‘Oh Miles Miles Miles’ Clark imitated in a mockery of her voice ‘you can make anything with that brain of yours because you’re so smart’ Gimme a break.” Clark spit on the ground. 

Esther snickered. A small humourless laugh escaping her. Her thoughts were now a torrent rage, and from that tempest she began plucking everything she had never liked about Clark Mattews. 

“You know what, Clark-” She didn’t get to finish as both of them were startled from their argument by a raging crackle from the device. From where she stood Esther could see the level meter spike to green. From the speaker growl sounds were coming as if an animal were caught in it. Before long the growls turned into words. 

Office. It was a woman’s voice, and the sound of it froze Esther cold. 

Office.It repeated before the whole device winked out. She contemplated calling Merfey on the walkie talkie, but if Clark thought she had any interest in him that would only fuel his argument, and she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. 

She walked off without a word, if Clark wanted to follow her he was more than welcome, but she wasn’t going to waste anymore air talking to him. This whole thing felt like a bust now. Esther just wanted to get it done and get out. The future she envisioned with Clark, writing to each other from college, weekend trips home, stealing away to each other’s dorms. All of that seemed silly now, if this was how he acted when he didn’t get what he wanted. Esther chastised herself for imagining the stupid longings of a lovestruck little girl. She snorted a derisive laugh as they walked the halls of the derelict building. If Clark heard, he didn’t make any indication. 

They found the nurses office, the door already ajar as the beam landed on it. Both of them now stood in stubborn silence. Esther knew the door shouldn’t have been open, the long length of chain sitting coiled at the bottom of it. The lock wrenched off, as if by force, laying in two pieces close by. She heaved a sigh and pushed through “I’ll go first, I guess.” She muttered. Clark only grunted. 

Esther expected to see the same crumbling rat infested office as above, but when she opened the door she thought she had slipped back into her vision. The office looked pristine. Empty of chairs the counter tops looked freshly varnished and the steel basket sat ready to receive pencils. Even the glass seemed to shine with sparkling cleanliness. Esther believed she could smell the pine fresh scent of cleaner mingling in the air. She took her first deep breath of the afternoon and felt some comfort return to her, despite how unlikely it was. The only difference in this nursing station was the door leading to an office located on the other side. Esther peaked in and found it to be the exact same, she could almost smell the new leather of the desk chair as it sat expectantly behind a wooden desk that looked like it cost as much as her school tuition. Esther heard a snap behind her and she whirled with a start to see Clark had made his way to a terminal in the nursing station. An audio recorder spun its reels and a small hissing sound came from a speaker that connected to the body of the recorder. It looked like a pansy petal to Esther. 

“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed at Clark “You almost gave me a heart attack!” 

“Calm down ok?” Clark barked “I just wanted to see if it still worked, how was I supposed to know it had tape in it?” 

“You use your eyes, numbskull.” Despite being the only two in the room both Clark and Esther had resorted to whispering at each other, as a result the voice that came from the audio tape sounded like booming commandments from an unseen God.

“State your name.” it was a youthful voice Esther noticed once she was able to focus again, her heart hammering against her ribs. It was a man’s voice and though it was strong, she could hear fatigue dragging out some of the syllables. The audio hissed through silence for a few seconds before there was an answer. When she heard the voice Ester took a step backwards, instinctively toward the perceived safety of the office behind her. It was the same voice she heard over Merfey’s device moments ago. It was a woman’s voice haggard with futility, her speech slow and drawn out as if she were drugged. 


“Your real name” The man probed 

“Lucinda Alissandra Hessen.” 

“Doctor Robert Smith conducting Interview five with patient LH conducted this August twenty fifth nineteen twelve” Esther’s eyes widened and, despite the argument, she met Clark’s. 

“Damn near forty years to the day.” he muttered. His eyes snapped to the door they entered from and Esther knew he was thinking about Merfey, could see the struggle between calling him over or keeping his pride. In the end his pride won the fight. 

“Where is my daughter?” Lucinda continued over the recording 

“You know the rules by now, you will get your daughter once we finish chatting. Something to eat as well. Today Lucinda I want to talk about the ship. You’ve told me so many wonderful things already but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me about more about the trauma you endured.” 

The room filled with that eerie silent hiss again. Clark began to speak but Esther shushed him. Against her skin her crystal began to warm. She thought it was her imagination at first but it seemed that the longer the tape went on the warmer it got. Maybe if they let the tape play through it would bring the energy forward. They could record the first ever conversation with the afterlife. She didn’t want anything to break that. Deep inside she also felt a yearning need, something she would deny if anyone ever asked, but if Lucinda was here, if they made contact, maybe she could find out if her parents were at peace. Esther leaned in as Lucinda’s recording resumed. 

“It was an awful place.” her voice was ice cold, haunted as if she were re-living everything through her mind’s eye. 

“What was awful about it?” Doctor Smith asked. The light wisp of a pen scratching across paper could be heard faintly.  

“Cramped spaces, black smoke so thick it clung to your clothing, your lungs. Molly’s cough started there. That smoke. Robert-” 

Lucinda chokes a sob and Esther felt her heart twist for the woman in so much pain.

“Robert what?” the doctor prodded as silence stretched out longer this time. His chair creaked as he adjusted himself and Esther heard an impatient sigh escape him. 

“Lucinda I must remind you that your treatment plan is based wholly on talking through the trauma, but if you would rather I implore the standard practice of shock therapy to numb the memories then that is a route I will go down. Now you’ve done- you’re doing- well, but I need you to speak up.” Esther heard a resigned frustration in the doctors strained words as if he spoke through a clenched jaw. She scowled. She had met men like him before. The type who gets a taste of power and uses it as a strength to lord over people. She wished she didn’t realize a little of that was in Clark too. After a few more silence seconds Lucinda continued speaking. 

“Robert was a crook. He told us, told me, he was taking a tour of the ship, that he was doing it in steps so he could take it all in. He was taking what money we had and bribing officers to gain access to first and second class cabins. He filled his pockets, I caught him one night, he was stuffing pearls into his suitcase and still bursting at the seams. What happened to him, it was my fault.” 

“You’re talking about his death.” The doctor prompted “Are you saying you murdered your husband for his crimes?” 

The rest of the tape was Lucinda’s sobs as she was overtaken by emotion. After a few minutes of inaudible sounds the doctor concluded the recording, annoyance poisoning his words, and the tape snapped off. 

“Hey” Clark’s voice made Esther jump. She spun around to find in him the office beyond the nursing station, standing behind the wooden desk. Against her chest the crystal began to warm to the point that it was almost uncomfortable. 

“What are you doing in here?” Esther asked when she entered “we need to get Miles in here to hear that. This may be the best place to make contact.” Clark didn’t acknowledge her, he was too busy pouring over a manilla folder. Esther craned her neck to read the name but knew before the goosebumps rippled down her back what she would see. Hessen, Lucinda 

“Client exhibits skewed cognition and breaks from reality synonymous with stress endured from extreme trauma.” Clark read “writer believes that shock of vehicular trauma coupled with the premature death of child has created a ‘safe space’ persona for client to retreat into, ie. The Butcher. If Client can blame her actions on this ‘Butcher’ then she can absolve herself of any wrongdoing and preserve the image her ego has of her. Writer’s opinion is that full rehabilitation is not possible due to the mental damage done, and that treatment will consist of indefinite confinement until such time patient expires or is transfered to a more secure location.” 

When Clark looked up his eyes were shocked. “This is dated the end of July.” Esther furrowed her brow. “Then why continue recording the sessions?” 

“Why keep them up at all?” Clark agreed. 

Realization dawned on Esther and she felt disgusted at the thought. “Because his own sick curiosity, like someone who drives by a car accident. He wasn’t interested in her rehabilitation, he just wanted a first hand account of the sinking.” 

“Jesus.” Clark shuddered 

“We need to find Miles.” Esther said. 

Lucinda watched the two lovers. The device they played invoked a strange memory she watched play out in real time. One that felt oddly familiar and foreign at the same time. A man robbing passengers. She finds him hiding the loot. A young girl watched as the argument increased. The man smacks Lucinda. She shoves him through a doorway, catching two handfuls of his shirt before he can topple over the railing he’s butted against. They lock eyes. She starts to push. He tries to wrestle free. She keeps pushing.  “I will find you” he utters before she shoves him. An act of finality that sends him careening through the night. She looks at her hands and wonders if she’s cursed her and her daughter by becoming a harbinger of death. A few hours later it rained ice as the massive vessel collides with an iceberg. 

She observes these memories without emotion. They hold no relevance to her in the void she now exists in. They are merely events that have been cataloged and can now be left in the growing sands of time she leaves behind. 

She sees The Tendril on the boy and knows the doctor is close. His form materializing from the thick rings of smoke attached to the boy. Lucinda fulfilled her role earlier, exploiting his anger and passion and transforming it into a doorway that the doctor could enter through. Their meddling had created a doorway too, one that was slowly opening wider from The Girl’s talisman. 

Lucinda felt the time was soon going to come when a doorway would open and all of those who entered into this world interested in meddling with her peace would be silenced.

All of a sudden a blast of light erupted in her field of vision, her chest began to burn. Her Daughter. Her daughter was here. Lucinda let out a rolling bellow that seemed to shake the walls. A dormant fury ignited and she wailed again. The Lovers began to flee and she concentrated the rage on them. They were to blame, somehow they were keeping her daughter from her. Lucinda made the floor collapse under their fleeing steps. The Girl leapt to safety but The Tendril slowed The Boy, making his movements sluggish. He tumbled into the darkness as Lucinda continued bellowing as if hell itself had emerged into Marshwood. 

Esther rolled over on her back, her outfit caked in stone dust. The nursing station they were just in was a story below her. The unsupported floor above her strained and groaned. In the darkness she tried to get her feet underneath her but they continued to slip on the loose stones. In her frantic state she felt like skeletal hands were yanking her towards the gaping void that just swallowed Clark. Her screams came out as clipped yelps until she finally got her feet underneath her and bolted down the hall.

Esther’s throat stung as she took in a lungful of air before screaming out for Merfey.