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Eddard Boeing, 1921
I loved the character of Eddard Boeing immediately, and I thought this would be a fun (though dark) twist on the typical haunted house story.
Helen was not afraid. Not consciously, at least. There may have been traces of fear churning in her subconscious, but she kept a smile on her face as she walked. She was fully aware of what she was walking towards- the mysterious mansion deep in the woods of Mt. Greylock. She knew about the murders that had taken place within its walls. But there wasn’t anything to be afraid of. ‘Course not. That was years ago. This excursion was just a way to kill some time during the long summer before seventh grade would start.
Another girl walked beside Helen: Sasha Kozlovsky, Helen’s best friend since the first grade. Helen had spent days convincing her to come. The mansion, she told Sasha, was haunted by a poltergeist: the infamous Eddard Boeing, heir to a watchmaker’s fortune. On August 4, 1921, Eddard had killed everyone in his household - and then disappeared, leaving nothing but a bloody watch. The legend went that if you found the watch, Eddard would return to claim you as his next victim. Helen was enthralled. Sasha was less enthusiastic.
“Tell me again why I’m here?” asked Sasha.
Sasha had always been a cynic, questioning everything from the newest tween boy band sensation (what a bunch of conceited idiots) to why they went to church (everyone knows God isn’t real). Sasha thought Helen was a sucker.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Sasha said.
“Well, nobody’s ever proven that they aren’t real,” said Helen.
“I don’t believe what I can’t see.”
“You believe in gravity.”
“You can see gravity working. Ghosts, on the other hand…”
“Why are you being such a downer?”
“I’m not being a downer, I’m being realistic…”
They debated for a little bit, neither girl forfeiting her position, until they drifted into a lazy silence. Mosquitos hummed around their heads, twigs crackled underneath their feet. The green world of Mt. Greylock seemed to encapsulate the lethargy of summer. Yet Helen imagined a malevolent being haunting these woods, biding his time, waiting patiently for his next victim…
“I think that’s it,” said Helen suddenly.
A majestic form was starting to take shape ahead of them- towering columns with white ornamentation, glittering blue windows and quaint red arches, whites, browns, bricks and a dainty tower at its peak coated in the soft blue of the darkening sky.
Helen accelerated her pace. Sasha, after a quick scrutiny of the mansion, followed close behind.
The door swung open easily, and the two stepped into a sort of atrium. It was white-walled and marble-floored, with glass ceilings nearly high enough to accommodate a Mt. Greylock tree. Two black spiral staircases coated in cobwebs snaked to separate sides of the house. Black terraces lined the walls. A stark black table between the staircases was the only furnishing. Helen was amazed that such a well-lit room could look so somber.
“Eddard Boeing was obsessed with symmetry,” Helen told Sasha. “He considered it be the most beautiful thing in the universe. Everything in each room is symmetrical.”
The two girls started walking. Helen searched Sasha’s face for any sign of enthusiasm.
“So, when’s the ghost gonna come out?” said Sasha.
“Any minute now,” said Helen, slightly disappointed.
They stood in the opening of the next room, a rustic kitchen, Helen leaning absentmindedly against a wall. Suddenly, the wall moved. Helen cried out as the wall swung around, taking her with it. She hit the ground hard on the other side. She was in a small room with a single window and a few armchairs. A guest room, perhaps.
“Helen?” said Sasha, her voice muted by the wall.
Helen didn’t answer right away. She had heard another sound. It was a steady ticking.
“Wait a sec!” Helen yelled back.
Helen got up, and followed the ticking sound. It led her to the armchair nearest the window. There, gleaming in the sunlight, was a watch.
“I found the watch!” Helen yelled, picking it up gently. It wasn’t bloody and rusted as she had imagined it. Its band was a glossy silver. She could see her reflection in its crystal. Dainty hands ticked, ticked, ticked…
“Are you okay?” called Sasha.
“Yeah! Now get me out!”
“I don’t know how the wall works-“
“Well, try to figure it out!”
The two pounded the wall.
Their rising voices soon grew loud enough to reverberate throughout the entire house. Upstairs, Eddard Boeing heard them.
Eddard had been asleep in his bed when he heard the voices. Whose they were, he did not know. In fact, he didn’t know much of anything. He couldn’t remember when he had fallen asleep, or what he had been doing before he fell asleep, or how long he might have been sleeping. He could barely grasp his own name. It had materialized in his mind when he had woken, as if sent by some unknown force. Eddard had to mouth the words to feel comfortable with them. Eddard, he thought. That’s who I am. Eddard Boeing. But who was downstairs?
Eddard rose slowly from his bed. It had been a good long nap. He felt refreshed. Now to see about the awful din. He walked dreamily to his bedroom door, and entered the second floor hallway. There, he struggled to find a way downstairs. Eddard patted at the wall. He knew there was some sort of secret switch, a trick hidden in the wood, that would send him there. Eddard just couldn’t recall where it was.
The voices grew louder, intensifying Eddard’s curiosity. He vaguely remembered throwing a dinner party. Was that what was going on downstairs? How do I get to the party? he mouthed. How do I get to the-
The answer suddenly materialized: bookshelf. Eddard looked around him. A bookshelf stood to his left. He walked over and ran his hands over its dusty volumes. One moved with his touch. He pushed it further. A click resounded. Eddard waited, but nothing happened.
He decided that he would call for help. He opened his mouth, and tried. The smallest whoosh of air came out. Eddard had to try a few more times before the satisfactory result: “Hello!”
Downstairs, Sasha lifted her hands from the wall.
Did she hear something? She could’ve sworn she did. No, it was just her imagination, she decided. Helen is rubbing off on me, she thought, and continued to pat the wall. Why wasn’t Helen yelling anymore?
Sasha stiffened. There was the voice again. She was certain of it.
“Hello!” Sasha yelled back.
The voice didn’t respond. She attributed the voice again to her imagination (I shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching Doctor Who).
Eddard had slid down a wooden slide into a dimly lit passage that he thought must be the ground floor. He stood and patted the dusty walls. One started to move, and he pushed against it with no small amount of excitement.
“Hello,” said Eddard.
Sasha jumped. Right behind her was a blue-cloaked young man. His face was exsanguinous, his hair dark and dusty, his eyes shrouded with a darkness that couldn’t be diminished by the atrium’s soft light.
“I’m sorry,” said the man. “But it was my understanding that a dinner party was taking place?”
Sasha couldn’t find words.
“What, do I look that frightful?”
“My dear, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
This must be some joke, Sasha thought. Some guy dressed like Eddard Boeing trying to freak people out.
And, she had to admit, it was working.
“I know what you’re trying to do,” said Sasha. “And it’s not working.”
“I don’t understand?”
“I don’t get fooled by…by creeps.”
“You might as well leave.”
“I beg your pardon! If I have offended you in some way, I offer my sincerest apologies.”
Yes, just some jerk in a costume. If he was Eddard Boeing, which was, of course, impossible, there was no way he’d be so polite.
“Just give it up already!” said Sasha. “You look ridiculous.”
The man looked genuinely hurt. Sasha felt a twinge of pity, which she quickly dismissed.
“Well, if you’re supposed to be Eddard Boeing,” Sasha said. “Help me find my friend.”
Sasha patted the wall behind her. “She’s on the other side of this trick wall.”
“I’d be happy to,” said the man politely.
Eddard was not having a nice time at his dinner party. He had not yet had any food – not a single appetizer – and he didn’t even smell anything cooking. This he attributed to the kitchen staff, whom he assumed were shirking again. They were always decidedly unpleasant- and for that matter, so was the girl. Sasha. Being around her was disagreeable, to say the least, and she stared at him now as he patted the wall as if she wished to bore a hole right through his cloak. No, he was not having a nice time.
“How come you haven’t found it yet? I thought you lived here,” Sasha scoffed.
The wall suddenly gave way, bringing Eddard and Sasha into a small chamber that was coated with dust. Eddard didn’t recognize the room.
“Helen?” Sasha called out.
There was no one to be seen. Sasha stepped forward as Eddard gazed around him. The place was cluttered with bookshelves and knick-knacks of all sorts- cow skulls, stuffed owls, what looked like a jar of human eyeballs. Sasha extended a tentative finger toward an owl.
“I believe the soul who decorated this room has a passion for alchemy,” said Eddard.
Sasha cast a sideways glance at the jerk in the cloak, but said nothing. Eddard, giving up on any polite conversation they might have, observed several objects. A stuffed mouse, a snakeskin, a skull. It all looked awfully familiar. He felt tied to the room. But what could he have to do with- Suddenly, a loud click, like that of a door, resounded.
“Helen!” said Sasha.
Sasha launched herself toward the far corner of the room. There, standing in a new opening in the wall, was another girl. Helen, Eddard presumed. Sasha stood beside her. Helen, like Sasha, was quite young. There was a hollow look in her eyes.
“Are you okay?” said Sasha.
“Yeah,” said Helen. She looked at Eddard with alarm. “Do…do you see that, too?”
“He’s just some guy in a costume,” said Sasha.
Eddard bristled. “I assure you-”
“How do you know, Sasha?” said Helen, backing away.
“I’m Eddard Boeing, only son of Richard Boeing, heir to the Boeing fortune,” Eddard insisted. He was getting quite tired of having other people tell him who he was.
“Trust me, he’s not a ghost,” said Sasha.
“We have to get away from him,” said Helen. “We have to get out of here. We can’t stay-“
“Take a chill pill. I don’t know what you’re getting so worked up about-”
Helen retreated into the opening of the wall, tugging Sasha by the arm behind her. Eddard decided to follow them. It’d be a shame if they made a mess.
When Helen had retreated through the opening in the wall, it had been on impulse. If she had been thinking, she most certainly would not have taken Sasha back to this room.
Its white-tiled floor was spattered with all manner of torturous devices. A guillotine stood in the corner. An ominous drain sat in the middle. Helen’s breathing accelerated to a rapid huff-puff-huff-puff. Something awful had taken place in this room. Even Sasha was at a loss for words. Suddenly, Eddard entered the room. Helen couldn’t breathe.
“I…remember,” said Eddard.
Eddard found it fascinating how a simple memory could change one’s entire perspective. In his case, it was his last memory of his father. It had evaded him ever since he had woken up, but after seeing his beautiful machines, it dawned on him like a glorious burst of light.
It was the sunny 4th of August, 1921, and his father was shouting at him again.
“Eddard!” His father pounded on the door. “What are you doing in there?”
Eddard tried to block out the noise. He was working on something very important, his biggest enterprise yet. Eddard’s scalpel shook in his hand. Of course his father had to disturb him at a time like this.
“Do you realize there’s a party going on upstairs? How am I supposed to properly entertain our guests when-“ he gave the door an emphatic rap. “- my only son refuses to even come upstairs?”
Eddard shuddered at the noise. Too loud. Far too loud.
“Everyone’s asking me, where’s your boy? Where’s Eddard? Oh, Eddard? He’s locked himself in the cellar again. No, I have no idea what he could be doing.”
But Eddard didn’t want his father to know. He wanted a bit of privacy. It was the least his father could do after forcing him to go to party after party, pretending to be just like everybody else. There was nothing Eddard disliked more than the tinkle of champagne glasses, the vapid chatter about this or that wealthy family, the empty gazes and endless question of what it was Eddard was looking to accomplish in his life. Upstairs, he felt as out-of-place as a vampire bat at a Sunday brunch. Downstairs, well…downstairs, he could be himself. Have fun.
“Why don’t you come upstairs, Eddard?” said his father in a strained voice. “We’re having dinner. We’d love it if you’d-
“Father, I’m doing something very important!” Eddard shouted back. “Please, leave me alone for once!” He paused, mulling over whether or not he should say anything more impolite. “I’m sure even your guests can manage to hold a conversation without my help,” he added.
“Open the damn door!”
Eddard polished his scalpel, giggling at his father’s crude word choice. He must be angry. But Eddard had to focus now. It would only be a matter of time until his father realized…
“Help! Help me!”
Eddard whirled. The maid had somehow freed herself of her gag. She struggled against her leather straps.
“Who the hell was that, Eddard?” said his father.
Eddard moved with mechanical efficiency, re-securing the maid, the cook, the lowly kitchen servant…
“Eddard, is someone else in there? Let me in, Eddard!”
Eddard raised his scalpel and carved the cook like an apple pie. His father pounded the door louder, more furiously. Eddard heard it cracking, and cursed under his breath. He had just enough time to mop the maid’s blood down the drain before the door fell to the ground. Eddard turned quite nonchalantly to his father. His father gawked like a trout – that is, before he let out the bloodcurdling scream.
“Well,” said Eddard. “You wanted to know what I was doing, didn’t you?”
He locked eyes with his father. They were scared eyes, hateful eyes.
“This is what I was made to do, Father,” said Eddard quietly. “I know it. Do you remember the first time I picked up a knife?”
His father said nothing.
“I know you do. The first time I picked up a knife, I immediately cut myself. I was young, six perhaps. You scolded the maid for being so careless. How could you have known that I stared at the perfect dot of blood, that I would immediately search for ways to make it return?”
His father looked sick. “I know you don’t understand me,” said Eddard. “And I don’t expect you to accept me. But this-“
Eddard motioned at his struggling subjects. “This is what I love.”
“You’re a monster,” said his father.
His father started running. Eddard sighed. He brandished his scalpel, followed his father out the door…
After that, Eddard only remembered a blinding burst of light.
A scream disturbed Eddard’s musings. Sasha, naturally. He leaned down to adjust her straps.
“Where’s that sharp tongue of yours? I didn’t cut it off yet,” said Eddard with a smirk.
A louder scream pierced his ears, nearly making him cringe. Helen struggled to release herself from a giant wooden crucifix. Eddard clicked his tongue.
“You’re overestimating your strength. Just relax. It’ll all be over soon.”
Eddard took out his watch.
“You see,” he said, displaying it to them. “At seven thirty, I will cut your throats. That is a certainty. So why worry?”
They continued to scream. Eddard held his watch close and marveled at how time never faltered. Perhaps he could one day reach that level of perfection. For now, he had two new subjects to bleed.
“I’m sorry,” said Eddard. “I forgot to thank you for coming.”