By the end of the day, Ellis dragged his feet to the upper attic.  He was about to finish all of his chores. However, there was something stopping him from finishing the last chore. He saw a group of girls holding the door of one room and laughing hysterically at it.

“What are you all doing?” he asked, visibly annoyed.

Most of them stopped giggling upon seeing his maddened face. He put the back down at the open door. A red-headed girl fell right out. The girls ran away still laughing within each other.

Familiar voice

The girl inside seemed troubled. She had a book in her hand with some of the pages sticking out.

“Do they do this often?” wondered Ellis, his voice didn’t get softer.

“Often?” repeated the girl, “Always would be the right call.”

That voice! It struck Ellis. He blinked a couple of times but kept his stare cold. Her voice reminded Ellis of his dead sister. The resemblance caught him off guard, but he still managed to keep his expression calm. 

“Sorry to hear it,” he said as his voice almost cracked for a moment, “Can you please move so I could clean the windows? These are the only ones left.”

The girl nodded while fixing her long red hair. Moving out of the way, she asked, “Do you need any help?”

“No need,” said Ellis, holding his breath for a moment, “I can manage.”

He quickly put the bucket on the side. Picking up the sponge he started washing the windows, but in the corner of his eyes, he saw how the girl wasn’t leaving. 

Instead, she approached Ellis and questioned, “Are you a new face here?”

“Only a day old,” answered Ellis, with the flattest tone possible.

“I’ve been here ever since I was a baby,” she quickly answered, continuing her questioning, “How long have you been an orphan?”

Ellis remained silent. Bilking a couple of times, he kept his focus on dirty windows. 

Reading the air between them, the redhead girl exhaled and softly added, “Oh… It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it. Did it happen recently?”

Ellis only let out a sigh. He desperately wanted to change the subject to anything else. Shifting his attention to the floor, he noticed a lonely book.
“Wizard of Oz?” he concluded while looking down at it. 

The girl reacted to his words by smiling widely and stating, “Yes! I just found it in the library!”

“Frankenstein is a better option!” requested Ellis as the smirk appeared on his face.

The girl seemed visibly confused. She tried repeating, “Frank…? En? Stain?”

“Frankenstein!” exclaimed Ellis, “You’ll love it. Trust me.”

“Oh…” she uttered and finally got the chance to take a better look at Ellis’ face. With pure curiosity, she asked, “What’s your name?”

Ellis introduced himself properly, he didn’t have to ask her a question back. 

The girl stated, “I’m Edythe.”

Ellis nodded, starting to feel more pressure around his head. As he blinked a couple of times to hold teary eyes dry. 

Without a second wasted, Edythe picked up her book and while slowly waving, she whispered, “See you around, Ellis.”

Curse of Nightmares

The evening soon approached and Ellis was done with all of his chores. He wished to return to the sleeping room, but he stumbled upon a conversation between two kids. The first voice belonged to Danail no doubt, but the second voice sounded like Ellis’ late sister. Therefore he stopped in his tracks and began to listen.

“I heard you were in a fight!” spoke the soft voice.

“Yes, I was,” said Danail’s voice, “Why are you here?”

Soft voice then quickly answered, “I came here to see if you’re alright.”

There was no doubt the voice belonged to Edythe. Even though they’d met just a couple of hours ago, her voice was easily recognizable to Ellis.

“Oh, you’re truly an angel on Earth,” said Danail, the smile on his face could be heard, “Don’t worry, I am alright. Losing a couple of teeth is no big deal.”

“Teeth! You can ask a tooth fairy for a coin!”

“Yes, I can. Here, have one.”

“Thank you so much, Dan!”

Ellis stepped back. He didn’t want to hear more. It was bad enough that the voice of his late sister was now stuck in his mind. Completely shutting his eyes, he managed to keep his tears in.

Going downstairs to the living room, Ellis was distracted by the commotion happening by the fireplace. Most of the children were surrounded by fire in order to get warmer.

Maie was panicking yelling on the top of her lungs, “Turn off the fire! I beg you!”

“We will freeze to death sooner than die in a fire!” said one of the older guys.

Maie was still persistent in turning off the fire. Some other kids would hold her back, starting to hit her.
“What in the hell are you doing?” asked Ellis, loudly and clearly.

Everyone in the room went quiet, facing Ellis. Their reaction was because of one word he mentioned.
“How dare you speak of hell in front of us?!” yelled one of the guys.

Ellis gave him a cold stare. At the same time, he tried his hardest to wipe off the smirk from his face. Maie looked at him with big teary eyes.
“All of you are just mean,” said Ellis calmly while approaching Maie.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her from the group of kids. Once Maie was free, she started holding Ellis’ hand tightly. Without waiting another second, 

Ellis pointed out, “Let’s go… I don’t wish to be next to the fire either.”

Two of them were quickly out of the room. On the exit, Ellis couldn’t resist but add, “Au revoir, losers!”

Leaving the room and going into the dark corners of the building made Maie feel certain unease.
“Who are you again?” she asked in slight panic, “Ellis? What’s your last name?”

Ellis was a bit preoccupied with finding a comfortable place to sleep in. He decided that the upper attic was the greatest option. They started climbing upstairs still holding their hands. 

Maie insisted on a question about his last name, so Ellis got a bit fed up when he answered, “Name me after your guardian angel if you wish.”

He looked at her for a moment. They were finally on the third floor close to the empty room of the upper attic. Opening the door, Ellis stood by the side, letting her enter first. 

“I wish to name you after what your parents gave you,” she insisted.

Ellis let out a bit of an annoyed breath. He entered the room first and answered, “Bold of you to assume I had parents… Very well… Ellis Cole it is. What name is your last name?”

“Smith,” said Maie softly, entering the room, “I’m Maie Smith.”

Closing the door behind her, Ellis wasted no time by going through the lonely closet which was placed in the corner.
“This is a smoking room that the staff often uses,” she informed Ellis.

“Let’s hope they don’t enter it any time soon,” he said, but it sounded more cold than hopeful.

Fear of Death

He threw her one of the dusty towels to use as a blanket. She managed to catch it but soon sneezed because of the dust.
Ellis didn’t pay her mind as he found a somewhat comfortable place to lie down and rest. Taking his own towel, he managed to cover his body.

Maie sat down next to him with a bit of reluctance. She started to wipe her teary eyes, although not much could be seen in the darkness. 

Once the silence around them seemed a bit more comfortable, Ellis wondered, “Maie… how did you end up here?”

“I’ve heard my mother escaped from her parents for a better life,” she whispered out in a shattered tone, “And then met my father. They died three years after I was born… From high fever, I heard.”

“High fever?” asked Ellis in a bit of surprise, “Why are you then scared of fire?”

“I-I have nightmares about it,” she whispered out, starting to calm down a bit, “I also keep dreaming of ravens… Last night… The fire entered my dreams.”

“Maybe ravens got burnt in the fire.”

“Maybe… but don’t they represent death…?”

“You burnt death in your dreams then. Congratulations! You saved us all.”

Maie didn’t seem to mind Ellis’ joking tone of voice. 

She instead looked at nothingness in the room and whispered out, “Dreams can’t do much… I’m scared of closing my eyes… and of what I might see.”

Thinking about her words for a moment, Ellis started staring at nothing as well, as he wondered, “Maie… are you scared of death?”

“Who isn’t?” asked Maie, trying a weak smile.

Ellis turned towards her, looked down at her neck, and asked, “What do you think about being choked to death?”

“What are you insinuating?” she asked, quickly glancing at him as well.

“Apologies…” he uttered and turned his back to her, he whispered, “That was a strange thing to ask.”

Maie took a deep breath and laid down on the floor. From her position, he could see the moonlight. A sense of inner peace appeared inside her chest. In spite of Ellis’ last comment.
“Ellis… Why are you here?”

There was no response from his side. Outside of the deep silence, Maie could hear how his breathing was inconsistent.
“Are you already asleep?” she asked.

Maie didn’t get a response. She turned to her left side, facing Ellis’ back and slowly drifting off to sleep.

Izvor slike: Unsplash