Ring Of Writers
The Alice's Past; part1.

by: Dr. Gerry Norton Ash
	   … Allen … Allen … Allen …
           From the depths of the warm bed, Alice heard her door creak, slowly, 
           quietly, the soft rustle of  clothes.  She frowned, coming out of her 
           dark sleep; who could be in her room so early?     She could hear 
           someone moving.  Alice’s eyes fluttered once – maybe twice – and she 
           woke  with a start. Opening her eyes fully, she tensed in shock before 
           realizing her surroundings and allowing the darness of her bedroom to 
           ghost away her nightmare.
           She sighed and closed her eyes again.  The same dream again.  Nothing 
           different!  Not her own bedroom; not her own bed.  But of  .. the 
           bookstore, of … another time so long ago. The image of the tall, 
           graystone structure, with it’s sloping black roof and rows of barred 
           windows framed in black shutters, always shrouded in a foreboding 
           darkness. The bookstore, her prison.  So long ago. She still felt as if 
           she was hiding in it’s shadows, in the safety of the gnarled, 
           wind-twisted stand of oaks she’d come to love.
           It was then that Sarah suddenly became aware of the whispering.  Soft, 
           foreign, unintelligible, yet somehow, faintly familiar.  
           "Who – who’s there?" she managed to stammer in a high, little voice she 
           didn’t recognize.
           "Alice—sssh—Alice.  It’s me." The voice pierced the bedroom quiet.
           The door creaked, opened a bit more, then quietly closed.  Again, she 
           could hear whispering, someone moving about.  Alice peeked up from the 
           blankets toward the intrusion. It only took a few seconds to recognize 
           the hushed murmur.
           Sarah, her youngest cousin, was standing inside the room.  
           She was smiling back at her, not a warm smile, not a friendly smile, but 
           the coldest, most frightening smile she had ever seen.  Sarah sighed and 
           motioned the little girl to come closer.

           The hesitancy left her expression and a twisted smile parted the hard 
           fullness of her lips.  She seemed to glide across the room to her, the 
           lightness of her footsteps barely making any sound at all.  A pale blue 
           lace ribbon contrasted the raven black of her hair, sweeping the length 
           of it away from her face and leaving it to cascade in soft curls down 
           her back.  She resembled the winter outside; porcelainlike,  cold and 
           Sarah had forgotten what a little thing she was.
           "Come, I’ve got to show you something," said twelve-year old Sarah 
           impatiently. "Come on! Hurry!"
           Getting out of bed, Alice padded softly across the small room to peer 
           out the window with her cousin.  The first snow had fallen during the 
           night and the sight depressed her, as did her thoughts. She recalled 
           another scene just like it, the blackened branches poking out everywhere 
           through a heavy blanket of fresh white snow. Thousands of miles from 
           Boston, a lifetime from –  him,  Monsieur Allen Wishenski.  She shivered 
           as she remembered the monster:  Iron-gray hair above a high, 
           old-fashioned collar, from which protruded a scrawny neck several sizes 
           too small. She always thought he resembled something straight out of a 
           Stephen King novel. He was a wretched man. Yet to outsiders, he 
           presented himself as puritanical, prim, and proper, always dressed  in 
           his solitary, most prized possession: a starched, coal-black suit shiny 
           with age.  
           And the monster’s eyes.  How she had come to fear those hardened eyes. 
           Glowing with hate behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, they always 
           gleamed back at her with a sadistic intent. And his cheeks, paled by the 
           perpetual darkness of his precious bookstore, sat on either side of a 
           small, sharp nose, down which the spectacles slid to perch precariously 
           at its very tip.  He was the monster she’d come here to forget and 


                  "Sarah!  W-what is it?  What are you doing up so early? It’s so 
           Her anxiety had gone to fear, and the fear eventually became anger. She 
           was her cousin, and there came a time when it no longer mattered who was 
           right or wrong.
           "Sarah, please. Answer me!"
           Again, silence. Something was wrong, she thought.
           "Sarah, don’t be cross with me. I’m sorry if I woke you, but I had 
           another bad dream."
           "He’s here."
           "Who’s here, Sarah?"
           "Him – Monsieur Allen. He followed you to Boston.  He wants you to go 
           back with him.  You don’t need to be afraid of him anymore."
           "Sarah?  Did you hear me?"  Her fingers moved to tentatively touch her 
           "Don’t!"  She flinched from her, shutting her eyes tightly against the 
           tears.  "It’s not possible. 
           H-he’s dead.  I saw… many things … things. Things you’re too young to 
           "But, …"  Alice held out her hand.  She reluctantly accepted Alice’s 
           hand with limp fingers. "I saw him downstairs.  I just know I did.  
           "Don’t ‘But Sarah’ me, young lady.  You must have seen shadows or 
           something.  I don’t think –"
           "But it’s important."  Smoothly, she steered Alice down the hall.  
           "Please …," she whined. "Please.  I did see Monsieur Allen! I did!"
           The monster here. She knew it was impossible.  The silence stretched 
           like a bridge between them.  She was hesitating, reluctant to say the 
           words that would hurt her cousin’s feelings.  She finally agreed.  
           Winning at last, Alice walked to an oil lamp and took it up. Lighting 
           it, she waited for Sarah to dress then escorted her towards an old 
           wooden stairway. The steps felt rough and cold under her stocking feet, 
           and they squeaked and creaked loudly as they descended hand-in-hand.  At 
           the base of the stairs was a large, oval antique mirror and Sarah paused 
           to glance at her own reflection.  She was  the image of candy-box 
           prettiness.  Dressed in a blue ankle-length nightgown embroidered with 
           small birds and flowers., her two long, fluffy pony tails exploded from 
           each side of a wispy fringe of brown hair.  Like two moons, a pair of 
           gold wire-rim glasses perched lightly on a cute button nose above two 
           pouted lips. 
           "Give me your hand," Alice said firmly.
           Puzzled, she held it out to her. "Why?"
           "Why? To see if I can prove to you it wasn’t only shadows I saw."
           "Prove to –" Mentally, she shook herself.  "I’m sorry, Sarah.  It’s late 
           and I’m too tired for games." Her hand, held out to her cousin in 
           defeat, was trembling.  
           "Just … just hurry up."
           Her heart pounding, she looked back at her cousin. The childish smile on 
           her face was a smile of victory.   Alice didn’t notice the smile fading 
           quickly from her face.

           Alice didn’t feel at all scared until they reached the empty back 
           kitchen … and she heard the whispering again.  Then she suddenly had a 
           heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach.  What if he really was here, 
           she thought.  Pausing, Alice leaned against the banister and listened.
           "It’s nothing," Her cousin nervously told her. "The snow is all.  Or the 
           wind on the old roof. Don’t worry.  Please, let’s go quickly.  He’s 
           Alice hesitated. He?  What ‘he’?
           "I said let’s go," Sarah whined impatiently.  Her voice echoed against 
           the stone walls of the empty room.
           Though puzzled, whatever else she said made sense.  What else could it 
           be?  Alice loosened her grip on the banister and silently followed the 
           little girl, creeping down the long, narrow hallway, guiding herself by 
           letting her free hand run along the wall, until they finally stopped 
           outside a door which was closed.  Instinctively, she grabbed the 
           doorknob first and started to turn it – when somebody crept up from 
           behind and grabbed her shoulder. 

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