Monday, September 8, 2014
A Bequeathed Death
This is the first of two writing submissions which earned me the Distinguished Artist Award in Creative Writing at Hope College. I hope you enjoy it!
The following is an excerpt from my short story, “A Bequeathed Death.”
"CLIP-CLOP-CLIP-CLOP." My shoes responded to the hard wet pavement. The thunder rolled and raged, while the rain unsuccessfully ordered the bellows to silence- "SSHHHHHHHH" I was on my way to the Manoir Mortelle for the distribution of my deceased wealthy uncle's possessions. As I approached the grand, cold, iron gates, I noted that although I had gained a good foot or more in height since my last visit, the unwelcoming gates still towered well above my head. While one would expect gates of a property and house of this size to keep trespassers and criminals out, I always had the sensation that these bars served to confine something in. For not a soul with a bit of sense would dare to place their foot onto those grounds, across those boundaries, by their own will. I frequently visited as a young boy in obedience to orders or for family occasions, but never of my own want. I suppose I had grown accustomed to the spectral surroundings- that is- as accustomed as one could be, yet I never ceased to tremble as I unlocked the stiff, gloomy gate. I thought this as I cast my glance to my aged hands, which trembled all the more. I began to apply pressure to the lethargic wall of spears, which squealed as they reluctantly created a gap just enough for me to pass. "SLAM! CLUH-CHING!" They locked me in. Although many years had passed, I was still startled by that rushed latching and locking of the black iron fence. I slowly turned my attention to face the once-dwelling of my late Uncle Audon. The mansion could very well have been the house of Usher before its fall; perhaps Mr. Poe found his inspiration in passing this house one similar day. My shoes continued to click and clack against the weathered cement as if they were a metronome. The walkway to the entrance was long, yet it never seemed long enough. I dreaded the moment of having to stand once again on the cold, heavy, fractured slab. I raised my hand from its warm pocket to the chilling brass knocker. "THUD. THUD. THUD." It struck the tall ebony door three times. Nothing. After a moment of hesitation, I began to raise my hand to repeat the action. "CLICK. CREEEAAK." The door unlocked and opened enough for a cat to pass. I touched the massive door lightly. It gaped some more. "Hello?" I searched for someone or something with life. The patch of light entering the mansion from the doorway slowly increased, and there stood Mariette. She nodded her head towards me. I stepped off the cold wet slab, through the threshold, and onto the cold dry slate. After closing the large door behind me, Mariette stepped in front of me and motioned me to follow. Her short, black heels rhythmically echoed as they percussed the stone. My own steps echoed as well, although not as precisely as the maid's. She had lived in the manor ever since I could recall, yet she still to this day had neither changed nor aged one bit since I had first met her, forty-some years ago as a young lad. It did not cross my mind initially, since she always seemed a part of the old house, but as she walked I could not help but ponder her age. She wasn't a young woman now, nor was she then. Her gray hair was still loosely pulled back into a bun beneath her white lace headpiece. Her long black skirt reached down to her ankles, her black blouse reached up to a white collar around her neck, and her black sleeves reached down to her wrists, ending in white cuffs. She wore a white apron which began at her waist and ended a few inches above her long black skirt. Her feet walked in simple yet sophisticated, black, leather, one-inch heels.
I followed her into the grand, once extravagant, dining room. Held by massive marble Corinthian columns, the two-story ceiling towered my head. I walked across the antique, heart-pine wood floor, and onto the rustic, regal, rug. Around the long walnut table, in chrisom, tapestry, chenille chairs, sat my mother, brother, aunt, cousin (whom I had not seen in decades), and a man whom I presumed to be the lawyer. There was a plethora of scattered papers in front of him. I received nothing more from my family than nods acknowledging my presence.
Although my uncle had died six months prior to our solemn reunion, all of us present had each received a copy of his will only the week before. The lawyer explained the delay was due to the probate process, to ensure its validity.
"Now that we are all present, we may begin dividing the estate of Audon Ruelle Voclain according to his last Will and Testament. Under most circumstances, I take it upon myself to retrieve and deliver the bequeathed property to the beneficiaries. But I simply can neither find nor gather all of Monsieur Voclain's belongings and requests. Thus, I have asked you all to come here today to seek and divide his property according to the orders on this will."