Adenye: An Original Short Story
By Christina, age 16, Louisiana
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
"Adeste," I whispered once, and then again, as I increased the volume of my voice just slightly. "Adeste."
Sighing heavily when she refused to answer or even awake, I rolled my eyes in regard to my elder twin and moved my porcelain-like hands onto her shoulders to push. "Adeste?"
"Adenye," she groaned, soft and sleepy. "Go back to sleep."
I frowned, glancing warily toward the now open and wobbly window. The curtains Mama put up just last week blew faintly in the wind, yet looking past them and directly to our tall oak beyond the pane one could see by the hush of leaves that not even a faint breeze did blow. I felt the chills before I could comprehend them. Rising paranoia caused my back to tingle and my hands to push once more. "Adeste!"
I stilled immediately in anticipation of her next words. When none came, I frowned, noting that her body rose up and down as steadily as if I had never awakened her. And swearing that I'd just heard my name escape her lips I waited a moment longer, occupying the silence with deep and shaky breaths. Nothing happened though. Indeed, she never awoke.
I froze. The voice I had thought at first to be my sister's sounded off-key and wary - nothing like the small sweet tone that was only her, and at times slightly me. It was older, belonging perhaps to a lady of sixty or more, yet lacking the warmth so common in women of her age. I immediately knew, of course, the source of the sound; this knowledge alone forced my brow to sweat, my nerves to still, and once more I did not move.
"Ade-" I began, unable to continue right away, and only after I closed my eyes and swallowed did I become aware of the shakes my body had involuntarily taken on. I was letting my imagination get the best of me, I think, but by no means was I positive of that being the only solution. As I opened my eyes to reveal a much darker room than when I'd closed them, I began again. "Ade- ... Adeste?"
My voice was shaking exactly as expected when another sickening wave of paranoia moved my feet to take the lead, whereas before I knew it, my small body faced a window that was both closed and, to my horror, locked. The room moved into focus again when my eyes began to re-adjust. That window had been open. It had been open and the curtains had been moving - I would swear it on my grave!
The structure that had stirred me into a state of internal panic was a tainted and wobbly old thing. Our home was a young one set onto doddering land, and if I remember the story correctly, it was built by my papa's father in the earlier eighteen hundreds before all the bloodshed of our Civil War. Grandpapa was gone now, murdered by disease six years prior to my birth, yet his home has firmly stood despite the savagery of the surrounding nature. The upstairs bedroom which my sister and I occupied had never settled comfortably with me, and ignoring my caution, no one missed the opportunity to comment on my outstandingly lavish sense of creativity. "You need to give him some real work, Mr. Catton," they'd say. "That head of his, it's always up in them clouds ..."
I knew that I dramatized situations, and that sometimes I even created them, but tonight my eyes did not lie. The paint that was stripping from the window had now come into view, and behind it, barely visible in the limited light, the hue of the old wooden slices, streaked and worn by the weather of more than thirty years. I despised it secretly for all it had seen. I even refused its new coat of paint when Papa had been remodeling our room - I told him, even if he did not listen, that you could cover up history with light years of baggage but it would never hide the truth. I knew that the truth was invisible to the naked eye, if not by nature then by choice, but at the moment I wished that all of it were. I wish that I had never speculated over the contraption and that I had never proclaimed it an enigma, so that tonight, when I needed it the most, I could lay my head down onto my pillow and furthermore enjoy my rest.
Turning to glance at my sister I found my feet unsure of the next turn they'd take. I could go back to sleep maybe, close my eyes, and fake it since I knew both my nerves and imagination would in no way allow my body to relax long enough for sleep. By dawn I would be up and out of this room, ready for breakfast, ready for the day to begin, and ready to share my tale, albeit nobody but Adeste would believe. That was alright though. Sometimes I wished these incidents were only products of my mind, and then people would have no reason to.
Nothing happened for one long drawn out moment, and that was when I'd contemplated crawling aside of Adeste. I used to make myself comfortable in her bed every night until many birthdays passed and, well, I was an older boy now, one of eleven years, and what man still shared a cot with his twin? Certainly not I and certainly not now. With Forester and Papa gone for the summer, somehow I had been appointed as the man of this house, but to think I was responsible in these next months for numerous backbreaking chores, yet I could hardly tame my own window!
Keeping my eye on the crossed structure directly in front of me, I slowly stepped away and back to my bed, crawling quickly underneath the cotton and wool sheets to curl deep underneath its warmth and protection. Contradicting my earlier declaration of manhood, I pulled them securely over my thin chest and skinny neck until nothing but a few strands of ebony hair managed to seep from the edge. I would have covered them too if my body hadn't gone rigid with fear. The terrifying creak associated only with instances such as these sounded as loud as ever the moment my view had been obscured. My closed window was opening on its own again. My locked window, untouched by any, would soon sway over its edge.
"Adenye," the voice came once more ... louder this time, closer. I squeezed my eyes tight and let my body rack itself with the shivers and shakes of childish superstition - was it a ghost? Could it be Adeste? Could it be anything? Was it anything?
I did not dare reply, nor did I even contemplate making any attempt to reveal myself. Perhaps if I left her alone she would do the same, though now I hardly regarded my pride. The moment that this was all over I would move hastily onto my sister's mattress, albeit I knew that even there I would not sleep.
The hair rose on the back of my neck as I cautiously slit my eyes to see, although nothing was visible but the onslaught of the moonlight through my sheet. I could detect the outline of various objects in my room. The door, for one, stood half-open as we'd left it and the dresser opposite my bed was steady and still. Only when I felt brave enough to open my eyes fully did I immediately feel the need to close them again. Standing directly aside my bed was a figure, grayish blue beyond the fabric, leaning downward and close enough to touch!
I screamed, my voice rising with terror as my eyelids bedded down permanently, refusing anything but the darkness and the memory of the shape to be seen. I'd jumped up the moment my throat opened, and holding tight to my blanket and sheet, pulling them to me in a tight knot, I screamed and screamed until I'd realized I'd never moved.
Flat on my back, I blinked up against the cottony fabric and held my breath. What had happened? Hadn't I ... the woman, where was she? Was she here? Sitting up and removing all obstacles of view, I received no answers, yet more questions rushed into my young mind as fast as the waves of the ocean rushed onto the shore. The window was shut and locked tight again, the curtains pulled back with yellowish rope as the start of dawn piled heavily onto the landscape beyond the glass. Hadn't the moon just glared onto the same scenery only moments before as a woman figure stood over me, rasping my name in such a tone I would never again care to recall? And hadn't my sister been fast asleep whereas now, looking over, her bed lay empty and tousled with apparent signs of either a hard or restless sleep?
I had no time to think. Within seconds, Adeste ran into the room adorned only in a nightgown and robe, her wave of black strands flowing curly and thick down onto her waist as she smiled and tugged my arm. "C'mon, Adenye, c'mon! Mama's cooking pancakes again ... You know what that means!"
My eyes brightened, and yes, I knew exactly what it meant - Papa would be home soon, and if things had gone well, with Forester in tow. The money they'd made over the summer would go towards our farm, and within weeks school would begin. Pancakes meant the start of something normal again, the start of everyday living for an everyday family. As I rushed out of bed and for my robe and slippers, I'd forgotten all about the preceding events and my unstable condition. It was only when I'd moved to follow her out of the door that I heard a faint whisper, and for the last time that morning turned to study the window. It was still closed as it was in my brief observation of the room only minutes ago, and now that I had taken my attention away, seemed as plain as ever.
Had I slept any the previous night or had it all been just a dream? Did I ever hear a woman calling my name or was it just the product of an overactive imagination?
"Adenye," I heard my mother call. "Bring that tablecloth when you come!"
I knew that in time the mystery of last night would fade, but I also knew that my questions and suspicion would not. As for now, I didn't know, nor did I have the time to care. I turned and hurried down the corridor to the closet, and with our special tablecloth in hand, down the old wooden stairs.
Stopping, I creased my brow and turned back yet again to look up into the hallway leading to our room. Had the lady even wanted anything of me, and if so, who said it would have been fatal or even slightly scary? For the millionth time, had there even been a woman at all? I moved it onto my to-do list that sat in a far corner of my mind as I would not dare returning alone. One night the truth may be revealed in a procession of events similar to previous ones, but for now perhaps I just wasn't meant to understand.
Perhaps it wasn't real. Perhaps it was too real, and what was normally unseen by the eye had somehow become accustomed to mine. Perhaps it would never happen again or perhaps it had never happened in the beginning - perhaps maybe I would never know.
Keeping a steady eye on the railing that lined the stairway, I made a slow turn and eventually moved onto the bottom step and thus onto the floor. I heard my name three more times before I reached the floors of the kitchen, and three more times the hair on the back of my neck had stood on end. Three more times until my body relaxed, and upon the third time the last time I would ever care.