CORA PEARL - THE DIARY OF CORA PEARL *
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Cora Pearl – My Diary
Friday January 1st 1982
Today is New Year’s Day, and the beginning of my new life at Blackthorn Manor. It’s an old house, and my room at present is on the upper floor. The house is cold, and unwelcoming it is an ideal home for my stepfather as it reminds me of his personality.
There are many locked rooms, creaking floorboards, long dark corridors and hanging spider webs. The walls of my stepfather’s study are adorned with glass cases containing all manner of butterfly, each one quite dead and pinned in place behind the glass. They look ghastly.
Mother seems quite content with her new surroundings, I suspect at her age she is feeling rather relieved that she has found a new husband. It is unfortunate for me that my beloved father has been replaced by a cold hearted, unimaginative chauvinistic middle aged man.
Saturday January 2nd 1982
The snow has been falling steadily all day. After lunch, I wrapped up warm and went for a walk across the fields; Blackthorn Manor is surrounded by many acres of land. The sky was white thick with tumbling flakes, and looked so beautiful. The snow crunched beneath my boots, I loved the sound it made as I sunk down into it. Trees, hedgerows, even the frozen lake were blanketed with snow, it was lovely to see. The sun was barely visible through the misty haze. So far away, so distant, so faint and yellow, its rays felt cold against my skin, but even though I was alone in this white and empty wilderness I felt free.
Sunday 3rd January 1982
As I sit at my desk writing these words I feel lonely, this diary is my only friend. I woke early this morning; it was bitterly cold in my bedroom. Outside my window the surrounding countryside was blanketed with snow, and even now it is still falling.
Mrs Gannon an elderly lady has been hired by Blackthorn to teach me Maths and English. She arrived two hours late, due to the roads being virtually impassable. She is a large framed lady, and her breath smells of rotten cabbages. She has several curly white hairs growing from her chin, and clusters of thread veins spiral around her rather long nose. My new teacher looks like a witch, but she is softly spoken and very patient. It cannot be easy for her to teach me, as I do not speak, and have not spoken since the death of my father.
Monday 4th January 1982
I am very unhappy. Blackthorn has been threatening to sell my horse Sparks. My father bought him for me some years before, and it would break my heart if he should do so. He is trying to make me cry, he thinks that by being cruel to me he can break my spirit and force me to speak, but I would never speak to him. He told mother that during the First World War, soldiers who became mute, due to the terrifying noise of falling shells, were given electric shocks to their tongues. If he tries to do that, I shall bite his fingers off.
Tuesday 5th January 1982
I spent much of the day in the stable with Sparks. He is a beautiful creature and very good natured. Mother is opposed to the idea of Blackthorn selling him. Peter the stable boy, (although I should not call him a boy because he is eighteen) helped me groom Sparks.
Peter is so very handsome, he has dark hair and brown eyes, and when he smiles he has dimples in his cheeks! I feel like a little girl when I am in his company. I know that many people would say that I am a little girl but I will be thirteen in September, and therefore nearly an adult!
Wednesday 6th January 1982
The Malvern Hills that overlook Blackthorn Manor are blanketed in fog. The Country is in chaos, roads closed, schools closed. The snow is very deep. Not that a closed school interferes with my education! Blackthorn guided me by the hand up a long narrow staircase to an attic room. He lifted a large iron key from his waistcoat pocket and slid it into the lock. Behind the heavy iron door was a huge dusty library. Thousands of books lined the shelves. I was astonished. Blackthorn commented that I was ‘Even more lost for words than before’. I suppose that was his idea of a joke. I guess I cannot complain, I love reading and he has given me the key to the Library.
Thursday 7th January 1982
I have been reading a book about Edward Elgar. He was a very famous composer. My stepfather often plays his music, and I can hear it now echoing around the house. I find his compositions haunting and rather beautiful. It seems strange to me, being so young and new to this Earth that so much time has gone before. As I write and stare through my bedroom window, I can see the Malvern Hills phantom like through the darkness. It seems so strange to think that Elgar once cycled and flew his kite atop of them, but that was over a hundred years ago! Like my father Edward Elgar is long gone. He has left his music, but my father can only live in memory, but for all the beauty in this world nothing matches my thoughts of him. I very much miss my father.
Friday 8th January 1982
Uncle Jack has come to visit. I love him so much. He has just returned from a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. My mother was so delighted that she flung her arms around his shoulders and kissed him, my stepfather did not look pleased. He never liked Jack, simply because my uncle is handsome, funny, and cares about people's welfare. Jack has all the good, noble qualities that Blackthorn lacks. Jack will be staying for the weekend, and I’m really happy.
Saturday 9th January 1982
I know that Jack does a dangerous job, and even at my age I am fully aware that the situation in Northern Ireland is an unhappy one. I do not fully understand the politics involved, but I do know that people have been killed. It worries me that Jack is working in such a volatile environment. He is such a lovely, kind man. He bought me a gift. ‘The Diary of Ann Frank’ He seems to think that I could learn a great deal from this, I shall start reading it when I have finished the book about Mr Elgar!
Sunday 10th January 1982
Jack, Peter, mother and I had lots of fun today. We wrapped up in thick coats and woolly scarves and went out into the snow and had a fight! Not a real fight, no, of course not. Snowballs! It was so cold, but I have never seen mother laugh so much. Jack climbed the large oak tree and tipped snow down on top of Peter and I. Later, when we got tired of all the mad running about, we built a family of snowmen, I had a carrot for my snowman’s nose, but Jack ate it, I was most annoyed. It has been a fantastic day, and now I am sat by the fire drinking a steaming cup of hot chocolate. What bliss.
Monday 11th January 1982
Uncle Jack said his goodbyes with a firm hug and a soft kiss. Mother had tears in her eyes. She blamed the cold air stinging her face, but I know she sees my father whenever she looks into Jack’s sparkling blue eyes. I love his blue eyes, I get lost in his stare sometimes, especially when he smiles. He is such a handsome man. I am finding it hard to write, my thoughts are with Jack entirely. The kiss he planted gently upon my cheek still tingles with the memory of his soft lips. I pray to God that he is kept safe in these dangerous times.
Monday 12th January 1982
Blackthorn has been horrible to me today. The entire weekend he has kept out of my way. He could not compete with Uncle Jack, so he sulked in his study. I tried to stick a Wham poster onto my bedroom wall, but he tore it down. He said that a girl my age should not be interested in men like that. Men like what? He treats me like a child, and I hate him. Instead he hammered some nails into the wall and hung up a large case of dead butterflies. That is his idea of normal behaviour? It is certainly not mine.
Tuesday 13th January 1982
My mother has told me to be more considerate towards Blackthorn. She said it cannot be easy for him, as he has never been around children before, but that is a lie, as he has a son named Henry, who he rarely sees, because they can't stand each other. I just listened and nodded. It is not exactly easy for me either, because my father was kind, generous, loving and good natured. Blackthorn has absolutely no good qualities, and his breath stinks from the cigarettes he smokes. As for his fingers, they are yellow, and his teeth are stained. I do not like him and I will never give him my love. If I had my wish, I would enjoy seeing him inside a glass case, with a pin shoved right through his ribcage, just like one of his wretched butterflies!
Wednesday 14th January 1982
The snow has frozen solid. The roads into Malvern are extremely treacherous, and it is bitterly cold outside. Many schools remain closed. Mrs Gannon cancelled today, and I have therefore had the good fortune to escape my Maths lesson. The snow has brought some happiness; as I absolutely, one hundred percent loathe that wretched subject. I can count! So what more do I need?
Thursday 15th January 1982
It is midnight and I am writing my diary by candlelight, Blackthorn has removed the light bulb from my bedside lamp. He is trying to prevent me from staying up late. He thinks he can control me, but he cannot, because I will not do as I am told. He is not my father! My father is dead. Mother can replace him, but I am loyal. It is fortunate that Peter the stable boy has given me a candle and a box of matches. I feel like a fairytale Princess locked up in a castle, but who will rescue me? At least I have my diary. I want to talk about more personal things, but I am afraid that my mother or Blackthorn will read it. If they ever try to do so, I shall use the matches and set it on fire.
Friday 16th January 1982
An odd thing happened today. I went for a long walk across the fields. The temperature had risen and the frozen lake was beginning to melt. I watched icicles dripping moisture into the snow. I lay on my back with my mouth open and allowed the cold water to drip down onto my tongue. It made my throat tingle. It was fun, even though it made me shudder.
I met a very strange man. He was wearing a bowler hat and standing on his head. I do not know how long he had been in that position, but he was very red in the face. The man was dressed in very old fashioned clothes; a black suit that seemed far too small for him, and a frilly white shirt, and a colourful waistcoat. He had ridden across the field upon a horse and cart, hardly modern transport. I asked him what he was doing and he announced that he was “Looking at the world from the perspective of Australia as the climate was warmer there”… I shrugged my shoulders. I thought he was quite mad. I asked him who he was, and he replied ‘I am M J Ould Orum.. Oh no’… He continued, disagreeing with himself… “I tell a lie. I think this is 1982? So no, I am M J Ould… I won’t be married until 2007”…
I found him to be completely baffling. I did warn him that he might get hypothermia from the cold. However he just laughed at me, and said. “Tweet, Tweet! Do birds get hypothermia then?”
I had no idea what he was talking about, as he clearly was not a bird of any sort. I told him that he was trespassing on private land, and if my stepfather saw him, he might get shot. “But I’m an endangered species” He replied with a peculiar grin.
I put my hands on my hips and told him that he would be wise to take my advice and leave immediately. I decided to leave him on his own. The oddest thing about my encounter was the lack of track marks in the snow. The cart was in the centre of the field but the snow surrounding it was unblemished, it was if it had somehow just fallen from the sky…
Saturday 17th January 1982
Today Blackthorn invited all the local children to the manor house. We played charades and hide and seek, and ate jelly and ice cream. I hid in the wardrobe, and I found a magical world beyond the coats and mothballs. Well, as I know that is another story… I am sorry to say that none of the above is true. It is just a beautiful dream, because reality is such a horrible letdown. I have however concluded that I have a very good imagination, so I am going to start writing poetry! I have been reading about a writer called George Elliot, who was in fact a woman! So I have decided to give myself a pseudonym. My father’s middle name was Gavin, so I have taken that as my first name. My mother’s maiden name was Carter, so that will be my surname. As for my middle name, I have not yet decided. I’m thinking perhaps Peter, or Paul.
Sunday 18th January 1982
I had a restless nights sleep. I dreamt about that strange man I saw in the field. He was standing over me as I slept, shadows hiding his face. He laid his hand upon my forehead and I saw a golden light enter into my mind. Although my eyes were closed, it was like staring into the sun. I woke up shaking; my body was pulsing as if electricity had passed through it.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Mother has been behaving oddly. She went out into the far field and built a snowman. She spent hours alone, shaping it. It looked very forlorn, the expression on its face was quite sad. She knelt down in front of her creation, bowed her head and looked as if she was about to cry. I was hiding behind the oak tree watching her from quite a distance so she did not notice me.
Monday 19th January 1982
I have decided to write under the pen name of Gavin Paul Carter. I have been thinking about creating an identity for him. I thought he might be a teacher, a quiet, thoughtful man, with a huge white beard. I should imagine that he likes to smoke a pipe, and has grandchildren who adore him. I suppose it does not matter who he is, as he is just a figment of my imagination.
My mind has been doing somersaults, and I have started writing my first poem.
The Seeing Eye.
The Seeing Eye is full of tears
The Seeing Eye it knows my fears
The Seeing Eye is blind of sight
The Seeing Eye is full of spite
I have only written four lines, because I came to the conclusion that it is not very good. I have noticed that it is a bit repetitive and rather pretentious. At least I am trying!
Tuesday 20th January 1982
I woke up this morning with a terrible headache and the oddest thought. What if the world around me was not real? What if it was all just a very vivid dream? I could even be in a coma, and still unconscious due to the car accident. Or even more disturbing, I might not be Cora Pearl at all. Thoughts like this are surely not typical for a girl of twelve? I’ve been reading about multiple personality disorder. The case of a young woman who had more than one identity, each one coexisted alongside the other, but they were completely unaware of that fact. I know it seems hard to believe, but it is certainly true as I read it in a book!
Wednesday 21st January 1982
I have been thinking about my father a great deal today. I was seven when he was killed. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I am hoping to see him in my reflection. I have my father’s eyes, they are most unusual, because sometimes they appear green, and depending upon the light they can also look blue. I go cold when I think of time passing. Five years already, and the more time that passes the more I struggle to remember him. It is like losing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I have flashes of images. Some clearer than others. I remember when he taught me to ride my bicycle, and came to watch me in my first nativity play at school. Most of all I remember his smile, and the aftershave he wore, and how gentle his touch was when he stroked my hair. I cannot write anymore, I need to cry.
Thursday 22nd January 1982
The snow thawed yesterday but has turned to ice this morning. Mother has been to Accident and Emergency. She was crossing the cobbled forecourt when she slipped and broke her wrist. It is all bandaged up, and she is very grumpy. Mother; although I do call her ‘Mummy’ sometimes when she treats me like a child, has always been clumsy. Blackthorn is not pleased, because he dismissed his housekeeper the day before we moved into the manor, and now he has to cook for us. Blackthorn is hopeless; he cannot even boil an egg without cracking it! He burns toast, and cannot open a tin! Peter the stable boy got struck on the head by a flying onion. He made the mistake of passing by an open kitchen window when Blackthorn was vainly attempting to make a stew; the amount of smoke in the air was appalling. It was so funny!
Friday 23rd January 1982
I overheard a conversation with my mother and Blackthorn today. She asked him “What can be better than being in love?” He answered “Smoking a cigar”… Oh God, why did my mother marry this ghastly man? At least she retained the Pearl name; I would not wish to be called Cora Blackthorn. Although, I suppose I am Cora Pearl Blackthorn, but I try not to think about that.
I have started reading Ann Frank’s Diary. She was a young girl who lived in Holland during the Second World War. Had we known each other I believe that Ann and I would have been good friends. It is sad to think that we are separated by so much time. I spoke to my mother, and she told me that the diary has a tragic outcome. So I am a very uncomfortable with the idea of reading it to the end.
Saturday 24th January 1982
Blackthorn confronted me today over my inability to speak. He grabbed me by the wrist and held it very tight. I thought he was going to break my arm. He said to me “You can talk, I know you can”.
I shook my head frantically, and tried to pull away, but he would not let go. “Friday January 16th 1982… You spoke to a man in my field”…
I knew precisely what he meant and I was furious. I wrenched myself free from his grip, and locked myself in my bedroom. I spent several hours crying and I would not even speak to mother, even though she knocked on my door frequently asking if I was alright. I sat at my desk and wrote a letter. Tiptoeing down the corridor, I slid it under the door of Blackthorn’s study. It stated.
You have read my diary. You have invaded my private world. You have lost all hope of me ever loving you. The diary entry for Friday January 16th 1982 was only partly true. I did meet a man in the field, but I was accompanied by Peter the stable boy, I obviously said nothing, therefore it was Peter and not I that asked the strange man to leave. The entry was deliberately misleading, a way to discover if either you or mother had read my diary. It seems that you have walked blindly into my trap, and I will not forgive you for trespassing into my private thoughts. I shall not tell mother about what you have done, but believe me if you ever read my diary again, and I will know if you do. I will make your life hell.
I know that Blackthorn will speak to Peter first thing in the morning, and I will be very surprised if my stepfather is able to look me straight in the eyes again.
Sunday 25th January 1982
This morning I woke up gasping for breath, my body seemed paralyzed. I felt as if something was holding me down. I regained control of my hands and fingers, and pulled frantically at the bed sheets. I managed to free myself from the invisible restraints. I sat up in bed, but my body felt old and stiff. I found that I was trapped inside a small white walled room. The windows were barred and there was a mirror fixed above me in the ceiling. I was horrified to see the face of a very old man gazing down at me. I waved my hands and realized that it was my own reflection. The shock of seeing this image jolted my body and I woke up covered in perspiration.
The experience so unnerved me that I did not come out of my bedroom for the entire day. I would imagine that Blackthorn was quite relieved. Mother understands my moods, and she made sandwiches and brought them to my room. That was quite an achievement considering she can only use one hand due to her injury!
Monday 26th January 1982
Mrs Gannon has the flu, she is really ill! I’m so pleased! If I am lucky I won’t have any schooling for a whole week. Outside the snow is slowly melting away, and as the thaw sets in our snowmen are shrinking.
Blackthorn has attempted to make amends for his bad behaviour. He has bought me a doll’s house. I am far too old for such things. I stopped playing with toys when I was eleven. It is very beautiful though. It looks like a stately home. Inside I found three dolls, a man, a woman and a young girl. I immediately removed the male figure and snapped his head off. I attached this note to its torso.
This man is not welcome in my house, because I am not welcome in yours.
I placed the broken doll outside Blackthorn’s study door and waited for a reaction. An hour or so later both the note and the toy were gone. I crept up to the keyhole and peered through. Blackthorn was seated at his desk, he looked rather sad. He was attempting to glue the head back to the doll’s shoulders, but every time he tried it simply fell off again. It was so funny!
I do believe that I have hurt Blackthorn’s feelings; I am surprised at this because I had previously thought that he was bereft of any emotion. I hope that he has learnt his lesson, and will never again poke his nose into my private thoughts.
Tuesday 27th January 1982
I spent the day dancing to music in my bedroom. I have a large record collection. I am particularly fond of Kate Bush. She is so talented, and I know that she wrote her first song when she was about my age! I would love to be like her when I am older. She is so beautiful and brilliant. I pretended that I was on stage performing and mimed to her music using my hairbrush as a microphone. That was the best part of the day!
The worst part of the day was dinner time. Blackthorn is unable to cope in the kitchen. Everything he cooks turns to charcoal. I am actually surprised that the manor is still standing considering the amount of smoke he generates. Blackthorn is a fire hazard. Because of his complete failure to provide food for his family, he has hired a new housekeeper. Her name is Natalie and she will be arriving tomorrow morning. I hope that I will like her, I need a friend.
Wednesday 28th January 1982
Natalie Brook is twenty two years of age. Her hair is long and dark and she has lovely skin, and large brown eyes. She came up to my room, and I showed her my record collection. She liked my music! I was so pleased. Natalie said that I was very pretty. I have never thought that about myself, and the remark made me smile. I am still smiling even now! Natalie is beautiful, and she even likes my drawings. She was very impressed by the sketch I had made of my father. Natalie and I will be great friends. She is a breath of fresh air and I think that her presence will make my life at the manor more bearable.
Thursday 29th January 1982
I introduced Natalie to Peter today. He was lost for words; this is not unusual, as he is not very intelligent. He is a handsome boy, and if I could speak I would get tongue tied whenever I saw him. However he does seem quite stupid sometimes. Peter did not have much of an education, and he has never read a book.
Blackthorn told mother that Peter gambles. He has a large tin that he hides quite unsuccessfully underneath a bale of straw in the stables. It is stuffed full of betting slips, I don’t think he wins very often. This makes him grumpy, and sometimes he can be quite rude. Peter thinks that Margaret Thatcher is a member of the Labour Party! He really is quite dumb; even I know that she is a Conservative Prime Minister! I would like him to kiss me, just to see what it is like, I am sure it would feel nice, but I would never marry someone so backward. I suppose I should not judge him, not everyone is as clever as I am.
Friday 30th January 1982
Blackthorn returned from work in the vilest of moods. In his study there is a glass cabinet full of shotguns and he decided to go hunting rabbits. I could hear the gunfire from my bedroom, so I played my records to drown out the noise. Blackthorn returned with three dead rabbits, and proceeded to skin them upon the kitchen table. Natalie and I were disgusted. Blackthorn was amused by our discomfort, and I was nearly sick when he sliced a rabbit open and revealed two dead babies inside. “It’s like unwrapping a Birthday present” Blackthorn was smirking as he spoke. I was furious and I picked up a metal plate and threw it at him. It struck him upon the forehead and tore his skin.
I ran from the kitchen and locked myself in my bedroom. I picked up the doll’s house, opened my window and hurled it down upon the cobblestones below. I watched as it shattered into a million pieces. Mother and Natalie were calling me and banging their fists upon the door. Mother wanted me to apologize, but I would not. I sat in the corner of my bedroom, hugged my knees and cried. How could Blackthorn be so cruel; murdering a mother and her unborn babies? How could he be so evil?
Saturday 31st January 1982
Mother has lost a valuable gold necklace that Blackthorn bought for her. He is furious. The odd thing is I saw my mother putting it in her jewellery box. I think it has been stolen.
This afternoon a homeless man came to the manor, he smelt horrible. He wanted something to eat, and I insisted that Natalie should give him some bread and soup. I have a notepad that I use to tell people my thoughts, I maybe mute, but I can write! The man was so hungry that he lifted the bowl to his whiskery lips and gulped it down like a hungry dog. He said that I was a beautiful girl, and that he was sorry that I could not talk. He seemed like a very good natured old man, but you could sense that he was deeply troubled.
Blackthorn was not pleased. He believes that everyone should work for a living, and he told me that he did not want some scrounging old tramp on his property. I allowed the poor man to use the bathroom unsupervised. Perhaps he slipped into mother’s bedroom and stole her necklace? I don’t care about the jewellery; she should not accept gifts off Blackthorn and he will never buy my affections the way he has bought my mother’s.
Sunday 1st February 1982
I dreamt deeply last night. I saw a world beyond the familiar, where silver fairies danced amongst golden flowers. There were unicorns galloping through lush green meadows, their hooves trailing rainbows against the sunlit rain.
I could hear a man’s voice echoing through my mind. “My name is Jarad Drayker I can be your guide”.
Gradually the beautiful dream world surrounding me began to dissolve, and white light appeared to melt like paint running down canvass.
I awoke in the middle of the night, the atmosphere was filled with static electricity and my head was pounding. I grabbed my notepad and my pen, and guided by moonlight I scribbled down the details of my dream.
Dreams are such strange and magical experiences. I think that my mind uses fantasy to protect me from unpleasant memories. I do have horrible nightmares too, and they are often so vivid that I can smell the fumes of the spilling petrol, and feel the heat of fire against my skin. I always see the fear in my Father’s eyes, and hear his voice as he reaches back his bloodied hand shouting. “Get out Cora! Get out!”…
Monday 2nd February 1982
Blackthorn split his trousers today. I think he has put on weight since Christmas. He bent down to pick up his newspaper and the stitching split rapidly apart. Mother and I did not know where to look. Blackthorn’s face was a picture, his grey skin first went white, and then bright crimson. “It’s my best suit” he muttered. “How could this happen?” If I had been able to speak I would have told him that his ‘glutious maximous’ was too large for his trousers and that would no doubt have baffled him, because he is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is.
Tuesday 3rd February 1982
Today mother and I took a bus into Worcester. Mother cannot drive because of her wrist. We had to listen to silly old ladies talking about their bowels, and bladder problems, and beyond their endless ailments they began to discuss the wretched weather. “Isn’t it cold Ada? Why is it so cold Ada? I hope that it gets warmer”
Even though I cannot talk I still feel like biting my tongue, if not I know I would shout at them if I were able “It’s cold you silly old fools! It’s cold because it’s winter and yes it will warm up in the spring!”
Worcester City is an interesting place. It was of great importance during the English Civil War, and a famous battle took place there in 1651. Oliver Cromwell’s armies defeated the King and the Streets ran red with the blood of the Scots. I like history, I suppose we all become a small part of history in time and that thought makes me sigh.
Mother and I went shopping at Woolworths, and Russell and Dorrels. I bought a book from WH Smiths, and mother bought herself a dress. I don’t know why she bothered Blackthorn never takes her out anywhere anyway; his idea of a fun night is completing a crossword puzzle.
We met a very interesting elderly gentleman in Russell and Dorrels Café. He introduced himself as Mr Bache. He told us that he used to work at the store. He used to fit suits, “We were the best tailors in the City” he remarked proudly. Mr Bache fought in World War I. He was so charming, and gentlemanly, and his appearance was immaculate. I do hope that I see him again.
Wednesday 4th February 1982
Blackthorn said to me today. “Cora all you ever do is scribble in that diary of yours, when I was your age I was out earning a wage”. He thinks I should be doing a paper round. Blackthorn lacks imagination. His mind is wrapped up in facts and figures related to his business. I am twelve years old, and I have no desire to follow in his footsteps. Although, I sometimes wonder why I write my diary, I suppose it is my only real freedom, and the only way I can express myself, it is the nearest thing I have to talking. If I could talk I would not speak to Blackthorn anyway, he is alien to me, and we have nothing whatsoever in common. It is odd that I am mute yet my words are my life. I have no friends my age, and if I am ever sent to school, it will be for special children like myself, I doubt that I would fit in with them, I am lonely but at least I have my diary in which I can store my thoughts, and feelings.
Thursday 5th February 1982
The old tramp reappeared. I was standing at my bedroom window gazing down at the courtyard and there he was. Blackthorn confronted him. The tramp said that he was very cold and asked if he could sleep in the stable with the horses. Blackthorn would not allow him to do so and accused him of stealing mother’s necklace. Although the tramp steadfastly denied this, Blackthorn still threatened to call the police.
The tramp looked confused and upset; he gazed up at my window and shook his head. Blackthorn was losing his temper, he had drunk a large quantity of brandy earlier in the evening and that never improves his mood. I ducked back into my bedroom and watched through the gap between the curtains. The poor old man bowed his head, and turned away, he looked so lost. Blackthorn raised his head and looked up at my bedroom window. He was smiling in such a horrible way. I was glad that he could not see me hiding behind the curtain.
Friday 6th February 1982
Blackthorn insisted that I should accompany him on a country walk because he wanted to give me a lecture about the value of hard work, and how I should respect my elders. Blackthorn does not understand that I am still technically a child, and I would rather be a nurse than work on Wall Street. He would have continued to verbally bully me had we not found the old tramp slumped beneath the oak tree, his body looked frozen solid. He was barely breathing, but before calling an ambulance Blackthorn took time to search the poor man. He was looking for mother’s necklace. I am glad he did not find it, and I hope that Blackthorn feels guilty about turning the tramp away last night, because he is responsible for that old man’s physical distress. It sickens me that Blackthorn can be so callous. How can the value of life be measured against a piece of jewellery?
The whole experience has left me very shaken, and when I returned to the manor I was physically sick. Mother tried to comfort me; she wanted to stroke my hair. I don’t like anyone touching my hair, and I flapped my arms about in an attempt to stop her. As usual she looked offended, but I am not her pet, and I don’t need grooming. If she wants to stroke something she should buy a cat or a dog.
My thoughts are very much with the old man, I hope that he will survive. Mother has promised me that she will ring the hospital tomorrow and ask how he is. I don’t think Blackthorn is remotely concerned. He spent most of the evening drinking brandy and reading the financial papers, he is such a wretch.
Saturday 7th February 1982
Mrs Gannon is feeling better, and my schooling will resume on Wednesday. In other news Nathanial Blackthorn has come to visit, he arrived on the doorstep unannounced, he seems like a very likeable old gentleman. He is in his eighties. He has an eye patch and a scarred face because he was hit by a piece of shrapnel during the Great War, this happened way back in 1918, during one of the last battles of World War I. He dresses in a very old fashioned way, and he tipped his bowler hat to greet me. His black suit and waistcoat looked a bit tatty, and he checked his silver pocket watch saying “I hope I’m not too late?” Too late for what? I thought, after all we were not expecting him. He seems to have taken a shine to me, much to the annoyance of his ghastly son, who spent much of the day out riding across the fields on his horse Nightfire. Blackthorn is so rude, if his father has taken the time to visit him, the least he could do is spend some time with the old gentleman.
Sunday 8th February 1982
I have discovered lots of interesting things about our new house guest. He likes to smoke a pipe, and the tobacco he uses smells of caramel. He is the complete opposite of his son; Nathanial is warm hearted, gentle, and filled to the brim with stories. I am using my notepad to ask him questions. He was born in 1896, my maths is weak but I have calculated that this make him 86! He fought in the trenches and was wounded by a shell fragment at the battle of Passchendaelle. He was interested in my writing and told me about Captain James Willard. It seems that the afore mentioned officer was killed during the war, and that he was a keen writer like myself; he showed me a battered diary that the dead man had written, and a poem that detailed his experiences during breaks in the fighting. It is so sad that he did not survive, and as he talked Nathanial’s voice became choked, and glistening tears filled his one good eye. Captain Willard must have been a very good friend to generate so much emotion all these years later.
Monday 9th February 1982
Nathanial is so funny! He likes drawing too. He sketched a picture of a character he called ‘Herby’ and gave it to me. The drawing made me smile, it is a play on words, as he called Herby a ‘Tarragon of Virtue’, instead of a ‘Paragon’ …
I might make up stories too, it’s just getting started that I always find difficult. I am very keen on fantasy, unicorns, and fairies, wicked witches, evil kings and beautiful princesses locked up in tall dark towers. Even Mrs Gannon said that I had a very vivid imagination. Who knows? Perhaps one day I will create a magical world of my own?
We did have some good news today, mother phoned the hospital, and the old tramp is stable. I was so pleased! I would like to have known more about his condition, but the hospital said they could not disclose any further details as we are not family members.
Tuesday 10th February 1982
Nathanial continues to amuse me with his drawings and stories about his early life. He is an old romantic and believes in love at first sight. He drew me another picture and I have stuck it in my diary. It made me chuckle.
Nathanial has been married twice, because his first wife Amelia died in 1922 during a terrible flu epidemic. He showed me a photograph taken a few years before his wife’s death, whilst he was on leave from the war.
Nathanial married again in 1924, but tragically she died a few years later from complications during childbirth. Her name was Victoria, and she was Blackthorn’s mother. Perhaps this explains his son’s indifference to mother and I? There must be a reason for Blackthorn’s uncaring nature. Losing a parent so early in life is a very painful experience, and I am fully aware of this, due to my own loss. Nathanial has so many emotions; he is thoughtful, funny, caring, and somewhat melancholy. He spends much time talking about the past. He says that every year he attends a meeting with all the old soldiers, and every year he notices the faces that are no longer there, each year the numbers shrink. “One day” He says, “One day I will stand in that big hall all alone. Until all I have are memories of old friends long gone and forgotten, but when I am gone who will remember us?” I will remember, I wrote a promise in my notebook, and showed it to him, and he smiled. Yes, I will not forget. I proudly made that pledge.
Wednesday 11th February 1982
I caught Natalie and Peter kissing. I am disgusted because this is not the proper behaviour of staff. I was very tempted to report them both. It really angered me, and I was in a bad mood for the entire day. Mrs Gannon who has returned to the task of teaching me, was unhappy too, as I paid very little attention to any subject she chose to discuss. I am too distracted to learn. How can Peter betray me like this? I thought Natalie was my friend and I was the fool who introduced her to him. I am far too annoyed to write anything else. I know I am too young to turn a young man’s head, but Natalie should consider my feelings, and not flaunt herself in front of men like she so obviously does. It is sickening.
Thursday 12st February 1982
A guilty conscience is not easy to live with. My wretched stepfather has much to feel ashamed of. Today he attempted to make amends for his awful behaviour. The old tramp returned, and Blackthorn and I confronted him for a second time in the courtyard. The dishevelled man had been cleaned up during his brief stay in the hospital. His white beard had been trimmed and his hair washed, but his clothes still smelled of damp. He thanked both Blackthorn and I for saving his life, little did the man know that he had been branded a thief and searched before any help was called. The tramp offered his hand in friendship, and Blackthorn briefly hesitated before shaking it. What else could he do? It was at that moment, as they shook hands that something very strange happened. The sleeve of the old man’s coat fell back revealing a peculiar tattoo, a sequence of dark blue numbers marked his skin. Blackthorn’s grey face went completely white. He looked horrified and stepped back. I’d never seen him react like that before. Blackthorn seemed dazed and kept saying “I’m so sorry… I’m so very sorry”.
Blackthorn invited the man into the manor, offered him food and a bed for the night. He gave him a set of new clothes and even allowed him to take a bath! The old man’s name is Joseph Lieberman, and he does seem like a gentle, polite and kind hearted individual. He’s very softly spoken, and Nathanial and mother liked him immediately.
Blackthorn is such a hypocrite! Pretending to care when he has so little time for his own father, and suddenly treating a complete stranger like a king! Maybe I don’t understand his nature at all, or perhaps he just wants to play ‘The Lord of the Manor’. My actual belief is that Blackthorn wishes to make amends for his cold hearted actions; after all he nearly caused Joseph’s death. I know the truth; one good deed in a lifetime does not make a man a saint or save him from the Devil. I see Blackthorn for what he is; a dark shadow of a man, and totally lacking in substance.
Friday 13th February 1982
Nathanial told me all about the origins of this day, the reasons he believes that it is unlucky. He said that Friday is named after a Norse God of love called Frigga. She was branded a witch and banished into the mountains by the Germanic tribes who had converted to Christianity. Angered by her treatment Frigga formed a dark alliance with eleven other witches, and using black magic they called upon the Devil to guide them, thus he became the thirteenth member of their Coven. Every Friday the Devil and his followers plotted misfortune against the Germanic Christians. In Scandinavia, Friday was the Witches Sabbath.
I don’t know if I believe Nathanial’s story, after all I think imagination is responsible for mankind’s belief in magic. I do believe in God, although I don’t think he has been much of a friend to me over the years. As for Friday 13th I have misfortune every day, so why should today be any different?
Saturday 14th February 1982
St Valentine’s Day, and Blackthorn has sent my mother a huge bouquet of flowers. His pathetic attempts to be romantic irritate me. In truth he is more like a machine than a human being. He lives for his career, I call him the Clockwork Man. Blackthorn is happiest seated behind his desk working all the hours that the day can provide, Blackthorn even works on weekends sometimes! All he wants to do is build his business empire, but he never enjoys the money because he puts it all in the bank.
I spent the day looking through old photograph albums. It’s strange seeing oneself growing up through the eyes of others. So many old memories, daddy buying me my horse Sparks, and me riding my first bicycle after daddy had taught me to ride it.
I found a beautiful picture of my father, and it made me feel proud. He was sat astride a large horse, and wearing a suit of silver armour. He looked so young and handsome. The oddest thing about the photograph was not his appearance, but the inscription written on the back in blue ink. ‘The Carnival, 17th August 1987’. That is five years from now! Why would mother write the wrong date upon the picture? I have decided to keep this photograph under my pillow, I don’t sleep very well at night, and when I wake from a nightmare I can look at his lovely face to soothe my nerves.
Sunday 15th February 1982
I had intended to ask mother about the photograph’s inscription, but last nights events have left me numb. Around midnight I was half asleep, just drifting in that warm place between wakefulness and dreams. I could hear a young woman crying, it was very eerie, and the sound seemed to echo inside my head. I woke with an intense headache, and slipped out of bed. Putting on my dressing gown I tiptoed into the corridor. Moonlight shone in through the far window and marked each step I made in shadow.
The door to Joseph Lieberman’s room was open and as soon as I entered the crying stopped. Joseph was seated at the room’s centre, with his head down, staring at the floor.
He looked up at me, his face ashen, tears in his eyes. “You heard her? Didn’t you child?”
I simply nodded. What else could I do? I did not have my note book to write in.
“My dead wife Freya always visits me with a smile, she wishes to comfort me, but she cannot, for I will never escape my misery, and she always leaves in tears”
I was frightened by his words, and began to edge my way out of the room, I stopped when I heard a floorboard creak.
“Freya is dead… My whole family is dead. I tell her that she should leave me alone with my sadness. Despair is all I have. You see I never escaped Warsaw, I never escaped the Camp”.
I didn’t know how to react, or understand what he was saying to me. Joseph looked so helpless, and I wanted to hug him, comfort him with soothing words, but my tongue dried in my mouth and speaking as always proved impossible.
Joseph’s final words to me were “Freya’s soul lives on, but her body is dead. My soul is dead but my body lives on”.
In the morning Joseph Lieberman was gone. His new clothes, given to him by Blackthorn were folded neatly and placed upon the bed. There was a note attached and it read “Thank you for your kindness, but the more time that passes, the more distant the dark divide between myself and my loved ones becomes; I am detached from reality, and I belong to no one, even God has forsaken me... Beware of the Shadow Weaver”.
The note was so sad to read, and I cried. We will all miss Joseph Lieberman, he was a good man. For my pains however I am deeply troubled by the strange experience, and I do not intend to discuss it with anyone. I wonder what he meant by the Shadow Weaver?
Monday 16th February 1982
Today I resolved the mystery of daddy’s photograph. Mother was sat at the kitchen table and I gained her attention by hitting her on the head with my notebook. She did not seem particularly amused by my behaviour, but when you can’t talk you have to be creative when it comes to engaging the attention of others.
Mother explained to me the significance of the 17th of August. It was the day that she met my father, and also the day some years later that he proposed to her, and subsequently it became the Anniversary of their wedding. Robert and Elizabeth were married on the 17th August 1967, and mother remembers daddy asking her “Will you still love me in twenty years?” In response mother wrote on the back of the photograph ‘17th August 1987’ and told him that he would always be her knight in shining armour, as he was that day at the Carnival. Mother seemed so far away as she spoke, her eyes stared beyond the walls of Blackthorn Manor, but they did not appear fixed on anything. Her tone was flat, and when she’d finished speaking she bit into her lip, splitting the skin.
How different our lives would have been had father not died. Everyday the world around me seems to darken, and the walls of the manor often seem to be closing in on me.
Sometimes I feel as if a voice inside of me is screaming, and in those moments I feel as if the air in my lungs is being squeezed out and that I am suffocating.
Tuesday 17th February 1982
Nathanial told me a very sad story. Captain James Willard who was killed during the Great War, had written a letter to be given to his wife in the event of his death. Nathanial still had this letter, and explained to me that he was unable to deliver it. He asked me to keep it safe for him, and I nodded.
Nathanial explained the tragic circumstances that had caused him to keep hold of the letter. Captain Willard died on the same day that Nathanial had been wounded. A falling shell fell only yards from their feet, and Willard threw himself against Nathanial and using his body as a shield Willard took the full force of the explosion. Nathanial was invalided home, he said “He’d caught a Blighty one”…
Nathanial had to keep his promise to his friend, and therefore sought out Mrs Willard, so he could give her the letter. Tragically when he found her address, Nathanial discovered that the young lady had died from influenza and baby Emma had been sent away into care. Nathanial was unable to trace any of Willard’s relatives, and as he was growing old he wanted someone else to become the caretaker of his friend’s last words.
I am beginning to believe that the world is an infinitely cruel place, but when I read Willard’s words, I am touched by his love, and devotion. I think that even in the most horrible situations, amidst murder, war, mayhem, and chaos there can be hope, because Captain James Willard’s good spirit can be carried down in memory by generation after generation. Perhaps his words might have a positive influence on someone and remind them of what truly matters in this life. It’s only a small four letter word, but ‘Love’ means so much. We mustn’t forget its value.
Wednesday 18th February 1982
Max Quinby… On this day I always think of him. Mother still has his photograph. She cut it from the local paper. His picture has crooked edges as her hand was shaking as she held the scissors. He was a happily married man, with a good career in the City, but he liked to drink, unfortunately for us he never thought of the consequences.
February 18th 1977 was the date when my life was shattered. Mother does not even speak on this day, and at least Blackthorn respects her silence. My daddy was driving and we were all singing songs, it was a moment of happiness, and it lasted up until the point of collision. I remember the car spinning, the headlights blazing as if they were on fire. I remember the fumes, and the smell of petrol, and the taste of my own blood seeping from my forehead. I felt my father’s hand shaking my knee and heard the words he shouted. “Get out Cora! Get out!” The heat of the flames was so intense, and my mother’s voice was distant as she dragged me from the wreckage.
Memories like this never leave you. So I share that painful bond with Joseph Lieberman, and dearest Nathanial. I find it hard not to hate Max Quinby, and when I write and draw I can never truly express myself because his carelessness has damaged my mind, and trapped me in a world I do not want to live in. Two men died that day, and deprived their families of a father. My greatest regret is that I survived the crash. My daddy was my hero, and he always protected me. What am I without him? I can answer that, I am nothing, just a lost child with nowhere in this life to go. I don’t ask for pity, I just miss him so much, and all I have for comfort is my diary.
Thursday 19th February 1982
I had a dreary day with Gannon the Cannon. I thought she was patient and softly spoken but I was totally wrong. I gave her that nickname because when she gets angry she bellows at me. Her mouth opens so wide that you could fit a cannon ball inside. She sounds like a foghorn. I don’t understand mathematics, and I know she thinks I’m stupid. She said that I would draw a square as a circle, and a circle as a square. So what? I really don’t care. Mrs Gannon told me that I would never achieve anything in life if I was unable to add up. But what has she actually achieved? Mrs Gannon is an old lady who lives alone with her stupid cat. She has hairs growing out of her chin and smells of the countryside, a mixture of rotting cabbage and horse manure. She is widow, but I would think her husband was glad to get away from her. I suspect that even when she was in the bloom of youth she looked like the back end of a pregnant horse.
After my lessons had finished I went with my mother to lay flowers upon my father’s grave. I like visiting the Cemetery. It’s beautifully rural, and surrounded by trees, and meadows. His tombstone stands amidst a sea of forget-me-not, mother whispered to me that it was the wrong time of year for the flowers to be blooming. As we stood there paying our respects a lovely blue and yellow butterfly flew about my head, mother told me that it was probably daddy reborn. If Blackthorn had been there he would have caught the butterfly and stuck a pin through its body. He is such a wretched man. I suppose I should pity him, but I cannot feel sympathy for someone who is so unsympathetic.
Friday 2Oth February 1982
I watched Peter and Natalie through my bedroom window this morning. They were involved in a bitter argument. Unfortunately they were standing too far away for me to be able to understand what the argument was actually about, but I got the impression that their blossoming romance has suddenly wilted. This is not surprising as they were totally unsuitable for each other. Peter is rather stupid, and short on conversation, his idea of a good time is betting on the horses and playing darts at the local pub. Natalie is a complete contrast because she is charming, well mannered and has a good sense of humour, Natalie is rather like me in some respects. I wonder what Peter will do now? He seems very glum. I might offer him a shoulder to cry on as I do care about him, even though he is a bit of a fool.
Saturday 21st February 1982
It has been a very stressful day because another piece of mother’s jewellery went missing. However we have caught the culprit. Natalie told Blackthorn that she had seen Peter with a gold ring. Blackthorn remained quite calm and confronted him regarding the matter, naturally he denied any involvement. It was only when Natalie led Blackthorn to the stable and slid out Peter’s metal box that the truth was revealed. Inside there were piles of betting slips and beneath them was mother’s gold ring. Peter looked shocked and denied all knowledge of the theft. He said that he had not taken it, and that someone had placed it amongst his possessions. I could not look him in the face, it was very upsetting. Peter pleaded with Blackthorn, but retribution was swift. Peter has been sacked from his job, and he left without further issue. I suppose it is no surprise. Natalie said that Peter has a gambling problem and that he had many debts. He has proved to be a major disappointment. I dislike people who steal, and I would imagine he sold the necklace so he could feed his addiction. I will miss him, but Blackthorn was right to dismiss the boy. Natalie is going to receive a salary increase, and she is pleased that Peter has been punished appropriately. I am surprised that Blackthorn did not involve the police. Although I know that he was fond of Peter.
Nathanial told me that if that had happened in the trenches he would have shot him. That seemed a little extreme to me. He said that he knew of one soldier who kept stealing from his colleagues. On the morning that they had to go over the top to attack the Germans the man fell flat on his face with six bullets in his back! Personally I think that was a bit harsh!
Sunday 22nd February 1982
This morning Natalie and I went for a walk in the fields, even though it was cold and misty we decided to sit down beneath the giant oak and enjoy the scenery. Natalie was in the midst of saying how disappointed she was by Peter when she was struck on the head by an acorn. We both believed that a passing bird had dropped it. However when a second acorn struck me upon the shoulder we decided it was time to investigate, acorns don’t grow on oak trees you know!
Stepping back from the tree we noticed a pair of shoes hanging down through the branches and they were swaying from side to side. We took another few steps back and it came as no surprise to see a man seated up high upon a thick branch. He was dressed in an old fashioned suit, and wearing a bowler hat.
I recognized him immediately. It was M J Ould Orum, the man who Peter and I had met in the field in January, and for obvious reasons he was not standing upon his head this time!
The strange man reached into a small paper bag and took out yet another acorn, and threw it at me. It struck me square upon the forehead. I was not pleased by his behaviour and I glared at him.
Ould Orum simply laughed “Bullseye” He said with a wry smile. Natalie demanded to know what he was doing in our tree.
“This is your tree? I never knew that this particular tree belonged to anyone”. He replied. “If you must know I’m nesting” He rolled his eyes and licked his lips “You don’t happen to have any wriggly worms for me to eat do you?”
I shook my head and looked at Natalie, and she shrugged her shoulders in disbelief because the man was clearly crazy.
Ould Orum looked directly at me and his voice deepened. “You must clear your mind Cora. Otherwise how will you ever get there? Dreams are the key and if you control them, they can change your mind and let you in.”
I had absolutely no idea what this peculiar man was talking about. Natalie grabbed me by the hand and pulled me away. She told the strange man that she would call the police. I suppose he was a little disturbing, as he did know my name. Natalie informed my mother and Blackthorn walked over to the field. However, by the time he arrived beneath the giant oak Mr Ould Orum had vanished into the early morning mist.
Monday 23rd February 1982
Natalie has bought me a painting set. It’s lovely!
I have already drawn two pictures, although they are not very good. I know I need practice, but I do try.
I call this one fatty bum bum!
I don't know who this is, but I think he might be a bad person.
I can't draw horses, so I made it look like the animal is wearing armour, clever little me! Although I have discovered that acorns do grow on oak trees, because Nathanial told me so! Perhaps I'm not as clever as I think I am?!
Natalie said that she thought my drawings showed talent, especially as I am only twelve, although I will be thirteen in September and nearly a grown woman! Natalie is very kind to me as she does not earn much money, because Blackthorn is very mean with his cash. I believe he keeps it under the floorboards and late at night I hear creaking from behind the study door, I’m sure he is in there counting it!
I do get very annoyed when I am treated like a child. I think it is because I am small for my age. I believe I am malnourished, Blackthorn insists that I should eat cauliflower and Brussels sprout, Blackthorn told me that sprouts are miniature cabbages, that explains a lot as I loathe cabbage too!
Yuk! Brussels sprout! Sick and poo stew!....
I positively hate green food, so I quite often go hungry, daddy wouldn’t have tortured me with rabbit food! He would have taken me to the fish and chip shop!
Tuesday 24th February 1982
Last night I went to bed at half nine. I felt dizzy, and as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep.
I slept restlessly for only half an hour, and when I awoke, at least I think I was awake, I quickly realized that I was unable to move. I began to breathe deeply, and I tried to use my mind to break free from the paralysis. It took a great deal of concentration, but to my relief I was able to do so, and I quickly sat up in bed. I thought I saw several small shadowy figures, no bigger than children crawling about the floor, they were crying unnaturally, they sounded more like animals than humans and it was unbearable to listen to. A white mist, entwining like billowing cobweb rolled against my face, and as I looked down at my feet, I could see a black top hat perched at the bottom of my bed. In the poor light I could barely make out the shape of what looked like a tall man standing in silhouette. He was cloaked in darkness and his face appeared to be featureless. The strange cloud of white mist seemed to be surging upwards and spiralling down into the top of the creature's head. I blinked once and when I opened my eyes these disturbing apparitions had vanished.
The rest of the day I felt quite sick and my mood was grumpy. I attempted to draw but found that all I was able to do was scribble, so I tore up the paper in anger, and stayed in my bedroom for the rest of the day.
Wednesday 25th February 1982
My life has been thrown into a state of confusion.
I know what I should do, but I cannot bring myself to do it. I received a letter today. Mother and Blackthorn were intrigued, as I don’t really know anyone else other than them. I am not exactly popular with the local children, as they think I’m weird, but it’s not like I sit in the playground digging up worms and eating them.
The letter I have received has created a moral dilemma, because it is from Peter.
I have read it and reread it, and later I will sneak into the kitchen and take a look in Natalie’s handbag, the thought of doing that makes me feel sick. I just hope that Peter is lying, because Natalie has been so kind to me, she bought me my painting set, and she always talks to me about life beyond Blackthorn manor, Natalie is my friend and I would be lost without her.
Thursday 26th February 1982
I know that I am wrong, but I have decided not to tell Blackthorn about Peter’s note. I have my reasons. My so called stepfather has a very low opinion of females in general and it seems that he actually suspected Natalie of the crime, but he finally concluded that it had to be me who had stolen the jewellery! I am very offended, because I would not steal from my own mother!
How do I know what Blackthorn thinks? Simple, I listened at the study door and overheard Blackthorn talking to mother. As always with a small “M” as she does not deserve a capital letter! “Peter was like a son to me”. Blackthorn remarked flippantly “I could believe that Natalie or Cora might steal from me, but not Peter. You don’t realize how upset this whole business has made me feel”.
Mother said very little to defend my character, perhaps she believes what was said! That thought sickens me, but as for Peter being like a son to Blackthorn, I have never heard so much nonsense! This remark made me very angry because he never spends any time with his real son Henry, due to some unmentionable family embarrassment. Peter was as much of a son to him as I am a daughter, but if that is the way he feels, Peter can stay where he is, and Natalie can carry on stealing! The truth is that money and status is the only thing Blackthorn truly cares about, and the more he loses the more it will hurt him. I know what real loss is, losing a father, but to a man like him, losing jewellery is the only thing that truly causes him suffering. Sometimes he deserves that pain, shallow though it is. I hate the fact that he tried to smear my character, and that my mother did not disagree with his opinions. One day, I will be a grown up, and I will have the power that adults have, and I will be greater and stronger than Blackthorn or my mother will ever be!
Friday 27th February 1982
My dreams continue to disturb my mind. Perhaps my restless sleep is due to a guilty conscience? It is true that whenever I close my eyes I can see Peter's sad face. I am feeling very glum and withdrawn, not that anyone notices as I rarely smile in any case.
I met a dead man in my dreams and he allowed me to speak. I knew who he was from an old photograph Nathanial had given me. He was seated at a wooden table, dressed in a captain's uniform, his cap resting beside his elbow. He was leaning forward, pen in hand, writing in his diary. The sounds of distant explosions caused the dugout mud walls to vibrate and flake. I stood before him in my white nightdress and he looked up at me through the dim light.
"The girl from my dreams" He said "You know me child and here you can speak"
I found my voice, although I knew that it was mere wishful thinking, and I could not really speak. "You are Captain James Willard"...
The Captain smiled at me. "And you are Cora Pearl, but do you truly know who you are? Why you are part of my dreams?"
"We are in your dreams?" I replied, I know my mind plays tricks sometimes but what he was suggesting was too peculiar for words. "No, I'm dreaming about you" I responded forcefully. "So you're wrong because I'm real and you're not".
The Captain began to laugh "I imagine that it could only be that way with you" He raised a shaking hand and saluted me. "Cora Pearl, you're filled to the brim with your own self importance" He looked sad and added "Regardless of others Cora, you believe only what you choose to believe. You should come back when you are able to listen"...
Captain James Willard began to dissolve, his body flaking apart like a man reduced to ash. The dugout faded too and I awoke to find myself back in my own bed. I wonder why I dreamt about Willard?
The first thing I did when I climbed out of bed this morning was try and speak, but naturally I was unable to do so. If only some of my dreams would come true, I would be a happy girl!
Saturday 28th February 1982
Using my notepad I told Nathanial about my dream. He seemed fascinated by my encounter. He believes that dreams are a gateway to the afterlife, and that spirits who have unfinished business exist there. They are waiting for an opportunity to resolve their issues with the living. It seems highly unlikely that Captain Willard would have something to discuss with me, after all I have never met the man. I just have a very vivid imagination that even influences my dreams!
Sunday 1st March 1982
I know the truth, Natalie is a thief. I took the opportunity to look inside her handbag, and I found the slip of paper, therefore she has pawned my mother's necklace. I found it hard to let her talk to me because of my discovery. Natalie is funny, kind hearted and beautiful, and she thinks that I am talented and special. How can I betray her? Blackthorn has so much money and although I know stealing is wrong, I cannot bring myself to tell that wretched man that Peter is innocent. But what of him? What of poor Peter misjudged so harshly and unfairly? What might happen to Peter in the future if I keep silent and don't pass on what I know?
Monday 2nd March 1982
Mother has gone away for the week due to the fact that Jackie her sister is not very well, this is not unusual as she is a terrible hypochondriac. Every ailment from indigestion down to a stubbed toe can be perceived as fatal. Jackie is only in her forties but she has been on her deathbed at least three times since I have known her! My mother wanted me to go too, but I’d rather throw myself into the rotor blades of a combine harvester than spend my valuable time in Jackie’s company. In any case I would miss too much schooling, not that I ever learn anything from Gannon the Cannon, as she is quite possibly the most incompetent teacher on the planet! Mrs Gannon told me that I was the worst pupil she had ever taught. So I suppose we are not exactly the best combination. Still, what do I care? I ignore her most of the time anyway, especially when she is shouting. I really don’t like it when she shouts. If I could speak I’d shout back!
Tuesday 3rd March 1982
I walked through moonlit darkness, my bare feet sliding against thick moist clay. Yellow and green clouds of sweet smelling smoke rolled around my face and stung my nostrils.
I could see human shapes looming upwards through the blasted landscape. The shambling figures were moving slowly, rifles held against their dark uniformed chests, faces hidden beneath white gas masks and metal helmets. I was afraid and as they drew nearer they simply walked straight through me. The poisoned air was suddenly filled with thousands upon thousand of black flies, they buzzed about my head, and although I knew that I was dreaming, I could still feel these horrible insects becoming entangled in my hair.
I stumbled and fell, and slid down into a muddy hole. A body rested at my feet and I grabbed my knees and hugged them against my chest. The dead man was a British soldier, he looked so young, and I felt very sorry for him.
“His name was Bill Clarkson and he was twenty one years old”.
I sat up against the dugout wall and looked across at the sad face of Captain James Willard. He was seated upon stacked sandbags smoking a pipe.
“You should never light three cigarettes from one match” He whispered. “I’ll have to write home to his mother”.
I gazed around the dugout pit, and saw that there was another soldier seated nearby. The man’s head was bowed forward and all I could see was the circular shape of his tin helmet.
“Is he dead?”
“No” Willard replied “He’s sleeping”.
“Oh like me? Because I'm asleep too!” I looked back at the Captain “Why am I here again?”
He puffed thoughtfully on his pipe. “I have something that you must be given”. He reached into his tunic and slid out a silver sixpence, and held it up in front of my face between his thumb and forefinger.
“Minted in 1860. My wife had it in her shoe on the day we were married. It protects against evil spirits. I want you to have it”
I began to chuckle. “My dreams maybe vivid but I don’t think I can take objects out of them” I shook my head and closed my eyes “I don’t want to dream about this place anymore”.
Captain Willard sighed “We all have guardians in this world and the next Cora, but where there are good spirits, there has to be bad, we are all haunted by them, some more than others”
He looked across at the sleeping soldier. “Corporal wake up”
The sleeping soldier raised his head and I was astonished to see the youthful features of Nathanial Blackthorn, he looked just like he did in his old photograph!
“Yes Captain, we moving on?” Nathanial replied, stifling a yawn with the back of his muddy hand.
Captain James Willard tossed the silver sixpence through the air, and Nathanial caught it. He looked down into the palm of his hand.
“I want you to keep that coin Nathanial and if anyone ever asks you for it, I want you to give it to them”….
Nathanial nodded, he looked bewildered “If you say so sir” and I watched as he tucked the sixpence into his pocket.
The Captain saluted me, his hand trembling as before, and once more the dream began to crumble and flake into ash. The bleak world around me vanished back into the comforting reality of early morning bird song outside my bedroom window.
Wednesday 4th March 1982
I wrote in my notepad "Do you have the silver sixpence?" Nathanial read my words and looked astonished. "Do you want it?" He asked.
I nodded my head and he reached into his waistcoat pocket and slid out the shiny coin and handed it to me. It had a faded latin inscription around its worn edges which read 'Impedio ut ut quod bonus' and the face of Queen Victoria on one side and a silver dagger upon the other.
"How did you know I had it?" Nathanial looked very confused. "It belonged to Captain Willard you know, and he gave it to me a few weeks before he was killed".
I wrote in my notepad that the Captain's ghost had visited me in my dreams and told me about the coin, and Nathanial looked amazed. "James Willard was a strange man Cora, he often talked with people who weren't there".
I sat down beside Nathanial on the settee, I wanted to know more, and I listened intently as he told me about the dead officer.
Apparently Captain Willard was wounded twice, and suffered a horrible condition called shellshock, this caused him to lose the ability to speak! Nathanial believes that the Captain was sent to a hospital called Craiglockhart, and after several months of care, and his voice restored, the doctors passed him fit for duty and he was sent back to the trenches. However Nathanial and the other soldiers noticed that Captain Willard had developed a peculiar habit of talking to imaginary people, he also had very troubled dreams, and believed that evil spirits were trying to steal his soul.
Nathanial became upset, and with tears welling in his one good eye he told me that he did not want to talk about the subject anymore.
I respected his wishes, but I know that there is more to learn about Captain James Willard. Perhaps when I am asleep I can travel through time? I could be one of the imaginary people that the dead man used to speak to! Whatever the truth, I now have the silver sixpence, I very much hope that it brings me good fortune, and protects me from evil spirits too.
Thursday 5th March 1982
I went out riding on my horse today. We galloped over the fields and through the meadows. I love the freedom I feel when I am seated in the saddle. I made the mistake of trying to jump a fence, and the result was inevitable. Spark’s threw me from the saddle and I ended up flat on my back in the long grass. I bruised my shoulder and arm, but other than that I was fine.
A long haired bearded man dressed entirely in baggy black clothing had hold of Spark’s saddle, he had an old fashioned camera hanging around his neck and I was curious to know who the shabby man was.
It’s annoying that I cannot speak, but the man’s intentions were made clear to me very quickly. “You have to listen to me!”... He said. I thought he was ill has he was sweating and twitchy. “I’m Markus Van Doren... An I know you girl, you’re Cora Pearl, and you’re in danger”... He scared me with his words and I had no intention of listening to him. I just wanted to get away.
I stood up and brushed myself down, but he made a grab for me, and Sparks panicked. The man was knocked over by my horse and I made a grab for the reins.
“Cora!” The man shouted, “Look at me!”. I turned and stared into the lens of shabby man’s camera and he snapped my picture.
I leapt upon my horse and rode away. I don’t know who he was and I hope that I never see him again.
Friday 6th March 1982
Mother rang today, and she asked to speak to me, obviously I'm not very interesting to talk to on the telephone. Still, I gritted my teeth and listened to her as she rambled on and on for about an hour. Her daft sister is feeling better, so we won't be burying her anytime soon!
In other news Nathanial and his son are avoiding each other! It seems that Blackthorn has issues with his lovely father and has accused the delightful old gentleman of neglecting him when he was a boy! If that was the case, I'm not surprised, because who would want a son like Samuel Blackthorn?! My God! I certainly wouldn't!
Saturday 7th March 1982
Nathanial told me about the night Captain James Willard was killed. It had been raining steadily for many days and the mud had turned into sucking clay.
Nathanial said wearily “If you stood in the same place for too long you would sink up to your ankles, it was hell”.
He took several deep breaths, closed his one good eye and as I scribbled his words into my notepad he continued to talk very slowly.
“There were five of us that night, Corporal Ould, Private Wheeler, Private Moss, myself and Captain Willard. We’d volunteered to go out into No Man’s Land and cut the barbed wire which had been laid to stop our advance. I remember saying to the Captain that he shouldn’t go! It wasn’t the job of an officer, but he was stubborn and wouldn’t listen”.
Unfortunately at this point the nib of my pencil snapped, and I had to sharpen it. It did not break Nathanial’s train of thought, and he continued to recount the events as if it were yesterday.
“Odd thing was that Captain Willard turned away and began to speak to something or someone behind him in the dark, but there was nobody else present".
“Selfish?” Willard said “How can I be selfish? I’m not the only man with a family”…
At this point he looked at me and smiled. “Regardless of rank and status, no man is more important than another”…
"I recall Private Wheeler laughing, Wheeler was a cynic, I never understood the man, he said he’d made a pact with the Devil to live forever, as for Corporal Ould he was a strange one too and he just nodded his head. "Have you still got my coin?” I remember him asking".
“No” Replied the Captain “It’s been given to another”.
Nathanial opened his eye and I could see the tears welling. “As you know back then that coin was in my possession because Captain Willard had given it to me. It’s very old, and I believe that it protected me from death that night”.
Nathanial reached down and with his hand trembling, he lifted a glass of water to his lips and drank.
“We climbed out of our dugout and crawled over the top. We trudged through the darkness, and as hoped for the sky was thick with cloud, but then the moon began to move slowly from behind its cover, so we were ducked down behind battered tree stumps to avoid being seen”.
Nathanial took another sip of water, and I was beginning to feel his discomfort. “That was when the first shot was fired. Private Moss fell back, and slid down into a flooded shell hole. Corporal Ould tried to pull him out, but the German sniper had us all marked and Ould took a bullet in the shoulder”.
“At this point there was panic, and worse was yet to come. Gas clouds were rolling towards us, and we grabbed at our respirators and fumbling in blind panic as the thick poisonous clouds swept over us we attached them just in time”. Nathanial licked his lips, and I watched as his Addams apple bobbed up and down in his throat.
“Captain Willard and I lost sight of Private Wheeler and Corporal Ould. Later I discovered that Wheeler had returned to our lines, but as for Ould and Moss, they were both lost in No Man’s Land”.
Nathanial sighed and after a lengthy pause he finished his story. “As the gas cleared the Captain and I found ourselves once more a sniper’s target. I took a bullet in the thigh and fell sideways into the mud. I was in agony.
The good Captain grabbed me under my arms and began to drag me flailing through the mud. I told him to leave me, I begged him, because I knew that the next bullet fired would not miss its target”…
“Willard refused and I closed my eyes and prayed for a miracle and at that very moment the blackest cloud threw its shadow across the moon and we were blanketed in thick darkness”.
“The Captain and I began to chuckle. In that wonderful brief moment all fear left us, and I heard the Captain say…
“Nathanial… Next stop Blighty! You’re going home my friend”… Nathanial bowed his head and his voice became very flat.
“We heard the sound of a Whiz Bang overhead, time stood still and Captain Willard released me from his grip. At this point the Captain tried to cover me with his body, but there was no escape. The shell tore open the earth, and a jagged piece of hot shrapnel ripped into my face, and then, silence, darkness, I knew nothing more until I woke up in a Casualty Clearing Station several miles behind British lines”…
Nathanial winced and his tears rolled down his cheek, but he did not wipe them away. “As for Captain James Willard, his body was never recovered and nobody had any idea how I had been brought back to safety”.
I found Nathanial’s story very troubling, and it has left me with a thumping headache, and with the very strange thought that perhaps Captain James Willard is not dead after all…
Sunday 8th March 1982
I've noticed that I quite often write father with a small first letter, I did not do this consciously. I think I do this because of resentment, and hate, but not of Him... No, it is because of my feelings for Max Quinby. If my father had a capital letter, I would be reminded of how important he was to me, and how much I loved him, and that would hurt deeply, but with my love comes hate, and I know my hatred is very strong, and it could poison my soul. I judge harshly, and I know that it is not my place to do so as a child... In truth I will only have that right when I am an adult.
Monday 9th March 1982
I walked across the fields today, and sat down beneath the mighty branches of the giant oak. Sunshine bathed my face and I closed my eyes and allowed my mind to drift.
My eyelids flickered and when I raised them I could see swirling smoke and fire, and Captain Willard’s ghostly face floating amidst the maelstrom. He looked so sad. As I stared into Willard’s haunted eyes, images of death and destruction flashed through my mind, I heard his voice echoing down through the war torn decades…
“It doesn’t matter how old you are Cora, we’re all running out of time, but here the young, die young, and the war machine plays God. Tanks, shells, maxim guns, planes… Who needs God to smite us when the machine has the power?”
“It’s not that I don’t believe in God, but the more we rely on the machine, the more God will fade from our consciousness”.
“The tragedy of the machine is that it rules us like a god, but it is soulless, and one day it will do humanity more harm than good”.
“Cora I believe in sacrifice, it’s the price we pay for the hate and prejudice of others. When I die, a human and humane God is what I will find, but you Cora? What about you? What God will you find Cora Pearl?”
The images of humanities never ending conflict faded into the sunlight, and all became quiet again. I reached into my jacket for my notepad, and I wrote down every word that he had said to me. A blue and yellow butterfly settled upon the grass beside me, so much beauty in the world, so much ugliness.
Tuesday 10th March 1982
The events that occurred today have been very disturbing. Early this morning I was awoken by Markus Van Doren, the man who took my photograph. He was pounding his fists upon the manor house door. Blackthorn was wide awake and dressed for work, but I was half asleep, although intrigued to know what our ill mannered visitor wanted. Blackthorn was not very welcoming and expressed his annoyance by glaring at the disheveled man and telling him firmly that he should ring the doorbell in future.
Van Doren desperately wanted to speak to me, but I was standing in the corridor behind Blackthorn, trying to keep out of sight. Van Doren's expression frightened me, his eyes were wide, and he kept glancing nervously over his shoulder. He reached down into his trouser pocket and handed Blackthorn a photograph.
Unfortunately I was unable to see the picture, but I guessed that it was the one that Van Doren had taken of me a few days earlier.
"Can you see? Can you see the danger she is in? You have to let me in!" Van Doren attempted to push past Blackthorn, but instead he found himself grabbed by the arm and shoved roughly through the door. He lost his footing and fell upon the cobblestones.
Blackthorn slid the photograph into his jacket pocket and pointed an accusing finger at the terrified man. "If I ever see your face around here again, I will have you arrested. You're sick. Now get the hell off my property!"
Blackthorn slammed the door in Van Doren's face, and turning to me, his face grey and hard like stone he said coldly. "Nothing to see here Cora, but just you listen to me... That man can hurt you, and if I find that you've met him a second time, you'll never be allowed to leave my house again"...
The rest of the day meant nothing to me. My schooling with Gannon the Cannon was all but ignored. I kept thinking about the contents of the photograph. What terrible image could frighten Van Doren and cause Blackthorn to behave so violently?
Wednesday 11th March 1982
Mother has returned, and she has bought me a typewriter. I am so thrilled! I have spent the entire day typing up a story; it is called "The Dark Light Trilogy". I have taken elements of my own life and combined it with a dark fantasy theme. The characters in my story have mobile phones similar to the ones they use in Star Trek, but not like those big black plastic bricks the police have! I know my story is not perfect, and it does have spelling errors. Perhaps sometime in the future I will rewrite it, but I am quite pleased with my effort. I won't let mother read it, because it's very gory and really bloodthirsty! I think that I must have a very dark mind!....
Thursday 12th March 1982
Last night as I slept I was struck upon the head by a small stone wrapped in paper. It had been tossed in through my bedroom window. I jumped out of bed and gazed down into the courtyard, I caught a glimpse of a man dressed in black jumping across the cobblestones.
I was unable to see his face, because the moonlight was fractured by dark clouds overhead. I unwrapped the stone and the man's identity quickly became clear.
I will make our rendezvous, I need Van Doren to tell me about the danger he thinks that I am in.
Friday 13th March 1982
I sneaked out of the house at midday, Natalie was chatting to my mother in the kitchen and Nathanial was asleep in the armchair with a newspaper covering his face.
I crossed the field and approached the Great Oak tree, Markus Van Doren was sat beneath it, his head hanging forward, his long hair covering his face. I thought that he was dead, but as I knelt down beside him, he reached up and grabbed me tightly by the wrist. I tried to pull away, but his grip was too strong. He raised his head, his mad eyes staring into mine, a cruel smile etched upon his face.
"You want to scream little angel? You need to learn to scream, because they're coming for you Cora"... I continued to struggle, but he would not let me go.
Van Doren's eyes darted back and forth, his face drenched in sweat "Cora he was behind you in my photograph, I've been talking to a dead man and he wants me to warn you" I fell to my knees, and he loosened his fingers, but he would not let me go free.
"He wants me to warn you about the man in the photograph... You're surrounded by spirits, you're like a magnet for them. They want to hurt you, drain your mind. They're powerful, cruel and full of hate". I could feel his fingers twitching and his sweat upon my skin.
"They're drawn to you Cora Pearl because you're special" Van Doren's touch became lighter and I found my strength, twisted my wrist against his palm, and broke free.
"Cora wait!... Beware of the yellow light!" Van Doren shouted, but he was too late, as I was already lifting my feet and fleeing back across the field. I did not stop running until I had reached the door of the manor house. It was there, seated trembling upon the doorstep that I wrote down everything that Van Doren had said to me. My writing was difficult to read because my hand was shaking so much. I hope that I never see Markus Van Doren again...
Saturday 14th March 1982
I watched the sky turn blood red, as the sun descended behind the Malvern Hills. I laid my head upon my pillow, and once again my mind plunged into the ocean of dreams.
Captain James Willard greeted my arrival in his dugout with a knowing smile, he looked different from before. His face was very pale and a long diagonal scar had torn through the skin upon his forehead. The Captain stood up from his desk, and with his hand shaking, he slid his revolver into its holster.
“It’s time” He announced, whilst placing a letter for his wife Catherine upon the desktop. The Captain looked directly at me with an empty stare that seemed a million miles away.
“I don’t know why you have returned, but whatever happens Cora Pearl, I want you to swear to God that you will not follow me into No Man’s Land”…
Once more I felt that I was able to speak, but I could not answer his question, so instead I simply nodded. On reflection I believe my subconscious mind wanted me to save him.
Standing outside beneath a dark and cloudy night sky were four soldiers. Two of the men I recognized; a young Nathanial Blackthorn, leaning wearily upon his rifle was all too familiar to me. He looked very tired, but I noticed the silver sixpence hanging by a chain around his neck, a lucky charm that would protect him.
It was the other soldier that intrigued me most. The youthful features of M J Ould Orum stared out from beneath his tin helmet. He was a wheeze of smoky smiles and laughter as he leant against the trench wall smoking his pipe. Ould Orum seemed to be looking straight at me, but surely he could not see me? The other two soldiers remained completely oblivious to my prescence, they simply stared straight ahead, lost in their thoughts.
I stood behind Captain Willard, trying to keep to the shadows because I did not want to be seen. The Officer addressed his men with an appreciative nod of his head “Wheeler, Moss, Ould and you Blackthorn... Whatever happens this night, I want each of you to know how much I admire your courage and spirit. God bless you and may he keep you safe in this world or the next”. The Captain saluted the four men, and they returned the gesture.
I could not stomach the thought of what was to come, that this good and noble Officer was about to embark upon a mission that in all likelihood would lead to his death.
“Captain Willard!” I shouted, thankful that once more I could speak. “You must not go… Please think of your wife and your baby because they need you. Don’t sacrifice your life in such a selfish way!”…
Captain Willard turned towards me and taking several bold steps through the shadows, he stood mere inches from my face and looked down into my eyes.
“Selfish?” Willard said. “How can I be selfish?” He shook his head disapprovingly. “I’m not the only man with a family”. He smiled at me, but it was not an expression of happiness, for his eyes looked so terribly sad. “Regardless of rank and status, no man is more important than another”….
Captain Willard’s words made me shudder and my mind seeped from the dreamscape, and poured like liquid lightning into my body and jolted me back into wakefulness.
I sat up sweating, my thoughts buzzing through my brain, I was disturbed by the memories of this last encounter. I know that the nature of my dreams are impossible to decipher, fantasy and reality merging and masking the truth. I have however vowed to myself that if my mind will allow me to do so, I shall return to No Man’s Land and prevent the death of Captain James Willard….
Sunday 15th March 1982
This morning, after Natalie had served breakfast she found a gift upon the doorstep, an instamatic camera, to which there was a note attached…
“Cora Pearl keep this camera by your bedside, you never know when you might need it. Your friend Markus Van Doren”.
Blackthorn tore up the note and was opposed to me keeping the camera, he thoroughly dislikes Van Doren. Blackthorn told me that I should not accept presents from strangers.
Mother said that I was entitled to keep it, and Blackthorn nearly choked on his bacon and eggs.
“I will not have that child being preyed upon by that lunatic!” He shouted “I showed you the picture he took of your daughter!” Natalie’s hands were shaking when she served Blackthorn coffee, and Nathanial hid his face behind his newspaper because he had no wish to be involved.
Mother normally gives into Blackthorn’s demands, due to the fact that she is weak willed, but on this occasion she overruled him. Blackthorn was furious, especially when I grinned and winked at him! His grey face went bright red and I thought he might explode! I was so disappointed when he didn't!
Monday 16th March 1982
Last night I was woken by a yellow light shining in through my bedroom window. I sat up in bed, and my head was aching, I felt sick, my body was cold, and my breath turned to steam against the night air. I put on my dressing gown and stepped out of bed. The floorboard felt like ice beneath my feet. I reached out my shaking hands and drew back the curtains. Down in the courtyard below I could see a ball of yellow light, it pulsated through the darkness, as if it were beckoning to me. I was afraid, but I found the courage to grab the camera from my bedside table, and with a flash of silver light I took its picture. Instantly a photograph spun itself from inside the machine, and tumbled to the floor.
I allowed the curtain to fall back in front of the window, and the glowing ball of yellow light quickly vanished and the room became pitch black.
I could hear my breathing, it was heavy and erratic and as I fumbled for a light switch, I could feel pins and needles pricking against the skin of my fingers.
The photograph was face down upon the floor, and nervously I knelt down and picked it up.
I was horrified to see the image of Max Quinby. The dead man was standing beneath the yellow light, a long grey overcoat hanging down to his knees and his face was a grotesque parody of the man he once was.
That night I did not sleep, I sat in the corner of the room wrapped in my blankets, the photograph lying face down upon the floor beside me. How could I sleep knowing that I was being stalked by the monstrous, evil man who had killed my Father?
What does this phantom want? Why has his ghost returned to torment me? Markus Van Doren warned me about the yellow light, and now I know that I need to speak to him again, I just hope that he will send me another letter. God please make Van Doren contact me again.
Tuesday 17th of March 1982
Today’s events have left me cold. I feel so lost, because early this morning the police were on our doorstep. I overheard them talking to Blackthorn and my mother. Markus Van Doren, the man who I believed could tell me why Max Quinby had returned from the grave was found in a ditch beside a quiet country lane. It appears that he had been knocked down by a car. I sat quietly with my head in my hands as the police officer informed them both that Markus Van Doren was dead.
A note was found on his body, it was a half written letter addressed to me, but it was covered in blood and impossible to read.
The police wanted to talk to me, but Blackthorn told them that I was mute. The conclusion was that Van Doren’s dark clothing had played a major role in the accident, due to the fact that in the darkness of the country lane he would have been difficult to see. The car that supposedly struck him did not stop, and he was tossed like a rag doll into the ditch.
I think that Max Quinby’s ghost killed him, and now I believe that Max Quinby will try to kill me.
Wednesday 18th March 1982
I examined the camera more closely today. I brushed my fingers over the initials 'M Q' that I found carved into its plastic base. I believe that the camera is a very early prototype instamatic, I also believe that the initials may have been scratched into the plastic by Max Quinby. The camera must have belonged to him! It seems highly unlikely that anyone else would have a surname begining with a 'Q'....
Thursday 19th March 1982
It is hard for me to separate reality from fantasy, as nightmares dominate my waking life and my troubled dreams.
I was told today that Markus Van Doren was the first motorist to arrive at the scene of the dreadful car accident. Van Doren was an engineer, and an inventor. I showed my mother and Blackthorn the photograph. Blackthorn was angered by the picture and said to me that “Markus Van Doren was a lunatic, and that the yellow light was ball lightning” He wanted to tear up the picture but I would not let him “Cora” He said “Van Doren was trying to trick us into believing he was psychic, the photograph was nothing more than a clever double exposure”. Blackthorn told me that he’d spoken to the police and discovered that the dead man was a scam artist, who spent his life trying to convince unfortunate people that they were being haunted. The man’s only interest was to make money by performing exorcisms. Blackthorn also said that Van Doren had been in prison for stealing, and we were his next target!
I really don’t know what to believe, and now Markus Van Doren is dead I will probably never know the answer.
Friday 20th March 1982
Mrs Gannon lost her temper with me today, and Natalie has been in a bad mood. Apparently Peter came to see her. She did not tell me anything else about their meeting. Perhaps Natalie feels guilty about getting him kicked out of his job? I keep thinking I should tell Natalie that I know who stole the necklace. If she carries on being grumpy, I might just do that, I don’t want Natalie around if she is going to be miserable.
As for Gannon the Cannon, she couldn’t teach a dog to run for a stick. She has to be the worst teacher on the planet, and the oldest! I reckon she must be about one hundred and three! I don’t need a teacher because I’ve got a library upstairs full of books. I’m sure I know more than she does anyway, that’s why I don’t to listen to anything she says.
Nathanial told me that “I should listen to my elders, because the longer you live, the more you know”. Personally I think that the older you get the more you repeat yourself!
Saturday 21st March 1982
I dreamt about Captain Willard again… I found him kneeling down in the soft clay in the middle of No Man’s Land. He was covered in mud and his burnt uniform was splattered with blood. He had his hands over his eyes and his fingers were stained red.
I stood before him, tears in my eyes. I found my voice once more, and I spoke to him “Captain Willard, it’s me Cora”…
Captain Willard did not lower his hands from his face, and he spoke to me in a trembling voice.
“I told you not to return Cora… I made you promise… I’m blind child… I’m blind from the gas”….
I tried to touch him but my hand past straight through his body.
A terrible, guttural screaming echoed across the blasted plains, and I saw a monstrous shape rising from a deep pool of poisonous water.
“It’s coming Cora”… The Captain whispered “The YatterJack… It wants to steal your mind… Run Cora run”…
I did not need another warning and I turned upon my heels and fled across the haunted wastelands. I turned sharply and glanced over my shoulder.
I saw a hideous green skinned beast with large red eyes bounding upon all fours towards me. I screamed as it grabbed my ankles and pulled me to the ground, pinning my face down into the sucking clay.
A gunshot rang out, and the creature released me from its vice like grip.
“My God!”… A man's trembling voice shouted “My God what is that?”
I scrambled to my feet, my body drenched in clinging mud and continued to flee.
I heard a second gunshot, and I fell forward with my hands outstretched to break my fall.
I found myself tumbling out of my bed, and I awoke upon the floor with a large bruise upon my shoulder.
My nightmares are terrifying, but I believe that I can rescue Captain Willard from his fate, and perhaps when I do so I will find my own peace of mind?…
Sunday 22nd March 1982
Mother received a message from Uncle Jack in the post today and he said that he is coming to visit next week! I’m quite excited. Blackthorn was not pleased, as soon as he read the letter he scrunched up his face, his nostrils twitching. The poor old man looked like he was sucking on a raw lemon!
At midday, there was a knock upon the manor house door. Blackthorn peered over the top of his newspaper and glared at my mother. “I hope that is not your brother in law, I really can’t cope with anymore of your family!” He grumbled.
I eagerly answered the door, but to my great disappointment it was not my beloved uncle.
An elderly man stood before me upon the doorstep. He was wearing a shiny top hat, a black tie, white shirt, black suit, waistcoat and trousers that were immaculately pressed. He looked like an undertaker.
“Good morning young lady” The visitor said, lifting his top hat and nodding his bald head in polite greeting.
“My name is Lucien Mortimer Wheeler”…
He smiled at me, proudly displaying a set of sparkling white teeth that looked like ivory piano keys. His mouth seemed out of proportion with his long, smooth skinned, thin face, and high cheekbones.
Lucien stood waiting for me to reply, but I simply shrugged my shoulders.
“Are you deaf child?” He asked narrowing his watery blue eyes.
Nathanial appeared behind me and placed his hands gently upon my shoulders.
“She’s not deaf” He replied, gazing over the top of my head at our visitor.
“Nathanial Blackthorn, I’ve been searching for you for quite sometime. Don’t you recognize me?” Lucien grinned so broadly I was expected his teeth to play a tune!
Nathanial squeezed my shoulders and I could feel the old man’s tension through his fingertips. “It can’t be? Is it you Wheeler? Private Wheeler of the 2nd Worcestershire regiment?”
“Yes, the very same” Came the reply “I’ve come back from the land of the dead”…
The silence between the two men seemed very odd, and I felt uncomfortable. I was so relieved when Nathanial stepped forward and embraced the man affectionately.
Monday 23rd March 1982
Lucien is staying with us for a few days. Blackthorn is not happy with this arrangement. He was complaining to my mother at breakfast this morning, “I’m not running a boarding house” He moaned whilst stuffing his face full of bacon and eggs. I chuckled under my breath because if he was running a boarding house it would close down! Blackthorn has the warmth and personality of a house brick.
My mother as usual seemed to be agreeing with him, she is so weak! Sometimes I wonder how someone like me could have a mother like her. She always takes his side, regardless of my feelings. At least I have Nathanial, he talks to me, and I enjoy his company.
Natalie is still rather grumpy, I am beginning to think that the guilt she is feeling over Peter and the necklace is playing on her conscience. If she carries on being moody I will report her misdeeds to Blackthorn and get Peter reinstated.
In regards to our new house guest, he seems very well educated, although I find him rather strange. I was lying upon my bed reading a book about philosophy. I love the ancient Greeks, Aristotle, Socrates, I’m keen to gather the wisdom I will need to be a productive adult.
Lucien sat down upon my bed, even though I did not ask him to do so, he gazed over my shoulder and saw what I was reading.
“Philosophy” He smiled “All that we are is the result of what we have thought, but be careful how you think Cora, because you’re shaped by your thoughts”.
Lucien placed his hand upon my shoulder and it felt so cold that my body shuddered. Lucien is a mysterious man, even Nathanial has remarked at how youthful his old friend appears to be. Lucien must be well into his eighties, but he does not look a day over sixty.
Tuesday 24th March 1982
The bathroom door was slightly ajar this evening, and I could hear the sounds of splashing water. I held my breath and peered through the gap.
I could see Lucien leaning over the sink, his cupped hands full of water. He was half undressed and his chest and shoulders were covered in deep horizontal scars.
I leant forward and tried to get a closer look, unfortunately this caused the floorboards to creak. Lucien looked up, water dripping from his chin.
“Is someone there?” Lucien called out.
I stepped silently back into the shadows, and Lucien bowed his head, cupped his hands in the water and continued to wash. I don't believe that he saw me...
Poor Lucien, the injuries to his body are horrific. War is such a terrible thing, and he seems like such a thoughtful, good natured man. Lucien has taken an interest in my artwork, and has paid me many compliments. How could I dislike him?
I’m beginning to think that Nathanial and Lucien are more like parents to me than my mother and the wretched Blackthorn!
Wednesday 25th March 1982
The encounter I had last night was the most disturbing of all my dream meetings. It was so vivid that it affected not only my mind but also body.
I woke, or at least I appeared to be awake, for once again I could not move. I felt as if I was strapped down, harnessed to the bed.
Worst of all when I opened my eyes I could barely see, I was half blind, and unable to focus. A bright yellow light shone into my face, and a dark shape began to form above me.
“Cora, listen to me… It’s Max Quinby” The man’s voice was so clear in my head, and gradually my vision returned and I could move my arms and legs once more.
I slipped out of bed and confronted my most unwelcome visitor.
Quinby stood before me, his face distorted, his skin burned, and hanging loosely from his skull. He stared lifelessly into my eyes. Quinby was unable to blink because he had no eyelids, just sockets to gaze through.
Once more I found my voice, and I spoke to him. “Why are you haunting me?” I asked.
Quinby’s eyes filled with bloodied tears and they trickled down his cold dead cheeks.
“I am not haunting you… You will not let me go, because I walk in your shadow everyday of my own death”…
He glanced across the room, and stared at the camera upon my bedside table.
“You killed my parents, and you murdered the child in me” I replied uneasily “You killed Markus Van Doren too and now you’ve come for me”…
“I never killed Van Doren… He was killed by accident, the driver did not stop”…
Quinby raised his hand and pointed towards the camera. “On the night of the car crash, when your parents died, Van Doren reached through my car window and stole my camera… It was my invention and he took it and left me to burn” …
I felt like screaming at Quinby, his only interest was the camera, and that was why he was haunting my dreams.
“You want it back? That’s why you’re here? Not to say sorry for the crime you committed?” I felt my own tears forming, but they were not tears of sadness. My heart was filled with rage and it was spilling from my body.
“I ask for your forgiveness Cora… I ask that you return that camera to my wife and children… It belongs to them now, not you”…
I stepped back and lifted the camera from the table and held it out to him.
“This matters so much? This object is what holds you here?” My voice was quivering with hatred, I wanted to hurt him, break his wretched spirit.
“Hate will never bring you happiness Cora, and loss and regret is all I have in my world”. Quinby reached out his burnt hands. “Please give my family something worthwhile to remember me by”….
I thought deeply, but the deeper I thought the more darkness I found. I raised the camera above my head and threw it to the floor, and it shattered.
Max Quinby fell to his knees, and tried to gather the pieces, but he could not feel or touch, and his desperate efforts were wasted.
“Cora you’ve damned me forever”….
The yellow light faded from the room, and Quinby’s face began to melt like candle wax beneath a steady flame. His skin bubbled and his eyes sank back into his skull leaving empty black sockets. Quinby’s pale lips fell away and his teeth grinned unnaturally against the moonlight through the window.
“I’ll never trouble you again Cora” He muttered. “Because of you I’ve lost all hope of redemption”…
Quinby’s head collapsed into his shoulders and his whole body shuddered as it imploded and dissolved into grey liquid. I stepped back as the fluid seeped over my bare feet and vanished through the gaps in the floorboards.
Max Quinby was gone, nothing of him remained. Only the broken remnants of the camera rested at my feet, and I scooped them up and poured the fragments into the waste paper bin.
As I write this diary entry I question my own actions. Was I wrong to punish him? Should I have honoured his request regardless of the suffering he had caused me? These questions I cannot answer, because I feel no guilt, no shame, just the satisfaction that I have had my revenge against the evil drunk driver who killed my Father.
Thursday 26th March 1982
I have withdrawn from the world today. I wrote mother a note and left it on the kitchen table. I told her that I felt unwell and that she should cancel Mrs Gannon’s teaching lessons. She did as I requested.
Only on three occasions have I left my bedroom, twice to use the bathroom, and a third time when I overheard Lucien and Nathanial talking in low voices on the staircase.
I sneaked out onto the landing and wrote down what I overheard in my notepad. I did this because I knew that what they were obviously talking about was important. I suppose I should not eavesdrop, but my waking life is so dull that I have to do something with my time.
The conversation was quite curious, because Lucien asked Nathanial if he remembered the events that surrounded the death of Captain Willard.
Nathanial replied “I remember the shell falling, and very little else. I remember waking up in a Casualty Clearing Station behind the British lines”.
Lucien’s reply seemed very odd. “We all met death that day, just in different forms”. He said. “I wonder sometimes if we really did survive the conflict”…
I thought the conversation had ended, because there was such a long pause before another word was spoken.
“The Great War broke me Lucien”. Nathanial whispered “I failed to save that good man, but he saved me. I owe Captain Willard my life. But all I’ve done is grown old with the passing years, I’ve achieved so little. I’m still in no man’s land. If I had saved him, my existence would have been worth so much more”.
I stepped back into my room, and silently closed the door. Nathanial and I share a common bond, we are both bound together with a deep sense of loss, and I fear that the pain will never leave us.
My Father should still be alive, Captain Willard should have returned from the war and lived happily ever after with his wife and child.
Why does God play such cruel games with peoples’ lives? If God wishes us to learn the meaning of existence, why does he allow so many of us to die so young?
Friday 27th March 1982
Nathanial said that Lucien suffers from insomnia; he told my mother that our mysterious new guest sits alone in the armchair in the downstairs room every night.
I awoke around one in the morning, I thought I glimpsed a faceless figure in dark clothing and a black top hat standing beside my bed. The apparition vanished in the blink of an eye, and I was left with a very dry thirst, and a pounding headche.
I decided that I needed a glass of water, and I went downstairs to the kitchen. The door to the living room was slightly ajar and I could see Lucien seated in the armchair. Lucien had his back to me, and he was staring out of the window at the Moon.
Lucien was talking to himself… “Strong in spirit”... He mumbled. “Give me greater strength… Old age, don’t let me succumb”.
Lucien looked over his shoulder, and I caught a glimpse of his profile. Lucien’s skin was a pale shade of green, and it appeared to be flaking from his face.
I tip toed into the shadows, unnerved by what I had seen. Lucien looked back at the Moon, and once more all I could see was the back of his head.
“The Moon… I need more energy than the Moon can give”. Lucien bowed his head, and the room fell silent.
I don’t know whether it was a trick of the light that caused the change in Lucien’s skin colour. Perhaps my imagination combined with the moonlight distorted his appearance? It does not matter, I slept soundly and this morning I feel refreshed, and ready to take on the challenges of the new day!
Saturday 28th March 1982
I rode my horse over the meadows today. I love Sparks, I’ve spent far more time with him since Peter left.
Blackthorn told me that I would be unable to look after my horse, and that ‘The wretched animal’ as he called him, was a financial liability, but I proved Blackthorn wrong. I groom Sparks daily and feed and water him too, I do feel sorry that Peter lost his job, but I am quite capable of looking after Sparks on my own.
After our ride I sat beneath the Oak tree, whilst Sparks ate the grass that grew around my feet. Warm sunshine and a cool breeze made me feel sleepy, the sound of gentle bird song relaxed my mind and I fell asleep, and drifted.
Before I could dream, I felt something prodding me in the shoulder. I opened my eyes and blinked into the sun, a silhouetted figure was standing over me.
“Cora, I thought you were good? I thought you would help… Don’t you care about other people?” I instantly recognized Peter’s voice, and I stood up quickly and brushed myself down.
“Cora, I didn’t steal anything of your mother’s. I’m not a thief. You should know that. Please clear my name”.
I felt very embarrassed, and was glad that I was unable to speak. I decided not to make eye contact with Peter, as I knew that I would be upset if I did so. Instead I climbed back into the saddle and rode Sparks at quite a gallop back to the comfort of the stable.
I know Peter does not deserve the misfortune that has befallen him, but I don’t personally think that he is my responsibility. Natalie stole the jewellery, and she should be the one to put things right! I don’t believe that I should involve myself in their problems. I am just a child after all!
Sunday 29th March 1982
Whenever I close my eyes I keep having a very peculiar vision. I suppose it’s a daydream, but daydreams combined with my imagination quite often generate very weird thoughts.
At midday I sat down in the armchair with a cup of hot tea and a jam scone. As I watched the steam rising, I felt my eyelids becoming heavy and in my mind’s eye I could see three strange individuals. The first was a small furry creature with a long green trunk like nose, clawed feet and hands; he was holding a soup spoon! Next to him, with a rather unhappy expression on his long face was a tall spindly cone headed being with yellow skin and very long arms and legs, and bloodstained feet. The final member of this odd trio was a fat freckly blue faced red jacketed fellow with mad hair and a very large mouth full of crooked teeth.
Towering above them, silhouetted against a luminous green sky was the mighty oak tree. I watched as the three creatures began skipping and dancing around it. I could hear them chanting, their words growing louder and louder “The Land of Grimney” I heard them saying “The Land of Grimney”…
The creatures linked their hands together and began to move faster and faster. Their bodies blurred into a swirl of colour, until they appeared to merge together and vanish into the ether.
I opened my eyes, and looked at my watch. It was one O’clock in the afternoon, my daydream had lasted a whole hour! My tea was stone cold and I was too excited to eat my scone.
The Land of Grimney… I do believe that I have thought of something wonderful, and I will see where my imagination leads me in regards to this new subject matter!
Monday 30th March 1982
Natalie has crossed the line. I am bitterly angry with her behaviour. At three O’clock this afternoon I found Natalie seated at the kitchen table, crying like a baby. At first I thought she had cut herself, because she was in the process of peeling potatoes for evening dinner.
Naturally I was concerned and I took the knife from her shaking hand, Natalie wiped her eyes, and thanked me. I don’t know why, unless she was contemplating suicide! Although it’s hard to kill yourself with a potato peeler!
I took a seat at the table, and waited for Natalie to speak. I thought that she was about to reveal her criminal nature.
However, what she told me left me reeling with shock!
Natalie announced that she was pregnant! I was horrified. I did not know how to react, I shook my head, and I rolled my eyes. Worse still, Natalie thinks the baby belongs to Peter. I am disgusted, she thinks it belongs to him?! How many men has the wretched woman been involved with?
I liked Peter, respected him, but I cannot believe that he would behave in such an indecent manner! I was starting to sympathize with his plight too. Not anymore, he can rot.
That evening I did not eat the dinner that Natalie had prepared for us. How could I? Natalie has sullied herself and I will have nothing more to do with her.
Tomorrow I will inform Blackthorn, and she will be dismissed from her position at the manor.
I don’t think that is wrong of me. I do after all have principles, and Natalie is not simply just a thief, she is an amoral poisonous viper.
Tuesday 31st March 1982
Today I have redeemed myself. I informed Blackthorn about Natalie’s pregnancy and her stealing. The small note I gave Blackthorn as he sat at his study desk made him tear the message into tiny little pieces. His face creased into so many folds I thought he might turn into an envelope.
Blackthorn glared at me and asked “How long have you known about this Cora?” Obviously I just shook my head and shrugged, not being able to speak does have its advantages.
I wisely decided to retreat to my bedroom, and behind the closed door I could hear Natalie’s voice. She sounded distressed and tearful as Blackthorn and my mother demanded to know why she had stolen from them.
After what seemed like a long time their voices faded, and all I could hear was Natalie crying. I heard footsteps in the corridor, and a folded piece of paper was slid under my bedroom door.
I tore up the note after I had read it, but I wrote down what it said before I destroyed it...
I may not be a good person, but what you have done is denied an innocent unborn child a secure financial future.
You have so much Cora, and you will never want for anything. I stole from your mother, but I do not regret it, I had my reasons.
Yes, I had a relationship with Peter, and I became pregnant. I wanted to marry him, but he refused, and we argued. He wanted me to get rid of the baby, I could never do that, take a life. So I taught Peter a lesson, I stole the jewellery and made it look as if he was the thief.
Blackthorn and your mother are not involving the police, but I am to leave my job, and I am to return my last months pay.
All I can say to you Cora is this, stealing is wrong, but having a baby is part of human nature, but what of you Cora Pearl? What is your nature? In that mind of yours, who are you really? Are you guided to do the right things, but for the wrong reasons?
I wish you a happy life Cora Pearl, and I hope you find what you are looking for. We all become what we deserve to be, and we all get what we deserve.
God help you Cora
I think that Natalie has been very lucky. I am surprised that Blackthorn allowed her to resign. I would have been inclined to call the police. Her letter does not disguise her bitterness towards me, but I think she only has herself to blame. Peter will not be reinstated as stable boy, and quite rightly so, he is equally as guilty. Human nature is dreadful, my Father may only have lived a very short time, but I believe he instilled me with good values.
I am guided by a strict moral code, and as long as I know that I am right, I can be as harsh in my judgment as I choose to be.
Natalie is gone. I watched her strolling solemnly across the cobblestone courtyard. Natalie did not look up at my window, because her head was bowed in shame. I have no regrets, as the old saying goes. “Good riddance to bad rubbish”.
Tuesday 31st March 1982
I don’t entirely understand my own mind. I read Natalie’s letter, wrote what she had written into my diary and then tore her letter into pieces. I was angry with the majority of her comments, but why transfer her message elsewhere before destroying the original? I think my reactions gave me a sense of power and control, somehow her words became my own when I had rewritten them…
However, I was particularly offended by the statement ‘God help you Cora’. I do not need God’s help, because he has not been a friend to me. I would not be in this damned existence at Blackthorn manor if God had kept my Father safe from harm.
How can she use God against me when she has broken one of the Ten Commandments by stealing? I would never do such a thing.
Natalie is in no position to judge others, and I am sure I will get what I deserve, but not in the way she meant it.
That is the problem with human nature, it is so self -centered. I do believe that Blackthorn and mother should have involved the police. I suppose they spared her the indignity because she is pregnant, personally I think they were wrong.
I do feel sorry for her unborn child, the loss of the jewellery, and Peter and Natalie’s disgrace should not tarnish the life of that child when it is born. Children are innocent, although I think God stripped me of my innocence some years ago when he let my Father die.
God forgives us, but who forgives God? I certainly won’t, I have no faith in him.
Wednesday 1st April 1982
Last night I went to bed at half past nine, my final glance at the bedside clock was at quarter to ten and I could already feel my mind drifting. I am certain that I was asleep by ten. My dreams were settled to begin with, but something seemed to be tugging at my thoughts. I could feel my memories being drained away.
My eyelids were heavy, and I struggled to open them, they felt as if they were sown shut. As my eyes strained to gain their focus in my moonlit bedroom, I could see wispy white cobweb clouds rolling above me.
I had an immense pain in my head, and I felt very weak, but somehow I managed to tilt my neck and look down at my feet. At the bottom of my bed I saw a hideous figure dressed all in black, it had blood red skin, but no face. This ghastly phantom was leaning slightly forward, and moonbeams shone down into a deep black hole in the top of its head. My eyes began to water and my body felt deathly cold. As the moonlight grew brighter I could see rows of circular yellow teeth and a strange brown liquid dripping from the cavity. The strange wispy white cobwebs were being sucked into its skull.
My breathing became erratic, and my heart was pumping frantically. An icy sensation swept upwards through my spine and began to paralyze me.
I knew that I was dying, and this monstrous creature was not just content with murdering me physically, it wanted to swallow my soul.
I managed to turn my head and I saw a black top hat standing upon the cabinet beside me. I had seen this item of headwear before. This parasitic creature had been preying on me for sometime, but now it needed more than a little snack, it intended to consume me entirely!
“Shadow Weaver!” I heard a voice shouting “You will not take her from me”.
I did not recognize the voice to begin with, but the face was familiar. Lucien Mortimer Wheeler stepped out of the shadows, and grabbed the creature by the arm and pushed it away from my bedside.
“Cora!” Lucien shouted “The coin! Use the coin! throw it into the hat!”
The phantom turned towards my would be rescuer and slammed him against the wall, Lucien struggled, but several other figures, that were child like in size began to move out from the four corners of my dimly lit room. They were featureless, human shaped but completely in shadow, even the moonlight could not penetrate their blackness, and sobbing they gripped Lucien around the legs and tried to pull him to the floor.
The phantom creature was completely distracted and I found myself unrestrained as the wispy white cobwebs seeped back into my forehead. My strength returned and I reached for Captain Willard’s coin that I now kept beneath my pillow. I flicked it through the air and tossed it into the phantom’s upturned hat.
The room around me began to vibrate, the walls sounded like they were beating rhythmically like a pounding heart.
The phantom and its monstrous children began to melt and ooze like ink, gradually they turned into a jet black stream and upon merging together they spurted upwards to the ceiling before falling downwards through the rim of the black top hat.
Like an autumn leaf the hat began to shrivel and crack, I watched as it folded in upon itself before crumbling into a jet black powder and blowing away.
The walls stopped vibrating, and the whole world seemed silent. Lucien was standing over me, but I could barely see his face as dark clouds must have moved across the moon.
“Sleep now Cora” He whispered, and closing my eyes, I did.
In the morning I awoke refreshed and happy, but I could not find the coin.
Was it simply just another very strange dream? Although at the breakfast table Lucien seemed to have a slight twinkle in his eyes, and I am sure I caught him winking at me over his bacon and eggs.
Thursday 2nd April 1982
The Falkland Islands have been invaded by Argentina. Uncle Jack phoned and told my mother that he would not be visiting, he is on stand by and preparing for war. I am very concerned about the upcoming conflict. Jack spoke to me and I listened as he told me not to worry, and to be good to my mother. I felt very sad… What if he is killed?
Men and War! It seems to me that mankind is stupid and aggressive, driven by greed, anger, ego and God knows what other cave dwelling territorial instincts.
I do believe that womankind is far superiour, because we have evolved. The World would probably be a far better place if the male species was wiped out by some terrible plague.
I know that some men are good, but they’re a dying breed or they’re already dead. Perhaps one day I will meet a man like my father, a handsome prince on a white charger.
I have also written a poem today. It is called Mr Krebbat and he is a Shadow Weaver.
Hide your children when the clock strikes ten
For crawling out from its deep dark den
Is a terror created in the wild
The soul stealer of any little child
This fearful fellow is human in form
But from our kind it was not born
It has no features upon its face
And does not belong to any Grimney race
This monsters name is Mr Krebbat
And it wears white gloves and a large top hat
As for its clothes it is swathed all in black
And always at this fateful time
Is looking for a tasty human snack
Dreams, even nightmares can be good for my imagination. The image of the faceless top hatted phantom is etched into my mind, and I drew him from memory.
Friday 3rd of April 1982
At midday there was a knock upon my bedroom door, it was Lucien and he wanted to speak to me.
I was seated at my writing desk drawing pictures of the strange creatures that often visit my dreams.
Lucien looked troubled, and as he took a seat beside me, he picked up the picture of Mr Krebbat that I had drawn the previous evening. I put down my pencil, and gazed at Lucien’s well manicured smooth hands; they appear ageless more like the hands of a man in his thirties. The sunlight shining in through my window was very bright and I could see every delicate crease and line upon Lucien’s face. He is astonishingly youthful; Lucien must be in his mid eighties but he looks barely over the age of sixty.
Lucien smiled and raised his eyebrows, his piercing eyes narrowed and a slight smile crinkled the skin around his mouth.
“Creativity” Lucien said with a slow nod of his head. “It gives us all life. It’s quite a gift you have Cora. Captain Willard, I know you know of him, he was like you, lived in his dreams”. Lucien sighed “The more terrible the War became, the more he longed for innocence. Sometimes we’d all like to be children again”. Lucien stared directly into the sunlight, but he did not blink, he seemed so distant, and for a moment it felt as if he was so far away, that he was not even in the room with me. “We all live in our own reality. Willard made his own. It seems that you and Willard are linked, you both spend too much time trying to escape into fantasy”. Lucien closed his eyes. “Cora… Even the blind will one day have to see the truth”
Lucien is a mysterious man. I agree that I do live in my own dream world, and even when I am awake I am still away with the fairies!
I believe that my dreams are not simply constructs of my imagination. I have a genuine belief that when I am asleep I can travel through time. I am convinced that I can alter past events. In time I am certain that if I focus my mind I will be able to return to the trenches of World War I and rescue Captain James Willard from his horrible fate.
Saturday 4th April 1982
I have been in my room all day. I refused breakfast, dinner and supper. I went to bed early last night, my thoughts focused upon Captain James Willard. I believed that if I kept him in mind, my dreams would return me to the muddied trenches.
I drifted in my sleep, and soon I felt the decades rolling backwards, time measured in years lost all meaning, as my dreaming plunged me headlong into the nightmare landscape of World War I.
My journey, my Diary, perhaps even my life was about to come to an end. I stumbled once more barefooted through the mud and clay, it was cold and wet and I could barely maintain my balance.
Through green mist, and putrid air I walked, until upon a deathly horizon of blasted trees trumps, vast pools of dank poisoned water, and bloated discoloured corpses I saw Captain Willard kneeling in the mud, his hands held up and covering his face.
I approached him, and knelt down. I placed my trembling hand upon his shoulder.
“Captain Willard” I said softly. “I’ve come back for you. I want to save you. Can you see me?”
Captain Willard lowered his arms and uncovered his face. His eyes were horribly bloodshot, and his skin was burned.
“I am blind”. Willard mumbled “I cannot remember who I am”. Tears were tricking down his cheeks, I could feel his despair, and I embraced him. I told him that I would guide him out of no-mans-land.
I was about to help the Captain to his feet when I felt the barrel of a gun pressed against the side of my head.
I turned slowly and gazed up into the face of Lucien Mortimer Wheeler. He clicked back the hammer of his pistol and smiled.
Naturally Lucien looked many years younger, but he was injured and his uniform was torn into strips and his blood seeped through the material.
“Cora Pearl. I’ve been waiting for you”. Lucien’s voice chilled me to the bone, because there was little warmth in his tone.
“I saved your life twice… I rescued you from the top hatted phantom, and before that I shot at the Yatterjack as it tried to swallow your spirit”.
I brushed the back of my hand against the barrel of the gun and pushed it away. “I’m no threat to you Lucien” I replied with a shaky voice. “But thank you for your help”.
Lucien grinned. “I needed you both together, here in no-mans-land. You and Willard are linked in mind and imagination. Both of you are one. The Yatterjack spared me from death, but in return for a long and healthy youthful life, I must give him your souls”.
Through the moonlit darkness I saw the Yatterjack approaching. At first it was barely visible, a shambling grotesque beast that blinked in and out of existence, merging with its surroundings like a chameleon. The Yatterjack’s thick claws scraped at the moist mud, its green fur matted and its hideous red eyes blazing like hellfire as it took its place beside Lucien.
“Cora and Willard the Yatterjack needs feeding. The time has come for you to leave this world forever”.
I looked down at the wounded Captain. He seemed broken, his head was bowed and he was rambling under his breath. “They said he talked in poetry, a man so blind he could not see”…
I stood up and placed myself between the Yatterjack and Willard, I hoped that somehow I could shield him from further harm.
Lucien raised his pistol. “Willard… The Yatterjack will drain him first”.
“No” I said forcefully. “He needs to save Nathanial Blackthorn. That is what Captain Willard must do”.
“By being here Cora, you’ve changed history. Do not trouble yourself”. Lucien said as the Yatterjack began to lurch forward upon all fours, its huge mouth dripping with brown saliva.
“Once you no longer exist, the fate of the Blackthorn’s will not be a concern to you”.
“Then Nathanial will die?” I asked edging back as the creature drew closer.
“Yes” Lucien replied. “And your hated stepfather will be denied his existence too, and you and your mother will be free. You will be born again Cora, and next time around your life will end differently”.
I was caught up in Lucien’s words because I longed to be free of Samuel Blackthorn.
“My Father would not die the way he did?” I needed the answer to that question, for I was willing to sacrifice myself and Captain Willard in the hope that it might be able to resurrect him.
Lucien shook his head “No Cora that is another history, and not one that I can alter. Now move aside, Willard must give his soul to us”.
I would not do as Lucien asked. I stood my ground and closed my eyes. I knew that it was 1918, and whatever happened to me in this God forsaken place would not change the fact that I would still be reborn again in 1970.
My eyelids flickered open, and I stared unblinking into the Yatterjack’s deep red eyes. I could smell the vile breath of the beast as rolled its bulbous brown tongue against its thick green lips. The Yatterjack lifted itself onto its huge hind legs.
“I will not move” I said firmly. “You’ll have to take me first”.
The Yatterjack snarled displaying rows of jagged bloodstained teeth.
“So be it Cora Pearl”. Lucien responded coldly “The Yatterjack will take your soul, and when you are reborn you will have to exist without one”.
I took a deep breath and clenched my fists; I was preparing myself for death. Perhaps I would meet my Father on the other side? Although I knew that Robert Pearl had not yet been born!
A succession of gunshots echoed through the stagnant night air.
The Yatterjack stopped in its tracks and turned its head. We both stared at Lucien, the man looked stunned, his eyes blinked oddly, and a single tear fell.
Lucien’s knees buckled and blood splattered from his mouth. He clasped his hands across his chest, and I watched as blood poured through the gaps in his fingers.
The Yatterjack howled like a banshee, and charged forward. I leapt out of the way, and looked back over my shoulder.
A lone soldier stood in silhouette frantically trying to put another bullet into the chamber of his rifle. He was too slow, and before he was able to fire off another shot, the Yatterjack was on top of him tearing at his clothes and shredding his skin.
Lucien lay face down in the mud, a pool of blood pooling around his lifeless body. I grabbed Lucien’s revolver, took aim and fired several times.
The Yatterjack howled out in pain, and released the soldier from its grip. The beast was severely wounded but still managed to leap forward, but it fled headfirst into a huge shell hole filled with poisoned water and sank without drawing another breath.
Captain Willard remained motionless upon his knees as if he were asleep. He was lost to the world, shell shocked and gassed and suffering from a loss of memory there seemed little future for him.
I crossed the muddy mire, and approached the soldier who had saved me from certain death.
The dying man was lying flat upon his back and there was a bullet hole in his shoulder. His tunic was torn open and his chest was exposed, the skin lacerated and pouring blood.
I recognized the soldier’s face. It was M J Ould Orum, the strange man that I had first met when he was standing upon his head beneath the giant Oak tree.
I knelt down beside the man and held his hand. His skin was ice cold.
“You are Corporal Ould?” I asked. “You have not aged a day in over sixty years”.
Ould Orum’s eyes flickered and rolled in his head. His lips quivered as he tried to speak. “Yes Cora… I’m a dream spirit; I can take on the form of anyone or anything I choose. I was sent to protect you”.
“Protect me? But who sent you?” I asked, my head was spinning, but I wanted to know the truth.
“Nathanial Blackthorn… You must save him. He’s lying out there in no-mans-land wounded and unconscious”. Ould Orum’s face began to lose all colour and his lips were turning blue.
“How can I save him? I’m only a small girl”. I looked back over my shoulder at Captain Willard. “I must save him too”.
Ould Orum began to cough, and blood tricked from the side of his mouth. “Use your mind and channel your spirit into the Captain’s body, with your help you can carry Nathanial to safety”.
The idea seemed absurd to me. How could I do such a thing? I shook my head and told Ould Orum that it was impossible.
“No” He said weakly “You are Captain James Willard, and he is you”.
Ould Orum’s eyes began to close, and tears ran from beneath his eyelids. The man was dying.
I squeezed his hand in hope that the pressure upon his fingers would generate a fight for life.
“Who sent you?” I asked Ould Orum again.
“Jarad Drayker”… Ould Orum whispered. “He is in your thoughts, a dream maker like you”. His voice began to trail off until it was barely audible. “The more you think about the other world, the more he will be absorbed and lost in your mind”. Ould Orum’s hand went limp, and I could only watch with sad eyes as death past over him and claimed his soul.
Ould Orum was lost, but I still had to find Nathanial Blackthorn, regardless of my feelings for my ghastly stepfather I could not let him die.
Captain Willard had not moved. He was still kneeling in the mud. I placed my hands upon the man’s shoulders.
“I don’t want to be saved”. Captain Willard’s voice was trembling and fraught with emotion “I’m blind, my memory is gone. Leave me. Whoever you are leave me here. I want to die”.
I closed my eyes and began to concentrate. I thought about Willard’s mind merging with my own. I visualized his spirit and soul swirling around me, and drawing out my own consciousness until we were both one and the same.
I began to feel light headed, and my body grew heavy. I could sense my limbs and torso sinking downwards. I could feel my spiritual being lifting itself skyward. At the point where my mind and body tore apart, I looked down and saw my physical self collapse into the mud…
Blackness followed and I had a terrible pain in my eyes, my skin itched and stung. I blinked and blinked until I was able to use the power of my own mind to see again. I was astonished to find that I was now occupying the battered, battle scarred body of Captain James Willard!
At sunrise, beneath a blood red sky I found Nathanial, he was laid upon his back, blinded in one eye, his face torn open by a shell fragment.
I bent down and grabbed him by his arms and hauled him from the mud. I draped his limp body gently over my shoulder and began my weary trudge through the mud swamped mire.
The trek was long and arduous, but finally I saw the tin hats of British Tommies poking out of their dugout holes.
“I have a wounded man. He needs urgent treatment!” I shouted.
A British soldier stuck his head above ground and called back. “Lay him down and take cover!”
I did as the soldier asked, but I could not stay. I had to return to my own body and leave Captain Willard behind in no-mans-land and return to my own time.
It took me several hours to locate myself, and once I had done so I sat down beside me and began to drift into a deep trance.
I could feel my soul exciting my body, and
In moments I had returned to my youthful existence as Cora Pearl.
I sat in the mud and gazed into Captain Willard’s face. He was unable to see me. His blindness had returned.
“James Henry Willard can you hear me?” I asked.
Captain Willard smiled in a very strange way, and replied slowly “Who is James Henry Willard? My name is Cora Pearl”.
I could hear voices speaking in German, and I knew that the enemy was approaching. The thought of being captured jolted me from my dreams and back into wakefulness.
I awoke once more in the early hours of the morning and the deathly silence of war torn France was replaced by joyous birdsong.
I have thought deeply about this last encounter. I am beginning to think that Captain James Willard survived but became a prisoner of war. Perhaps when my mind entered his body, his own shattered Will being so weakened caused him to take a piece of my soul? As a result of that experience the poor man lived out the final years of his life believing that he was me?
Whatever the truth, I have this day withdrawn from the world around me, and even though my mother is concerned I will not be leaving my bedroom until tomorrow.
Sunday 5th of April 1982
I think I am going mad. I looked at my face in the mirror today and I felt that I was not looking at myself. Even my hands although so detailed seemed unreal to me. I felt like a tired old soul living inside the body of an innocent child.
Lucien Mortimer Wheeler is missing, although it has been made quite clear to me that he died in the First World War, and therefore Lucien never visited Blackthorn manor. I do not understand the difference between reality and dreams, but as I look back over my diary entries it is perfectly clear to me that I met the dead man!
Nathaniel Blackthorn has announced that he will be leaving us next week. He is unhappy, and his wretched son has made no attempt to make his father feel welcome. I wish I could go with him, but that would not be possible. I would not be able to go as I would be forced to leave my beloved horse behind.
One thing I have decided is this will be my last diary entry. I cannot continue to document my life as I believe that I am descending into madness, and my own words are beginning to disturb me.
I shall therefore hide the diary somewhere in the manor house and in time I will hopefully forget that it ever existed.
I imagine that I too will one day be forgotten. I would like to escape this insular life and be free to go wherever I please, but I doubt that my fate will be a positive one.
M J Ould Orum spoke of a man named Jarad Drayker. Maybe I will over hear his voice once again in my dreams and he will offer me his hand and guide me into a better world.
Whatever the outcome of my life, whilst I live I will have my imagination. I can always hide inside myself to escape the world around me.
I believe that I deserve a little peace of mind, but I fear I will never find it.
*Cora Pearl’s Diary concludes with this entry. The Diary was found many years later beneath the floorboards of Samuel Blackthorn’s derelict manor house, Cora Pearl’s whereabouts remain unknown.
A letter was also found pinned to the back pages and it reads as follows*...
© CoraPearl 2011