Everything Is Never As It Seems – Chapter 3

For chapters 1 and 2, scroll below

“Hello there! How may I help you?” The cheery voice of the receptionist greeted us as we entered the lobby – if you could call it that. Apart from a rickety table plonked right in the middle and the placard on it that read “reception,” the room was devoid of any furniture. A ceiling fan whirred lazily and did little to soothe the dry heat that poured in from the windows.

“We’d like a room, please,” Lily said, flashing him a dazzling grin. “We’re on our honeymoon.”

“Ooh, two little lovebirds, are you?” The receptionist grinned, and that was the first time I noticed it. Something was slightly off about his appearance; something was wrong, in some way. I felt my stomach inexplicably lurch.

“Well, I’ve got just the thing for you,” He ducked under the table and emerged with a brown key. “Follow me,” He beckoned.

He led us out of the room and to the rows of dumpy cottages spread out across the property. It suddenly occurred to me that he was the first person we saw since alighting from the train; we didn’t even spot anyone at the railway station.

I was about to whisper this to Lily when the man spun around and I saw something that made me let out a blood curdling scream.

CoraLisa [The Horror Continues…]

When she invited me to her house after about fifteen days since I moved to the States, I was ECSTATIC. The long walk to her home didn’t dampen my excitement, it made me more eager to spend the day at Cora’s place. I couldn’t believe I was actually called over to someone’s house ALREADY.

Although I was a it shaken by the gloomy paint slathered on the exterior walls of her residence, my tummy wouldn’t stop flipping. I was THAT happy.

I should have know something was up when Cora gave me a lame excuse as to where her Mom was [‘Um… she’s like, REALLY sick, or something, so she had to go to this place…] but I guess my joy made it hard for me to concentrate on anything except for proud MY mother would be when I spoke to her about my American pal.

Stepping into the dining room gave me a funny feeling, like as if I was acting in a monochromatic movie from the 80′s. ‘Wanna’ go freshen up??’ Cora asked me, her teeth chomping hard on a fresh, juicy apple. A fresh, juicy BLACK apple.

‘Sure,’ I shrugged, dumping my bag onto a zebra-skinned sofa.

I climbed the sleek staircase, chanting ‘sixth door to the left, sixth door to the left’ in my head. Once at the said destination, I pushed open the panel…

… Only to come face-to-face with CoraLisa’s bedroom. ‘Oops, wrong door,’ I breathed, and was about to go along my merry way when I spotted a bright yellow book with the word “DIARY” embossed on the front.

‘Color,’ I dreamily sighed, going closer to the book. The beautiful, sunshiney shade made it hard for me to resist a closer inspection. Being deprived of the blues and the reds and the greens isn’t as easy as you’d suspect.

Before I knew it, I’d planted myself on the furry mattress and was leafing through Cora’s journal. The latest entry caught my eye;

26TH JUNE, THURSDAY

FOR THE FIRST TIME I MY LIFE, I HAVE SUCCEEDED IN SLIPPING MY SOUL INTO LIFELESS OBJECTS. IT TOOK A LOT OF ENERGY AND ALMOST MADE ME CRACK, BUT I DID IT.

THIS IS A TRICK THAT WILL OPEN UP A LOT OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR ME. THE COURT WILL HAVE TO SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE. THEY WILL HAVE TO.

ON A LIGHTER TOPIC, I’M BRINGING A FELLOW-CLASSMATE HOME FROM SCHOOL TOMORROW. SHE SEEMS YOUNG AND FORGETTABLE ENOUGH. DAD ALWAYS SAID THAT ROAST HUMAN IS BEYOND COMPARE.

Just as the last paragraph registered itself in my mind, CoraLisa burst into the room, her eyes full of rage. She rasped, ‘You know too much,’ before I was plunged into an unbearable thick layer of darkness…

___

I’m stuck here now, for goodness knows how long. Probably all eternity.

The place stinks of rotten egg salad and I don’t remember the last time I breathed in a lungful of fresh, outdoor air, scented with apricots and autumn and rainbows.

That isn’t the point, though.

The point is that I’m never getting out of here, never EVER.

I always knew CoraLisa was different, and now I wish I’d known by how much…

Fin

CoraLisa [Part The First]

I always knew CoraLisa was different. Little did I know by how MUCH. I mean, while the rest of the class turned to drink and drugs to escape from the chaos at home, she sought solace in music. CLASSICAL music.

As if THAT wasn’t bad enough, she was also addicted to goth. Like, really, REALLY obsessed. I’ve only been inside her house once, but it was enough for me to realize that there was something seriously wrong with the place.

Her room is this dreary dungeon with black wallpaper and creepy posters all over. Even her GARDEN ha this fiendish vibe surrounding it. It didn’t grown colored roses, or fragrant jasmines or even plain ol’ snowdrops, but housed dozens and dozens of pumpkins. PUMPKINS!! They blanketed every inch of the ground, covering the dewy grass with its withered flesh.

And you know what was REALLY weird?? The pumpkins were WHITE [and about the only things surrounded by CoraLisa’s fence that wasn’t either noir or a dark shade of gray. Even her DOG was coated with spooky dark fur]. It was WAY eerie.

Rumor has it that Cora [that’s what her close friends -I mean, her close FRIEND- call her] has never worn anything except ebony hued clothes. For once, I strongly believe rumor is right.

I joined Washington high a month ago as a foreign exchange student. Of course, nobody was particularly welcoming. Except for CoraLisa.

Let me rephrase that; I FORCED Cora to be kind to me.

You see, everyone else was way to high up the social ladder to be seen hanging out with some sickly Spanish kid. Everyone was either a jock, or a rich kid or a super model’s offspring. Everyone other than Cora.

Cora is your typical loner. She divides her time at home between viola lessons and doing college level math sums [or so she told me], which is definitely not a popular set of hobbie among her classmates.

And probably the reason why the net total number of her friends is 2; Her fish, Pythagoras, and ME. Boring, European, unfashionably ME. Well, I’m pretty sure she was my friends only because she didn’t want to be rude and tell me to shove off.

Since Day 1, I lathed onto her like a leach, figuring that this was my only chance at making a buddy. We actually had a lot in common, you know??

Social rejects?? That’s us!!

Cracked-up family?? Check!!

Somewhat wacko?? Is that even a question??

After about a week of trailing after her like a little puppy dog, I sensed a bond forming. Like, a real connection. Too bad I was wrong. Totally, utterly, horrifically wrong.

To be continued…

Mama

I roughly summarized my to-do list for the day;

1] Pack school bag [Remember to take lunch money!!!]

2] Brush Rufus

3] TAKE MEDICINES!!!!!!!!!! [DO NOT FORGET]

4] Stop making lists

My mind swirled as I shoved my worn-out text books into a rucksack with a Chanel-clad female printed on the front. I sighed dramatically before lugging my backpack to a wooden shelf with a heap of books already housed under its roof. With a groan, I remembered that that I had to design a poster for my school’s WORLD WAR pin-up board. Miss Henriques [History mistress] had instructed me to make a chart on Hitler and the pros and cons he created for us. [Boring or WHAT??]

I growled to myself as I gathered the material required to make the chart; highlighters, papers, markers, crayons. I had originally planned to on surfing Wikipedia for info, but the WiFi had been down since noon and NO WAY was dad driving me to the cyber cafe in this lashing rain. I was just racking my brains on how I was going to accomplish this next-to-impossible task when my mum swept in and plonked herself on the bed. Just like that, my question had been answered.

I tidied my room [mum’s a stickler for neatness and it is a known fact that the members of her “species” are more likely to agree with whatever you have to say in a clean environment] before sitting down next to her. ‘Mum,’ I began, trailing off. ‘Yes, Chels?’ Mum replied uncertainly [usually my requests are more on the nutty side -“Do pineapples have bad breath in the morning??”- so you can say that mum’s skepticism was justified]. I took a deep breath. ‘I need you to help me make a banner on Hitler and the effects of his destruction during the second world war because the internet’s not been working for ages, believe me, I’ve checked, and if I don’t submit this project tomorrow, my grades will slip from a tremendous A+ to a pitiable B,’ I rattled off, as fast as a metro. ‘What??’ Mum asked, a puzzled look on her face. ‘I only hear “Hitler’s Internet project,”‘ she admitted.

I repeated myself [in a jokingly exasperated voice]. this time making sure that mum heard more than three words. Mum smiled and requested me to come to her in half an hour. I nodded and bounced off the bed.

I spent the next thirty minutes chatting on Twitter with two of my best buddies; Sasha and Darcy. We typed away to glory and I was rudely jerked to a halt when the alarm went off, singing its shrill whistle. You know, the alarm I set for half an hour… [I take my appointments very seriously, however trivial they may seem] I quickly scrawled a goodbye and darted to the Blue Room [my place] with a pad in one hand and a pen in the other.

Mum was already resting her head on a cushion and leafing through a mag. I sprinted onto the bed and thrust my notebook in front of her, just to remind her about our session. She bobbed her head up and down before pushing herself upright and keeping the booklet she was filing through to the side while I popped open two cans of coke and placed it on the bedside table.

Mum and I spent the next hour talking, discussing facts and recalling the major historical event. I managed to get enough data [what can I say?? My mum’s a history whiz!] and dug out magazines for pictures. At the end of the day, I had a neatly written out fact file illustrated with glossy pictures and hand-drawn squiggles meant to resemble Mr. Adolf. I thanked mum before she slunk off to the kitchen to grade a quick bite and start preparing dinner.

I rolled up my project and started getting ready for bed. Soon enough, I was pulling on my striped pajamas after a steaming shower. ‘Chelsea!! Dinner’s almost ready!!’ Mum bellowed. I wrung out the water from my hair while screeching, ‘Coming Mum!!’ I pinned the towel onto a hook and nipped to the kitchenette. Mum was in there, chopping up a chunk of cheese. ‘Can I be of any assistance??’ I asked. ‘I was hoping you’d ask!’ Mum said, before adding, ‘Chels, could you fetch me that tray from over there??’ She requested, pointing to a platter that lay in the midst of a clutter of vessels. I obliged.

The rest of the evening passed in a flash. I aided mum in the kitchen  and in half an hour, we had laid the table with fresh crockery and dishes of vegetarian entrees. This time around, mum thanked me for for my service and announced that she was going to send a quick email to Clara [my elder sister who’s away at college]. I flopped on my bed and began reading the Meg Cabot I had ordered from Broadway. In about fifteen minutes, I shut the paperback and started airing my frizzy locks with a hairdryer.

Just as I turned off the heat-machine, Rufus, my darling Spaniel, trotted into the room. I playfully tugged his ears and ruffled his inky fur. He swooshed his wet tongue all over me before dashing into his “house” and and fetching his “Boney” which was basically this rag doll I had bought him for his first birthday [though it kind of resembles a disfigured log of wood nowadays]. I grabbed Boney and we [Rufus and I] chased each other around the dining table. Before long, he caught up with me and we toppled on the floor. Just as I was about to bear-hug my dog, the front door burst open and my mum hurriedly entered.

She slammed the door shut and shook herself dry. Mum shoved her drenched rain-gear into the umbrella stand. ‘It’s raining cats and dogs out there,’ Mum grumbled.  was just about to ask her what she was doing outside [and what happened to the email to Clara] when she said something that made my blood turn cold.

‘I am SO sorry I couldn’t help you with your Hitler assignment, sweetie, but I got called downtown on some business and was needed here urgently. I assumed I would only take a few minutes, but then it began pouring and… Oh honey!! You made dinner?? How sweet of you, Chels!!’

Tyson Bleu

Just before thirteen-year old Indigo Bleu could twist the knob of the door that led to her room, she heard something scuttling behind her. ‘Who goes there?’ she demanded, her face turning a milky white, just before she spotted the shaggy mane of her pet dog, Tyson. ‘Oh, its only you, darling,’ she said, heaving a sigh.

‘You really do need to get those books dusted,’ her puppy noticed, enthusiastically wagging his tail. Indigo froze. ‘You… you spoke??’ she asked, her legs trembling. ‘Surprised me too,’ her dog said, inching towards her. Indigo was going to bellow her mum’s name in fright, when her Cocker Spaniel put his petite paws against his snout as if to say, ‘Shush, Indigo! I’m not going to hurt you…’

Indigo gathered her wits and breathed calmly, trying to take in the fact that her dog [yes, you read right, herDOG] had just conversed with her. ‘Don’t be afraid, I don’t want to hurt you,’ Tyson assured. ‘Come, sit down,’ he suggested, patting the bean bag that was flung onto the carpetted floorboards before him. Indigo nodded, and flopped onto the couch that her pup had gestured to. When she realised that Tyson was looking at her as if expecting her to say something, she racked her brains for a suitable responce. ‘Umm… What is it like? Being you, I mean,’ she asked. ‘Oh, it’s terrible,’ Tyson expressed with an exaggerated shudder.

‘To answer your question in more detail, let me take you through a typical day in the life of me, Tyson Bleu,’ he stated. Indigo clasped her hands around her knees in anticipation  ‘Well, it starts when mum ushers me out of my cozy duvet at around eight in the morning. I beg for a few extra minutes of slumber, but my pleas falls on deaf ears. So I trot down the stairs and give you a parting lick before that beast of a school bus snatches you away from me for the rest of the day. I spend the next couple of hours trailing mummy around the house. As soon as the grandfather clock chimes half past twelve, I begin subtly reminding mum about my mid-day meal. After roughly about fifteen minutes, mum bustles into the kitchen and prepares a steaming lunch. I relish every morsel.’ Tyson smacked his tongue.

‘Well, after my bowl of kibble, I curl up in the master bedroom for a siesta. I dream about ice-creams and chews and  a slim waistline. Daddy interrupts my snooze in a few hours. After a feeble protest, I patiently await your arrival. As soon as the imposing vehicle halts in front of the yard, I joyously march up to you and give you a royal welcome.

‘Once you have entered your study, it is confirmed that you will not emerge till twilight sets in. So I find a suitable nook where I nap for a little more time. What can I say? I need my twenty-two hours of beauty sleep!! Anyway, once you reappear from that dreaded study, you set off for dinner. I, like a devoted buddy, flop onto your feet and don’t budge till you’ve wiped out the last crumb on the plate. As soon as the family has dined, mum serves my dinner which I happily munch. After slurping up my last snack of the day, I follow you to your room before slumping down beside your four-poster bed.

‘Thus ends a satisfactory day in the life of busy-body Tyson Bleu, a workaholic who never rests for a moment,’ Tyson groaned dramatically to which Indigo could only smile.

Whispers

Travis Beer playfully ruffled his younger brother’s mop of blonde hair. The younger sibling, Jake, just grinned from ear-to-ear, no tattle telling, no complaining to mum.

That’s what Travis liked best about his brother, the fact that Jake wasn’t a sneak. Travis heard his mum bellow their names, calling them down for lunch. He shoved random odds-and-ends into a chest of drawers before trotting down the carpeted stairs, two-at-a-time. As usual, Jake mumbled some excuse or the other. To Travis, Jake seemed like he survived on candy dispenser chewing-gum and tomato crisps. In fact, Jake had ditched lunch so frequently in the past that his mother had stopped enquiring about his absence.

‘You have a doctor’s appointment today, Travis,’ Mrs. Linda Beer began, daintily chopping up clusters of coriander and sprinkling it over an appealing veggie salad. ‘Oh… okay t..then,’ Travis stammered. He was used to “doctor’s appointments.” You see, he had dyslexia, a syndrome that made him unable to read. To add to that, he had a wild -almost dangerous- imagination that made him believe in things that simply didn’t exist.

It was because of these genetic traits that he had inherited from his ancestors that he was mercilessly taunted by his peers, but his strong character helped him laugh off the hurtful remarks.

Travis’s dad, Liam, clanked down the stairs from his study and plonked himself down on one of the chairs that surrounded the lovely, polished teak dining table. He hardly ever spoke to Linda any more, and so Travis took that as a sign that his parent’s were breaking up.

With an exaggerated sigh, Travis recalled the happy days when his parents, Jake and he himself were as close knit a family there ever was. Nowadays, Liam didn’t even mention his youngest son or his wife. He didn’t even eat the food Linda prepared for him, just tinned sardines and T.V dinners. As a result, Linda just made food for herself and ate at any nook or cranny around the house where Liam was not likely to chance upon.

Liam rapidly scoffed down the microwave pasta and gruffly announced that at 5:00 pm they would have to travel to Main Street for a psychiatrist check-up. Travis nodded his head while wiping of the last bits of noodle. Liam pushed his chair and strode over to the drawing room where he switched on their 42 inch telly.

Travis dumped the trays into the kitchen sink and nipped to his room. He slammed the poster-clad door shut and flopped on the bed. Jake emerged from the wardrobe with a BRAINFREEZE smoothie in one hand and a PSP in the other.

The afternoon passed in a flash. The two brothers played violent games on their play station and stuffed themselves with caramel popcorn. Their joyful moment ended when Liam barged into the room. He ignored Jake, as usual, and commanded Travis to put on his coat.

Travis scrambled down the steps and pulled on a sweater as well as his black Doc Martens. He followed his father to the car and they were soon pulling up in front of “Dr. Jarvis’s Nursing Home.” Travis walked into the looming building and made a beeline for the receptionist. He told her the reason for his visit and the scheduled time of the appointment. She glanced at the register, mumbled something into a cordless receiver and then ushered Liam and Travis into a parlour with “JARVIS” embossed on the front door.

Inside, the chamber boasted an array of gold-plated certificates and two gleaming trophies. Travis sighed for the second time that afternoon as he seated himself on one chair.

After exchanging introductions, Liam and Dr. Jarvis talked in hushed tones. Travis let his mind wander. He thought about his mum and his little brother. How they used to be so bold and confident but had recently become withdrawn and private. Travis wished his mother was sitting next to him at that very moment. He would’ve flung his arms around her and never let go.

Travis also recognised the change in his father. Liam a man who used to be just and cheerful had suddenly developed a gloom about him. He seldom spoke and had abandoned his passion for football months ago.

Travis snapped back into the real world when he heard his father mention his mother’s name. He unscrambled bits of the exchange between his dad and the accomplished doctor. ‘Car accident…three months have passed but… Linda and Jake…’ Mr. Beer said, trailing off. Travis wished he’d heard the full sentence. Maybe then he’d be able to understand a little more about the ongoing conversation.

Dr. Jarvis finally cleared his throat and said, ‘Travis? Would you mind sitting on that chair over there?? I’d like to ask you a few questions.’ Travis seated himself on the sofa that Dr. Jarvis had gestured to and deftly answered while Dr. Jarvis interrogated. It seemed to Travis that Jarvis was psycho-analysing him.

At the near end of the session, Dr. Jarvis related an accident that had occurred a few months ago. Travis nodded his head vigorously. His father had narrated that particular accident many a time, but he wasn’t sure why.

‘The reason I’m telling you this is because,’ Dr. Jarvis began, directing his sentences. ‘Your mum and your brother and your brother were in that car when it flipped into the lake. They died three months ago.’

Fear.

‘I don’t think we ought to enter, Cam, especially after mummy told us not to do this EXACT same thing,’ cautioned timid Evelyn to her domineering elder sister, Carmen. ‘Now don’t YOU start telling me what to do and what not to,’ snapped Carmen, turning to face her sibling for a split second.

‘Do you want to appear a cowardly chicken in front of all your so-called friends??’ Carmen pressed. Evelyn, who was used to her sister’s obstinate ways, just shook her head. ‘Good, then follow me. Faster, kid. I’ve not got all day,’ scolded Carmen, marching briskly in spite of the eerie gust of icy wind that blew past them just then. Evelyn shuddered due to the cold, but kept her pace.

A forlorn tower with moss covered walls and shattered windows loomed in front of them. ‘Now this is what I call an adventure,’ Carmen boomed, rubbing her palms together in satisfaction. Evelyn shivered once more, failing to see the excitement in going into the ancient structure.

Carmen boldly pushed aside the tattered bits of wood that somewhat concealed the antique entrance. ‘Come on then,’ she commanded impatiently, wildly gesturing towards the gap in the crumbling barrier. Evelyn gulped, her eyes widening in fear, but as she’d rather be attacked by hordes of bandits than face her sister’s wrath, she meekly stepped inside the ruins, clutching her shawl till her knuckles turned quite pale.

Her sister shuffled in after her, making sure to positioned the “door” back in place. ‘This sure is musty,’ remarked Evelyn, pinching her nose. ‘It does smell funny,’ Carmen agreed, shoving her hands in her hoodie’s pockets. ‘Carmen, I’ve got a bad feeling about this…’ Evelyn warned, her voice breaking a little. ‘Shut up, will you? I know what I’m doing,’ Carmen hissed, slowly making her way up the staircase with the aid of a dim flashlight. Evelyn let the wall guide her to the second story of the cottage.

Upstairs (if one may call it that), there was just a scruffy plank of wood that barely held its own weight, let alone the addition of two slightly plump maidens. Carmen, who realized that, sighed dramatically. ‘I was expecting more,’ she mumbled, half to herself. ‘Maybe I expected too much,’ she muttered, groaning.

Evelyn, who was terrified of the dark, seized the opportunity to persuade her sister to lead the way out of the sinister manor. ‘Well,’ Evelyn began, racking her mind for a tactful way to announce her humble suggestion. ‘Why don’t we head back home, Cam?? We’ve done what we set out to do…’ Evelyn trailed off, unsure about how her sister would react. ‘Yes,’ Carmen said, bobbing her head in approval. ‘Let’s head back home.’ Evelyn flashed a victorious smile. They trudged down the steps in silence and were about to depart from the menacing mansion when suddenly, a deep voice rumbled from behind them, causing Evelyn to abruptly jerk.

‘Look at you, thinking you could leave without me even offering you a cup of tea!’ the unidentified individual exclaimed, still cloaked by the peculiar shadows that seemed to have lives of their own. Carmen found herself whitening. Evelyn felt her heart stop its rhythmic thumping. The sisters gasped in unison. Evelyn fingered her silk scarf tenderly, trying to divert her mind from the frightening ordeal. She lifted her head just as a dark figure with blazing eyes emerged in front of her.

That was the last thing she ever saw…