I found myself in a grand drawing room, hesitantly sipping on a generous mug of El Injerto. Its potent mocha essence soothing my frayed nerves as I openly stared at the opulent interior of the room. The Greek renaissance-inspired mural stretched across the vast ceiling, little cherubs hiding behind puffy, golden clouds. Its taste was so… blue-blooded.
Despite having spent most of my life in the care of cold scientists, I quite aware that my family, the Rothschilds, came from the creme de la creme of the Upper crust. But whilst the glamour and grandiose could seduce the demurest of beings, I was rather immune to its material charm.
“You didn’t tell me you lived in a castle.” Pauline accused.
I shrugged. “It’s rather pretentious. All this space. Just fluff, Paul. Nothing more.” I said bitterly.
Her faded blue eyes lit up with mischief. “You sound as bitter as a posh aristocrat who once resided in said castle.”
“I do not!” I scoffed like an indignant child, my cheeks colouring crimson.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, love.” The blue ghost smirked, her cerulean hair drifting in odd directions as though she were submerged in water.
“Taste good, I reckon?” The abrupt, low timbre struck me with such severity that it had me jumping in my seat, the caffeinated beverage sloshing in my cup.
Tristan’s eerie cornflower orbs glowed. With his hands buried deep in the pockets of his slacks, he sauntered towards me, like a lion stalking its prey, and took a seat on the leather recliner, resuming his silent scrutiny.
He looked remarkably like Peter, except for the dark locks of curly hair as opposed to Peter’s blonde mane.
“Yeah. Tastes great.” I muttered, clearing my throat in a desperate attempt to remain composed.
Awkward silence and palpable tension ensued once again, as I took gentle sips of the hot liquid, running my eyes over the exquisite interior of the room in hopes of avoiding his arresting, predatory gaze. But I felt it.
I felt it scorch me like a bright kindling fire.
“You look like her, you know.”
I blinked, finally returning his gaze, staying silent as ever.
“Like Charlotte.” He conveyed. His mask intact, safe for the barely concealed curiosity.
No words escaped me as I continued to survey him.
“You look just as haunted as she was.” He finally said, his expression never wavering. My brows furrowed.
And then, just like that… I felt a pulse. A slow, mellowing pulse.
Was it behind me? From within me?
I was not sure.
It creeped into my skin in sheer numbness. Then cold. Then darkness. It drew me in, like a moth to a flame. And I felt the chill burn around me, through me and from within me. It felt familiar.
There she was. Behind Tristan. A ghostly being awakening from the depths of hell. The dead.
No, no, no, no, no, no…
Crouching a few feet away, she looked just as menacing as I had seen her last. Inky locks draped over her face. Her bones cracked; flesh squelched as she crawled towards Tristan on all fours. I blinked several times, hoping for her to vanish, but she appeared closer than ever.
Mug grasped tightly; I was paralysed in my seat. Pauline whimpered, “Monster… monster…no…”. She faded away just as quickly.
I flinched at the sound as she crawled even closer.
She was right beside him now, lifting a filthy finger and caressing his stubbly cheek.
“Troian?” Tristan asked, brows furrowed in question.
“Such a pretty face.” She rasped.
I gulped, my body starting to tremble in its catatonic state. Tears gathered in my eyes.
No matter what reservations I had towards all of them, this was not right! Not Tristan!
Make it stop! Make it stop!
I heard myself sob yet I could not open my mouth.
“Troian, what is it?” Sitting on his hunches, his expression mirrored concern as he searched my eyes for an answer. He followed my line of sight but looked behind him instead.
Could he not see her? But how could he see Pauline?
Run! I tried to scream.
Shivers wracked my body as I struggled to escape this catatonic state.
A sinister laugh escaped her putrid mouth. And then I watched as she grasped his head and twisted.
Tristan descended to the ground; his neck stuck in an odd angle. And finally, a petrified scream bubbled out of my lips as I dropped the mug, its contents splashing across the pristine tiles.
“Troian!” I heard her shrill voice echo as she prowled towards me.
“Troian!” She screamed. She was so close. I felt her nose brush against mine, the scent of death and rot clouding my olfactory senses.
“Troian, stop!” Tristan’s voice echoed from her mouth.
At once, I blinked, and I was back in the drawing room. Mug clutched tightly, perspiration dripping all over me, clothes sticking to my body.
Tristan’s strong, warm hands grasped my forearms, his breathing equally ragged as mine. He looked just as dishevelled as I was… and worried.
“Tristan?” I asked, voice quivering. Tears spilled down my cheeks, as I searched his neck for injuries. But he looked fine. He looked alive. His eyes were bright.
Then what did I just see?
“What the hell was that?” He growled, harsh lines unfurling over his handsome face.
“You’re, ok?” I stuttered out, lips trembling, and eyes burned with unshed tears.
Flinching away from me, he stood to his full height, taking a step back. He looked angry, confused, and apprehensive. None of which bode well with me. I felt like a guinea pig again. A test subject being micro-managed under the spotlight. Only this time, I was in the mercy of my estranged twin.
“What?” He asked, puzzled.
“You looked like you were having a night terror.” He continued to stand at a distance.
“And?” I asked nonchalantly, wiping the sweat from my brows, and placing my mug on the floor which shaky hands.
“But” He emphasized. “Your eyes were open.”
“And your pupils were white.”
A state where the human body is unable to respond to stimuli. A prominent symptom of those who suffer from Schizophrenia. So, do I call her a Schizophrenic then?
Anya, my stepmother, would have given me an icy glare.
A week had passed since… the little incident. But a routine had fallen into place. Mila and Nikolai, my stepsiblings, had developed a certain fondness for Troian, as had my stepmother and the staff of the household. But despite her sunny disposition, I was acutely aware that a certain darkness lurked within her. One that I had seen countless times over the course of this week.
At present, I stared out the French windows, observing my sister. My sister.
It was so foreign on the tongue.
Troian was perched on a garden bench, perusing through a book, her dark curls held on top of her head by ornate hair pin that Anya had gifted her.
The creature looked so demure. So normal… as opposed to what I had witnessed last week. But even now, I felt it. I felt the odd vibration – the pulse.
And it echoed from her. At first, I had concluded that it was animosity towards Peter, which I could empathize with. Given that he was an entitled blueblood, who had a proclivity for being a political potato playing a hypocrite, we seemed to share a mutual hatred towards the centimillionaire we called ‘Father’.
However, even before she had stepped out of the sleek limousine, I had assumed that Troian would resemble a frail little being who had barely seen the sunlight and would wilt at her own shadow. But one look at those mismatched eyes and I knew that she was chaos reincarnated. Just as unique as her appearance, she carried herself with a self-assurance that rivalled Peter. Not to mention the rebelliousness – so akin to Charlotte – which had had Peter curling his lips in irritation. It was satisfying to see him so rattled to his core though. And by a mere five-foot one raven-haired girl, nonetheless. But there was something sinister.
And last week had been a revelation.
Her eyes had been milky white. She had looked like she had been possessed, tears running down her pale cheeks, her bee-stung lips moving unintelligibly. The resemblance had been uncanny.
Once I had gathered my bearings, I had rushed to her aid, managing to subdue her uncontrollable trembling and wake her from… whatever hell she had been in.
I had remained silent ever since. Zero interactions. No interest. Or so she thought.
I had to be careful, for I was entering unexplored territories. Therefore, was pertinent that I kept my conscience clear.
“Pretty conscience. One that kept you alive for so long.” Grim teased. From my peripheral, I could see his signature smirk stretching across his grey face.
Grim Lockwood leaned against the banister, inky blades of his mane falling on his forehead. His left eye had a long, jagged scar running across it. Had he been alive, he would have been a modern-day playboy in a glass penthouse.
But he was dead. A poltergeist.
Without glancing in his direction, I answered.
She flipped a page, looking up from the book and as if sensing my gaze on her, she looked towards the window, eyes narrowing. Her flawless face was vacant of expressions. I continued to stare.
“Oh, I know that look!” Grim cackled excitedly. “You’re going to crack her, aren’t you?” His reddish-tinged pupils glinted with delight, lips curling into a wide grin.
Troian stared, unflinchingly from her spot on the bench. Determination shining through those iridescent orbs.
“No.” I felt my lips twitch into a smirk.
“I’m going to break her.”
Penned By: Rtr. Bernadette Jayasooriya (Editorial Member 2022-23)
Edited and published by: RACSLIIT Editorial Team 2022-23