Mnemosyne, the Count, and the House On the Sea

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write about an author famous for their fairy tale retellings.... view prompt


Fantasy Fiction Suspense

Mnemosyne loves to dream. Her dreams love her too, so much, that they carry onto the light.

Mnemosyne sometimes believes the images she dreams of she can see them appear before her.

“Mama, look at that house on the island”.

The house rises before them, on a patch of green rock, as if the sea had birthed it. It was of Victorian Gothic architecture, white, stretched onto three-wide floors, with a small window on top. The attic.

That’s where I will keep all my books. Mnemosyne thinks but she has no time to give voice to her thought; her mother pulls her away down the path to the ferry, and the house is lost from view.

After the trip to Cornwall, her dreams begin to get more frequent. But this time, she is lying on a single bed in her University accommodation, her eyesight hazier and her thoughts darker. So her dreams have become shadows passing and sometimes she wonders: Is any of it real?

And she often thinks of the big white house on the island, as she sits behind her rainy window, lights of other students’ in their kitchens. She glances from window to window, looking at their smiles. For she has lost her own.

Days pass, lessons come and go. She walks back and from these lessons with a heavy heart. Sometimes she likes to sit in the park. And that is when the thought enters her mind, as the sun beams across the trees and spring flowers.

I will be an author and move into that house.

3 years later by chance, it is exactly what she does. And it is all too easy; moving into the house is anyway, a kind of luck. For the previous owner, is an estranged aunt no one has seen or heard of, a recluse?

She now sits on the comfortably sized attic, which she has turned into a study, occasionally glancing at the swollen sea. It is a warm windy day with little droplets of rain falling, and the sun-kissed by the clouds hang in the sky like a dim beam of light.

A rapid movement amongst the waves catches Mnemosyne’s eye, and her heart catches fire in her chest, like a trapped butterfly.

pitter patter…

It’s happening she thinks

 I am making this happen

It happened 2 years ago, when her first book The Blood Count, a dark fairytale twist became a bestseller. She was 27.

“I like combining fairytales” Mnemosyne sits in the cold studio. Her interviewer is a snarky man with thin lips, who has a habit of missing her eyes and aiming his gaze underneath her neck. He looks at her with a hint of superiority. Mnemosyne’s legs cramp underneath the plush sofa.

“Retellings” He corrects her

“I retell the fairytales which have already been told, in a darker combination”. She answers back, and her heart jumps when the interviewer looks uncomfortable.

“Have a drink, you look tired”. Lighting rips the sky and shadows fall onto a tall figure standing in the long hallway. The figure’s sharp blue eyes peer at her, and then with one step forward, she sees the extended reach of the hand, holding a single glass of red wine.

“Welcome home, Mnemosyne”.

“Blood Count!”

“Have a drink, my dear. It will calm your nerves”. His voice, thick and regal, sends shivers up her spine; she edges back towards the door and shuts her eyes.

Go away.

“So, you told people about me?” He licks his lips, and a hint of bone-white fang is visible.

“You’re not real”.

“I am only as real as you want me to be. Mnemosyne, I am a part of you. We all are”.

They start to slither across the floor, shadows, stretching out their arms. The Blood Count stands in the middle, laughing. 

The hazy shadows start to take shape. All her fairytales, dark as she made them, are circling her.

She closes her eyes and remembers her mother, and that day on the beach when she first saw the house.

“Mama, look at that house!” Her mother, red lips smiling, cranes her long alabaster neck down to her, but she cannot see what Mnemosyne is seeing.

A silhouette standing in front of the house, waving.

Her first ever character in her short story, published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Florence Sachs.

Florence Sachs or her Clever Elsie; but unlike the fairytale, Elsie/Florence leaves the village, leaves her husband and joins a gang of renegade, wild women

She hears a growl; opening her eyes her scream catches in her throat.

 The Wolf’s breath is hot on her face. She knows this wolf and the fairytale, one of Aesop’s Fables, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Mnemosyne retold it, but in her version, the wolf was the boy, the boy was the wolf.

And he was always hungry and a liar too…

“So, Mnemosyne, tell us what are you writing these days?”

The night had ended abruptly, after which Mnemosyne lay in bed, clutching her covers and looking towards the open door… towards the empty dark hallway. But they didn’t return. Not that night, or two nights after that. And for the first time, in a long time, Mnemosyne didn’t dream.

But now, coffee getting cold, the sea outside relatively calm, Mnemosyne realizes that her dreams were little stories, meshed in with the fairytales she grew up with. She stares at her blank screen through her glasses. Her fingers stroke the keypads. She looks up when she hears the grandfather clock, on the second landing, strike 2. She always loved grandfather clocks. Maybe it would set the atmosphere?

Mnemosyne looks at the interviewer and the interviewer looks back, waiting. There is a deafening silence in the studio. Mnemosyne can almost hear the minutes, the seconds ticking by.

“These days…” The interviewer leans forward as if to say “yes, yes, well”.

The door creaks open, and Mnemosyne pulls away from the memory of that disastrous interview. She looks back at the screen.

When did I write this?

April 09, 2021 11:06

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