The Library

40 11 40

Aunt Eleanor had always been a strange woman, but in the months since Clara had been sent to live with her, the strangeness had deepened into something inky and disturbed. Even as they walked down the hallway Aunt Eleanor seemed to blend with the shadows, the folds of her swishing skirt almost indistinguishable from the ebony depths lining the walls. Clara felt unease roiling in a black mass inside of her. The echoing clanking of keys didn't help the matter. Off-white, and smooth, they gleamed with the little light in the halls.

Aunt Eleanor had to hold them in her one good hand, on an iron ring black with age. Really, her only hand, since the other arm ended just above where the wrist would be. A shining mass of scars. Clara looked away, desperate to see anything but that. It was the one thing she didn't seek further knowledge of.

Even though her Aunt was odd, Clara had grown fond of her. She had after all, taken her in when no one else woudl.
Clara had always been a beautiful child. Inky black hair spilled over her shoulders, and her features were soft and delicate. But her beauty had an edge to it. Bottomless black iris's, always a tad too wide, seemed to swallow everything in sight. Yes, she was beautiful, the village women said, if only she didn't have such strange eyes.

The word strange had become synonymous with her name.

Dark gray wallpaper peeled off the walls, blackened at the edges. Through the corridors they went, creaking floorboards sending up clouds of dust as they walked. Drapes weighed down with decades of disuse barely stirring as they swept by. Clara drank in the details, cataloging them away as she did everything else.

Where other children may have a hunger for sweets or a thirst for milk, she had a ravenous hole in her that begged to be filled with only one thing - knowledge. Books were not meant to be read but devoured. Each word falling into the bottomless pit inside of her.

She could not for the life of her figure out how to make small talk, or how to comfort someone. The only subjects she had ever laughed at had made her schoolmates shrink away in horror or confusion. But she knew what the wingspan of almost every bird was. She could recite the kings in order back to the first records, including date of birth and death, age, and spouse. She knew each provinces name and each town within. She could build a neuron motor phaser, identify every plant used for poison, and name every bone in the human body.

Clara lived to learn.

Aunt Eleanor led her past one last corner, slipping out of the meager light from a hallway window. The pane was dirty, coated in a thick layer of grime. No one came to this wing of the manor. Not since Grandma Beatrice had died from a nasty fall. They said she had lain for days in that twisting corridors before anyone thought to check. But Clare knew it had really only been a day and a half. Grandma Beatrice had not been delightful company, and so, was not missed.

A cobweb tickled fine strands across Clara's face, and she wiped it away. The nearly invisible string tugged and she followed it with her eyes to the web. It hung in the corner, grand in its swirls. The spider must have lived here for ages to have a web that large, Clara thought to herself. And indeed, when her eyes finally found it in the shadow, it was a gigantic swell of blue. Fat as a king. Even now, it had a fly spun tightly in its web. The fly wiggled furiously, but it was in vain.

"Come Clara."

Her Aunt's scratchy voice beckoned, one bony finger crooked at the knobbed knuckle. Paper thin skin stretched over the joints, the veins thick with a blood that was so blue it was almost black. It reminded the girl much of the spiderweb she had just been admiring. Disappointment surged in Clara at the order. She always delighted in watching a spider work. They were masters of patience, and when prey was finally caught, of the slow kill. But she had been summoned and so she answered.

Bone CarverRead this story for FREE!