Let's go to Skullhaven today. I've revised the first chapter. I wanted to change the voice and try to add a slightly darker, more depressing, scarier feel to it. I hope I've accomplished my objective. Let me know what you think.
CHAPTER ONE – Saturday, October 18
Lilly was five years old when her mother kissed her goodbye and told her she would be right back.
Right back, she said.
But her mother didn’t come right back.
She didn’t come back the next day, or the next. And even though Lilly kept asking everyone where her mother was, no one could tell her, because no one knew what had become of her. Lilly wondered what she had done wrong.
When her mother didn’t come back, Lilly was sent to the orphanage. Not to visit. To live there. At Skullhaven. When she had first arrived, Lilly spent her time sitting by the big living room window. Watching. She watched the cars drive past on the highway. Hoping. And wishing one of them would turn into the gravel drive and her mother would be inside it. But she never was. Never was.
Although her mother never came back, Lilly never stopped hoping. After a year or so had passed, she stopped sitting by the window as often. Eventually, she stopped sitting there altogether. And although she didn’t sit by the window any longer, her heart would race when she heard the sound of car tires crunching on the gravel drive. Could it be? She would rush to the window to see who it was. But it was never the person she was waiting for. And wishing for.
Lilly had been at Skullhaven for five years now. She spent her days thinking about a happier time that faded from her memory a little more as each day passed. Then night came — sneaking slowly around the house, covering everything with its dark blanket. Nights were much worse.
On a chilly October evening, Lilly was in bed in her small upstairs bedroom. Even though it was after midnight, she was not sleeping. Couldn’t sleep. She stared at her bedroom window. Listening. The night sounds were coming.
Outside. The heavy metal chains of the old swings squeaked as the night wind pushed the wooden seats. Empty seats. Lilly could hear other sounds, too. Some of them were coming from inside. From the hallway. From behind the closet door. It was an old house — not a charmingly old house, or a quaint old house — but simply a worn out old house. Tired. A tired old house that made its own noises. Especially after dark.
Besides the Chapel, the house was all that remained of St. Bernadette’s Mission. The Church had made the decision long ago to convert it to an orphanage. For years, the house was alive. The sounds of children gave it life. Time passed. Those children moved away. Moved away to start new lives with their new families — all except for Lilly White. She was the only child living there now, along with Sister Rosemary and Sister Carmen.
If you had not known she was there, you might have missed her entirely, for Lilly was quite small for her age. She did not take up much space in her bed — especially when she tried to be as tiny as possible, as she was now trying to do. She had pulled her covers up and tucked them securely under her chin, covering as much of her body as possible, including some of her long, mousy-brown hair.
Lilly folded her arms on her chest beneath the covers. She pressed her legs together with her toes pointing straight forward toward the foot of the bed. No body parts were dangling over the edge, because she was not sure what might be under there. Her quick, nervous glance to check under the bed before turning out her lamp had revealed nothing more sinister than a family of harmless dust bunnies.
When you’re only ten years old, you never know what type of night creature might have slithered across the floor after the lamp was turned off and the shadows had crept out again from the corners of your imagination. Horrible. Hungry. Almost anything might be lurking under there. Waiting. Waiting patiently for a finger or a toe to slip over the edge. A quick bite would leave nothing behind. Nothing but a gushing, bloody stump.
Lightning. Lilly blinked her pale, blue eyes each time it exploded. When it flashed, she saw the gnarled limbs of the old maple tree just outside her window. She loved the old tree, usually. In the sunshine of a bright summer morning, it was majestic. Friendly. But on a stormy autumn night, such as this one, the branches took on a grotesque appearance like bony arms and twisted fingers.
Groaning. She heard the heavy limbs swaying slowly in the wind. The sound came through the window and into Lilly’s ears. It was like old men mumbling. Mumbling so that she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Sometimes a strong gust would send a different sound through the window. Like old women. Whispering their secrets. After each lightning flash, the crack and rumble of the thunder overpowered the voices, but it was only temporary. They returned when the thunder subsided.
The tattered bedspread moved a tiny bit when her small fingers felt toward her neck to find the cross Sister Carmen had given her.
“Please, please, don’t let anything hurt me. Please,” she whispered.
There was much to be afraid of on such a night as this. But her biggest fear was what she had seen outside her window the night before. The lady. She wondered if she was there now. She remembered the misty image. The white dress. Standing beneath the maple tree and staring. Staring up at her bedroom window.
It was scary not knowing who the lady was or why she had been standing there. She might be there now. Staring at her window. Right now. Lilly considered, only for a moment, going to the window to check. She decided against it. It was better not to know.
If Lilly had gotten out of bed and gone to the window, her fears would have been relieved somewhat. She would not have seen the lady on this particular night. The reason she wouldn’t have seen her was because the lady, or what remained of her, was on the other side of the highway. In Skullhaven Cemetery.