by Alice Sjöberg (2020)
‘And whatever you do, don’t mention my dad and what happened to him,’ Genevieve said. ‘Everyone is still a bit… just don’t bring him up, okay?’
It was the moment I’ve been dreading ever since we first got together. The fact that I was meeting the only people Genevieve seem to love more than anything, the only people that could come between me and the love of my life scared me. If they disapproved of our relationship, she might not want to be with me anymore. What if they already hate me because we eloped…
She hadn’t really told me much about her family. She always refuses to answer my questions about them and always changes the subject whenever I ask her about them.
‘You know, I don’t think you ever told me what happened to him,’ I said.
Genevieve hesitated before answering.
‘He was in an accident when one of his experiments went wrong,’ she started. ‘But I really don’t think I’m the right person to tell you this. It’s not my story to tell.’
The drive to their house mostly consisted of field after field after field. A field of cows was followed by another one and another one. As the sky got darker, the trees seemed to grow bigger and move closer together. We finally drove off the motor way and onto a small path lined with tress. Their empty branches made it look like we were driving under the arms of skeletons. In the distance, a castle-like mansion slowly grew bigger.
The driveway was big enough to fit an entire football field in it. The house was neatly surrounded by the branches of bushes that had lost all its leaves. I looked up at the house just in time to see a light go off in, what I assume was, the attic. As we got out of the car, the calming music we’d been listening to on the way was replaced by the crashing sound of us walking on the gravel up to the front door. My eyes suddenly wandered off towards the side of the house, and the dozens of gravestones that were standing in neat lines.
‘What’s with all the gravestones?’ I asked Genevieve.
‘They really love Halloween,’ she answered simply before ringing the doorbell.
The door opened almost as soon as she rang the doorbell. The hallway appeared behind the door. A face appeared from behind the door. It was a woman who looked a lot like Genevieve. Her dark hair was neatly put up at the back of her head. Her eyes were green as emerald, matching her long dress that reached the floor. She was wearing a black cloak over her dress.
‘Genevieve! It’s so nice to see you again,’ the woman said as she rushed out to hug her.
‘It’s nice to see you too, mum,’ Genevieve answered.
‘And you must be my new son-in-law! It’s very nice to meet you, Jasper,’ she said as she hugged me. ‘I’m Deborah Wells, Genevieve’s mum, as you might’ve guessed.’
‘It’s nice to finally meet you, Mrs Wells.’ I said as I hugged her back.
‘Please, call me Deborah. We’re family now,’ Deborah said, glancing down on Genevieve’s hand as she said it. ‘Now, let’s get you two inside. The rest of the family is already here. We have a lot to catch up on.’
‘I’ll just go get the bags,’ I said.
‘Don’t be silly, dear. The butler will do that later. Now, come on in.’
The inside of the house looked nothing like the outside. The walls had all been painted white, but had been left empty. Deborah brought us further into the house.
Genevieve hadn’t really told me anything about her family more than she had a lot of relatives. But as we were escorted to the sitting room, there was only one person there. A dark haired man in his thirties, maybe? Just like Deborah, he was wearing a dark cloak over his suit.
‘We’ve all been waiting for little Vivi to find someone,’ they said.
They were all wearing long black cloaks.
Unlike the rest of the house, the dining room was dark, with the windows covered with dark purple curtains. The chandelier over the dining table was lit by candles. The table was covered with a tablecloth, that matched the colour of the curtains. The table was decorated with tall candles and flowers that looked like they had seen better days. Each seat had several glasses of different shapes, and way too many forks and knives for one. At the end of the table, a big book was placed where the plate should have been. On the two chairs in front of the door hung two cloaks identical to what the others was wearing. Genevieve went to put on hers and gave me the other one to put on.
As we all sat down to start the celebration, or ceremony as they kept calling it, I noticed that the seat opposite Deborah, on the shorter side of the table, by the book, had been left empty. Genevieve saw my confused looked and leaned in towards me.
‘That’s Dad’s seat,’ she whispered.
Just before I got the chance to question her, Genevieve’s brother, Damon, stood up. He buttoned his suit underneath his cloak before grabbing his filled champagne flute.
‘First of all, I want to welcome everyone here,’ he started. ‘I know this has been a hard year for a lot of people, but I’m happy that all of you could come here for this special day. And a special thanks to Jasper, here, how managed to convince our Vivi to come back home for this ceremony. Seeing as you didn’t invite us to the wedding, I guess this makes up for it.’
He paused to let out a quick laugh.
I could feel my whole face heat up as everyone glanced at me. Remind me again why I agreed to come?
‘Felicem Ceremonia,’ he said and held up his glass for a toast.
After dinner, the so called ‘ceremony’ was supposed to begin. I still had no idea what this meant. Genevieve had mentioned it before we went there, but she had refused to give me any details about it. We all remained seated as we waited for the butler, whose name I think was Wilson, to come and take our plates. The silence was deafening.
A man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started to clean up the table. He was dressed in a black tuxedo and white gloves. His hair was white and reached his shoulders, but was non-existent on the top of his head. His body looked older than his eyes. As he reached down to take Damon’s plate from the table, I caught a quick glimpse of his slightly hunched back. His face, although wasn’t unusual looking, just seemed like it could be… real. It was too unnerving to be. I quickly looked away as his dark eyes met mine. Wilson worked his way around the table before suddenly disappearing again.
The candles on the table suddenly lit up by themselves.
‘He should be here soon,’ Deborah said and smiled.
‘Okay, can someone please tell me what’s going on?’ I heard myself say.
‘You haven’t told him?’ Deborah asked Genevieve.
Genevieve shook her head in response.
‘I didn’t want to say anything before. I was scared he wouldn’t come if I did.’
‘Tell me what? What the hell is going on?’
‘The ceremony is the one chance we get to truly get in contact with those who’ve passed,’ Deborah said.
‘And to make sure we don’t have to say goodbye to them, or anyone else, ever again.’ Damon added. His eyes went from looking at me to looking at something behind me. ‘Yes, Wilson?’
‘He’s ready, m’lord.’
‘Perfect timing, as always,’ Deborah said. ‘Please bring him in.’
I could hear the door behind me open. The sound of his steps was lighter than expected. A hooded figure slowly appeared in the corner of my eye. It was moving towards the seat at the end of the table, opposite Deborah. It looked around the table, stopping when it came to me. I tried looking past the hood, but because of the vague light of the candles, it was too dark to see a face. It slowly sat down.
‘Felicem Ceremonia,’ a dark voice said from underneath the hood.
‘I see we have a prima natus with us tonight. How… exciting.’
It was weird. I could swear that I heard him smile when he said that last word. But not in a good way. His voice gave me chills down to my bones.
‘Let’s start then, shall we?’ he said.
He removed the hood from his cloak and revealed his face. I tried my best not to let out a scream. His face, the part that looked… normal, was covered in scars and bumps. The other side of his face, however,
‘Would it be okay if I went to the bathroom first?’ I tried not to sound as panicked as I was, but the uncertainty of my voice makes me think that it didn’t work.
Everyone around the table stared at me for the millionth time this evening.
‘Of course, my love,’ Genevieve said and gave me a reassuring smile. ‘The third door to the left.’
The room started to spin as stood up, but I quickly turned around and left the room. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I went straight to the front door and went outside. But I surely didn’t expect to go over to our car and help Wilson unload our bags from the booth of the car. It was nice to get a break from the family. I love Genevieve, but her family sure is creepy. When we had unloaded the last bag from the car, Wilson suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me closer to him.
‘Run,’ he whispered.
‘Run while you still have the chance. They’re bad people. Really bad. I’m stuck here, but you’ve still got the chance to escape and live a normal life,’ he said.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘The ceremony hasn’t started, has it? You don’t want to end up like us. Run away and forget all about us. Forget about Genevieve. She isn’t worth sacrificing your life for. Or your body if you’re unlucky, like me.’
He grabbed the bags and started to slowly walk back into the house.
Could what he said be true? Were they really bad people? Could Genevieve, the love of my life, really be evil?
My eyes suddenly got caught on the headstones by the side of the house. I walked closer to them to see if what I saw was right. But it couldn’t be. As I got closer, the hole got clearer to see. A whole, big enough for a man to fit in, had been dug in front on of the gravestones at the end. I read the names on the stones around it.
30 April 1754 – 4 June 1810
4 June 1810 –
6 October 1758 – 9 May 1812
8 June 1812 -
9 December 1783 – 11 May 1812
11 May 1812 –
Genevieve Wells – Smith
17 September 1786 – 12 May 1812
12 May 1812 -
There were several other headstones behind these that all seemed to only have one date each. The dates all varied from the 17th century to just a few years ago. I slowly walked up to the last one. The one with the hole in front of it. It was empty.
Just as I was about to turn around to go back into the house, the stone started to glow. I looked down onto the stone and saw that it was being engraved by itself.
23 February 1995 – 10 January 2020
10 January 2020 -
Suddenly, everything went black.
I’m not sure if my eyes are actually open or not. Everything is dark, no matter what I do. My arms are tided underneath my back. I tried to lift my head just to hit it and fall back down onto my back.
I guess I didn’t have a choice. I’m one of them now.