Shadows of the Past
We had no sooner opened the van doors when the storm caught us and apparently it wasn’t happy we had eluded it as long as we had. I don’t know whether it was, the angry slash of lightning or the deafening explosion of thunder that ripped the hole in the clouds drenching us the moment we exited the van.
The groundskeeper had left the key and instructions in an envelope taped to the front door. Even so, by the time we got the van unpacked it looked like we had swum the distance from England.
We stood dripping and panting in the foyer, our clothes plastered to our bodies when Percy started laughing. It started small, a chuckle that trickled around the room. As it circled the room it gained in momentum.
Eric peered out from under sodden bangs looking like an anorexic sheep dog, a smile spreading across his face. Even Matt seemed to have perked up a bit. Soon the foyer echoed with our laughter as we realized and pointed out how ridiculous we looked.
The next flash of lightning and clap of thunder acted as a vacuum, sucking the sound and the light out of the room.
Our ears hissed with the sudden absence of sound and we blinked to try and clear the last shards of lightning from ours eyes.
After much stumbling and crashing about in the dark, we managed to find matches and candles and soon had the rooms filled with the warm flicker of candlelight. A fire roared in the living room fireplace and we accumulated around it in various stages of undress while our clothes dried. The girls were wrapped in decorative throw blankets, the guys, on the other hand, we were less modest and just lounged in our wet underwear and t-shirts.
I watched the candlelight etch my friend’s likenesses in charcoal tones on the wall behind them. Just by looking at them, there was no way to tell what time they were from. Unlike photographs, where fashion, colour scheme or furniture would put their time stamp on it, these temporary images were like windows to the past, linking the ages.
I found myself wondering whose shadows had graced those walls over the years. As I tried to recall my English classes, I could have sworn secondary shadows leaked from the darkness wedged between the tops of the walls and the ceiling. These secondary shadows over lapped those of my friends.
While the shadows aped the movements and actions of their originators, their movements were slightly off, like watching a TV show where the sound is mere seconds behind the show making it look like the show was dubbed from a foreign language; familiar but not quite.
As I watched I began to see faint details of a room through the bodies of the shadows, like they had become some sort of dark mirror, but like the shadows movements, the room wasn’t exactly the same, small details like the placement of furniture or paintings on the wall were off.
The more I looked the clearer the shadow room became and the closer it got. I felt like I was being drawn in and I couldn’t tell if the Shadow room was moving closer to me or I to it.
I blinked my eyes closed and when I opened them, I sat in the shadow room with the others but it wasn’t them, in that they were familiar to me and I could still point out who was who, but they weren’t them.
“… that is the challenge for this evening. Mary, you and I will pair up, Claire and Percy, and John and Mathew.” Byron stood in the centre of the room, the fireplace his spotlight, as he held a silver and crystal goblet of amber liquid in his right hand, his left was tucked behind his back.
The aloofness, the arrogance, it was Byron alright, but he had stayed at home… the questions made it as far as my lips when a voice interrupted me.
“I am sorry to disagree, my good host, but I would much rather write alone, no disrespect to you. In other circumstances, I would delight in the benefit of your expertise… in writing, of course… but as you have challenged us each, I think it only fair we each do our own best, not as teams.” Mary, dressed in Victorian gown, addressed Byron.
“If that is your wont, then so be it. Master Shelley, you did not forewarn me of your companion’s… lack of social graces.” Byron turned and stormed from the room.
“Mary, could you not at the very least try and be more like your father and less like your mother?” Percy turned his back on Mary and poured another glass of wine as thunder rattled the windows and lightning briefly illuminated the room. As the flash faded so did the shadows until the darkness was complete.
I awoke the next morning, still in the chair I started the night out in. Someone had tucked one of the throw blankets over me. I stood and stretched, gathered my clothes and went in search of a bathroom. Last nights wine wanted out.