15 Jun Mr. Livingston
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"Mr. Livingston"Written by Marian Johnson
Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Dear Mr. Livingston,
I understand that you are a man of business, often solely occupied in the matters that bring such a lively income to our estate. My good sir, I write you at this time imploring you to return home at once, for we have been visited by a great darkness at Whipertcher Estate. I shall recount to you the events of the last three days with as much accuracy as I can manage under the circumstances.
It began with a knock on the door and a strange girl begging shelter. She was but a little thing, perhaps ten years of age, drenched from the storm that tore across Whipertcher. Mrs. Livingston insisted that she enter. Ms. Devois and I fixed the little one supper. Mrs. Livingston supped with her, inquiring as to her name and why she was in this part of the country at night. The girl ate quietly, knobby little hands quivering, answering nothing. She only stared into her bowl of soup like a looking glass. I remember her reminding me of the little black rat that stole into the kitchen last week, sullen hands and features.
When the child finally spoke, her voice chimed off the glasses at the table.
“Do you not remember, Mother?”
“Whatever do you mean, child? Speak your name!”
“You never gave me a name.”
Mrs. Devois and I stared at one another, quite baffled. Mrs. Livingston’s face paled. She frantically pushed herself up from the table.
“Who are you? Who sent you? Tell me this instant, child! Which of my cruel neighbors has sent you to torment me this way?”
“You know who I am, Mother.”
“Why do you call me that? Why do you call me “Mother”? Oh, wicked child! Naughty child!” Mrs. Livingston wrung her hands, tearing the napkin from her neck.
Mrs. Devois and I knew not what to do with ourselves in this moment, for we stood paralyzed betwixt curiosity and bewilderment. My good sir, having served you for many years, I’ve known of your wife’s barren state. I’ve watched Mrs. Devois wash bloody garments month after month since the two of you wed ten years ago. Surely, the little villain was playing in a scheme, egged on by cruel neighbors who have been suspicious of your childless marriage. An evil thing indeed to do in return for such hospitality offered by the good Mrs. Livingston.
“I have no child! I have no child!” your wife clamped her hands over her mouth.
“Tell them, Mother.”
I rushed forward to seize the little thing, as Mrs. Livingston was in hysterics, violently weeping into her palms.
“Tell them who I am!”
“It’s not possible!” Mrs. Livingston sobbed.
I grabbed the girl by her shoulders and pulled her towards the door in the entryway. The little creature drew her head back and spat in my face. Mrs. Devois rushed to Mrs. Livingston’s side, fanning the distraught woman. I opened the front door and pushed the girl out into the rain.
“You shan’t return to bother Mrs. Livingston again. Run along now, you wicked thing!”
The girl turned. Lightning and thunder shattered the chorus of the pattering rain. The lightning illuminated the girl’s black eyes into the most hateful red. How my soul quaked at those eyes. I slammed the door and crossed myself at once. I returned to the dining room to find Mrs. Devois consoling your Mrs. Livingston. We put her to bed with a cross and a prayer, pleading the dear Lord to guard against the demons that haunt her sleep. Mrs. Devois and I extinguished each candle throughout the house, whispering in our hearts as the soft glow vanished between our fingertips.
Sleep seemed to dampen the previous night’s horrors, for in the morning, Mrs. Devois and I cheerfully set about making our Mrs. Livingston’s breakfast as pleasant as ever. A hot pot of tea and shortbread were served beside a poached egg. Mrs. Devois retrieved flowers for a centerpiece, placing the lovely little blues in a vase on the table. We waited patiently for our lady to emerge from her room.
We reheated the pot of tea twice while waiting. Mrs. Livingston didn’t enter the dining hall until nearly ten, her usual gaiety covered with wrinkles of exhaustion. Her normally kempt bun hung in disarray. The poor woman sat down in silence, sipping her tea without the usual deliberation accompanying her movements.
Finally, without turning her gaze from the vase said, “Those are lovely flowers, Mrs. Devois. They’re not the usual though. Pray, tell me what they’re called?”
Mrs. Livingston stopped the teacup inches from her lips.
“What… what did you say?”
Mrs. Livingston spat, “Where did you discover them? Where did they come from?”
“Why, they must have sprung up within the last few days, madam. They’re growing all over the grass in front of the house!”
Your wife’s face turned a ghastly white.
“I want them all out! Throw them all out!” Mrs. Livingston rose rigidly, throwing her napkin down onto her plate, leaving the shortbread untouched.
“Y-yes, madam. I didn’t mea-“
“Throw them all out!”
Mrs. Devois quickly whisked away the vase. I followed Mrs. Livingston to the front room, where she had yanked open the drapes. I caught her as she stumbled back, gasping. Forget-me-nots covered the entirety of the front lawn, the rolling fog making the lawn appear as a blue sea in the storm.
Mrs. Livingston rushed to the door, scraping the locks open, jutting herself out the door.
“Madam! You’ll catch cold!”
Your wife cast herself upon the blanketed lawn. I hadn’t ever witnessed such behavior in a human being before. It was as though a wild beast had taken possession of the woman. She crawled on all fours, ripping flowers out in clumps. Mrs. Devois rushed to calm her. She attempted to hold her arms down, trying to take the flowers from her clenched fists. Mrs. Livingston struggled violently, thrashing about in her arms. I came to the aid of Mrs. Devois, and we managed to drag her back into the house. However, your wife bit Mrs. Devois’ arm, drawing blood and leaving marks from her teeth. The blood trickled all over the Persian rug in the entryway and all the way up the stairs.
My dear sir, we had no choice. We barred her in her bedroom, locking her door and placing a steel rod against it. She pounded at the door, howling. Oh, forgive us this treatment, Mr. Livingston. We meant no harm. Mrs. Devois tended to her arm, wrapping a bandage around, bloodying the white linen.
“You don’t understand! You don’t understand!”
We heard these howls from the bedroom for the duration of our morning. Violent sobs followed for hours. Mrs. Devois watched by the door with a pained expression and weariness in her bones. She and I traded places beside the door, ensuring that your wife posed no harm to herself. Finally, a silence rang from the room, lasting for hours. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when we unlocked the door.
Mrs. Livingston was squatting next to her bed, cradling a white blanket in her arms like an infant. Her hair hung about her shoulders in disarray, torn from a bun. She whispered incoherently into the blanket. We with the door open, staring in disbelief. Your Mrs. Livingston has always been a woman of propriety, never letting those in her company see her as anything but distinguished. I had always thought her to be an upright woman before God. I had always believed her to be benevolent. I had never questioned her as “good”.
Dear God, Mr. Livingston, did you know? In all of my decades of service, I had never heard such a tale as the one your wife wove, evoking the fabrics of disdain and darkness. She saw myself and Mrs. Devois standing in the doorway. Her eyes would not have been out of place in a mortuary. If asked to swear on my Holy Bible that the woman was alive, I could not have brought myself to do so.
Mrs. Livingston’s lifted her face from the blanket. Her thin lips quivered. In her agonized state, she had bitten off the top layer of flesh. Blood dripped down her chin, staining the white blanket in her arms. Mrs. Devois clasped her hands over her mouth.
“Dear Lord in Heaven… Madam?”
“Tell them who I am.”
A warbling hiss rippled through the room. I threw my arms around Mrs. Devois shoulder’s, stumbling back.
“Who is there?” I shouted into the wooden panels of the ceiling.
“Tell them who I am.”
Mrs. Livingston bit down on a clenched fist, shaking her head violently.
A black mist began to fall from the ceiling, and a small figure shrouded in darkness rose beside the bed. It was the devilish girl; cloudy red eyes illuminated in the mist. Mrs. Devois screamed. The girl bent beside Mrs. Livingston’s ear, gripping her shoulder with white hands.
“Tell. Them. WHO I AM!”
Mrs. Livingston began to weep, slamming her palms against the wooden floor, thrusting aside the bloody white bundle.
“Then tell them what YOU are.”
“NO! It’s not possible!”
“BRING NOT YOUR TREACHERY UPON THIS WOMAN!” I leapt forward, only to be driven back by the little figure snarling at me like a cat.
“Please… ” Mrs. Livingston begged, “I am innocent!”
She turned her face to us, tears streaming down a withered face.
“Oh, how I thought that my nightmares might end. How I thought that one night might bring comfort…”
The girl dug her nails into Mrs. Livingston’s shoulder. Your wife cried out in anguish. Finally, between sobs, she told us the cause behind this unspeakable evil.
“I was young. I had no choice! I had no choice!”
The girl threw back her head and emitted a hideous roar.
“I gave you away to a couple walking alongside the road where I birthed you. You were born in a field of forget-me-nots on a rainy day. Their fragrance still stings my nose with the stench of a broken soul. I was betrothed to James Livingston. My engagement would have been broken if anyone had found me out. I had no choice! You don’t understand! My family had no money. I was the last hope for my parents. We would have rotted in debtor’s prison!”
Our mouths gaped open. Our lady had not seemed capable of bearing a child, let alone at a young age. Oh, sir. Did you know?
“I was not at fault! The father of your body pushed himself upon me one night. Morris Angler! I was walking home one night when he attacked me! I wanted nothing of it! Now, I am unable to bear children to my husband. These years since your birth have wrought only the greatest cruelty! Oh, spare me! Oh, God! Spare me, for I have been broken!”
She keeled onto the floor, sobbing. The girl extracted her hand from your wife’s shoulder. The smoldering seethe of hatred slowly dissipated from her face into a look of consideration.
Again, the hiss echoed in our ears.
“He is the cause of my death. That couple treated me like a sick dog. They abandoned me. They left me to beg and starve. MORRIS ANGLER!!”
She leaned forward over the quaking Mrs. Livingston.
“We shall have our revenge, Mother.”
The creature stepped back and vanished, leaving behind a mist of blood.
Silence drifted into the room as the last rays of the day bled through the window. Mrs. Devois and I cleaned and bandaged the wounds raked on your wife’s shoulder. The five gashes were deep and required stitching. Her lips will require months to recover. We called on Doctor Tarwell to come tend to her at once. We have spent our days attending to your wife and the house with trembling hands and hushed tones.
Mr. Livingston, Morris Angler lives but three miles from our estate. Word has reached me that he was found dead in his barn late last night. Authorities think that he was attacked by an animal. His face had been torn through. His nether regions had been severed as well. But we know what has befallen the late Morris Angler. Oh, sir. Pray that this evil reside in our town no longer. Return home to your wife, who is under the care of those whom love her. She is ill with guilt and grief. She has injuries that will require months of repair and tending. She has the wound of a lifetime which will require perhaps the remainder of her lifetime to heal from. Return home to us as quickly as you are able.
May God watch over you,
Credit: Marian Johnson
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