Maggie Peters's Journal
January 10, 2009
It has been a few days since I have been able to collect my wits. Writing this is like reliving it, but what must be done, must be done.
We were headed back toward the direction in which I had just come. I had little time to think of why Grayson had dismissed me to my room, what my friends would think, what he would tell them, and why I had not just gone to the parlor instead, for my room was just beyond where the dining room was. At the end of the hall there were three doors. The door to my right was open a crack, and I could make out a set of stairs twisting upward. I presumed it lead to the top of the tower. Renfield was working the keys in the door on the left. I glanced at the door straight ahead. I wondered whose room it was, and fervently hoped it was not Mr. Grayson's.
The sound of the click of the lock drew my attention back to Renfield. He pushed the creaking door open and held his arm out for me to enter. I did so cautiously. The room I stepped into was simpler than I had anticipated. It lacked the stateliness that the other rooms possessed. The walls were unpainted, done in the same wood as what was on the outside. The only furniture was a nightstand and a sizable canopy bed. Dusty red velvet curtains hung from the bed posts that matched the red velvet of the window seat. No rugs, no pictures, no books. All distractions had been removed.
The window was dazzling. Cut in the center of the wall, it was twice my arm span wide and reached to the top of the high, slanted ceiling. The image had been painted with exquisite attention to detail. Every hue of the rainbow was incorporated. Where the light from the lamps hit it, it shimmered resplendently. I could only imagine what it would look like with the sun pouring in from behind it.
The picture itself was a scene from a golden ballroom. The viewpoint was from above so that you were looking down on men and women dressed in smart suits and lovely gowns. They all stood in a large circle, holding light bulbs aloft, bright, white light emanating from them, the only light in the room. At the center of the circle a couple danced. Both faces were obscured by the woman's brown curls. The lady's dress was the most beautiful by far, and even though only her back was shown, she was undoubtedly the most attractive woman present. They might have been kissing, but I couldn't tell for certain. The way the man's arms were wrapped around her filled me with a yearning to be held. There was strength in his arms, but his hand rested on her back as though he was gently pushing her into him. I could have stared at them for an eternity, if not for the other part of the picture.
The most curious thing was that between the people with the light bulbs and the dancing couple lay a mound of corpses that had been twisted into the shape of a dragon. Blood pooled underneath the bodies, dripped from all over them, and had been smeared across them.
So much death and beauty. Never had I seen a more enthralling picture. Never had I been so in awe, nor do I think I will ever be so again. What was the story behind it? I turned to ask Renfield, but he was long gone, the door shut behind him. I did not get into bed that night. I fell asleep with my arms wrapped around my legs, my body turned to the side, my head resting upon my knees, every detail of the picture having been seared into my brain, so that even when I closed my eyes I dreamt of looking at it still.
When I awoke the next morning I barely even felt the stiffness and soreness of body. I had missed something, something important. I crept over to the picture and stood on the window seat. The dragon of corpses. You couldn't make out any of the dead men's faces, they were covered in blood, but there was one set of eyes. almost imperceptible, that stared out across the floor. I trailed my finger to follow his line of sight. That's when the woman caught my eye. Her hair was impossibly blonde, her dress a bright magenta. She held her bulb closer to her face. Her eyes were fixated across the floor as well.
Were both of the unusual people looking at the dancing couple? Or were they looking at each other? I couldn't tell.
Just then the door banged open.
"Bless!" I turned around, my finger still on the glass. Annie was dressed in a navy blue men's button down and khaki shorts, her hair pulled back into an expert messy bun. Her cheeks were rosy and her eyes bright with the look of one who is well rested. In her hands was a set of folded up clothes, which were presumably for me. "Maggie Peters, I thought you were a ghost of some crazy person! Look at you, still in your dress, your hair a bird's nest, looking wild. You're like Rochester's insane wife!"
"I'm nobody's wife, and I likely won't ever be," I snapped irritably. Annie frowned.
"Maggie, you know that's not true. You and Alton are all but engaged."
"But we're not engaged are we? Not officially. Alton won't ask me, because he doesn't have the courage too. What would give him the motive too anyway? He, along with everyone else, just assumes that we will eventually be married regardless, so it doesn't even matter." Annie looked away, biting her lip.
I sighed, took my finger away from the glass, and stepped down. "I'm sorry, Annie. I didn't mean to be terse. I didn't sleep very well last night."
The smile returned to Annie's face. "Oh, darling. Mr. Grayson told us you weren't feeling well last night. You're always grumpy after you've been sick. Let's get you cleaned up." Coming from anyone but Annie, that statement would have been absurdly condescending. However since it was Annie, the words were more soothing and maternal, like the cooing of a dove than the patronizing, false concern of a friend.
After I finished dressing, Annie set about trying to tame my frizzy waves.
"That's quite the picture," Annie remarked. For some reason she didn't seem to find it as fascinating as I did. "It's kind of wicked. The one in my room is so boring - just this great tree with birds and flower around it. Pretty, but this one is interesting. It's so romantic and dark."
I didn't want to share my strange feelings about the picture with Annie, so I stuck with a simple, "Mhm," for a response.
"Looks like we won't be going anywhere today." That's when I realized it was still raining. My throat tightened. "Mr. Grayson gave us leave to explore his library and told us at breakfast - yes, you slept through it - that Renfield would give us an informational tour of the house. He said he would rather do it himself, but it appears that he had some work to attend to."
"What sort of work?"
"He didn't say. Isn't he so mysterious! It's wonderful!" Annie giggled delightedly.
"Are these his clothes, Annie?" I asked pulling self consciously at the baggy shirt. Annie and I both had to roll up the sleeves.
"I guess so. I mean, it seems the only other person here is Renfield, and I hardly think he wears Armani casual."
"Alright," Annie had pulled my hair back into a bun like hers so that we were identically outfitted. "Let's go grab ourselves some more of that lemon cake, and then we can hopefully get this day going!"
We met Alton and Conner in the dining hall. Alton shuffled over to my side.
"Are you well?" he asked, concern etching lines in his face. Immediately I regretted my words earlier. Alton was a good natured soul, kind, simple, and undeserving of aspersion.
"Yes, of course."
"What were you ill of?"
"I-" I looked into Alton's eyes, uncertain if I was going to lie for a second time in my life. Why would I continue to lie for Grayson? Was I afraid of him? No. Maybe. Fortunately, I was spared the decision by the timely entrance of Renfield.
"If you ladies and gentlemen will follow me." Renfield abruptly began our tour of the Grayson home. We started outside on the porch, watching the sheets of rain come down, while the old man pointed out various spots on the grounds where certain individuals had been buried. Their graves were unmarked, for reasons unknown.
There was a girl who had died politely refusing any food or drink until her imaginary friend had first eaten. The imaginary friend had refused all sustenance and the girl had withered away. Another elderly lady had eaten a bee because it had told her to - it turned out that she was deathly allergic to bees. A young man had been trying his whole life to catch lightning. He was fascinated with all static electricity, and had terrorized the nurses by shocking them randomly in the halls. When he finally captured the embrace of the white light, his heart was stopped by it. There were other stories, more sinister and disconcerting than these three, that Renfield told us of.
When we returned inside, we started at the first floor. Most of the guest rooms had one or two windows like the one in mine, though none of them came close to the intrigue that mine exuded. They displayed rolling hillsides, lovely ladies, moons, and suns. We did not go up into either one of the towers. He showed us all of the sitting rooms and the kitchen too, all the while telling us stories of the patients. Some of the stories were melancholy. Others were filled with mystery. Others were too dark for my liking.
"Mr. Renfield?" I interrupted him at one point.
He cocked his eye brow up at me.
"Who owned this place originally?"
"The man who built it. A Texan by the name of Quincey Morris."
I nodded my head, careful to keep my face blasé. I could hear my heartbeat so loudly in my ears that I felt like the man in the Tell-Tale Heart. A quick glance at Annie, Conner, and Alton told me that the name meant nothing to them. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
Finally, I had evidence that something was amiss with Alexander Grayson. It was not all in my head. I was not being paranoid. Quincey Morris was the name of the Texan in Dracula. Renfield was lying. I didn't know what his motive was, but I intended to tell Alton as soon as I could get him alone. He would think of something to get us home.
We had come to my bedroom. Conner, Annie, and Alton entered.
"What a picture!" Conner exclaimed. He and Alton began discussing the bloody dragon mound of corpses. They talked about its gothic origins, and the oddity of the wireless lights in the setting. They debated what time period it was supposed to represent, and when it could have been painted. Whether or not it was perhaps done in the likeness of a similar, older image. Annie stared at the picture with wide, unseeing eyes, and interjected lazy comment hear and there. I said nothing. I hated hearing them analyze this art like it were a museum piece.
"Death to the Dragon." We all three spun on our heels. Renfield had disappeared. In his place stood Mr. Grayson. He inclined his chin up at the picture. "That's it's name."
"It's a peculiar work, don't you think Grayson?" Conner asked.
Mr. Grayson nodded. "Of all the images in this house, this is the one I hate the most. There are so many layers, so much to unravel - the love, the loss, the potential. Every time that I look at it I see something different. I feel something different."
"I know what you mean," I said without even having meant to say so.
Mr. Grayson's cold blue eyes locked onto mine. "I believe you do."
"I would think that would be cause to like the picture," Annie pointed out.
Mr. Grayson shook his head, his gaze straying to the glasswork. "I am a man of certainty. This image reminds me of all the things I have lost control over in my life. Of all the battles I failed to win." A shadow passed over Mr. Grayson's features.
None of us could think of a response to that.
"Well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" Annie grinned. "I think Conner and I will go check out the library next, before dinner." She grabbed an unsuspecting Conner's hand and yanked him down the hallway.
Mr. Grayson, Alton, and I were left standing in my room.
Alton cleared his throat. "I think I'll join them," he said to me. "Would you come with me?" This was my chance to talk to Alton in private about Renfield lying about the house. But I didn't want to talk to Alton. I wanted to rest. I wanted to puzzle out the Death to the Dragon in peace. To stare at the beautiful way the light made the glass shimmer. To be lost amidst my reverie.
"Actually, I'm still feeling a little under the weather. All this walking about has really tired me. Would you care very much if I lay down for awhile?"
"By all means," he said, though his disapproval was apparent. He acknowledged Mr. Grayson with a curt nod on his way out. He cast me a concerned glance over his shoulder.
"Still feeling ill?" Mr. Grayson asked with apparent amusement.
I shot him a narrow-eyed glare. "What concern is it of yours what I do or do not tell my friends?"
Mr. Grayson shrugged. "You're a terrible liar."
"It's not an art that I have perfected, nor do I particularly desire to do so."
"Right, well, when I want to consult the authority on the utility of immoral action I will read 'A Modest Proposal'." Jaw clenched, I smirked at him. "In truth Mr. Grayson, I was wondering what you could tell me about the late Mr. Quincey Morris? The Texan?"
Much to my chagrin, he smiled broadly. He let out a low throaty chuckle. "Good! I had Renfield put that bit in there for you, to see if you were paying attention. I'm glad you're keeping up."
I flushed and turned away from him. I despised being toyed with. I made myself stare intently at the picture, foolishly hoping that he would go away upon seeing that I was done with the conversation.
After a moment of silence, he spoke again. He was at my side, our arms touching.
"If you could pick any one word to describe it, which would you choose?"
"Cataclysmic." My answer was delayed only by a moment's hesitation, and was delivered with absolute confidence.
He seemed to be processing this when I asked him, "And you?"
Then I was able to discern that this picture meant more than obscure failures to Mr. Grayson. It brought to mind a specific failure.
Mr. Grayson was at the door by the time I had turned to face him.
He paused, his hand still on the doorknob. "Yes, Miss Peters?"
"You will tell me the story one day." When I said it, it felt more like a premonition than a demand.
His head twisted back, his eyes wide with - something. Shock? Anger? Admiration? I couldn't tell.
Without another word, he closed the door and left me standing alone in my room, wondering what had just transpired.
Alright, so I'm going to need some feedback if you want me to continue on with this. I'm sad that the show was canceled, but I'm hopeful that I can bring myself and you all some closure through some later chapters with Grayson's looking back on what happened in London during and beyond the show. If you could see some of the story from the point of view of any of one Miss Peters's friends, whose would it be? I'm considering doing an excerpt from one of their perspectives, but I need to know which one you think would be the most interesting. Also, as you can probably tell, I'm in need of a beta. If you or someone you know might be interested, please pm and let me know!