The Grey Girl

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Chapter 11: Untitled chapter

What an Oddity

Slowly thoughts began to creep back into Chloe’s mind. She became aware of the blackness surrounding her. The closeness of the space pressed in on her. It was then she realized she could feel it in her arms. She could feel it in her legs. Everything was back in its correct position. She felt complete but not whole. There was a pounding far, far above her. She pulled a hand to her chest. It was difficult, heavy, like moving through thick, muddy water. When her fingers brushed the wool of the jacket, the coarse material under her finger brought back something; she felt comfort. Her father had bought it for her. It was special, warm, and felt like home. It was his gift to keep her warm at college. She pulled her other arm in to her neck. Her fingers searched but could not find the fine, thin gold chain or the cross that was a gift from her mother. Chloe curled and uncurled her toes. It was odd. She could tell she was wearing only one shoe. Her movements felt like she was swimming underwater, but she could breathe. Then she thought for a moment, could she? She focused on her lungs, trying to tell if she could or did breathe. Her body gave no evidence of whether it needed oxygen or not.

Chloe became aware that the pounding had stopped at some point. Time didn’t seem to matter here. She didn’t know if it was day or night. As she existed in the darkness, she might have been there an hour or a day. She felt no weight. She was simply there, never hungry, never tired; nothing hurt. It was just dark and lonely. She tried to move and found she could. It was difficult but not impossible. If it feels like swimming then perhaps it is like swimming, Chloe thought for a moment. It was odd she wasn’t completely sure which way was up. Making the decision she began to swim. She never felt tired, but after not being able to tell how long it had been, she became discouraged.

Chloe began to lose faith. Anger flash into her mind as she felt she wasn’t getting any nearer her goal. Then depression would creep in, causing her to stop several times. She would exist for a while just being in the darkness. Then the panic would overtake her. She wanted to see; she wanted to be free. It had gone on too long. She was tired, not physically, just tired of the dark, tired of being alone. She was done with the dark; frustrated and defeated, she wanted to scream, to cry out. Not sure what would happen and not really caring, she remembered how it felt to fill her lungs, how to make the sound. She was about to scream when suddenly, Voices! She heard voices, low at first but increasing in volume. Chloe swam toward them. Clearer and clearer they became. She was catching bits of conversation.

“I was sent here to fix the problems,” a man’s voice explained. There was something in this voice that made her slow down. It was not the type of voice she would have been comfortable to be around. There was another voice now, a common rough type. This was the type she would always avoid. She knew it well from men who would come into her father’s shop. They would say things that made her uncomfortable, and the looks they would give her made her skin crawl. She felt whoever was on the receiving end of this line of questioning was not in a good position.

“Father left Richard everything of any worth” was the reply. This voice was more refined, but it held a tone of contempt Chloe recognized as Edgar’s voice. She froze in her advance. There was some indiscernible arguing, followed by a distant bang, then nothing. Silence followed for some time. Chloe did not move for a long period. Again time seemed to have no hold here, but Chloe tried to judge as best she could. Finally, she felt it safe to start moving again. When next she heard voices, they were very clear and not the same ones she had heard before.

“This addition was finished in 1933, creating the conservatory.” Another voice Chloe did not recognize, but she used it as a beacon to follow. She moved in the direction. It felt like forever; the frustration started to build again. Finally, she hit a barrier. It was something that resisted her movement. She could feel it. It was rough and solid. She had come so far, or she felt she had. Now she was stuck. Angry, Chloe pushed harder on the barrier.

“No, no, no!” she cried, small fists pounding at the blockade. Suddenly she felt it give way. She was free of the dark and the pressure. Her hands grasped at nothing then felt the hard concrete. She pulled her head free and then her body was out. She was standing in a room with a glass ceiling and walls. She was surrounded by various plants and several pieces of comfortable furniture. Other than a few stone busts that stared at her with sightless eyes, she was alone. Listening for the voices Chloe heard nothing. She raised her hands to her mouth to call out. It took just a moment to realize what she was seeing. When she understood it, she was screaming. Chloe could see through her hands. They were there; she could feel them, but they were transparent. She was staring at her hands, panic again in her brain. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, what she knew she was. Suddenly Chloe looked up at the sound of feet running toward her.

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