SS novice field agent
Posted - 03/13/2009 : 06:03:42
| The Sedgewick Table
My eyes were pulled into the dark cherry wood table that we sat around, heavily polished, reflecting the flickering light of the eight candles that burned inches above the surface. I lifted my eyes and surveyed the cast of characters that encircled the large table. I looked back to the dark cherry wood, as it held my interest more so than the people. The table mirrored everything about this family, that it once was alive, and now lifeless and dead. I need not look from the surface to see these people, as their images danced back and forth, mixed with the fire of the candles, and when they spoke, it was as if others were speaking, as no sound emanated from the table top, although I swear I saw their mouths moving, even though the two dimensional faces remained silent.
I looked up again, and stared at the people seated around the family table, in the family dining room. Family…a funny word…at least here. Its meaning had been magnified by better groupings of relatives, accepted by average, and in this case the word had been humiliated by being attached to this group. Most were now long since dead, but some still survived, and they found themselves seated together tonight, a stormy night, with strangers and employees intermingling with Sedgewick blood.
I must begin with our visitor. An impressive looking young man, strong and firm. Youthful. Full of life. Probably more talkative than he showed tonight, but this house had a way of changing people, never for the better. I noticed that he watched everybody, not overtly, but in a subtle and questioning way. He also showed great concern for the young lady, Lavinia. Would he be able to walk away tomorrow, knowing how evil this place is, and knowing that poor Lavinia would be forced to remain here? The old man had made a scene earlier by grabbing his arm, as if he could hope to enlighten this young creature with anything. And now the old man sat, lifeless, a perfect counter to the young man sitting opposite to him at the table.
Whatever sort of a life the old man had lived, he was a mere shadow of a living creature now. Life had been drained from him as the relentless movement of time passed, and he now sat, powerless. Lavinia doted on her grandfather as much as the family doctor domineered him, and those sad, hopeless and helpless eyes looked at all, never betraying what thoughts, if any, rested inside. Some people had acquired the disturbing habit of speaking of the old man, in his presence, as if he were quietly secluded in his room. The young man, a Mr. James West, did not display these traits, and that made him stand out from most.
West showed a great deal of interest in the comings and goings of the family housekeeper, never taking his eyes off of her whenever she stealthily appeared, and just as quickly faded into the darkness of the perimeters of the large room. She had dark eyes, and never showed any facial expression that would reveal the thoughts she possessed. West appeared to fear her in some way, and I wondered if they had previously exchanged words, before West had come downstairs for dinner. She looked at West and I could feel the tension, as poor Lavinia trembled as she sensed the disturbing feelings that encompassed this gathering of people. I looked around at all, and just like that the housekeeper was gone.
The most talkative of the individuals was the family doctor: pompous, self-absorbed, arrogant, conceited, feigning concern for the Sedgewick family, but not demonstrating any. An easy man to dislike, he had been put in a position of power years ago, and now manipulated and controlled the family, as the role of employer/employee had been reversed. He was the boss. What he said mattered. Lavinia trembled when he spoke, and West was bothered by the flippant way he treated her. West had observed that the housekeeper had also displayed distaste for the doctor, and that she protected her employer as best she could.
The storm continued, and lightning and thunder joined the relentless downpour of rain upon the windows of the large house. The temperature was cold, although it was summer. The house seemed to have a life of its own, although a perverted life, and darkness pervaded the rooms and the halls. Gaslights hanging upon the walls burned meekly, vainly dividing the dark from the dark, and people appeared and disappeared as they walked to and fro, silently moving about the morgue like dwelling.
And poor Lavinia, what of her? She was beautiful, but fear overshadowed her physical appearance. The possibility of unexpected comments caused her to nervously watch the participants in this theatre of the macabre, always afraid that her young, heroic visitor would think less of her based on some words spoken by one of the actors in this scene. She looked so lovely, until one watched her closely, and then the frailty of confidence she possessed caused one not to become more attracted to her, but to pity her. She was a victim, drowning in the middle of the ocean at night, all alone, gasping for her last breath, and West saw himself as someone who could reach out a hand and try to pull her to safety. But she had to grab hold of his hand when he reached for her, and that he could not control.
The housekeeper appeared, silently entering from an unexpected angle, from the darkness to the dim lights of the table, and I noticed that West had not been aware of her presence until she glided gently past him. I noticed that his face tightened, and his eyes followed her and she just as quickly was gone. The doctor smiled as he also noticed the disturbance this caused the visitor, and decided that this showed a weakness of this young man, and perhaps he could exploit that in some future encounter with him. Lavinia nervously begged all to only speak of nice things, but her wishes were either not heard or not obeyed, as the doctor launched into a diatribe of Sedgewick family history that left Lavinia with her beautiful face and hands shaking, trembling as she shook her head ‘no’ while the doctor continued. She accepted that she was powerless to stop him, and listened in defeat. West also listened, but his eyes tried to comfort Lavinia, if only she would look his way. He could only save her if she reached her hand to his. More ramblings from the doctor, vicious, perverse, uncalled for, all wickedly about the Sedgewick family curse, and how Lavinia and her grandfather must carry the weight of all that had been done by their ancestors. Lavinia’s agitation grew as she saw her grandfather’s restlessness grow, as he also heard the spoken words of the doctor, and he fought back the only way he knew how. His awkward movements were noticed by the speaker, who simply shouted down the old man, as West tensed and began to stand, until Lavinia begged him not to interfere. Her eyes pleaded more than her voice or touch, and he did acquiesce as he felt her gentle touch upon his hand. His eyes met hers and he saw more fear than he had ever seen in any other woman’s eyes before. He remained seated, and the doctor mockingly continued his walk through Sedgewick history, careful to step on all the delicate flowers that valiantly tried to hide the ugliness hidden within the house. The doctor relished in destroying the fragile, beautiful accents that surrounded the Sedgewick house, leaving only death and despair under his verbal walk through the garden. And this is how it had to be, as nothing pretty or lovely or lasting or full of life was permitted to survive sharing the same surroundings as the Sedgewick family did. The doctor smiled as he saw all, even the young visitor, held in check by his words.
I looked deeper into the dead table, trying to imagine the wonderful cherry trees that gave their life so they could be condemned to a lasting death inside the grave that was the Sedgewick house. Everything here was dead, even the people. Sure, they moved about, but in a condemned way, as a man walks to the gallows, slow and steady, but with no life to their step. And the lighting…similar to a graveyard at dusk, with winds and rain and mist and fog and sounds of death surrounding those who had found their final resting places, peaceful or not.
I raised my eyes from the dark wood again, and one more time looked upon those who found themselves trapped inside this dead house, by this lifeless table. The visitor, still defiant, but steadily cautious of us all. The mad doctor, continually rambling on and on and on, playing his part to a captive audience forced to listen and watch. Poor Lavinia, trembling as a fallen leaf upon the ground, begging all to only speak of good things, but succumbing to the fact that she held no power over them to do so, as she watched her family dragged through the dirt and mud. The housekeeper, clandestinely appearing and disappearing, ever watchful and protective of her employer, who she had worshipped since she was born. And the old man, a mere shell of himself, pummeled incessantly by his evil doctor.
Now I too also sat at the table, quietly observing all of these people who all sat at this table of death, inside this house that removed all signs of life from any who remained for any appreciable length of time. I looked down again toward the table, and saw an old hand, shaking and withered with the passing of time. My hand. I saw everyone, even the old man, although I possessed his hand, and eyes, and broken body. As a young man, younger than Lavinia, I wondered how I had become trapped in this ancient body? She is my older sister, so I know I must be dreaming. But why can’t I wake up? Tears slowly streamed down my eye. How old and helpless I have become. When will I wake from this horrible dream? When?