Cover

PROLOGUE:

These are the true accounts of the strange happenings surrounding Mr. Ernest Wilkins.

This record is in part penned by his own hand, with the completion of this tragic saga marked by dictation to those who were there, and that held him in high esteem.

Their place in fact assured as these occurrences unraveled themselves in my presence and as such I will stand as witness to this truth.

I release this last work of my former employer, and friend, into the loving care of you - His most loyal public.

It is my sincere hope that this final story will inspire you all to seek out those who love you, and not give in to your demons - However real they become. 

 

Hamish.

.

 

PART ONE: ENRICHING LIVES.

The process for the start of any story left in my care was that of setting the description of my main character. For this upcoming work, of which I had been paid quite handsomely in advance by my publisher, I had decided to stray a little from my standard building of said lead role. I had always adopted a tried and trusted method in casting my leading ladies, a method that had become popular amongst my most dedicated of readers. This time my heroine would take the shape of a much younger woman, someone within the range of eighteen to twenty, and as any avid readers of my previous novels will tell you, my ladies tend to be a little older and more, let us say ‘world wise’.

 

My name is Ernest Wilkins.

You may be one of those people that have, over the years, done me the honor of reading some of my works, and for that I thank you. As many of you are aware, having read the biography that has adorned the dust jackets of my twelve novels to date, I do all my work in the small gazebo at the end of my garden, for it is here that I can get a clear view of the open fields that surround my property. This majestic scene of Gods finest creation helps inspire me with some of my own, and if the sales of my work can be held as evidence, this is proving to be quite beneficial – Indeed, most profitable too.

 

When my muse has visited me, on such occasions where I feel blessed that she has shown me so much attention, I make my way with all haste to my own personal sanctuary in which to transfer what is in my mind onto fresh and virginal paper.

Once I have written a quick précis of what the story will be about, I then set to the task of building the lady that will hopefully win your hearts. This involves a description of said lady and is written on varying scraps of paper that are then pinned to the walls. This, along with other key plotlines, helps me with the continuity of my tale so that I do not stray too far from my original idea.

The subject of this story, for she is the very reason that I find myself exploring the strange happenings during the construction of this latest venture, was given the name of Lady Estelle Douglas, a woman of title and breeding.

She would have just celebrated her eighteenth birthday as my new novel began, and she would be described as tall and willowy in stature. Her thin frame would hold no immediate evidence to her gender and had it not have been for her obvious feminine features, and her long blonde hair, you could be forgiven for looking on her as a boy.

Now, I am no artist, but I can scribble a serviceable rendition as to what my main characters should look like, and such was the case with Estelle. This amateur attempt at art was always placed next to the description of said ladies to allow me to get to know them better and to build on their personality as I advanced through the story.

 

Estelle would be a constant worry to her mother but was to be considered by her father a jewel in a sea of women of equal breeding and title, and being that she was his only child; this would be deemed as quite normal and acceptable. The concern from her mother centred on the fact that she was quite a plain girl with no apparent physical attributes that would attract a man of suitable nobility, and this had not been a problem until now – for as my story unfolded, Estelle would show signs that her interests in such musings strayed towards the feminine. This was a controversial subject to write about, for not only was it illegal for the acting out of such fancies, it was also considered a sin in the eyes of the church and therefore reviled in societies eyes. This would be either be a great work of fiction, that would elevate me into the realms of such authors as the great Wells himself, or end my career with nothing to show but scandal, disgrace and eventual anonymity – Maybe in the years to follow, a date with a pauper's grave.

 

As I drew my first chapter to an end I reviewed my work with satisfaction, but also with a small sense that something was missing. It was not the subject matter that was causing me any concern, for I consider myself a gentleman of liberal thinking.

My true belief is that anyone with an appetite that strays from the normal is entitled to live their lives as they see fit, for it is nobody’s business what happens behind closed doors – If it hurts no one.

This novel was for them, and it was my dearest hope that they would show bravery in buying it as much as I had taken the risk in writing it.

   But sometime later, as I sat in my favorite armchair enjoying the open log fire that was the centerpiece of the main drawing room, I began to wonder if I was guilty of something less than a courageous act. For the most I could hope to lose from this risqué subject was my reputation and my wealth. My readers, on buying such a book would run the risk of exposing themselves as one of society’s perversions, and cruelly treated as such.

  I had heard stories of clubs – Gatherings of these forbidden people, raided and smashed with the patrons of such establishments arrested. Shamed by having their names printed in the papers, ruined so deeply that many of them were driven to taking their lives, rather than bringing that same shame to their families.

  It was my true belief that this modern society was nothing of the sort, and freedom of expression was mere fancy, an idea with no more substance than that of smoke on the wind.

 

  So deep in this dilemma had I become that it was two in the morning before my batman, Hamish, wrestled me back to reality by the gentle clearing of his throat.

  “Do you require anything else tonight sir?” he asked.

I looked at the clock on the mantle and closed my eyes against my inconsiderate neglect as to the needs of my staff.

  “No Hamish that will be all. Please convey my sincerest apologies to those who have waited up for me, and to your good lady wife for any upset caused by your absence tonight”

Hamish smiled.

  “May I speak freely sir?”

  “Of course, old friend – What is it?”

He walked to the small glass-topped table that held the whiskey decanter, and the set of six crystal glasses, five of which always remained unused. He poured a large measure and brought it over to me.

  “You have given all of us a safe and happy home for many a year now, and I feel that I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that any inconvenience you may, or may not cause will never be met by anything other than love and respect. You have no need to apologize”.

I took the drink and nodded silently to him in thanks.

  “I will send the maids to their bed, and I will see you in the morning sir”

And with that, he left the room as silently as he had entered. Only the soft clicking of the main door as it closed drew any attention to the fact that he had left the building.

 

  As the hours rolled around to four, they found me pacing the empty rooms of my home, still in ponderous concern as to what consequences my actions would cause. I took myself out into the garden and eventually to the small gazebo. In the moonlight, it shone like the magical paradise that I supposed it to be, and sparkled as the stars with the first of the early morning dew. I entered and sat myself down in the large, overstuffed leather chair that dominated the corner of the room. The typewriter was as I had left it, with a fresh piece of paper ready to carry my thoughts and musings to those who would enjoy such ramblings. It still fascinates me now that so many people flocked to read what I considered to be nothing but childish rantings, but as my mother used to say ‘There’s nowt as queer as folk’.

I smiled to myself as I could almost hear her voice in the darkness.

  “Stay true to yourself Ernie, and you can’t go wrong”.

I opened the desk drawer and removed some matches to light the small paraffin lamp that I used during the winter nights. Such times when my muse would not rest as the sun seemed to want, I would type until blisters would start to form on the tips of my fingers – Never stopping until the story had left my mind and solidified itself in print.

 

The soft amber glow of the lantern cast unfamiliar shadows around my secluded paradise, and I began to wonder if such other things would happen in my absence, for so much imagination had been exhaled into this world from this very room, that it seemed incredulous to me that it would not remain present after my absence.

I shook my head against such childish notions.

  “No wonder you make such a good living,” I said to myself, “Your imagination sometimes lends concern for your sanity”.

I stood to stretch the fatigue from a body that had started to rebel against my lack of sleep.

  “Tomorrow is another day – Time for bed old man”.

And with that I extinguished the light from the lantern and went to leave, stopping only when something caught my eye. At first, I was unsure of what I had seen. Something was different from when I had left earlier on that previous evening, something important. It screamed at me and yet hid in plain sight as if afraid to draw unnecessary attention to itself.

I stood for a full ten minutes, trying to see what had called to me, but with the fatigue growing in my limbs, the only thing I could only hear calling above this distortion to my paradisiacal cocoon, was my bed, and so this particular mystery went unsolved for now.

I shut the door and made my way back into the warmth of my home.

 

There was little possibility that I would be able to function normally after such a late night, and so I left instruction for Hamish to inform the staff that they could take the morning off, himself included. Having left the note on the hallway table, I made my way wearily up the stairs, stopping only when something clicked into place.

I turned slowly at first, still trying to piece together the fractured picture that had been bothering me, and then with explosive energy, the like of which I had not displayed since my time during the campaigns, I half ran, half fell down the stairs. The dew had started to turn to a light frost with the early turning of autumn into winter, and crunched with every hurried footfall as I entered my garden once more, the darkness of which followed me as I pushed my way back into my small corner of the world once more. On re-igniting the lamp, I took it to the far wall and to the description of Estelle, and as I read a cold feeling ran down my spine which turned rapidly into anger at the obvious tampering of my notes, for where once was the description of a plain, unshapely girl - blonde haired and blue eyed, now had her with red curly hair and green eyes. Her body shape had been re-written as comely and buxom, with a picture to match such musings, placed, as it had been where mine was once pinned.

My initial response to this hijacking of my work was to wake the entire household immediately and have them assemble in the hallway as I bellowed my disappointment at what could only be described as wanton vandalism. On closer inspection, however, I noticed that these corrections to my original description of Estelle appeared to be in my own handwriting, and the picture was either a fantastic facsimile of my amateur scribbling or the original article.

Had I been so fatigued of late that I had been thinking one thing, whilst writing another?

This could quite possibly have been the case.

 

*****

 

I woke to the sounds of wooden wheels on cobblestone as the first of the early morning market traders made their way back home, having passed by my window previously that day without any hope of drawing me from my slumber.

I peeled the bedclothes back and stretched the last of my dreams from this tired old body and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. I sat for a while and mused over my nocturnal findings, pondering whether to adjust my story to fit the image of the girl, or to continue with my original idea. If I were to change my heroines’ appearance, would I then change her penchant for ‘Tipping the Velvet’ so to speak?

I dismissed these thoughts in favour of breakfast, so on wrapping my rope tightly around myself, I made my way downstairs and to the intoxicating smell of Mrs. Dewhurst’ fried bacon.

 

It had gone well past midday when I found myself back in front of my typewriter with the view of the Dales stretching out in front of me; it was a familiar and comfortable position and one that I cherished dearly. I had opened both double doors, for such was the warmth of the day, it seemed a pity to waste such an opportunity, plus it gave the light blossom scented breeze a chance to rid my office of its stale smell of cigar smoke and varying other suspicious odors.

I sighed against the feeling of bliss this small piece of paradise gave me, and with my muse snapping at my heels I set to the task of continuing Estelle’s story.

 

In her attempt to hide her feelings towards Natasha, another character of which I will not go into too much detail save I give away plot lines that would tarnish your enjoyment of the finished story, Estelle had adopted to take on the role of stable boy so as to be close to the object of her desire, her physical attributes playing a key role in this disguise – or had it been so had I not discovered, after completing the second chapter, that the first part of the story wavered dramatically from the original.

Estelle was now indeed a redhead, and a woman whose age was given to be in her mid to late twenties with a figure that could not be mistaken to be anything other than female. Even more alarming was the fact that she had now taken on the role of some sort of Romany gypsy girl, which was a far cry from the upper-class debutante that I had originally created.

 

When I was younger I remember being told of my Grandmother who had suffered from some sort of madness. The condition robbed her of her past, and the people in it. Places and names eluded her, and as the fever gripped her she became more and more confused and frightened. Eventually, her ability to remember how to do such basic things like swallow robbed her of her life. I sat back in my chair and wondered if I was succumbing to this same demon, for it seemed that the images and words in my mind were being lost on their way to the page.

I took both parts of my mismatched story and made my way back to the main house and called for Hamish in order that he help solve such a worrying mystery. From my days in the service of her majesty, Hamish has been my constant companion in a world full of chaos and fear. Through battles with such savages that would turn a man's hair white with the ferocity of their attacks, Hamish has been by my side. His social standing dictated that we would not be seen in public as friends, but friends we were. After my return to civilization, I called for him to join me and used my good fortune to ensure that he would spend his life in comfort and security. He continued to maintain his position of batman to satisfy the social dictations that would separate us, acted out by a mere accident of birth – The ridiculous rules that surround and bind this preposterous class system.

 

Seated opposite me, in the armchair that formed part of a twin set, Hamish read both parts of my story.

  “Are these two different telling’s sir?” he asked.

  “Not originally” I replied. “It seems that I have written two separate tales with only one in mind.

Hamish turned his attention back to my incomplete manuscript.

  “Are either of these two ladies based in actuality?” came his next question.

  “None that I am aware of. Why do you ask?”

Hamish stood and handed the papers back to me.

  “For as long as I have known you sir, you have never seen it necessary to take a wife”.

I stood, and on placing the two conflicting chapters on the small table next to my chair, I went to the drinks trolley and poured two glasses of whiskey.

  “Your point old friend?” I said as I handed him a drink. This was an uncommon practice and had it not been for my previous insistence that he be treated as an equal in these times of discussion, he would have recoiled at such a blasphemy of social etiquette.

  “It may be that you yearn for the company of a lady,” he said as he took the glass from me. “Thank you, sir,” he added.

  “Would I not know of such yearnings?” I smiled. This idea that I craved female company was a fancy, a notion that was dismissed years ago by the very reason that I was sent home from the battlefields of Africa. My ability to provide certain duties that would cement the vows of a marriage had been fates cruel joke. For as it was nothing less than gracious form from one of the almighty’s angels that prevented the sniper's bullet from snatching my existence from this mortal coil, it did come with a price.

It was decreed by that same celestial being that, although I would redeem my right to live as a man, I would not be able to function wholly as one. And this was of no matter to me for the daily consumption of certain prescribed drugs suppressed any urges that would drive a sane man to an early grave.

  “Indeed, you would sir” came Hamish’ reply as he sat back down. “But the longing for a companion would inevitably outweigh any needs of the flesh, and although you think of yourself as half a man, I am here to tell you, sir, that you are considered by all that know you as more man than most”.

I looked at my old friend with the love I held for him in my heart, for although we separated by social standing, he was truly my brother.

  “Do you think I crave for someone that fits this lady’s description?” I asked.

  “I think you are lonely my old friend” he replied. and with that, he drained his drink and stood once more. “Something to think on perhaps?” he said.

  “Maybe so” came my reply.

Hamish dismissed himself in order to carry out his daily duties as head of the household staff, and I returned to my sanctuary at the bottom of the garden to start the next chapter.

 

As I sat down opposite my typewriter I noticed that in my haste to seek Hamish out for his opinion of my own suspicion of impending madness, I had not replaced the last thing I had written with a fresh piece of blank paper. On removing it, however, and reading, so as to remind me as to where the story was progressing to, I saw that it was nothing to do with the original plot. In fact, it was not even a story. For the text that adorned this previously placed fresh piece of foolscap took the form of a letter.

It read:

 

 ‘My dearest Ernest,

From this world within your imagination, I have written to you in the hope that you will hear these words and not dismiss them as the imaginations of premature madness.’

 

My hands shook as I read the words, for I had clearly lost my way so much that I had now taken on the role of Estelle in some form of schizophrenic symbiosis. Had my loneliness, something that I had imagined had not existed, manifested itself into some delusion born of madness? I read on.

 

  ‘From afar I have loved you, and in the many adventures that you and I have enjoyed over the years, I have grown to see you as my soul mate, and it is because of

Imprint

Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG

Text: Iain Cambridge
Images: Jean Hutter and Jessica at faestock.deviantart.com
Editing: Iain Cambridge / Will Neill / Tom Shutt
Publication Date: 04-16-2017
ISBN: 978-3-7438-0801-0

All Rights Reserved

Dedication:
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is purely coincidental or used fictitiously. The author has taken great liberties with locales including the creation of fictional towns, times and events. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited. Do not upload or distribute anywhere. This eBook is for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be resold or given away to others. If you would like to share this book with others please either purchase it for them or contact the author directly. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

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