Pure catastrophic devastation had wrenched two innocent children from the warmth of their family’s sanctuary only two weeks prior to their arrival at their uncle’s large estate. The event forced upon these poor children was horrific. They were fortunate enough on that cold winter night to be far away from home on a visit with their grandmother. Their parents were enjoying an evening by the fire when an intruder disrupted their sanctuary. When the children returned home with their grandmother, they found the house left in shambles, and many precious items stolen. Fear and confusion gripped their pounding hearts. Weakly they called their parent’s names. Entering the living room, the children received the deepest wound the intruder could inflict despite his absence from the household. The damage carved into the children’s souls was ever more cruel than the torture the intruder administered on the children’s parents, who, covered in blood and shredded from head to toe, lay prostrated before a burnt out fire and at the feet of their hysterical children, as they gripped their grandmother with frightened hands and wailing cries. At that moment their grandmother’s heart broke. She collapsed and her life faded away, another innocent victim of the intruder’s phantom knife. A worried neighbor, who had heard suspicious sounds, found the children.
Two weeks after their parent’s murder the children were on their way to their Uncle’s house. Their uncle was a recluse, who lived in a large mansion. A dangerous combination, which resulted in a troubled man, who in truth had a warm heart, but appeared to be cold. He lived in mystery, he left the town alone, and the town let him be. He was unlike the children’s mother in every way. She smiled upon the world; embraced life, whether it brought good or bad; and she reach out to help all she could. Nevertheless, he would warm up when he was in the company of her children, and although he never had children of his own he always knew how to interact with his sister’s children.
“Uncle Alexis,” the oldest child announced somberly.
Alexis smiled sadly, “Caden, Rose . . . welcome home.” Alexis nodded at the children’s escort and stepped from the doorway to allow the children to enter.
Rose, the eldest of the two, entered first. She was very much like her mother. Now fifteen, her body was beginning to show signs of maturity. She had an angelic figure, her hair was a golden blond waterfall, and her skin a healthy pink. Only her pale green eyes were not a reflection of her mother, who had silky blue pearls. She wore a dark blue dress, which flowed down her body like rain. Rose had a loving heart, with strength to withstand the acrid assault of reality, but at the moment she was struggling to keep her composure under the wreckage of her life. Her stubbornness held the pieces together with a tight grip, aided by her unusual innocence. It was not the innocence of ignorance, for despite being young she was very aware of the world around her and always discovering more. She possessed the innocence of purity, incorruptible by even the vilest of creatures.
Caden followed Rose into the house. He was younger by one year and was very close to Rose. Caden, in appearance, looked very much like his father. He had dark brown hair, cut short and neatly combed. He was slightly pale, but not sickly. He had dark brown eyes, which seemed to be full of shadows. Caden would clearly grow to be a robust man, with a sweet smile. He wore black silky pants with black shoes, and a white long sleeved collared shirt. Caden’s personality, however, was like neither of his parents, which used to baffle Caden’s father. Alexis understood where Caden’s personality came from, both of them played the same cynical tune of aching torment. This worried Alexis because he knew the dangers of maturing with such a dark view of the world.
Alexis was a tall and lean man, whose chiseled features attracted many looks, but dark demeanor frightened everyone away. His hair was long and black, like midnight winds. His eyes were a golden brown. Alexis rarely expressed his emotions, giving the appearance of a frozen husk with burning frosty eyes, which his nephew Caden wore as well. But in the presence of his niece and nephew he would always manage a small warm smile. Alexis wore an attire of mostly black, a coat, pants, and shoes. Under his coat he wore a long sleeved white collared shirt.
Alexis was ten years younger than his sister. To his parents he was a pleasant surprise, but he was a difficult child since birth. He futilely refused his inevitable entrance into the world from his mother’s womb. As a baby he expressed many antisocial tendencies. As a young child he was an extreme introvert, fearing and hating the vicious world around him. Time would have melted away some of his hostile rejections of the world, if not for several catastrophes, which shackled him to his internal hell.
When he was fifteen he suffered from a horrible disease, which left scars on his face as a reminder of the immense suffering he underwent for over a month. The right side of his face had swollen and became covered with small pustules. He sores burned with an unrelenting bite. Though the scars have mostly faded, he can see them clearly when he looks in the mirror, and this disgusts him. At the age of seventeen his father died while celebrating Alexis’ birthday. A year later his mother, who had always been susceptible to depression, killed herself. Alexis’ sister, Rose and Caden’s mother, Lilly, seemed to deal with the trauma better than Alexis. Lilly was twenty-eight at the time and had Rose and Caden by then, and she had her husband, who was her childhood sweet heart since she was thirteen. With the death of their parents, Alexis went to live with his sister and her husband. Over time he matured and found his own love, however, she would be taken from him too. At the age of twenty-four, Alexis’s fiancé died outside his mansion when she was hit by a carriage. That was a year before his sister’s children arrived at his door. With the loss of his sister and her husband, and the emotional turmoil the children were experiencing, Alexis struggled to keep his composure.
“Your rooms are upstairs, I’ll show you the way,” Alexis spoke to the children. Alexis picked up two of the children’s cases and carried them at his sides. His muscles strained from the weight, but he mad no sign of effort. A butler came by to pick up the rest. Alexis led the children up dark wooden stairs and past gloomy long halls. Setting the cases down, Alexis opened a door. “Rose this is your room, which cases are yours?”
“Those two Uncle.” The butler walked into the room and set down the luggage. Rose walked into the room. She managed a smile despite her somber mood. “Its beautiful Uncle.”
Alexis smiled and nodded in response. “Caden, your room is this way.” They walked a few doors down. Alexis opened the door and then set the cases in the room. Caden walked in. He was silent, dark rings encircled his eyes. He stared at nothing in particular, perhaps the floor, or the wall. His face was emotionless, a masked lie, a painful fable. “Caden,” Alexis kneeled so that he was face level with the boy. “Caden, it’ll be supper soon. I’ll have the cook make your favorite. Tomorrow we’ll go for a walk, you’ll get to see the town,” Alexis forced himself to smile. “Caden?” The boy just looked blankly into Alexis’ eyes.
Alexis bit his lip and thought to himself, “Don’t do this Caden, you’ll end up like me.”
Alexis stood and walked out into the hallway. He called out to both children, “Super will be made soon, until then settle in. Tomorrow we’ll have a walk around the town. It’s best you learn the layout.”
“The town is beautiful, Uncle, I’ve only seen it when passing through, I’d love to walk through it,” Rose replied sweetly.
“Yes well, if anyone needs me I’ll be in my study until supper. I have much to do in light of your arrival. My study is just at the end of this hall.”
“All right Uncle,” said Rose.
Alexis vanished around the corner, leaving the children to themselves. Alexis closed the door to his room behind him. He stood a moment with his head against the cold dark brown wood. He turned, his face disturbingly stoic, and walked toward a desk. Books stashed in shelves surrounded the room. Candles lit the room with a flickering gloom. He took a quill pen and began copying from an open book on his desk. He remained emotionless for a moment, but then, like a tidal wave, the agony slammed into him. He bit his lip and struggled to control his emotions. His face contorted and tears streamed down his face. He brought his hands up to his face and sobbed silently into his palms. The tears fell from his hands onto the papers, smeared by the turmoil of his life. Rose stood outside the study, staring in through a slightly ajar door. She wanted to comfort him, but was afraid to approach. Closing the door, Rose left her uncle to the toils of his own brooding.
Violent, rapid movement stirred through the room. The window was closed, no wind had caused the sudden upheaval. The shadows were dancing, reaching. Alexis, hands over his contorted face, saw nothing. Hostilely the shadows stretched across the room for Alexis. In a tall window, completely covered with swirls of frost, a strange shadow fluttered. It was, perhaps, the shadow of a tall ancient tree outside, a result of the umbrage of branches converging disturbingly into a fragile human figure. The window was laced with the shadows of branches under the white cold light of the full moon. The shadow shifted in the window with the soft brushes of the wind against lifeless branches. Stretching, the shadows of the room wrapped themselves around Alexis’ ankles. The delicate touch, almost undetectable, made him gasp. He pulled his hands from his eyes and the shadows fled his presence. He gazed at the window and frowned. The figure looked like a woman. He shook his head and began writing again. The wind blew viciously and the figure flickered. Long bony leafless branches scrapped the window. Alexis glanced up. The branches flailed and the shadow seemed to reach out to him with a shivering arm. Alexis froze with fear. The winds howled and the branches wracked against the window. The shadow struggled to remain, but the thrashing branches broke the shadow to pieces. The winds calmed and the figure was gone. Alexis trembled in his seat. He placed his hands to his face.
Outside his house, past the skeleton trees, stripped of life by winter, in the middle of a sleeping garden covered with white glittering snow, there stood a towering statue of a black angel in dedication to Alexis’ dead love. She watched over the garden with open wings. The angel gazed into the distance where a person hobbled through the snow toward the garden. Crooked joints and a morbid stiffness hindered the person’s gate. Covered in frozen mud, pale flesh shivered. The face, covered with long black hair, was sunken. Clouds of hot breath escaped from heaving lungs. Tired legs staggered and then failed. A broken body collapsed at the bottom of the angel statue.