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The Manse by Beth Tabar
SUMMARY: A school teacher is taken captive and held for years in an underground room filled with piles of decaying bones.
My name is Sadie Molcum. How I tremble to tell you this, my very name. In times past, I was proud and successful. Now, I become alarmed at innocent shadows and terrors plague me every night. For who has endured what I have, and lived to tell of it? Certainly none under the same duress as I experienced. I can testify to that.
The year was 1872. I had just won my finest goal of gaining a position at the prestigious North School, and my spirits were high. They had thrown a welcome party for me – all of the resident teachers and students. Champagne was in abundance, and uncountable confections were devoured. Cheeks were red with cheer and the broad hall shone with the candlelight of a hundred braziers. Even the Matron herself attended. Oh, she treated me sweetly, recounting the history of North School, telling me that everything I hoped for was within reach. She had been Matron for uncounted years, and yet still wore her dark hair piled high on her unblemished head. Of age there was not a trace. I attributed this oddness to having lived a fulfilling life. For who grows old when they are enriching the lives of others? The children were my passion.
I was to teach Politics and Language Skills. The first few weeks were pure bliss. Despite the playfulness of normal children, they were well-behaved and bright – the creme de la creme. Parents sent their children from towns throughout the country to this distinguished academy, renowned for its long-standing history and strong educational program.
The school itself was housed in one of the oldest, grandest buildings of the city. Towering high over the street in its stony splendor, it had the look of an ancient chapel. Gargoyles studded the entrance and guarded the roof. Slender spires pierced the sky, and numerous windows opened to the front courtyard, which was protected by a sturdy, wrought-iron gate at the end of the red brick walk. Oh, it was splendid. And I was the luckiest woman in the world to have this opportunity to showcase my abilities here. I was the only female teacher, in fact, aside from the great Matron herself.
But the old saying is true. "Things that appear too good to be true usually are." I soon found this out, and now, as my hair is gone gray and my skin turned to parchment, the memories still reduce me to tears, to uncontrollable trembling and renewed nightmares. It is as if I am living it again.
The weeks passed swiftly, and in the rigors of my teaching, I rarely saw the Matron. The times I did, she never once turned my way or recognized me with her voice, though she studied me with her eyes. Deep, dark grey eyes, she has. I found myself disturbed by their brilliance. She had a habit of sweeping through the halls, her long dresses and cloaks billowing out behind her. She was a grand lady, proud and tall and beautiful. But one afternoon, after my students had left, I was wiping the blackboard, my back to the door. The Matron swept into my room. I could sense her presence without turning – she had that effect. She drifted through the room, picking up little artifacts that I had brought in for my students, and replacing them again.