Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Museum on the move

Hello there.

While Blogger has been a nice enough home until now, the Museum and its various offshoots have kind of outgrown the available floorspace.

There is a new project afoot about which I am more than a little enthused and it needs a little more breathing space.

So, with a promise that offerings will be a little more frequent now that I'm less inclined to be randomly roaming, you are hereby invited to visit the Museum in its new home:

Museum of Fire - The Wordpress Experience

There will be tea and biscuits for the grand reopening, and possibly even balloons. Red ones. If you're quick.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Eighty

Emily woke to a silent house. As she peered over the edge of her flower-embroidered bedspread, watching the patch of morning sunlight where it fell on the wall, she noticed a small shadow broke the straight lines of the orange box of light.

She turned slowly towards the window and saw that a little round bird had alighted upon her window sill. It appeared to be observing her quite intently with its beady black eyes, but as she watched it swing its tail feathers side to side another bird came, seemed to have a quick word in its ear and the pair flapped away as though they had been caught somewhere they shouldn’t be.

Emily had never seen such strange looking birds in her life and it took her some time to register what she had observed – the first bird was mostly green with a bright red chest, a green head and then a blazing red feather ruffled from the very top of its head. The second bird, which she saw only briefly, was the complete inverse; right down to the bright green feather poking off the top of its head.

But surely not.... Emily rubbed her eyes, deciding she must have imagined the whole thing.

Yet a moment later, as she watched the space on the open sill where the birds had been, another landed. From its long, sleek body, a shimmering silver-blue, she saw a pair of bright white wings emerge, then fold back in. She at first thought the bird was looking at her down its long straight beak, but realised that its eyes appeared closed.

As Emily watched the unseeing bird, a moment passed between them.

The bird began to sing.


Friday, 11 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Nine

Percy reached for the bag and suggested that in the circumstances it was perhaps best if he took care of the final act. But Emily insisted so firmly that it had to be her that Percy, with a great deal of apprehension, relented. He stood up and let Emily take his seat, while he took the space she had left vacant.

Squeezing Isabelle’s hand tightly, Percy kept his eye glued on Emily as she reached into the black sack and drew out the box. Whether or not it knew what fate had in store for it or not, the box seemed to be going to great lengths to avoid it.

It was pulsing with light and had never looked more beautiful, the green glowing against Emily’s white dress highlighting the delicacy with which every corner, edge and figure had been carved. Six eyes rested on the box where it sat on Emily’s lap. Six ears began to hear the music that swirled around them, that seemed to be the sound of every mermaid in the sea whispering to the sky, every angel in the sky opening its heart to the sea.

Both Percy and Isabelle reached as one towards the lid of the box, desperately keen to take one final look inside. Yet before they could reach it the box was gone, hurled as far as Emily’s strength would allow.

With a blood-curdling shriek the box broke the mirrored surface of the sea, then sank from sight.

The water where the box had hit bubbled and hissed, a cloud of steam forming above. But little by little the steam spread and lost its form until disappearing completely, the ripples spread in wider and wider circles but then abated, leaving only the still, watchful reflection in the quiet waters of Emily, Isabelle and Percy, staring at the place all their troubles now lay.

As Percy returned to his seat and took the oars, they began gliding back to shore in relieved, exhausted silence. Isabelle suddenly realised what had been so familiar about the day – she recalled with crystal clarity her dream in which Emily had stepped out into the sea and they could never quite reach her. And surely enough, as she turned to her daughter, who was wearing the very same white dress that had appeared in her dream, Isabelle watched her staring wistfully back towards where the box had sunk into the fathomless depths below. She placed her hand gently onto Emily’s leg, feeling how tightly coiled she was, as though ready to spring in an instant.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Eight

Isabelle and Emily sat side by side, watching as Percy pulled on the oars. The day was calm, the water impossibly still – the dip of Percy’s oars creating tiny little swirling whirlpools the likes of which you would only ever normally see appear on the most sheltered of lakes. The only sound was the creak of the oars in the rowlock and the light slap of the paddle in the sea.

Above them, the last of the gulls that had followed their passage, perhaps in hope of an easy food offering, gave one last twirl and took off back to shore; for whatever reason this was as far as they had decided to follow. The sun gently tickled their skin as a deep blue sky opened out above them. Now that they had all but left land behind, there was little but the blue above and the sea below, an inky purple perfectly reflecting the few tiny, puffy clouds that lazily drifted by like dandelion heads bobbing in a breeze.

This all seemed strangely familiar to Isabelle but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why, as they had never all been out to sea like this together before. Despite being a warm day, she could feel her daughter shivering at her side.

She discretely looked sideways at Emily, only to find her daughter’s gaze transfixed on the black sack that sat between Percy’s feet. Isabelle, too, had been having great difficulty taking her eyes of the bag, but was nevertheless worried to see Emily’s attention so drawn in this way.

Isabelle realised with a pang of shame the feeling that had just hit her – jealousy. On the walk down from the house to the harbour, Emily had told them everything. From the moment she had left her house, pretending to be off visiting Tabitha Tibbits, to the instant they had found her back in her room, finally back as Emily.

It had all sounded so unlikely, the over-vivid imagination of an 11-year-old. But when Emily had started to tell them about what she had seen in the forest, the incident with the wolves, she knew it had to be true. She still hadn’t told Emily about any of that, so she would have had no other way of knowing. Unless Percy had told her? But he had clearly read her thoughts, for when Isabelle looked over the top of Emily’s head at her husband, he simply shook his head and shrugged.

Although Isabelle was appalled and aghast at everything Emily had to say, there was still something about the music box that intrigued her. She felt that as she was older than Emily and would not fall so easily under its spell…

She looked up from the box to see Percy looking directly at her. She was once again ashamed at the thoughts that had been passing through her mind and felt Percy had followed every last one. He looked at her with his sad, wounded eyes and she realised that he must have thought it was somehow Aloysius that she wanted to see.

She tried to show him, merely via looking back into his eyes, that this certainly wasn’t the case. She loved Percy with all her heart, and Emily too. She loved her simple life here in Seaforth, she realised, and would never do anything that could upset Percy or leave him feeling anything less than her utter devotion.

The last trace of land had by now disappeared from view. Isabelle hoped Percy still knew which way the return journey lay, but trusted him to find their way home.

The moment they had been avoiding talking about all this time had arrived.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Seven

Drawn by the sound of her parents’ voices from the living room, Emily walked down the stairs. Her disturbing dreams had continued through the night and she had woken, if anything, more exhausted than she had been when she fell asleep.

Yet she had to know that everything had finished, that the music box had been destroyed.

Why had she been so selfish? How could she have put her family into this situation? Emily vowed she would make it up to her parents somehow, that she would win their trust again, whatever it took.

Reaching the doorway to the living room, Emily saw her parents talking. She stepped in and looked over to the fireplace as they turned, realising she was there.

Emily felt weak at the knees and would have fallen completely if Percy had not reached down and caught her as she buckled. The music box sat there, glowing against the white pile of ashes that surrounded it.

“We tried Emily,” her father said gently, running his hand through her hair. “We kept the fire going the whole night through, we have no wood left.”

“Your father and I have decided we must go and bury it in the woods,” said her mother, a consoling hand on her arm. But Emily knew this would not suffice, that the music box would find a way to be found.

“That won’t be enough,” she announced to her parents, feeling the energy return as she realised she would have to be strong. “There is only one thing we can do, and I must be involved. It must be cast to the very bottom of the sea, to a place so deep that it can never be found.”

Emily knew both her parents were very much against her being out of bed, let alone out of the house, but she was so resolute in her purpose that they soon understood there was little point in trying to resist any further.

Isabelle knew, too, that Emily had been right. Nothing happened in the forest without being seen. Before long the temptation to peek at what they had buried would grow too strong and it would be unearthed by some witness or other.

But more than this, she knew that she herself could not have a day’s rest, knowing it was there. Already, she had been feeling urges, stronger by the hour, to have just a tiny look inside the box, to see what could possibly be inside that could explain everything that had happened.

She knew that it would be foolish, madness to tempt fate, but it felt like something that was increasingly out of her control. She wasn’t sure how Percy felt, but something kept her from talking to him about it, which in itself she knew was a very bad sign. She knew, for everybody’s sake, that Emily was right. The sea was the only place it could be, the only place where whatever power it held over Emily, and now threatened to hold over her, could be laid to rest once and for all.

They must do this, and they must do it without waiting one moment more.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Six

Emily experienced a dizzy sensation of spinning, with a sickening blur of colour swirling all around her, then a panicked moment of weightlessness. She was falling, where she could not say. Then suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped. But it took some moments before she realised where she was – back in her own room, lying on her bed.

Her tummy still hadn’t settled and her eyes were still adjusting when she realised she was being shaken.

“Where is she! What have you done with our Emily!” the voice cried, Emily slowly picking it as her mother’s.

“It’s okay,” she murmured. “It’s all okay. It’s me.”

“Hush Isabelle, step back and give her some air,” said her father, his blurred features slowly coming into focus.

“Okay. But remember, I told you, this isn’t Emily.”

“Oh mama, please!” Emily tried to sit, but fell back onto her pillow as it felt the room was still spinning around and around any time she moved. “I know it wasn’t me before, but I’m here now. Take my hand – you must know it.”

Emily felt a warm hand gingerly take her own icy fingers, then close around them tenderly. “Oh Emily, it is you! What has happened?”

“Shhh dear, from what you say we can’t begin to imagine what she has been through,” Percy said, taking Emily’s other hand in his own reassuring grasp. “We must not push her just now.”

“No, mother is right,” Emily said, trying once more to rise but not getting much further than up onto her elbows. “There isn’t any time to waste.”

“But you are not well. Your fingers are icy but your forehead is in fever. You just rest a moment, then when you have your strength back we can talk," Percy gently chided.

“Okay, but listen. You must do this. That box on the dresser-” Emily lifted a heavy arm and pointed over towards where she had last seen it, where it had been when she had lifted the lid and… but she must focus. “You must take it downstairs and throw it into the fire. We must do it now.”

“But Emily,” her mother began. “What’s…”

“I will explain,” Emily said, feeling herself slip out of consciousness, fatigue gripping her and refusing to let go. “But please, now…”

At this the last of Emily’s strength and resolve passed from her fragile, spent body. She slipped into slumber, a heavy, uneasy sleep in which all the events of the past few days swirled around her in a dreadful mix. She suffered terrible visions in which she was trapped in a glass bubble in a darkening forest, attempting to scream out but unable to utter even the hoarsest cry, watching helplessly as a wolf in a top hat leered at her, licking its lips, before dashing away with her mother under its arm.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Five


Knowing there wasn’t a second to lose, Emily raced towards where Crouch’s voice had moments ago been taunting her. She willed an unlit torch perched on the wall to spring to life and its flickering light fell over the room just as she reached the tangled mess that was Crouch, Oscar and Bernard, all grappling on the floor. The lolly bag was just beyond the grasping clutch of Crouch and he was struggling to reach it and draw it to him.

Just as his fingers closed about it Emily stamped down onto his hand, causing him to cry out in pain, furiously spitting curses as his fingers lost their grip.

Once she had realised Crouch had been right about her not having any sway over him, she had realised there was only one chance left. She had pictured Oscar and Bernard creeping into the room and flying with full speed at Crouch, tackling him to the ground. It had been her only chance and they had not let her down.

Emily reached down for the bag, but as she picked it up Crouch grabbed hold of her ankle, clutching it in his vicelike grip. Pain shot right through her, but she heard a howl and felt his grip release, turning to see Oscar had poked Crouch in the eye. Bernard now pulled Crouch’s hat right down over his eyes, blocking his vision as he lashed out wildly.

“I can’t hold him forever Emily,” panted Oscar.

“Go – get out of here!” added Bernard.

“But I can’t! You shan’t be safe if I go.”

“And you are not safe if you stay, Emily.” This was Minerva’s gentle, warm voice. Emily turned to see that during the struggle Minerva had drawn herself up from the floor. “You must go, for your sake the sake of your family, and everyone here you hold dear.”

“But I can’t just leave Crouch here with you all.”

“It is true that there will be no life for us with Crouch in here,” Minerva returned, “but nevertheless we must never let him out.”

Emily choked back a sob, but knew Minerva was speaking the truth. She had to go and she had to do what she had earlier promised to do – destroy the music box.

“But how can I ever thank you?”

“You already have, Emily. You gave us a life worth living; you showed us that there is more in the world out there than evil. Whatever happens, I am sure, some day, somehow, we shall meet again, in happier circumstances. Farewell, brave Emily.”

Emily smiled sadly at Minerva, blew a quick kiss to the panting Oscar and Bernard, who each winked back in reply, reached into her lolly bag for a humbug and put it in her mouth.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Four

“Oh I can assure you that I have,” Crouch purred.

“You have not.”

“Emily, I just this very moment did exactly what I just told you. If I had not, surely Minerva could speak up for herself and suggest otherwise?”

“That is indeed the case, Aloysius, thank you for pointing it out.”

Emily felt a thrill of triumph as she heard these words, for they had not come from her. They had passed across the room from where Emily had only moments before seen a crumpled Minerva lay.

“Why this is preposterous,” Crouch thundered. “What’s happening here?”

“How easily you seem to forget what you once told me,” Emily said, the strength coming back into her as she felt she may, finally, have the upper hand.

“You may recall, as you were sending me into the box, cutting out my soul so you could steal my body, that this box would be a projection of my own self – my own wishes and dreams. Well I suspect you will find that is now coming back to haunt you. This is my box now and nothing will happen while I am here that will hurt my friends. I simply shall not allow it.”

“But you forget, Emily, that I know this place far, far better than you,” Crouch countered. “I devised it, I made it happen and I have been coming here for a long time now. I know it as well as I know the world out there and everyone and everything that lives in here knows me and knows that they must fear me.”

“Perhaps that is so, perhaps it is not. You thought you had silenced Minerva and you clearly have not. Explain that.”

“I made it up. It was a lie to shock you.”

“You did nothing of the sort. You believed it. You still believe you did it and you are afraid of what it must mean that Minerva is now speaking again.”

Emily was feeling nervous now, as though she was getting out of her depth. She knew she had to deal with Crouch immediately, but all she could think about was running away. The only thing that kept her there was knowing the safety of her friends inside the box depended up on her. As did that of her parents outside. If Crouch was ever able to escape, he would not rest until he had avenged himself – and this time he would make no mistakes.

“If I have no power here, how, then, am I able to do this?” Crouch demanded. Emily heard the sound of a heavy object rapidly dragging across the floor to the edge of the space and the muffled cries of Minerva.

“Stop!” Emily demanded, a fierce anger boiling within. “You will not hurt my friends.”

“Just go Emily,” Minerva pleaded. “Don’t think about us again. You must go while you can.”

Emily shook her head silently, more determined than ever to stay until she had finished what she must. But a sudden, sickening thought flashed into her mind before she could stop it. The lollies that she had placed in her pocket before lifting the lid on the box – now that she was back in her body, and Crouch in his, they were within his immediate reach. He need only put his hand in his pocket and…

“Haha!” Crouch cried triumphantly. “You should have watched what you thought more closely than that, Emily Button. You know lollies are bad for young teeth, but in this case they’re a lot worse for you than simply that! Well, look what we have here,” he teased, and Emily heard the rustling of the bag.

She had no chance of crossing the darkness in time to snatch them away, so willed Crouch to stop what he was doing.

“Oh you may be able to affect other things in here Emily, but you have no such control over me,” he sneered.

“I am not of the box, so I am beyond your reach. Wish all the harm you can muster, it shan’t affect me one little bit. Now if you will excuse me, I’m a little peckish and have unfinished business to which I must…”

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Three

The moment she opened her eyes Emily felt she had made a terrible mistake. How could she have been so silly? Finally reunited with her parents, out of immediate danger with Crouch now out of the picture, she had almost everything for which she could have dreamed. So what could have led her to do something so stupid?

Sitting here, back in the woods inside the box, Emily wondered whether Crouch had deliberately released the music that brought her here. If so, then he still had the potential to do harm. And if that was the case, simply having him trapped here in the box would not be enough. Emily was devastated she had been so easily lured back here, but knew there was no time to dwell. She had to think. Where would Crouch be?

Revenge. That would be first and foremost on his mind, even moreso than escape, Emily felt. Revenge upon those who had helped Emily to thwart his plans with Isabelle. Minerva.

Dashing through the trees, Emily raced towards what she felt must be the heart of the forest, keeping her ears primed for the slightest hint that would suggest she was near one of the entryways to Minerva’s underground dominion. The further she went the more she was certain she would never be able to find her way, until she stopped dead in her tracks.

“Of course I won’t find it if I think I won’t,” Emily chastised herself. “That’s exactly how this place works. Now if I turn around and look at that doorway that has just opened in that tree behind me…”

Emily slowly turned and was amazed to see a gaping doorway where only moments before there had been a solid tree trunk. So much had rested on this being the case, for she now knew what she must do.

Winding her way down the spiral stone staircase, Emily guided herself down through the darkness by running her hand along the cool stone wall. She stopped briefly to rest her burning forehead against the stone, knowing she must have all her wits about her. The stairs now opened out into a passageway, again unlit. Emily didn’t bother trying to produce any light, now trusting her way simply by deciding the passageway was wide enough not to run into anything.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she decided, knowing she had now emerged into the room where she had first met Minerva. She just hoped she had arrived in time.

“So lovely of you to join us,” came a voice from the dark, the unmistakable, bone-chilling tone of Aloysius Crouch. But how had he got his own voice back?

“Because I wanted it back,” he said. “I believe I have talked like a spoilt little girl quite long enough, don’t you Emily Button?”

“If you say so, Mr Crouch,” replied Emily, shocked to hear her own voice emerge. She put a finger to her nose and felt not the sharp, pointed thing she had expected but rather her very own.

“That’s right, Emily,” Couch cooed. “I no longer need it, so it’s all yours. Of course I now no longer need you at all in the slightest. In fact, it would suit me greatly for you to disappear entirely!”

At this came a sudden flash of light, so bright after all this darkness. While relieved to have escaped Crouch’s body – she still wasn’t entirely sure how – she was terrified by his sudden appearance across the room from her. He appeared to be standing over something, a huddled bundle on the floor. As quickly as the light had appeared, darkness closed back in.

“It was very valiant of you to come down here, Emily, but I am afraid you are too late. Minerva should have known better than to help you against me and she has now paid the price.”

“You vile beast!” Emily cried, tears welling up in her eyes. “What have you done?”

“Oh, not so much so far, merely removed her tongue. She may still be able to hear, but she won’t be able to tell you anything. She will certainly never sing again.”

Emily was lost for words. After all this time she was still shocked that anyone could be so heartless, selfish and cruel. Could this really be true? Emily tried to hold her feelings in check and see what might happen if she decided – truly convinced herself – that he had simply made it up to try and unsettle her.

“You’re lying. You may have wanted to do that, but you haven’t.”

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Music Box: Chapter Seventy-Two

Emily’s mother looked at her steadily, putting her hand out to take her own.

“How can it be?”

“It’s a long story, mother and I’m afraid I have put us in terrible danger. He wanted to find you, to have you, and I almost let it happen.”

The fear, the frustration, the exhaustion of everything that had happened since she had left home in pursuit of the music box welled up inside her. Emily broke down into a fit of sobbing, collapsing onto the bed beside her mother and putting her head on her shoulder. She felt her mother flinch and realised why. She may have believed her story, but she would still be appalled at having Crouch so close. Emily wiped her nose and rubbed her eyes and stood up again.

“He’s in there,” she said, pointing at the box. “He is using my body, but now he has disappeared into the box, but I cannot tell you how long we have. We must get rid of the box.”

“But what about you, Emily? We can’t just leave you like this.”

“I know, but I don’t know what to do about that.”

“Begin by telling me everything. No, wait. We must get your father too. Give me a moment to see him first, I have to explain the situation to him, little as I understand it myself. Wait here and I will be back.”

With that Isabelle strode from the room and Emily heard her cross the landing and head straight into her father’s study, something she would never normally do so abruptly. Emily made a point of sitting with her back to the box, studiously avoiding even looking at it. But in the newly silent room, it began. It was barely discernible at first and Emily thought she must be imagining things. But there it was again, that music gently wafting around the room, brightening everything and making her feel entirely at peace.

She smiled dreamily, gently stood and walked over to the box on the dresser. It was pulsing gently, a beautiful glow that spoke to her of the end of pain, the end of suffering and the promise of life back to how it had been before any of this had ever happened.

Extending Crouch’s long, cruel fingers, Emily reached down and lifted its lid.