Hi all! This is a textual intervention (a fancy, university-style way of saying “fanfiction”) for Henry James’s novella, The Turn of the Screw. For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a story about a young Governess who travels to a manor called Bly where she is to watch over a boy named Miles and his little sister Flora. However, the children seem to be keeping secrets, and the Governess begins to see people wandering through the hallways; people who have died long before her arrival.
This intervention is from the perspective of Flora, many years after the happenings of the book. It would be more enlightening to those who have previously read James’s work, but I hope those of you who are unfamiliar will enjoy it, too! (Note: This story contains spoilers for The Turn of the Screw.)
.: Haunted :.
As we turned into the avenue, I had expected, or had dreaded, something so melancholy that what greeted me was a surprise. Perhaps I had been anticipating a view of sombre clouds and skies as dark as the history of the house—but no. As the carriage trundled to a stop on the rocky earth, I was forced to accept that the manor of Bly was as immaculate and deceivingly perfect as it had always been.
The rider eagerly offered me his hand to guide me down the carriage steps; I accepted, primly ignoring his appreciative glances. It was of no surprise to me that I was of some interest to the man. I had possessed an angelic beauty in my youth, and, like a fine wine, I had only improved with age. Some may call me boastful, but when one so oft hears of their own splendour, it comes to be accepted as fact, cold and simple.
I frequently wonder how my brother would have aged, given the chance. I am sure he would have been grand, a symbol of immaculate wealth and brilliance. Together, we could have faced any challenge. Two lone soldiers against the world…
“Is there anythin’ else you’ll be needin’, miss?” the rider courteously asked. His voice held an eager wish that I should need his assistance with something, so as to offer him the opportunity to prove himself. I shook my head demurely, dashing his hopes, and requested that he remain outside, then I lifted the hem of my skirt and tentatively approached the doors of Bly.
I had spent years trying to accept the events that took place in this archaic edifice, and had thought myself ready to return to its confines. However, the moment I stepped into the shadowed entrance hall, I found myself haunted by memories; my breath came in laboured gasps and I quickly sat on the nearest stool, lest I should fall. I heard a voice, sobbing and calling out through its own pain; I soon realised it is I who was weeping, with a single name escaping my lips in an urgent rush: “Miles, Miles, Miles, Miles…”
He was my entire world, my big brother. Death seemed to follow us at every turn, tearing our hearts to shreds with well-aimed blows. We finally learnt how to love again through our friendships with the kind-hearted Mr Quint and Miss Jessel at Bly, but they were cruelly taken from us, too, in time.
The day that our new Governess arrived, I had been filled with joyful abandon; I had naively believed that perhaps she could help to fill the aching crevice in my soul. Miles, however, met the Governess with a gentlemanly detachment; through a stranger’s eyes, he was perfectly pleasant and well-behaved. I, alone, could see through his façade and reach the broken boy within. Our complete and desperate need for one another knew no bounds; and herein laid the disaster that was to arise from our plan.
It had seemed so innocent in its design, convincing the Governess that Bly was host to a myriad of ghosts. Miles claimed the trickery would cause the woman to contact our absent uncle, but I knew my brother too well to fall for his cleverly-spoken lies. In truth, it was but a simple method of removing someone from his domain before either he or I could welcome them into our fractured hearts.
Our reasoning may have been pure, but the results were tragic. Our sweetly ignorant Governess was pushed too far by our tricks, and driven to an insane certainty of the so-called ‘paranormal’ activities of Bly. You can only bend a bough so far before it breaks.
The cracks became clear on the day that I lead the Governess to the eerie land at the farthest end of the lake. The young woman, when she found me, was frantic and stupid in her delusions; she gripped me tight and pointed into dark nothingness, yelling wildly, “She’s there, you little unhappy thing—there, there, there!”
In that moment, I was overtaken by regret, horror and an ugly rage, as if she was responsible for the wrong-doings at Bly, as if she was to blame for all of the awful happenings in our lives, and I shouted back: “I see nothing. I never have. I think you’re cruel. I don’t like you!”
I turned my back on it all, and I ran.
And there I was, twenty years later, caught within the same web; but I was tired of running.
I arose shakily and began to wander the hallways with silent footsteps, an aimless traveller in my own home. It wasn’t until I lifted my eyes in the dining room that I realised where my feet had taken me.
Hours passed before my rider sought me out; I imagine he was quite startled by the scene he encountered. To him, it was merely a room, but I knew that the very spot in which he found me, inconsolable, was where that Governess, strengthened through fear of a non-existent evil, had clutched my brother until his little heart stopped.
The rider lifted me off the floor, cradled me like a child and carried me swiftly to the carriage; he was unsure of what had happened, but was certain that I needed to be removed from the unseen horrors of that house.
I was somewhat composed by the time the carriage stopped outside my home. The rider took my hand and guided me down the carriage steps once again, but held onto my fingers for a moment longer than necessary to ask me quietly, “Are you goin’ to be okay?” I nodded and lightly pulled my fingers away from his. He tilted his cap politely, clambered aboard his carriage and took hold of the reins, but was unable to withhold his burning question: “If you don’t mind me askin’, miss… What happened back there?”
I froze on the spot, unable to meet his eyes. In a voice as cold as ice, I stated, “Back there is where a woman killed my brother.”
I was unsure of which woman I was speaking: the Governess, victim to a cruel and idiotic prank… Or myself.
The rider could formulate no reply; with a quiet ‘ha!’ to his horses, he steered the carriage down the street until the cacophony of hooves had died away, and I was alone with the quiet day and the ghosts of my past.
- Love The Bad Guy