Scene 1 - Willow's Introduction/Dream Sequence (Draft: 1st and 2nd)
Characters: Stanley, Vincent, and Willow
Editing Notes: This scene and its now finished Chapter 8 only have a handful of lines in common. This opening sequence was an early casualty of Chimehour's final revisions, though I tried desperately to keep this dream sequence in the story- in fact, you can still see hints of its content and descriptions spread around the book. Ultimately, this scene got slashed mostly due to that sequence because its overarching goal (let's talk about Stanley's anxieties) could be accomplished in more subtle ways. Plus this scene genuinely worked better from Vincent's perspective!
Willow's introduction would go through two more rewrites before the finished version came about- but this version was what I held to for a long time before I decided to strengthen Willow's character from her introduction on. What lies here is a 2D model of that scene though.
It was somewhere past midnight when Stanley first caught himself in restless sleep. The boggled visions where voices echoed, blood pooled, and dark liquid filled his lungs. It couldn't kill him, but he didn't see the way out this time. Rattled by the hellish half-dreams, he awoke dizzy and blind, rolling to his side. Used to his mattress back home, he overestimated the space he had and quickly found himself tumbling straight off the edge. He rushed to catch himself; his numb palms met with wet cobblestone.
Stanley hit his head as he landed. He yelped, reaching to protect his face. His fingers clambered into his glasses.
I forgot to take them off again, he thought, rubbing the back of his skull.
He sat up, feeling the cold soak into his traveling clothes. This was confusing; he recalled changing earlier, for whatever earlier meant now.
He looked up at his surroundings. Townhouses and street lamps appeared as far he could see, veiled behind a thick, green fog.
Stanley recognized his neighborhood almost immediately.
When... Last he remembered, he had been in Dublin.
He stood, holding his temple. He could see the front gates of his home. The well-tended roses that his mother grew near the porch. The marks in the gate where he and Isabelle had tried to etch their names years before.
He took a step forward, an onset of happiness settling within him.
But something pulled at his mind. Something dark. Something odd. And that something held Stanley away.
A sharp noise disrupted the quiet. A squishing, sloshing sound, like boots in the mud.
Stanley wheeled back, finding the direction in which the sound echoed from. Before him stretched Albemarle Street, now wider and more ominous than usual.
“Erm... hello?” he called out, unease filling the pit of his stomach.
A slumped shape appeared through the sick fog. The sound now formed in rhythmic repetition. Footsteps.
Then the moan. That familiar, cutting moan.
No... Stanley thought, his eyes dissolving to pinpricks.
A pair of bloodied hands shot through the fog, breaking it into wisps. Their owner dragged himself through the clearing. His fine clothes were spattered with the remains of his own innards, leaking off the gap in his chest. His black hair a mangled, dirty mess. Stanley knew him even before the voice appeared.
“There you are, son. I had wondered...”
“Father,” Stanley rasped. He edged away, shock making his body heavy.
That which was once Mr. Brigham tottered forward like a disorganized animal, splashing more of his own blood onto the ground. More footsteps could be heard. First one. Two. Then more...
The groans, moans, and broken shrieks of the dead emerged from the murk. Their voices were a mangled mass, unintelligible from one to the other. They overwhelmed each other, and Stanley in turn. His head ached with so much noise. Too much noise. They appeared as shadows. The faces of neighbors, schoolmates, past friends, and family.
Stanley’s heart drowned in horror as his mother's ragged form emerged from the crowd, her mouth and fingers dripping blood onto her dress. Isabelle appeared next, dark circles around her eyes and a large bite taken out of her shoulder. They all soon filled the street, creating a wall of dead.
No, not here, he thought, stepping backwards. This can't happen here.
He shot through the fog, into the other half of the street. There was silence as he scrambled forward.
A cracked scream then broke through, him freeze. With a shudder, he turned toward the sound.
Terror refreshed its grip as Vincent appeared out of the shadows, his eyes dark and confused. His hands were at his chest, protecting a bloodied bite mark.
“Stanley...” he choked. “Help.”
No sooner then he spoke, a thin pair of hands wrapped around his neck. Stanley's eyes doubled as something that looked awfully like Cecilia appeared over Vincent's shoulder. Her pale eyes flashed before she took a vicious bite out of him. He wrenched, howling as the infection began to take its toll.
“Vince, no!” Stanley screamed, rushing to his friend's side and trying to pry him from Cecilia's grip.
Cecilia looked up, her mouth stained in the boy's blood. She hissed inhumanly and dropped Vincent's corpse, letting him crumple to the ground.
Stanley stumbled back, fighting a whimper. Vincent’s dead eyes stared up at him, glossed and half-open.
But the grasp of cold hands broke his trance.
Stanley looked, quickly met with the unfortunate reality that he had been surrounded by the creatures. Their fingers wrapped around his clothes, yanking him to the ground with little effort.
“Let go! Get away!” He pushed away bony fingers and kicked at heads full of hungry teeth.
Anger and adrenaline filled him, but his body was still treading slow. Far too slow to save him.
His eyes widened as Vincent rose amongst the hunched crowd, reawakened. His fixed eyes grew wild. He growled and dived forward, sinking his teeth around Stanley's pinned leg.
Stanley screamed; the pain dug deep as the poison filled his bloodstream. He attempted to pull his leg away from Vincent and punched another creature. He shook himself free from the creatures' prying hands, but more awaited him. They pulled him back down, and he couldn’t manage the fight again. The curse was taking its toll.
He caught sight of it then. A shadow in the masses, tall and slight.
It spirited through the Revenant, craning over Stanley's pinned form like a praying mantis, its digging fingers around his throat.
His eyes grew wide; Maggie MacNamura towered over him. Oddly unchanged and wearing her usual grin.
“Poor dear,” she said as she looked down on the boy, running a hand along his cheek. “In over your head again… Don’t you fret. I’ll make it better.”
Her face suddenly twisted into a wide, hardly-human smile.
She unhinged her jaw, swooped down like the Revenant before her. Darkness enveloped Stanley's world, giving to a blessed end to the awful clawing and screams. If just for a moment.
“Stanley...” The voice appeared, lost in a newly growing gray light.
Stanley assumed himself drowning again. Good.
Someone wasn't giving him peace.
Squinting, Stanley let the gray break into a pale yellow. He flinched, left only with the unfamiliar feeling of the scratchy pillows and blankets. The tang of something sweet lurked in the air, strong enough to leave the onset of a headache.
This wasn't his bed, but then it wasn't a wet road in London either. And he certainly wasn't being eaten alive. He blinked, revealing a pale room and a kerosene glow. He noticed thick layers of sweat on his palms and his forehead.
As his eyes refocused, he caught sight of a nervous-looking Vincent standing over his side of the bed, dressed in a gray nightshirt.
“Oh, glorious! You're awake.” he whispered, rubbing his hands together. “I'm quite sure there is a ghost in this room, and you need to tell it to leave.”
“Uh- Wha...” Stanley groaned, rolling onto his back.
“A ghost,” Vincent repeated, nervousness leaking into his tone. “I heard it rummaging around the wardrobe.”
“...What time is it?” Stanley said, rubbing his face awake. He looked over at the clock. With his vision blurry, he merely guessed that the hands rested somewhere near 3:30.
So that was a dream, he thought, pulling himself up.
“Are you listening?” Vincent said.
Stanley scrambled for his glasses, grabbing them off the nightstand and shoving them over his nose. He held the crook with one finger, looking to Vincent with exhaustion.
“Vince, even if there is a ghost in here, what do you wish me to do?” he mumbled. “They don't do everything I say just because I can see them.”
“Oh, but-” Vincent sputtered. “Just go look.”
The wardrobe suddenly creaked. A crunching emanated from the closed doors, noisy and surprising in the previous quiet.
Stanley blinked, letting his glasses drop back. The same calm could not be said of Vincent, who had pushed himself against the wall.
Stanley sighed in amusement. “I thought you liked all these happenings and creatures?”
“Not like this,” Vincent whispered, eying the wardrobe. “This thing is flouting about with my unmentionables!”
Stanley shook his head. He kicked off the blankets, grabbing the lamp off the nightstand as he stepped down.
“Very well, I will talk to it.”
He wore a sleepy smile as walked over to the wardrobe, the floor aching under each step. He placed the lamp by his bare feet and grabbed the handles on either door.
“I will tell you though,” he chimed, looking over his shoulder. “It is probably just a mouse. And I can't talk to those…” He smirked and gave each door a pull, forcing the wardrobe open.
“Frankly, I would prefer a ghost in my unmentionables before to a... a...”
Stanley's voice trailed off. His jaw dropped.
Amongst the hanging forms of their coats, the still-packed bags, and collections of dust bunnies, a lone girl huddled in the corner. Cloaked in a sooty dress, its frayed sleeves falling short of her forearm. Her hair shone in a dull gray, falling around her in a tangled weave. She paid no mind to the doors, her focus drawn to the object in her hands, which she bit into fervently.
Stanley quieted himself, grabbing the lamp and lifting it to his head. The girl’s hair caught light. Its shade was closer to pearl, and not quite as pale as her skin. She stuffed the last the now recognizable pastry into her mouth and licked her fingers of any remaining crumbs.
Spirits don't eat, he thought, unable to gather much else in his busied mind.
She looked back then. Stanley met her eyes without thinking. He tensed, taken by the vivid lavender color in her pupils. They shone like stained glass as they widened in horror. She fell to the back of wardrobe with a violent gasp, hunching like a cornered rat. Her hand flailed to her side, grabbing for something in the dark.
“Oh, what's going on in there now?” Vincent called back.
Stanley looked over his shoulder again, wide-eyed.
“There's a... girl in our wardrobe,” he said plainly as he could.
Before Stanley could respond, a sharp blow landed in the center of his chest. He yelped as his head slammed into the bedpost. His vision turned to a glaze as he slid to the floor, clutching his crown.
The girl was upon him a second later. He jolted as a small knife came within inches of his face. It shook in her grip.
“Um- hold on now...” he said, speaking on impulse as he backed into the bed.
His pulse racing, he chanced a better look at her face. A grimace contorted her shadowed features, hiding her elegant eyes again.
She glanced back at him, and her expression shifted. Stanley almost read it as calm. Some clarity in her panic. He wasn't sure if it was real or an illusion created by his drowsiness. But she stepped away, folding the knife behind her back.
With a sigh that seemed apologetic, she ran for open bedroom door, darting out.
“So... that definitely wasn't a ghost?” Vincent managed a smile.
Stanley stood sharply, feeling no need to dignify his question with a response. Without another thought, he yanked his suitcase free of the open wardrobe and flung it open, digging for his clothes.
“And what are you doing?” Vincent asked.
“What else? I'm going after her,” he said as he pulled on a pair of trousers under his night shirt.
Vincent moaned. “What was she doing in there anyhow?”
Stanley pulled his nightshirt over his head, letting it fall to the ground. “Eating, and hiding from the looks of it. Something wasn’t right.”
“Oh, can't we just leave it for when the sun's out?” Vincent sat down on the bed.
“She drew a knife on me.” Stanley said.
“Call me mad, but when a lady points a weapon your way, you should leave her be.”
Stanley ignored this comment, looking back at him.“You're the one who woke me up about this.”
He yawned, unaffected. “Yes, and you handled it very well. But I have not slept yet, so...”
Stanley pulled on an unbuttoned dress shirt, taking humor in Vincent's lack of encouragement. “You can stay, if you prefer. I'm not.”
“Very well then. You try not to have too much fun...” And he promptly collapsed onto the bed in an unceremonious fashion.