The writer scribbled furiously in the candlelight. It had been 364 days and 22 hours since that night. He had been trying to re-create it every night since. Thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning flashed.
His ink-stained fingers ached from writing the same page over and over. Thunder pealed closer, and he glanced out the window of his self-fashioned prison. He left it only to sleep. It was the only time he saw her face.
He drank from the glass left silently by his wife and began writing again. Was he behind schedule today? The scratchy paper and quill felt rougher than usual and it was hard to focus his eyes. He had been forced to take a break from writing a few months before when he had gone temporarily blind. His wife, Lucy, silently and stoically cared for him, her disappointment palpable.
The room was freezing. Wind howled in the night as lightning flashed, illuminating the clawing naked branches against the darkness. The book was mesmerizing and she loathed tearing herself away from it for even the few seconds it took to close the forgotten window.
The book was old and forgotten by the world, but its pages showed little wear; the story was timeless. A Grimm-like fairytale with adventure and monsters, a young woman straying from her parents in youthful rebellion, only to find herself at the mercy of a dark and terrible magic. The best kind of story to pull a reader in. She pulled her golden curls behind her ears and began to read again…
He had to re-ink his quill. What time was it? It was getting too close and he wasn’t far enough. He had slept too long, loath to quit his dreams. He wrote faster, heart pounding to the pace of the scratching quill. Around him the re-written pages littered the floor of the tiny attic room.
Lightning flashed again and thunder shook the house. There was a crack, like a tree limb falling, but it went unheard.
“Father, may I read some of your story?” Marigold had appeared in the doorway of his office.
“Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?” He grumbled, attention on the page.
“I couldn’t sleep because of the storm.” He could hear her tracing a knot in the floor with her toes. At the age of eight she was already a beauty; his “golden treasure.” Recently, however, he felt his family was more of an anchor, keeping his career from setting sail, rather than a bountiful treasure.
“What storm?” He said as lightning and thunder roared outside. Marigold screamed and clapped her hands over her ears, grabbing fist-fulls of golden ringlets.
How had he not noticed the storm? He had left the window open and it was freezing in his office now. No wonder he had written that into the story.
“MARIGOLD?” He could hear his wife calling from the stairs. He turned back to find his daughter reading the page he had been writing.
“Don’t, the ink’s not set,” He tried to grab the page as he turned but missed, accidentally hitting the ink jar. He swore as it smashed on the floor.
“GOD DAMMIT!” He yelled, “Look what you made me do,” He grabbed her arm and her foot sank onto the jagged broken bottle.
“OWWW, Daddy!” The page she held floated down into the pool of ink and blood mixing on the floor.
“What is going on in here?” His wife exclaimed from the door.
“She’s always interrupting me,” He whined. “Just look at this mess, and all because of a little thunder? And now she’s cut herself.”
Marigold began to cry.
“Now I’m going to have to rewrite this page all over again.”
“She is only eight, Henry. Look at her foot, what if it gets infected? Go heat a pot of water while I get her cleaned up.”
“Are you kidding me? At this rate I’m never going to finish this book.” Marigold escalated to wailing and the sound made his brain hurt.
He pressed his hands over his ears as another flash of lightning and waves of thunder rolled over the roof; wails turned to panicked shrieks. His eyes couldn’t seem to focus. Lucy was grabbing at Marigold who’s screams filled the air.
“HENRY, DO SOMETHING!” Lucy screamed at him, but he was frozen in place, watching in horror as Marigold sank into the bloody, ink-stained page on the floor, her golden curls disappearing into his story.
Lucy hadn’t spoken since he had written them into this hellish nightmare. He could see Marigold in his dreams as she turned into the girl in the story. He was convinced if he could recreate that night somehow he could get her back.
His quill scratched on the rough paper, blood smearing with ink from broken skin, oblivious to the smoke seeping into his room. Suddenly his door burst open and Lucy’s eyes were wide with terror. Only then did he notice the orange glow of flames engulfing the roof behind her. Lightning had hit the house. He struggled to his feet, knocking over the ink bottle and candle onto the manuscript. The untouched pages, gathering dust since that night ignited instantaneously.
“Oh God…” He whispered. Lucy looked in horror as her last bit of hope went up in flames, and slumped to the floor in despair. The fire jumped to the stairs, trapping them. The sound of ink falling onto the last rewritten page filled his ears. Smoke rolled in through the doorway, past his wife’s crumpled form. He watched the quill drop from his numb fingertips.
He stared in wonder as a scene emerged in the ink. A room exactly like the room he had written appeared and there was Marigold, reaching out her hands to him.
“Marigold? MARIGOLD!” Her voice hoarse.
They could hear her calling them. He grabbed Lucy’s hand, touching her for the first time since that night.