Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chapter 55: Ermengarde Is Populated

Thurs, November 26, 2074 9:49 pm: 88 Wilkins Ave.- Camden, Pleasantview

She was shaking uncontrollably. At the base of the steps, Ermengarde tried to grab the railing but she kept missing it. Every time her hand went up, it appeared to slice through the bar. Her vision was stretching, stretching. The wooden bannister magnified one thousand fold. She could see each droplet of water, each peeling flake of lacquer expanding in the dark. Her stomach acids fluctuated with the slowly tilting world.


Ermengarde inched her feet forward along the concrete walkway, hoping to come into contact with the bottom step. The hem of her nightgown was clinging to her legs, all soaked with mud. When her feet hit the stairs, she discovered that her body was almost too leaden to lift. She wanted to cry. She wanted to shout for Elise but the sound that issued from her mouth was no louder than the rain that pelted her face.

A flash of lightning bathed the ground in cold, white light. She had to get inside. She had to. Ermengarde furrowed her brow, gritted her chattering teeth and climbed.


She worked slowly without the aid of the railing and seemingly without the aid of gravity. Her desperation neared the pitch of an animal trying to outrun a brush fire. The wind blew and Ermengarde smelled something that reminded her vaguely of boiled eggs. After a moment and a few arduous steps, she realized that she was the source of the odor. She had been somewhere farther than her front lawn. Somewhere putrid. A cough lodged in her throat and she gagged.

At the top of the steps, she hit the door with her palms until they stung. A new dread was trickling over her. Vince was going to be mad. She was going to be in trouble and she couldn't even speak to defend herself. She didn't know how she had gotten outside. She didn't know where she had been, what happened to her nightgown or why she stank. It wasn't her fault.


She glanced down at her feet and almost lost her balance. Distant things looked near. Near things looked even nearer. The threads in her nightgown were brittle hairs looped over and under into corners of visible negative space. The skin on the back of her hand was cracked like an arid wasteland.

Ermengarde jerked her head suddenly upwards, startled by a far-off industrial clanking. It was steady like a miner's pick hitting the underbelly of a mountain. She throttled the door again with her palms, more rapidly this time. The clanking sound was growing louder. Her head was singing with it.


Ermengarde froze as the door creaked open. Vince's gaze landed well above her height and traveled gradually downwards until their eyes locked. His mouth fell ajar.

"Elise!" He must have shouted but his voice was muffled and distorted like a man submerged in water. There was some shuffling of feet inside the house. And still the clanking persisted.


"Oh my God." Elise shoved Vince out of the way and pulled Ermengarde into the house by her shoulders. When she inhaled, Ermengarde's breath rattled in her lungs. She wanted to cough up the congestion but she couldn't. She could barely even think. "Ermie? Ermie are you ok? Vince, her nose is bleeding."


Elise let go of her shoulders, standing gracefully erect and quivering like a frightened doe. Vince bent down to pat Ermengarde's cheeks.

"What happened? Are you ok? Where have you been? Talk to us, Ermie."


The noise was at the door now. It clamored for entrance. Ermengarde shuddered violently. Her skin prickled as though she were populated by a colony of ants. The sound threatened to punch straight through the wall. Couldn't they hear it? The space between Elise and Vince was artificially widening, pulling taut enough to snap.

"Ermengarde? Ermengarde? Vince, should we call 911?" Ermengarde swallowed hard and then managed to produce a small rasp.

"Shh! Listen. I think she's trying to say something."


Vince bent his head down next to hers. The floor was vibrating now with each successive clank.

"What is it Ermie?" Ermengarde lifted her chin. Her teeth were still chattering from the cold. The whisper that made its way past her lips splintered and broke.

"They are coming," she said.


  1. I have chills reading this. Chills. I think I was holding my breath.

    Whatever is at the door, whatever, whoever is coming, it clearly doesn't look good. I'm going to say that your writing felt as heavy as Ermie's footsteps and I felt as weighted down as she did trying to get up the steps.

  2. I feel for Ermengarde. She's so small and she looks so fragile and confused. I just want to scoop her up!

    Now the mystery deepens even more. Just why was Ermie outside? And just what did she do/see to have her face messed up like that? AND WHO IS COMING?? You are evil for the cliffhanger!

    And might I just say I love your screens? Like seriously! All the minute details always make me read then go through and stare at the pics again!

  3. Thanks, Gayl! I don't quite know how much to say just yet since this is going to continue into the next two chapters but I will say this- Whatever is coming for Ermengarde now is the same thing that succeeded in dragging her out of bed earlier in the evening. She escaped from it momentarily and it has caught back up with her.

  4. Phoenix!

    She is just a little thing. But she's pretty resilient. I'll try not to leave you hanging too long. ;)

    Thanks! It was totally the lighting that made these. I'm so glad I went back and re-thought this chapter, forcing me to re-shoot this chapter.

  5. Oh my!!

    poor ERMIE! she is suffering the wrath of Blue Lake! at whose hands though...
    I was utterly captivated, stuck throughout this whole update, almost like a horror flick one you want to turn away from but cant. 80) The fear the worry... This along with the dancing doll! what are you doing to me, LOL!

    Absolutely wonderful update!!! I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next!

  6. That give me the chill. Exactly what was coming? Oh my! Arg! I hate my internet connection, it took ages to load all your lovely pics!

  7. hehe Oh dear, Cherie! Well if it makes you feel any better, after this is all over I have a few humorous chapters in line featuring some characters that we haven't seen in a while. Phoenix, for instance, is coming back for a cameo appearance (by popular demand).

    Thanks, Cherie! :)

  8. Rats! Really, Karen? I told myself that I wouldn't look into converting my image files unless one of my readers was having trouble loading. So I'll see what I can do. I use a program called Pixelmator for my photo-editing and it may have a "save for web" option.

  9. Oh, poor Ermangarde. I've had those kind of dreams where I feel like I'm too weak to walk or lift up my feet. Only she isn't dreaming, is she?

  10. She isn't dreaming but the heaviness in her limbs is that in between sleep and awake, I-want-to-move-but-I-can't feeling. And to top it off, she did have the vague sensation that she was being chased.

  11. What a cliffhanger!!! I was totally captivated, and freaked out at the same time! Fantastic writing, and beautiful usual!

  12. Fabulous writing, Pen. Conveying such a distortion of reality, and without even resorting to warping the pictures for an Ermengarde's-eye-view... just Wow. What illicit substance did you choose to ingest in your research for this one? :-D

  13. Thanks, Lothere! I try to stay away from distorting my images. There are storytellers who are good at it and can pull it off. I'm not sure that I'm one of them.

    Heh. Heh heh heh. Nothing, I swears! I didn't even have a beer last night while I was writing this! Which does beg the question of where this chapter came from. Maybe it was a combination of the stories that my friends have told me about their drug experiences and my over-active imagination.

  14. Oh my goodness. I'm gone for ONE DAY and you update, and I can't read until 24 hours later :(

    Anyway, some lovely writing there, Pen--very chilling and discriptive. I'm curious to know how she got outside in the first place? And who are "they"? Probably has something to do with the K man...

    Hmmm... I wonder if there's anything special about Vince and Arnaud? Elise is the Ib, and Ermengarde is proving to be no ordinary child, so... maybe there's more to the brothers than meets the eye? Hmmmmm...

  15. That occurred to me too, Van but I wanted to get the chapter up as soon as it was finished. Congrats! I hope that everything went superbly! XD

    Thanks! The important thing to remember about Ermengarde is that her psyche is like a sheet of cheese cloth. Where most people have at least some psychic protection, Ermengarde has none. She's completely open and anyone with the know-how can just walk in there and do whatever they want. This includes taking over her body. Someone has already spoken through her. And in the moments prior to this chapter, someone took her body out for a little stroll. (Whether it was the same person both times remains to be seen.) There are two windows in her bedroom and the house isn't very far off the ground- I'm sure she just climbed out.

    We will see "them" in the chapter after the next one. And Kvornan didn't do it! To tell the truth, I'm not even sure Kvornan could do it...

    Ha! I'll tell you right now- There is something special about Arnaud but Vince is as normal as they come! But maybe that in its self is special, considering.

  16. Thanks. It went quite swimmingly :)

    Interesting--poor girl! Although I suppose it does make her quite indispensible, so maybe at the very least, it will protect her physically from anyone who might otherwise kill her if they can't make use of her. But still...

  17. Heck yeah! *Throws karma points at Van*

    Ermengarde is PRIME real estate for certain consumer demographics. Kvornan knows this but I think that he's a little bit in denial. And unfortunately, he is soon to face the facts first hand. But I'm sure that you can imagine why this whole thing is painful for him.

    However, there is plenty of danger here. Ermengarde's psyche is very fragile. Hanging out in there is like walking on egg shells. Imagine her psyche like a very thin balloon. All that it would take is a sufficient amount of activity- Say perhaps Ermengarde fought back and the presence did not relent- And her little balloon would burst. This could lead to an aneurysm. This is how their mother died.

  18. Blogger keeps eating my comments, I feel like I've posted about 20. PENELOPE WHO IS COMING, oh crap and where is Kvornan when you need him to halt all this freaky sh*t. Oh poor Ermengarde, I am so sympathetic towards her, she's too young for this kind of power. Girl is going ot be traumatized. Nuts.

    You're shots are so gripping, you really worked the ambience on this one!

  19. Blogger is good for eating a few comments for sure. I copy every comment that I write in Blogger comment blanks. It's a goofy system. Goofy, goofy, goofy. But I greatly appreciate your persistence, Veron!

    Kvornan is about 3 miles away in his hotel room watching bad television while this is going on. So he's close enough to know if, say, Elise were in distress. ;)

    I wouldn't call what Ermengarde has a power per se. It's more of a handicap. And someone is exploiting it! It's interesting that you mentioned trauma. I kind of wonder if losing her mother made little Ermie more susceptible to this sort of attack.

    Thank you, Veron!!!!!

  20. Incredible writing! I felt like I was watching a movie! Your pacing and shots move forward so perfectly...

    Ermergarde is certainly no ordinary child and she seems to understand it. And saying what she has going for her is a handicap. Is it? Or a doorway for someone to exploit?


  21. Yay, thanks Beth! I was going for a cinematic feel, particularly with the images.

    Well it's like this- She isn't trying to channel anyone. Likewise, she couldn't channel anyone if she tried. She is being forcibly invaded. It's less of an ability and more of a factory defect. If you had a sweater with a hole in it big enough to poke your finger through, it wouldn't be a case of, "Wow! Look what I can do with this sweater!" It would be more of a, "Crap. I can get my finger through this hole!" hehehe Does that analogy make sense? It makes sense to me but I can never be certain of whether or not I'm making sense to other people.

    As always, thank you for reading, Beth!

  22. yeah actually it makes a lot of sense. The hole in your pocket that things either fall through or GET through from somewhere else.

  23. Oh boy! That's something else all together! Could something fall out of Ermengarde's psyche? I've never asked myself that question. Of course, what goes in can come back out again. But could Ermengarde just leak out of her own psyche one day like water dripping from a sponge? I'm going to have to say no. The two are too closely integrated.

  24. well...a hole is a hole. is there such a thing as a one way hole? LOL well Ermengarde has a hole like a gravity well then. Things go in. Nothing goes out. Or, if it does, it comes out someplace entirely unexpected and in another place altogether. I get strange about concepts like that!

  25. hehehe What a conversation!

    But here's what I'm thinking- Ermengarde is the pocket and the hole. If her soul or essence or what-have-you is the outer pocket and her psyche is the hole-riddled lining, then it is impossible for Ermengarde to fall out. (However! The pocket thing isn't really a very apt metaphor. If I were to draw a diagram, the psyche would technically encase the soul. But the two would be so intertwined that it wouldn't be possible for her to just fall out, even after death. The pocket and lining are yanked out as one object.)

    But needless to say, if you stick something in her pocket, it can fall back out again. It can be pushed out (which is what sort of happened to her in the moments before this chapter) or it can crawl out by it's own accord.

  26. You're right. A pocket isn't a very good metaphor.

    It's organic. Not a piece of clothing like a jacket with a pocket with or without lining. I am NOT going to go further than that LOL.

    and yes it is a strange conversation! but fascinating concepts!

  27. It's difficult to imagine something so incredibly intangible in terms of appearance. But this discussion is relevant to the next two chapters.

  28. *Shakes*I totally agree with Gayl.But I love this story

  29. Hey, Emilia! Thanks and welcome to the story! *sprinkles magic fairy dust*

  30. Sorry to spam the post, but I was just looking at the family trees and according to the "Relationships" tool, Troy and Jorge are second cousins, once removed. Do they even know each other at all? Or just sort of by reputation, and through their sons?

    Awww, poor Laurie and Cully are related :(

  31. Ha! And no, Troy and Jorge don't really know one another very well. Troy's father Terrance completely hacked-off his family ties long before Troy was born. Not only that but Jorge was a teen when he came to Pleasantview and there's about a decade between his age and Troy's. They do know that they're related. The Torrences and the LeCroixs are pretty throughly interbred. Also, the two of them are descended from the same fae. Whenever a human family in Veronaville has a fae in their lineage, they make sure their children know. It's a matter of pride. They're royalty. They're the descendants of Deus Rex. And actually, this is why both Troy and Jorge have startling eye colors. They may even have a little magic.

    I'm sure Troy and Jorge meet briefly when they come to pick up the kids from each other's houses but they're just acquaintances. They may have met through Donna a few times in the past as well. Pleasantview is a very small world.

    And by the almighty laws of Maxis, Cully and Laurie are more than distant enough to not be scandalous for reasons of familial relations.

  32. It might also be worthwhile to mention the obvious- Troy and Donna have slept together on many occasions and thought nothing of it. (Well, OTHER than the fact that they're both married.)

  33. Most definitely forgot about the Troy/Donna thing. My bad.

  34. At the rate that I update, I'm surprised that you guys don't forget more than you do. :\