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  • Writer's pictureCheryl

Ophelia Huxley

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

The Misfortunate Chronicles of Havisham Hollow; Chapter 6

I suppose I should have known I was meant for tragedy when my parents named me Ophelia. My corpse was found stuffed inside a wardrobe in the upper-back room of Havisham Tavern, hidden like a skeleton, shut away from the innocent eyes of curious onlookers. They say I was far too young to die, but I disagree. My soul was too broken for a long, fruitful life on this Earth. The hoard of dusty liquor bottles crowding my bedside was assurance enough of that.

Of course, addiction was the closest thing I had to a family. Our father preferred opiates—I guess it was his way of coping with the burden of being stuck with two children to look after the loss of our mother (she passed during childbirth, at least so he told my brother and I). At the very least it eased the throbbing of those blistered, bloody knuckles used to teach us proper etiquette. I was barely eleven when I found my own distraction—absinthe and gin mix particularly well together. My brother was not so fortunate. He rarely spoke, and when he did, it was only in strangled, stammering whispers. I only ever saw him smile at the worms in the garden. He loved watching the mushrooms grow and make little homes out of the soggy branches we kept by the shed. The last time I saw him, he mentioned running away to work for the local undertaker. Lord only knows where he is now.

I was seventeen when my father sold me to the mistresses of the local brothel nearly half a century ago. Sometimes, in the quiet dead of night, I can still hear the awful clanking of those fifteen silver coins as they fell into his bruised hands. No matter how much medicine I swallow, the noise remains, un-silenced. My life bought him four bottles of laudanum (a tincture crafted by dissolving opium extract in alcohol). He never even turned his head to face his daughter as he abandoned her at the doorstep of hell, before staggering back to those god-forsaken dens.

At first, the world just lost its edges. When the old edges rubbed away, new ones appeared in their absence. Swig by swig, I slowly began to chip them down. It was painful at first, like removing a thorn lodged deep into my skin, but also safe. There is a strange sense of security in resigning yourself to half-comforts, like hiding under the covers to escape the demons that lurk beneath your childhood bed. Deeper I crawled into the sanctuary of a bottle, until the face of every lustful man who owned my soul with his spare change had, at last, faded from the foreground of my memories. The years waded on, the images bitter and blurry…or at least they used to be. Death is a surprisingly sober experience.

These days, I wander along the halls that used to shackle me. The occasional guest swears he can still smell traces of the absinthe I left in these rooms or make out the faint remains of scratch marks I left on the interior wardrobe door. Local detectives ruled me suicidal, but they were wrong. The door locked upon entry and could only be opened from outside—it is rather difficult to lock oneself in a closet when one is unconscious. My client, however—a particularly ill-tempered man, unsatisfied by my coping habits—was able-bodied, and took punishment into his own hands. In a darkened closet, left to suffocate, I awoke from my drunken stupor long enough to abandon the world that had long since abandoned me.

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