Flash: N is for Noise

Clatter woke Abigail from her sound sleep. Below stairs, laughter and shouts passed between people, footfalls and dropping boxes pounded the floor. She took her time to roll out of her single as her brain caught up with reality, letting dreams drift away and remembering where and who she was. Still a servant, always a servant, she thought looking around her small dusty chamber. Abigail picked up her housecoat, wrapping it around her nightclothes and tying off the belt, before heading to the first floor down the narrow flight at the back of the sprawling manor.

The main floor was bedlam. Small children running about, a father yelling at a much larger boy to help his mother. Standing to one side in the modernized kitchen, Abby took the time to count the young ones. Three in all, in step-stool fashion of a little over two years apart. She approved of the new house master for not pushing his wife harder. Her guess is two, five, and seven, plus the sixteen- or seventeen-year-old boy who hadn’t come into his manhood muscles yet but seem to be stretching his height up quickly. A woman, as tall as her husband and showing more gray than him, carried a small box against her expanding belly marked in big letters – FRAGILE AND I MEAN FRAGILE – to set it on the area where the icebox used to be before returning to the house front.

A family.

The last owners were there just to change things. While she approved them getting rid of the heavy carpeting and ghastly colors the previous owners had installed in the seventies and eighties, when the two men had decided to destroy and replace the heart pine floors under the carpet instead of sanding and refinishing them, she chased them off. It did mean the fancy electrical was only half-installed, and the plumbing still didn’t run up to the third floor, but those flippers had no respect for the bones of her home.

“Mom!” The boy shouted, staring directly at her from the butler’s threshold. “Mooooom!!!!” His voice cracked as it went higher.

Abagail jumped a little. “You see me?” she whispered. It took a lot of energy to manifest during the day, so she wasn’t trying to be visible.

The boy nodded, while the pregnant woman ran up behind him.

“What?” she asked, huffing.

“Ghost.” The young man stayed on the threshold, but pressed to one side so his mother could stand beside him.

The woman’s eyes narrowed, clearly studying Abigail, making the ancient servant stand taller and retighten her housecoat belt.

The new house mistress asked, “Are we going to have a problem?”

“No ma’am.” Abby shook her head.

“I will protect what is mine.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Where is your space?”

Abby gulped debating. It wasn’t like a search wouldn’t show it, but did she want this woman to know right now?

“Where is your space?” The mistress said in a firm voice. “Don’t make me ask a third time.”

Abby dropped her eyes to the red tiles, nodding, before pointing up the back staircase.

“You will take me and Malcolm to it.” The woman touched her son. “Go tell Jonathan I want to look around upstairs before we get the furniture tomorrow. He’ll be glad I’m not trying to clean anything for a while, then come back here immediately. You need to learn this.”

“Yes Priestess.” Malcom took off running.

Smiling, hoping to get on the new mistress’ good side but not knowing how much the woman could see at the moment, Abby commented, “Your son seems to have only one speed.”

The woman chuckled, rubbing her belly, “All of them. Either full steam ahead or sleeping.” She stepped off the threshold and entered into the kitchen fully, going over to the box she brought in earlier.

“I helped the nanny back in the day.” Abby took a step back into the shadows of the stairwell, where she knew she manifested stronger. But she didn’t push energy into being visible, not yet. She didn’t know if the witch priestess would let her stay, and she might need energy to fight later. Abby would not go quietly; it wasn’t as though there was anywhere else to go if the woman tried to eject her. Having always been a willing and quiet servant since she landed on America’s shores, and measuring the strength of this woman’s personality, Abby didn’t think she would win, but this was her home. She would fight to stay by word or ghastly deed.

Although Abby knew she didn’t have it in her to harm the baby inside the woman, so her options were limited if worse came to worst.

The woman pulled out a half candle embedded in a disc candle holder with a finger loop on one end so one could carry it around without having wax melt down onto your fist.

Brass candlestick holders were a common sight during her living years. Abby smiled, then started gnawing on her bottom lip as the woman waved her hand over the candle and it lit. A warning, that show of power, and the candle a tool now that fire was added. Abby did not like that at all.

Setting the candle aside, the woman pulled out a necklace with three small stones attached to it and placed it around her neck. She pulled out a second necklace, this one with a large metal charm and set it aside. Moving other things around, the woman finally settled on pulling out one ring and placing it on her right thumb, then closed the box and muttered a word to reseal the cardboard. When her son returned, he immediately crossed the kitchen to his mother’s position and put on the amulet she had set aside, then picked up the candle.

“Now, dead one, please.” The woman wave her hand upwards as she crossed the room to the plain wooden stairs.

“Mind the fifth step.” Abby warned.

“Malcolm?” The woman pressed aside letting her son wave the candle over the step. There wasn’t room on the narrow treads for him to pass, but he could bend over with the grace and dexterity of youth to examine the board in question.

“It’s cracked, mother.” The boy bent on one knee and placed a hand on the wood. “Has been for a very long time. Dry rot underneath.” He closed his eyes, humming. “The stairs are no good.” Malcolm looked up at their guide. “Not if you have any weight, but I don’t think the ghost knew that.”

The living woman’s gray-green eyes narrowed and Abby sweated. “I didn’t realize, I’m so sorry mistress.”

The priestess nodded slowly. “Very well.” She reached down and petted her son’s brown hair. “Is it possible to reach your space another way?”

Sagging, grateful for the reprieve, Abby said, “I’m on the third floor, so I think you can go around the front and get to the second floor. But the third-floor front does not connect to the third-floor servant area. You will need to get on these stairs at the second floor and I don’t know if upper flight will be any better than these.”

“They’re not.” Malcolm said. “The house was made from heart wood, oak and pine, some elm, except for these crappy stairs.”

“There was a fire in the kitchen in the fifth year, and it ran up the steps killing the servants and taking out the nursey. They replaced the stairs with these for the new hires.”

“Ah.” The woman nodded. “And you’ve been here ever since.”

Abby flushed, realizing she just explained her death and wondered what type of power that gave the witch. “Yes, ma’am.”

“I guess my visit will wait until another day.” The mother nodded at her son, and they retreated down the steps. At the bottom, the woman reach out two fingers and snuffed the wick. “Put that away please Malcolm.”

Abby drifted down following them, carefully stepping over the fifth tread even though it did not matter for her.

A small vulgarity came from where Malcolm was swinging his hand back and forth. He looked over at his mom, a blush rising up his neck to inflame his face, before he managed even quieter words over the box and it opened easily.

“We will talk more later, Miss,” the mother said. “But for now, I think we can share the house.”

Abby shook her head, and the witch frowned until Abby amended the statement. “I think we can share a home.”

Coming over to stand beside his mother, Malcolm exchanged a look with his priestess before he said, “Yes, we would like that.”

“Subject to further talks,” the mother added, running a hand over her belly, her voice softening, “but I could use the extra eyes with my crowd.”

A masculine voice came from the butler’s closet area, “Lizzo, is it okay to come in now?”

“Yes my love,” Elizabeth said, watching her husband enter the room, carrying their youngest on his hip.

Jonathan looked around the room. “Who were you talking to?”

“Just the house ghost,” the witch said, before looking over at Abby, “ghosts?”

Abby shook her head and held up one finger.


Noticing the two-year old focused on her, Abby wiggled her fingers at the baby witch who giggled at the attention and buried her head against her father’s chest.

“Okay,” the early thirty-something master of the house shrugged acceptance, “so the house is haunted.”

“Yes,” the older woman said.

Abby, now she had talked with the priestess, judged her new mistress to be just past her second-score birthday. The child in womb would likely be her last, maybe one more. Six was a strong magic number.

“But I think in a good way.” The witch leaned over and kissed her husband on the cheek. “You chose a good house.”

“Thank you mistress.” Abby said, exhaling slowly.

(words 1,656; first published 4/16/2023)

Series: Under Contract

1. N is for Noise (4/16/2023)
2. Q is for Quicken (4/19/2023)
3. Y is for Yield (4/28/2023)
4. Z is for Zzzz (4/30/2023)