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Hauntings

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Two years ago, with rain in his hair and blood in his mouth, Ciel had knelt in the smoke-black ruins of his parents’ graves and whispered a promise of reconstruction. Dragging his corpse-thin fingers through ash and shattered glass, he’d gathered the ruins of his life hard inside himself and issued his second command to a patiently waiting demon: Rebuild it. Exactly as it was before.

Sebastian had assumed he’d meant the manor. He was partially right.

Everything was the same: the furniture, the portraits, the dishes, even the crown molding. Sebastian was skilled at his work, and he obeyed Ciel to the letter, recreating the manor from the scattered fragments of the child’s memories. It was a beautiful house. It was not home.

And then the ghost moved in.

Sebastian never saw it. It never moved Finny’s gardening sheers when the blond wasn’t paying attention. It never hid in shadowed, unused rooms, waiting to scare Meylene when she entered to change the curtains. It did not rattle chains in the attic, it did not moan in the hall; it did not appear in mirrors, or in the faces of the grave family portraits, and no one whispered about it in the dark by the fire.

It came to haunt the ruins of the mansion, and that’s exactly what it did.

At night, Ciel can still feel its presence. It stalks restlessly through the chambers of his heart, peers through the broken windows of his mis-matched eyes. In the shadowed attic of his tortured mind, it sifts through the detritus of all the things he’d rather not remember, breathing fear into the erratic thunder of his aching pulse. In the soot-streaked recesses of his burnt out soul, the ghost writes warnings with its invisible fingers – sweeping, cryptic words painted in blood on the skeletal curves of his ribs. Sometimes he feels it drift down the staircase of his spine, stirring fragments of a never-fully-healed ankle bone in his charred basement. On the very worst nights it slips outside, slipping its phantom fingers through the weeds of his tousled hair; the rain of his tears, soft and silent, can’t trouble it anymore.

He is its haunted house, and when he dares to close his eyes and slip inside through the door of his dreams, the images are dark and terrifying.

Sebastian claims not to know it’s there, but over the years it finds ways of casually manifesting itself. It’s present in a glance, a certain gesture; the inherited way Ciel has of holding his head to one side when he’s thinking. As he grows older, it begins to speak through his voice, and sometimes, if Ciel glances quickly through the corner of his eye, it’s present in the mirror when no one else is around.

On the night Lizzie gives birth, Ciel sneaks into the child’s room when everyone else is asleep and cries silently because the ghost is there, too: it’s hidden inside the loops of the ‘e’ and the curl of the ‘n’ in the little boy’s name, giving an especially sharp edge to the final ‘t.’ “I’m sorry,” Ciel whispers to the baby, for as long as they live, the ghost will not die – preserved and eternal inside the ruins of a legacy he cannot rebuild, no matter how hard he tries.