In the previous episode, Celia arrived deep in the forest where she was given food, drink and a large helping of merriment. Though everyone had drifted off to sleep, Celia allowed her curiosity of what existed in other parts of the caravan to get the best of her. During her nighttime exploration, readers voted that she encounter a fiddle-playing ghost.
Celia jumped as Luca stirred in his sleep, but he didn’t wake up and she continued across the room, stepping over gold tassels and crushed red velvet skirts. She had never been in a different part of the caravan; the room where she and Marguerite sewed and slept even had a small table where they ate their meals. Now, seeing a small ladder leading up to a trapdoor on the roof, Celia let her curiosity get the better of her. She was up the ladder soundlessly, her white dress floating up with the movement of her body, and she cracked open the trapdoor. Marguerite shifted in her sleep, and Celia glanced back fearfully as the woman sighed and pulled the ragged blankets around her and Luca. Celia pushed the door all the way open and carefully climbed halfway out.
The wind hit her face like a slap, and she inhaled quickly as her hair whipped around behind her. She peered into the black night and could just make out the outlines of the gnarled trees as they flashed past, and the dust that the caravan kicked up as it flew faster and faster in the night. There was a biting cold in the air, and Celia shivered, feeling both fearful and exhilarated by the outside air and the blackness of the night.
All of a sudden, Celia had the feeling that she wasn’t alone. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she could make out a shape sitting a little way in front of her. A moment later, she realized she could hear music playing, moving towards her on the wind. She’d heard the same mournful tune at the feast in the forest. The figure was playing the fiddle passionately into the night, and Celia, entranced, moved closer and closer until she was right behind him. The figure slowly turned around, and Celia drew in a breath – it was a man, with bright blue eyes and a mop of black hair flopped over his head. His age was impossible to tell and his features slightly blurred, as if he’d been sitting in the wind too long and his edges had been smoothed by the elements.
“Who are you,” she whispered. The man turned to look at her with a piercing glare, and after a moment, he lowered his fiddle.
“My name is Rupert,” he said slowly. “I used to work on the caravan.” His voice was a low echo, deep yet far away. “It’s good to see someone up here. So, you can see me? Could you hear my playing?”
“Yes,” Celia said nervously.
Rupert smiled. “These people are so focused on their work that they hardly hear me anymore. Your friend – Marguerite – she used to come listen to me for hours as a child. Now I’ve faded almost completely from her memory.” He looked at Celia as if wistfully remembering an old friend. “When I died -“
“What?” Celia stared at the man.
“Yes,” said Rupert simply. “My life was devoted to the caravan, and in death I am devoted still. In the forest, I dance and play with the living but in the city, I am weak. When they journey I am stuck here, tied to the caravan. I suppose you could say I’m the spirit of these people, playing their songs, never able to leave. I see their lives as they could be, in the forest, and I cannot shake that image, so I cannot be at peace.”
He regarded Celia for a moment before continuing. “Tell me, do you like the caravan?”
Celia nodded. She did like it – the sewing, the comfort of knowing what she would be doing day after day, the familiar stitches of the needle and Marguerite’s kind face helping her whenever she had trouble. She felt safe among the piles of costumes, the constant turning of the wheels lulling her to sleep at night.
Rupert sighed and picked up his fiddle playing a single long low note. “Celia,” he began. “Listen to me now, this is very important.” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.