Edmund crept though the dark hallways of Moulde Hall, munching on a slice of stale bread as he backtracked his way to the foyer and freedom. The storm still raged outside, thunder cracking loudly through the mansion.
With each step he reminded himself that running away from their parents was a common thing that orphans did. It was a rite of passage, almost, wasn’t it? He’d return to the orphanage, and they’d all be happy to see him… well, not happy, maybe, but they’d at least notice he was back.
The foyer was completely dark, with only the faintest moonlight peering in through the dusty windows to light the room. Edmund slowly began to walk towards the door, his heart growing bolder with every step. He had almost screwed up his courage to open the door, when the clock struck midnight.
The clock chime was deep, and sorrowful, and followed almost immediately by the deep echoing clang that seeped through the walls of Moulde Hall, shivering deep in Edmund’s bowels.
In the speckled moonlight the clock’s bone trim was illuminated, so it looked like a skeleton. Edmund’s stomach churned in memory of the first night he spent in the foyer, curled up on one of the couches. He stared, thinking about the clock at Mrs. Mapleberry’s.
He looked up at the statues that framed the Foyer, each one pointing or staring. He remembered thinking in his half-woken state that they were parents come to the orphanage.
He looked at the doors, and remembered how small he felt when he had first walked up to them.
Everything was bigger here, Edmund reflected. The iron fence was higher, the yard was larger, there were more trees, more rooms, and more space. The clock was taller, wider, and rang with a deeper tone. Even the lightning seemed brighter and the thunder louder. Before, Edmund had never bothered to think much about anything that lay outside the orphanage gates, and now he was thinking about families, and the founding of Brackenburg, and relatives he’d never heard of. Did he really want to go back? Could he go back?
At the orphanage, they’d forget he was there. Here, they remembered; they didn’t care, but they remembered. At the orphanage he would have to deal with Mrs. Mapleberry, who had seemed so eager to see him leave. Here…
He had come this far, he couldn’t go back to his room now.
Gently, Edmund pushed on the door. It opened with a loud creak, barely masked by the raging storm. The sheets of rain were still falling hard, the thick drops causing bits of the gravel drive to pop up into the air with the force of their descent.
There, in the middle of the road, sitting on a wrought-iron chair in the dark rain, an ivory pipe shaped like a skull stuck in her mouth, was Matron.