Content warning: stalking, mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Red Chain of Communion
Jane, the text message reads, there is a little red chain of communion between us, and there is nothing strong enough to snap that chain. If it should snap, I would bleed internally and die. I need you, Jane.
It’s from an unknown number, but she knows who it’s from. She deletes it and blocks the number. The city square is crowded, the sun shines, people mill about their lives, but she looks over her shoulder nonetheless, and shivers. She doesn’t see anyone hovering over her, but it feels as though he’s there.
It began as a job advert on a sketchy site. She’d known better, but she was desperate, and the pay was eye watering. That should have been the second tip-off. Live-in tutor in a fancy house in the country? Sounded ideal.
Rochester had been pleasant enough, grumpy, perhaps, growing warmer, until she found herself blushing when he entered the room. Her heart beat faster, seeing him. Their conversations grew longer and longer, unphased by the sun setting, or rising, or the whispers of his guests or his house keeper.
She began to suspect there was someone else in the enormous house with them. Perhaps an elderly relative that he neglected to mention out of some misplaced sense of shame. Some of her things went missing. She thought she heard someone whispering to themselves in the corridor one night.
Then she awoke, in the middle of the black night, her doorknob gently rattling as someone tried to enter. The septic light of a torch lanced from the gap beneath the door. The door was locked – the house was creepy, vast, draughty, and the locked door made her feel safer – the intruder swore softly to herself and shuffled away, the floorboards creaking beneath her weight. Jane remained frozen in her bed until dawn whispered across the land.
Rochester assured her she had dreamt it.
She brought up marriage, again and again, assuming Rochester’s reticence was simply his taciturn manner. Eventually he broke down and revealed who it was that tried to enter her room that night, who it was that lived in the vast attics of Thornfield Hall.
She had run, of course. As far, and as fast as she could, into penury at first, and then into the arms of distant relatives she hadn’t known existed.
Then the messages from Rochester began.
‘She’s gone, Jane. There was a fire. It’s all alright now, we can marry. Come back to me, Jayne, please, come back to me, my helpmeet, my love, my Jane.’
She hadn’t gone, of course. She had no desire to become the next Mrs Rochester trapped in the attic of whatever cobwebbed mansion he transplanted himself to. That poor woman. The news said she perished in a fire of her own making, but as Rochester’s messages, calls, visits, became more insistent, she began to wonder whether or not he had a hand in it.
A different apartment, a different city, distance; a different phone number, report after report to the police, all good things to keep between her and Rochester, but the calls continued, the messages got through every now and again.
It seemed that little red chain of communion between them might truly never be snapped.
Short Shocktober Day 8 done. Overdue and over length, sure, but done, at least. I can’t make going over length a habit, tho’.
I wasn’t expecting ‘Chains’ to come out as a horror rip-off of Jane Eyre, of all things, but it was such a fun idea when it hit me, I realised that I had to.