It should be a sad house, Mary Travers thought, as she approached the isolated mansion at dusk, but there was something not right about it. Not helped by the fact that the residence was on an isolated moor. Her head was still a little hazy as to how she had arrived there. All she had to go on was a letter saying she had been accepted as nanny and tutor to a household and that was good enough for her. She was the perfect nanny in every way.
Even so, the gates were still locked. Undo the lock gates or float over them was the first decision. She could always shrink down and walk under them but why scare the mice when she could upset the crows. With practiced ease, Mary held her skirts and floated up, across the drive and descended by the main doors, tapping on the door with her umbrella. At least there were no other nannies to shoo away and the wind was to the west. She could only move on when the wind shuttle moved to the east.
Where were the staff? Surely one of them had heard her at the door. She was expected after all. With gentle ease, she turned the door handle and the door clicked open. Locks always behaved that way with her.
Leaving her bag on the table by the door, she walked in and looked around. To the left was the morning room and parlour, to the right was the dining room and library. Straight on no doubt led to the servants and kitchen except she didn’t scan anyone there. Between everything else was a long stairway to the second floor. No doubt there would be a study, classroom and selected bedrooms. One of those would be hers. Nannies did not sleep with the servants. Everyone had their place.
Even so, locked gates and doors was a clear sign that someone had forgotten she was arriving today. Had they gone to the railway station to collect her? Hadn’t they been told she would make her own way here? But why should everyone do that when she couldn’t remember applying? She couldn’t even remember if she’d come by train.
With no lights, the mansion looked dead. Such a dismal look was never good for children. They would have nightmares and that would never do. With a thought, she adjusted the gas flow and lit up the mansion. With her perfect vision, it didn’t bother Mary whether it was night or day but it certainly gave a cheery glow to the hall. It also allowed her to study the paintings on the walls. Certainly an ancestors selection but were these the same people who owned the mansion now?
There was some giggling and a patter of feet running across the landing. Mary turned and scanned up the stairs but there was no one there. She shrugged. A mansion with a haunting of kids. Bringing them to order would mean letting them reveal themselves to her. There wouldn’t be any problem of meals or toilets to worry about. She reached out and double-checked the mansion. Other than herself, there was no real people.
Calling her carpet bag to her, she climbed the stairs with it following. Her room had been prepared for her with fresh linen, so she was expected. Even so, something wasn’t as it should be. Rather than unpack, leaving her coat on a hanger, Mary went to explore, quickly finding the classroom. It was in total disarray as if they last nanny hadn’t kept control of the children. With a sweep of her hand, she moved the chairs and desks into the right positions, with the books placed back on the shelves. She could always bring them down later. She scooped a cloth and let it clean the blackboard. No sense getting her hands full of chalk dust.
Mary sat at her desk and ignited the gaslights to give the classroom a proper look. The flickering lights expressed shadows across the walls but a little concentration adjusted their glow and steadied their motion, allowing her to study the paintings on the wall. The owners seemed to be obsessed with paintings, except here they were selected to please children not adults.
She scooped a piece of chalk from the desk and let it write the first lesson as she looked idly into space. It would have to be something from her own agenda. The parents, wherever they were, would expect her to take charge. No doubt, depending on the age of the children, they would want basic English, maths, geography, science and etiquette. Good manners and treats be automatic depending how good they were…when they appeared.
There was a patter of feet coming into the room and only looked up when the children came into view sitting in the seats.
‘Good to see you at last. I am your new tutor, Mary Travers.’
The children were looking but not at her but the chalk at the blackboard writing away.
‘Oh that!’ Mary held up her arm and the chalk returned to her hand. ‘Just a little nanny magic. Less than ordinary to what you children did. You tell me what you did and I’ll show you what else I can do.’
The three children just looked on. Mary scooped the chalk back up into the air and added a few sticks more and spun them in different patterns so she could study them. Two boys and a girl. Not teen-agers. Under 10s. Summer clothes. No woollens. It wasn’t warm this late at night even in the mansion. The boys had short brown hair, the girl’s hair a little lighter and longer with a pink bow.
Involuntarily, she scanned. The chairs hadn’t moved when they sat down. They weren’t physical but they were paying attention to her. Mary shook her head. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Yet they were quiet now when they were making noises earlier. Maybe they could only do one or the other or there was another set of children.
She brought the chalks down to her eye level and watched the children’s eyes drop and face her.
‘Hello. I’m Mary. Do you have names?’
The children nodded. At least they could hear or lip read.
‘Would you like to tell me them?’
There was some giggling but not in the room. Mary reached out but they were gone. Turning back, so were the children in the room. As quickly as that. Did they have any control of vanishing?
With a flick of her wrist, she sent all but one of the chalks back to her table and sent the last one to complete the writing on the blackboard. This time writing, ‘Write down your names next time.’ as she scooped sheets of paper and a pencil to each desk.
Instead of sitting down, she raised her legs into the air and floating in a yoga repose. Were there six children or three with their voices out of phase. She reached out and did a full scan, Searching around the house, she wasn’t looking for what was there but what was hidden. Secret corridors. Secret rooms. Secret basements. Even the attics were not free from her scrutiny. Finding nothing, she reached out into the grounds.
Again, nothing of note. No hidden graves or chambers. Trees that looked worse for wear in the dark but that didn’t make any difference in a scan. With nothing else here, it simply meant things were in phase…for now. Funny that she couldn’t reach beyond the gates and walls. It was almost like the world was full of Blanks. Except something that was there briefly but not there a second time. Erecting a shield, Mary allowed herself to sleep in her yoga pose. Only without touching anything, could she feel safe.
With nothing disturbing her, Mary woke at six am and scanned again. The mansion was still empty. Tentatively, she stepped down onto the floor and with nothing reacting walked to her room and changed into something more appropriate for breakfast, including a pinafore. With no servants, she would have to make do with whatever there was in the kitchen.
The one advantage of no one to watch, Mary chose to slide down the banister than walk down the stairs. The joy of doing something that children would enjoy never escaped her. Mind you, they couldn’t do her trick of going up the same way. Well, not without some help from her.
The dust she collected from the banister collected in a heap that she scooped into the umbrella stand. Better that than have a minute trail follow her until she found a better receptacle. Better there than on her person or disturbing the floor.
She hesitated on that thought. Dust might reveal whether the ghosts had physical presence. She rescanned, examining the floors now, especially in the classroom. The fine level of dust was only moved in the few places she walked and it hadn’t really bothered her last night. With gentle ease, she raised herself off the ground a few inches but still walked on.
In the kitchen, the larder lacked little in the way of food. The cold box outside had a supply of milk, bread, sausages, bacon and eggs, so she wouldn’t starve. She directed the hob to light and scooped the food and frying pans to cook. There was a chuckle and behind her the three children were waiting sitting at the table, agog at everything working for itself. She levitated more plates above the hob and cook more food to allow them to capture some of the heat given off.
Satisfied when everything was cooked perfectly, she distributed fried bread, cooked sausages, bacon and eggs to each plate, directing to each child, followed by a glass of milk to each of them. If that was all the food that was available, then they was what they could eat. The just stared until she brought her own plate across.
‘You must be famished. Eat. Just like I do.’ A piece of fried bread freed itself from the main slice and waited by her mouth. ‘Well, not quite like how I would do it.’
The knives and forks stood to attention on the table.
‘Use these. You haven’t forgotten how, have you?’
Rather than watch, Mary focused on eating her own meal. They were nervous but shouldn’t be treated as lab rats. Even so, she scanned them for their signatures. When she turned to look, they were gone again but the plates were also empty. The interval between their giggles and them appearing was closer. Scanning again, there was no trace of them but Mary was glad that she didn’t believe in ghosts, especially as she felt them reappear in the classroom. Leaving the dishes to wash themselves and her apron hooked on the kitchen door, Mary slid up the banister to meet them.
Gliding into the classroom, Mary gave a discrete sigh of relief that the children were sitting again at their desks. The washing complete downstairs, other than the drying, Mary scooped up the coloured chalks and allowed them to make exotic patterns in the air. If that kept their attention, better that than for them to vanish again and brought her full senses on them.
They were there but not. Would that explain their voices? Would they be able to tell her what was going on?
Once again, Mary took her floating position above her desk.
‘Hello again. My name is Mary. It looks like you can do a better trick than me. If you would you like me to join your hide and seek, I need to know who you are hiding from.’
The children just continued to watch the chalks. Still, she had their attention.
Placing the chalks back on the desk, she scooped a piece of paper into the air.
‘Now, watch what I do and copy each crease.’
Very slowly, Mary folded a paper dart in the air. The children created their own on the desks. If nothing else, it showed they could hear her even if they hadn’t spoken.
‘For this, I need a little help. Throw them up in the air will give me enough effort to make them fly.’
Mary held the dart in her hand and tossed it into the air. The children copied and she scooped the darts under her control and sent them spinning in a circle around the classroom. The simplest trick was the easiest way to convince normals of the ability but Mary decided to let them fly a path under the desks and up again. The children were enraptured.
‘Your earlier laughter doesn’t suggest you were afraid of anyone or anything, so why did you vanish?’
One of the boys briefly looked at her but turned, not thinking she noticed.
‘I’ll you what. I’ll clean the blackboard and give you some control of the chalk and you write it for me.’
Mary urged the duster over the blackboard and left the chalk floating by it. The darts piled up on her desk.
‘Now, all you have to do is move your eyes in the way want to create the words and the chalk will write for you.’
The children didn’t seem to believe it and the first few strokes were messy.
‘It might do if you each take turns with each word.’
This time it was easier and slowly the words, ‘Hide and seek’ appeared.
‘That was very good. Now you were obviously hiding. Can you tell me who from?’
The chalk dropped to the ground. They were gone. Looking to the door, a red-haired person briefly appeared.
Then she was gone as well.
Back in her floating yoga pose, Mary could only think. Not ghosts. Maybe memories. Something Sara Seeker was involved in. Sara met a lot of people with psionic potential but that young? All three or just one? It was hardly an unhappy haunted house so why was she feeling danger.
Mary scanned the house and grounds again. Once more, anything beyond the wall was off-limits. Was she inside someone else’s head?
She pinched her hand. That felt painful enough. There was some sort of presence but faded in and out, as if it was watching something else as well. Better to focus on one problem at a time.
Was Sara in trouble or the children…or both? Maybe they didn’t realise the danger they were in. If Sara was caught in the same trap and she only appeared briefly, she might be lost in whatever was going on. It would be important to join them next time. Two appearances. One in the kitchen and one here. The common denominator was her scooping objects into the air. Was that enough to get them home as well? What else could she do? Playing games all the time couldn’t have happened or Sara would have been lost forever.
Reliving a memory could mean seeing it as it was played out but her presence would mean seeing it played out in a different manner. Had Sara made a mistake? Had she resolved the problem the right way? Would her own interference be for good or bad? Then, she was Mary Travers and she was perfect in every way.
Idly, she scooped the darts into the air and allowed them to fly around the house before coming back to the classroom. With no momentum to get them started as she was used to, this was making her own particular talents too easy. Was it the mansion or the presence she could feel from time to time?
She sent the darts on their travels again in idle thought, scooping open a window to let them fly out the window. Floating to the classroom window, she watched as the darts flew to the top of the wall and each time drop back down to the ground. Vision and scanning, studying the phenomenon. There were limitations. The decision made, she scooped the darts back into the air and returned them through the window and finally back to the classroom.
With the sun outside, Mary scooped the classroom window open to let some fresh air and in a yoga repose, absorbed the autumn air, waiting for nightfall.
It was a good thing, Mary thought, that nannies knew maths and science far higher than the pupils they taught…or at least she did. They were stuck in a continuity loop. It would need more than just joining them. Sara was catching up but only because she had slowed the children down but not enough.
Outside, the moon was slowly rising. At least, beyond the walls, the sky was doing things that it was supposed to do. Realising they were due about due, Mary floated to the ceiling and raised all the desks and chairs as well. If nothing else, it would be good for a laugh.
The three children were suddenly there, looking up.
‘Hello, children. I thought I would teach up here tonight. Would you like to come up here? She’ll never think of looking up.’
The looks on their faces was enough.
‘Usually, you would have to laugh to get up here but as your voices haven’t quite caught up with you yet, I’ll come down and you can hold my hand. All in a chain now and up we go. Don’t let go.’
Suddenly, just in the same manner as the children, Sara Seeker walked into the room. She looked around and spotting the blackboard, looked up. Instantly, the spell was broken. All the furniture fell to the floor. Mary and the children floated down at a slower pace.
‘I’m glad. This particular game has been going on far too long. Hello, Sara.’
The red-haired Psionic smiled but frowned when she realised she couldn’t speak.
<Hello Mary. My voice hasn’t caught up with me yet. The last time this happened, I only saved one person.>
<A trick of mass and displacement. You were slowly catching them up but there was a choice of going with them or keeping them here. I didn’t know about the other places and here was perfect enough. What happens now?>
<I don’t know. I can’t remember anything before the hide and seek. Protect the children.>
Then she was gone.
Puzzled, Mary scanned but Sara wasn’t there. Had she been drawn back into wherever the children had taken her or had someone else done so?
Looking down, the three children were the three children looking up at her. This time her scans were very solid.
‘All that jumping around must have made you tired. Why don’t I make you supper, have a quick bath and then you can have a nice long sleep and lie-in tomorrow morning. I might even sing you a lullaby.’
As they slid down the banister to the kitchen, the children could already hear food being cooked. After all, Mary didn’t need to be in the kitchen to start preparing food.
Tentatively, as they walked ahead of her, Mary scanned the mansion estate’s walls. Beyond it was a touch of real ground. It would take time for that to grow but the plan to escape with the children was already in her mind although the wind wasn’t travelling east yet. She would cope. After all, she was the perfect nanny.
‘Psi-Kicks’, the ‘Stable Consultancy’, Mary Travers and Sara Seeker
© GF Willmetts 2017
all rights reserved
NB There is no intended infringement of the P.L. Travers Estate
or her characters. Mary Travers only believes she’s the other Mary