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For my assignment for Critical and Creative Practice I had to respond “creatively” to one of the texts we have been studying. This basically means rewrite a scene of text in your own way. I was initially going to do Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre but then it ended up being a mesh between that and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. I was only meant to do it on one text, but I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, I don’t have to submit it through Turnitin (plagiarising software), so I can post the story for you now 🙂

Enjoy!

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In The Red Chamber

My head ached. I could feel the blood dribble down my forehead from the blow I had received. I dared not wipe it away; I was still sitting on my hands as commanded by the bitter Mrs. Abbot. Beneath me the ottoman was a pristine white, matching the large armchair that made the whole ensemble look like a throne. Mrs. Reed would not think that a blood smear would go with the overwhelming redness of the Red Chamber.

I must have passed out for a while, for when I opened my eyes again daylight began to forsake the red room and the beclouded afternoon was tending to dreary twilight. I heard the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, the wind howling in the grove behind the hall, and something I was quite sure was answering it from the chimney.

“Jane. Jaaaaaaaane….”

I looked around. Who could that be? I was very much only in my present company.

“Jane!” More urgently now.

Gingerly I approached the mahogany desk. Its wood dark and smooth, polished clean by the maid. Even though this room was never used, it was always kept perfect, in a state of memorial for the late master of Gateshead Hall.

“Jaaaaaannnne….”

I opened the drawer.

I found a variety of papers, the mistress’s jewel casket and a round locket. When I went to touch it I swear it made a hissing sound that did make me jump. I steeled myself and grabbed the locket and flipped it open. Inside was a detailed miniature of the late Mr. Reed.

“You took your time!” Mr. Reed said crossly.

I am not ashamed to say that I dropped him with fright. He landed with an audible “Ooouf!”

“Mr. Reed! You spoke!”

“Clearly. Now pick me up, girl!”

I wasted no time; I had after all dropped him on his backside. “How are you speaking to me?”
Did he just roll his eyes at me?

“Sir, you died nine years ago -”

“Do you think I’m not aware of that!” Mr. Reed shouted, cutting me off.

“Are you a ghost? Haunting this painting and room?”

Mr. Reed’s thin lips turned into a horrible smile, exposing all the deviousness in his person. It was then that I realised the secret of the red-room, the spell in which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Here in this chamber is where Mr. Reed breathed his last. Here he lay in state. Here in this room is where his coffin was taken by the undertakers’ men, and since that day a dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion for even though Death had taken him, Mr. Reed had no intention of leaving.

I grew by degrees cold as a stone, my courage sinking like a coin in the fountain.

“Mr. Reed, I had thought you would have been kinder to me if you had known me,” I managed to say to him.

“You mean if I had lived,” he snapped, “Perhaps I might have, but my spirit is harassed by the wrongs of my sister’s child. You, Jane!”

“Me! But what wrongs could I have done to interrupt you in your drawer?” I protested.

Mr. Reed laughed, and I tell you it was not a jolly laugh. There was no mirth or merriment in it, just a loud and deep cackle that made gooseflesh on my skin crawl.

“Girl, if you had done no wrong, then why are you here in this room? With me? Disturbing my resting in peace! If you are indeed, so innocent, then how is it you have come to speak to me this evening? Hmmmmmm?”

“I had a quarrel with Mr. Reed. That is John, your son.”

“And?”

“Well. I struck him. But he struck me first!”

“My son. Struck by a girl. What is that woman doing with herself?” Mr. Reed muttered, shaking his head in despair, “Is that why you are dribbling blood all over my clean room?”

I put my hand to my head, and indeed my hand came away smeared in crimson that was so bright it pulsed. I rushed to the looking glass to better inspect myself, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the wallpaper move.

“Mr. Reed!” I whispered, “I am not sure if we are alone in here!”

“Don’t be incredulous, who could possibly be in here?” Mr. Reed scoffed haughtily.

“But, Sir! I saw the wallpaper move!”

“What a wild imagination! It will do you no good, girl. Now come back here. I have something to tell you for your own good.”

I admit, that at the best of times I might not respect my superiors as I aught, but this time I did find it very difficult to sit myself down in the instant way required. The moving wallpaper had unsettled me. As I looked at it, an ugly fawn colour with a blush of pink, I felt a creeping sensation crawl all over my skin and into my soul.

“Girl!” Mr. Reed shouted, “Do pay attention!”

I quickly turned away from the wall and looked down at the miniature of Mr. Reed.

“Now, again. What I tell you is for you own good. You should try to be useful and pleasant, or else you shan’t have a home here.”

My mouth hung open. What an absurd piece of advice! Agreeable, indeed! As if one could be in such a way in the company of the vile John Reed and his vain and frivolous sisters. And Mrs. Reed! Wretched, spiteful woman! Agreeable! I was so angry that water began to leak from my eyes completely against my will. Then, my habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, and forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my ire.

I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs. He laughed at me, of course, but then he was after all, a Reed.

The moonlight slipped in through a slit in the vermillion curtains, casting a haunting light on the wallpaper. Ignoring Mr. Reed, I went up to the wallpaper to look again. The patterns now noticeable with some light. The colour really was repellent, almost revolting. It had an odour that seeped into my hair and crept all around the room. A strange smell that I had not noticed before, but now it my senses would not be rid of it.

“Jane. Jaaaaane! What is it little girl?”

“What!” I snapped. A pox on him!

“Come back here!”

“No! I assure you there is something behind the wallpaper!”

Mr. Reed sighed audibly, “I think someone is in need of a tonic.”

I refused to listen. I got right up close to the wallpaper, my nose nearly touching it. If you could imagine toadstool joints, yes, an interminable strong of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions. Yes. That is how I would describe the pattern to you, this horrid, smouldering, unclean wallpaper. There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck, and two bulbous eyes stared out at me upside down. I shivered.

“I would not linger too close if I were you,” Mr. Reed said in a deeply serious voice.

“Why ever not? After all, you said there was no one behind there.”

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will!”

Aha! I really have discovered something at last!

Indistinguishable, that funny mark on the wallpaper was clearly a hand pushing away. The shape changed, and it looked like a woman creeping, stooped down and skulking.

“It is most certainly a woman!”

Mr. Reed shrugged in his little miniature, “It might be Bertha. But one can never tell with her.”

Just then the faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. I could see her clearly, pressing and pushing against the horrid paper. I got up close, and the paper did move! I had to get that poor woman out of there!

I pulled at the paper, starting from the bottom. I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled. The wallpaper began to peel, slowly at first, and then as I began to work more frantically, she too pushed back with the same vigour. All the while Mr. Reed kept shouting my name, Jane! Jaaaaaaane! But I studiously ignored him.

“Leave her Jane! She’s a beast!”

“No!” I cried.

“You’ll go mad when you see her!” he warned joyfully.

I did not care. Finally, I had peeled off all the wallpaper that I could reach. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it!

The woman, revealed, fell out of the wall an on to me. We crashed to the floor with a thud that made Mr. Reed laugh with unadulterated joy.

“Bertha! Bertha! You’re out! You’re real!” I cried.

“That’s not my name!” she screeched! And carried on screaming.

Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.

***

Bessie ran down the corridor, the sound she heard send a chill right down to her soul. Mrs. Reed should not have left the girl in there for so long. Fumbling the keys at first, for the screams were the sounds of angels dyeing and made her hands shake abnormally. She finally managed to unlock the door to the Red Chamber and wrenched it open with unimagined strength.

She was not at all prepared for what she saw, and she nearly fainted.

There on the floor, was Jane. Screaming, and clawing at her face.

She sat in front of the looking glass, and rocked most violently. In between the pauses of her screams she cried;

“That’s not my name!”

The End.
1, 606 words aprox.

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