Authors: Paige Williams
broken all the horror movie
but there was a limit.
I shook my head and tried to smile.
I can't come in
but I am in trouble and in need of your help. My
car broke down ...," I began, but at that
there was an ear-splitting screech, as though wrung from one of the tormented denizens of hell
, and the
sound of beating wings filled the night. Whatever manner of abomination had just awoken, it was heading straight for
me and the open door
face blanched and he began to shake, staring out into the darkness at a spot directly behind me.
"It is coming, you stupid child.
As he shouted he grabbed my arm, knocked me off-balance, dragged me inside and slammed the door closed behind us.
Although my contact with his body was mercifully brief I had the fleeting impression of something twisted and disarticulated shifting under his robes.
* * *
of the entryway I examined my new acquaintance. In his stooped
he stood only a little taller than my 5' 3''.
and twisted, his body encased in
robes of coarse burlap, the kind used
to make sacks
Suppressing a shiver, I tried to smile at him and hold his shifting gaze, but he kept turning to look behind him as though expecting something large and deadly to creep up and devour us if he
give the space constant attention.
I never thought I would miss one of my Dad's lectures, but if that
the price of this nightmarish scene going
I would gladly pay it.
If I hadn't taken my stupid shortcut I'd be
down some of Mom's awesome
whipped cream and chocolate sauce
listening to Dad grouse about how no one respected the Old Ways anymore; that's how he said it, always capitalized, like it was the name of an ancient God who must be venerated.
Mom would scowl at him and give her head the tiniest of shakes with a meaningful glance my way,
around the child, Dear
It used to bother me, what Dad did, but
given up trying to reform him; like I had any chance of
. I work for him, but not that way;
never be one of the boys.
a fluttery inhuman sound that reminded me of the excited beating of bat wings.
"Forgive my manners,
we don't often
get visitors. My name is
, no problem
I said, reluctantly extending my hand.
He reciprocated by extending something more claw than hand. I took it and shivered.
and I tried to wipe mine off on my trousers without him noticing.
Car trouble is it? Yes?" My host, excited,
and fixed me with what, I realized, was his only good eye.
His other eye was swollen, rimmed in red, and reminded me of the ghouls and goblins I see every Halloween at my front door.
the smell! I tried not to choke. It was
sweet smell of sickness and corruption.
I managed a weak smile.
"Yes, my car broke down miles back and my cell isn't getting a signal. I would appreciate it if you
let me use your phone to call my folks and tell them where I am."
bent over wheezing with laughter.
Somewhat stung I waited until he calmed down enough to continue. "It's always the same. City folk show up wanting to use a phone and I have to tell them we
had a phone."
He said the last like it was a mark of pride, as though it were something he would brag about to grandchildren, if he had any
I seriously doubted.
I must have looked crestfallen because
quickly added, "But you're
welcome to stay the night. This is a big place with many unused rooms. In the morning I
take you over to the Anderson's on the hill, they have a satellite phone."
Stay the night
I stared around me at the lobby, at the twitchy shadows cast by the guttering candles
I would have to be mad to stay here one more second, let alone the entire night. Then, as though on cue, I heard the
wail again, only this time it seemed to sweep around the castle. Whatever
sound was being ripped from had taken flight and was circling us,
. I swallowed. Perhaps given the choice of spending the night on the now darkened road or in the castle with all its shadows, the castle was the less insane of the two options
, though b
Had I only
Several spiral staircases later
led me to one of his spare bedrooms. The room was old, even ancient. Dominating the space was an ornate four-poster bed just like one I imagined Henry the VIII might have used
looked ancient and enormous.
never slept in a four-poster bed, although I had always wanted to.
In the present circumstances, though, I would have gladly traded the bed for one at Motel 8
anything in a nice well-populated non-spooky city.
"I hope you will be comfortable
, the castle is drafty.
seemed much calmer now, his speech less excited, and I could hold his gaze for seconds at a time before he ducked his head to examine the floor.
As my host prepared to close my bedroom door behind
he stopped abruptly and turned back to me.
"This is an old castle,
at least 200 years old, and
in a grave state of disrepair. A floorboard that appears sound can suddenly break under the slightest weight. I must ask you to promise you
will not, for any reason, leave
your room during the night.
In the morning I will come and introduce you to my neighbors
He paused and smiled at me, but
there was something in his smile that gave me shivers
"You mean the Anderson's, the ones with the satellite phone." I said.
laughed, but it was
neither cheerful or
I was dazed and numb
and the only thing I knew for sure was that
never entered this castle. Whatever creatures haunted the outside, it had to be better than
shut the door.
* * *
the sun was just peeking over the horizon.
y fears of the night before seemed silly, shadows of an overworked imagination.
Eager to be on my way I decided to ignore my promise to
and find my own way through the maze of halls.
the thought of leaving the castle I
dressed and left my room to hurry down the
spiral stairway toward the front lobby and freedom.
had said the Anderson's lived on a
I shouldn't have any trouble finding them on my own
I became hopelessly lost.
It was as though walls changed position. Whole staircases led to nowhere, their ends plastered over. After what felt like hours of tramping through the droughty
I wandered into
hallway, my footfalls echoing off the flagstones of a seemingly endless corridor. That was when I felt the presence of someone, or some
knew I was not alone.
?" I asked,
nerves making my voice tremble and break
Since speech was
I edged ahead soundlessly
looking for any sign of my host
I noticed the indistinct outlines of a man
leaning up against the wall
" I called out. "
You scared me
I know you said to wait for you but ..."
At the sound of my
long shapely limbs.
"Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean to ...," I said, but something in the man's posture froze the words on my lips.
ran but the man effortlessly closed the distance between us.
10 feet before
I felt a rush of cold air against my
a hand grip my arm
in front of one of the torches
ne moment I was running and the next he was in front me, holding me, his grip on my arm like tempered steel.
smelt of spices and the lingering bitterness of tobacco. His clothes
fit him well, as though they had been tailor made from the finest materials.
"Who are you?" he asked, every syllable a threat.
I reeled back and tried to force my hand free of his grip, but he effortlessly kept his hold on my arm.
Yanking me off balance so brutally hard my head snapped backward, he drew me toward him. Under the
he smelled musky, like leaves after a rain.
"Why are you helping him?"
voice like a growl of thunder.
My fear was a palpable thing swimming under my skin, stealing my breath away.
"Answer me!" he bellowed, shaking me.
Fearing what he would do if I remained silent I managed to whisper, "Helping?
"Don't play with me," he
away from him with such passion that
my body slammed into the stone of the corridor.
the room dimmed and
I might fall.
not sure what happened then, but the next instant I was
beating at him
with my fists.
lot of good
I might as well not have
he just took my hands in his and said
, as though to
two year old, "
e's lying to you. Perhaps you think
doing some great de
d, but you're
Not only is he a liar, he's
insane, he has no intention of keeping his word to you."