Read A Night To Remember Online

Authors: Paige Williams

A Night To Remember (2 page)

Um,
not
likely
.
Maybe I
had
broken all the horror movie
"
Dont's
"
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
moment
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
. The
doorman's
face blanched and he began to shake, staring out into the darkness at a spot directly behind me.

"It is coming, you stupid child.
Come in!
Come in!"
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.

*  *  *
  *

In the
eerie
half light
of the entryway I examined my new acquaintance. In his stooped
state
he stood only a little taller than my 5' 3''.
His face
was scarred
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
didn't
give the space constant attention.

I never thought I would miss one of my Dad's lectures, but if that
was
the price of this nightmarish scene going
poof
I would gladly pay it.
If I hadn't taken my stupid shortcut I'd be
scarfing
down some of Mom's awesome
profiteroles
--
whipped cream and chocolate sauce
--
and
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,
Not
around the child, Dear
.
It used to bother me, what Dad did, but
I've
given up trying to reform him; like I had any chance of
that
. I work for him, but not that way;
I'll
never be one of the boys.

M
y host
laughed,
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
Franklin.
Please
d
to
meet you
."

"
O
h,
er
, no problem
,"
I said, reluctantly extending my hand.
"
My name's
Rosaline
."

He reciprocated by extending something more claw than hand. I took it and shivered.
It
felt slimy
and I tried to wipe mine off on my trousers without him noticing.

"
Car trouble is it? Yes?" My host, excited,
hiccupped
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.
And
the smell! I tried not to choke. It was
the
too
-
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
'd
let me use your phone to call my folks and tell them where I am."

Franklin
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
don't
have one.
We've
never
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
.
Something
which
I seriously doubted.

I must have looked crestfallen because
Morio
quickly added, "But you're
welcome to stay the night. This is a big place with many unused rooms. In the morning I
'll
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
ghastly disembodied
wail again, only this time it seemed to sweep around the castle. Whatever
body that
sound was being ripped from had taken flight and was circling us,
hunting 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
arely.

Had I only
known ....

 

 

Chapter 3

Several spiral staircases later
Franklin
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
; it
looked ancient and enormous.
I'd
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
here
, the castle is drafty.
"
Franklin
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
him
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.

Franklin
laughed, but it was
neither cheerful or
good-natured.
"Yes, certainly.
Those
neighbors."

I was dazed and numb
and the only thing I knew for sure was that
I wished
I'd
never entered this castle. Whatever creatures haunted the outside, it had to be better than
this
.
But
I nodded.
Seemingly satisfied,
Franklin
shut the door.

*  *  *
  *

As I
awoke
the sun was just peeking over the horizon.
M
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
Franklin
and find my own way through the maze of halls.
Giddy at
the thought of leaving the castle I
dressed and left my room to hurry down the
spiral stairway toward the front lobby and freedom.
Yesterday,
Franklin
had said the Anderson's lived on a
hill,
I shouldn't have any trouble finding them on my own
.

Of
course
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
castle
I wandered into
a new
hallway, my footfalls echoing off the flagstones of a seemingly endless corridor. That was when I felt the presence of someone, or some
thing
, and
knew I was not alone.

"Hello ....
Franklin
?" I asked,
nerves making my voice tremble and break
.
Since speech was
treacherous
I edged ahead soundlessly
looking for any sign of my host
.
A moment
later
I noticed the indistinct outlines of a man
leaning up against the wall
.
I relaxed.

"
Franklin
!
" I called out. "
You scared me
.
I know you said to wait for you but ..."
At the sound of my
voice
the figure
stirred
and
stretched
long shapely limbs.

Definitely
not
Franklin
.

"Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean to ...," I said, but something in the man's posture froze the words on my lips.
I turned
and
ran but the man effortlessly closed the distance between us.
I
hadn't
gone
10 feet before
I felt a rush of cold air against my
skin
and
a hand grip my arm
and spin
me around
in front of one of the torches
.
O
ne moment I was running and the next he was in front me, holding me, his grip on my arm like tempered steel.

The man
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
spices
he smelled musky, like leaves after a rain.

"Why are you helping him?"
he
asked,
his
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?
Helping whom?"

"Don't play with me," he
said
,
pushing me
away from him with such passion that
my body slammed into the stone of the corridor.
For a
moment
the room dimmed and
I
thought
I might fall.
I'm
not sure what happened then, but the next instant I was
beating at him
with my fists.

Well, a
lot of good
that
did.
I might as well not have
bothered,
he just took my hands in his and said
, as though to
a
petulant
and
rather dim
-witted
two year old, "
H
e's lying to you. Perhaps you think
you're
doing some great de
e
d, but you're
not
.
Not only is he a liar, he's
insane, he has no intention of keeping his word to you."

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