It had seemed a good idea at the time. A drunken dare to break into the old Harrison mansion and bring something back to prove I had done it. It was the night before Halloween and, full of James Squire Amber Bravery, I had accepted. We all had a good laugh, in the noisy warmth of the pub.
Not so funny now I was rapidly sobering and walking up the long, empty driveway in almost complete darkness on my own. It was an uncharacteristically cold night, with a howling gale doing nothing to improve my nerves. Overhead, the odd cloud sped by, briefly occulting the stars that were the only light this night. They didn’t want to be here either…
Still. I was here. I’m a grown-up. Wild nights are just wild nights. I crunched up the old stone driveway toward the house, no more than a vague dark figure a couple of hundred metres away.
Old trees lined the avenue. They must have been impressively stately in their time. Like, when they were alive. Now, no leaves coated the bare branches and somehow the branches themselves managed to stand out, stark and pale in the night despite the deep gloom.
They brooded, and the dry old limbs clattered together with wind gusts, like complex, alien skeletons.
Ugh. Not a pleasant thought. Damn imagination. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so colourful.
The old mansion dissolved into existence as I tentatively approached. Three storeys high and massive, it seemed a classic Adams Family home – haughty, regal and proud but decayed and dilapidated. Neglected. Somehow I could sense the house seemed angry about that. It squatted amidst its own rubbish and misery, scowling with broken-glassed malevolence at the world that had abandoned it.
Goddammit, in-head narrator, shut up! Get in, find something and get out.
The wind groaned and whistled through countless cracks in the old wooden walls. It slapped at loose boards and sucked at the gaping windows. The huge front door was warped with age. Whatever had passed for a handle or lock was long gone but it was still an effort force the thing open. It scraped across the stone floor of the entry foyer like an old tooth hitting an unexpected bone.
I gingerly stepped inside, gripping the paint-flaked edge of the door for security.
It was quieter inside. Peaceful even. My initial fears bled away as I stood in the vast entry of the old house letting my eyes adjust to the deep, musty darkness. It was just a house. Once it had been a home to people. It was just an empty, old house that creaked and banged because of the wind. Damn imagination made up everything else. Sober and feeling more comfortable that way, I took the time to look around.
Panelled walls drifted down each side of the wide foyer, broken by doorways to rooms hidden in impenetrable blackness. An enormous staircase swept regally down from the upper storeys to spread onto the ground floor like a bridal veil. Behind the staircase a hallway disappeared like a throat into the rear of the building.
High above, strung from the ceiling three storeys above, hung the remains of the biggest chandelier I had ever seen. Chains of crystal hung loose in places or had been replaced by spider webs, but it must have been beautiful once. Pieces of it littered the floor in the middle of the foyer, dirty diamonds scattered over the filth-coated mosaic tiles.
I decided the crystalline tears that had dripped from the amazing old light fixture would be the perfect proof of entry, and moved forward to scoop up a few for my pockets.
It came down the stairway.
Dear god, I have no idea how to describe it. But I’ll try.
It was like a wind, but it wasn’t. It had a mouth – it was all mouth, but it wasn’t. A black hole with something streaming behind it. A hole in the air. A hole in the world. I got the impression of smoky fangs and glittering red eyes, but I saw neither. Oh god I heard it though. A shrieking, ear-bursting scream from the depths of…. Christ, Hell sounds like too nice a place for it to have come from. I don’t know. It was pure, rage-filled, gleeful evil.
It opened the valves on my bladder and my bowels, but I was barely conscious of the result. It dissolved my legs and numbed my brain with abject terror. It rushed toward me in an instant and just as I was falling helplessly to my knees it slammed into me.
I was lifted bodily from the floor and hurled backward. Ribs and god-knows what else broke as I was smashed through the thick wood of the huge front door and flung into the bony, insectile arms of the trees. The branches tore through clothes, skin and flesh and I screamed at the sudden shock of pain.
That Thing though. That Thing was in my chest, in my head.
It ripped and raged at my heart and my mind. It tore great scabs off my soul and invaded like a rapist, burrowing, rending, punching with great, supernatural fists into the innermost parts of Me. I opened my mouth and screamed again – a spiritual howl melding with the physical that felt solid in my mouth. Pouring a torrent of black into the night sky I screamed again and again…
It was full daylight when I woke in my bed, feeling terrific. The physical injuries from the night did not seem to be so bad by day. Just a collection of scratches and rips that seemed to be healing almost as I inspected them. My mind felt clear and clean and the memory of my experience seemed more cathartic than terrifying.
I rose and showered and the scabs washed off under the sting of the hot water, leaving no scar or sign of any kind underneath. Odd.
I dressed for work. Even though it was overcast outside, the sunlight hurt my eyes. I dug out my shades. I didn’t feel like eating or drinking, so I just headed out.
At work I met up with my darers. I had no pieces of crystal to show them. Nothing to prove I had been inside. They chided me for being chicken and I didn’t press the issue. After all, I knew, and that was what was most important…
So here I am, at lunch with the guys. I am still not hungry or thirsty which is strange. All morning though, I have been acutely aware of the life in the veins of my workmates. The scent of those beautiful girls on my floor did make me feel hunger of sorts. It wasn’t standard issue lust though. Something different. I don’t know…
What I do know is that after patiently enduring the next few hours with these little people and their little, sheep-like lives, I will be back at The House.
I know The Thing now. I know what It is. I know Its secret. I know how I can control It.
I know how I can point It…
And I have scores to settle. A lot of scores. Holy Christ, I’m amazed that I had not realised just how many until now!
Tonight is Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. The dead join the living at sundown and all hell breaks loose.
Trick or treat eh?
There will be tricks.
Loosely inspired by an old nightmare I used to have, and the desire to write something fun for Halloween…