A Look in the Past

Look in the past picture

About a year ago the laptop I used to do all my writing on died and took all my work with it. Gigs upon gigs of word documents – years of work – gone in the blink of an eye. Remembering all the good pieces I used to get work with while having to piece together what garbage portfolio I can muster has been painful to say the least.

However, all was not lost. It turns out someone held on to some of the creative work I showed them years ago. The following is one of those pieces. It’s terrible and needs quite a bit of editing, but I’m going to post the unedited bit here as a reminder I can check back to hopefully years later when I’m actually published.

First, a little back story.

A few years ago I was introduced to a horror television series called Bedlam. It was incredibly enticing and I was hooked from the word go. However, at the end of the first season none of your questions – the build-up you were waiting to see paid off – were answered. Then in season two they completely changed out the characters and basically ignored season one altogether!

Guess how many seasons the show lasted? Yeah, two. I was so irritated that I decided I’d write my own horror story.

That’s where what you’re about to read – or at least what I assume you’re about to read – comes in. Like with a lot of my creative pieces, it was intended to be a novel and got as far as it is here before I moved on for one reason or another – thinking “I’ll write more on it later” and then never touching it again.

I remember I really liked the idea of death echoes, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Without further ado, I present to you… a story I never got around to titling. So yea, enjoy.

* * * * *

Shivers sped down Sam’s spine and spread across every fiber of her being. She tried to reassure herself it was just a chill. Soaked from head to toe, getting out of the rain was all she thought about as she ran towards the door. Yet even the icy downpour couldn’t make her budge now that she stood in front of her greatest childhood fear. It wasn’t just her greatest fear either.

Every child within a fifty mile radius grew up hearing about the old Canterbury mansion on Fifth. It was the local landmark that no one wanted to be any closer to than absolutely necessary. The few families living within eyesight of the mansion just down the hill it sat on were considered courageous heroes by half the town and downright loony by the rest.

Sam’s family moved into a sizable house at the base of the hill shortly before she was born. Her mother and father laughed whenever they were asked what made them choose to live so close to cursed ground, always answering, “We got it for a steal.”

Sam had nightmares about the place even before she knew a thing about it. The way the full moon seemed to illuminate the house each month, the barren trees that stayed just on the outer fringe of death each and every year, the spooky sounds that could be heard on windy days, the broken and decayed wooden shutters, the way it became the focal point of every storm that ever passed through town, the barely visible graveyard just seeming to crop up on the backside of the hill … there were plenty of reasons for a young girl to be frightened, without her needing to hear the hundreds of horror stories surrounding the rickety old mansion.

Over the years the mansion became the focal point of teases and jokes. Plenty of dares had been passed around over the years, but not even the most courageous teenage boy ever tried to breach the condemned mansion’s enormous rotting wooden doors. Most of the tales, dares and rumors ended once she started high school. There wasn’t much time left for tired horror stories between school functions and raging hormones. Most students simply regarded the mansion as a piece of the town’s local scenery and never thought to breech the subject again. That is, until last week.

The loud crackle of a nearby lightning strike frightened Sam back into consciousness. The adrenaline surge she felt from the fright gave her the added boost she was searching for. Just rip the band aid off, she thought, grabbing the door handle and pulling back so hard that she almost lost her footing and tumbled down the stairs as the door opened. With the last bit of adrenaline and willpower left, she closed her eyes and rushed inside, closing the door behind her as she entered the heart of her childhood night terrors and proceeded to take a few minutes to gather her composure.

No one seemed to know how it started, but rumor had it on good authority that the doors to the condemned mansion had been left open all these years. Such a rumor quickly gathered the attention of every ear in town, most of whom widely believed the treasure hunting tale that went along with the mansion’s spooky origins.

The Radcliffs were the last family to ever live inside the mansion’s walls. More than a hundred and fifty years ago the entire family along with their live-in staff was found dead inside the mansion by a neighbor down the hill who hadn’t seen anyone for a few days and decided to be neighborly. The neighbor, six officers, and two detectives are the last nine people to have reportedly ever seen the inside of the Canterbury mansion. They all came out physically unscathed, but mentally distraught. All were discovered the same way; sitting outside the mansion’s steps with wide-eyed looks of terror stricken across their faces, visibly shaking with torn attire and either muttering, “They’re dead… all dead!” or nothing at all. The first couple had blood on their hands, making many people initially believe that the neighbor had been either the Radcliffs’ deranged mass murderer or only surviving victim. However, with all nine witnesses being rendered into a catatonic state, the investigation didn’t get very far.

Due to the damaged state of the neighbor and eight well-respected law officials, the town decided to condemn the building without any further investigation and locked its gates. The townspeople at the time were not willing to risk anymore souls, not that there were any more souls willing to risk themselves, and decided whatever was inside, including  the Radcliff’s sizable fortune, would stay locked away for eternity.

The fortune is what made the mansion relevant news today. Due to the times, the Radcliffs’ kept their fortune close to them, half locked away inside a vault while the other half was put on display throughout the mansion. What was worth a sizable sum more than a century ago was likely worth an enormous amount of cash now, which is why Sam finds herself standing within the cursed structure’s walls.

Taking one last deep breath, Sam opens her eyes. Unable to see much of anything, she grabs the flashlight inside her right jacket pocket and clicks it on. Fear still gluing her feet to the floor, she scans the cavernous foyer from top to bottom. Having just braved the harsh elements, squeezed her lithe figure through the slick, rusty front gate and gathered the courage to face her childhood fears, she finds little more than extreme disappointment and even more questions.

For starters, the bloodbath she always envisioned is nowhere to be found, and, unlike the outside, the inside seems almost completely untouched by time. There are a couple cobwebs and a thick layer of dust covering everything, including the floor, but no other signs of disturbance whatsoever.

The gold chandelier hanging above the foyer’s center is intact, needing only a serious polishing along with some tender love and care to bring back its original shine. With no sign of water damage, the couches located on the outside of the left and right staircases look as if a vacuum could rejuvenate them to good-as-new status in a matter of minutes. The silver-framed mirrors on either side of the central corridor’s entrance look to need little more than a sanitized wipe down, the same of which can be said about the two small table stands sitting just under the mirrors and the Victorian candlesticks resting on the table tops. The flower arrangement located on the strategically placed round table in the center of the foyer had wilted long ago, but with a little imagination Sam could easily visualize how beautiful the foyer must have been.

The only red on the floors was the carpet running up either set of stairs, and rugs every piece of furniture sat upon. The complete absence of bones and bloodstains comforted Sam and the expensive looking untouched furniture renewed her resolve. If she was going to find a way to pay for her parents increasingly expensive medical bills, this was the place to be.

Feeling full control of her body once more, Sam takes a few steps through the central corridor’s entrance. She comes across a split in the path and decides to start by checking out the right side of the mansion’s lower portion first.  Stepping into the main dining room, she immediately loses her newfound comfort and resolve.

She didn’t expect to find anyone in the house, yet there were five people sitting around the main dining room table. A set of chandeliers kept the dining room dimly lit as they slowly dug into a large Thanksgiving Day feast. The table looked like the limousine of dining furniture, stretching almost from one end of the expansive dining room to the other. At the end furthest from Sam sat a man who looked to be in his fifties. On his right, sitting perpendicular to him, was a woman who seemed about the same age. Probably his wife, Sam thought to herself. Across from the older woman was a younger woman who couldn’t have been older than thirty. The man next to her looked around the same age; probably her husband, boyfriend or brother. The man across from him, sitting beside the older woman, looked to be in his early to mid-twenties.

Behind the eldest man at the head of the table was a large staircase that led up and then forked to the right and left. At the bottom of the staircase, off to the right and about ten feet behind the center table sat a smaller table adorned with a smaller version of the same feast and occupied by two young children, neither of which looked in double digits yet.

Sam was standing just a few feet behind the table, dumbstruck, and no one in the room seemed to notice. She tried to speak up, do something, but she couldn’t even manage to clear her throat. For a deserted mansion, the tenants certainly looked pretty comfortably at home. They were all dressed as if they’d just come from performing some Victorian play. The two women had on long dresses neither Sam nor any of her friends would be caught dead in, and all the men had on posh suits she recognized from last year’s boring school play. Oddly, the room looked vibrant, nothing like the dusty foyer she’d just come through. If Sam didn’t know better, she’d swear the room had just been built along with everything in it, including the people.

She stood inside the room and continued to watch in amazement. She could see they were talking but couldn’t quite make out what was being said. It looked like normal dinner conversation, whatever normal was for them at least.  They were all laughing and smiling, enjoying their feast.

Sam shifted just enough to cause a floorboard under her to creak. It was barely audible to her, yet the man at the opposite end of the table seemed to hear it. He glanced at her and stared with rapt attention, as everyone else, even the children, quieted and turned their attention towards her.

“Wilhelm!” The man shouted. “Wilhelm!” He shouted again, and then paused briefly before asking, “Who are you and how did you get in here?”

At a loss for words, “Ummm” and “Uhhh” were all Sam could say in response.

“Sent by whom?” The man asked suddenly. Caught off-guard, Sam still couldn’t think of anything to say, but the man continued anyway. “You’re not making a lick of sense. I’m going to have to ask you to leave now. Wilhelm! Get in here!”

Realizing he wasn’t talking to her, Sam surveyed the room but couldn’t find any trace of anyone else about at all. Wilhelm, whoever he was, wasn’t here. There wasn’t anyone besides herself, the five people at the table and the two children. Yet, she could swear he was looking straight through her.

Reassured no one else was around, and having had ample time to gather her thoughts, she faced the man, ready to speak, but stunned silent yet again as his eyes grew wide with fear. The man screamed in horror, “What the-No! No! Noooooo!” His flight instinct kicked in, causing him to trip over his chair as he made for the stairs. Everyone else moved to retreat as well, but didn’t make it very far. The youngest man went down first, his throat torn to shreds by some invisible force that almost lopped off his head with enough force to slam his body into the wall, causing his head to detach completely from his body. The middle-aged man got one step towards the children before he was flung toward with other side of the room with half his torso ripped open and his intestines spilling forth.

The younger woman had also run towards the children, turning her back to her invisible attacker. She screamed at the frightened children, “Run!” Just as the command escaped her lips, she was struck and froze in mid stride with deep lacerations appearing in the middle of her back on either side of her spine. A second later her spine was removed from her body and both were thrown against the wall to Sam’s right.

The older woman was faster than the older man. She had made it up the middle of the staircase and looked as though she was going to escape up the left side, but before disappearing from view she was slammed against the back wall. A large hole now resided where her heart had been, a heart now tumbling down the stairs as if it were a child’s toy. A second later, the woman went tumbling after it. Scared stiff and in awe of the older woman’s demise, Sam didn’t notice the children had been vertically cut in half at the same time the woman’s heart had been removed. The old man was almost up the right side of the staircase when the invisible force created a small hole in the back of his skull and blew his face outward. With nothing more than a fleshy hole full of blood, brain matter, and shattered bone fragments for a face, he fell back to the center of the stairs and finally rested next to the heartless woman.

Horrified, stunned, and fearful for her own life, Sam stood glued in place. What was she to do? She’d just watched them all get slaughtered in a matter of seconds by nothing more than air. Obviously running wouldn’t help her survive.

She closed her eyes, tears running down her face. She didn’t want to die. She hadn’t meant to intrude. The seconds ticked by like hours, after about a minute it seemed as if death wasn’t coming for her after all.

Sam opened her eyes and began to question her sanity. The furniture was all in the same place as before but, like the foyer, everything had a thick layer of dust. Empty dishes covered the top of the table, cobwebs were scattered throughout the room, and rat droppings littered the floor. The people who were slaughtered still lay where she last saw them, only now they were literally skeletons of their former selves.

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