The Ghosts of Autumn Monor

The Ghosts of Autumn Monor

A Story by Joseph A. Noon
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The Ghosts of Autumn Manor is a timeless supernatural thriller, exposing a great house shattered by murder, yet reconciled by revenge. This gothic epic is sure to enlighten you to the true essence.

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The Ghosts of Autumn Manor

by

Joseph A. Noon

Copyright © 2012 Joseph A. Noon

All rights reserved

[email protected]

 

 

 

THE GHOSTS OF AUTUMN MANOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, how I love the autumn, it simply captivates me, the lingering smell of wood smoke in the distance, the jasmine in full bloom on the vine. The enduring hardwoods, unselfishly they pay their penance to mother earth in an elaborate display of hypnotic vermilions, and ambers. How I hate to see it fade.

I remember as a boy my mother telling me that autumn is Gods way of showing us that death is something beautiful. I suppose it can be, but I also know it can be something ugly and grotesque. That's why in part I'm telling this story… whom am I, you ask? My name is Albert Reeves, former head servant of a great manor, and queerly enough, through a string of unfortunate events, I am now the new Lord and owner of the estate. Again, I feel that it is my obligation to tell you this tale of the bizarre happenings that are threaded deeply within the very walls of this accursed house. My reasons I must say, are selfish, in hopes that it may lighten my burden somewhat, and bring me peace in the long sleepless nights that plague me.

It all started on a day much like this one. Summer was fading, the days grew shorter, and the nights grew crisp with the promise of harvest soon at hand. The trees too began their transitions, yielding to the demanding season.  The air loomed with a quiet, forbidden melancholy. There, in the distance, stood Autumn Manor, majestically perched high upon her grassy knoll. The gothic manor was a work of genius, architecturally speaking. A true testament of sixteenth century craftsmanship, from her bold gable studded roofs, where the gargoyles slept. To the great feudal hall, with its smoke set walls that whispered of yesterdays.

Even the grounds were an architectural marvel, riddled with arcading shrubs, and flagged stone paths that meandered adventurously through manicured gardens, until losing themselves in the red oak thickets. The magnificent edifice had stood for centuries, basically unchanged, with the exception of the conservatory. That was added later to the rear of the house by the late Lady Mohan, before her passing some ten years ago. Autumn Manor was placed upon that grassy knoll for the simple reason; there was no other ground suitable. The acreage that surrounded the estate was a sheer wasteland, riddled with black pitted bogs and bottomless pools of quicksand.

But regardless, Autumn Manor was one of the last of the great houses; it reigned supreme in northern England, already justly famous for their country manors. The bizarre thing about Autumn Manor was that she was like a wayward lover, you couldn't stand to live with her, but you couldn't bring yourself to live without her. I think that's why Lord Mohan stayed away so frequent in his travels. In my opinion, I suspect that he couldn't bear the haunting memories the house kept. The overwhelming guilt that he had endured, not so much the death of his wife, although tragic, he loved her very much, and did everything he could to save her, it was just simply her time to go. His conscience was clear on that matter. What I'm referring to, is the death of his younger sister Emily, which still to this very day is surrounded in mystery to outsiders. Only Lord Mohan and I know the truth, that being he had murdered her… yes murdered her. I should know, I helped him with the unspeakable act. I gave him the knife that he plunged into her heart, and with my assistance, we wrapped her body in a throw rug and hurled her corpse into the bogs of the moor that dank hot summer night.

I should say she had it coming. She was a loathsome creature, a bad seed, if you will. Always causing trouble and fueling the fires of anger. I once caught her beating a newly winged puppy, because it wouldn't sit at here command. I remember the night of her death; she had come to Lord Mohan and announced that she was selling her half of the estate to a rival neighboring family, which were sworn enemies of the Mohan's. Lord Mohan tried to reason with her, pleading her not to do so. But she just stood there and blatantly laughed in his face, saying she would do as she pleased, it was hers, not his. I overheard everything; I entered the room after she had left to serve Lord Mohan his evening brandy. He knew I had been listening. As I put the tray of brandy upon his desk, I lifted the concealing serviette that lay upon it, revealing a butcher knife that I had seized from the kitchen. Without a word we both nodded; we knew what had to be done.

Not long after Emily's, uh… disappearance, strange things started to happen around the manor, especially at night. It started with voices in the corridors, moaning and whispering. Roaring fires in the hearth would suddenly extinguish, as if something was smothering them. Cold spots soon riddled the house, hinting of foul presence. As if that wasn't enough, freshly cooked food would spoil on our plates, right before our very eyes. Then the apparitions came; one night a female servant claimed to have seen Lady Emily standing by the kitchen door soaking wet, covered in bog moss. One other servant found wet footprints leading from the front door to the cellar that lay beneath the great house. My Lord and I were quick to dismiss these accusations as ignorant superstition, or fear induced hallucinations.

Until one night we both saw her with our own cursed eyes. Lord Mohan and I were in the study, he at his desk and I trying in vain to keep the fire lit. He was telling me about his upcoming trip to America, and how much he was looking forward to it. When suddenly he abruptly stopped in midsentence, I curiously turned to see Lord Mohan staring at the window, his face wrenched with terror. I quickly fallowed his gaze, only to find Emily's wet naked body pressed against the panes of the lancet window, smiling at us with ill- intent. I quickly drew the curtains; we both stood gaping at each other in smoldering disbelief. Later that night, over a bottle of scotch, we discussed our next plan of action. It was decided that the next morning, I would go to the gypsy encampment on the outskirts of town, and seek out advice.

So early the next day, I did just that, as I entered their encampment the fires were still smoldering from the night before. I strolled around the camp inquisitively looking about. They must still be sleeping, I thought. As I passed a line of vardos, my foot clumsily slipped into a tin bucket, which made a god awful racket. The head of an old gypsy woman abruptly peeked out.

"What do you want?" She snarled, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

"Sorry to wake you ole girl, but I'm in need of advice."

"If you want your palms read, come back later tonight," she huffed.

"No, no, nothing like that... what do you know in the way of getting rid of ghosts?" I asked. She stared blankly at me for a moment, and finally countered with her own question. "You have ghost?"

"Well no, not really, it's a friend of mine you see. Lately he's been harassed by a… a spirit if you will, and he desperately wants to be rid of the confounded thing. Now, is there some sort of charm, or potion I could obtain to dispel the rascal?" She regarded me again as if I were some sort of buffoon, and replied. "There's no charm, or potion that can help you and your friend, but I do know of something that will," she said, as she cleared her throat and held out her hand.

"Oh yes," I said, reaching in my pocket and producing a shilling. As I held it up she quickly snatched it from my hand, and asked. "Does Blue Vervain grow on your… I mean your friends property?"

"Why yes, I believe it does."

"Seek it out, as much as possible, and then transplant it in a border around your friend's house. It is the only way, for the plant is sacred to Venus and will banish all evil."

I thanked her kindly and was on my way. The rest of the morning was spent in search of this accursed flora. I sought the entire property, but alas came up empty-handed. The old hag had told me what it looked like, but I saw nothing that remotely resembled it. So I resorted to other measures, I trespassed on the neighboring estate. There to my surprising relief it grew in abundance, a whole field of it actually.

I quickly hiked back to Autumn Manor and gathered the other servants, along with shovels and wheel-carts. We commenced on the field, gathering the sacred flora as fast as we could. I sent some of the servants back with cart loads to start planting, while the rest of us gathered more. By nightfall we had managed to form a thick hedged shrub that surrounded the entire manor.

Well I have to give it to the ole hag; she certainly knew what she was talking about. From that night on we hadn't seen hide-nor-hair of ole Emily, still brooding in the moors no doubt. The years peacefully rolled by, as Lord Mohan went on his trips, frolicking in America. Leaving me in charge with the affairs of the estate, all seemed jolly good. Until one day I received a letter from America, it was from Lord Mohan, which read,

 

 

 

 

Dear Albert,

 

I'm having a jolly ole time here in America. Right now I'm visiting San Francisco, you'd love it here. I want you to be the first to know, my friend, that I've met someone, her name is Sarah. We've fallen in love, and we are soon to be married. I intend on bringing Sarah and her son Jack, home to Autumn Manor, there we shall reside for good.

 

Your friend and Master,

Lord Mohan.'

 

I folded the letter and creased it with my fingers, as I stared out over the moor. I was happy for him; I really was, although the mention of the son did raise an eyebrow. There hadn’t been any children here since Lord Mohan and I were lads. Although all seemed safe and tranquil for years, I couldn't help not to think, what if…what if our organic garrison defaulted? What revengeful horrors would bestow us?

The day soon came of my lord's arrival. The other servants and myself, stood outside to meet the carriage in front of the house. Up ahead we could see it approaching through the shade of the oaks that line the dust-ridden path. I anxiously smiled, anticipating seeing my friend. With the squeak of the wheels, the carriage came to a stop. Lord Mohan quickly jumped out, before the dust could even clear.

"Albert!"

"Lord Mohan, welcome home!" I exclaimed, rushing to shake his hand.

"How is everything, good I hope?"

"Everything's wonderful, even better now that your home."

"I'd like for you to meet someone." He said, with a crooked smile. Lord Mohan's extended hand was soon met by a petite well-manicured hand of a lady. She stepped modestly from the carriage. The lady had auburn hair pulled into a bun, and the biggest green eyes you could have ever hoped to imagine. In a word, she was simply breathtaking.

"Albert, may I present Lady Sarah," He announced, with well-earned pride.

At first she unknowingly ignored me; her eyes were fixed in wonder upon the great house.

"Enchanted, my lady," I declared, submitting a graceful bow. She quickly revived from her awe-inspired daze, and acknowledged my presents.

"Oh, forgive me," she said apologetically. "You must be Albert, I've heard so much about you."

"And I, you my lady, I do hope that you and your son will enjoy your stay."

"I'm sure we will, this place is so lovely." She smiled gracefully, and walked with Lord Mohan, while he introduced her to the other staff. I turned towards the carriage again half expecting to find a child. But to my bewildering surprise, I found a strapping young man exiting its aperture. He was a tall handsome lad, with curly blond hair. I immediately extended my hand in greeting, "You must be Master Jack," I smiled. The lad stood there for a moment, staring at my hand, suddenly his demeaning gaze rose to mine. "Be careful with the bags old man," he curtly replied, as he strolled arrogantly away towards the manor. With a raised eyebrow, my head followed his departure. My assistant Godfrey stood there laughing at my disparagement, but abruptly stopped, when I expostulated - nodding to the bags, "You heard the lad." Then I in- turn arrogantly strolled away.

That night I was summoned to Lord Mohan's study, where I found the hearth burning brightly. Lord Mohan sat comfortably in a winged back chair, dressed in his night clothes, with his hand cradling a glass of scotch. His eyes were locked deep within the fire, as though peering through a secret window of unpleasant memories. My presence soon caught his attention.

"Albert!" He said with a wayward smile, as he stood and touched my shoulder.

"Pease sit, would you care for a glass of scotch?" He inquired, walking towards the beverage cart, for a refill.  "No thank you sir. I never drink before bed; it tends to give me nightmares."

"God knows this house has more than its share," he chuckled, as he sat back down.

Through the fire light I could see my lord's false elation quickly diminish to sobering worry, something was troubling him. He sat motionless, and again stared into the fire. "Do you think she'll ever come again?" He said at last, his eyes never leaving the hearth.

"I don't know," I replied, looking down.

"How in god's name can a place so radiant, cast so many shadows," he whispered to himself. Lost for words, I said nothing. He turned to face me, desperation burned in his eyes.

"I've told them nothing of the horrors of this place, and they are not to ever know. Do you understand Albert?"

"You mean you brought them here ignorant to the fact of possible danger?"

"And just what was I supposed to say Albert? Sarah Will you marry me? - Oh by the way, I murdered my sister, and now she haunts the moors seeking revenge on my life. Come along man, she'd have dismissed me as a lunatic, not to mention a murderer!" By this time Lord Mohan was standing, and anxiously pacing fireside. I with my head bowed, kept my silence. He turned in frustration, "Well… don't just sit there man, say something!"

Just then, we heard the most ghastliest moan that bellowed forth from the moor, echoing through the oak wood forest; as it's unwholesome cry filled  the darkened halls of the manor and eventually rang in the crystal glass that my lord  held in his hand. It was a sound so awful, that I felt my blood suddenly turn cold, so unnatural it was, that even the crickets of the field were silenced. Lord Mohan ran to the open window, screaming in drunken antipathy, "We hear you Emily, we hear yooou, you accursed b***h!"

Suddenly, the door to the study flung open, it was Lady Sarah, shaking, in frantic disarray. She ran throwing herself into my lord's arms. "George, oh George, what was that horrible nose!" She cried. Lord Mohan stared my way as he cradled the frightened woman. "There, there dear, nothing to fret over, it was just the wind."

"Wind, it certainly didn't sound like any wind I've ever heard!" She exclaimed.

"I'm telling you Sarah, It was just the wind blowing through the woodlands. You'll soon come to find that things are a lot different here, than in America," he said with a faux chuckle.

Lady Sarah pulled away, and laughed a sigh of relief. "I suppose that was very childish of me. George, take me to bed," She said with a promiscuous smile. He returned the gesture.

"That sounds like a wonderful idea. Albert, I think we'll retire for the evening. Let's watch out for those nightmares ole boy," he said, touching my shoulder in passing. I heard the door close. As I stared into the fire, a sense of dread befell me, and at last I said… "Let's"…

The next morning, breakfast was served in the conservatory as usual, where an endless buffet of scones and muffins, poached eggs and bacon awaited our new family. As I had mentioned earlier, the late Lady Mohan had had the addition built in hopes that it would cheer things up a bit. In my opinion she had succeeded. The floor's perimeter was embellished with Spanish tile; the sundrenched room housed an array of exotic plants, everything from Venus flytraps, to African violets. The room was also well equipped with a misting system to mimic the plants natural environment. Some days, I, personally would sit there for hours-on- end with a good book, imagining myself in some far off exotic land.

Now before I lose myself any further, where was I …Oh, yes breakfast, Lord Mohan was the first one down, him being an early riser I half expected it. He was soon joined by Lady Sarah, as they sat and ate, they conferred plans to see the town village, and do a bit shopping. Finally, Master Jack decided to grace us with his presence. I quickly realized that the lad was a product of somewhat questionable breeding. He appeared at the table shirtless and hair uncombed. There he proceeded to stuff his face in a most barbaric way, as he uncouthly smacked his food and slurped his juice. "Would the master care for a napkin perhaps?" I asked.

"Yeah, much obliged old man,” He mumbled with his mouth full. I rolled my eyes, as I handed him a napkin, only to find Lord Mohan shaking his head, watching in amusement.

"Jack, Your mother and I, have made plans to go into town today, for sport, care to join us?"

"Nahh, I've made other planes," Jack replied, with his mouth still full.

"Oh, what might that be?" Lord Mohan asked, sipping his juice.

"I think I'll explore the moor today."

Suddenly, the juice spewed form Lord Mohan's mouth, as he coughed uncontrollably.

"George, are you alright?" Lady Sarah exclaimed.

"Yes, yes… I'm fine," he said catching his breath. "Uh, listen Jack; I wanted to speak with you about that. It's really dangerous out on the moor, especially this time of year. The moor is a cruel labyrinth of peat bogs, and quicksand, not to mention the beasts that stray it. I really don't think it's wise, at least not now."

"I don't recall asking your permission, I'm nearly eighteen and I can take care of myself, do you understand?" Jack threw his napkin to his plate, and stormed out. Lord Mohan immediately stood. "Hear, hear, I won't be addressed in that manner in my own house, do you understand me!"

"Oh George, let him go, he didn't mean it, he's just bored that's all," Sarah interposed nonchalantly.

I followed the lad down the hall, with a tray under my arm and quickly caught up with him.

"I don't mean to impose sir, but"…

"Well you are old man!" He snapped.

I just smiled politely and said, "If you insist on going somewhere, might I suggest the countryside north of the manor. It's simply beautiful this time of year, and the fishing is exquisite."

Jack stopped and eyed me with contempt.

"Look you nosey old fart, I don't know what you and that other pretentious fruit are hiding, and I don't really care; but I'm going to the moor and that's final!"  As I watched him walk away I shook my head in dismay, wishing only I was thirty years younger.

A short time later, outside, Lord Mohan gave his new bride a quick tour of the immediate grounds, while waiting for the carriage. He pointed out various fountains and species of trees. They soon came to a tall hedge maze. "See over there darling, that's where Albert and I played Hide - Go - Seek when we were but only lads. I remember for some strange reason, he'd always let me win," he said, with a reminiscing smile.

"You're very fond of Albert, aren't you?"

"Yes, I suppose I am, we grew up together you know. His father was in the service of mine. Much like Albert and myself, the only difference being, is that we've remained close friends throughout the years, in spite of our social standings." They walked a little further, until Lady Sarah stopped, and pointed curiously. "George, what is that strange hedge that encircles the house?" My lord hesitated, until finally saying. "It's called Blue Vervain; it's indigenous to this region."

"What's it for?" She inquired.

"It's simply for ornamental purposes, that all," he replied with a thin smiling.

"Really?" She queried, turning to have a second look; while the smile quickly deserted my lord's face.

"Let's go back to the house, shall we. The carriage certainly must be waiting by now,"

he instructed, casting a cheerless glance back towards the hedge. They turned and made their way back; unaware that Jack was spying from the far edge of the thicket. He turned with a scoff, and began meandering through entangled chaparral that separated Autumn house from the moor. But Jack was not alone, for one of our wolfhounds curiously tagged along.

He finally came to the far side of the oaks. Jack stared in awe out over the vast primordial wasteland; where the morning fog still flanked the ground, weaving its mysterious loom. Through the haze he could make out massive boulders that stood like obelisks, hinting of some past primitive conglomerates. Jack was apprehensive of going any further; it was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. What if their warnings of danger were correct? He thought.

Suddenly, his four legged companion heard something ahead and sprang into the heather, while barking in pursuit. Jack shook his head. "Come here you stupid hound!" He commanded, to no avail. Jack reluctantly commenced dredging through the damped heather, in search of his companion. It appeared the further he went, the thicker the fog loomed, until Jack lost all sense of direction. He soon called again for the hound, but was answered by something quite other than a dog. In the near distance he heard a low bellowing growl. It started circling him, hiding itself within the mist. Jack's heart sank, he instinctively knew it wasn't the dog, but whatever it was, it was big and it was hungry. The young man was now panic stricken, and did the worse thing he could have ever done… he ran.

The beast lunged in pursuit, eager for a quick meal. The young man could hear the beast's panting breath not far after. Jack ran blindly through the abysmal fog, for whatever lay ahead, certainly couldn't be any worse then what lay behind. But he was wrong; he suddenly tripped, as he fell to the ground. He tried to regain his footing, but found himself only sinking. Jack had fallen in quicksand and it was soon to claim him. But at the time, he was more concerned with his pursuer. Jack looked about in earnest, but saw no sign, the beast had simply vanished. Now Jack was free to pursue other problems at hand, like asphyxiation for instance.

Jack scrabbled desperately to free himself, but with every twitch of his muscle, the abysmal pit swallowed him further. Oh why couldn't I have listened? He thought. They tried to warn me, but I ignored them. Now I'm doomed to perish in this godforsaken pit, not ever knowing the pleasures of life, or the touch of a woman. The pit continued to have its way with him, Jack could feel the sand seeping into his nostrils and burning his eyes. Now nearly at deaths door, the young man raised a single hand and groped in vain for a lifeline.

He suddenly thought he heard a woman's voice saying. "Be still, be still!" Just then, Jack felt someone very powerful grab hold of his wrist. The hand began to slowly pulling him to safety from the clutches of the seeping death. The young man soon found himself on the embankment, trying desperately to regain his wits. Half blinded, Jack could make out a vague figure kneeling over him. As he whipped the sand from his stinging eyes, his vision started to clear. To his ample surprise it was a girl, a very beautiful girl with raven hair and deep blue eyes; her skin was as pale as the autumn moon.

"Are you alright?" She asked, stroking the wet hair from his face.

"I - I think so," he said trying to stand.

"Let me help you," said the girl. As Jack staggered to his feet, he began dusting the sand from his clothes and hair.

"Thank you…you saved my life, how can I repay you?"

"Just watch where you're going next time. The moor is filled with many unseen dangers."

"So I've heard, I'll be more careful in the future, by the way my name's Jack."

"I know," she said turning away. "You live in Autumn Manor don't you?"

"Yes I am, I mean, yes I do…How do you know these things?"

"I know a lot of things," she said turning to face him again. "I used to live there, a long, long, time ago."

Suddenly, a rustle came from the bushes, out came none-other than Jack's wayward dog, joyfully wagging his tail. But the hound abruptly froze when he caught sight of the girl. The hair on his spine bristled as he bared his teeth, with a loathsome growl. He quickly backed away and disappeared once again into the heather.

"I wonder what's gotten into him," Jack replied. The girl said nothing.

"I have to leave you now," she said distantly. "If you follow the embankment, it will lead you to the edge of the moor. Once there, you can find your way back."

"Will you be here tomorrow?"

"I am here every day Jack."

"Can I see you?" He asked.

"I would like that very much," she replied, as she smiled and turned away, disappearing in the mist. "Wait, I don't even know your name."

"My name is Emily." He heard the voice whisper, as it echoed eerily through the moor.

When Jack returned that evening, he mentioned nothing of his exploits in the moor. He was so exhausted that he retired after dinner. But still, in spite of his fatigue, he lay in bed, wide awake, dreaming of the raven-haired maiden.

The next day, Jack waited for the sun to extinguish the niggling fog. Without a word, he set off once again for the moor. After hours of searching and calling her name, Jack came to a circle of obelisk boulders, much like the ones he'd seen the day before. Inside the knot of stone was a small earthen pool, there he found Emily swimming unclothed and carefree. He watched her milky body with fervid desire, eyeing her naked features cresting the eboned water. Finally Jack called to her.

"Emily, I'm here!" He shouted apprehensively.

"Jack… I've been waiting for you; come in, the water is divine!"

"I would…but I can't swim!" He returned with a smile.

"Oh, well I guess I'll have to come to you!"

The jet-haired beauty stepped out of the mist capped pool openly revealing herself, as she brazenly sashayed towards him. The young man was nervous and tried to speak, but she quickly shushed him, with the tip of her finger.

"Kiss me Jack," she whispered, putting her arms around his neck. He did so, and there on the banks of the moor, she seduced the young man, fulfilling every promiscuous dream he'd ever imagined. For hours they laid silent in each other’s arms. Finally Jack turned, propping himself on his elbow, and said. "Emily, I remember you saying yesterday, that you used to live in Autumn Manor. What exactly did you mean by that?"  Emily anxiously sat up and stared out over the moor.

"That was a long time ago Jack, I rather not talk about it."

"Why not, surely it can't be that bad? It's just that, you know all about me, but I know nothing of you. I like you Emily; I just want to get to know you, that's all."

She stood and walked to the edge of the earthen pool. "So you want to know about me, do you? I'm warning you Jack, you might not like what you hear."

"Try me," he said confidently. Emily turned in earnest and faced him.

"To answer your questions… yes, I did live in Autumn Manor once. Not only did I live there, but it was rightfully mine. But my brother, who you now call father, drove me away for his own selfish, black needs."

"You mean to say, that George Mohan is your brother?"

"Yes, you are correct young Jack."

"I don't understand, why would he drive his own sister away."

Emily laughed. "You mean you don't know? Lord Mohan is a sorcerer, he prays to dark things. He soon wanted me to covert, but I opposed him, telling him I'd never be in league with Satan. One night he sent his servant Albert, to murder me in my sleep. But I escaped, and hid on the moor, and I've been here ever since. I have nowhere else to go."

"Why don't you just go to the police and expose him?" Jack replied, shrugging his shoulders.

"Don't you think I've tried, but they all scoffed at me and told me to never bother them again with such wild accusations. I've tried to go back, you know, but he won't let me. He keeps me at bay with that accursed hedge, every time I go near it; it bedevils me it seems, almost to the point of death. Oh Jack please help me!" She cried.

Jack stood and held her tightly in his arms. "What can I do to ease your suffering Emily?"

"You must kill him," she whispered.

"Kill him?" Jack said with a chuckle. "I can't kill him that would be murder. Besides all this does seem a little farfetched, I mean a sorcerer, come on!"

"Jack, you must believe me, you and your mother are in grave danger. Soon he will reveal his true nature, and if you don't join him in his black rites, he'll murder you both.

Jack I beg of you, it's the only way… the only way we can finally be together. Don't you want to be with me forever Jack?"

"Of course I do Emily," he replied, as he held her tightly.

"Then you'll do it?" She hissed, with a malevolent glee that went unnoticed.

The young man said nothing, as he looked to the ground and shook his head in compliance.

"And the hedge?" She reminded.

"I'll take care of it," he replied grimly.

"Oh, Jack we're going to be so happy, you'll see!"

But Jack didn't seem too happy. He gave her a faint smile and said, "Well, I better be getting back, before I'm discovered." The young man turned with a heavy heart and walked away. "Remember what I said young Jack!" She called with an evil smirk. Jack kept walking.

Jack remembered alright, in fact that's all he could think about the entire journey home.

I'm no murderer! He thought to himself. All that talk of sorcery and devils baffled him. As much as Jack liked the girl, he couldn't help but to wonder if she was some sort of escaped lunatic from a local asylum. Regardless, he had made up his mind. He couldn't go through with it, and that was final. But what if she's angry? He pondered. I know, I'll cut the hedge for her, and if she feels the need for murder, then that's her business.

The young man finally came to the wholesome side of the great oak thicket, there before him stood the evergreen hedge, which safeguarded against evil intent. Through the distances rose the manor. He could feel the edifice watching him with quiet suspicion. Jack quickly proceeded to walk down the organic barricade, until finding a suitable site, obscured from the shadowing eyes of the great house. There he commenced dislodging the shrubs from their earthen beds. When all was said and done, the young man had cleared a course of three meters or so. "There that should do it," he said aloud, clapping his hands free of dirt. But strangely enough, Jack still felt dirty with an unexplainable filth… a filth that stained his very soul, a stain that lye and water could never remove.

When Master Jack had returned, I noticed the black mud on his boots and the long brunette hairs that clung to his tweed jacket. There was really no need for speculation, I knew where he had been and with whom. As he walked by, (both of us wordless,) I felt my heart sink with unspeakable woe. I saw the dark clouds rolling in on the horizon, for now I knew it was only a matter of time.

That night presented itself with a clear unwholesomeness. The storm I had seen earlier on the horizon was now upon us, it was the worst I'd seen in years. I gadded about to and fro, from door to window by way of feeble candle; making sure all was secure, as the thunder pealed in the distances, and the wind whispered through the shutters. I apprehensively checked each vacant room, fearing what I might find lurking in the adjacent shadows. Finally, exhausted by fear, I retired to my own chambers, locking myself in. Strangely enough, I felt compelled to read my Bible for the first time in years.

Meanwhile, Lord Mohan stood before a raging fire in his study.  He had wrapped himself in a blanket, as he poked frantically at the roaring coals. "What manner of bedeviling cold is this?" His words marked by steamy breath. "I haven't felt a chill like this since…" Lord Mohan suddenly stiffened, as his head rose in cruel revelation, his face twisted with horror. He sprang from his study, while running manically down the hall towards the chamber where Lady Sarah lay sleeping. Once there, he composed himself enough to gently open the door, only to find a thick lagging darkness awaiting the other side. The French doors adjacent to the balcony lay ajar, subjecting the room to the elements of wind and rain, as they blew the scarlet curtains like ghostly apparitions. Lord Mohan immediately closed and locked them, as he turned, rewrapping the blanket about him with a shiver; for this room held less favor than his frost swept study. The be-troubled lord heard delirious mumblings as he approached the high post bed where his wife lay. He apprehensively laid his hand on the lace-fringed curtains that encircled the bed, holding them with a burning hesitation.

Lord Mohan pulled them back with what force of will he had left. There, to his stifling horror, lay his darling Sarah, with eyes sunken deep within their sockets, and skin hideously rutted with server old age. Her once silken auburn hair, now white and coarse as straw. It was as though her very life-force had been drained, and her youth sucked away by some dark, vampiric void. His once beautiful bride now lay withered and befouled, like a rose trampled underfoot.

"G- George…is that you my love?" She moaned feebly. "Hold me George…please hold me, I'm so cold." My lord's initial horror was now replaced with the prevailing compassion of a broken heart.

"I'm here my love," He whispered, as he covered her frail body with his own blanket.

Lord Mohan suddenly felt a malevolent presence in the room, as Emily's voice rang from the shadows. "Shall I get you a knife from the kitchen, dear brother, so you can put the old hag out of her misery?" She jeered, with a wicked giggle.

Enraged, my lord ran to the shadows that inlayed the room, while he swung his arms wildly, cursing and swearing. "Goddamn you Emily, Goddamn your soul!!"

"What do you know of God…you hypocritical fool?" She loathingly hissed.

Just then, the balcony doors splintered, bursting outward into the night, lending free roam for the wind and leaves to reoccupy the room.

Out of his mind with grief, Lord Mohan, as if in a trance, turned towards his fading wife, and mused. "Yes…I will show her mercy." With that, he gently placed the pillow that lay beside her, over Sarah's head and finished what Emily had started.

Feeling both culpable and defeated, my lord gathered a few belongings in a travel valise and retreated wearily back to his study. There he barred the door, while he selectively started plundering his safe, relinquishing its contents to the travel bag. Lord Mohan sat at his desk in deep thought, as he stared upon the dying embers of the fire. In an almost spontaneous gesture, he drew his quill from its inkwell and commenced scribing various documents. One in turn was a letter to yours truly, which read.

 

To Albert, my dearest friend,

About the time you read this letter, you will have discovered Sarah's disfigured corpse. That being the work of an unspeakable name which has crowned this house with a decadent folly, you will also find that I have disappeared. I'm going back to America, where I shall reside the remainder of my unworthy days. I'm sorry old friend, but I've neither the courage, nor the will to stay. So long Albert, and my god be with you.

Sincerely,

Lord Mohan,

 

P.S.  You'll discover my last will and testament in the safe. I think you'll find it most appeasing.'

 

Elsewhere, Jack lay sleeping in his room, where he stirred in a restless dream. He envisioned himself standing at the aisle of a dark church, above him loomed an inverted cross. Through this dreamy haze, shadowy figures filled the pews below, as the knell tolled thrice in the reaching distance. His bride to be walked slowly down the aisle adorned in a dress of black, upon her face draped a veil of the same. In her hand she cradled a bouquet of withered flowers, whose pedals dropped to the floor with her every step. As she passed, the congregation respectfully bowed. His bride soon stood before him, to his surprise Jack heard the hysterical voice of his mother, calling from the first pew. "Jack beware, don't do this, I beg of you!" She pleaded, with arms stretched forth. Jack smiled and turned towards his solemn bride. He slowly lifted her veil, only to find a grinning skull staring back at him. There they embraced intimately, as the crowd stood and applauded with cheer that faded to a dark requiem.

Suddenly, Jack awoke in a cold sweat, panting laboriously. His eyes cautiously surveyed his dark surroundings, but only one thought came to mind. "Mother?" He mused. He felt a displaced uneasiness that leeched within his heart. The delicate mother child bond had been severed, although Jack didn't know it, he could somehow feel it. Suddenly, Jack threw back the blankets and summoned his robe, as he ambled down the dark corridors of Autumn House, determined to seek out his mother. The void in his heart grew deeper, as he neared the west wing where his mother's chamber lay. Jack cautiously navigated the sweeping staircase, while two snarling lions of stone, sat each side of the stair's newel posts. The lions held lanterns in their mouths, as they greeted him, symbolically guiding the way. While above the yonder, lightning pulsed through the heraldic stained windows, illuminating the portraits of distant forebearers. He meandered further, until reaching her door; there, Jack rapped gently upon the mahogany. "Mother?" He inquired. But the only aroused greeting he received was that of the howling wind and the pattering click of rain.

The young man opened the wrought bound door, as the wind tugged at his candle. Alarm seized him, as he observed the room's unnerving calamity. "Mother?" He called again. Jack silently crept to her bed, a yonder breeze filled the room, and his candle was no more. Through the nigrescence, he made out the vague pillow that covered his mother's face. He slowly pushed it aside, suddenly a clap of thunder sent lightning pulsating through the room, revealing his mother's besmirched state. Jack's fears were confirmed; he sank feebly to his knees and wept, as he gently cradled his mother's withered hand.

"Oh mother, what has he done to you, what has he done?" He cried peevishly. Suddenly, Jack's head slowly rose; vengeful anger filled his tear streamed eyes. "Mohan!!" He bellowed.  The accused name disseminated through the halls of the manor, until reaching my ears, where I lay in my bedroom. I took off my reading glasses as I closed my bible, and stared at the door in trepidation.

Jack stormed down the stairwell in a psychotic rampage, methodically he ventured to the great hall that lay beyond the library. This room was very reminiscent of the Middle Ages; velvet tapestries were hung strategically to soften the stone walls, offsetting coat of arms. Bear skin rugs were carelessly strode in profusion beneath web-ridden suits of armor. Now I regret to say, we had weapons… strictly ornamental of course…but quite functional I'm afraid.

There upon the bog wood reredos, hung a heavy double edged battle axe…a quite nasty instrument of woe, if I remember. Jack wasting little time snatched it from its cradle, and ran amain to the foot of the stairs. The young man gazed rose grim upon the corridor that lead to Lord Mohan's study. He held the lethal implement tightly in both hands, as he stole up the stairs to conclude his black business. The lightning again clashed at the windows, showing him the dark path of revenge, as the storm raged on.

Back in his study, Lord Mohan had secured his documents in the safe. He grabbed his coat and hat with portmanteau in hand, while making his way towards the door. But he didn't get far, to his horrid surprise he saw the door knob eagerly turn, someone was trying to enter. Lord Mohan feared the worse. "Emily," he mused in a whisper. Now the door shook and gyrated with an unseen fury. Bit by bit, Lord Mohan vigilantly backed away. "Go away…go away, I tell you!" I have the Vervain plant, do you hear?"

Suddenly, Lord Mohan heard a loud splintering crack, as the massive axe blade ripped through the door. A lolling arm slithered in unlocking the slide bolt, and the mahogany door slowly swung open. There in the shadows of the hall, stood Master Jack; his axe projecting a metallic gleam that shined coldly in Lord Mohan's eyes. "Jack…is that you?" The young man said nothing; his eyes reflected his intent, "Now listen to me Jack," Mohan started. "I can explain everything. I wasn't reasonable for your mother's unholy end, I loved her…don't you see? This place is cursed, cursed I tell you!" But Jack ignored my Lord’s pleas, as he wielded the great axe above his head with stolid eyes. "No Jack, please, you're making a mistake!!" Lord Mohan cried, shielding his head with his hands. At which, Jack unmercifully brought down the mighty axe with a bone-splitting crunch, fulfilling his deadly oath.

I heard the screams and came running, alas I was too late, Jack had already fled the grizzly scene; and my dear friend lay on the floor in an ever-swelling pool of blood, with an axe lolling from his skull. I bowed my head in respect and shook it in sorrow. In doing so I noticed a pair of bloody footprints leading down the hall, obviously Jacks of course. I quickly pursued them, which led me straight forth to where I suspected…the moor.

Once there, I hid behind yonder oak, and through its entangles I saw everything. Jack ran with great haste, regaining clumsy footfalls, clearly driven by an anticipation he dared not rendered. It was soon that I beheld the source of his inspiration. On top of a hill, overlooking a great bog, stood Emily, silhouetted against a sallow sky. Her raven hair and flowing gown, blew ethereal in the cold night wind. The young man pathetically scrambled up the hill, his clothing stained with black earth and blood. There he fell at her feet and grasped her gown. "Emily, I've done it, I've killed Lord Mohan! Now you can come live in the manor with me!"

Emily turned to him. "My dear Jack, I knew you wouldn't fail me."

"Now we can be together forever, right?" He returned childishly.

"Yes…forever," she said, wiping the smeared blood from his check. "Kiss me Jack," she whispered. The young man stood, pulling her into his arms, as he caressed her lips. Jack's hands roamed her body…but something was wrong, her once firm and defined frame, now seemed to sag into formlessness, her lips became cold and the smell of dank rot lingered upon her breath. Jack stepped back in abounding horror, only to find his beautiful Emily had melted into a smoldering cadaver. She stared at him with death glazed eyes, and a tombstone smile.

"What's the matter Jack, I thought you loved me? Now we can be together forever!!" She cackled wickedly. With this, she grabbed Jack by the head with iron-vise hands, pulling the lad kicking and screaming headlong down into the bubbling bog. Therein, their unholy union was finally sealed. The night fell silent once more; the storm was finally over, and I returned to Autumn Manor. There I sat staring at the fire, helping myself to my lord's scotch, while his rived corpse occupied the floor behind me.

Now you're probably wondering, how I, a mere servant, came to own such a house. Please, allow me to explain. Days after that horrible night, after I had disposed of the bodies and scrubbed the floors clean of blood. Curiosity got the best of me, knowing the combination, I opened Lord Mohan's safe. My Lord was right; I did find his will very appeasing. I think you all can safely assume the rest.

But really, what good is it? I am now very old and half blind, and all the other servants have now since departed, weather through death, or seeking employment elsewhere. I now find myself sadly confined to this one room, while the rest of the great manor lays cold and decayed. The gardens are now overgrown with thistles, and the Vervain has long since withered. Yes I am alone, my only companions being this waning candle and a rusted revolver, which occupies my desk.

I still see my dear friend, Lord Mohan; he visits me from time to time. Although conversation is somewhat limited I'm afraid, denoting his cranial disposition. Lady Sarah still roams the gardens, picking wild flowers, while blissfully floating through the hedge maze. Yes, I even see Master Jack once in a while, still the same arrogant fool who forfeited his soul for a handful of lovely lies. Some nights, just before the clock strikes Twelve, I hear Emily, calling my name from beyond the moor; her voice rings with belated revenge. After long thought, I've made up my mind to take my place among them. So it is with that, I blow out my candle and present to you this fantastic story, in hopes that one day you may know that we were…and we shall forever be…the ghosts of Autumn Manor.

- End.

 

 

 

© 2018 Joseph A. Noon


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Added on January 20, 2018
Last Updated on January 20, 2018
Tags: Gothic Horror.