Goosebumps covered all of my body.
A streak of yellow spread down the entire length of my spine.
I approached the dark, scary building with many eyes peering out from the creeper which grew over all the walls. A house my long, lost great aunt owned. She had walked away from the bosom of her family many years ago to seek fame, and fortune. I recently received a letter for me to attend my great aunt at a place named Snotter's Hill on Jasper Lane west of the town of Spooks Rest.
I can feel many, and varied eyes, burning into my goose bumped back. I stared at the long, brown grass. The over grown, bushy shrubs, with their intermingled branches. Who. Or what. Owned the eyes keeping a close watch on me. The owners watched I didn't stray from the worn, narrow path from the old wooden gate. It was held open by rusted hinges. And by the creeper, intertwined between the former holes of the wire fence.
I reached the rickety steps. The steps looked like they would disintegrate the moment both my feet stood on the bottom one. The sagging hand rail falling to pieces from years of exposure to the elements. The sun. Rain. And snow. I could hear the termites feasting on the timber. Chomping away. Enjoying their meal.
Slowly. I sneaked my first foot on to the left side of the bottom step. Didn't want to chance placing my foot in the middle. The sides looked more solid. I thought the sided area would hold my weight. I slowly moved my other foot to the next step with a prayer. Though by sneaking, I would not disturb anything. Didn't want to cause the timber to crack. And crumble under my feet. The timber complained. I crept my way steadily toward the very intimating, mossy front door.
My shaking hand reached out to use the gong. Tapped it against the door. A loud noise echoed. Vibrated through. And around the building. I looked around to see if the roof was about to collapse on me. I'd have to scamper for my life I saw a suspicious movement. I didn't want to be squashed beneath a pile of termite infested timber. The noise didn't seem to disturb any of the inhabitants.
The sinking sun had reached the front door on its way to bed. I stood shivering. Waited for someone to come open the once sturdy door. The door looked to have seen better days. Days of attention, and love, of many years past. Now. Stood neglected of loving care, and attention. No one to clean it. Give it some oil to protect the dampness from seeping in. Dampness that had moss breeding. Growing. Clinging to the wood. Rusting hinges.
The wind howled making the house groan. The chill seeped through to my bones. I pulled the collar of my coat tighter around my neck to keep out the weather chill. Didn't want the weather chill to mingle with my scared chill, to send me leaping from the porch to reach the warmth of my car.
Feeling the fear bubble reach to the surface. With a shaking hand I reached out to what resembled the shape of the door knob. I shuddered from the feel of the yucky stuff. I turned the knob. The yucky stuff landed on the floor with a dull thud. I quickly moved to the side of the door in case the door fell from the rusty hinges. The knob lay on the floor.
A blustery, gale force wind forced its way down the path rustling the grass. The bushes on the side of the path on the way to the door. The wind caused a creak. A moan. The door cracked slightly open. The second gust forced the door back against the wall. When the wall stopped shaking, I looked around the edge of the opened doorway to spy flickering candles on one side of the long passage way. The candles were placed in candle sconce’s set in the wall. The flickering light cast shadows which moved over the floor.
Moving through the doorway to get out of the wind, my eyes searched the room for anyone to have come to investigate the noise. I tried to close the door to shut out the howling wind. Didn't want the wind to blow out the candles. Darkness would hinder my progress. I pushed the door closed. I grabbed the nearest object handy. A feeble chair. I didn't give it much hope on holding the door closed. But I had to try. I shoved the chair against the door. The wild flickering of the candles stopped. Some shadows kept moving across the floor, and ceiling.
I made my way slowly down the passageway. Watching for what made the shadows keep moving. Most of the wind had been blocked out. Advancing further. The red eyes of mega spiders hung from thick webs. Each watched me when I moved forward brushing aside some on the lower, thin webs. I didn't want them sticking to me.
The walls were dank from water stains in places. There hung dusty portraits of long dead heroes from past family. Non of them resembled members I had known. Ones I had been forced to view at all family gatherings. More were added to each collection every year. The family expanded. Grew to be able to have a town all to themselves. I was forced to sit there, and listen to stories of who had recently become married, engaged, or had new babies, adding them to the photo collections. Most of the mothers crowed their daughters had married wit beautiful families of their own. I pretended I didn't hear the snickering behind my back. The way they all discussed I wasn't good looking enough to catch myself a worthy, exciting, rich husband. Had to think of something other than the eyes watching me while I advanced down the passageway.
I opened the first door. I was startled by the scene which greeted my eyes. There in the distance was an erupting volcano with ash, and flames, spitting into the air. The crackle of the flames. The heat enough to melt an iceberg. In horror. I stepped back. Quickly closed the door. Took a few deep breaths to calm the nerves to carry on with my search to find my great aunt.
I slowly opened the next door. I didn't want to receive a shock like with the first door. A deep throated roar was the first to grab my attention when I peered through the cracked opening. On a grassy knoll under the shade of a tree lay a huge Bengal tiger playing with a cub. In the distance stood a deer unaware of the danger waiting to befall her. A blood curdling scream ripped the tranquil scene of moments before the female tiger had fled. I slammed the door. Closed my eyes to blot out the scene. My warning scream for the deer was still blocked in my paralysed throat making breathing hard. I leaned against the wall for support. Time passed. My heart pumped hard in my chest blocking out the sound. When more calm. I proceeded down the passageway.
I missed a few doors. I advanced slowly praying I wouldn't hear any more blood curdling screams. Other doors I opened didn't frighten me like the first few. My heart in my mouth with the opening of each door. Any more scary rooms and I'll be racing toward the door. Probably knock down the door in my haste to leave. Trample on the termite riddled timber to crush to dust.
I felt a bit more calmer when I reached the next door. This place was long, and wide. This puzzled me. All the places I had seen had to be a fallacy. The house didn't look big enough to compliment all the places. The doors must come to an end, soon. I no longer could see the front door. If the wind blew open the door the candles would be extinguished. I wouldn't be able to find my war back to the door in the complete darkness. Probably fall over the junk scattered across the floor.
With a trembling hand, I wiped some more cobwebs from my hair. I had turned white like I'd aged about fifty years since I had entered the front door. I'd probably frighten the first human I came across in the outside world. Opening the next door, the first sound to greet me was the whistling of birds chirping a happy song. The echo of water falling over the edge of a cliff into a pool of water at the top of a river. Water flowed from the pool to the river. I pushed the door wide open. Pleased to see there were nothing there to frighten me. Attack me. Kill me. I had found a peaceful place to rest. Relax enough to go to sleep. I went further into the room. I found the tree where the birds were perched. Making myself comfortable on the ground at the base of the tree I closed my eyes to listen to the musical notes of the bird song. I eventually, went to sleep.
Unbeknown to me, a tall, dark handsome, distinguishably dress man crept into the scene where I slept. He sat beside me. Waited for me to wake. My relaxed body slid in his direction with my head coming to rest on his shoulder. I tried to find a more comfortable position like I did if I was in bed. The pillow didn't smell like the one on her bed. The picture in my head was the one I opened my eyes to. My eyelids opened a crack to survey where I was. The first thing my eyes focused on was a pair of expensively dressed legs. My eyes wandered still further to reach a very tough set chin. Then lovely green eye smiled at me. Where was I/ What was I doing with this hunk of a man. Never been this close to any male who looked like a movie star. I had never rest my head on such a specimen. And he had a comfortable shoulder. One a girl would die for.
“Ah. You have finally decided to join us.” He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes. “I was thinking about kissing you to see if that worked, Princess.
I lifted my head. Shook it to try to clear the cobwebs of sleep from my foggy brain. Tried to work out what was happening. Looked around to see if I was still in the same room I was when I fell to sleep. Everything was the same. Except for the gorgeous guy who sat on the ground beside me.
“You weren't here when I came into this room. How come you are in my great aunt's house?” Things like this didn't happen to the old maid of the family. My family would laugh at me. Tell me I had been having a dream of better thing while taking a nap in an old house. I'd be laughed out of my family home. I'd be the butt of all their jokes.
“I've been waiting for you,” was his smooth reply. “We didn't think you'd make your way this far into the house.”
“What do you mean? We,” I screeched. I had not seen any evidence my great aunt live here. Or anyone else. The crumbling building looked like a decaying pile of rubble from the outside.
He pointed toward a pile of rocks on the other side of the waterfall. There perched on a rock was an elderly woman dressed in the most beautiful rose pink, long dress. Her hair silver with age. She looked familiar. The look of her grandmothers side of the family. She had to be my great aunt. Standing. I moved over to where she sat. She smiled at me.
“So you have finally woken.” Mischief shone from her eyes.
From the smile I'd say I had passed some test she had laid out for me. I had passed. She didn't look disappointed like most of my family did.
“The rest of my family would have driven off the moment they had seen what condition the house was in. The selfish lot can go jump. They will rue the day I was cast the black sheep of the family for what they though I had done. I'm pleased you stayed to collect the prize.”
“Prize. What prize,” I asked, surprised written on my face. I thought she was sick and wanted to see me before she died. But a prize. My aunt didn't even look sick. A bit pale. But she wasn't at deaths door.
“Seymore will take us to my castle where all will be explained.” Sill puzzled. I followed them out out the door of the beautiful room. Out another door to a waiting limousine to be driven to my great aunts home.
At the end of a short drive to the castle, my eyes were shocked to see the beautiful place where she lived. The castle was surrounded by a wonderful, well attended garden. Every where looked clean, and tidy. This was a different world to the one she had first visited. This was a world where money was in supply. Money knew no bounds. There objects in the castle some people only dreamed of seeing let alone own.
When we were seated in the lounge room in front of a fireplace to keep warm after the chill of the other place. I wonder when I'd be filled in on what had happened to me from when I arrived at the other place. The place where my great aunt was suppose to live. Something smelt rotten, here. Things didn't seem to add up. About time I found out what was being planned which concerned me. I look over to where they were seated to find them watching me. I could see the cogs which worked in their head. I could do with a long soak in a hot bath to be rid of the dust, and cobwebs, from the other place.
“Will one of you mind telling me what's going on,” I asked. I watched them closely for some tell tale reaction on their face. “What was the other place where I was. Why wasn't I given this address.” A joke was a joke. But had gone too far where she was concerned. “Was anything real?”
“Yes. And no.” I looked puzzled at the answer. “It is an old movie set. Made to make things look real,” answered Seymore.
“Why all the drama,” I asked. It had been a long drive to reach there. I want to curl up somewhere to go to sleep. Hope. The nightmare had disappeared by the time my eyes opened.
“Sure you wouldn't like a bath to clean away the dust,” asked my great aunt. I shook my head. I wanted to hear why she had sent for me. I was in two minds. Wanting to go back to a hotel. Or stay to hear the whole story. Seeing my determination she continued on.
“You are, now, my other heir.” This news made me sit straighter in the chair where I had been lounging, restless. “But there is a proviso. A condition.” I was all ears waiting to hear what was to come. I knew there had to be a catch here somewhere. No one gave me anything unless there were a few strings attached.
“I'm waiting,” I said, when the silence went on too long. Waited for the penny to drop. Or the axe was about ready to fall. Take away the dangling carrot which they had dangled in front of her nose.
“You have to marry Seymore.” The two of them watched her. Waited for an explosion from me. I was too stunned to talk. Could make the words pass my throat. This was worse than I had expected. I kept shaking my head. The idea didn't sound any better when the words played through my mind.
“Can't he find his own woman,” I asked. What was wrong with him that he couldn't find his own wife. Was he gay. He didn't look, gay. Looks can be deceiving, though. Too well dressed to be a criminal on the run. “Okay. I'll bite,” suspicion had me standing from my chair to walk around the room searching for a quick exit if I needed one.
“I only have a certain amount of time left. I'm putting my affairs to rights. Don't want there to be too many fights when I've left,” she explained. She expanded on her decision while I kept pacing the room. I had to become engaged to Seymore by tomorrow. We had to be married within the month. Seymore had agreed to the plan because he was in from the planning stage. He'd been shown a photo of me. A photo which had been take by a private detective who been sent to find me. Se how I lived. Where I worked. Whether I had a permanent male friend. “You can sleep on the idea. Give us you answer in the morning.”
“Well. If that is all the time I have I'll need a ride to my car. I need to check into my hotel,” I explained. With hope I'd be able to escape this mad house. My plan was thwarted.
“No need. Your things are here.” Shock played across my face. My skin turned paper white beneath the dust. I was like a rat in a sinking ship surrounded by water. Going down for the third time. I went down. The light were turned out in my head.
I was picked up from the floor. Seymore carried me up the stairs to a beautiful bedroom where I was to sleep. A wet cloth was placed on my forehead to revive me. I was shown to the shower when I came around. Put to bed after a maid had blown dried my hair. I was in a land of dreams while awake.
I woke the next morning, refreshed. Dressed. Fed. Then the situation was explained to me in more detail what was expected of me. Before I had a chance to escape. Or say I'd changed my mind. A had a tray of engagement rings placed in front of me to make my selection. I prayed this dream would soon pass. I waited for the thump when I returned to reality. But the dream seemed to gather more speed. The ring was placed on my finger by Seymore. He drove me home to meet my family. Explained to them we were being married to everyone's astonishment. Surprise. They didn't believe I'd found a man who wanted to chain himself to me. Let alone, this hunk, who had brought me home. A rich hunk who no could sway from his decision.
My great aunt watched the wedding from a distance where the family wasn't able to see her. Her illness had progressed for the worst over the past few weeks. She now, had to use a wheelchair. At the wedding breakfast, everyone enjoyed themselves until the place went quiet, when an old lady was wheeled in to the brides table. She handed an envelope to me. I was shocked to see how much she had changed. Or had she been made up to hide her suffering from me.
I rose to my feet with a glass in my hand. “I would like you all to raise you glass in a toast to great aunt, Sarah. Without her guidance we wouldn't be here celebrating this marriage. To great aunt Sarah.” I raised my glass high. I took a sip from my glass.
There cam a crash. My grandmother fainted. She had never expected to see her elder sister, again. She hadn't seen her for a very long time. Not since the day she had walked away from her family. While gran was being revived, great aunt Sarah was taken from the room back to the hospital.
Seymore, and I, left the reception taking gran with us to visit her sister. We were too late. Sarah had passed from this earth on the way back to the hospital. She ha lived long enough to witness her plans were sealed for the future of her favourite great niece. Sarah left this world with a self satisfied smile on her lips even though her face was lined with pain. I heard a giggle when we left the hospital. Then a voice whispered in my ear. “Let the games begin.”