The Halloween Invitation
I had been invited to Sir Reginald’s estate for Halloween. How I got talked into it is beyond me? Well I guess a few too many whiskeys and a sweet-talking feminine beauty were the principle keys to my predicament. But to be honest I assume winning the case for Sir Reginald was the ultimate reason behind my invitation. I am you see a lawyer and by that I don’t mean the run of the mill, ten a penny so-called lawyers you see bustling in droves in this great metropolis of London.
I am a lawyer in heart and soul; the law is my very lifeblood. When I take a client they can be assured I will win the case! Innocent or guilty it matters not, if I take a case then it is because I know I can win it and I will. Then again it will cost them I do not come cheap. I am a student of the personality you see. I like to meet and study people, all kinds of people in every type of environment. It's my secondary profession in a way, for without that, my practice of law would be a boring matter. This private career you could say aided me immensely in my legal vocation; I prided myself that I could figure out a person within about half an hour.
Sir Reginald was guilty as sin, and I knew it only too well. Yet I took the case for different reasons, morality was not my concern. Religious me, hell not me! A pure atheist through and through not a spiritual bone in my body, but I knew the law, and could use it like a swordsman to cut and slice, or with the surgeon’s precision of incision to delicately operate; guilty or innocent was neither here nor there, sentimentality and religion were useless balderdash to me. One thing I prided myself in was that any client who procured my services could be sure that I would do everything possible within my knowledge of the law to acquire a non-guilty verdict and I would succeed.
When we sat together in my office that first meeting, Sir Reginald offered me more money than I could make in a year, and I am highly paid! That though was not sufficient to engage my services. I saw in him a key to a whole new world, one that I had never fully tapped into. By winning this case I could open a world of different powerful clients that would place me in a rank in my profession that overshadowed everyone else. Power! Yes! It was the power and influence that I could acquire from winning that was the decisive factor for me. I would stop at nothing to fulfil my plans!
It was Monday morning, 31st October 1932, and as I drove along the winding road to Sir Reginald’s I was overcome with the scene it was breathtaking, in that moment before sunrise every hill, tree, bush, stood out like cardboard cutouts in a violet monochrome picture. Stunning I thought, not that I was one for all this nature and beauty stuff, to many important things in life to bother with such trivia, still for some reason on this occasion it struck me as beautiful. As the first rays of sunlight began to transform this picture I felt strangely despondent as if something were dying, something departing from life to death.
A gust of wind washed over me like a wave showering me with leaves as the car rushed by, my skin braced to the cold yet refreshing sensations that followed. Then I imbibed the essence of this autumn picture forming before me, leaves everywhere, golden, orange red, brown, mixed with shades of green, truly stunning to behold, there upon the trees like flames of fire shimmering in the wind and sun, breathtaking! I could almost relive my childhood again, running through the crisp dry leaves, laughing as they crunched underfoot, playing conkers having pitched battles with acorns and pinecones, yes, a part of me long lost and forgotten. Dead buried, and yet for a brief moment resurrected! Soon however they were lost once more, locked away hidden from me as reality hit home.
Here I was arriving at a great family estate house. It was one of these old sprawling monstrosities of gothic design and preposterous proportions, hideous in my viewpoint, a monolithic abomination suited only to ancient generations of inbred aristocrats. There within its vast confines I could envision centuries of old memories of hideous horrors perpetrated and hidden boudoir secrets all entombed within its inhospitable confines. Oh for the beauty and sensibility of dear modern London.
I don’t know how I was talked into it, I hate the countryside as it is and to top it I abhorred this type of society bash. Well I do know how I came to decide! My lust for power, I felt that by acquiescing to this weekend it would be the next step to propelling me forward in my career. Though I deplore all the petty shallowness of this class of people still it was only for a weekend. Plus my future plans could balance upon it.
Suffice it to say that it was all I expected, a long boring evening! The dining room was of exquisite, full of portraits and paintings spanning generations. There were several prints too scattered here and there, with a mixture of newer works spread about the room. In some ways the house was rather too sombre for me, and yet in a strange way kind of cosy, a place that oozed with the past and yet was still right for the present.
Dinner was at seven sharp, the meal was superb I had no complaints in that direction. As to the company, well best left unsaid would be all I could say, still the fancy dress aspect did lend to a bit of intrigue and wonderment. Some of the younger ladies were using the disguise to flirt a little and as for the gentlemen, well if you could call their behaviour gentlemanly they took full advantage of any such lack of inhibitions. As to the dinner conversation, well suffice to mention that by the time Sir Humphrey began his monologue on the problems of society today and the rise of fascism I was dropping off! Thankfully this scenario was avoided due to the polite intervention of Lady Agnes who gently nudged me. Smilingly she whispered a few words of hope.
“Hold on Kevin, I know Sir Reginald well enough to discern that he’ll breakup the dinner in a few minutes now, it is time for his brandy, and some music and dancing later!”
I politely mumbled a thank you and tried to wake myself sufficiently to survive, as sure enough Reginald invited the men into the study for drinks while the ladies retired to the sitting room. Well by midnight everyone had loosened up, what with the unending supply of drinks and the live band music, combined with our fancy dress it was beginning to take more of a London style to it.
Around three in the morning most had left either for home or to their respective rooms. As for me I had retired to my room with an inner sigh of relief. Lying on my bed I think I drifted off to sleep immediately upon hitting the pillow, and only because I was totally exhausted. How long I slept I am unsure but suddenly I came out of heavy sleep with a start. A cry seemed to be echo in the corridors of my subconscious. I gasped as I sat up, and then sat silent for a moment; sure enough it came again, a vividly frantic scream of horror and torture. A man I deduced by the voice. I was out of bed in a flash, stopping only to get my feet into my slippers. The cry must have come from the basement. I raced downstairs expecting to hear more screams or the sound running feet. But all was silent as the tomb. I heard no other sounds, and the dreadful scream was not repeated.
As I reached the door to the basement I was expecting to see a mass of people, guests and servants all erupting from the other rooms after hearing the noise. Yet I found no sign of any alarmed household. I was the only one! I hesitated only a moment and then tried the door. It was shut, as I half expected. I heard a noise outside rather like the howling of a wolf, more likely a dog or perhaps a storm blowing outside. I tentatively scooted over and peered through the window. Nothing all was quiet and calm. Was it all my imagination? There was still no sign of anyone appearing. Well one way to find out I thought open the damn door! Just then the thought hit me.
Damn, of course it was Halloween and mostly likely Reggie and some others were playing some sort of game the old trick Halloween trick on me. I laughed well why not, I was up and about so might as well play along. I walked over to the small key cabinet in the corridor and took the key for the basement it was as I expected clearly labelled. As I walked down the steps to the basement door I was really puzzled that no one else had come was I the only one being lured by this game? I mean I couldn’t be the only one to have heard the screams unless they were all in on it. I carefully slipped the key in the lock and turned, it opened easily though it creaked. There was a dime light from candles and it took my eyes a few moments to adjust.
There in the center of the room was an old stone altar. In front of it lay a body--a naked body, charred and black! I took a step back and barley managed to suppress a cry of surprise as involuntarily my stomach churned. God was this real looking; Reggie sure had not spared the silver in preparing this. I took a step forward again and looked around the room there was nothing else, except a goat’s head sitting on a small marble table in the corner, a tapestry on the wall and a silver candlestick, no smell of smoke even with the candles burning, strange! Where was everyone, I kept expecting everyone to suddenly appear and burst out laughing at me.
Then I started to move slowly forward into the room. It was then all hell broke loose. With a great roar it seemed like a fiery stream of sparks and flames poured into cellar, the door burst into flames, I staggered backwards, screaming in agony I was badly burned. This was no game! Holding my hands in front of my face I covered my eyes from the searing heat.
A demon like figure appeared in the centre of the flames laughing and laughing uncontrollably! The wall shuddered and I recoiled in horror before me Hell had opened her gates! Chained to the walls dozens of skeletons some twisted and misshapen, on racks and in hanging cages more rotting bodies of the dead resided, and before me on a raised podium sat three hooded figures in red robes with a hollow eyed female with parlour of snow languished on the steps by their feet playing her flute.
I screamed within but nothing could come out, I wanted nothing more than to run to escape this place of horror to reclaim my life. Yet I had no control over my actions I was compelled by the music to come ever closer. I could smell the rotting corpses; death was everywhere I had entered into the nightmare of insanity. Rats skittered around the floor bats hung in dark corners of the cavern; the knowing sound of the rats brought waves of fear drowning me as all hope vanished.
“Welcome!” the figure in the centre said menacingly, his words echoing in the silent tomb.
“Where am I…who are…you?” I barely managed to get the words out for terror had such power over me very tongue, “Why am I here?”
A loud laugh filled the cavern as the other two joined - even the rats ran away cowering in the shadows.
“Questions, questions, questions, my oh my. You have arrived home Keith, you have arrived HOME!”
“Home, no, no, this is not my home!”
“Ha, ha, ha, dear Keith you are home, you are mine,” laughed the centre figure as he stood up and his hood fell back revealing what could only be described as DEATH!
“No, no, noooo! I am not yours! Let me go, I am only imagining this, it is a dream that is all, a nightmare, go away, go! I will wake up any moment! All will be normal, ha, ha, ha!” I began to laugh hysterically screaming inside my mind; wake up, wake up, wake up, damn you wake up!
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, THIS IS NO DREAM KEITH!” the voice boomed, “This is eternity!”
Then the second figure dropped his hood. I almost chocked. It was fleshless, a skeletal figure! Christ what was happening to me I was mad I had gone over the edge.
“So Keith you have arrived now, all is ready for you,” it spoke in a condescending manner.
“What is happening,” I cried, “what is happening?”
“It has been all a test Keith, my trial it was to test you to see what you would do, and you made the right choices, ha, ha, ha, yes, you chose rightly, now you are ours.”
“No, no, I…I…I am…I… no it cannot be!” I was shaking I had no control over my bodily functions, I began to feel liquid running down my legs as I wet myself, tears welled up and streamed down my face, woman sat there impassive her flute in hand watching.
The third figure then removed his hood! It was like every image I ever imagined a demon to be. Damn! What was going on!
“Ha, ha, you poor deluded fool, how many lives did you destroy over the years, how many souls have you delivered unto damnation on your search for power. Ha, ha, ha, yes Keith you have done a good job, ha, ah, but now you can do an even better one, now comes the payment, ha, ha, ha!”
As the words still echoed in my subconscious a dragging slithering sound came to my attention. I turned, there approaching me were three repulsive creatures beyond description slithering towards me, rotting flesh and gurgling sounds.
“NO, NO, NOOOooo! Please dear God please help me pleeeeease!!” I screamed in absolute terror as they descended upon me saliva dripping down their rotting flesh.
The woman stood up and began to play a lively jig, she danced around playing as the others sat down and drank from skull-like tankards, their eye riveted to me.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, enjoy Keith enjoy,” Death laughingly said, “it is just the beginning; it is just the beginning, ha, ha, ha!”
The vile monstrosities reached me; I was frozen in terror I could not move. I screamed as their long pointed claws dug into my flesh, my body was tossed by waves of excruciating pain as they dug my eyes out, my screams echoed through the long dark caverns reverberating the very foundations as I felt their teeth bite deeply in to my flesh. The stench of their rotting flesh overpowered my senses. How long, how long my mind cried inwardly can a man endure such suffering, how much pain can I take. I screamed until my throat went raw and my mind was numb from being inundated in never-ending agonizing pain! All the time the laughing and giggling resounded in the background and the woman played her flute and danced merrily.
“No I screamed no, I can change! Give me another chance!”
Glimpses of my childhood returned carefree happy! Yes I can change! These trappings of power and riches had not brought me happiness only pain and sorrow agony hardness of heart loneliness. I could try and use my influence to help others rather than myself and the elite. I could make a difference.
“No, Keith it is too late! Ha, ha, so pitiful so pitiful, you are mine now, you cannot escape. The time has passed for remorse, the time of payment has arrived,” Death declared his voice echoing!
Then the woman advanced toward me, she laughed and her long talons ripped through a cord rope nearby unleashing some hidden cauldron of boiling liquid onto me. My skin was melting in front of my eyes, consuming away in sheets of fire, I screamed and screamed my voice hoarse and my body in excruciating agony as I fell to the ground. The eyes in the goats head suddenly came to life I swear I heard a laugh emit from it, it seemed to morph into a figure part goat and part human, it laughed and laughed it was as if it were enjoying my agony. Rolling on the floor screaming as I was driven mad by pain I could see my bones as the flesh consumed away. Then my eyes exploded into flames, my face melting as I shrieked uncontrollably…
…Then all was quiet I found myself sitting in my bed! I was drenched in sweat, my breathing hot and heavy. It had all been a dream, just a dream! The future still remained, I could write it anyway I wanted, I could be something different.