A Binding Contract

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tales from beyond the shadows..

Submitted: March 30, 2017

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Submitted: March 30, 2017

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The horse drawn carriage trundled further into the country side, the road beneath the wheels was nothing more than a rutted track now. The sole occupant of the carriage was thrown hither and thither like a rag doll in the confines of the carriage; here outside the city it was already dark. No street lights or illumination from dwellings to guide their journey, instead the driver outside followed the whispered directions they had been given. Was it a form of madness that had sent him forth on this quest, the question echoed for the umpteenth time in his mind? Still desperate situations merited desperate actions, and Cornelius Epton was a desperate man. Despite his vast wealth and prestige he found himself with no one to turn to, three marriages it had taken before he sired an heir. Even then the boy was born weak and sickly, not long for this life, was the opinion of all the best medical minds his money could pay for. At first he had a mind to arrange an accident for his third wife just like the previous two, but something inside him persuaded him that this sickly child was his only hope for the heir he so badly craved.

The Epton family history was steeped in greed and dark deeds, for generations they had dipped into a very shallow gene pool. Interbreeding was their way of protecting the family’s wealth and secrets, but it had weakened the breed, and some said it may even have corrupted their very seed. So now Cornelius found himself far from the comfort of his city mansion, on a dark country road. It was late Autumn and the night was cold and damp, he could have sent any of his man servant’s but like most of his deeds he wanted this to remain a secret. The coach man that drove the team of horses was one of the very few servants he trusted, and even at that he considered the coach man as dispensable. Should he deem it necessary he would have the man eliminated in a heartbeat, Cornelius prided himself in the fact he never left loose ends in any of his endeavours. A chance meeting at one of the gentleman’s clubs he frequented had sown the seeds for this journey. An associate that was a little the worse for wear from brandy, had whispered of a rumour regarding a healer. Cornelius had joined with the rest of the company in raucous laughter at such absurd notions, but deep inside a spark had been ignited.

Cornelius dedicated a lot of time and a considerable sum of money, into researching the person he had come to know as the dark healer. His research had led him to this dark country road, the carriage came to a shuddering halt and the whining of the horses brought him from his muse. Outside he could hear the coach man crooning softly to the horses, then a rocking motion of the carriage indicating the driver was dismounting. Cornelius curled his fingers around the butt of the musket; this place was a prime location for highway men. The door of the carriage opened, “we have reached the cross roads”. The driver’s voice caused him to relax his grip on the gun; outside the moon had broken through the clouds. Cornelius searched the corners of the cross roads, when he eventually found the stump of rotting timber that was once a gibbet he pointed in the direction they should follow. The rest of the journey was arduous, as the horses became more and more restless and stubborn. Inside the carriage he could hear the coach man cursing and cajoling the animals, and he could also sense the nervousness in the man’s voice. Almost an hour and a half later they came to a halt again, they had arrived at their destination.

The coach man gave an audible sigh of relief when Cornelius told him to remain with the horses. It was hard to blame him, for Cornelius himself felt apprehensive as he approached the small cottage in the stand of trees. He raised his fist to knock on the door, but before he could it swung inwards. The only illumination inside came from the wood burning in the grate, a lone figure sat hunched before the flames. Had the figure been upright he would have been tall and broad, he was dressed in a long hooded coat. The figure beckoned him over towards the fire; now that he was in the healer’s presence he was lost for words. A deep and disturbing silence settled over the small room, anger began to bubble up inside Cornelius. But it was aimed at himself, how he could have been so foolish as to believe this creature in his hovel could be of assistance to him. The figure turned his hooded head in his direction, but his features were lost within the deep hood. “It can be done but there is a price to be paid” the voice sounded like the rustling of leaves in a breeze. Before he could reply the figure reached beneath his coat and handed him a document, the hand that held the document was gnarled and scarred like a dead branch.  Cornelius snatched the document and stared at it in confusion, this was not going as he expected at all. The figure pointed to an inkwell and quill that stood on a roughhewn table, “Sign” again the strange rustling sound of his voice filled the room.

 Cornelius was a man well accustomed to negotiating contracts, but this paper was in no language he could recognise. But there was one thing for certain; he was more than confident, that he would be the only person to benefit from this foolishness. He left the hovel with the promise that the stranger would follow him to the city the following day; he also left with the confidence that whatever payment he had agreed to, the stranger would never live to collect it. The following day brought miserable weather of howling winds and driving rain, all day Cornelius paced the floor of the drawing room. Stopping every now and again he would stare out the window at the deserted street. By late evening he had given up all hope of the stranger’s arrival, he was furious with himself for his foolishness in believing in such myths. Cornelius made his way dejectedly upstairs; he stopped on the first floor and entered the nursery. The sickly infant lay in his crib in the darkened room; he stood and watched the delicate little creature as it struggled to maintain its fragile grip on life. His emotions were overwhelming, but they were of self-pity and anger. That a man of his stature had been cursed with this sickly spawn, he turned from the infant in disgust just as a flash of lighting illuminated the room.

The tall broad figure standing by the window almost caused him to scream, the backdrop of the lightening made the figure seem gigantic. The hooded figure was standing by the window one moment and the next he was by the crib, it was as if he had disappeared from one location and reappeared in another. Cornelius watched in horror as the healer drew a long curved dagger from beneath his hooded cloak, it was suddenly as if Cornelius had lost all power over his body. He could do nothing but stand stock still as the events unfolded before his eyes, the stranger drew the blade slowly across his own gnarled flesh and impossibly dark blood bubbled to the surface. A wave of nausea washed over him as he watched his infant son suck on the blood like his mother’s breast, then it was over just as quickly as it had begun. The stranger turned towards him and pointed the blood stained blade in his direction. “Remember our contract” the rustling sound of his voice seemed to linger in the room long after he disappeared. It was quite a while before Cornelius could bring himself to look at the infant, only moments had elapsed but it already felt as if the events had been a dream. However the dark red stains surrounding the smiling infant’s mouth, told Cornelius it had all been very real.

It had only been a matter of weeks but the difference in the child was miraculous, he was growing stronger and more robust by the day. Anyone who came to see the child remarked on the miracle that was taking place, Cornelius was beside himself with joy that he had managed to beat the odds. But before long he found himself tormented by foreboding thoughts, what had he agreed to and when would the stranger demand payment. As the child grew bigger and healthier, the dark thoughts became an obsession. In the end they threatened to consume him, it was then he decided to leave the city and take the child with him. Cornelius had holdings spread throughout the known world; he decided it was high time his heir learned of his future inheritance. Years passed quickly as they do and the sickly infant grew into a strong boy, by his fifteenth birthday he was as tall and broad as any man twice his age. Cornelius had long since banished the memory of the dark healer from his mind; he decided it was time to bring his fine heir back to the seat of their empire. He sent word ahead that a grand event be organised for the boy’s homecoming, the heir to the Epton Business Empire was to be introduced to the city at a grand ball. The sneering people could never again claim that Cornelius Epton’s seed had been tainted.

The ball was one of the most extravagant the city had ever seen, no expense was spared to ensure that people realised how proud Cornelius was of his heir. Everyone who was anyone in the entire region were invited, ladies dressed in all their finery brought their equally finely dressed daughters to meet the heir to Epton’s fortune. Cornelius stood back and watched on and was as proud as a peacock, he had proved all their gloomy predictions wrong. Everything was going to plan until late in the evening, Cornelius suddenly realised that his son was nowhere to be seen, he may have just popped out to the privy, however a bad feeling began to settle over Cornelius. He frantically searched the ballroom and when he could not find him, he began to search the rest of the house. A cold feeling of De ja Vu came over him as he entered the darkened nursery, his son was there alright but he was not alone. Cornelius watched in horror as the boy conversed quietly with the tall hooded figure, eventually the child turned to him. “I must go now, my time with you is at an end” the rustling sound of the boy’s voice turned Cornelius’s bowels to ice water. He pleaded and begged but to no avail, “It was written in the contract, if he survived he was your son for fifteen years. Now he is mine”. The stranger’s words echoed in the room long after they both disappeared.


© Copyright 2017 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.