The History of the House.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Thomas and Joanne get lost while looking for the Black Swan pub. They stopped off at a large mansion house to ask for directions. From there things descend into the stuff of nightmare.

Submitted: September 11, 2015

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Submitted: September 11, 2015

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‘Must be round here somewhere.’ said Thomas.

He stared out at the headlight beam. There had been no road signs for a while now. They had to be almost there. The tiny Sat Nav screen showed the check flag that represented their destination.

‘We always get lost, don’t we?’ said his wife.

Joanne peered out at the dark countryside. She shook her head. Thomas drove further down the winding dark road. The Black Swan Pub was nowhere in sight. The only buildings they passed were residential. Joanne checked the fortieth birthday party invite again. They were definitely on the right road. They drove on.

A short time later they spotted a large building on the left. Lights glowed in the windows of the Tudor-style building. It was not the place they were looking for. Thomas turned onto the sweeping drive.

‘This can’t be the place.’ said Joanne.

‘No, but they might be able to tell us where it is.’

Thomas pulled up outside the steps leading up to the grand front door. He climbed out of the car. Joanne joined him on the doorstep. He raised a hand and was about to rap on the ornate knocker when the door opened. A man with grey hair and eyes the colour of stormy skies greeted them. He wore a dark uniform.

‘Good evening, sir, madam. My master is expecting you. Please come through to the drawing room.’

The butler turned and walked along the candle lit hallway. Thomas and Joanne followed. She whispered to her husband.

‘How could they be expecting us?’

‘No idea. They must have us mixed up with someone else.’

‘Just ask for directions and then we’ll get off.’

Thomas shrugged.

The butler showed them into a large room. Painted portraits lined the walls. Leather sofas and armchairs filled the room. Standing in the glow of the fireplace was a man in a dinner suit. He had thick greying hair and was somewhere in his late fifties. He smiled at them.

‘Ah Mr and Mrs Dillon. Glad you could make it.’

‘How do you know our name?’

‘My name is Charles Brandon. Would you like a drink?’

‘We’re looking for the Black Swan pub. Should be nearby. We were told we couldn’t miss it?’

‘I do not know where this tavern is you speak of, but, come, you must stay for dinner.’

‘Could we use your phone? We’ve no signal on our mobiles. I’ll get one of my mates to give us directions.’

‘Let me tell you a little bit about the history of the house. It was originally built in 1508 by one Thomas DeWitt. Rumour has it that Henry VIII once stayed here during his Northern Progress.’

Joanne cast a worried glance at her husband.

‘All very interesting,’ Thomas said. ‘but we really need to use your phone.’

‘Will you be changing before dinner?’

‘What? We’re not staying for dinner. We have plans.’

‘People are expecting us.’ added Jane.

‘Your room is ready. I’ll have Archer show you.’

‘We are leaving now. We’ll find the pub ourselves.’

They stepped towards the hallway.

‘I tell you what, why don’t you stay for a drink? Then you can leave to go to your little soiree.’

‘We really need to be going.’

‘What harm will one drink do? I stock a wide selection of beverages.’

‘We’re leaving.’

‘Fine. There’s no need to be rude.’ Brandon said. ‘How about a drop of whiskey, Thomas? And for you Joanne? I know you will be driving but I could have the kitchen rustle up a strawberry smoothie.’

Thomas and Joanne looked at each other. He really wanted to go, get in the car and drive off. But this Charles Brandon seemed so persuasive, so insistent. It would be rude to refuse his hospitality.

Brandon called to Archer, the butler, to have the drinks prepared.

‘One drink. And then we’re on our way.’

‘Of course.’ he smiled.

A couple of minutes later Archer returned with their drinks on a tray. They took their drinks. Thomas took a sip of whiskey. Joanne tired her smoothie. She told their host that it was delicious. Charles Brandon smile das he watched them. Thomas tried to relax. He drank his liquor.

‘How long has the house been in your family?’ he asked.

‘Hundreds of years. Generation after generation of the Brandon family have resided here.’

Once they finished their drinks Charles glared at them.

‘Now, what is it you were saying earlier?’ he asked.

Thomas scratched his head. He struggled to concentrate.

‘What was it we were doing, Jo?’ he asked. ‘Weren’t we supposed to be going somewhere?’

‘I don’t know. I can’t think.’

‘In that case,’ said Brandon. ‘dinner will be served shortly.’

‘Excellent.’

‘Sounds lovely.’

Brandon led them through to a grand dining room. More portraits adorned the walls. A long dining table filled the room. Joanne whispered to Thomas that it looked like something from Downton Abbey. Brandon took the seat at the head of the table. Thomas sat on his left, and Joanne sat on his right facing her husband. Archer appeared with trays of food.

The butler lightly dished out plates of foie gras before vanishing once more. As they ate Brandon made small talk. He spoke animatedly about what he called the ‘history of the house’. Thomas tried to focus on his words. He managed to pick up the odd word or phrase but the rest of the chatter seemed jumbled up as if he was speaking a foreign language. His wife seemed in a daze. Her eyes were glazed over as though she were half asleep or lost in a daydream.

Brandon continued speaking as Archer collected the empty plates and returned with a lavish roast dinner. Thomas went to speak but the words got stuck in his throat and his mind went blank.

Dessert followed, then cheese and biscuits and tea and coffee. It was the finest food Thomas had ever tasted. He could not remember the last time he had dined on such food. In fact, he could not remember much of anything. Joanne stared blankly at him. He tried to ask her if she was okay but he could not speak. He lost his grip on his knife and fork. The cutlery clattered to the table. The world was fuzzy.

Everything went black.

Thomas looked around. He did not feel right. He felt asleep, drunk, hung-over and ill all at the same time.  He was in an old fashioned room full of ornate furniture. The floor was covered in black and white tiles that reminded him of a chess board. A grandfather clock ticked away in the corner. Where was he? What was he doing here?

He spotted his wife. He went over to her. She was dressed in a flowing gown. Her hair was styled and touched her shoulders. She looked like a character from a production of a Dickens novel.

‘Joanne, you okay?’

She just stared at him.

‘Jo? Why are you dressed like that?’

‘What about you?’ she mumbled.

He glanced at his reflection in the gold framed mirror. He was wearing a grey suit. A pocket watch hung on a chain on his waistcoat.

‘Where are we?’ she asked.

‘I honestly don’t know, love.’

He noticed a black painted door. They crossed the room. He hoped for the best as he tried the handle. The door gave. He sighed and yanked it open. Come on, he said.

They emerged on a cobbled street. Darkness was falling. Gas lamps glowed along the pavement. Horse drawn carriages bustled past.

A woman in her twenties walked down the pavement towards them. She had a knitted shawl draped around her shoulders. Her eyes were like pools of blue ocean. Her smile took Thomas’ breath away. She stopped in front of him. Then suddenly she was old, rotting, grey decaying flesh hung from her cheekbones. Her twisted features grinned at them.

‘You should never have come here.’ she cackled.

Thomas grabbed Joanne’s hand. They ran down the street. He had to get away from the strange woman and from his whole nightmare. He could not think straight. Panic touched icy fingers on his skin.

Darkness descended . They ran down street after street turning left and right. Thomas cold still hear the woman’s wicked cackling. Thick mist obscured their vision. Thomas was reminded of a film he’d seen set in Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel area of London. He tried to block the grisly images out of his mind.

His wife sobbed beside him. The pulled her hand and told her they had to keep moving. A man in a top hat and flowing cape strode through the mist towards them. The sound of his boots hitting the paving stone hit Thomas like hammer blows.

The man had deathly pale features and eyes that glowed red. Thomas and Joanne stared in horror.

‘Beware!’ he bellowed. ‘Beware the executioner.’

The man vanished into the mist.

They walked down the foggy streets. The lamplight barely penetrated the mist. Thomas had no idea where they were, what they were doing there, nor where they were headed. He was gripped by panic. He was still having trouble concentrating. Joanne looked like she had been woken from a deep sleep suddenly by a horrible noise. They headed on and on aimlessly through the fog.

‘Look!’ cried Joanne.

She pointed ahead into the mist. A large round-shouldered figure walked slowly towards them. He passed through the fog and reached them. He wore a mask of black cloth and a leather waistcoat. In his hands he wielded a large axe. Thomas knew this was the executioner they had been warned of.

He swiped his axe in front of him.

‘Do you forgive me?’ the figure boomed.

Thomas and Joanne turned and ran. The executioner moved quickly after them. They ran as fast as they could. They ducked down an alleyway. They came out the other end of the alley to find the fog had cleared. They were now on a narrow path with tall bushes on either side that reached well above their heads. The path turned sharply a few feet up ahead. Thomas sighed. How had they ended up in this maze? Footsteps came from behind. They glanced round. The executioner lurched towards them. He cut at the air with his axe.

‘Forgive me for what I must do.’

They rushed on further into the maze. They turned left and right, on through the maze under the pale glow of the moon. As though attached to them by an invisible chord the executioner was never more than ten feet behind them. He still pleaded for forgiveness.

They ran deeper and deeper into the maze. They turned one corner. They faced a dead end. A tall wall of bush blocked their way. With sickening inevitability the man with the axe appeared behind them. He was about to plead for their forgiveness when a door appeared in the hedgerow beside them. Joanne pulled Thomas towards the door. They charged through the doorway. They slammed it shut behind them.

They stared at each other, breathing hard. Had they managed to escape from the man with the axe? They looked around. They were in a drawing room. The place looked familiar. A man was standing by the fireplace. He sipped brandy from a crystal glass. Thomas recognised him immediately. It was Charles Brandon.

‘Ah, there you are. Now that you’ve seen something of the house, I think you’d be interested in this painting.’

He pointed to an oil painting hanging over the fireplace. He waved them over to take a closer look. Thomas and Joanne could not tear their eyes away from the painting. The picture was on the Brandon mansion house. They felt themselves being drawn in. Thomas didn’t feel right at all. He stared at his hand. His fingers were not flesh any more. They looked different.. like.. like they had been painted. He turned to his wife. He gasped. She was no longer the woman he had married. It was like looking at a portrait. The oil painted woman gazed back with sad eyes.

A week later. Max pulled up onto the driver. He rushed up the steps to the grand front door. Before he could rap on the door it opened. A butler stared at him.

‘I’m looking for my friends.’ he said. ‘They’ve been missing for a week. They should have been at my birthday party near here last week.’

‘You better come in. My master is in the drawing room.’

The butler led Max through the house and into the drawing room. The man reading in a leather armchair put down his volume. He got to his feet.

‘Good afternoon. I’m Charles Brandon.’

Max explained that Thomas and Joanne had not been seen since the day of his birthday party. They never arrived at the pub just round the corner.

‘How very troubling.’ Brandon said.

He went over to the fireplace. Max didn’t pay close attention to the painting hanging over the mantelpiece. He did not notice the two people in period clothing peering from one of the windows of the painted house. Had he looked closely he would have recognised them as the people he was searching for.

‘Would you stay for a drink?’ asked Brandon. ‘Let me tell you a little about the history of the house.’


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