Ghost of Rose Manor (Excerpt)
“Anna, come on! Don’t be such a chicken!” Debby Brooster called to me as I watched her and my three other friends creeping closer to the old manor house. Jenny Vargas, Kim Leong and Elle Willis were the other girls along for the ride. It was a hot and boring summer dusk and Debby had the great idea of breaking into the old Rose manor at the end of Mir road. We told my mother we were just going out for a bike ride; she should have known that kids never just go out for a bike ride.
As far as anyone knew, the manor was empty, the outside looking rather condemned and frightening. It was the kind of visage that lent tales to a small town like Renwood and of course the local children. When I was just a small child I remember my grandfather telling me stories about the manor. Even he had never seen it occupied and had lived in Renwood all his life. He told me that it was filled with ghosts and the ghosts kept the place up, kept it from falling apart. Of course I didn’t believe him… until tonight, when we went up to one of the lower windows and peered inside.
Despite the outside of the house literally peeling off, the inside looked well preserved, as if someone cleaned it every day. We all looked at one another, our young minds reeling with ideas and theories. “Well, come on guys. Let’s find a way in!” Debby said under her breath and started searching along the outer walls. “My grandfather said that he got in through the basement.” I said, though I wasn’t sure why. I was terrified but I was also the skeptic of the group.
At the ripe age of thirteen, there wasn’t much I believed in and of course I thought I knew everything, too. I was positive there was nothing there and that the family that owned it, the Mirs, of which the road was named, simply hired someone to keep it up. It only so happened that no one ever saw them. “I found it!” Kim called, pulling at two old, heavy cellar doors. “Its locked… it looks pretty old.” Kim said and stepped back from the doors. “So find a rock and break it…?” Elle advised timidly.
“We could get into trouble. You can go to jail for vandalism!” Jenny cried. Debby, always the adventurous one, was the first to grab a rock and start wailing on the old rusted padlock. It wasn’t long before the metal gave way and crumbled under the punishment. “Jesus, do you think that was loud enough, Debby!” Kim growled under her breath. “Who the hell is around to hear it? This road is like a mile of field on either side. You can’t even see the lights from town.” Debby reasoned and tossed the rock aside, having no more use for it.
Kim and I both helped Debby open the cellar doors, each one taking two of us to do so. Strange, they were reinforced on the inside with more wood and steel bands. I put it aside in my mind, thinking perhaps it was a simple repair, though it seemed a little overkill. Debby and I were the only two that had a flashlight, so we dug into our backpacks and prepared for the descent. Lights, a knife and a can of pepper spray from Debby’s mom’s dresser drawer were our tools for the evening. I took the knife, not trusting the others to be responsible with it and Debby took the pepper spray.
I wasn’t exactly trusting of Debby either but the pepper spray did belong to her mother. She got a pass because of that. More than a ghost, I was afraid I would have to explain to my parent’s why I was taken to the emergency room for pepper spray in the eyes or a stab wound! Debby went in first, then Jenny, Elle and Kim. I took the rear to make sure no one could surprise us from behind. I was expecting a hobo attack before a ghost or monster to be honest.
The cellar, though dark, wasn’t as frightening as we had all hoped. The sun was beginning to set, however, so time was of the essence and our minds were on exploring more than shadows and scurrying noises in the dark. The floor was dirt and the walls were stone. It looked like something from a Dracula movie but sadly there were no coffins or vampires that we could see. It was cleaned out aside from some lumber piled in a corner and some old wooden boxes. How boring, I thought as we continued our journey.
I wasn’t really expecting anything but I suppose in the back of my mind I wanted something scary to be there and I was more than disappointed at the seemingly normal and clean cellar. “Hey, guys over here. I found the stairway to the upper floor.” Debby said. Having nothing left to explore in the cellar, we all followed Debby, one creaking board at a time, up to the first floor. The stairwell itself was rather frightening as whoever cleaned the rest of the house completely missed the spiders living here.
Once Debby reached the cellar door, she tried the knob, and after several terrifying seconds, she finally got it to turn. The door, old and made of heavy wood, made a terribly loud creek as it opened. We all cringed and waited for some zombie or ghost to come flying out of the darkness at the sound but nothing came, the house was silent. The door opened out into the main room, the entrance itself was situated beneath a main stairway, a stairway that didn’t seem quite so big until we ventured out into the middle of the hall-like room and looked around.
It looked like something from a movie, grand and yet frightening… and strangely clean. The manor looked as though it was perfectly maintained inside. The floors were clean and shining, the furniture freshly oiled and the drapery dust free. We all looked at one another, perplexed by this house of mystery. Debby was the first to start up the massive main stairway, which branched into two separate stairways after a small landing. At the back of the landing was a statue of a man in the midst of becoming something else.
It wasn’t that the sculpture was ugly or particularly disturbing but the entire essence of it gave off a foreboding aura. As we passed it, each one of us glanced at it but I could hardly look away. It scared me, down to the bone, it scared me and yet I couldn’t pull my eyes away from its odd imagery. The details were so real, so perfect; I could hardly believe it was stone. But it was stone, I ran my hand along the smooth contours of the man’s exposed thigh to make sure. “Would you like to be alone with the statue, Anna?” Jenny said and cackled.
I blushed and removed my hand as quickly as possible but she was right, I wanted to be with it. Not in a depraved manner, mind you, I just wanted to stay with it. The realization of this frightened me so I hurried after the others, absorbing a few more needles from my peers as we headed to the second level. There wasn’t much to the second floor, rooms, again perfectly maintained and dusted. I was starting to think my grandfather was telling the absolute truth about this place; the ghosts did dust.
“So, where are the ghosts and if not ghosts, where are the people?” Kim reasoned as we headed for the third floor. “I don’t know… maybe they do have someone clean the place.”Debby said, shining her light up the dark stairway. The third floor stairwell was tight and strangely small. The dusk light had left us quite awhile ago so our flashlights were all we had in terms of illumination. Debby held her light at the top of the stairs, just staring until Elle spoke. “Debby…?” She chirped quietly, touching the other girl’s shoulder.
Debby looked at her then the others, her eyes were wide with fear. “I… I swore I saw… I saw something.” She muttered and moved the light back to the stairs just in time for a black shape to rush by the thin opening. I thought my heart would rip out of my chest it pounded so violently at that streak of darkness. Elle, jenny and Kim both shrieked and started back toward the second floor stairway at a dead run. It was then that we heard it. A sound I would hear for years in my nightmares. A sweet humming, high and whimsical and it came with the blackness that flowed down the third floor stairs.
Debby and I couldn’t find a voice to scream but we ran; we ran as fast as we could to where Elle, Kim and Jenny went. The darkness was at our heels, the tendrils of its Smokey form reaching out for us, reaching out to suck us back into the hell from which it came. I felt it touching my arm, touching my shoulder. I cried out as my left foot hit the first step and I fell, tumbling over and over again until I hit the base of the statue on the landing.
Its face, which I had hardly noticed before, was twisted into a maniacal grin, a wicked smile of pure arrogant amusement. My heart sank because I knew it smiled for me. I rolled to move away and found my knee pressed into something so hard the sudden pain of it nearly paralyzed me. A piece of the statue had come free, perhaps when I hit it, I thought. I had no time to dwell on it, however, so I gripped my knee and made a break for the front door.
We took our bikes and road home at a dangerous gait once outside. We never spoke of the night again and some months later Debby moved away. Debby and I were the only two that heard the humming and saw the darkness chasing us. To Kim, Jenny and Elle… it had only been a shadow.
(10 years later)
An Alarm blared out suddenly, saving me from another bizarre dream. 6:00am was far too early for any activity to my body but I was somewhat grateful for the shrieking siren this particular morning. The dreams were always bad, always odd and confusing. I couldn’t remember the last time I dreamt of something nice. They say that stress is a cause for bad dreams and I did have my reasons lately. I was heading home after a long time away. The closer it got to my departure day, the worse and more vivid the dreams became.
It was that house, even after all this time away from Renwood, that damn house still haunted me. I had decided that I was insane after awhile and went to therapy for it but no matter how many times I told myself it wasn’t true I still believed. I’d never forget that face and worse, I still had the scar on my knee from when I kneeled on the broken piece of the statue. I had taken an application for a collage as far away from my home town as possible but it didn’t matter.
The memories followed me wherever I went. I had gone for an art degree in hopes of becoming a teacher. Needless to say I was still unemployed with a degree. My trip home wasn’t just for visiting, I needed a place to stay so I could find a job and I had no one else but my family to rely on. I wasn’t exactly a social bug… I knew people but they were just acquaintances. The night terrors made slumber parties when I was young a real issue and I lost a lot of my old time friends to that and the therapy sessions. Apparently no one wants to be friends with a psycho.
After a few long moments of lying in my comfy bed, which was trying to pull me deceivingly back into bad dream land, I got up and got ready to head home. I packed light because I really had nothing to speak of; clothes, blankest and toiletries really. One of the teachers had been nice enough to let me stay with her and for room and board I cleaned her house and cooked. It wasn’t a glamorous life but it kept me off the streets. As I thumped down the old, creaking staircase, I heard her in the kitchen making breakfast. Ms. Trunt was her name, Susan Trunt.
She was a petit woman in her forties, her light blond hair already starting to go gray from teaching college kids. “Ms. Trunt, I was going to do that!” I said as I entered the kitchen. She chuckled and patted one of the kitchens chairs. The house and kitchen was a crafter’s dream. Ms. Trunt had made all the chair back covers and seats, the table cloth and the furniture covers in the living room. She had even gotten me into crafting a little, which of course appealed to my artistic side.
The smell of the house reminded me of my grandmother’s; over whelming lavender and sugar cookies. I took the seat offered and sat down, setting my pathetic backpack on the floor. “I wanted to cook you something special since you’ll be heading home today.” Ms. Trunt said. “You really didn’t have to do that…” I said but I was excited to see what she had made. Ms. Trunt was an amazing cook, why she had me cook I could only assume was because she was too tired when she arrived home from work to do it herself.
“Nonsense… I’ve really appreciated your company here, Anna. I’m going to miss you…” Ms. Trunt said and then set down a huge plate of homemade waffles in front of me.
After breakfast, and a heartfelt goodbye, I headed out. Mr. Trunt was kind enough to lend me some gas money too to which I swore I’d send her payment in the mail for as soon as I got home. She pooh-poohed it but I was determined. My backpack and beat to hell hand-me-down car were all the possessions I had. Moving out of a place was never hard for me in that regard. The drive home was long and boring. About two hours of flat nothing until you started to see some hills and trees.
I knew I was close to home when I could smell the pines. Renwood was a small resort town on the edge of a huge and beautiful lake, Wren Lake. It sat cozily between some low mountains and dense forest. It was truly a retreat from big town or city life. I rolled down my window, manually of course, and breathed in the pine thick air. The temperature dropped about five degree once you were close to the lake.
The town was supposedly founded by the Mir family, the same that built the house of my nightmares. They were an old family that came from foreign lands and settle here in America to start a new life. I wasn’t completely up on the history because after that night in the house I couldn’t even hear the name Mir without freaking out. I did know that the family abandoned the home in the late 1800’s for no apparent reason and hadn’t been seen back in the town since. I’m thinking now it might be because its freaking haunted.
I took a little detour around the lake before heading home. I was excited to see my family again and show them I was no longer outwardly crazy. Try as they might, the therapists never could get me to believe what I saw wasn’t real. I was hoping being home for awhile might alleviate my ridiculous fears. I turned down my old street and all my best childhood memories came rushing back; playing with my friends, barbeques in the summer and playing out in the street until 3am on Halloween.
Yes, not all the memories were bad here. I had gotten my first kiss parked outside my house from a would-be boyfriend when I was fifteen. Sadly it wasn’t to last, like most of my friendships. I was too crazy for them. You think you could confide in a guy you are madly in love with at fifteen and he will actually be there for you. Books and movies lie. I was never really able to connect with anyone after that and became somewhat of a shut-in.
I stopped my car just outside my parent’s house and took in a deep breath, prepared for the hugs and hidden looks of judgment at my failure to succeed and opened the car door. I grabbed my sad backpack and headed for the door. The street was quiet, lined with trees and perfectly kept, fenceless, yards. The houses on the block were more tall than wide, normally two to three stories with a Victorian-like style to them. My parent’s house was a deep brick red with white trim.
The moment I hit the door bell I could hear the pitter pattering of footsteps coming down the stairs which came off almost at the front door. My mother opened the door and greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. “Anna!” She cried and squeezed me so hard that I thought I would suffocate! “Mom…!” I said in turn and hugged her back. “I have your old room all set up for you and don’t worry about finding a job instantly, you know… There aren’t that many availably as I said on the phone.” She said grimly. “I know but I have to try somewhere.” I said and gave her a reassuring smile.
There is nothing much to tell about the rest of that day aside from going shopping for dinner and talking to some of the locals I used to know and unsuccessfully asking if there were any job openings. I was tempted, so incredibly tempted to check out the old manor house despite my cripplingly fear of it but I settled for taking a drive up to the scenic mountain viewpoint to get a look at it from a distance. It was a little past dusk when I arrived at the spot so you can imagine my shock when I saw lights in the windows.
The old fear gripped me but then I saw cars too. Good god, was someone living there? I wondered. I got out of my car and stepped to the edge of the lookout, peering down over the vast expanse of land. It was… clean. The outer walls were fixed though the outlying land was still fairly unmaintained. It was hard to tell from so high up but someone was definitely fixing the place up. I’d have to ask my mom about it once I was home.
If someone could actually live there then wouldn’t that mean I was simply insane and nothing really happened that night? Why did that thought seem so appealing? I got back in my car and started home. Part of me was giddy with relief while the other worried that I had truly gone crazy for no reason. I saw what I saw. Now I would just have to come to terms with the fact… it wasn’t real. By the time I arrived home, I had thoroughly convinced myself that I had been insane in my early teenage years.
I piled the groceries on the counter and explained to mother what I had seen and she smiled weakly at me. Pity, I just loved it. I had to get used to it too. “Yes...” My mother said. “And why haven’t you said anything about this?” I asked, irritated. “Well, to be honest, your father and I felt it would be best not to mention it with your past issues, Anna.” She said giving me a look. “Did you have any luck…?” She asked next, changing the subject.
“No, I think I asked every single place in town and they were all full. I was going to check the paper and if I can’t find something there I don’t know what I am going to do… start stripping on webcam I guess…” I muttered. “Anna!” My mother cried but laughed. I started sifting through the paper as my mother put the groceries away and started dinner. It was looking grim already… aside from the local high school softball team was doing well… yay for them.
Then I found it, a ‘Looking for Assistant’ advertisement. I sat up so fast in the chair I nearly knocked the coffee off my mother had just set down on the table for us. “My God, Anna, what is it?” She asked holding a hand to her chest. “A job! Right here… ‘Looking for an assistant to deal with random tasks. Does not require previous experience.’ Wow, they must be desperate. Perfect!” I cried, clutching the paper. My mother was strangely silent as she sat opposite me and sipped her coffee.
“Well, aren’t you glad? I’m going to give them a… oh, there is no phone number. That’s weird.” I muttered as I perused the advertisement. “There is only an address… oh shit.” I said reading on. It was at the Mir house. Perfect. Really this was just my luck. “I was going to warn you but…” My mother began but then stopped and sipped at her coffee. “So, you who had moved in there?” I asked and watched my mother’s reaction.
“Well… I didn’t want to bring anything up about that place. I wasn’t sure if you were… over it, yet.” She ventured. I couldn’t blame her, I had night terrors she had to get up and deal with when I was a kid. “I’m over it, trust me. So, who moved in?” I asked again. “One of the Mirs, Samuel Mir, he just appeared one day and started renovating the house. It was the talk of the town, especially since no one has ever actually seen him outside of the house. He did an interview in the local paper but other than that no one has heard from him…” My mother trailed off taking another drink of her coffee.
“And?” I urged. “Well, I heard he has been through three assistants already. Apparently he is rather impossible to deal with. Gabby’s daughter from down the road, she said she tried and he asked for the weirdest things. I heard the Mirs were odd but… anyway, Gabby’s daughter said she couldn’t stand more than one day and then left.” My mother said. I raised a brow. Maybe… it wasn’t just him. No. No. that’s crazy Anna talking! “So… what did he ask her to do?” I asked.
“Apparently he asked her to get his paper when it was no more than five feet outside the door while he stood there. She said she felt like a dog, like he was testing her! She said she thinks he is one of those people who can’t leave their house. You know... what do you call them…?” She muttered. “Agoraphobic?” I answered. “Yes! That’s it. She said she thought perhaps he suffered from that because he absolutely refuses to leave the house.” My mother said.
This odd little story got my wheels turning. I recalled when I was there that I had this overwhelming sensation of wanting to remain there. When I looked up at the statue, there was something about it that made me want to stay. What if this man was suffering from the same thing? What if… he was trapped by the terrible entity in the house? Suddenly I felt like this opportunity was more than chance, perhaps I had to face my fears and help this poor old man in the process.
“Anna? Are you alright?” My mother asked and I nodded. “Yeah, and I think I’ll stop by the house tomorrow and inquire about that job.” I said confidently. “Are you sure... I mean with the problems you had…” She began but I raised my hand and stopped her. “I’ve grown up and I’m not afraid of a silly house anymore. I’m going to check out this job.” I said.
It wasn’t long after that that my father arrived home and we went through the hellos, hugs and general how are yous. I decided not to tell him about the job but I pondered on it all night. This was truly a mile stone for me as that damn house ruled my life for several years. Tomorrow I would drive down there and face it. After all this time, I would finally be free. After dinner we talked and watched some TV then I announced I was going to bed. I was tired and needed sleep to face the day ahead.
Settling into my old room was a little hard as the memories of those old sleepless nights haunted me. I remembered staying awake all night, swearing up and down that there was this thing watching me from my window. As I looked at it now, I could almost see the outline of it. I tried to push it out of my mind but memories had a way of forcing their way through. I finally turned out the light and laid down, turning away from the window. I felt so open like this but I had to force those silly fears away or I would never be free of them.
I closed my eyes and, only because I was so damn tired from the drive up, did I actually fall asleep. It wasn’t long lived however. I woke up suddenly, my heart racing as if something startled me awake. I looked around the dark room, the leaves from the tree outside left blue hued shadows on the walls and danced in a particularly disturbing way. I swore they looked like claws. I got up and pulled on a sweater I didn’t recall leaving on the end of the bed and decided I would double check every lock in the house!
The hallway seemed longer than normally with this eerie blue light flooding it. The oddest part was that there were no windows to cast such a light in the hallway. I started to realize that this was not my parent’s hallway. It looked frighteningly similar the style of the manor house. I kept walking, my palms wet with sweat despite the cold. One puff of breath I swore I saw in clouds before my eyes. Being November I wasn’t surprised but it seemed unearthly cold.
Suddenly a figure appeared at the end of the hallway. It was a solid black and it simply stood with arms folded behind its back waiting for me. I froze where I was, too terrified to move. I watched it through squinted eyes and to my horror it began to morph into a different shape. It shrunk, growing a long barbed tail and horns then began to run up the walls and down again. It never progress, it stayed right where it was as if it were trapped somehow.
I moved forward until I was only about five feet from the creature which still was a solid black. “Who are you? What do you want from me?” I asked hearing the tremble in my voice. The creature stopped its manic racing and grew well above six feet right in front of me, though retained its horned monstrous visage. It leaned forward as the blackness melted away from it and I couldn’t help recognizing that face. “Come to me…” It said in the most frightening voice I had ever heard.
I woke screaming with cold sweat pouring down my face and neck. I was shaking and cold and I waited for someone to run into my room but no one came. I was thankful, however. I didn’t want them to know I was still having nightmares. God, how stupid could I have been to think I was strong enough to come here again? This was the first dream in which it spoke to me in a long time. Normally I would see shadows and glimpses but this time… it was just like when I was a child.
I wasn’t sure how long the dream lasted but it was morning and I was so happy to see the sun. I rolled out of bed and stumbled weakly into the hall bathroom. I nearly scared myself when I looked into the mirror. My eyes were blood shot making the blue so much bluer. The Auburn hair didn’t much help either. I looked like a ghoul! I was natural thin but today I looked like a zombie. My mother insisted that if I ate more I’d be shapelier but I had enough boob to fill a shirt nicely so I was happy.
I showered and dressed then went down for breakfast, debating if I could muster the courage to go through with this job interview. A part of me wanted to just move somewhere else and live on the streets but I’d have to be in china to get away from this thing’s hold on me. No, it was time I kicked this fear in the ass and told it to leave me alone for good. I was going through with this!
I suddenly envisioned myself as Rambo only in a ghost hunter sort of way. “Oh… Anna, are you feeling alright?” My mother asked upon seeing me. “Yeah, had a rough night… couldn’t sleep.” I lied. Sleeping was the problem, actually. “Oh, I’m sorry. I did have to get a new mattress for the bed, maybe that’s what it was.” She said. I shrugged and figured I better put a lot of make-up on later to hide my ghoulish self. “When are you going for your interview?” She asked, setting down some bacon and eggs for me and herself.
“Aw, thanks, Mom!” I said and started digging in. “I thought right after breakfast. Get the weird out of the day early. Plus, it leaves me time to sulk when I don’t get it.” I joked cramming in eggs. I slugged down some orange juice to complete the meal and somehow managed to not burp at the table. Did I mention I ate like a pig? Table manners aside, I wiped my mouth, excused myself and headed up to the bathroom for some extra fixes; such as makeup and tooth brushing.
By the time I made it out of the house I wasn’t thinking about the nightmare at all. I was in go mode and ready for whatever might happen. Well, that was largely due to the sun being out too… had it been night, forget about it. I tossed my purse in the car and followed, plopping down into the seat and buckling in before even starting the car. I was actually doing this, I could hardly believe it yet somehow I was excited. I’d help this old man and see for myself if this was real or just my own brain giving out on me.
The drive there brought back memories of that fateful bike ride. We weren’t scared going in but we sure as hell were coming out. The trees were skeletal and I could actually see the manor as I drove through the long driveway. The land was massive and terribly un-kept. It was like a wild forest surrounding the place with remnant of areas that looked like they were once beautiful. The house, mansion, castle of my nightmares, was actually looking rather nice. It still needed repair but it wasn’t bad at all.
The fact there was workmen outside and painters made me feel a lot better. A large fountain had been installed in the front and the driveway now circled around it. Wow, this guy was actually really trying to make this place livable… in a Jay Z sort of way, but still. I parked the car next to one of the work trucks and took a deep breath. I was nervous, extremely nervous. In fact part of me wanted to run back home and crawl into bed and say, fuck it, but I grabbed my purse and opened the door.
The manor was utterly beautiful and had been redone in a Tudor style. It must have cost a fortune but then the Mirs were rather well off. The front door was open with workmen coming in and out so I slipped by them and walked into the foyer. I had put on my ‘business’ suit for this so I looked more professional, which meant stockings and high heels for the skirt. I hated high heels and the slick tile flooring wasn’t making me love them anymore.
Click clack, click clack. I could hear myself walking throughout the entire house it echoed so much. Nothing had really changed inside but then it had been in perfect condition the last time I had seen it. I could faintly hear piano music coming from the left side of the foyer. There was a massive pair of doors there that hadn’t been explored the last time I was stalking this place. “Hello?” I called walking carefully toward the doors. There was no answer but the music continued.
I recognized the tune almost instantly; Pachelbel’s canon in D, one of my favorite songs, actually and so timely for the approaching Christmas season, too. The elegantly played melody did seem to calm my nerves a bit as I opened the massive doors. “Hello?” I called again as I entered a large space that seemed like it must have been for entertaining. There were huge windows lining the farthest wall and light poured in bathing the room in a warm glow. Toward the windows there was a man sitting at a piano and it surprised me to find he was the one playing the music.
I almost didn’t want to disturb him as the melody was utterly perfect but just as that thought crossed my mind he stopped abruptly and turned to look at me. He was at a distance so I couldn’t discern his features with the sun at his back but I could tell that he wasn’t the old man I had envisioned living here. “Well, finally…” He said and stood from the piano, coming around the bench at a swift gate. I swallowed hard and looked behind me thinking he was talking to someone else. “E-Excuse me…?” I muttered.
When he came up on me and took me by the shoulders I nearly swallowed my tongue. He was incredibly tall and thin with wide shoulders. His hair was a coffee brown and his eyes were a vibrant hazel green. The light of the room lit them up like a forest in autumn. He was staggeringly handsome and younger than I thought by decades. Where was the cute loony old man I was supposed save?! “You are here to apply for the job, right?” He asked staring me down with his intense eyes. I had to look away to gain my composure.
“Y-yes but… How did you know? I couldn’t call or make an appointment…” I stammered out. “I know things…” He said then laughed rather out of the blue and let me go. “Follow me and talk. You have a resume I assume?” He asked as he started out into the foyer. My face must have been classic, I almost wondered if I was on some prank TV show. “Yes, of course…” I said and started digging in my purse for it. “Chop, chop!” He yelled from the doorway and I hurried as best I could in my heels after him.
I pulled the resume out and tried to hand it to him but he brushed it away. “Read it, I need to see to things.” He said perfectly serious and continued on. “Oh… well, it basically says I have a degree in art and I have had a few summer jobs like waiting tables and working at a mall kiosk. I’ve never been fired uh…I work well with others. I have my own car and can run errands for you…” I rattled on and he seemed to not even be listening as we moved through the house. He yelled orders to the men working inside and then led me to a smaller room that must have been his office.
He went around the large desk and sat then just stared at me. I felt incredibly awkward and moved to sit in one of the other chairs when he said, rather forcefully, “Stand for a moment.” I stopped, slightly terrified. “Turn around, please.” He said. My first reaction was shock but I turned around. “Huh…” He said rather blandly then, “Alright sit.” I was utterly unnerved in disbelief. I sat but then asked, “Were you just… checking me out or…?”
He smiled at me, his perfect, white teeth showing rather wolfishly. “It’s rather cold out to be wearing a skirt, isn’t it?” He inquired. My brows shot up and I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t find words. “You obviously wore this to impress someone, me, I imagine and so I felt I should have a look.” He said and sat back in his chair. “Sir, if you think I came in here to… to get this job like that!” I snapped, shocked, bewildered… caught. I must have been utterly red in the face by now. I could tell because my cheeks were burning.
“Well, it worked. You’re hired.” He said just like that. I raised a brow, happy and wary. “But…” I began but he raised his hand. “Let me explain. I need someone that isn’t afraid of someone that’s weird as hell, you didn’t run out and frankly the paper trick was getting old. I’ll just come out and say it. I am a peculiar man…” He said and then extended his hand for something. “The Resume, please.” He said. I handed it over to him and tried to relax back into the chair.
“I need someone that will do certain tasks that may really stretch most people’s expectations for an assistant. I need someone that understands my wants and needs and can go about seeing to them. I have had trouble with many of the local girls. Don’t get me wrong, they are eager to help a man such as me; rich, handsome…. Rich but when they find out I have some… odd issues then they can’t wait to run away. Apparently money isn’t enough to ensnare good help these days.” He said, reading over my Resume.
“I can see how that might be disenchanting but may I ask what these ‘issues’ are? I mean, if I am to help you I will need to know.” I said, pulling my skirt down and holding it at my knees. “To the crux of the matter, I like that. Yes… One, I cannot leave the house. I can’t go past the porch. Two, there can’t be any iron, loose salt, loose sugar or anything small like that in granulated form spilled in the house. You will be responsible for making sure of those things. Also, there must always be cream in the house. I only eat cream mixed with sugar and butter, real butter… you might want to start taking this down.” He said and tossed me a small tablet and a pen.
“So, butter, cream and sugar, never spilled, must always be stocked in the house and no iron anything may be brought in. I’ll think more on that list.” He said and started rummaging through his desk. I was flabbergasted. Did… this guy think he was a fairy?! I have to say that I did love to read about mythical creatures and draw them and what he was describing… this guy thought he was a freaking fairy! So, he was agoraphobic and he thought he was a mythical creature. I suddenly felt in over my head here. “Okay…” I muttered and wrote down what he said.
“Sir, may I know how much my wages will be?” I asked, watching him. He looked up from his drawer and then seemed to think on it as if he hadn’t even considered what it might be. “Well, if you keep wearing skirts like that it will be a lot higher…” He muttered thoughtfully. My mouth literally fell open and just as I was about to stand and tell him to shove the job up his ass he laughed and waved his hand. “I’m joking. Twenty an hour sound fair? It will be an eight hour work day and then I might call you at random times in the night if I desperately need you… which will be over time.” He looked at me, waiting.
I just stared at him for almost a full minute before processing this. “That’s… quite fair.” I said and smiled. “Wonderful… so I’ll need you here around 9 am because I hate getting up too early and I’ll give you a bonus if you make me laugh.” He said perfectly serious. I just smiled and nodded. This man was a complete nut job but the money was worth it. “Welcome to the family…” He paused to look down at my Resume, “Anastasia Kronberge! Oh my… that’s a lovely name. I like that… I’ll like saying it.” He said thoughtfully. “Well, most people call me, Anna…” I offered.
“I’m not most people, Anastasia…” He said and then stood. “Come on, I’ll show you the rest of the house.” What the hell was I doing? What the hell was I thinking taking this job? This guy was insane. I had to wonder deep down if the house made him this way or if it attracted crazy people. He led me out of the office and back to the foyer and up the stairs. I noticed the statue was gone which sparked something I should have noticed all along. Mr. Mir looked almost exactly like that statue facially. It must have been crafted after one of the family members.
“What happened to the statue…?” I asked, not thinking that I literally broke into the place when I was a kid. “Gone… I didn’t like it here. I hoped you wouldn’t notice…” He muttered quietly and continued up the stairs. It took me a minute to put together what he said. How did he know I knew it was there and why would he hope I didn’t notice it? I didn’t say anything and continued the tour but that stuck with me throughout. “I clean this place so there are no maids… I don’t like people snooping around, stealing things, you know? You can snoop, Miss Anastasia but no stealing.” He said as we passed a few bedrooms.
“You clean this place by yourself?” I asked in a deadpan, disbelieving tone. The place was huge. No one could do it by themselves, unless they had help from a very clean ghost… “This is my room.” He said and walked me inside. “I like to read…” Apparently; there were hundreds of books stacked to the ceiling, papers, folders and even printed paper from a computer. “Is… there even a bed in here?” I asked, shocked and horrified at the sight.
“Anastasia…! None of that.” He said, grinning at me. “I don’t even know you yet. “ He said and laughed then went about pushing a stack of books aside to reveal his bed. I did have to give it to him, there wasn’t an ounce of dust anywhere and all the books were organized. They were also mostly about fairies and magic. Yep, that’s where he got the idea. I picked one up and looked it over. They were old but in amazing condition. “So how do you live on cream, sugar and butter, Mr. Mir? I mean… that’s kind of dangerous, don’t you think?” I asked setting the book back down.
“Actually it’s only dangerous if I eat anything but that.” He said, disappearing below the bed. I walked over to the edge of the bed and peered over the side to see what he was doing. He suddenly rose up and plopped a large, old and worn book on the bed. It was leather bound and had metal edgings that were a gold-ish color. “You better watch out sir that might be steel.” I said and smiled. He gave me a look and then rolled his eyes as he opened the book. “Its gold, Anastasia…” He said dryly and then flipped through a few pages.
“Oh, forgive me, my metallurgy skills are rusty.” I said watching him. “You are forgiven... I need you to take some notes, are you up for a little work today?” He asked. “Sure.” I said and sat on the edge of the bed with the little tablet he had given me from before. I crossed my legs and rested it there while I waited for him to ramble whatever nonsense he would. He blatantly stared at my legs for at least thirty seconds before muttering, “It’s a damn shame…” then went back to reading his book.
“What?” I asked, raising a brow at his comment. “Nothing… never mind.” He said and started dictating from the book. I could see what he was reading and it was in no way English, so he was translating it? It sounded like fairytales at first but then I realized it was about breaking some spell or something. I wrote what he said and didn’t say a word. This day was even weirder than I had imagined it would be. Samuel Mir was suffering from some mental problem but on the other side he was obviously successful in some business.
I couldn’t help but find him cute. It wasn’t that I was into crazy guys but there was something so… different about him. It didn’t hurt that he was unbelievably handsome and checking me out. I’d simply do as he asked, write down his nonsense and take my paycheck home. It wasn’t that bad. “I can’t believe you aren’t asking me why I am doing this.” He said suddenly and then closed the book with a thud. “I don’t really care… it’s your business, Mr. Mir.” I said. “Call me Samuel, please.” He said and placed the book back under the bed.
“You might find you do care, later.” He said and straightened his jacket. “I don’t really… believe in this stuff, sir.” I said watching him as he rounded the corner of the bed and joined me. He stopped incredible close, most definitely violating my personal space and leaned in even closer. “Tell me, have you ever believed in something and had no one else believe you… think you were crazy by chance?” He asked. I looked up at him, shocked at his revelation. How could he know? It was impossible.
“How… d-did you know?” I stammered out. He was so close and his features were so eerily like that statue, especially when he smiled. He shrugged suddenly and moved away, walking toward the door. “Come on, I have more things for you to do.” He said. I stared for a moment longer and tried to think of how he could know that. The only reasonable solution I could think of was that he knew I was here that night and the only way that was possible was if he was here too.
I hurried after him, feeling chills run down my spine. He was halfway down the hall when I caught up. “Mr. Mir…”I began, catching my breath as I reached him. “Samuel, please.” He said cheerfully, wagging his finger as he walked. “Samuel, how long have you actually lived here?” I asked pointedly. “If you are wondering how I know about the night you broke into the house, your friends blabbed it to the police and let our family know. They gave all the names of the kids. We decided not to say anything about it. Kids will be kids.” He said.
Well, that made some sense through I had no idea why the others would go to the police and no one questioned me or Debbie. I’d buy his reason for now but there was something fishy about all of this. I couldn’t really say I was creeped out, more intrigued really. Samuel Mir wasn’t frightening; he was simply odd as hell. “Oh… well, I’m sorry about the statue.” I said looking down as we walked. “It was an ugly statue anyway.” He said and grinned back at me. “Now, I have some things I need from the store, my dear Anastasia.” He said.
“It wouldn’t happen to be Cream, Sugar and butter, would it?” I asked and laughed slightly. He stopped suddenly and gripped me to him. I nearly screamed but I managed to hold it in. “I love you! Exactly! Also I need something from a specialty store! The things on the list we just made, can you do that for me?” He asked. I nodded after recovering from the small heartache I just had. “Sure…” I said in a wavering voice. “Good, I’ll give you the address once we are back in my office. Scoot now.” He said and swatted my butt.
“Mr. Mir!” I cried but he was already down the stairs. I think It could be determined that I was officially insane for taking this job. The rest of the day pretty much consisted of me running errands from weirdo store to weirdo store. Unfortunately I gave Samuel my cell phone number too so he could instructed me on the way because each store was in a scary area and some were even outside of the town. After gathering all his ingredients, I stopped at the local grocery for the cream, sugar and butter.
It was almost time to call it quits and I was done. God knew what he had planned for the next day. It was work though and his insanity took my mind away from the haunted house idea. It was hard to even think about it when someone as odd as Samuel Mir lived there. He probably scared the ghost away. I recognized one of the checkers there as Kim Leong so I went to her register to get some normalcy back into my life. “Oh my God, Anna, I heard you were back!” Kim said and came around the register to hug me.
Luckily there weren’t many people there. She worked her way back around and started pushing my items through. “I didn’t know you still lived here, Kim.” I said taking out the money Samuel had given me for the items. “Yeah, well… I have a boyfriend and this is a good job.” She said and smiled. “Yeah, not many of those around, I noticed.” I responded bitterly. “What are you doing back? I thought you went off to college? That will be $15.90 by the way.” Kim said. I handed her a twenty. Samuel had given me $400 just in case…
“I got a degree just not one that came with a job, sadly. I came back here looking for work. In fact that’s what I am doing now, working.” I said. “Are you working for a baker or something?” She asked. “Not exactly, I’m working for Samuel Mir and… apparently he only eats cream, sugar and butter for dinner.” I said giving her a look. “Oh my God, you are actually working for that crack pot? I heard he was nuttier that banana bread.” She said and I laughed out loud. “God I missed those weird sayings of yours, Kim. I needed that today. It’s… I mean yes, he is completely insane but it’s not that bad yet plus he is the only one hiring. I had to take it.” I admitted.
“Okay well, call me later or when you get a chance.” Kim said and jotted down her number on the receipt. “You have to tell me what’s been going on.” She said and smiled. “I think when I get home I will fall dead asleep, so tomorrow maybe.” I said and took my bag of goodies.”Okay, bye!” Kim called as I exited the store. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to an old friend but talking with Kim was like talking to your grandmother, you had to make time for it and the last thing I wanted after this day was to talk about someone else’s boyfriend.
It was about five o clock when I got back to the Manor and all the workmen were gone. It unsettled me a little but the lights in the windows made me feel a little better. I never thought I’d be back at this house when it was dark again, ever. But here I was and with a bag full of groceries. I Got out of the car with the several bags of weird crap I had gotten today and started up the stairs. The door opened by the time I had gotten to the top step and Samuel was standing there waiting.
The moment I stepped over the threshold he took some of the bags from me. Such a gentleman, I thought sarcastically. “Thank you…” I breathed. “Certainly, my dear Anastasia, come, let’s go put these down in the kitchen and I think that will be all for tonight. I’m very pleased with your effort and dedication already!” He said enthusiastically. I followed him into the kitchen which was impressive and very clean, of course. “Yeah well… I’m just that kind of girl, I guess.” I said blandly. He laughed and smiled at me. “Tomorrow will be far more exciting, I assure you.” He said.
“Oh…?” I asked, raising brow. The look on his face worried the hell out of me. “Oh yes… because tomorrow we are going to play with some magic…” He said and clapped his hands together. It reminded me of some kind of insane Disney villain plotting. “Sure, Samuel, I can’t wait.” I said and forced a smile. “Don’t you believe in magic?” He asked. “I don’t know what I believe. I never really think about it. I used to think there were ghosts and monsters but I am pretty sure there is nothing now.” I lied. He stared at me for a moment, an unnerving moment then smiled. “Well, then you have nothing to be afraid of, right?” He said.
“Yeah...” I responded. You know those moments when your stomach drops and you feel a cold chill run through your body? The moment when you realize you are actually terrified? I was there. Something about that look nearly crippled me. He was telling me something without saying it, maybe even warning me. “Tell me, Anastasia, do you have bad dreams?” He asked removing the content from the bags. The look on my face must have tipped him off to the sudden and violent chills that rushed through me because he gave me a slight pat on the shoulder.
“I was just going to suggest if you did, that I have something that might help you...” He said and walked over to one of the cupboards and retrieved a vile from the top shelf and brought it back to me. “Use this tonight before bed and you will have only pleasant dreams.” He suggested. I took the vile and looked it over then looked at him warily. “Thanks…” I said and made my way out of the kitchen. Day one down… God only knew what tomorrow would be like.
I sat and stared at the vile Samuel had given me. I was so tired and so done with the day. Dinner had been awkward with my parent’s as they of course wanted to know all about Samuel Mir and what I was doing for him. I lied to them. I told them he was perfectly normal but with an extreme case of agoraphobia. I told them I simply assisted him and shopped for him. I just didn’t feel like telling them about him. Obviously the guy had a screw loose but that didn’t need to be spread all over town.
I guess in a way I related to him. People thought I was crazy too and they acted weird around me when they found out I was in therapy. I felt so isolated and monstrous back then. I felt like a freak and though Samuel was weird as hell, he didn't need to suffer the same fate I did. Even now I imagined people were talking about me being back here. In a way getting the job at the house was to prove I wasn't a freak anymore and that I wasn't crazy to myself.
I almost wondered if Samuel had lived there all along and maybe he scared us away because he was scared too… maybe there was never a ghost but this poor kid hiding there. It made sense, the place being clean and all and in the same exact way. It was just a theory but it was one that seemed to stick with me. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him somehow. The little vile he gave me gleamed blue beneath my nightstand lamp, the temptation to see what was inside was overwhelming and so I picked it up and pulled the cork free.
It must have been my tired eyes and imagination but I swore I saw a faint little wisp of blue smoke waft out when I opened it. I peered inside then turned the vile over in my palm. Three small seeds fell out into my hand. I looked closely at them but found they were just little seeds and nothing more. My cell phone suddenly rang and I nearly lost the seeds and the vile as I jump from the shock. “What the hell??!!” I growled and grabbed the phone off my nightstand. It was… Samuel?
“Hello?” I answered. “Have you checked the vile yet? I thought I should tell you how to use the seeds before you go and eat them.” He said. “Uh… what do you do with them?” I asked, bewildered that I was having this conversation with my boss. “Put them under your pillow.” He said simply. “Oh, like for the tooth fairy?” I said jokingly. “Exactly but Morpheus would be pissed if you left him a tooth. These seeds are better, they are magic and he will give you good dreams in return for them.” Samuel explained.
“The guy in the Matrix…?” I asked confused. “No, damn kids… the God of dreams, Anastasia… good grief it’s amazing you have lived this long as a race. Morpheus the God of dreams, he will clean up that bad dream problem you have.” He said irritated. “Yeah about that, how do you know I have bad dreams? I never told you that.” I accused. “Err… I know things, Anastasia. Because Magic, now get a good night’s sleep, my darling, we have a lot of work to do tomorrow. Oh and be careful, Morpheus likes to try and manhandle people in their dreams… night!” He said and hung up.
I sat there thinking that this phone conversation couldn't have actually happened and yet I was holding my phone. I looked at the seeds and considered my options: I could have nightmares and be a zombie the next day or I could put the seeds under my pillow and chance having Lawrence Fishburne try to seduce me. I always did like Lawrence Fishburne… I placed the seeds beneath my pillow and actually hoped that Samuel’s insanity paid off. It couldn't hurt… right?
It wasn't long before I began to drift and it wasn't long before I was dreaming. It seemed rather pleasant at first. A calm forest aglow with greenish amber light was before me and hovering between the trees were fireflies or so I thought. They darted here and there and shed light where they touched. I wasn't a stranger to lucid dreaming and in the back of my sleeping mind I was waiting for Morpheus, despite thinking Samuel was insane. I had to admit, this was so much better than the nightmares.
I wasn't really sure why I believed this would work. By all sane reasoning I should have thrown the seeds away but somehow I wanted to believe it was true. “Wow, I can’t believe you actually used the seeds… even with the warning I gave you…” A voice said from somewhere. I looked around but didn't see anyone there. “Samuel? Why am I dreaming about you…? I thought Morpheus was supposed to be here?” I said, twirling around, looking in all directions.
I jumped back as a familiar face popped out from behind a push, though the face was Samuel’s, his hair was long and he had antlers on his head which were intricately carved with designs. “Oh I see how it is… you are choosing him over me? The promise of sex is more entertaining than my company?” He said in a mock hurt tone. Was he naked? “Samuel, come out from behind that bush…” I demanded, half afraid and half curious. Maybe I sniffed those seeds instead of putting them under my pillow…
He stepped out from behind the bush. I suppose stepped was the correct term. He was naked aside from a tattered loincloth but what shocked me were his legs, they were… deer legs and he had a lion tail? “Samuel, are you dreaming yourself to look like an anthro, because that is not cool.” I said giving him a look. He snickered and moved closer. “No, no… this is what I really look like. I thought it would be better to use Morpheus’ dream seeds to show you than show you in person…I didn't want you fainting.” He said and took a seat on a log. “Plus here you can’t run from me, you have to listen.” He added casually.
I looked around and then back at him. “You expect me to believe that? I mean, maybe I am just dreaming about this because… because!” I reasoned pitifully. “Come and sit, Anastasia and I will explain.” I shook my head. There was no way I was sitting next to him, for all I knew he was Morpheus. Though why he would choose such an odd form was beyond me. “Explain from a distance.” I said and crossed my arms. “Oh Gods above, women… fine. Well, this first part is going to make you mad so… promise you won’t yell at me.” He said, pouting.
“Never start a story with that, Samuel. I’m already mad now!” I said though to be honest I was more scared than mad. “I was the one that scared you in the house when you were a child… but I really didn’t mean to scare you so badly!” He said quickly. AHA! “I knew it! You have lived there since you were a child, haven’t you? What are you some kind of psychic or a ghost or something?” I asked and he raised his brow at me. “Not exactly, I have been in the house for a long time but uh… I built it.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s impossible. It was built in the 1800’s… unless you are ghost.” I said glaring suspiciously. For the first time since I met Samuel, he looked serious. “I’m not a ghost, though at times I wish I was… I’ll explain this in more detail tomorrow when you come over. I just wanted to clear this up first… because obviously you thought I was insane but I assure you I am not.” He said. “I hate to break this to you but I still think you are insane, I just think I am too, now.” Samuel stood and walked over to me, which was very odd to watch with his feet being hoofed.
“Don’t worry… I have to go now, enjoy Morpheus’ dreams, Anastasia.” He said gently and kissed my brow. Before I could say anything or even fight him off he was gone. What the hell was going on? Either I was losing it big time or there was something beyond paranormal going on at that house. I turned to wander around my dream forest and explore a bit before waking when I saw a man standing behind me at a distance of about twenty feet.
“Morpheus…?” I asked timidly. The figured nodded and smiled. “Holy crap, you really do look like Lawrence Fishburne!” I cried. He was even wearing the damn matrix coat.
The next morning was very confusing to me. I wasn't sure if I had had the oddest dream in history or if it was real. I looked under my pillow and the seeds I had placed there were gone. Okay so Morpheus did take the seeds. I had to admit that I found Morpheus rather interesting. He didn't try to seduce me but explained he had tried to seduce Samuel… which I found to be hilarious. Greek Gods, am I right?
I dressed and got ready for work, however this time I simply put on my normal attire: a Japanese sun shirt, blue jacket, black patch pants and red Converse. It expressed my ’I don’t give a fuck’ side. I wasn't about to try and impress a mad man every day with skirts. I didn't tell my parents about the dream. We just had a simple, quiet break before I left. Part of me, okay all of me, was pretty excited to see if Samuel confirmed the dream last night.
I never thought I would be happy to be back in that house but if it was true that Samuel had been the one to scare me then I really had nothing to fear. The workmen were there again and also some gardeners and landscapers. I wondered why Samuel never did any of this before if he had been here for so long... didn't seem to make sense. I walked into the foyer, happy I didn't fear for my life on the slick floors this time, and headed toward the music.
Samuel was human and playing his piano in the morning light, just like he had been the day before. “A few minutes early, I like that, Anastasia!” He said and finished the piece he was playing. “I trust I didn't scare you too badly last night then…?” He said and got up from the piano. I looked behind me to make sure none of the workmen were near and then moved closer to him. “So that was real…?”I said low. I was smiling. I could feel it and he smiled in turn when he realized I was a bit thrilled at the idea.
“Magic is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Yes, Anastasia, it was real. So…I am sure you have questions and I do have answers but let’s not talk with the common rabble listening in…. Come to my office.” He said and put his arm around my shoulder to lead me out. “I see you are feeling more at home already…” He said giving my outfit a once over. “Well, I figured I didn't need to seduce you since Morpheus already tried…” I said and held back a smirk. He raised a brow and then averted his eyes. “Bastard… sexy bastard.”
I laughed out loud at that. “Hey, it didn't work, okay… completely. You know he can change into a female form…? I’m just clarifying.” He defended. “Sure, Samuel, sure,” I teased as we reached his office and he escorted me to one of the chairs. “Now…” He started as he sat down, “What would you like to know?” It was nearly impossible to choose one thing to ask. “Were you giving me those dreams before, the ones that asked me to come to you?” I asked pointedly. “That’s a good question… next question!” He said smiling.
“No, you have to answer that one, Samuel!” I growled. “Uh… Okay, let me explain. When you and your friends came to the house, it was the first time in a long time anyone had. As you know, your grandfather made a trip here too but I simply hid from him. I wouldn't have had I known what I know now. I needed you to come back, Anastasia so I… mildly attached part of myself to you so I could bring you back here.” He explained. At least he had the nerve to look guilty! “You ruined my life!” I shouted unexpectedly. Though somehow I knew it would all come down to this I was still mad.
“I know… I know and I hadn't meant for that to happen. I wasn't powerful enough to completely take over your dreams so it seemed nightmarish. I nearly got probed by Morpheus for it mind you… it’s not without its punishments. I was just desperate for help… I’m sorry it hurt you, I really am.” He said sincerely. “Why me and not one of the other girls? Why not my grandfather?” I asked, “Because you weren't afraid. Well, not at first. I made a miscalculation on that I’ll admit. I also needed a… virgin female.” He said and smiled sheepishly.
Whoa. Whoa. “A what? Is this some kind of evil black magic thing?” I asked, “Of course not! That’s used for attacking this is about reversing.” He defended fervently. “Well, how do you know I’m still a virgin anyway, maybe I gave it away in college!” I said giving him a suggestive smirk. “Please, Anastasia. Do you really think I would have gone to all this trouble if I thought you weren't still a virgin? Do I need to say again I was almost probed by a God for this? Besides, the dream spell would have broken had you lost it.” He said.
I wasn't sure if I was more embarrassed or ashamed at this point. I was blushing and irritated at him for all this but at the same time I was relieved. At least I wasn't crazy and I could sleep again without the nightmares. “What exactly is this spell we need to do and if it involves sacrificing me, I’m out.” I said, giving him a dirty look. “No, not exactly sacrificing but… how to put this, you might have to stay with me for a few days.” He said and smiled. My stomach fluttered nervously at the idea.
“Why?” I asked warily. I didn't completely trust him yet. Yes, he had told me the truth but still, he was making me nervous. “It’s kind of a long story…” He muttered looking down at his hands. It was the first time he really seemed… human, I guess. The first time I saw him he seemed unearthly and odd but right now, in his dark office, he looked normal, human. “I have time.” I said and sat back in the chair. He looked up at me and narrowed his eyes as if thinking over his response. “Well, I wasn't always like this… I was human once. A long time ago, I was the Samuel Mir that built this home. I built it for my fiancé and future family.
I was born in 1799. My parents moved us from Spain to America in 1809 and used their money to start building this town with a few other families that came over. People didn’t live long then and when my father’s time was up, I inherited the family fortune and used it to build this house in 1828 for my family. I had a sister and my mother to care for and we were all to live in the house together so I made it very large. It was to be a house of happiness but… sadly, it wasn’t. My mother soon took ill and passed from fever and my sister caught the same and was dying.
I was very low then and miserable. I had to sit and watch my sister slowly succumb to the same thing that killed my mother and it was hard. My fiancé, Eliza, was patient with my moods and pain but she wasn’t happy either as I desperately sought a cure for my sister. I spent money hand over first to save Marie but… no one could. One day, while I was going through my father’s old things, just to take my mind off of life, I found a box.
My father said it was very old and had been in the family for hundreds of years. He said to never open the box because there was something evil inside it. The story frightened me when I was a child but that day I was more interested in the content than my father’s warning. I opened the box and this… thing, came out. It looked like what I look like now, what I really look like, that antlered thing. It said it was trapped and if I helped release it, it would give me the power to heal my sister.
I couldn’t believe it but then it showed me what it could do. I was in awe and I was a fool. What it didn’t say was that by releasing it from the box I was taking its place. But, instead of the box being my prison, it was this house. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late and the creature fled. Eliza was amazingly understanding of my plight. She believed me, if you can imagine that. I was able to use my new powers to heal Marie and they brought me these books and questioned everyone they could about how to break the deal but to no avail.
Eliza died from complications of the heart in 1870 and Marie died three years later… and then I was completely alone.”
“So you have been completely alone for over a hundred years in here?” I asked, astonished. “Well… I did have workmen come now and again to fix the place up, adding power, cable TV and when it was invented, the internet… you know those important things.” He said and tried to make it sound lighthearted but it was obvious he was miserable. “Are you going to try and trap me here, Samuel?” I asked pointedly. Hey, it might have been mean but there was a good chance that was exactly why he needed me. Isolation can turn anyone into a villain.
“I would never force this hell on another person.” He said fervently. “What I need from you is… to allow me to attach myself to you so I can leave this house.” He said leaning over his desk. My eyes widened and my mouth opened but no words could escape. “I realize this will interrupt your life and I plan on compensating you very well for it, Anastasia. I found a way to track the creature that did this to me. If I can reverse the deal then I can be free but that means I need to find him fist and I can’t unless I am free to do so.” He explained. The look on his face was almost pleading.
“You swear to Morpheus you aren’t lying and trying to trap me here?” I asked and narrowed my eyes. “I swear on Morpheus’ huge magic wand I am telling the truth.” He said exasperatedly and laughed. I had to laugh too. “Please, Anastasia… I really need your help. I’ll give you anything you want… a career in art, a new car, a house!” He said. I had to consider this. He was quite rich. “First, stop calling me Anastasia. Call me Ana. Secondly, does this mean we will be running all over the world looking for this thing?” I asked eyeing him carefully.
“Yes… Ana. He might be anywhere. We might have to go to China or farther… but I have a special compass to guide us to him. Which will save me a lot of money on plane tickets.” He said and smiled. This wasn’t sounding half bad. Actually, it sounded rather exciting. “You really swear you are not trying to trick me?” I asked again. “If I was I wouldn’t have told you all this, I would have made you participate and not told you what it was for.” He said. It made sense… pretty much.
“Okay, but I need to see the compass work before agreeing to anything, you got it?” I said. “Wow, I wish I were as smart as you back then… I should have asked all these questions.” He muttered thoughtfully. “Well, I have seen lot of movies.” I told him and smirked. “Very well, I want you to spend the night here tonight so we can go over the ritual a few times and also so I can show you how the compass works. You don’t mind spending the night with me in a haunted manor, do you?” He asked and grinned wolfishly.
He was so incredibly handsome when he smiled I noted rather suddenly and to my horror. So, perhaps his story softened me a little. I couldn’t help but feel for him knowing he had been trapped here for so long alone with all his family dying around him. “Not when I know the ghost.” I said and smiled. Oh God that almost sounded flirtatious and I was blushing again. Hopefully he didn’t notice but from the smirk on his face I gathered he did.
He leaned forward on the desk and rested his chin in his hand as he looked at me. “Ana, why are you blushing?” He asked. His face was a mask of pure arrogant amusement. “I’m not… I’m cold and I get rosy.” I lied, feeling flustered now. Okay, so I liked him, not a surprise. He was handsome and charming in a fucked up sort of way. Frankly the idea of spending a night in the same house with him was terrifying to me and not because of the weird magic stuff.
I wasn’t good with boys my own age, I never was and frankly I was largely uninterested in them. Older men, however, were another story. Samuel was by far the oldest and most attractive man I had ever met so I was slightly at a disadvantage with him. “Well, they look pretty either way.” He said, snapping me out of my silent appreciation of his face. “You don’t need to flatter me, I already agreed…” I said because I was too flustered and embarrassed to come up with anything else.
“Humor me, Ana. It’s been a long time since I was able to flatter a lovely young woman.” He said and continued to smile at me. I was starting to feel extremely uncomfortable and yet at the same time I rather liked the attention. “I suppose it has been awhile since you had a date, right?” I laughed nervously and considered that for a moment. He was probably woman starved. Maybe staying here wasn’t a good idea after all. “Being trapped inside an abandoned house does kind of put a damper on one’s social life.” He said and laughed.
“But, once I’m attached to you… well, I’ll take you out for dinner, how does that sound?” He said watching me. I must have looked like he just slapped me because he laughed again. His voice was a sweet and deep timbre, rich and aged with a long dead culture to it. Knowing what a unique creature he was made him a mystery and one that had haunted me for years. It wasn’t that odd to want to know more or to even become friends, was it? “S-sure, Samuel.” I said wishing I could hide and die in a corner.
He could see how easily he rattled me. I wasn’t used to being teased or flirted with. Okay, mostly the flirting, I was teased a lot as a kid. “Really, Ana, don’t be so nervous. You have to remain a virgin, after all… so I am limited in what I can seduce you into.” He said, grinning evilly. I felt my heart drop into my stomach and that was when I knew the subject had better change quickly. “So, how about you tell me more about you and what you are now and the thing in the box.” I rattled off quickly, avoiding eye contact.
He watched me for a moment, his smile lightening to one a bit gentler. “Sure.” He said and turned, pulling a book from the bookcase behind him. He set the book down on the desk and flipped through a few pages and then stopped. “Here…” He said and pushed the book toward me. “A Despra…? I’ve never heard of it.” I said, perusing the page. “Unfortunately neither had I or I might have been a bit more wary before making a deal with one.” Samuel said and laughed.
“Despra are in the satyr family but are also akin to the Jinn. They are mischievous pranksters who love making deals. Be wary if one asks for a trade and understand the terms before agreeing.” I read aloud and then looked up to Samuel, raising a brow. “… On second thought, I think I want a contract to read over before we go through with this.” I said dryly. He gave me a shocked look, as if he was surprised I’d think he was trying to trick me.
“Ana, after all that I have told you, you still don’t trust me?” He asked, frowning. “Damn right!” I said and slid the pencil and pad over to him. “Write up a clear contract for me.” I demanded and went back to reading. Samuel went about jotting down a contract while I continued to peruse the book. Apparently the Despra were often confused with Jinn or genies because of their habit of ‘granting people’s desires’ however, their way of doing so usually ended up putting said person in dire predicaments.
It didn’t mention turning anyone into one of them but the sky was the limit to their power. The only things that were more powerful were Gods but the Despra themselves were like demigods. Obviously Samuel wasn’t all that powerful but what about when he was free? Could he be playing a trick to get me to free him so he could cause havoc? I watched him for a moment as he wrote his terms down. His tongue was sticking out slightly and it seemed like he paused a few times as if to recall a word or how to spell it.
I could actually see from where I was there were a few misspelled words. Yeah, I couldn’t really see Samuel being deviously evil. “Okay, here you go.” He said suddenly and slid the pad over. He had used only two pages and added a smiley face to his signature at the bottom. I looked it over for a moment and couldn’t find anything in it that he hadn’t already stated. “This is all of it? I read here that you can’t lie in a written contract so… did you put all of the conditions in?” I asked, eyeing him.
“Samuel, did you put all the conditions in or what?” I asked again. He smiled at me and nodded. I was sure at this point he was just trying to annoy me. “Samuel, I‘m leaving right no_” I started to get up and he grabbed my hand. “I swear on the memory or my dear family that it’s all there… mostly.” He said and smiled. I wasn’t amused and pulled my hand away. “Let me guess, this bit about traveling ‘wherever’ is it isn’t it?” I asked irritated. “Well, I wasn’t sure how to word it exactly. I’m not sure where all we will have to go so I couldn’t really be detailed.” He reasoned.
“Fine… let me call my parents and let them know I am staying over… I guess you better show me how this compass works, too.” I said taking my cell from my bag. “You didn’t sign yet, though…” He said nodding toward the notepad. “Yeah, because I am not signing it until I see where that compass points, Samuel.” I said and with that I got up and walked out of the room to phone my parents. Once I was finished with that and the warnings from my mother that he might be a ‘groper’ I walked back into the office and sat down.
Samuel must have retrieved the compass while I was out of the room because there was a lovely, highly decorative box sitting on the desk now. It was intricately carved wood with gold decorations on it. “So, this is it?” I asked. Samuel nodded and leaned over to open the lid. “Yes. It took me quite a while to get this. Without being able to leave the house, I had to actually hire a ‘treasure hunter’ of sorts to get it for me.” He said. I took note that his demeanor had changed.
The lighthearted Samuel was all but gone and it frightened me a little. His face was serious and worse, gloomy. “Is something wrong, Samuel? You… aren’t being…” I trailed off as I watched him looking over the box. “Anastasia… Ana, I… there is something else I must tell you about our journey.” He said quickly, shutting the lid of the box. I leaned back and narrowed my eyes. He looked guilty and that made me even more worried. “What is it?” I asked.
“I know where the Despra is… I know where the compass will point us and…” He hesitated, “It’s far from here, Ana.” He said. The guilt on his beautiful features was so pronounced that I felt a twinge in my stomach. “How far?” I asked swallowing the lump in my throat. “Another world, another reality. One from which all strange things come.” He explained. I watched him for a moment trying to decide if he was being truthful. I felt that he was, because he seemed so distraught.
“And you think that I won’t agree once I see this for myself, right?” I asked, pulling the compass toward me. He nodded. “It’s going to be more than a simple few days of travel, Ana. I can’t say how long it might take us to find the Despra that did this; a few days to a few months maybe longer. However, time passes differently there. What might seem as a life time there is but a blink here. I imagine that is how these creatures remain immortal.” Samuel explained.
“So your connection to that world is what keeps you alive?” I asked. He shrugged. “I have no idea. I’d imagine so.” He said. Then a terrible thought occurred to me. “Samuel… if we break the curse… you might die.” I said. Caring far more about that than I should. “If I do then that is fine. I can be with my family again. You have to realize, Ana, that I have been alone for so long… Death would be a release.” He said. I didn’t like it, not at all. It was downright depressing.
Changing the subject before I started arguing with him for reasons I wasn’t sure of myself, I opened the box and pulled the compass out. It was a glorious looking piece of craftsmanship. It was about the size of a soft ball and completely contained inside a crystal sphere. The arrows that seemed to be freely floating within the center were loose along with the symbols for north, south, east and west. “How does it work?” I asked, shifting it in my hands.
“You ask it what you want to find and it will find it. It’s pure magic contained inside that quartz sphere. Once you have asked, those arrows and symbol will align to show you the way but that is not the best part… let me show you.” He said and pulled a map from a shelf behind him and smoothed it out on the desktop. He took the compass from me and set it on the map where it stayed perfectly still. I glanced at the map; it was a map of the town.
“Watch.” He said and smiled. “Where is Ana’s house?” He asked and the arrows inside began to form and the crystal sphere rolled over to the exact spot where my street was located. I leaned over and looked more closely and sure enough, the arrows inside were pointed directly on my house. “That’s amazing…” I muttered. “But how did it find this Despra if it is in another world?” I asked looking up at Samuel. He grinned and pulled another map out and sat it on the desk.
“This… This took some very sly trading on my part. Luckily I have enough odd crap to entice the greediest and most eccentric of collectors. A map of worlds… it was found in ancient Greece, thought to have been left by Persians. It’s believed to be the first map ever made and by whom no one knows. Whatever it’s written on is imbued with magic and it has not faded nor worn a day of its existence. I believe it’s from where we need to go, actually.
It lists hundreds of different realities and had to have been made by someone that knew and saw them through some kind of special foresight.”
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