(Short Story written for our Haunted Open Mic and a Writing Challenge of Chilling October)
My heart leap in my chest. Why had I let them convince me to do this? Spending a night in the abandoned Keenan “Killing” Mansion had become a rite of passage in the small town of Dover. At least 3 generations had challenged themselves and their peers to brave a stay at the sprawling estate near the end of town. By the time my turn came I’d already heard all the stories.
The house was built in the late 1800’s by Robert Keenan, a tycoon off some sort. No one ever really knew how he made his fortune, maybe he was the son of some old money, or maybe he was a less than legitimate businessman- No one seemed to know. That wasn’t the interesting part of the story.
When Robert moved into Dover and built this monstrosity that he called his home to keep his pretty young wife, he did so quietly. People still talk about how fiercely private and secretive he’d been in those early days. Unlike, others at the time, he didn’t throw elaborate dinner parties-all Gatsby style. He did not so much as invite a small bridge club over for game nights. Instead, he and his wife roamed the halls of their enormous house with only a handful of servants as company.
I sat on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest, shivering and trying to imagine it. Such a big house- how lonely that poor woman must have been. Alone every day while her husband came and went as he pleased.
The first and last time the house held any type of event was a celebration. The entire town was invited to welcome the birth of Robert’s first child. Margaret, glowed with happiness- her stomach showing the extent of her child’s growth. Her infectious smile and kind heart made her an instance favorite among the guests, who looked forward to further parties with the couple, birthdays and maybe holidays. Robert, smiling from ear to ear, wanted to share his happiness with the world.
As the months passed the couple could be seen in town shopping together. They were invited to dinners and actually attended them. It seemed that Dover had accepted them and they had accepted Dover.
No one imagined that anything but happiness and love lay ahead for the couple.
When Margaret went into labor, the whole town was on pins and needles waiting for the announcement. What would it be? Boy or Girl? What would they name the little bundle? Everyone waited but no announcements came. No invitations. Robert just quietly took his wife home from the hospital.
No one knows exactly what happened but we all know the result. The servants are the ones who found them. The entire first floor of the house was bathed in blood. Obvious signs of struggle. Among the dead were Robert, Margaret, their newborn, and a gardener. Margaret, the baby and the gardener had been hacked to death with what must have been a fairly large knife and Robert was shot in the head, his brains splattered across the formal dining room. It was a horrific sight, a living nightmare.
Rumors spread, as rumors do, that Margaret, had had an affair with the gardener to whom she bore her son. When the child was born and it clearly wasn’t Robert’s- he, in a rage, murdered her, the young man and the baby before ending his own life.
In another version they had been home alone and associates of Roberts in his seedy under the table deals came for their cut and killed him and his family when he refused. They were sending a message to others that no one crosses them, and lived.
Ever since the house at the end of Dover hadn’t been right. All attempts to sell it failed. Over the years the legend grew, the house was haunted by the ghosts of those who lost their lives within it. And they were vengeful and restless.
Yet, sitting in the darkness of what was once the parlor, the same spot where the bodies of Margaret and her baby had been found, well pieces of them, and where I was instructed to sit because that was the spot where she would return holding the dead baby cradled in her arms, drenched in blood, I waited.
I could feel the cool air on the back of my neck causing my skin to goosebump. I promised myself that there was nothing to fear from the dark.
I don’t know if perhaps I dosed off or my over active and terrified mind had begun to play tricks on me. What every the case, I could hear tapping in the dark- footsteps- heels. It was so soft at first that I scarcely noticed but the steps grew closer and closer, growing louder and louder.
“Who’s there?” There was no answer from the darkness. I let the light of my flashlight spill over the walls and floor. The dust and grim of an abandoned house is singular. It worked its way into my lungs; I coughed just looking at it. I sensed something watching me. Then I heard… breathing.
Heavy and harsh like air being pushed through a collapsed lung.
“Good Evening,” I heard through the breathing, the voice was velvety but strained. I tried to calm my beating heart.
“Who are you?” I whispered.
“I own this place,” Said the voice. A man’s voice. Then something screamed.
I stood up and spun around. I flashed my light on the walls, on the floor. There were footprints that weren’t mine but where was the person who had made them? Where had the voice come from? I could feel my blood pounding in my ears.
“Don’t forget us, we are here and here we are.” Several voices said together fading away. Then, the man laughed.
I sprinted from that house, the sound of a baby’s faint crying following closely behind me.
Now, you go in- it’s tradition after all.