Mandy Blake was a restless sort, always
thinking that the place over the next hill was going to be better than the
last. After a couple of months in a town or a city, something always happened
to make her unhappy with where she was; so she moved on. One hot midsummer day,
her wanderings took her to the
Mandy was too broke to enjoy it, however. She had not worked for some time and had just enough change in her pocket to spring for a cheeseburger and coke at the local McDonalds. Since it was a pleasant summer day, she brought her lunch to the tiny park-like area in the middle of town. She sat next to an aging hippie and struck up a conversation. She was rewarded with puffs off his joint.
"Tell me," she said, "is there somewhere in this town where I can raise a little bread?"
The old man chuckled. "In
"How for are they from here?"
"About eight or ten miles, give or take."
Mandy's calves were sore. She had walked all the way from the New York Thruway entrance, an all-morning hike. "Too far to go today. I think I'll hang around here."
The old man shook his head, his greasy mane flopping around his shoulders. "You don't wanna do that, girlie. The cops here don't like people sleeping on the grass. And don't do any begging either. Not unless you want to spend a night in the poky."
"Oh crap. Is there anywhere around here I can flop for free?"
The man rubbed his matted beard. "Don't think so, unless you want to sleep in some farmer's barn." He took a long last puff on the maryjane, scorching his finger. "Wait a minute. Up the hill about a mile is an abandoned mansion. You could probably sneak in there."
Mandy hefted her backpack onto her shoulders. "Which way?"
"Up the county road. You'll know the entrance cause it's got a friggin' broken iron gate." He pointed.
"It's clouding up. Guess I'll head up there before the rain starts."
"One thing though. Some say the old place is haunted. Terrible things happened there before the owners left."
Mandy grinned. "Ghosts don't bother me none. It's the stinking pigs I don't like."
"Okay then. But don't say I didn't warn you. I've heard terrible stories about that place."
"Maybe you can tell them to me, someday. Well, I'd better get trucking."
They shook hands, and Mandy trudged up the road the old man had pointed out.
* * *
By the time Mandy reached the broken iron gate, she was cursing the old man. "That friggin' dude forgot to tell me that the road was all uphill," she mumbled under her breath. She turned in by the broken gate and groaned. Ahead was a long dirt road driveway. It ran up a high wooded hill. Also, the weather had worsened. A large storm was brewing. Black clouds, like ebony mountains, rose along the ridge line within which streaks of lightning flashed, followed by the distant rumbles of thunder. Mandy pulled her collar up as the air became wild and tumultuous. A couple of large drops fell upon her head, forerunners of the cascade to come.
She hurried up the hill. At the top, the house came into view, a bleak and decaying Victorian mansion. It was an impressive building. with wings and towers and porches and artistically carved gingerbread everywhere. It had to have at least a hundred rooms. For a few moments, Mandy gazed with wonder at it. She could see that It had been modified many times. The foundation and the left side of the main house were constructed of cut stone, gray granite and bluestone. The entrance was of Georgian architecture popular in mid-eighteenth century. The wings, copper roof, towers and gingerbread were pure Victorian.
The wind picked up and howled through the rotten edifice. Mandy jogged quickly toward it, knowing that the rain would start any moment. As she reached the porch, a great crash of thunder and simultaneous lightning made her flinch. She hesitated, as she recalled every horror movie she had ever seen, where old mansions groaned and moaned while chains clanked, strange faces peered from windows, and the walls dripped with blood. Gathering her courage she creaked open the rotted door and entered the dark foyer.
She raised her lighter to gaze around. It was the quintessential rich man's palace, beautiful oak paneling everywhere, but darkly streaked with mold where leaks had run down the walls. Large webs hung from the enormous chandelier chained to the three story high domed ceiling. In the center of the room was a theatre-sized staircase with broken balusters and railings. Thick dust lay on the once highly polished parquet floor. To one side were double doors and a hallway.
Mandy retched as the stench of dead things and rot reached her nostrils. She looked around for rats.
Outdoors the storm hit with a vengeance. The wind screeched and howled like the hideous laughter of a psychotic ax murderer. A hard rain battered the walls with hammer blows and dripped through the leaky roof.
Shivering from drafts that blew through the structure and the workings of her imagination, Mandy cautiously explored the building. The first room she entered had been a sitting room. The furniture was covered with dusty sheets. Another room was once a library with empty shelves, although a few volumes remained.
She yawned. It had been a long day. She crept up the broken threads of the stairway to the floor above. Halfway up, she brushed away a great sticky cobweb that clung to her face and arms. She crept along the corridor on the second floor. As she tried doors, the eyes of long dead people stared from portraits hung in the hallway. Finally she found a room with an abandoned four-poster bed. Although the bedding was a stained mattress, at this point in her life it seemed the height of luxury.
A shudder banged, startling her so that she jumped. She ran to the window, getting soaked as she slammed the shutter closed and drew the dark, heavy drapes. She rummaged around until she found the butt of a candle in a holder in a drawer of a battered desk. She had found an empty crate downstairs in the kitchen, which she used for a night stand. She placed the lighted candle on this, sat on the edge of the bed and took out a half of a candy bar from her jacket.
After she consumed this sparse dinner, she felt sweaty from the heat and humidity and stripped to her undies. She left on a hunting knife she had strapped on one calf for protection and laid back with her rolled up jeans as pillow and her denim jacket as a blanket. Although the mansion was frightening and the storm raged, she was so exhausted from walking all day in the heat and humidity that she soon fell asleep.
* * *
Some time later she was awakened by the crash and flash of a near lightning strike. As she turned around to go back to sleep, she felt a presence as though someone was in the room with her. She sat straight up and unsheathed her knife. She listened carefully, but heard nothing. She searched the pockets of her jeans for her lighter and lit the candle, which she held it high. She saw nothing. Nonetheless, she still had the odd feeling that someone was in the room. She put the candle down and hugged herself. She felt chilled and donned her clothing except for her sneakers.
Afterwards she tossed and turned and could no longer sleep. The storm was at its fiercest. The whole mansion trembled with the wind, and crashes of thunder and lightning were almost continuous. She worried that the ancient house would succumb to those terrible gusts. Finally, she sat at the edge of the bed and stared around.
In one particularly dark corner something seemed to move. She held the candle higher, but again saw nothing. As she approached the corner, a low moan issued from it. The hairs on the back of her neck rose. "There are no such things as ghosts," she whispered. She did not convince herself. She halted and waited to see whether she would hear the sound again. A flash of lightning lit up the room, followed by a rumble of thunder. Nonetheless, the corner remained dark as ever. Afterwards, she smelled the stench of death and decay.
Mandy stood frozen indecisively. Finally, a hollow woman's voice said, "Beware. He wants your blood."
Shocked, Mandy cried, "Who? Who wants my blood?"
"The undead one."
"Where is he?"
Suddenly the presence Mandy felt previously was gone. She shuddered. She realized that she had an encounter with a real ghost. What was worse, the ghost had warned her of a menace, someone who wanted her blood.
She wondered what she should do. Although the most prudent thing to do was to leave the mansion, she dreaded going out into the raging storm. She retrieved a pack of cigarettes from her backpack, lit a cigarette from the candle and smoked while she decided what to do. She withdrew the small cross from between her breasts so that it lay outside her blouse on her ample chest and hoped that it would provide protection if there really was a vampire.
She smoked and shivered for a while. There no possibility of sleep any more. She decided to explore the house. Her stomach growled. Perhaps the previous owners left something in the kitchen that was not moldy or spoiled. She took her lone candle out in the hall. After she took two steps, she heard heavy footsteps on the steps. She ducked back into the bedroom, stood behind the ajar door and peeked out into the hallway.
A huge giant of a man, taller than a basketball player but broad in the shoulders, appeared at the head of the stairs. It was too dark to see his face. He held a flashlight, which he swung around as though searching for something -- or someone. Mandy thought, He must have heard me up here. She felt faint from fright as she wondered whether he was the vampire or an ax murderer.
She backed slowly into the room, blew out the candle and stood with her back against the wall next to the door. The man's heavy footfall came closer, and the door swung open. He entered the room and swung the light from his torch from side to side. Mandy tried to sink into the wall in back of the open door. She shifted the candle to her left hand and slid her knife out of its sheath.
The light from the torch fell on her backpack, which leaned against the bedpost. The enormous man growled, "And who does this belong to?" With sudden swiftness, he spun about and slammed the door shut. The flashlight glared into Mandy's eyes.
"Who are you?" he cried. "What are you doing here?" His voice was deep and odd.
Mandy's voice trembled. "I-I thought this place was abandoned. I just wanted a place to spend the night."
The man laughed. "That was a big mistake." He shifted the light away from Mandy's face and shown it on his own. It was ugly and full of scars. His skin was gray, like a dead person's. "Let me introduce myself. I call myself Victor Legion. But you would probably know me better as 'the Frankenstein monster.'
Mandy screamed once and fainted dead away.
The Morgaine Series of E-books can be obtained at Renaissance Page Turner Editions On Page Turner Editions, click on Futures/Past SF/F/H and then on Fantasy. At other online bookstores search on Author - Vadalma. Also available on Page Turner Editions and other online bookstores, Raven Lenore, Psychic Investigator, a series featuring the character Raven Lenore from the Morgaine series.