Dark Fantasy

Coming Home

Marsha knew that what she had done was wrong ... leaving Bill practically at the altar ... calling off the wedding with a scant twenty-four hours notice. She knew he deserved better...

'Is there nothing I can say to change your mind?' he pleaded. ‘I love you, Marsha.'

Still, it would have been more wrong to marry him with these doubts in her mind. Not that she doubted Bill, or his commitment to her ... that was unquestionable! The problem lay with her...

'It's me who's messed up,' she had told him, hating herself for putting such a tortured look on his face.

There was a strange restlessness in her. Something held her back from committing herself fully to the relationship. That was why she had left. That was why she was here now, on this deserted, lonely back road to nowhere, with night approaching and with no idea of where she was heading ... or where she would spend the night...

'You're too independent,' Bill said. ‘We all need others at some point in our lives. You have to learn to share your life.'

The rough dirt road was cut deeply into a hill that formed high rocky walls on either side. Once past those walls, the road wound through a thickly wooded area, for about a mile. Suddenly, it came to a dead end, at the edge of a circular clearing. At least, it had probably been clear at some time. Now the forest was slowly reclaiming it once more, starting with shrubs and young trees.

Marsha parked her little car and sat there. Looking around.

'I'm sorry, Bill. I can't help who or what I am.'

The focal point of this area was a huge stone structure, resembling a castle ... albeit in ruins now. Patches of moss and various forms of parasitic growth almost hid the grey walls from curious eyes. To the naked eye it appeared dismal and run-down, as if it had not been used in centuries. Still, with a little luck ... or a lot of luck, depending on how one looked at the situation ... the might find some portion of it which would provide adequate shelter for the night. The last motel she had seen was hours ago, too far to retrace her route. She had seen no sign of life since then, and the idea of spending the night cramped up in her little car did not appeal to her at all...

‘This part of the world looks deserted,' she thought. ‘Devoid of all human life. But then, I don't even know where I am!'

Yet, as Marsha sat there, she felt she was being watched. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled and her flesh broke out in goosebumps. A cold shiver passed over her and she had a strange sensation that she was not alone. But she was not afraid. She felt no fear of what she might encounter ... just a deep need to know...

'You should be more cautious about where you go after dark,' Bill warned her, ‘especially when you're alone.'

Dark clouds hung low in the evening sky as the last rays of a spectacular sunset quickly faded, casting their rosy glow on the undersides of the clouds briefly. The heavy silence that settled on the land was almost tangible. She turned off the motor and stepped out of the car...

‘How can you just sit there in the dark, in total silence like that? I don't understand you.'

‘I can think better that way, Bill. I feel completely at peace in the dark silence.'

Marsha moved towards the building, picking her way slowly through the thick, tangled undergrowth. When she reached the entrance, she was surprised to find a heavy oak door still intact on its hinges. She grasped the heavy iron handle, feeling centuries of rust crumble in her hand. It was a bit stiff, but it worked and the door swung inward.

‘No doubt a home for every type of insect imaginable,' she thought. ‘Maybe even some small animals as well.'

The interior was dark and gloomy. The roof appeared to be intact ... well, the ceiling here on the ground looked okay from what she could see, no visible signs of water damage indicating a leaky roof above. Marsha wondered what the situation was like upstairs ... and if there was a basement.

The only light was the fading twilight coming through the broken windows. She had a cigarette lighter in her pocket, but could not keep it lit all the time. She looked around. An old piece of wood might make a torch, but she feared the rest of the wood in the place was so dry it might go up like a tinderbox. She wished she had a flashlight.

'You should always be prepared for emergencies, or trouble, when you're on the road,' Bill advised. ‘Do you have to learn everything the hard way?'

At the foot of the stairway ... which was wide and elaborate ... she noticed candles in the wall sconces. They were grimy with dust but still able to provide light when she touched the lighter to their wicks. With one in her hand, and another in her pocket for good measure, she started up the stairs. Looking down the long, wide hallway, she still say no evidence of roof damage.

She opened door after door, finding furnished rooms, thickly coated with dust from the long years of unuse. The furniture was heavy wooden, except for the brass beds, all elaborately carved, and very beautiful.

‘Obviously somebody with lots of money lived here at some time,' she mused. ‘Strange, though, that the place hasn't even been robbed in all this time.'

Then, at the end of the hall, the last room she checked was different. The soft glow of several kerosene lamps created a cosy, warm atmosphere. The furniture gleamed from countless coats of diligent polishing. A huge four-poster bed stood in the center of the room. One corner of a bright red duvet was turned back, revealing the pristine white satin sheets. A red silk nightie was laid out, ready for wear...

     'You shouldn't take things at face value,' Bill advised. ‘Looks can be deceiving.'

Without further hesitation, without questioning why this one room was so meticulously clean and neat, Marsha closed the door behind her and locked it. There was an adjoining bathroom where she undressed and washed. She returned to the bedroom and picked up the nightie. The silk slithered gently down over her body ... a perfect fit! It didn't matter who the room had been meant for, she was here and it felt right...

The atmosphere changed. The stone walls vibrated with an awareness of her presence ... and something more ... The entire place hummed as if waking from centuries of slumber...

Marsha slid between the cool satin sheets and closed her eyes. There was no sign of anyone around, the bedroom door was locked ... she sighed deeply. This was the kind of privacy she had longed for. And she drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.

In the dark recesses beneath the ruined castle, something stirred. Dreams dissolved into hazy shadows as he awakened. His eyes flickered open and he pushed the heavy cover up and away from him. Then he rose and stretched.

She was here. At long last she had come home. She had heard his call. He felt her presence deep within him and smiled in the darkness.

A tall, elegant figure moved gracefully and silently through the ruins. He would restore it all again, now that she was here. It would take time, but they had eternity. It would take money too, but his wealth was too vast to be counted. And when everything was restored, they would hunt together, and entertain like in the old days.

They would do all this together, he thought, as he entered the room where she was sleeping. He stood for a moment, looking down at her.

She was beautiful, his daughter. The daughter who had grown up with her mother, unaware of her father and who or what he was ... that is, until he had called her home.

His tongue flicked over his sharp teeth, anticipating the sweetness of her rich, young blood which, though partly of his own, was also partly of her mortal mother. Now it was time to initiate her into the way of the blood, to make her truly his daughter. The thought of sharing a life with her thrilled him as he slowly advanced towards her...

© Fay Herridge
Published in Vampire's Crypt 7, Spring 1993


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