Writing and posting 'Under the Harvest Moon' has made me a little bold, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I went to see 'The Wolf Man' with my parents for my birthday and prior to leaving for South Beach I had this urge to write something. I will continue writing my other story but I want to build a new tale and I hope you all will enjoy it and will want to see more. This is a slow trial to build up to what I could write if there's enough interest. I love old horror movies, I love the Universal Monsters and Lon Chaney Jr. was a remarkable actor with or without the fur and so I have a soft spot for the remake though it was panned by almost everyone. Maybe this story will get better reviews, who knows. Without further adieu, I present 'Ghosts in the Fog'
From the pictures and the stories she had always known this place and yet had never physically set eyes on it, until now. She was aware of the eyes on her back gauging any reactions she would form, some laced with concern. But her duties dictated that she must make the trek and see what had haunted her dreams for so many years. The reconstruction of the west wing was progressing nicely even though she had never seen such destruction. What remained of the manor was absolutely inhabitable; however that end was under repair as well. She only blinked when the horse snorted, and when she turned a weathered face toward her, with haunted eyes.
"Your father is a coward to send a child to survey his cursed property for him,"
"But someday it'll be mine so I should take the opportunity,"
The old woman twisted her deeply wrinkled face up into a tortured grimace, but suppressed the urge to argue. As her father said, old Mary Tillingham was just like the estate she despised—old, ruined and full of mystery that no one asked for. But she had always guided and protected her from the time of her birth, to when her mother was locked away until this present moment. There were speculations that Mary was as mad as a hatter yet none could deny how her devotion and wisdom had served to raise a remarkable young woman. However she had never managed to break Violet's unbelievable loyalty to her yellow-backed father, which greatly troubled the old nurse.
Violet desired to rectify the blunders of her mother by yielding to her father's whims that proved incredibly outputting. Sending her at barely eighteen years old to act as a proxy on his venture was one of several occasions where he neglected his responsibilities. None of this ever offended Violet for she knew the horrors the man had suffered, how his wife had tormented him during her illness and gave no qualms about her dedication. As she lifted her skirt away from the gravel driveway and approached the front door, she felt something heavy clinging to her as if hands were grasping her arms and invisibly guiding her forward. The smell of earth and new stone mingling with the old foundation assaulted her nostrils. So familiar, she mused, this place that drew her like a moth to a flame; so much so she thought her hand would feel heat when she grasped the large iron handle. Only then did she notice the slight trembling in her fingers, but they stilled the moment she pushed the door back, letting it swing away and reveal a dark front parlor. The only illumination available was from the newly restored glass window further along the vestibule.
"You needn't do this child, you can leave this unholy land now and we can continue on as planned. Remember?"
Violet ignored the matronly plea and took her first bold steps over the threshold and turned to look back at the coach. A small smile crept over her lips as she sought to reassure her elderly companion of well-being. Nothing to worry about was the silent mantra that she silently chanted as she pulled off her kidskin gloves and twirled around to take in this part of the house, but remained aware that she could not venture too far. There was more to see of the grounds, more to examine and enjoy all the pleasantries a district called Blackmoor could offer. Blackmoor had become an even more isolated enclave in Llanwelly than the last time Mary had dared tramp through its foggy plains. But for Violet this would be more than a discarded errand pressed upon her by her father. No, she was determined to have an adventure, the one that had beckoned to her for as long as she could remember. Her tutor, Mr. Harris had explained, despite a quiet unease that stinted his voice, that she was a distant relative of the Talbots.
This gave the legal property rights to fall to her father and ultimately to her. Someday she would own the biggest estate in the area and would profit greatly from its livestock or if she wished its sale. That thought left a coppery taste in her mouth, as if to speak it was an evil let alone think it. The door which led to the piano room was left ajar and she quickly slipped inside before Mary could forbade her. The room, as Mr. Harris had conveyed had been horribly damaged due to a fire that spread to engulf much of the house. But the room felt so right to her as if she belonged within its walls and when she looked to the oversized hearth, her disappointment at not seeing anything over the mantelpiece was baffling. Something should be there but she couldn't decide what; perhaps a coat of arms or maybe a prized sword. She took a few closer steps and placed a dainty hand to the marble and yet her eyes never left that empty space. A cold sweat broke out across her brow and she felt her throat dry suddenly, all simultaneous with her racing heart beat. Alarmed she stepped back before a flash of light struck across her eyes, blinding her in seconds but still her mind conjured the image of a frame. As soon as the light came it left her and stole her breath away.
The ornate picture frame was on fire and she could feel the heat on her skin, smell the burning canvas and the smoke choked her.
"Dear God, child! The air in here is stale, come with me."
Mary was upon her before she could react and she gave no protest when the old woman began dragging her back into the vestibule and out into the open air.
"How could the air be stale? They had long since opened the house and begun repairing it,"
Mr. Harris leapt down from his position next to the driver to inquire about his charge. He was at her side within seconds and pulled her away from Mary long enough to help her into the cabin of the coach and then assisted the governess. Violet's coughing had subsided and yet that didn't stop her distressed chaperones from taking a seat beside her.
"I just don't understand—"
"Harris, you must know that a few open doors and windows will not purify the air in that house. The air here, the air in Blackmoor carries putrid particles like the death angel in Egypt." Mary retorted as she blotted Violet's moist forehead with her handkerchief.
"We will continue on to our rooms at the inn and get settled," Mr. Harris determined as he tapped the roof of the coach to signal the driver. "I believe that is quite enough excitement for one day, yes?"
Mary sipped her ale slowly, taking the bitter taste in and tried to discern whether or not she enjoyed it or not. With that same crooked grimace she set the tin cup down and looked to the plate adjacent to her own and found it barely touched. The grimace curled as she snapped two gnarled fingers, drawing the young woman's attention. Violet gave a blush and an apologetic smile before snatching up her fork and began to slowly consume the local cuisine. Much recovered from her episode her appetite had fallen second to her abundant curiosity. Harris had gone to secure their luggage was promptly delivered to the Howling Man inn and was meandering about, to get a feel of the community. They were scheduled to remain in Blackmoor for two weeks and then take a train to the coast and sail west. Violet had initially thought relocating to America for a three month visit would be the highlight of her spring, but this damp rural topography interested her far more. While Mary resumed her drink she found nothing inviting about the place, especially in a dark tavern. The curious and suspicious eyes put her on alert but Violet found everything quaint and picturesque, so different from the animated and teeming streets of London. She was oblivious of the whispers and the movements of the men and women gathered, but Mary's eyes blared back into her possible opponents with the same intensity. She noticed how the bar wench had grudgingly taken their order and served with a cold stare, and to Mary their behavior was simply un-Christian.
"God-damn Talbots, cur-sed murderin' lot!"
Violet blinked her gray eyes and lowered her fork to her beans and turned her head in the direction of the voice. In a distant corner where the swinging candle chandelier make only one leg visible, the voice croaked and slurred again.
"The last fuckin' thing that Blackmoor needs is more damn bloody Talbots!"
Mary was already to her feet, like a boxer prepared to throw the first punch when another man rose and ordered silence from the offending man. With a scoff the man in the corner extended his arm and grasped a crutch and struggled to stand only to stumble forward and smash against the floor boards. Violet instinctively hurried over to assist only to have that same filthy arm lash out at her, barely missing her as the crippled man roared to be left alone. Lying on his belly he thrashed about before two other gentlemen visiting the tavern gathered up the drunk and pulled him away. Only then did she understand that alcohol had not alone hindered him and his disabilities far more extensive than she realized. A war veteran she assumed for how else could a man have but one arm and one leg?
Her nurse pulled her away and began directing her toward the exit when a woman blocked their path. The bar wench that had acted so distant when serving their meals, was standing with her hands on her bony hips. Her eyes looked large and her face sunken which exaggerated her stare, with thin lips pulled into a tight line that caused Violet to wonder for a moment if she would speak at all.
"You're to blame for what happened to that man," the woman accused through clenched rotted teeth, "Eighteen years ago he was a promising barrister and now he's become nothing but a shell of a human being."
"What has a child to do with the tragedies of a man she'd never set eyes on in her life?" Mary inquired as she placed two hands on either of her charge's shoulders.
"Talbots were and are responsible for every miserable occurrence in Blackmoor, the worse being nearly two decades ago."
A few heads nodded and people mumbled their agreement.
"I'm not a Talbot, I'm a Pierce and I've never been here before," Violet interjected as she took a step forward.
The bar wench raised her chin higher at the challenge and grunted as she reiterated her claims and announced that the name itself meant nothing, not when Violet had Talbot blood running through her veins. Confused Violet began to question her accuser as to what role a relative of hers would play in severing a man's limbs. The very idea was preposterous and if so many people didn't believe it, she would also say laughable; she pondered as to what other misfortunes and atrocities had been attached to the Talbot family by these backward villagers. Before she could ask Mary was bidding everyone a terse goodnight and hastily pushing her inquisitive woman-child around the bar wench and out into the street.
"What rubbish these people eat with their evening meal," Violet exclaimed as they settled into a walk. "Can you believe those yokels would say and believe such ridiculous claims? Honestly people like that will bring down the Empire."
Mary did not respond and led her charge to the inn with the intentions of informing Mr. Harris what had happened; not only that there were other more pressing situations that required their undivided attention. She made a mental note to see Violet tucked away in her bed before she met with the tutor. They would meet out of earshot of everyone and therefore the tavern was not possible when all eyes of the community were upon them. She was sure the tutor would either dispel her words as trite and fantastical or he would absorb them and help convince Violet that Talbot Hall was no place for a lovely young woman.
The young woman in question was still seething under the weight of the accusations that had been unjustly launched at her. She assumed Mary would shrug off what had just transpired as just the ravings of frightened, prejudiced and ignorant people who had never travelled beyond the town limits. Violet was prepared for her to quill all the shadows that could spark oddity or cause her young mind to be filled with nonsense. But she was jolted from her thoughts when the familiar whine of a house sounded behind them. Mr. Harris rode up alone with the coach sporting a strained countenance, one that matched her governess. He offered no greetings when the horses halted and wordlessly their eyes met, confirming that he had also received a cold welcome. Moments later they were back in the interior and the horses were at full gallop, the direction they took was clearly toward Talbot Hall and she felt a usual calm settling over her, as if she were heading home. She rationalized it as a welcome reprieve from the narrow-minded residents that frequented the town. The words of the bar wench had uttered were laced with passion and hatred and the looks of disdain on the patrons alarmed her. Naturally she wished to know what would cause so many people to fear her arrival or a singular family. What had happened nearly twenty years ago had obviously rocked Blackmoor to its core and left all who survived either physically or mentally scarred.
"We will spend the night in Talbot Hall and I'm afraid it will be the first of many nights and days until we can contact your father and find better lodging."
"Better lodging?" Violet asked, one soft dark brow raised. "Talbot hall is nearly complete and quite inhabitable. The bedrooms are newly furnished and the beds are mad and there is food stored. In fact the whole point of coming here was to reside at the estate, not go—"
"This place is not safe for anyone!" Mary screeched. "Where we are going seems to be the lesser of two evils, at the moment and the security that the estate provides will keep the local lunatics out. But what lurks within…"
The elderly woman's voice dropped to a low whisper with the last statement and she looked away to gaze out the window of the coach, signaling that no more was to be said on the subject. Though anxiety to question her further boiled in her veins, Violet respected the silence that stretched between them. She silently swore an oath to herself that she would uncover all that this town and that estate was hiding, whether her guardians cared or not.
Nearly thirty minutes passed before Mary decided to speak and when she did she used a tone that required nothing but quiet acceptance from Violet.
"Tomorrow I will interview new members of the staff, including a cook, scullery maids, a butler and the like. They will remain here even when we have made a return to one of your father's homes in Bath or London. You are to not interrupt these proceedings unless necessary and Mr. Harris will be assisting me. I suggest either the gardens or better yet the library as suitable locations for you to occupy."
Violet made no move to protest and again the women resumed their silence. The rising stone crests of Talbot Hall were within sight and the young women felt the tug of a smile on her lips and flutter in her chest. As if eager to see a loved one that drew her thoughts at every turn that caused her great pain to be separated. She wanted to leap from the carriage entirely and sprint the rest of the distance into its foggy embrace. Never having the benefit of male companionship on intimate levels she had little to personally compare this sensation, yet this didn't change these urges to curl into the belly of this house and find the solace that had long eluded her.
Only when she felt the cool temperature of the glass window did she see her breath clouding and her forehead was pressed against it. If Mary had said anything she was truly oblivious and when she thought her chest would explode under the pressure of her heart beat, the softest of airs flowed across her ear, like someone whispering to her. Though she was sure a started response would be appropriate, the effect was quite different for she settled back into the seat and gave a great sigh of what felt remarkably like relief. There was something more than curses and bad air swirling around Talbot Hall and she did not believe it meant her harm. On the contrary she felt very welcome.
I don't own the Wolf Man story, neither '41 nor '10, thank you!