Warm and Inviting
It was mid-morning when the young woman walked up to the grand entrance of the old house, her eyes wide as she stood in front of it soaking in its appearance. The front was worn down from years of neglect and the trees were overgrown pushing against the paint. The shutters were half on their hinges and paint peeled off where the harsh storms whipped debris against it. It needed a lot of work, but its grandeur was impressive. It was exactly what she hoped it would be. She walked up to the porch and couldn't resist taking a peek through the front window before she knocked on the door.
The sun was shining into the great room and the shadows from the curtains caused the rays to cast sparkles across the floor. It was a beautiful room, so warm and inviting, and the detail in the architecture and furniture was impeccable. The wallpaper was torn and the paint was peeling, it still needed much restoration, but even so she had fanciful images of the house back in its original time, beautiful parties and people flitting around. As she scanned the room she was filled with excitement to be allowed the chance to follow the houses restoration.
Her gaze then fell on something she wasn't expecting and her thoughts of debutants and dashing gentlemen disappeared. It fell on a man sitting in a chair facing the window. She quickly pulled back afraid he might have seen her spying in. She waited a few minutes before she bravely crept back towards the window to peer in. She was relieved that he didn't see her. He was a young man, sitting in a chair with his elbows resting on his knees and his head cradled in his hands that weaved in and out of his blonde hair. She watched as he sat there, his body ever so slightly shuttering up and down. She found herself transfixed on him, and when he pulled his head up she was surprised to see that this wasn't just a man resting his head and taking a break from his work. This man was crying, and even though she had never seen him before her heart released a twinge of sadness for him. The sun sparkled off of his damp eyes and he pulled his arms up and used his sleeve to wipe the tears from his face. My God how tortured he looked; it was as if all the sorrow in the world had been given to him to own. She watched him sit there for a few minutes, soaking in the young man. He was handsome she thought, soft blue eyes that sparkled even though they carried a heavy sadness in them. When he moved to stand she saw his eyes wince and his face twisted as he grabbed at his side. He was hurt she thought. She then became uncomfortable; here she was spying on this poor man during a vulnerable moment, one where he clearly thought he was alone. She had invaded his privacy and she felt guilty. She shouldn't have done that, but now that she did she couldn't possible knock on the door. She wrapped her coat tightly around her suddenly aware of how cool it had gotten and turned and walked away from the old house. She would return in a day or two, she would not peer through the window next time.
Willie came in from the back of the house, arms full of paint and brushes and pans for rolling. He tossed it all down on the kitchen table hating the fact that he needed to scratch all of the rotted paint and wallpaper from the walls in the great room.
He hated this house and he was exhausted, there was no sleep last night.
It started out like any other horrific evening in the old house. Barnabas would rise and begin to haunt the front room until Willie found something for him to feed upon.
If it was a good night Willie would finish up doing whatever mundane tasks Barnabas had for him and eventually be allowed to return to his room before Barnabas would leave for the evening. But before he would go he would lock Willie's bedroom door from the outside making sure he was kept in place during the evening hours. Willie didn't understand fully why, he fought it at first and would pound on the door for hours until he would either collapse from exhaustion or worse when IT would return to beat him for disobedience. Eventually Willie started to understand that it wasn't a matter of trust, no if it were he wouldn't be able to go unrestrained during the day. It was simply for the point of it. It was a matter of ultimate control and to remind Willie to remember his place. It also made it quite convenient when the Vampire needed to feed in the night, Willie was always right there within Its reach. In any case it was better than having to be in the cell in the basement; no… he didn't want to go back to that if he could help it.
Every night Willie would place his hands on the door knob testing to see if it was locked, and every night it was and Willie would let out a soft whimper and his heart would swell with a low defeated feeling. And like clockwork, just before dawn, the key would turn again allowing Willie to leave and begin his duties, and wait for the night to come once again.
On some occasions Willie would find a way to fall asleep only to be woken up by IT standing over him. Willie knew what It wanted and in those nights he would push himself up against the headboard and begin pleading with It to not do it anymore. His begging was worthless, the Vampire would reach down and pull Willies wrist to Its mouth and begin to suck against his skin. The pain was always fierce and there wasn't a single place in his body that had any refuge from the agony of it. The Vampires mouth was cold and wet and IT would suck against his skin pulling the blood from the far extremities of Willies body until Willie would be close to passing out. And then without saying a word IT would walk out of the room. Willie would lay there and sob quietly from both the pain and the horror of his life as he listened to the familiar sounds of the key turn in the lock of his door. When he fell asleep nightmares would enter his mind and many times he would awaken to the sounds of his own screams.
But last night, last night was different. Barnabas sent him away to bed as he always did, told him to stay there until morning. Willie carried a small candle up to his room so that he didn't have to climb the stairs and navigate his way down the desolate hallway in the dark. He set the candle down on the dresser and changed into a thin t-shirt and flannel pants. As he tightened the drawstring around his waist a draft blew through the room and the candle flickered and died in the night. "Shit!" Willie turned to grab the matches but they weren't there. "Where the hell are the matches? " He searched around to find them, emptied the pockets of the pants he was wearing hoping he stuck them in there, but there was nothing. "Shit Shit!" He wasn't sure if he had left them somewhere and began to panic at the thought of being without light. He turned and looked at the door, and realized he never heard the sound of the key. He always heard the key turn, but tonight he didn't.
He rushed to the door and with a shaking hand reached down and turned the knob slowly and the door began to open. Willie froze, contemplating leaving. He knew he could no longer sleep in the dark and his room had only a small window which allowed very little if any moonlight in. After those first few horrifying nights with Barnabas, being tormented in the night and left in the darkness, Willie had become terrified of the dark. Not to mention that it was cold in that house and without a fire he would nearly freeze.
He knew the large room down the hall had matches and he could just grab them and return to his room right away, no harm in that he thought. The room was just down the hallway from his. He would just walk down and grab them and hurry back.
Willie made his way down the hall to the room and as soon as he entered he froze, the sick sour feeling grew in an instant in his stomach and he clutched at his chest. There in the corner of the room sat Barnabas, flipping the matches between his long fingers, back and forth, looking at Willie...waiting for him.
"I told you not to leave that room Willie, it was not a suggestion."
"I-I jus…I-t was dark. Too dark Barnabas. And it's c-cold… I needed the fire. I can't … I-I don't wanna be in the dark. P-please I was gonna go right back … I was … really I was… "
"When will you learn Willie! If I tell you to do something you will DO it! "
It then stood up and raised Its cane up over Its head. Willie backed up as It came closer and closer.
"No…NO!" Willie gasped as he stared at It and backed into the hallway and then he turned and made a fruitless dash for his bedroom. It followed and with one huge swing brought the cane down like a baseball bat into Willie's side thrusting Willie into the side of the dresser. Willie hit the floor and gasped for the air that was knocked straight out of him. A pitcher of water sitting on the dresser sloshed back and forth after Willie slammed into it. Barnabas looked at the matches, gracefully flipping them several times between his fingers and then dropped them into the water.
"Oh Barnabas…no"Willie watched as the matches glided back and forth to the bottom of the pitcher.
IT then turned and shut the door…and locked it. Willie crawled to the door and put his hand up on it.
"Barnabas please… PLEASE! Don't leave me! Not in the dark...P-Please don't leave me in the dark. Why are you doing this?"
When the door unlocked just before dawn Willie was still awake, huddled and shivering in the chair next to the dark fireplace. He turned and faced the door, hoping the Vampire wouldn't come in, and It didn't. Willie got dressed, the pain in his side piercing him as he twisted to get his shirt and pants on. The bruise left on his side ran across from his back to his front and was starting to turn several shades of purple and blue. Willie winced when he saw it and turned his head quickly so he didn't have to see it. He quickly finished getting dressed. There was no time for resting this morning, today his orders were the great room walls, he would need to get to the store and pick up the supplies early if he would make any headway on it today.
When he returned he dropped everything in the kitchen and walked into the great room. It had such a false calm about it. The sun was shining in and making the room look deceptively warm and inviting. He sat down in the chair that faced the window, closing his eyes and letting the sun beat down onto his face, the warmth soaking into his pale skin. As he sat there tears began to pool behind his eyes and eventually escape down his cheeks. He thought about the night before, taking a beating for leaving his room. He was a grown man reduced to nothing, it was humiliating, he was completely ashamed and as long as the Vampire was alive there wasn't a thing in the world he could do to change it. The tears continued to roll as he thought about it; he dropped his head in his hands and wept.
Several minutes passed when he decided he needed to get ahold of himself. This wasn't going to get his work done. Enough Loomis…pull your shit together for God's sake. Willie wiped his eyes and began to stand…the pain in his side shooting through him like an arrow. Painting would prove to be extremely difficult today.
Abigail returned to her apartment that night and began making dinner, her cousin would be over soon, but she couldn't get the image of that man out of her mind. Her heart ached when she thought about him sitting there, sobbing in the silence of that big house alone. She actually couldn't get him out of her mind since the minute she saw him. His eyes were a ghostly blue and his hair was swept over his forehead and she was instantly drawn to him.
Abigail hadn't been in Collinsport for very long, she moved there from Chicago where she had graduated from college after studying architecture and historic preservation. Her cousin lived in Collinsport and called her when the historical society was looking for someone to take over some of the local restoration projects. She grew tired of the city and thought that it might be a nice change of pace. After all, her family was originally from the East coast, it would be good to be closer to them again.
Abigail was fascinated by history; there was something magical about it for her. Sometimes she would daydream about living in the buildings she researched and would get lost in her own imagination about the time when they were first built. She was a hopeless romantic when it came to that.
When her cousin arrived she was thrilled to see him.
They sat and talked over dinner reminiscing about old family times and some of the mischievous things they did during family gatherings. Alex asked about her new assignment and she was more than eager to talk about it.
"It's up at the Collinwood estate. The original house is being restored, it looks like such a beautiful place" she said.
"Ha! That place? That place is a dump, believe me. As kids we used to sneak up there and toss rocks at it. The Collins family is a strange group, they keep to themselves mostly. But they do own most of this town and just about everyone in it works for one of their investments in one way or another" Alex was not the biggest fan of the Collins family after his father was let go from the docks, but then again his father was a hopeless drunk so in some ways he understood.
"And what do you know about the people who live in that house? I am to call upon Barnabas Collins there in the next day or two. Is he a young man? "
"Oh Barnabas.." Alex's expression changed to one of concern and confusion. " He is a strange fella… from England. Guess he is one of the long lost cousins. Not really sure how old he is though, always wears a suit and carries the most strange cane. Has a golden wolfs head on the top. I don't like him, there is just something about him…can't put my finger on it."
"So he isn't a young man, blond wi…"
"Ugh… Willie" Alex interrupted her. "Stay away from him. He is stranger that the rest of 'em. He lives there in that house. I think he is actually doing all of the restoration work himself. He caused nothing but trouble for people before he started workin' for Barnabas. I'd see him get into fights more times than not. From what I understand he got pretty sick, almost died even, and after he recovered he started workin' for Barnabas. Now he rarely speaks to anyone, always walks with his head down to avoid contact with people. Comes into town to pick things up for the house, I see him every now and again. The whole town knows him and avoids him as much as he avoids everyone else. Strange guy, I don't think he has a single friend here, Barnabas must be payin' him a pretty penny, that's the only reason I can think of that would keep him here. Where did ya see him?"
"Driving past the house, I stopped to get a better view of it, saw him near the side of the house I guess. I was just curious if that was Barnabas", she lied. She wouldn't ever share what she had seen through the window. What she saw was not a man of anger. What she saw as someone entirely different in a very deep and personal moment, and hearing his reputation and how people felt about him made her even more intrigued. She would wait a day or two and then go calling again and she hoped that Willie would be there to greet her.