For the sixth decade in a row the weather of Mourning Lane had been wild and unpredictable. There was no consistent explanation for the frequent thunderstorms, ferocious winds and dark skies. The freak storms were destroying property and blowing down dozens of trees. It was worst on the top of Mourning Hill. Blackouts were also frequent for the town's citizens and soon they began demanding more action from city officials.
A town meeting was called together and those who were old enough to remember when the storms first broke out recalled seeing strange green clouds stream toward the hill and encircle it seconds before the first storm hit. It was decided that someone had to go up to Mourning Hill and investigate. At first it seemed no one was willing to volunteer, but then a strange visitor to the town by the name of Mr. H. M. Wogglebug T. E stood up and declared his willingness.
He was on his way up to Mourning Hill when he stopped at a house just below the hill for the night. An old woman welcomed him in and gave him some tea.
"So you you're really going up to Mourning Hill and you're not afraid?" she inquired.
"Of course not," he replied. "Why should I be afraid?"
"Well, for instance I've heard there is a mansion up there that is haunted by the ghost of its owner, Gahan Wilson," she said.
"Well, I am not afraid of any ghosts," replied the Wogglebug airily. "I mean, after all, ghosts are people too and so fear of them is merely fear of the unknown."
"Well, what about vampires, are you not afraid of them?"
"Well, of course I am not as I have no human blood in me," He replied with a smile. "In fact, I know a vampire who is a good friend of mine."
"Are you afraid of nothing at all?" she inquired.
"Why do you ask me so?" he inquired curiously.
"I ask because no one who has gone up to Mourning Hill has ever come back," she replied very slowly.
Mr. Wogglebug set his teacup down and stared at her. "Are you sure?" he asked. "How do you know? Have you known anyone that that has happened to in the past?"
"I've known many people who've gone up the hill and never returned," she said somberly. "Including my own family. When I was a little girl my uncle Simon Synthesis, he was a doctor in the practice of human anatomy and medicine, went up to Mourning Hill because he had some business with Gahan Wilson and in sixty-five years he has never been seen or heard from since."
"That certainly sounds suspicious," Mr. Wogglebug said Mr. Wogglebug rubbing his chin. "Tell me more about your lost uncle."
"He was always very intelligent and also very eccentric and crafty. He had an unusual obsession with the dead and always wanted to find out the secrets of life and death and he was called crazy and sometimes foolish by his peers and mocked for his ideas of bringing the dead back to life. When he disappeared there was much speculation about what could have happened to him. Some have said he is hiding somewhere and some hope his disappearance from the scientific community is permanent."
Mr. Wogglebug listened thoughtfully and after a few moments he said, "Well, the disappearance of your uncle and of others are all the more reasons for me to pursue my investigation of Mourning Hill, and being myself both Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated I may not only shed light on the problems but also bring about a new day."
"That is most noble of you, my dear sir," she replied.
He then slept the night through at her house and first thing in the morning he set off again on his journey up to the hill. As he approached and morning gave way to noontime the clouds above began to darken and the air began to chill. Thunder was heard and lightning followed shortly after it and finally the whole sky seemed to burst open and torrents upon torrents of rain fell down onto him. The rain fell so violently and the wind howled so fiercely and the thunder roared so loudly and the lightning flashed so glaringly that he ran as fast as he could to seek shelter.
He ran up to the nearest place he could see which was a large three-story Victorian looking mansion. It's paint was faded and peeling, it's windows were mostly broken, and its roof looked rigged, but it would have to do and so he ran right up to the front door and knocked as hard as he could on it. Then to his surprise the door opened seemingly of its own accord and he rushed in immediately.
Once inside he found there was a warm fire blazing in the hearth of the foyer and he stood in front of it to dry himself off. He looked around and he saw doors all around him. There was a large golden one to his right and a large iron one to his left and there was a set of stairs leading up to more doors and also another set leading downstairs. He looked beside him and he saw a giant grandfather clock with it's hands pointing to one o'clock and to his surprise and confusion he saw that there were thirteen numbers on the face of the clock instead of just twelve.
While he was pondering the queerness of this he suddenly felt a peculiar breeze ruffle against him. He turned around and saw a tall shapeless whirlwind whizzing up to him. He stood frozen as it got closer and in a blink it took on the form of a man of average height looking to be in his mid to late fifties with brown graying hair at the sides of his head. His clothing appeared graying and so did his skin and on looking closer he saw that he could see through him and the realization of what and who he must be seeing came to him instantly.
"Are you... Gahan Wilson?" he asked hoarsely.
The transparent figure nodded and smiled thinly and said, "So nice of you to come and visit. Make yourself at home. Just be sure to leave before thirteen o'clock, or else you'll have to stay here forever." And so saying he vanished as quickly and mysteriously as he had appeared.
Mr. Wogglebug stood still as he tried to register what the ghostly form of Gahan Wilson had just said to him. He only had thirteen hours to escape from this strange house he had entered or else he'd never leave? So was that why so many people who had come this way had disappeared? But why? And where did this thirteen o'clock come from anyway? He supposed Gahan had to a powerful wizard of some sort if he could control time like that.
He could hear the storm rolling on outside and he looked around the foyer and saw all the doors leading into to other rooms and he felt curious to learn more about the house. He took the steps to the downstairs to see what he could find there first.
Mr. Wogglebug walked down the lengthy flight of stairs which led down into the basement. Everything around him was made of stone, the walls, the ceiling, and the stairs, though the two doors he saw at either side of him were made of iron. He momentarily contemplated which door to go in when he suddenly spotted a small figure laying on the floor a few feet away from him.
He rushed up to it and found it was a little boy wearing white and red striped shirt and blue shorts and a backwards orange baseball cap on his head. The child was laying flat on his back as though he had just been dropped there and his eyes were closed. Feeling concern for the boy, Mr. Wogglebug knelt down beside him and gently lifted him up from the floor and held him in his lap and shook him very slightly.
"Are you alright, my dear boy?" he asked softly.
The boy moaned weakly and shook his head slightly. He opened his mouth and took a deep breath then opened his eyes and stared wide-eyed at Mr. Wogglebug. "Are you another monster in this house?" he asked rather fearfully.
Mr. Wogglebug smiled and shook his head. "No, I'm not. I am a wogglebug, which is an insect that will not harm you."
The boy looked relieved and slowly sat up. "In that case, can you tell me where the bathroom is?"
Mr. Wogglebug looked around and spotted a wooden door nearby with a half moon carved out of it. "I think that's it over there," he said.
The boy at once got up and rushed to the bathroom door, opened it and rushed inside swinging it closed behind him. Seconds later Mr. Wogglebug heard the sound of the boy vomiting heavily into the toilet. Moments later he came out wiping his mouth and looking physically drained.
"Thank you, Mr. Wogglebug," he said.
"Your welcome my boy," he replied. "Now there are some things about you I'd like to know about you. For instance, what is your name?"
"Byron Price," the boy replied.
"And how old are you, Byron?" Mr. Wogglebug asked further.
"Five," said Byron.
"And now I'd like to know why a five year old boy look you was lying on the floor in the basement of a house like this," he inquired.
"I was lying there because I fainted after that mean Dr. Synthesis showed me a really disgusting severed head," explained Byron. "I can't stand seeing gross things."
"No, I'm sure someone your age should never see such things," Mr. Wogglebug cordially agreed. "That certainly wasn't very nice of Dr. Synthesis. Tell me, do you live here?"
"No," said Byron.
"Then why are you here?" asked Mr. Wogglebug with concern.
"What happened was I was in my room in the house and I heard a thump in the closet so I opened the closet door and something grabbed me and pulled me in. Then there was a flashing light and I heard a yelping sound and then I was here and this place is weird," explained Byron.
"What is so weird about it?" asked Mr. Wogglebug.
"Well, for one thing there's Gahan. He's mean sometimes and sometimes he's nice. I think there's something wrong with him. And this house is full monsters hiding everywhere and you have to run away from the monsters or else they get you. There's a two-headed monster here that eats people, really. And watch out for the dark, that's when the vampire lady tries to get you," Byron said breathlessly.
"Well I'll try to watch out for them," Mr. Wogglebug said. "And I think I see what you mean about Gahan. He was nice to me when I first entered this house but then he also said I had to leave before thirteen o'clock or I'll have to stay here forever, but I don't understand why that is so at all."
"Gahan lets anyone in here but only lets anyone out if they find the thirteen keys," said Byron.
"Thirteen keys?" echoed Mr. Wogglebug.
"That's all I know about it," replied Byron. "It's part of some kind of curse that he placed on this house and the thirteen keys are never in the same places. Sometimes they are, but mostly they're not, and you do have to find them before thirteen o'clock."
"Well, what about you, Byron? Can't you get out of here and go home?" Mr. Wogglebug asked with concern.
"I don't know," admitted Byron. "Gahan sometimes talks about letting me go, but other times he says this is my home now."
"Well do you want to home?" Mr. Wogglebug inquired.
"Well... yes I do. I miss my mom and dad," said Byron sadly.
"So I should I imagine," said Mr. Wogglebug sympathetically. "Suppose you were to find the thirteen keys, then would Gahan be able to let you go?"
"I guess so," said Byron.
"Well, how about this then. You help me to find the thirteen keys so I can get out of here and since you helped me I'm sure that should convince Gahan to let you go free with me," Mr. Wogglebug proclaimed.
Byron grinned up at him. "It's a deal!" he said enthusiastically.
"Okay. So, where do you propose we look first for the keys?" Mr. Wogglebug asked.
"I'm not sure but I think the boxes in the attic would be a good place to look," said Byron.
"How do we get to the attic?" inquired Mr. Wogglebug.
"It's way upstairs from the foyer to the art room and to the library and then there's a trap door in the ceiling leading up to it," said Byron.
"Okay let's go there," said Mr. Wogglebug and they started up the stairs again.