Living with Fear

This was based on a story prompt by my good friend, Sharmistha, on her post, Who Was That? Check out her blog and write your own version if you wish.

I walked out onto the crushed gravel of the driveway, the only light coming from a window high up on the third floor. It was my bedroom, and the only inhabited room in the whole dreary pile. The rest of the manor, with its long corridors and sepulchral parlors was in the hands of another, at least during the night. It was a place where fear was as plentiful as the dark through which it flowed.

The mist was rising up off the lake, slowly taking the grounds for its own. I could feel its chilling caress as it flowed past me. My heart was pounding and my knees were shaking, but I swung the flashlight beam around, looking for the reason I had come. But the fog diffused the light and I could see nothing but the white mist.

Never look out your window after dark. That was my rule, which I obeyed faithfully for all those months I had lived alone in that gloomy mansion. But that night, as I drew the curtains fully closed, I happened to glance out and saw the flicker of a light below in the courtyard: not the bright beam of a flashlight from a lost hiker or a deliveryman, but the dim flicker of a lantern that had no place in the present age.

Never let the fear master you. That was my other rule, and so I ventured out to investigate, against the cries of common sense. I felt my neck prickle with premonition and I looked quickly back at the house. My eyes were drawn irresistibly to the roof and I saw it, the dark, cloaked figure looking down at me, so black that I saw its silhouette clearly, even against the night sky.

It could only be he, the long-dead master of the estate that I had usurped. For a moment, my will failed me and I ran inside, barring the door with futile bolts of steel.

Later, in my room I sat in dread anticipation by the glowing embers on the hearth. I had broken his truce and I did not know what would come. The darkness closed around me, pressing on me, until I did not dare move to build up the fire or find refuge in bed.

I heard the door creak softly and then a soft, almost inaudible whine as it opened, slowly but inexorably.

I tried to control my rapid breathing. Never let fear master you, my mind screamed, but the words were lost in the whirling shriek of the blood rushing in my ears. The floorboards creaked, one by one, coming ever closer. I heard that quiet tread, back and forth, just out of sight. I needed to build up the fire, but I could not move. Just as the panic overcame my senses and darkness began to cloud my eyes, I groped for a piece of wood and pushed it forward onto the embers.

The fire flared up and I heard a hiss from the darkness next to my chair. Then my mind slipped into darkness.

I awoke, still in the armchair, with a sliver of daylight slipping between the heavy curtains. When I pulled them open, I found blackened footprints leading to and from the door. Whatever had made them had paced back and forth in a circle, just outside the light of the fire.

From that day on, I never looked outside after dark and I kept the fire built high, especially on foggy nights.

About David Stewart

I am a writer of anything quirky and weird. I love most genres of fiction and in each there are stories that I would consider "my kind of story". View all posts by David Stewart

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