The clock gave a resounding stroke.

It was unbecoming, the hour he found himself in. He was still at the house. Eleven o’clock, half till midnight, he was tired and yet his heart raced like it was mid-morning. The alcohol ran smoothly in his veins, lubricating all sudden emotions and all sorts of feelings. Before him sat the dame of Tarnell Manor, an old widow rigid with the kiss of darkness, had pale skin the color of vapid moonlight and long-lived austerity. Her cold and dark eyes silently defiant, her hair picked up and black as coal. It was she, who had kept him longer than he expected. He figured her a ghastly sort of woman, vampiric, uncaring of her late husband’s will and testament he had presented her all afternoon.

“I am sorry Lady Tarnell,” he said, watching the pendulum clock move. “I must go.” Evelyn was waiting for him at home. She would be mad already.

The dame looked at him apprehensively, the type of stare that conversed with the mind surreptitiously, without words or manner. Her dark eyes had an abysmal sense, the wrinkles on her face carried the years in mystic reverence rather than mortal endurance. He thought there was something odd around the house. She said her husband had never left her, but he'd strung himself in the parlor one dastard afternoon back in April. It was now winter and she still wore grieving black. She claimed she still saw him from time to time, told him her husband had never left. He’d shivered at the thought.

He cleared his throat. “I really must go.”  He wished he had not had that last glass of wine. It was Spanish wine, however, one of the hard ones to refuse.

Lady Tarnell laughed. The widow, sullen all afternoon and speaking little, now laughed an awkward laugh that could be construed as threatening, unused and raw, emanating from the solemn graveyard of her character. Now, she smiled horridly. For a moment, he was scared. The lights dimmed and he looked around the foyer, tall ceilings lingered in the darkness presenting a cave feeding and growing with the withering of the light. Portraits of gallant men and horse aficionados dressed the walls, stared him down with frame-locked eyes full of contempt, as the rooms darkened. Something caught his eye on his right peripheral; it was the dame, edging a violent smile. Her cheekbones stretched in a growl, her fangs shining across the darkness.

“No, you have to stay," the widow said. Her voice guttural. "You know us. We insist.”

He turned towards the door and found the clock had stopped. The pendulum halted in mid-rift, holding prisoner time and memory. Introducing terror. His heart stalled and blood froze in his veins. Evelyn would still be waiting for him, but he wouldn't get out. The door locked. 

Never opened again.


—Alexander Helas