This is what some Multiply friends and I have been up to all weekend. The original plan was to take turns writing until we’d finished the story. Today the rules were amended so that each of us got our apportioned turn at plot development, and then we all have to write our own endings, post the complete story in our own blogs, giving credit to our co-conspirators, and then post the links on our group page.
Here, then, is our story, complete with my ending:
The Story begins: (Written by Starscape)
Claire Montgomery had been a real estate agent for five years, but she had never been this nervous about looking at a house before. The old Sutherland mansion had sat empty for several years while the heirs fought over it. Now that they had finally come to an agreement, the house was to be sold and the money divided.
The mansion was almost ten miles out of town, down a long two-lane highway with trees crowding either side of the road. It was only 3 p.m., but the tall pines shadowed the road and Claire almost missed the turn-off for the tiny road that led to the house. The Sutherlands valued their privacy. There was no street sign of any kind, and the road was almost overgrown now from disuse. About a quarter of a mile down the bumpy, rutted lane, Claire saw the iron gate, black with a gold-colored “S” at the top. John Sutherland, the eldest son, had given her the remote control for the gate as well as the keys to the house. None of the Sutherlands wanted to go back to the house. They were leaving the sale entirely in Claire’s hands.
“Well, here goes nothing,” Claire muttered to herself as she punched the button on the remote control. The two sections of the gate swung reluctantly inward, making a loud screeching sound that sent shivers up her spine…
Once the gate was ajar, Claire eased her car through it. The doors closed automatically as she continued down the narrow drive. She watched in her rearview mirror as the two halves once again became whole. She had the sudden feeling that she might never see the other side again.
“You’re being silly.” she told herself. “Get a grip.”
As she rounded a bend in the road, she was forced to stop the car. A large tree lay across the road- no doubt a casualty of one of the many storms the area was prone to. The massive Sutherland mansion loomed ahead. Claire decided she would call the office and have them send out a crew to move the tree. She opened her cell phone and dialed the number. Nothing. She looked at the screen. NO SERVICE was displayed in bold print.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she said aloud.
With a sigh, she grabbed her bag of paperwork and her camera and headed toward the house. She’d just climb over the stupid tree! No sense wasting the trip since she was already here. She found a section that looked easy enough to maneuver and began to climb over. Trying to hold the branches out of her way, she slipped. As she tumbled off the tree, the branches sprang back, spanking her across her legs. Large red welts immediately rose up on her skin. More determined now than ever, she picked up her things and limped toward the house.
It was refreshing to laugh at herself, and Claire’s spirits lightened somewhat. But as she limped toward the house, she noticed something that made her blood run cold. She stopped, unwilling to go further, until she had resolved the puzzle in her own mind. Why was she seeing a light in the library window?
She knew it was the library because a floor plan of the first floor had been published in the papers when the old man died. The library was where the murder had been. No, she corrected herself, not murder. Death, but not murder. It wasn’t murder because there was no evidence to refute the theory that the old gentleman had a massive coronary, and perhaps had died of fright. But isn’t killing someone by frightening him to death the same as murder?
So who had a light on in there? No, she noticed, not a light on, in the sense of a steady glow from electric bulbs. She glanced at the chimney and sure enough, there was smoke coming from it. Who had lit a fire in the fireplace, and why?
As Claire shook her head and chided herself for thinking such silly things. The sale was going to be her big break, and the money was not going to hurt.
Inside the house, something moved. The old plaster walls offered no resistance to it as it moved from the library to the next room. It was not from here, but did not know where it had come from. It had always been here, growing older and more lonely for its own kind. The things that lived in this place shared a space with it, some aware, like the old one most recently, some unaware. It had seen many come and go, moving in and out of its existence like smoke.
It had no real need for these things, but they fascinated it, so hot and colorful, like torches in the night. The hunger it felt for the emotions they broadcast made it stay. It was glorious that night when the old one had finally tried to touch it, the fear and horror had been like a drug to it. It craved more.
It saw and felt the new one coming into the place, as it moved, wraithlike toward it.
Yes! There is was! That same fear, muted, but present. It knew that this one would be the one to grant it what it was seeking.
This one was younger, stronger, hotter, more vibrant than the old one.
It’s fear would feed the hunger for a long while.
Claire thought back to the closed gate. “If the place is crawling with roaches, I’ll jump the wall and get an exterminator.” Her steps brought her closer to the entrance. She was never good with the unknown as a child. Her brother Frank was great at practical jokes when they were growing up but over time it unnerved her. Frank’s buddies like to work her over in high school knowing she was easy to jump at the slightest surprise.
Her eyes remained fixed on the library windows as she approached the front steps. This was a grand building which called to her. She smiled the smile one puts on a face when they regain composure in an unpleasant situation. As her foot reached the first step she heard the sound of a door slam shut somewhere around the left side of the building. This made her jump back and hold; ears reaching out to hear anything at all. She could feel the perspiration on her forehead.
“Anybody? Anybody there?”
Claire thought, “John Sutherland looked rather pale when we last met. He knew there was more here her than met the eye.”
Mustering up her courage while touching the white gold cross her mother gave her, she moved up the stairs and tried the door. Her hand stuck to the knob from the pine sap she picked up rubbing her smarting leg.
“This is not my day!” The door was locked and now a sticky hand.
“Fool,” she said aloud. “The keys are in your purse!”
As she turned to head back to her car, she was astonished to see her purse sitting on the doorstep behind her. “Now, I know I left that in the car” she said, and looked around left and right, but there were no signs of anyone, anywhere. As she was putting her hands into her purse, reaching for the keys, the massive front door opened on it’s own. Claire looked up, expecting someone, a caretaker, anybody, to be standing there in the door, but there was no one. Feeling a little spooked, she approached the doorway and looked in. It looked safe, so she stepped gingerly over the threshold, not knowing what to expect next. She called out expectantly, “Is anyone here? ” “Hello?” She walked slowly along the main hallway taking in the beautiful arched doorways, and the trompe l’oeil on the walls, and she stopped to take some photos. These were truly magnificent examples of Italian art. She was beginning to fall in love with the place, and hating the thought of selling it. As she approached the library, She was sure that she could feel the warmth of a fire, and entered the room to find a lovely fire blazing in the fireplace. Pulled up close to the fire was a chair, and she could make out the form of a man, pipe in hand, sitting there, smoking at his leisure. At her approach the old man stood up, and turning to greet her, said “Welcome , my child. I’ve been expecting you.”
Claire froze on the spot, staring at the old man, not having the first idea what to say. She felt like turning away and leaving, running out of this house, heading straight back to her car and driving back to… to normality, to what she knew to be a safe and ordinary world out there.
What the hell was going on here? Nothing made any kind of sense. The house had been empty for years, her rational brain told her. There was no one living here. The door had been locked… and then suddenly somehow opened of its own accord. There was a fire here in this room and an old man greeting her and… she wanted to get out of here pretty fast. None of this made sense.
She was really standing here, the door had really opened, this old man was really standing in front of her and the fire really was lit.
Was she going mad? Hallucinating? Or was it some kind of stupid prank like her brother used to play on her when they were kids?
She had no idea how long she had been standing there when the woman came into the room, wheeling a trolley with three cups and saucers, a teapot, and a biscuit tin. “Do sit down, girl, make yourself comfortable,” she said. “I’ll pour.”
She knew the only way to make sense of this situation was to address it head-on. She took in a breath to ask, with all the authority she could muster, who the these people were and why were they here. Before the words could leave her throat there was a bark behind her. She startled so strongly she felt as if she left her skin for a split second. She turned to look behind her. A Yorkshire terrier cowered in the corner, trembling with wide eyes.
Claire turned back to the two people. They were gone, as was the tea service and the warming fire. She turned back to the dog. The Yorkie bared its teeth and growled deep in its throat. Somewhere in the depths of her memory she could here the Dog Whisperer teaching that “this is not aggression, it is fear.” Certainly the look in the dog’s eyes bore that out.
“I know how you feel, honey,” she said. “I’m well past spooked myself.”
Claire crouched and reached a hand toward the little dog saying, “Come on, sweetie. We’ll get out of here together.”
The dog gave a shrill bark and darted past her. The movement was so quick that Claire fell back dropping her camera and purse.
“Hey,” she called after the Yorkie.
She followed it out of the library into the main hallway, and stopped cold, her heart lodging somewhere in her throat. Where the hallway floor had been was now a gaping hole. The door to the outside world, to sanctuary, to safety, was open and tantalizing at the other end of the hallway, but there was no way across the abyss.
She looked at the dark pit. A spiral of marble steps descended into the darkness. The Yorkie sat several steps down, at the point where light became dark.
“Come on, baby,” she said, her voice shaking, “come on out of there.”
The dog barked and ran down the stairs disappearing in the inky blackness.
Claire fumbled in her bag and found her small flashlight; she peered over the edge of the abyss and trained the beam into the gloom. Carefully, cursing the high-heeled boots she was wearing, she started down the stairs. The dog was nowhere to be seen but she could hear something echoing from below.
The stairs led to a long corridor that had been hewn into the stone below the house..
Laughter and the chink of glasses wafted towards her. She walked towards the sound, her path lighted by candles that flamed as she walked past them. She put the flashlight back in her bag.
The candle light flickered revealing paintings and statues in niches along the stone wall. Something moved. A shiver ran down her spine and she shook herself physically and mentally before glancing over her shoulder. There was nothing behind her; but again she sensed a movement beside her. The sensation of being watched unnerved her and she began to ask herself why she had decided to come to an old deserted house at the end of a long day.
“Well Claire, dear, why did you come?” The voice was low and sibilant and it came from her left. She turned to see a statue of a small cat-like creature staring at her with glowing yellow eyes.
As Claire looked at the small creature, she wondered if she had completely lost her mind. People had warned her that if she continued to put in these long hours she’d have a nervous breakdown. Somehow she’d pictured herself lapsing into a crying fit in the office washroom, not seeing hallucinations, if that’s what they were, in the old Sutherland estate.
“Is that what you think I am?” the creature asked, and this time Claire caught the flash of dainty white fangs in the beam of her flashlight. The glowing yellow eyes narrowed in cat-like amusement.
“What are you?” Claire asked, now more certain than ever that she had lost it. She was talking to her hallucination now.
The cat-like creature stood, and stalked toward her on paws that clinked like stone on the marble stairs. Tiny bat wings were visible on it’s back, too small to be functional, but there nonetheless. “Consider me your guide,” it said. “And perhaps your protector. You are clearly brave to have come this far and not turned back…but my kind have been protecting yours against these evils for centuries. Though I am but a minor representation of my kind I may be able to help you.”
It now stood near enough to her feet she almost expected it to wrap itself around her ankles. There was no fur on it’s sleek body, only a hard stone surface that was riddled with small cracks to allow it to move. It looked on the verge of shattering at any moment, and yet there was no hint of frailty to it. In fact, it seemed quite vibrant and alive.
“Your kind?” she asked.
The tiny head looked up to blink yellow eyes at her. “Why, a gargoyle, of course,” it said.
(Next it was MY turn — but this is not the end yet — Ranikaye writes)
“Can you hear me now?” Paul quipped his signature line.
The director shouted, “Okay, that’s a wrap! Let’s pack it up and call it a day.”
The road was sufficiently desolate, and the light from the sun was waning as the cast and crew began to stow their gear in the van.
Paul was a star, thanks to these Verizon ads, but they sure did take you off the beaten path. Just beyond the portion of the road where they were filming, Paul could see a slight break in the tree-line. “Looks like an abandoned road,” he thought. “It’ll take a good 25 minutes for the crew to load up. Think I’ll wander over there to see what’s up.”
So as Claire was visioning gargoyles, Paul was coming upon the Sutherland gate, and wondering at the car parked in front of the fallen tree.
He flipped open his phone, and saw the bars were still strong as ever.
Curiosity got the better of him, though, and he decided to climb over the gate.
When he got to the tree, he noticed a cell phone and some sort of remote device in a small pile of broken branches. He picked up the cell phone and opened it. “T Mobile,” he thought with disgust. “No bars for you,” he grinned.
He pushed the button on the remote, and the old gate behind him groaned open.
He stuffed the cell phone and remote in his jacket pocket, and continued walking towards the mansion. He could smell the smoke from the fireplace, as he headed to his doom.
The wraith inside could sense another, this one coming without apprehension, but he was up to the challenge. “Even if there is no fear, I know how to create it.”
“Can you hear me now?” thought Paul, as he knocked on the door to the Sutherland mansion.
(Tabbynera was the last to contribute)
The door was opened but from no human hand. There was no-one standing there to ask him what he wanted. Paul called but there was no answer: All he heard was the crackling of a fire coming from the library. The door to the library was open and Paul walked in. He was surprised to see no fire; indeed he felt an icy chill go through his bones. He decided to leave this room as quickly as possible, but at that moment the door slammed shut. Panic gripped him and he made an effort to open the door, but some unseen force was keeping the door closed.
Now Paul’s courage was slowly but surely diminishing and he wanted to leave this room as soon as possible. He saw another door on the other side and hoped that this would be his rescue. He opened this door and found himself in a chapel; at least it resembled a chapel. The altar was black granite and marble statues were arranged around its sides. As he walked towards the altar he felt the eyes of the statues watching him. He then felt a breath of air on his neck making the hairs on the nap of his neck stand on end. It was as if someone was standing behind him. He turned and saw a man looking at him with a malevolent grin on his face. It was then that Paul’s nerves gave way and he fainted.
And now MY VERSION OF HOW THIS STORY ENDS:
“That wasn’t much of a challenge after all,” thought the wraith. A little bit of bump-in-the-night and this one thinks the statues have eyes and his own mirror image means him harm. At least the woman kept her wits about her until she stumbled against the switch when the “dog” barked.
The wraith liked to toy with people’s fantasies. His Grandpa Sutherland had died of fright himself when his dream-weaver mind had grown old and frail. Grandpa wrote horror fiction every day of his adult life. It was he who built the cellar in the mansion. It was he who kept the wraith-like creature in the cellar, telling him he’d come from nowhere, and had always had an invisible existence here in the Sutherland mansion.
The youngest Sutherland daughter had died in childbirth, and her pregnancy was not disclosed to any of her siblings who were grown and gone. There hadn’t been a funeral, and there hadn’t been an inquest. The older Sutherland heirs had all been told she ran away.
Eighteen years, the wraith had listened as the man would speak of horror, which he wrote and sold to others. He would try out his literary devices in the mansion, casting his grandson in the role of evil wraith, as they tested the visual effects with life-size props, computerized holographs, state-of-the art sound.
The woman in the basement, Claire, finding herself dreadfully afraid, but still not dead, saw the Yorkie at last, cowering in the corner, and reached again to touch him. Her hand, this time, went completely through him, and she realized that he was neither an hallucination, nor a real creature.
Paul, in the chapel, woke up from his faint, and finding himself to still be alive, opened his Verizon cell phone (which still had bars, even in the mansion) and called 9-1-1.
The mansion was sold for ten million dollars to the Lowe Ad Agency, and they used it for the new Verizon Ad series about creepy dead zones.
Claire’s commission on the sale was $700,000, but she lost most of it in the stock market crash of 2008, and earns her living now making guest appearances on Dr. Phil and Oprah.
The split of the sale’s proceeds among the Sutherland heirs included an annuity to Shady Acres Psychiatric Facility for as long as it would take to give a human heart and emotions to a child abused by horror from the moment of his birth.