tagErotic HorrorThey Always Wait

They Always Wait

byeidetic©

Beyond the Walls of Sleep, They Lie...

Author's note: This is my entry for the 2019 Gothic Horror event, Beyond the Walls of Sleep, hosted by BlackRandal1958. I truly appreciate an opportunity to be included in this themed event. Thanks, Randi! I especially appreciate the guide to Gothic Horror written by Todd172 and shared by Randi. This isn't as dark as the classic Gothic horror stories, since I can't seem to keep humor out of my horror, nor keep it short. I hope you, the readers, find something in it to enjoy... Cheers!

*~*~*~*~*

[Prologue]

15 April '20

They always wait 'til I'm asleep. At my weakest. They know my shields, my faith, can only protect my core. My chakras. My soul. Keep me being me. I can't stop them fucking with my body when I sleep and they know it.

Tons of black coffee and amphetamine pills only go so far. Then the bastards have me. By the short hairs. They love to fuck with my libido and I can't stop them.

Who's 'Them'? The minions of Ardat Lili, demon succubus and corrupter of men. They crawl out of the shadows and the mists of the mind, circling... ever circling... waiting their chance to drain the life from the righteous.

But they don't just kill you. No, that'd be over too quick. They tease and torture and draw it out. Rumor was, they got my mother and grandmother that way. My grandfather killed himself, we know. My father just plain disappeared. They got my wife that way, too. Turned her into a wanton slut, craving sex with anything that would hold still. Fuck, it didn't even have to hold still. Dildos were a given. So were bedposts. Then she started going after the animals when she couldn't get a human cock. Totally fucked the estate, in more ways than one.

My son, thank God, is safely tucked away at the St. Egidius School for Boys, well away from this family curse. And now I sit and wait for the dark. For Them. For it to start all over again. I can't hide. I can't leave. I can't do anything but wait. I must do something...

Those were the last words in my father's diary. The diary I found after I took possession of the family estate, according to the terms of his will. We never had a proper funeral for him. They couldn't find his body. Just a bunch of blood that the Coroner's Inquest said was his. So we had a memorial service instead when I got the estate, seven years later.

I wish I'd read the diary before I came back home.

* * * * *

Bedlam House was a joke. It was the name my great-grandfather gave to the estate and referenced the infamous Bedlam Hospital. Asylum, more like it. There'd been screwy things going on around our estate from the beginning. What wasn't a joke was the study in contrasts. The manor house itself had been modified and expanded many times since its construction in the 1700's. There were all sorts of small nooks and crannies, with overlooks onto hidden gardens, now fallen into disrepair, or stairwells that had been walled off and didn't go anywhere. Somewhere along the line, oil lamps had been replaced with gas fixtures, and then cloth and loom wiring run through the gas pipes to provide electricity throughout the house. The rooms had as many styles as the house had owners and it was easy to get lost in the myriad of servants' stairwells and passageways, many concealed in the walls with hidden entrances and exits. The place was crazy-making.

The actual estate was a group of farms that had once belonged to the manor, but since the Great War many had been bought up by individual farmers or investors in light industry until all that was left was about sixty-four hundred acres whose rents and produce supported the mansion, and rather poorly at that. Still, if I could ever get all the legal entanglements straightened out, I could sell the place for a tidy sum. If I wanted to sell it at all, that is. Until reading the diary, I'd rather liked the idea of living the life of landed gentry.

I'd been sent away when I was about five. My father decided, for reasons I didn't understand until much later, to send me abroad, to America. To St. Egidius, which was more like a prison than a private boys' boarding school in New England. The last I saw him, he was standing next to my mother at the train station, wishing me a safe journey. Me and Miss Maribel, who was the nanny accompanying me across the Atlantic. To be truthful, I was very excited to be off on a grand adventure, and away from the strict and, to me, oppressive manor life. We were to sail on the brand new, top of the line RMS Mauretania, and father had paid for First Class, too. I pretty much had the run of the ship, since Miss Maribel got fairly seasick and stayed in the cabin. She simply seemed to disappear after the gates of the school closed behind me.

Thirteen years at St. Egidius and I graduated with the equivalent of an American High School diploma. The school was mostly a college preparatory course and rather than continue in America, I decided to have a shot at University back home. Our commencement was celebrated on 1 June 1920 and my graduation present from my family was an envelope delivered by a local Sherriff's Deputy containing a notice for a Coroner's Inquest for my mother and father, with no additional information. My present from the school was an American accent that was going to make me stand out like a sore thumb.

So I arranged for my meager possessions to be shipped back to the manor and booked passage back to England, arriving just in time for some very strange weather. A severe frost had recently hit, ruining a number of crops across the country, and a period of cyclonic activity was just beginning, with thunderstorms virtually around the clock. Still, despite the gloom and incessant rain, I made my way home... and found I couldn't live there. As the carriage pulled up to the estate in the pouring rain, I discovered it was a crime scene. Barricades up and nobody but coppers and officials in or out. I ended up taking a room at the Blue Boar Inn, within walking distance of the solicitor's offices and a short carriage ride to the estate. Actually, the Inn is where I met Abigail, a barmaid who would become a much better acquaintance later on. It was also within walking distance of the Coroner's, where the Inquest turned up several things -- the first, most surprisingly, was that there were no bodies. Not of my mother and not of my father. Just a lot of blood, which the housekeeper had reported and which the Coroner said was most likely my father's. A lot, in this case, being an estimated gallon or more, splashed all over the bedroom where the housekeeper found it.

Which is why it was in actuality a Death In Absentia hearing and the net result was no determination of death, which meant waiting the seven years before I could take possession of the estate and until then, it was still an active crime scene and I was debarred its use. The solicitor, a man named Mr. Phelps, arranged to have the estate's trust manage the rentals and finances and so forth, and pay me a living allowance. I told him I wanted to go to University and ran into my first shock. My American education didn't help me one damned bit with the college admissions process -- couldn't pass the religious test and my Latin and Greek were horrible, among other things. After finding out all the hoops I was going to have to jump through just to get into a University, I got discouraged and gave up.

Instead, I got Mr. Phelps to find me an apprenticeship with one of the bigger farms in the area so I could learn how to manage my estate when I finally got control of it. The more I got into it, the more I became convinced that the only thing my "boarding school education" was good for was having learned how to game the system and get away with virtual murder. That and some interesting sexual education, but other than that, generally useless.

* * * * *

Seven years later I was sitting in Mr. Phelps' office with a couple of other people and listening to the reading of my father's will... a man that I truthfully didn't really know. Other than £10,000 to the man who had been his Manager and £2,500 each to the women who had been his Housekeeper and his Secretary, the rest of it went to me. No surprise there. I made sure I had all the necessary documentation, endorsed by the Magistrate, and set out to take possession of "my" house, ironically on a day very much like the day I had returned -- cold, dark and wet. I engaged Mr. Lancaster, who had been my father's Manager, and Mrs. Wearing, who had been my father's Housekeeper, to help me open up, dust off and set to rights the house which had sat stagnant for seven years. I quit my apprenticeship with Mr. Thompson and until the house was ready for me to take up residence, I maintained my lodgings at the Blue Boar and commuted by horseback.

[Monday]

When the day finally came to move in, I was surprised to find that Mr. Lancaster and Mrs. Wearing declined continued employment and wished me good luck with my new life. As they were preparing to leave, Mr. Lancaster handed me a large keyring full of keys and Mrs. Wearing handed me a thick bound ledger, along with a smaller set of keys.

"These keys open just about every lock on the estate, I imagine," Mr. Lancaster told me. "I've labeled the ones I know about. I wish you good health and good luck, Mr. Fitzgerald." As I shook the man's hand, I had to ask what he knew about the disappearance of my father... anything he might not have told the Coroner's Inquest.

"I don't rightly know," he told me. "Your Old Man just went 'round the bend, son. Got more 'n' more withdrawn. Simply left it to me to run the business and deposit the cheques. Hadn't seen him for a year before Mrs. Wearing found all that blood and reported him missing."

"That there's the official and unofficial ledgers of the manor," Mrs. Wearing cut in. "The front part is the house inventory, the middle is the usual transactions and the back is the off the record stuff. It's the copy I kept, after things started going strange."

"Yes, about that going strange..." I prompted. "Is there anything you can tell me about my parents going missing?" I figured I had the opportunity to ask, I wasn't going to squander it.

"I kept house for your father," she answered me. "And up until the last couple of years, he treated me right fair. He had a couple of rooms he said were private and I was to stay out of, but I took care of the rest. Your mother started acting strange, though, right before she disappeared. Nigh onto ten years now. I didn't know your mum was missing, since your father said she was feeling poorly and he was taking care of her. Then one day he didn't come down to breakfast, and missed lunch, too. So I went looking for him. I couldn't find him anywhere. Then I thought, what if something happened to him in one of his private rooms? So I plucked up my courage against his anger and I found a God-awful amount of blood all over the South Turret loft. But no sign of your parents. That's when I called the constables and had them take a look."

"And I suppose that's when they decided it was a crime scene and locked everything down?" I asked.

"Well, not right away," she told me. "They did a fair amount of searching first. They were still there when it got dark and I had to go home. I wasn't living in the house, you know. Just taking care of it. It was a few days later that the Chief Constable announced he was turning it over to the Coroner."

"And what of the other woman at the reading, Mme. Renault, his Personal Secretary?" I asked. "Did she live here, or commute?"

"Hmmph!" Mr. Lancaster muttered. "Secretary in a pig's eye!"

"More like Personal Companion than Secretary, sir," Mrs. Wearing added, more forthrightly. "She left about the time of your mother's confining illness, or whatever it was. Her disappearance. Gabrielle -- that's Mme. Renault -- she said she didn't want to be associated with the goings-on, though I do believe she stayed over quite a bit before that. She did have her own rooms."

I was a bit shocked at her characterization of Mme. Renault, since my impression of my father was that he was a rather strict, religious sort of man. I did thank them both for their time and help, and they went on their way while I set about being a very single man in a very big house. I did put it on my list of things to do to seek out Mme. Renault and hear what she had to say. Before that, though, I had some logistics to set up. In order to conserve my supplies, I decided to restrict my use of the house to a bedroom and bath suite, the library and the kitchen. I had several tenants to visit and I was going to be doing quite a bit of riding over the next few weeks, and therefore needed to simplify as much as possible.

I decided not to use the Master Bedroom, since it was cavernous and would require quite a bit of coal or wood to heat. I chose one of the smaller ones, one that had been designated as guest quarters, with an attached bath which would meet my needs. Hiring a housekeeper was rapidly rising on my list of priorities. I reviewed the state of my larder, deciding on a general daily menu which would be easy to prepare and clean up after. I had already made arrangements for daily deliveries of ice and weekly deliveries of coal. I had yet to make arrangements with my tenants for firewood, dairy, produce and sundry.

Fairly well pleased with myself, I rode back into town to collect the last of my things from my lodgings at the Blue Boar and to return for my first night as resident owner of Bedlam House.

"So you're settling in now," Abigail observed as I finalized my bill with her. "Don't the rumors and such bother you?"

"The rumors, Abigail?" I iterated.

"Yeah, the rumors, sir," she answered. "About the ghosts and the cannibalism and the profane orgies and all that? You cannot have missed them."

"Actually, I believe I did," I told her, surprised again at how little I knew of events at the manor. "I am in need of a housekeeper, though," I added with a smile. "In case you were interested in the position. Room and board, and five pounds a week, plus I'd cover whatever doctors' fees you might have and such."

"Make it ten and talk to me after you've spent a week in that house and survived, sane and whole," she answered. "Then you might be able to talk me into it."

"Surely it can't be the orgies that put you off," I suggested, granted a bit lewdly. She was, after all, a rather attractive girl.

"Mister Fitzgerald!" she bristled and I knew I'd crossed a line somewhere. A small one, but still a line. "No," she suddenly went on, looking down. "I'd be more worried about the ghosts and cannibals."

"Then I will see you in a week," I told her, hoisting my rucksack. "Unless you're going to serve that wonderful lamb stew before then. It might be worth the trip back into town, just for that."

"That would be a week from tomorrow. Good day, Mr. Fitzgerald," she told me, nodding toward the door. "See you in a week."

I headed on out to discover the rain had started up again and I had a long, cold, soaking wet ride back to the house. After stabling my horse, I made up a good-sized fire in the Library, intending to ward off the chill and relax with a brandy. I was perhaps halfway through it and haphazardly looking at the various books inhabiting the walls when my eyes fell on the diary. Sitting by itself on a small table next to the globe, it somehow beckoned to me. I got up and retrieved it, bringing it back to the armchair to peruse. I noticed it was locked, but managed to locate a key which would fit it on Mr. Lancaster's keyring. Or rather, I suppose I should say, on my keyring.

Opening it, I found it written in a strong, male hand. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was my father's and began to read. The first entries were brief, almost curt.

31 October '17

Today has been singularly unusual. I note with irony that it happens to be William's 15th birthday. He would be well into adolescence by now and I am sure the curse would be affecting him. Precisely why I sent him to America. I think they're beginning to get to Elizabeth. Her conduct earlier today was very much not her normal. Even Gabrielle thinks she is acting out of sorts. I will start documenting these changes, in case the doctor needs them.

03 November '17

Meant to write more, earlier. Elizabeth and Gabrielle had a bang-up row today, which is completely unlike either of them. And of all things, over the nature of our Personal relationships. Something is happening between the two of them. And Elizabeth actually wanted marital relations these last few days. Very puzzling.

05 November '17

Gabrielle's lovemaking was off tonight, as if worried about being caught. I assured her the South Tower loft was perfectly safe. Elizabeth was far too timid to make the trek, and it had been our trysting place on numerous occasions. Still, she seemed disturbed.

I thumbed through several more, each becoming more detailed, and finally flipped to the back and came forward until I found that unnerving last entry. I am somewhat skeptical by nature, so references to demons attacking in one's sleep I found highly improbable. More like, as Mr. Lancaster had intimated, the product of a deranged mind. However, that my father had gone insane, and possibly murdered my mother, was a horrible thought in and of itself. I realized I was tired and probably needed sleep, since my imagination appeared ready to run away with me. I gathered some cheese to snack on, along with the rest of the bottle of brandy, and retired to the bedroom, stoking up the fire against the storm outside and settling in to the four-poster.

The mystery of my parents' disappearance had weighed on my mind for seven years. Yet, I'd been able to push it aside because of the pure speculation of its nature. Now, it was back to eating at the edges of my reason, fueled by the newly discovered diary. I forced myself to clear my mind and fall asleep.

* * * * *

[Tuesday]

The crow of the cock waking me in the morning was just as annoying as it had been the last seven years at the Thompson's farm, and as had the Prefect been all those years at school. I woke to discover I'd imbibed a bit more brandy than I'd thought and had the commensurate discomfort. That, and an insistent bladder. I scrambled my way out of bed and grabbed my robe, making my way to the bathroom. I'd forgone nightshirts as soon as I was allowed to, since I found them confining and uncomfortable. The rooms were a bit chill, the fire having died down during the night and the weather outside not much improved. I seriously considered putting off my tour of my tenants as I took care of my morning ablutions.

I decided, though, that putting it off was simply not a good idea. Besides, part of my reason for visiting was to find if there were a tenant's daughter interested in being my housekeeper or a tenant's son interesting in being my handyman. I knew Abigail had said give her a week, but I was unused to cooking and cleaning for myself, along with other domestic chores usually handled by the school staff or the farmer's wife. I resolved to make a light breakfast and, dressed appropriately, brave the cold and wet to start my tour.

Thus fed and dressed against the weather (I had come to truly appreciate the American waxed cloth duster and slouch hat), I saddled my horse -- another chore I could use a handyman for -- and set about touring my property.

The two nearest tenant houses were occupied by a family named Smythe and a family named Cooper. They had, interestingly enough, occupied those homes for generations and the father's original occupations were smithing and barrel-making. Today, though, they did general farming and contributed a portion of their income to the upkeep of the estate. I was greeted at the Smythes' by a young man named Tobias, or Toby, the second son of George Smythe, the head of the family.

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