The House


By Pat


As dinner progressed, Luka couldn’t remember the last time he had enjoyed a meal so much.   The conversation flowed smoothly and freely, as had the splendid wine that accompanied the excellent food.    He found himself becoming more and more captivated by the lovely Madelaine; not only her beauty but also the charm and grace which she displayed.   Following dinner, the party once again returned to the parlor.   “I think we could all enjoy some after dinner music, don’t you agree my dear?”   Reggie asked Louisa.  “If you would like, Reggie, I’ll be glad to play for our guest, if he likes piano music.”   She replied, looking questioning at Luka.

“I’m sure you are an excellent pianist, and I would very much enjoy the music.” Luka assured the older woman.

With that Louisa took her place behind the elegant baby grand piano that had graced the one corner of the room.   Deftly her fingers floated over the keys and the music filled the room, a hauntingly beautiful waltz.    Madelaine rose from where she had been sitting and approached Luka, “I know I’m being forward, but would you dance with me?”

“At your service, my lady.”  He replied as he rose and took her in his arms.   She was an excellent dancer, it seemed as if she simply floated over the floor, she moved with such lightness and grace.   Luka realized he didn’t want the music to end; he liked having her in his arms, and found himself wishing he could keep her there forever.    But the music ended.   “Thank you for the dance.”  He murmured to Madelaine. 

“I enjoyed it more than you will ever know.”  She softly whispered almost sadly.  “I haven’t felt like this in a long, long time.”   With that she reached up, removing a ribbon from her hair placing it in Luka’s hand.   “Keep this, to remember me by.”  She told him, then softly touched his cheek, before turning to walk over to her mother at the piano, leaving Luka with a sense of emptiness and loss.

“Well, the hour is getting late, and I’m afraid we must call it an evening.”  Reggie announced.  “Luka, we have truly enjoyed this evening with you, and feel extremely lucky that you found your way to our door.”  

“No sir, it is I who should be thanking you and your lovely family.  You have certainly gone above and beyond to make a stranger feel welcome in your home.” Luka sincerely stated.   Of all the places for his car to break down, he thought, it couldn’t have picked a better location.

“Luka,” he turned towards Louisa as she addressed him, “I apologize that our guest room is not ready to be occupied yet, so I think you will be much more comfortable here on the sofa near the fire.   It tends to get a bit damp and chilly in the guest room when the fireplace isn’t functional.”  She explained as Madelaine returned carrying a pillow and blankets, placing them on the sofa. 

“That’s no problem at all.  This will be just fine.   After all, I had figured I’d be spending the night sleeping in the car.  This certainly beats that idea.”  Luka laughingly reassured Louisa.  

After the goodnights were all said, Luka watched as the family left the parlor.   Stopping in the doorway Madelaine turned, looking longingly towards Luka as he gazed back at her.   With a slight smile she touched her fingers to her lips before turning and leaving him alone by the fire.    Fixing his bed on the sofa, Luka lay down to ponder the events of the evening and the feelings that Madelaine had awakened in him.  However, between exhaustion from chronic lack of sleep and the excellent brandy he had after dinner, he soon fell asleep.   But it was a restless sleep, filled with a feeling of dread, as if waiting for something bad that was going to happen and being powerless to stop it.   In his dream world he saw Madelaine, but this time she appeared different, as if she were transparent, just floating on the fringe of his world.   Then he was driven by the need to go to her, to protect her from this nameless terror, but he couldn’t move, he was paralyzed.   He struggled helplessly to get up, but something was gripping him, shaking him...

“Hey Mister, wake up.  You can’t be in here.”  Luka struggled out of the dream world into the reality of a light shining on him, the flashlight held by a uniformed Deputy Sheriff.   “Come on buddy, this place isn’t safe, it’s going to come down any day now.”  The man urged Luka, helping him up into a sitting position.   Once fully awake, Luka looked around the room in shock.  What last night had been an elegantly furnished parlor, complete with the crackling fire in the fireplace, was now a decaying empty shell.   The crystal chandelier was hanging in pieces, the fireplace dark, the mantel broken and sagging.   Cobwebs and dust covered almost every surface including the broken down sofa that he was occupying.   What looked the broken remains of what once was a piano still sitting in one corner.  The placed looked as if it had been abandoned for years.

“Where am I?  What’s happening here, where are the Camerons?”  Luka stammered, totally bewildered.  He looked at the officer, hoping the man had some answers for him. 

“Come on, we can talk outside.  Like I said this place isn’t safe.  In fact it’s scheduled to be torn down in spring.   That must have been one hell of a dream you were having!”  The deputy chuckled as he escorted Luka to the doorway and around the broken boards on the porch.   “I spotted what I assume is your car by the side of the road this morning, and when I didn’t find anyone in the vehicle, thought I’d check the house here.   Sometimes vagrants wander in for a place to sleep.”  He explained to Luka.   “Now could you show me some ID and tell me how you ended up in there?”  Luka handed the officer his driver’s license and explained about the car breaking down.    When he tried to explain about being invited in by the Camerons he stopped when he noticed the strange look the other man was giving him.

“I don’t know what you were drinking last night, doctor, but there hasn’t been anyone in this house in I’d say at least 30 years.   Not since old lady McClarey passed away.  She was a cousin of the Camerons.”  The deputy informed Luka.

“But what about the Camerons?” Luka persisted, “Reggie, Louisa and their two daughters?” 

“Well, Doc, about the only thing I can tell you is the local legend concerning this place and its former occupants, the Camerons.   They were the original owners of this house, which was built by Reginald Cameron back in the early 1900s.    He was some railroad tycoon.   They weren’t living here very long, unfortunately, before a jealous boyfriend of the oldest daughter broke in and murdered the whole family as they slept.   In fact, it was right around this time of the year that it happened, so the story goes.   It seems the lady in question broke up with this guy, and he couldn’t handle it.   Are you okay, doc?”  The deputy quickly asked, noticing that Luka had gone pale and was shaking slightly. 

“Yeah, I’m okay.  That was some story.”  He tried to laugh, but didn’t quite pull it off. 

“Well, part of the urban legend around here is that the place is supposed to be haunted, so maybe you saw some ghosts last night!”  The deputy joked, not believing in such things himself.   “Yeah, maybe.”  Luka pretended to share in the officer’s joke.   The two men managed to get Luka’s car started again, and once the officer had given Luka directions back to the interstate, with a cheery “Drive safe, have a good day.”  He returned to his squad car and drove away.  

Luka sat for a moment trying to absorb what had happened to him, but feeling overwhelmed by the experience.   Finally he shifted the car into gear and quickly drove off, not daring to look behind him.   If he had he would have seen the slight fluttering of the tattered drapes on the upstairs window.   Had an errant breeze moved them or had a small white hand released them?   By the time he reached a gas station along the expressway Luka had managed to convince himself it had all been a dream.   That was it.  He had been overworked lately, not enough sleep, he could think of a dozen reasonable explanations for what he thought of now as the simply the product of his overtired brain.    Until he reached into his pocket and his fingers felt an object.   Opening his hand he stared at the ribbon that lay across his fingers, the very same ribbon that the lovely Madelaine had gifted him with.   Clenching it tightly in his fist, he knew that last night had not been a dream.  Somehow the veil between this world and the next had been lifted, and he had been a visitor in that other world.   And he also acknowledged deep down inside his heart he longed to return there. 

The End


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