People have their whims and quirks. Their seasons of recklessness.
Entire communities can fix their minds on an abstract thing, whatever it is; real or imagined, and go mad in pursuit of it. They can be so impressed by a delusion that it becomes a new reality for them. Until their attention is drawn by another folly, and only regains their senses when rivers of blood have been spilled, and harvests of sorrow have been sowed to be reaped by their posterity.
Some delusions still thrive far and wide, and perhaps that is why the present, as we know it, can be regarded as just a chapter, in a delightful book of delusions, bound together in a hodgepodge of so-called reality.
In her absence, her Ladyship had left the castle to three queer old people who seemed to belong in another age. They seemed to belong to a past where spiritual things were still to be feared.
A time when common sense was the exception to the rule. A time when omens and witches were commonplace, and ghosts undeniably roamed the world of the living.
They somehow looked astral, the ornaments that filled the room: the ghostly clothes they wore even seemed to belong to the dead, the day they are put in their coffins when they have breathed their last breath. They looked like they belonged to the afterlife themselves but didn't realize that they had actually already left the realm of the living, and therefore were haunting this strange room.
They sat together in the housekeeper's room. A strange room filled with old-fashioned furniture.
-"The ghost must become tangible before it can frighten me. I can assure you that!" she said, standing in front of the fireplace with a glass in her hand.
-"Suit yourself." the man said with a startled look on his face. He only had one arm.
-"I've never encountered a ghost in my life." she laughed a little innocently.
An old woman with pale eyes sat staring into the fire.
"I don't think you've ever lived in a house like this one." the old woman said dryly, rocking her body slowly back and forth. "You're still young. You still have plenty of time to see grief."
She tried to convince herself that those people were just trying to scare her. She set her glass on a table and looked around the room. She caught a glimpse of herself in an old mirror at the end of the room.
"Well," she sighed, "I have an open mind."
-"Suit yourself." the one-armed man said again. She heard a shuffling step outside in the hallway. The door creaked on its hinges and a writhing man came in. He wore a brown cap, which cast a shadow over his eyes. He supported himself with a crutch. His lips covered rotting yellow teeth. He staggered to an armchair, sat awkwardly, and began to cough.
The one-armed man gave the newcomer a brief look of disgust. The old woman paid no attention to him and continued to stare into the fire.
-"OK," she tried to say cheerfully, "I´ll suit myself then."
The man who had just entered was only now becoming aware of her presence. He threw his head back and stared at her. She caught a glimpse of his small, inflamed eyes. He started coughing again.
-"Here! Have a drink first." the one-armed man said, pushing a glass of beer in her direction.
She looked at the shadow of the man in the armchair on the wall. A monstrous shadow that seemed to crouch on that wall, mocking her. She felt uneasy in the company of those three grotesque figures, and their gaunt silences, their crooked demeanor, and unkindness.
Senility is an inhumane affliction, she thought to herself. When did their humanity begin to fall away? There was something vague and uncomfortable in the air: an omen of evil things to come.
-"Would someone be so kind as to show me my so-called haunted room so I can retire." she asked politely.
The old man in the armchair started coughing again, turning his head brusquely at her.
It startled her. No one answered her. She looked from one to the other. The old woman now looked even more like a corpse, staring dead-eyed into the flames.
"Ahem," she coughed, trying to attract attention, "can someone tell me where I can find that so-called haunted room of mine, so I can relieve myself of the obligation to entertain you." she added a little louder, "Or you me." she ended with a nervous laugh.
-"There is an oil lamp on the cupboard in the hallway." the one-armed man replied, without looking her in the face. Instead, he stared penetratingly at her feet. "If you insist on spending the night in that purple room..." He paused and returned his gazes to the flames of the fireplace, "Then you go there alone."
-"Tonight, “the old woman hissed, "This night, of all nights."
-"Good." she did her best to sound as friendly as possible. "Then would you be so kind as to tell me which way to go?"
-"You have to go down the hall." the one-armed man said, nodding his head toward the door, "Until you come to a spiral staircase. On the second landing, you will see a door covered with an old sheet. You have to go through it, and then down that corridor It's a long one, and you have to walk to the end, then up another flight of stairs and you will find that purple room on the left.
She stared at the ceiling as she tried to repeat his directions half aloud. He interrupted her a few times to correct her.
-"Are you really going there?" the man sitting in the armchair asked, keeping his head tilted in a strange way.
"Tonight, this night, of all possible nights, it must be this night." the woman whispered, shaking her head.
-"Yes, that's why I'm here." she said, walked to the door, and turned again "That's what I've come here for."
The old man in the armchair rose and staggered to the fireplace.
She paused by the door to take another look at the curious trio. All three were now close to each other. They stared at her with a tense look on their old faces.
- “Good night.” she said kindly.
-"Remember, this was your choice." the one-armed man said, "Suit yourself!"
She left the door open for a while, until the oil lamp lit up well, then began to walk down the long, chilly, echoing hallway.
The hallway was very cold, with a layer of moisture glistening on the walls. It made her think of death, after it just set in, turning everything stiff. She did her best to shake off those dark thoughts.
It was so dusty in this hallway. Like she was underground. The oil lamp blazed up and made the shadows creep and dance. Echoes reverberated up and down. The shadows seemed to come after her, while others fled before her, to retreat into the darkness ahead.
When she came to the wide landing, she paused and tried to sharpen her hearing. She thought she heard a rustle behind her as if something were crawling on the floor. When she had convinced herself that it was only her mind trying to play tricks on her and that there was absolute silence, she pushed the sheet aside and stood in another silent hallway.
The moonlight fell through a window on a grand staircase, coating the black shadows with a silvery light. It looked as if the house had only been abandoned yesterday, although it had been empty for almost a year. A waiting silence rested on the candles in the fittings of the sconces. She wanted to continue walking but stopped abruptly. Her eye had caught the shadow of someone squatting in the darkness. Ready to harass her.
She stood frozen for a moment, then realized it was the shadow of a bronze statue falling on white panels. She fumbled for the small revolver she always carried in her purse just to be safe.
The statue, the son of Tros, glittered in the moonlight, with an eagle perched on its shoulder, preparing himself to serve as a cupbearer to Minos.
It took some time for her nerves to settle. There was a big China doll on a side table, shaking her head as she passed it.
The stairs to the purple room were in a shadowy corner. She moved the oil lamp back and forth to get a clear idea of the space she was in.
Here it was, she thought to herself, here they had found her predecessor, at the bottom of the stairs. She suddenly felt a twinge of fear in her abdomen. She turned her face away from the gloomy chill of the hall and hastily opened the door of the purple room and immediately closed the door behind her. She found a key in the lock and turned it quickly. With the oil lamp in the air, she tried to take in the scene of the large purple room.
Here the young woman had died, or rather, here her death had begun its entrance, for she had been found at the bottom of the stairs she had just climbed. Her search for the ghostly traditions of this old house had come to an end here. Her attempts to end the traditions of this macabre place…
Dozens of stories circulated, clinging to the room where once, long ago, a timid woman had mysteriously died.
Her oil lamp was but a small tongue of light in the vast darkness of the room, which gave birth to fantastic stories and legends from the recesses of its alcoves.
The rays from the oil lamp did not penetrate all the way across the room, but lingered in a dull ocean of purple mystery, leaving a suggestion of staring darkness from the eyes of sentry shadows in a sweltering silence of desolation.
She tried to come to terms with the disturbing and elusive quality of the room. She decided to explore the space systematically, leaving nothing to her imagination, as a way to dispel the suggestions of the darkness.
She peered at every piece of furniture in the room and opened the curtains around the bed. She could clearly hear an echo of her footsteps, but it did not disturb the silence of the room.
She walked to the large fireplace and stared into the blackness of the chimney. Her attention was distracted by the fall of a dust particle. She straightened up again, trying to restore her clear scientific mind. She was sure she would find a secret opening somewhere in the oak panels by tapping on them. When she reached the alcove, she froze to a halt, startled by her own image in a mirror. Her face looked so pale. There were two large mirrors in the room. She remembered that the housekeeper had advised her to light the fire. Once the flames were burning well, she turned her back to it and took another good look at the room. She sat down in an armchair and pulled a table towards her, forming a barricade. She took the revolver from her bag and placed it on the table. The perfect silence of the room continued to stimulate her imagination. The crackling of the fire echoed in the remote darkness of the far corners of the room. An indefinable presence began to manifest itself in the shadow of the niche. The suggestion of a stranger lurking, in the solitude of an all-encompassing silence. She was too restless to sit still. She got up and went to the chimney to light some more candles. She set a few candles on the alcove floor. To take her mind off a tangible but invisible presence in her room, she let her thoughts go back to those three odd oldies downstairs.
Even with the fire in the fireplace, her oil lamp, and the candles, the room remained dim, and the gloomy purple glow began to unsettle her. The light in the alcove flickered up and caused the shadows to constantly shift in a fleeting dance. She went again to the chimney and lit a few more candles. Some she placed on the floor, others in the window niches, where the shadows seemed all the angrier. The room was brightly lit now.
She glanced at her watch, its hands creeping steadily toward midnight.
A candle went out! Something happened in the alcove. A black shadow jumped back into the darkness from which it had come and was probably made. There was a strong draft. Something seemed to flash on the wall in front of her.
The candles at the foot of the bed went out, and two more blew out by the chimney. Shadows seemed to move a step closer to her.
Her hands began to tremble. It seemed as if an invisible hand was wiping out the candles one by one. With a cry of terror, she ran to the alcove and tried to relight the candles. Her self-control began to fail her. Shadows began to creep in on her.
She stumbled against a chair, bruised her thigh against the table, tripped, and fell. There was light in the room. Red light and it danced across the ceiling. Darkness wrapped her in a stifling embrace, crushing what was left of her sanity. Not only was the darkness palpable, but the fear became unbearable. In an effort to shake that blackness off her, she tried to run out of the room, arms folded in front of her face. She tried to scream with all her might and strength. She slammed into a heavy corner of the bed, turned, and was slammed into another bulky piece of furniture. She felt a heavy blow to her head. She made a frantic effort to stay upright, but she couldn't hold it. She fell into an eternity of horrible silence.
Daylight flooded her eyes when she opened them again. There was a rough bandage on her head and the one-armed man stood staring at her. She looked around wildly, trying to remember what had happened.
-"Where am I?" She saw the old woman, who looked different now, pouring drops from a blue vial into a glass.
-"Your face was covered in blood when we found you." The woman said in a raspy voice.
Slowly her memories came back.
-"Do you believe it now?" The one-armed man asked, "That the room is haunted."
The other old man with the yellow rotting teeth looked at her as if to offer her his condolences.
-"Yes." she replied softly, "That room is haunted."
-"We have lived here all our lives, but never met the ghost. Is it a man or a woman?" the one-armed man asked.
-"It's not a ghost at all." she stammered in a whisper.
The elderly trio looked at her in surprise.
-"It is something much worse. It is elusive and much worse!"
-"What is the worst thing that can haunt a mortal soul?" the old woman asked with the glass in her hand.
-"Fear." she replied, a tear running down her cheeks. "It chased me down the halls and up the stairs. It clouded my mind and overwhelmed me. I fought it in that room."
The man with the shadow around his eyes lifted his face and looked at her. All the candles went out in the room.
-"You!" she stammered in terror, "It is you who have put a curse on this house. You!"
The three nodded with a strange grin on their faces.
-"This is our house. Our house!" the woman hissed as she came closer, still with that glass in her hand.
-"A dark power thought us how to bring a black terror over this house. And it thought us well! At dusk, it follows you closely, and in the morning, it hides behind the curtains.
They came closer to her. She wanted to run.
-"You can feel it, can't you dear?" It is lurking in the corner. It is patiently waiting for you.
She jumped up and walked out of that ghastly room. She ran into the forest surrounding the castle, and there she would run as long as that castle would stand.
Running from a fear that bears no light and has no sound and is deafening at the same time. Running from the long shadows of the wind, and by some vast magic, slowly turning into black: her body and her mind, with a mighty meaning of a kind, which tells all the more, the more it is not told. Still another day, she might rise and go away to run some more…