Fiction Crime

The old house stood out like a beacon, fairy lights marking out the perimeter and twinkling against the back drop of a dark and cloudy sky.

Silhouettes of trees like wild animals moving in the wind, yet rooted to the spot, surrounded the brick building.

A cavernous mouth stood wide open and people in fancy dress, some looking quite grotesque streamed through, walking into the throat of the mansion.

This used to be where the gentry danced and ate copious amounts of rich food washed down with the finest of red wines, until too full and drunk to stand they would just sit in velvet covered seats or fall on the soft grasses outside until the feeling passed and they could start again.

Musicians would play dancing music, waltzes, the quadrille and others, the ladies holding their skirts at the side, facing the stiff and upright gentlemen – then bowing to each other the dance would begin.

Long table were set out in the main hall, groaning under the weight of pheasant, duck, trout and all the accompaniments that went with them.

These parties weren’t for the poor but for the aristocracy, rich people, pompous and indulged.

But in time everything changes, nothing stays the same for ever.

The huge house was passed down through the generations. The parties became less frequent and people weren’t as eager to throw their money around as much. Eventually the stone landmark sat empty for many years. The outside began to turn black in places where rain had dripped on to it from the mossy slate tiles on the roof, and inside the walls had peeled from cracked tiles letting the water run down the embossed wallpaper.  Picture railings fell down and ornate ceiling roses cracked. Windows were broken by vandals and the homeless came inside and stayed making it theirs - draughty and rundown but at least a roof over their heads, albeit a leaking one. Cooking arrangements were an open fine on the floor of any room in the house, and fortunately it never burnt down.

In the late twentieth century a middle aged couple found themselves the recipients of the house- a long lost relative had left it to them – this sprawling, broken, sad home. But they knew the worth and even better they knew that if it was fixed up and renovated it could be sold for a tidy penny, so they did just that.

The current owners enjoyed the beautifully renovated building that had been given a new lease of life, and the energy that it once possessed returned once more.

Of course it was a different kind of energy that came out of the house now – not the proper and almost stiff type that calmly radiated from ladies and gentlemen ‘polkaing or twirling’ across the dance floor at social events, but the raw, loud and modern feel that would soon be be heard booming from within the walls, and every other time that a celebration or some sort of party was in full swing.

The band hadn’t started  but inside the great hall the musicians were setting up their instruments – drum kits were put together, a grand piano sat in the corner, and microphones and music stands were placed strategically around the stage.

Cars and motorbikes were beginning to arrive, most of them parking quite a way from the house. Only the family members and good friends drove down the pebbled driveway into the car park. The rest left their cars quite a distance away and walked to the front door, crunching on the stones, being met by two burly, muscled security guards who stamped their hand with some sort of coloured design, telling them “Once you’re inside and you want to come out you can but you have to show us the stamp before you’re allowed back in”.

No one seemed to think anything of the instructions given by the guy who ‘you wouldn’t want to mess with’! It was the usual thing at big parties these days.

The band cranked up, loud enough to let everyone know that the party was beginning.

Zombies were walking in through the doorway together with ghosts, demons and witches, scars and gaping holes painted on faces and necks, looking so real it was tempting to touch them and check. There were blood stains on a lot of the costumes, dark red circles, some even with a knife sticking in them. It was hard to tell who anybody was but what did that matter? It was more fun to be incognito!

Grim reapers walked in carrying scythes, looking around for children that they felt the need to harm! Devils were outnumbered by skeletons, sharp fangs ready to bite into the enemy with eyes bloodshot and penetrating.

The costumes were realistic and some really clever - obviously the invitation stating ‘no costume, no entry’ had been adhered to and the fact there was a monetary reward for the best costume helped too.

The wind was whipping up outside, dark clouds covering the moon at times, making the theatrical scene of a scary and creepy Halloween night, real. Laughter and loud voices could be heard coming from the house and grounds, the wind carrying them along,  then dropping them behind bushes and trees onto the hard ground.

It was a party for all ages but the majority of partygoers were late teens to forty somethings. Inside the house the teenagers were dancing up a storm and drinking the well dry while the older and slightly more mature people were conversing, ghosts and devils discussing climate change and the economy!

Roger was the family member considered the most reliable – the one who could give instructions at the beginning of the party and still be upright and standing at the end of the night to tell the stragglers that it was ‘time to go home’.

He walked up to the front of the dance floor and stood on the stage just as the band finished a number.

“Hello everyone” he called out in a friendly tone. “Roger here….. firstly house rules, and most importantly, I think most of you know where the toilets are situated , and goodness knows we have enough!” to which everyone smiled. He turned to his side and pointed, “We have this amazing band ‘The black Voodoo’ which is quite apt for the theme of the party – they are here until 1am and we all know what happens when the band packs up?”….

“What?” someone called out and the reply was “You’ll see, but what would you look like as a pumpkin John?” this brought plenty of laughter and someone yelled out “the same as he does now”!

Roger continued “All I can say is there’s heaps of food coming around shortly, plenty of booze, a great band, and a ‘secret judge’ who will be walking around during the night to choose the best costume, so eat, drink and be merry and may the devil be with you all”. Roger made the usual sound and gestures that ghosts are supposed to make.. ‘oooooh’ and waved his hands around. Just as the band got ready to start again and groups began to make their way onto the dance floor, Roger remembered one other thing. “Sorry everyone, one more thing and then I’ll shut up. Towards the end of the night there is going to be a surprise – I’m saying nothing more but I hope you’ve all got good tickers!”

“Oh that will be fun” one girl said to her friend and the reply came “I probably won’t be in any fit state to know what’s going on by the end of the night!”

The noise inside the house was getting loud, the music was blaring and the sound of all the voices was as if a hundred monkeys were all chattering at once. Men laughed and girls giggled and screamed at the stories and jokes that were being bandied around. Glasses were emptied and refilled, washing down the finger foods being eaten.  

As expected at a Halloween party the most popular colours of the costumes were black, white and red with the occasional green alien – one such oddity brightening a group comprising of Miss Reaper, the Plague Doctor, two vampires and a Dracula. One person in the group was explaining that the red food colouring, the blood that was obviously all down the front of his costume had caused a big upset his house. The half empty bottle he had left on the bathroom bench had fallen over and seeped into the granite. Realising the trouble this could mean for him (from his mum!) he tried to rectify it with hydrogen peroxide, making it so much worse and leaving a huge pink stain that wouldn’t budge. “I’m too scared to go home now” the vampire told his friends and one of them said to him “The big scary vampire is afraid of Mummy” and they laughed loudly at this.

Outside the weather was beginning to turn – a thunderstorm had been forecast earlier in the day but up until the start of the party it had only been breezy. The wind was getting stronger, outside some of the branches reaching out from trees were swaying, blowing from one side to the other like dancers, the black fringes of their skirts getting tossed up and down, back and forth.

Dark clouds were building and clinging to each other as if in the distance clumps were marching forward, united, and closer in a turbulent fashion.

The white lace curtains on the inside of the windows were getting tossed about and tangled up. Strong gusts of wind were blowing in through the main entrance. A voice called out “Shut the door someone. There’s a big storm brewing outside”.  Even the two burly security guards came inside and stood in the hall.  The temperature had dropped and the air had a chill in it – only the sweating and puffing dancers on the floor didn’t notice.

October 29, 2021 14:23

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