Maybe it was because of the rustling leaves chasing one another across the lawn like curious, playful children.
I’d always been inquisitive, but tonight more so than ever before. The last night in October.
Shadows from the old, weeping willows cast an unnerving, sinister light on the lawn of the grotesque mansion, lights glittered brilliantly in most of the downstairs windows. The rusty, iron gate was ajar. A frosty chill was in the air-November was right around the corner.
“What the heck?” I found myself saying as I slowed and hovered to observe the unusual scene.
Many a night, I’d sailed past while the shiny full moon rose high in the night sky. All of these times, I’ve never once given the old place a second glance.
Perhaps it was because the moon was creating an eerie glow or Halloween was right around the corner.
Lights had been on in the mansion previously, but never like tonight. Always one or two in the hidden corner room. One time, the light was aglow in the attic, but never the entire first floor. The brilliance caught my mind and slowed my wings - midair.
Jamming on the brakes, I circled back to see what I could see.
Cautiously I hoovered over the “no trespassing sign”. I was fully aware of the consequences, but it might be worth the risk. My wings shook with excitement and my heart pounded nervously like a drum.
The cool caught me, nearly blowing me over, and sent me catapulting across the lawn. An updraft pushed me from the left.
Dried and broken leaves leapfrogged back and forth with each soft gust of wind, beckoning me to come closer, daring me to peep in the windows.
As if driven by an unseen hand, stealthily moving closer, I zoomed in and hung upside down in the murky shadows near a downstairs window.
Masquerades were the costume of choice.
Butlers in tiny black suits and ties were descending the winding, wooden staircases with silver trays resting upon their right arms. Shoes were spit-polished and shiny.
Dancers were twirling and bobbing rhythmically to the beat in the large ballroom to the left of the window.
Tall, thin skeletons swayed stiffly to the cadence of the masqueraded orchestra.
Little Green Goblins ravenously filled their plates from the buffet table, their ears twitching, but tuned to all the conversations in the room.
White, gauzy ghosts hovered and swayed, swirling around the crystal chandeliers grabbing hands.
Witches clad in black from head to toe, congregated around an enormous black pot, with the plumpest one stirring the steamy broth.
As I listened, the bubbly pot cried my name. What was inside the pot? Shivers crept up and down my spine.
The cool, thin breeze caught the fur on my head, as I hung mesmerized by the action within. Maybe I was tired; perhaps there had been something in my blood .
This place had been completely empty for years, no vehicles were ever in the driveway, yet there were hundreds of masquerading dancers within. As I hung precariously from the eaves, the action within held my attention.
I allowed myself to blow back-and-forth in the breeze, enraptured by the partiers within. It might have been hours, maybe it had only been a few minutes.
As the Hors d'oeuvre
were served, eerie music wafted out into the night and two miniature goblins swung wildly from chandelier to chandelier- boots flying.
My pulse slowed. Thump. Thump. Thump. Tiny hammers in my heart pumped blood so quickly my wings began to quiver.
Frozen in time, I remained transfixed watching, waiting, curious.
Gently, the breeze tugged at me again.
Something brushed against my shoulder. Gasping, I turned to see another who resembled myself.
“What? Who?” I gasped. “You frightened me!”
She smiled, “Gotcha. I’m Dusky”.
“I’ve always been intrigued,” she mouthed, “Is that why you stopped off, too?”
From behind her back, she pulled two large, colorfully sequined masks, “One for you and one for me.”
“No problem,” I said, flipping right side up, and pulling the glamourous piece up to my face.
“Here is where the fun begins,” she giggled as she did acrobatics ringing the rusty doorbell.
Silently a rotund waiter, in a black tux, opened the door, “Invitations”.
“Sir, it appears that I’ve left them on my kitchen table.”
“Never mind, I’ve got an extra one or two right here,” he said dryly, pulling them from his coat pocket, and thrusting them out for Dusty to hold. “You will need these. Your masquerades are exceptional. They are the best I’ve seen all evening. Authentic.”
“Thank you. We diligently crafted them.”
“Really?” I whispered as we entered the hall. “We’re in our own skin. The only reason we could pull this off is because it is a masquerade party.”
Dusty led the way, as if she knew every inch of the mansion rushing past tall paintings of eloquent men and woman of ages past. Swiping her hands reverently across the tapestry drapes in the hallway.
In an upper room, there was an old chess board. The round mirror cast an image of four of us as we played late into the evening.
“Checkmate,” her laughter rang out inside the room. She led me back downstairs, past the potted plants, and into the library. Three mummies were having a heated discussion about dance steps as they sat stiffly in the overstuffed chairs.
Shelves and shelves of books lined the walls- Emerson, Dickens, and Monroe.
Masqueraders were in all of the rooms, enjoying the opportunity to mingle and revel in the mansion.
As the hands on the clock struck midnight, my backside brushed against the light switch in the hallway.
The great room went dark. Screams erupted and an eerie silence filled the air. Reaching backwards, Dusty flipped the switch and revealed a dismal sight.
Masqueraders had turned to dust, leaving their masks and elegant costumes on the floor in heaps. Beside the door were the remnants of a butler’s uniform, two tickets, a pair of black shiny shoes, and a silver tray. Both chandeliers fell with a thunderous crash sending dust particles flying into our faces.
As the glass shattered, she grabbed my wing and pulled me toward the door. “Close call.”
“Curiosity nearly killed the cat!” I groaned as we raced past where the butler had once been, past the broken door, out into the heavy darkness.
The rusty gate creaked on its’ hinges.
A gently breeze blew us upward, and we zoomed off - our silhouettes outlined by the moon.
“The night is still young and there is another mansion down the road,” Dusty smiled and winked.
“Thanks for the adventure, but I’ve got to head home to my lab,” I laughed.
“Thanks, too, Epomops. I’ve always been curious.”
“Now you know,” I said, as I dipped and rose with the wind.
The following evening as I flew past the Gothic Mansion, the lights were gone, but the leaves danced across the lawn daring me to cross into another adventure.