The wind whistled shrilly as the deep blue sedan wound up the dark two-lane highway. Lofty trees towered over the road on both sides, the last vestiges of their crimson, yellow, and orange leaves swirling to the ground in the wind. Dark clouds rolled and spun in the twilight sky, thunder cracking in the distance.
The young couple inside the sedan seemed oblivious to the impending storm around them, holding hands and throwing sappy glances at each other on a dangerously frequent basis.
Thomas suddenly snatched his hand away as a dark shadow suddenly streaked across the road and he swerved dangerously close to the rail.
“Tom, look out!” Ariel screamed, clutching the handle of her door.
Tom corrected the car quickly and turned a shaky smile on Ariel. “Sorry, Babe. I could have sworn I saw something.”
“Me too. I thought I was about to be a widow before our honeymoon even started.”
“I would never let that happen,” Tom assured her, reaching for her hand and bringing it to his lips, kissing it quickly.
“What do you think it was?”
He shrugged. “Whatever it was, it’s gone, so let’s not let it ruin this day.”
Ariel smiled. “Are we almost there?”
“Well, if the GPS is correct, we should see it right about,” the car began to slow as they came around a bend in the road, “now.”
Set upon a small hill, looming over the road was an immaculate three-story green and white Victorian mansion with a turret and complete wrap around porch. The beautifully landscaped yard was littered with leaves and small branches and festively decorated with bales of hay, piles of pumpkins, some carved into jack-o-lanterns, and crows lining the red brick path to the large wood front door.
“It’s even more beautiful than the website!” Ariel exclaimed in delight as they pulled off the road and up to the house. “I wonder how busy it will be on Halloween night.”
“Hopefully there won’t be anyone else and we can have the whole place to ourselves.” Tom’s blue eyes sparked mischievously.
“I doubt there will be many other honeymooners at least.”
With a suggestive grin, Tom hopped out of the car, the wind tousling his blond hair, and ran around to Ariel’s door to help her out. She jumped out as great drops of rain started to descend upon them. Tom grabbed their luggage out of the trunk and laughing, they ran up the statuesque stairs and fell through the front door, in a dripping heap.
A stout gray-haired woman appeared in the elegant entryway, looking more than a little annoyed at the slender, well-dressed intruders dripping water all over the hardwood floors. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, sorry. We’re the Hansen’s,” said Tom, placing the suitcases down.
The older lady’s expression completely changed as recognition dawned on her. “Please forgive me, of course you are. I didn’t expect you until later, but no matter. It’s just that young people are always trespassing though here, chasing old rumors.”
“Old rumors?” Tom asked, removing his coat and turning to help Ariel with hers.
“Never you mind,” the woman replied, taking their coats and hanging them on them coat tree in the entryway. “Please come in and let’s get you settled. I’m Mrs. Printler. My husband and I own this place. It’s been in our family for generations. We raised our children here, but decided it was too big and old to be a family home anymore, so we decided to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. My son and his wife live a few miles away and take care of the cooking and cleaning and maintenance.”
She continued to prattle on as she led them into the sitting room where a fire blazed in the antique brick fireplace.
Ariel stepped up to the flames, wiping a few stray chestnut curls out of her face and rubbing her hands to get warm. “This place is beautiful, even more beautiful than the pictures. The woodwork is gorgeous. We should have had the wedding here instead of that reception hall.”
“Well, that is the best compliment I have ever received. I can’t say I’ve done many weddings, especially on Halloween.”
Tom turned to Mrs. Printler. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Are there any really big animals up here?”
Mrs. Printler smiled. “Of course, we do. Why do you ask?”
“We almost ran into something crossing the road on the way up here, but we’re not sure what it was.”
A shadow crossed Mrs. Printler’s face, but was gone again so quickly, Tom figured he must have imagined it. “I’m sure it was just a deer. Some of them can get quite large.”
“I know I’m from the city, but it really didn’t look like a deer to me. Did it to you, Babe?”
“Not really,” Ariel admitted.
“You mentioned that there are rumors about this place? What kind of rumors?”
“Oh, silly things really. It’s a very old house and people make up all sorts of things about things that happened here.”
Tom opened his mouth to ask another question, but Mrs. Printler cut him off.
“Why don’t I show you to your room. I am sure two newlyweds like you don’t want to sit up all night chatting with an old lady. This way.”
They climbed a detailed wooden staircase to the second floor and entered a three-room suite with a huge four poster bed piled high with pillows, an antique armoire, and an Edwardian period floral sofa with a clawfoot bathtub in the attached bathroom.
Ariel squealed in delight. “It’s perfect! I love it. It’s exactly what I was hoping for.”
“I’m so glad to hear that,” Mrs. Printler smiled. “Well, I’ll leave you to settle in. This room is in a separate wing of the house and there are no other guests here tonight, so it’s just my husband and I up on the third floor in the opposite wing. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you need anything. Give us a call on the phone when you’re ready for breakfast.”
“We will. Thank you so much,” Ariel said.
As Mrs. Printler closed the door behind her, Tom turned the lock, and turned to face his new bride. “Well, Mrs. Hansen.”
Ariel grinned seductively. “Yes Mr. Hansen?”
“Alone at last.” With that, he scooped her up in his arms and fell onto the bed, making the pillows fly into the air and all over the bed and floor.
Ariel’s giggle was cut short as Tom kissed her firmly, pulling her body close to his. “How about we get you out of that dress?”
Grinning, he reached his arms around her, but she pushed him away and looked at him. “You don’t think there’s any truth to those stories Mrs. Printler alluded to, do you?”
“About the house?”
Ariel nodded and he could see she looked genuinely concerned.
“It’s a small town. They probably don’t have anything else to do but make up stories about the local rich people.”
Ariel didn’t look convinced.
“I promise, there’s nothing to be worried about.” He kissed her lightly, letting his lips slide over her face and down to her neck, letting his glide around her and started to pull down the zipper on her dress when the lights suddenly went out.
They both froze.
“Hmm, well I guess we can do this without any lights,” Tom said, undeterred, reaching for the zipper in the dark, lighting flashing outside the windows.
Ariel jerked away. “Did you hear that?”
“I swear I just heard…”
The lights began to flicker on and off spasmodically. During a brief flash of light, a shadowy shape, much like the one they had seen on the road not long before appeared across the room.
Ariel screamed and clung to Tom.
The lights flashed again, but by the time they came back on, the shadow was gone.
The power stayed on this time and Tom looked at Ariel, who was clearly getting hysterical.
“What was that? You saw it, didn’t you? Someone was there! I saw something there and now it’s…”
“Gone,” Tom finished for her.
“We have to get out of here now!” Ariel exclaimed, jumping off the bed, not even bothering to zip her dress back up. “This is what we get for getting married on Halloween. I never should have let you talk me into it!”
“Hang on a minute Ariel, we can’t just leave. It’s storming and dark out there and we have no idea where to go.”
“What are you saying? That we stay here?”
“Why don’t we go talk to Mrs. Printler? Maybe she can explain what’s going on.”
Ariel scoffed at him but didn’t argue as he went to the phone and picked up the receiver. He stood there for a moment, before replacing the phone and turning back to Ariel.
“What?” Ariel cried. “That’s it! Let’s go! NOW!”
She grabbed her purse and dragged Tom with her to the door. She threw it open and ran down the stairs, Tom rushing behind her.
“What about our bags?”
“I don’t care. I just want to get out of here.”
They ran down the broad staircase and were nearly to the bottom step when a shadowy, faceless figure appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Screaming again, Ariel skidded to a halt and grabbed at Tom behind her. He wrapped his arms around her and started to pull her back up the stairs when something, or someone, grabbed him from behind.
His heart racing, Tom released Ariel to fight his assailant. Fighting hard, he finally managed to break the figure’s grasp, but when he turned around to face it, it had vanished, as had the figure on the bottom landing.
Ariel was sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, huddled against the staircase wall. Tom rushed to her and pulled her close. He looked frantically up the stairs and then toward the front door, gauging which direction they should run to escape.
Suddenly the lights went out again and he heard a faint, bone chilling laugh. It grew louder and louder and more voices seemed to join in with the first one.
He held Ariel even tighter, only then realizing that she was no longer sobbing, but her body was still shaking, only not from terror. He pulled her away and tried to look at her face in the dark.
The lights clicked back on as four dark robbed figures jumped onto the staircase, laughing hysterically. He jumped up, ready for a fight, clutching Ariel to him. Only then did he realize that Ariel was laughing with them.
“Happy Honeymoon!” The figures cried and suddenly the robes fell away from the figures to reveal Tom’s four groomsmen, still laughing.
Feeling as though his heart had stopped, he looked in shock at Ariel, who was still laughing, real tears still in her eyes from her performance as the terrified damsel in distress.
“Surprise!” Ariel grinned.
“You did this?” He asked in both amazement and disbelief.
“I know how much you love Halloween and being scared. I wanted to give you a wedding present you would never forget.”
Tom sat down on the stairs, still in shock.
“You should see your face,” his brother Jason laughed.
“Absolutely priceless,” agreed his best friend Adam.
Tom didn’t say a word, just stared at his hands, his heart rate finally beginning to return to normal.
“You’re not mad, are you?” Ariel asked, reaching for his hand.
“Mad?” he replied, looking up at her and taking her hand. He pulled her down on his lap and kissed her soundly. “You, Mrs. Hansen had better watch your back next Halloween.”