Part VI - Chapter 34 – Darkness Unleashed

Rachel had just sat down in the chair began inspecting each book. The first leather bound item turned out to be an old and faded journal with an inscription on the inside, “If I have passed onto the next realm my dear, be sure to burn this journal. I want nothing to tether me to this world when I pass beyond the veil as I would like to join my daughter and husband in peace.” Since it seemed unlikely that a widow’s journal would be the cause of evil being unleashed and she did not want to intrude into Mrs. Winchester’s personal life, she laid it to the side.

The other two were books; the first was titled “Views from our Heavenly Home” by Andrew Jackson Davis and the second was “Rules to be Observed when Creating Spiritual Circles” by Emma Hardinge Britten. Rachel flipped through both of them but did not see anything that looked remotely like a book of insurmountable evil. She took another flip through each book and the journal when the mansion’s bell began to peal. To Rachel, it sounded like it was screaming in fear and she was sure that she had leaped out of her skin when the ringing began. She glanced at the clock on the mantel, it was only 11:55 pm. Why was the séance starting early this evening?

“Why are you here?” came a stern woman’s voice. Rachel turned towards the voice certain that she had been caught by Mrs. Marriott or Mrs. Dechant and she was unsure what excuse to offer regarding her behavior. Instead, there was a tall, thin woman with dark hair in ringlets flowing down her back. She was dressed in a white night gown and had a white woolen shawl wrapped around her shoulders. The antique candelabra she was holding made her face flicker in the dark.

Rachel stammered to start her lie, “I’m sorry, Ma’am. I was here to light the fires-“

“Rachel, come with me now!” the woman interrupted. She shooed Rachel towards a door behind them. As Rachel passed through the door, she felt a shiver go through her spine and noticed that she could suddenly see her breath despite having lit the fire. Rachel turned and within moments the woman had miraculously moved passed the settee, across the room, and was suddenly inches away from Rachel’s face. Rachel looked into her eyes but there was something glassy or hollow to them, with dark circles encircling them as though she hadn’t slept in days.

“The coming darkness will search for anyone not warded. Come with me if you want to live!” ordered the woman as she urgently set down the candelabra before taking Rachel’s hand to lead her to a part of the house that Rachel had not seen before. As she led Rachel through each room, an icy pain began to crawl up Rachel’s arm. It felt like she was holding onto a frozen sword rather than a human hand. She looked down to see that her hand was already red, protesting the cold. The further the woman led Rachel, the more dilapidated and less safe each room looked. Suddenly, they came to what seemed to be a dead end and the woman stopped. Rachel looked around and saw that she was standing in what looked like an abandoned bedroom with cracks in the walls and floorboards that seemed to unsettle beneath her feet.

“How is this room any safer than the sitting room we just left?” asked a puzzled Rachel.

“It will be safe enough,” said the woman as she inspected the room what Rachel could only assume were invisible intruders. The woman’s head snapped back towards Rachel before she asked, “Do you have salt?”


“Yes, I could feel your dress pocket burn me when you would stumble into me as we were moving through the house. I can only assume, and hope, that you are carrying salt.”

Rachel was about to protest but based on the absurdity of this moment and the alarm in the woman’s voice, Rachel simply answered, “Yes.”

“Okay. Make a circle of salt. One large enough for you to stand inside of.”

“Shouldn’t I make it large enough for the two of us?” inquired Rachel as she lifted the salt canister out of her pocket and began to comply with the rushed instructions.

“You really don’t understand, do you, pet?” the woman laughed as though answering the silly question of a child. “I’ll be fine.”

As Rachel finished the circle the woman paced around the salt, inspecting Rachel’s work. “It’s certainly a stingy amount of salt to be sure. But I think that it will be enough.”

Seeming to be satisfied, the woman turned to look outside the window and down towards the grounds. “No matter what happens Rachel - what you hear… what you see. Do not move! Even if the world is full of screams, which it will be in a moment. Don’t move!”

Rachel stood staring at the woman in stunned silence, unsure how to respond. To Rachel’s amazement, she blinked and the woman seemed to float away through the wall and towards the courtyard. Or had she vanished? Rachel wasn’t sure about where the woman went, only that the ghost had urgently attempted to save her from something. But what could a ghost be afraid of?

And then the screams began.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Viva was by himself looking at what seemed to be a particularly rotted section of wood when he heard a male voice walking towards him. It was getting louder not just because he was getting closer, but he seemed to be increasing his volume as well. To make the moment truly eerie, whatever he was beginning to command or shout, it certainly was not English.

“Uh, hola amigo…Que are you saying?” inquired Viva in his broken Spanish as the workman Viva came into view, enabling Viva to recognize the man as Reynolds. Viva only had moments to recognize the figure when to Viva’s horror, the man took out a knife and began to spill blood over a book he was clutching as his chanting increased in volume to the point of shouting.

“That’s enough ,son!” exclaimed Viva as he took out his gun and shot the man twice, glad to have brought the gun despite the odd looks from the other men. Salt rounds should be enough to stun the man and help stop the masochistic act without actually killing the man, Viva reasoned. Viva’s hunch proved accurate as the man was stunned and had been knocked over with the wind knocked out of him. Viva stood over the man to ensure the fellow was knocked out. Viva strapped the shotgun over his shoulder and began to drag the man in the general direction of the entrance.

“You’re too late. The door is opened,” came a twisted voice from the body that Viva was dragging only it seemed too guttural to have come from the man who was chanting only moments ago. The figure seemed to be struggling for air so Viva stopped to inspect the man and potentially dress his wounds, but the man no longer looked like himself. He was ghostly pale with a dark ooze dripping out of his eyes and ears. His hair had gone from brown to a light yellow, almost white.

Viva lost his footing staring at the man. “What the- you’re the devil in disguise!”

Suddenly, the men near the entrance began to shrilly scream in terror. Viva momentarily turned toward the entrance, holding his breath while waiting for the sound of Whip’s shotgun. When it didn’t happen, Viva began jog back towards his friend. But Viva was only able to take a few steps before the deathly-looking man pounced onto Viva’s back. Despite the appearance of having withered away, Reynolds had considerable strength. Viva hurled the man from off his back landing the pale workman onto his back. As Viva took a step back, the man continued to crawl on his stomach in Viva’s direction. Most disturbing to Viva was that the man was opening and closing his mouth like a snapping turtle as he continued to slide across the ground. It was as though the man had not only aged in the span of moments but also converted into a zombie.

“Shoot him!” commanded a female voice. Aaron shot the man again with a salt round which stunned the workman enough to cause a halt in slithering on the ground. As Viva carefully eyed the workman lying on the ground, he suddenly felt a cold woman’s hand on his shoulder. He spun around to see a dark-haired woman wearing a white night gown. Before he could ask who she was, she took his hand and hurriedly guided him through the rubble, past the rotting beam, and over to a tiny door. The door looked as if it had been forgotten as it was rusted closed and Viva had to kick it a few times despite the door’s protesting squeaks. When he finally got it partially open, he had to crawl through the space, dragging the shotgun behind him.

When Viva finally made it outside he took a deep breath of fresh air only to cough out the dust that had inadvertently swallowed while trying to squeeze through the door. After a few coughs to clear his lungs, Viva brushed himself off and addressed the woman. “Thank ya. Thank ya very much, Ma’am.”

“Aaron, you have to help Lenore. She’s keeping her staff safe but two people who know what’s going on is better than one. Be sure to grab an axe on the way.”

“Doesn’t the salt rounds take care of ghosts?”

“Salt stuns supernatural beings but it does not eliminate them. Besides, you are no longer just dealing with spirits. The book of the dead has released the Kandarian and all of the darkness and evil creatures that he rules. He will work to enslave as much of the human race as possible.”

“And why will an axe help?”

But instead of answering the woman disappeared. At that moment, the bell in the tower began to ring and warn of pending danger. Instead of looking for the strange woman, Viva ran towards the kitchen by way of the shed for the recommended axe. Between an axe and his shotgun, Viva hoped it would be enough to save Lenore.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tilly had just finished providing Mrs. Winchester with her nightly absinthe and the séance was five minutes away from beginning. She had perched herself outside the door to wait for a cue about bringing in the next round of snacks or drinks. The foreman had not appeared yet but she could see the shadows of the architect and of Mrs. Winchester as they prepared for their séance. Suddenly, male shrieks of horror and pain filled the night air. Due to the odd design of the house, Tilly could look down into the kitchen below and watch the head chef, Mrs. Lonefeather. She seemed to be made for leadership as she quickly moved the kitchen staff into a huddle and grabbed a large box of salt from a pantry and commanded the kitchen staff to scour the cabinets for additional salt containers. From where Tilly stood, it also looked like Lenore had pulled a shotgun from a kitchen pantry and began to load it with ammunition. “Such an odd thing to hide in a millionaire widow’s pantry,” thought Tilly.

As more screams filled the air, Tilly stopped watching the group below and ran through the door to the bell tower to check on Mrs. Winchester. Tilly could not explain why but she felt an instinctive urge to protect the widow. As though the mansion had already lost so much, it could not bear to lose her as well. “Strange that I should feel a connection with an inanimate object like a house.”

Tilly opened the door to the tower but found it empty with the bell ringing itself. Tilly did a lap around the tiny room, careful to not fall into the kitchen below. She had made a single rotation when she suddenly ran into Mr. Adams. It was as if he had appeared out of thin air. For a moment she felt like a heroine in her favorite Bronte novels with a handsome yet mysterious man here to rescue her from a dark and sinister force. She smiled up at Mr. Adams but found his face anything but pleased.

“What are you doing?” demanded Mr. Adams.

The moment shattered, Tilly began to stutter, “I- uh. I- uh want-wanted to…”

Mr. Adams rolled his eyes before stating, “Now, I’ve got to get you safe too.” He sighed as he took her arm and led her back down out of the séance room. They passed through a couple rooms before he opened the door to what appeared to be a small closet. When Tilly looked in, she noticed that there was another door directly across from her. The dark space was maybe 18 inches in length but the width was impossible to calculate as it was dark. If Tilly had to guess, it was a small crawl space between walls.

“What is this-“ asked Tilly in awe and confusion.

“The rooms were built at different times so they don’t quite extend to each other,” explained Mr. Adams as he gently pushed her inside. She reached across to open the other door but he stopped her. “Stay here in between the doors and for God’s sake, stay quiet!”

Tilly obeyed and left the opposite door alone. Instead, she turned to look back at her rescuer, “What about Mrs. Winchester? She wasn’t in the bell-tower and I was in front of the only exit.”

“We don’t reveal all of our secrets about the passageways to new staff,” explained Mr. Adams. “All you need to know is that she’s safe.”

He started to close the door when she stopped him by asking, “Mr. Adams? What’s happening? Why are people screaming outside?”

He gave a forced smile before replying, “I’m sure that it’s some kind of labor strike or town drunks causing a ruckus downstairs. As long as you stay hidden in this closet, you’ll be safe.”

At that, he closed the door.

Tilly was left standing between the two doors, in the dark, and alone.

The screaming and gunshots continued and Tilly tried to cover her ears in the dark. But as the noises became louder outside, she decided that maybe she shouldn’t stand exactly between the two doors. In the dark and unable to see, she slowly shifted her body to the side to stand between two walls rather than between the two doors.

Tilly reached inside her apron pocket for matches. Mrs. Dechant had Tilly keep a variety of odd things in her pockets to ensure that she could satisfy any whim of Mrs. Winchester. Among the items were pencils, a small sewing kit, hair pins, and a book of matches. Tilly pulled out the box of matches and with trembling hands, attempted to light the first match. The first match wouldn’t light. The second one wouldn’t light. Tears were beginning to burn Tilly’s eyes. The overwhelming fear was beginning to take its toll. She closed her eyes, took a breath, steadied her hand, and finally lit a match.

Her delight of lighting the match quickly faded as the elongated space between rooms seemed to become more eerie now that she was trapped inside of it. Rachel carefully took another sidestep away from the doors as she felt an inexplicable panic begin to rise in her throat. Her fingers burned as the match reached her fingertips so she quickly let the match fall to the ground and crushed it beneath her boot. She stood there in the dark, opening and closing her eyes.

“See? There is nothing to this adolescent and irrational fear of the dark. There is more to fear outside with the labor dispute… or drunks…or…” Tilly shook the unimaginable thought away before trying to calm herself. “Mr. Adams will be back shortly. In the meantime, keep breathing. You’re safe. Mr. Adams said so-“

In an effort to calm herself, she lit another match in an attempt to prove that there was nothing evil lurking in the dark. She lit the match and looked down the space on either side of her. Something moved out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head right to double check her findings and found a dark cloud moving toward her. Something about the dark cloud made everything in her body scream to run away. But her legs wouldn’t move. Tears began to spill down her face as the dark cloud now stopped centimeters from her face. Tilly held the match between herself and the dark cloud. And then the dark cloud blew out the match.

The next scream in the dark mansion was Tilly’s.

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