Part VI – Chapter 39 – The Arrival of Armies

The small crowd of staff inside the kitchen salt circle held their breaths as the sounds of drums, bugles, and hundreds of feet were moving towards the house. Viva and Lenore exchanged silent glances, the battle was about to begin for the lives of everyone in their salted circle.

“Viva, cover this side,” ordered Lenore. She pointed towards the door that he had entered through to get to the kitchen. Viva nodded as she moved past him to arrange the rest of the staff with various knives and other crude weapons around the sides of their oblong space. She then placed herself opposite of Viva and watched the entrance that led towards more of the house. Lenore watched as the dark cloud began to settle backwards. To Lenore, it seemed as though the darkness was shifting backwards to make way for the expendable foot soldiers to strike first. If Lenore were to bet on the darkness’ motive, it might be to come in for the kill after the foot soldiers opened a way into the salted perimeter.

And then everything went quiet. No more bugles. No more drums. No more feet. The silence was more unbearable than the approaching army had been.

Lenore briefly looked at the civilian circle members and watched them nervously shift. A couple of men wiped beads of sweat off of their foreheads and noses. The small kitchen maid nearest Lenore had tears running down her face and a quivering bottom lip.

“Steady,” Lenore quietly commanded the group.

Viva heard a door open and watched a lone man slowly emerge from the darkness. Viva studied the man as he seemed to be almost limping towards Viva’s position. He was still too far out to get a look at the man’s face and Viva wanted to save bullets until he could see his enemies’ eyes, so he called out, “Are you lonesome tonight?” to gage how many people might be part of the advance party.

The man did not respond but kept limping towards Viva’s position. A few moments later, another two men began to emerge from the darkness.

“Shoot them!” came the urgent and hoarse whisper from Scott, the all too brave yet unintelligent man nearest Viva.

“Hold your position!” commanded Lenore from the other side of the grouping.

“Why should we take orders from you?” whimpered another man from the group.

“Settle down! Only fools rush in!” Viva said in a low voice to the men.

“Fuck this!” yelled Scott and he ran out of the safety of the circle, kicking salt out of its well-placed orbit on his way out. The man raised his knife and charged at the encroaching army scout. Scott reached the man and screamed momentarily upon seeing the face of his enemy. It was a face of rotting skin, clearly the visage of a man who had been dead for a long time. Scott swallowed hard and regained his senses. He held the knife high before he began to plunge the knife into the walking corpse’s chest. The flesh peeled away but there was not any blood and the decedent did not fall to the ground. Scott began to stab more frantically.

“Get out of the way, boy!” hollered Viva who couldn’t get a clear shot with Scott standing directly in front of the standing scout.

The other two corpses had finally moved up to Scott as he was frantically stabbing the corpse who remained immobile. To Viva’s horror, they grabbed Scott’s arms and began hungrily chomping down on his arms and neck, moving up towards Scott’s head.

“You bastards!” screamed a large cook and Viva had only moments to catch the man by his white uniform and drag him to the center of the circle. Viva looked up to see that the darkness had taken advantage of the distraction and had begun to seep through the gap in the small circle. Lenore quickly ran to the gap and pushed the salt back together to reconnect the circle. Unfortunately, it was too late for an upstairs maid. She had fallen to the ground, eyes rolled back in her head, unconscious. Whatever darkness had seeped into their small fortress of safety, was now fully occupying the poor maid.

“Everyone back to your positions!” ordered Lenore.

The heavyset cook that Viva was still holding down shouted, “We need to save Scott!”

“Scott is gone,” same the hollow voice of an on-call tree doctor who had been unlucky enough to not leave the grounds before nightfall and was now a trapped battle participant.

“Who put you in charge?” came the indignant accusation of a young man from the construction team. Viva noticed that the man looked to have barely reached the age of 20 and based on his messy hair and clothes, the boy had apparently run out of bed at the start of the household screams.

“Mrs. Winchester put her in charge,” explained the maid nearest Lenore.

“Why should we listen to a woman?” pressed the young man.

Viva looked around to the rest of the crew. Many of them were in various stages of shock and fear. If they were going to survive the night, they would need to be a unified force.

“Lenore is the strongest mayor I’ve ever worked for and I would follow her into hell and back!” exclaimed Viva.

“A woman mayor?” scoffed the young man.

Irritated by the boy’s attitude, Viva let go of the large cook and moved over to the young man and hit him as hard as he could. The boy stumbled backwards and almost fell out of the circle and into the waiting arms of the darkness but Viva grabbed his arm and pulled the man back before gravity and darkness claimed another victim.

“After we survive tonight, I can tell you of all of the scuffles that Lenore and I have lived through and of all of the impossible scenarios that we beat. Many situations worse than this-“ Viva paused for only a moment. Looking around at a group of untrained household staff and a couple workmen with only a small circle of salt to be protected from an evil darkness and an army of undead that weren’t able to be taken down by mere knives, Viva could not honestly think of a situation worse than this particular battle. But, it seemed that the speech was helping, so Viva continued. “We will survive the night if we do as Lenore orders. I just can’t help believing that if we each of us go our own ways, we will all die.”

The sound of Scott’s flesh being eaten away seemed to bring the weight of Viva’s words heavily down on the small group. To Viva’s relief, while Scott’s death had been brutal, it did seem as though it was mercifully quick. Although, only the tree doctor would know for sure and Viva was not about to ask him.

Lenore took a deep breath before continuing her instructions. “Everyone, I need you to watch the salt lines between you and the person on either side of you. Our survival depends on the circle remaining unbroken. The darkness will seep in if you don’t keep the salt line together.”

“What about Delores?” the fat cook asked about the unconscious girl on the floor. Her skin was starting to go a grey shade. “Should we toss her out of the circle?”

“We’ll leave her alone for now,” Lenore stated. “Let’s not toss her out until we know that she is truly beyond rescue.”

“How will we defeat an army of darkness and evil dead?” asked the young workman.

At that moment, a growl could be heard from behind the group. From the spot Lenore had left, the crying maid had been in too much shock to cry out that a walking dead man had come out of the shadows from the direction of the main house. He hadn’t broached the salt defense but he was big and looked uglier than the three cold bodies still feasting on Scott.

Lenore cooly raised her shotgun, aimed at the deadman’s face and fired. The force of the weapon pushed back into Lenore’s arm as she held her arms steadily in front of her. Lenore continued to look over the barrel of the gun, watching the buckshot take off the man’s head. The body took another step before falling backwards and onto the ground. Lenore slowly lowered the gun but remained ready to raise the shotgun back up if it moved again. When it continued to lay immobile on the ground, she turned and looked at the group before simply stating, “Aim for the head.”

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

Brisco, Socrates, and Ellie were following a ghost named Clyde as he pushed a wheelbarrow towards a double door in the center of the house. Unsure what would be needed, the dynamite had been loaded into the wheelbarrow while the three humans carried guns and ammunition. Clyde had briefly explained that there were two basements and that this entrance would be the easiest for Brisco and Ellie to complete their missions. Socrates would have to take the entrance that the workmen had used earlier in the evening.

Socrates had decided to walk with Brisco and Ellie to their entrance before continuing on towards his assigned basement. It would give the friends a bit more time together and it enabled Soc to fill in his portion of the mission while listening to Brisco’s adventure. Socrates had met with Mrs. Winchester and she had hired him on a trial basis and given him a guest room to stay in during his test period. Socrates had managed to secure a room with numerous books and he was in bed reviewing each carefully for any sign of malady when he heard the bell ring and had assumed it was merely for the séance. Originally, he was going to take it as a sign to go to sleep when the female ghost in the white nightgown appeared in his room. Socrates, ever the proponent of social propriety, admitted to having a temporary moment of lecturing the woman as both parties were indecent in their sleeping clothes while being members of the opposite gender.

She had interrupted to explain that she lacked a corporeal form and that etiquette was not paramount at the moment. She hoped that she was wrong but had a feeling that something evil had been unearthed. She instructed Socrates to get dressed, to gather any guns that he might have, and to stay alert. If there was a problem, he would know. She disappeared before Socrates could ask how long he should stay awake or alert. However, Socrates did not have to wait long after dressing as the screams began soon afterwards. Socrates only had Pete’s pistols so he grabbed them before awkwardly running in the direction of the bell tower to collect Mrs. Winchester. He only made it part of the way before she appeared out of a bookcase secret passageway. The widow was alone and explained that a ghost had sent Mrs. Winchester to the ballroom and had sent Mr. Adams to attempt to hide any staff and family from a coming evil. Mrs. Winchester then guided Socrates to the ballroom, stating that Mr. Adams would surely follow when the rest of the household was safe. However, due to her arthritic and post absinthe state where she felt the need to occasionally stop and watch the green fairies, it took a very long time to move through the house. The two had only arrived ten minutes before Brisco’s party, just enough time for her to have smoke and prepare for a more urgent séance. Socrates wasn’t sure how marijuana and absinthe combined would provide greater insight into the spirit world but as this was not his normal domain, he helped light the pipe while refraining from smoking himself.

Just as Socrates finished his tale, Clyde stopped in front of a set of double doors that looked more like it would lead to a root cellar rather than a cavernous basement. The menacing doors swung upon with a loud noise and of their own accord. Ellie could feel her heart leap into her throat as she momentarily closed her eyes and grabbed Brisco’s hand. Brisco squeezed her hand before whispering, “I hate cellars.”

Not hearing the exchange between Brisco and Ellie, Clyde began his instructions. “Mr. Poole, this is where we leave your friends. Remember that I will attempt to work with Mr. Poole and Mr. County. However, I can’t be with both of you all the time as you will be in separate basements, so it’s important to move only where and when I say,” Clyde instructed. The three nodded to acknowledge understanding, so Clyde pressed, “That means stay here outside of the basement until I return!”

After looking each individual in the eye for agreement, Clyde stepped away from the small group to give them their privacy in saying good-byes.

Brisco took Soc’s hand and shook it, “Bowler and I really were terrible influences on you.”

“The worst,” replied a nervous Socrates. At that, the two men laughed and shook hands, unsure what fate had in store for each man’s path. Socrates then gave Ellie a hug before whispering something in her ear. Ellie softly laughed and whispered something back. When Soc let go, he turned to Clyde and nodded that he was ready. Socrates and Clyde then left through another door and on towards the basement holding Whip captive, leaving Brisco and Ellie alone together. Brisco took one look at her before pulling her close. “If this was their last moments together,” thought Brisco, “they sure as hell would be pleasant ones.”

But the moment was not to be. There was a rushing wind and Brisco had just enough time to look over Ellie’s shoulder and see the hooded ghosts from the road into Serenity. They floated above the ground and somehow seemed larger at the Winchester Mansion than they were at the initial meeting. The voids where faces should be inside the cloaks still caused a tremor to go down his spine.

“Brisco,” the two figures hissed in perfect union.

In a quick movement, Brisco went from holding Ellie to pushing her behind him in an effort to provide a buffer between her and these spirits. However, the spirits ignored Ellie and honed in on Brisco. Within seconds the two figurines were towering over Brisco before the sound of a large wind began to fill his ears. It felt like a tornado was sucking his soul from inside and into their hollow and greedy hoods. Brisco felt his knees buckle beneath him as the weight of their attack was too much for him. The world was starting to go dark and he felt like there was little soul left for them to attack.

In Brisco’s cloudy vision he could not clearly see what happened next but he heard the hooded figures shriek and disappear, leaving Brisco gasping for air.

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

Pete was alone as he silently moved up the stairs. After listening to the group during the séance for only a few moments, Pete quickly lost interest and took inventory of people and weapons. “Brisco with one hand, an eccentric old woman with arthritis, a pencil pushing Hollywood agent/lawyer, and a science loving barmaid. Not an ideal group of allies yet all needed to survive the night. Meanwhile, Lenore, Whip, Rachel, and Viva, were either dead or fighting to stay alive. Maybe even James was here, fighting for his life. So, at least ten people fighting a dark and supernatural force with what, salt? A household staple? Clearly guns and salt would not be enough. And what was the purple bubble that was enclosed around the mansion?” After running the calculations repeatedly in his head, Pete decided that what the group needed was more powerful weapons, specifically the bracelet. The group seemed lost in their chants and this was an unused portion of the house, not to mention, the best armored with all of the weapons that Brisco had brought from S-Mart. Pete knew that the group had the same chance of survival with or without his presence and felt it would be better to slip away and search for the bracelet. To fight the future with the future as Brisco used to say.

Pete had reached the top of the stairs but was still having the same mental debate that began when he left the ballroom. Pete was so lost in his thoughts and wondering if he should turn back or continue that he jumped when he heard a female voice whisper in his ear, “And where are you going?”

Pete quickly turned around but there was no one on the stairs or near the stairs. From what he could tell, he was alone in the dark stairwell.

“I knew you wouldn’t last long with a séance. You were never the sitting still type,” the female voice continued, almost laughing as she said it.

“Show yourself!” he commanded to the dark and empty room, irritated as this was not the time for a spirited game.

“Mr. Hutter. Leave it,” the disembodied voice stated, this time so close that he could almost feel her hair on his shoulder.

“You don’t know anything about me or where I’m headed,” began Pete, he did another turn around in place looking to find the voice. “Apparitions do not intimidate me nor am I in the habit of associating to females lacking corporeal forms!”

“Who says that we met after I died?” came an almost sing-song response. Suddenly, a woman appeared before him, she was in her nightgown and barefoot. Pete studied the woman, not only due to her striking appearance but something about her face looked familiar.

“Shall I remind you, Mr. Hutter, that once you don the bracelet, you will either go comatose? Or possibly end up like James, suffering from memory loss? I’m sure that you would prefer to stay conscious this evening,” she had an amused smile as though they were old friends but almost mocking his lack of recognition of her face.

“And why should I be taking advise from a specter in her nightgown?” inquired Pete, doing his best to appear stoic and not appear stunned by her informality.

Her smile froze for a moment and she tilted her head as though to study him. “You truly don’t know me, do you Pete?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“Time travel really is a bitch,” she stated, but more to herself than to Pete. She looked back at him as though weighing what to say or not to say. Finally, she continued, “You should take my advice as I am here to help you.”

“Trust is not a natural state of mind for me.”

“I swear on the life of my daughter, whom you’ve met, that I am here to aide you,” the woman insisted, grabbing his hand and holding it to her heart in an effort to plead her case.

He attempted to pull his hand back before commenting, “Believe me, woman, I haven’t met any female progeny recently, aside from Rachel. And you ain’t Crystal Hawks.”

“You met my girl while imprisoned in a time not your own.”

Pete’s face snapped to attention. “Livi’s mother?” When she nodded, Pete studied her face again and noticed that Livi was the child image of the ghost before him. The shock of the revelation and cold feeling running through his veins, left him stunned and he could only ask, “How?”

“When the scientists decided to leave me stranded, I asked to be left at this house. I always loved the grounds here as Mrs. Winchester has always kept this house beautiful. I wanted to pass on in a field of flowers that I could breathe in as I passed out of this world. Mrs. Winchester found me, curled up and hiding among the flowers and bushes. She had her staff carry me inside and held my hand as the pain and agony enveloped me. She stayed with me until my very last breath. When I died, I couldn’t leave earth right away. I needed to stay here. This widow showed me, a stranger dying on her grounds, a kindness that I could not repay while living. I needed to be with her, to protect her, and to persuade any ghosts to be kind to her. I became a guide, a conduit for her to speak to all of the household spirits. Over the years we have appeased the anger of several vengeful ghosts and calmed many broken-hearted spirits. Many have finally reached a point of peace and have crossed over the threshold to whatever that world looks like. Over time, many spirits trusted us enough to warn us about which specialized spiritual books should be locked away in the basement and which ones were safe to read as Mrs. Winchester constantly collects anything related to the supernatural.”

Pete processed her words slowly but watched her with an inexplicable appreciation. How had Charlie managed to ensnare this woman? She was far out of Charles Sheppard’s league.

“I am not convinced to surrender up my stratagem but if I did, what would be your proposed action?”

“I need you to turn off the enclosure.”

“The violet obscuration of the lower atmosphere? I doubt that there is a giant off switch hiding in the widow’s abode.”

“Things are never that easy, Pete,” she replied with a soft laugh. While still holding his hand, she led him in a direction away from the bracelet.

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

Viva reloaded his gun from the safety of the salt circle. It had been lucky that Lenore lacked the time to change her shotgun from regular rounds to salt rounds before the commotion began. Had she taken the headshot earlier with a salt round, the corpse might have crossed the salt threshold and the evening might have ended quickly with their deaths. After watching Lenore take out the original walking dead man, Viva had switched from salt rounds back to regular ammunition. The salt rounds were meant for the ghosts or darkness and the walking dead men needed to have their heads removed. Viva sighed wondering how many additional rules would need to be learned over the night as the evil force continued to release monsters and supernatural weapons not utilized by human criminals. As much hope as Viva had in Lenore, he was still slightly worried about how long it would take to learn all of the new rules for this war on terror.

The group in the kitchen had still only seen a few bodies emerge from the darkness. Each time, the group would wait until the body was just outside of the circle before either Lenore or Viva would take the decedent out with a headshot. But even with the accurate shooting when only necessary, ammunition was starting to run low. Viva momentarily turned back to look at Lenore. She had the gun resting on her hip as she studied the darkness, watching for any additional bodies to approach her staff.

Viva looked up at the ceiling above him before making a silent promise to Bowler in Heaven. “Bowler, Amigo, I swear that I will pick up Lenore myself and throw her into the nearest panty and cover it in salt if I think that we are about to lose this battle.”

Viva looked back at Lenore and noticed that she had stopped staring into the darkness but had turned to lock eyes with Viva. It was almost as if he had an immediate response from Bowler, saying “Have you seen my wife? There is no telling that woman to stand down from a fight!”

As if reading his thoughts, Lenore lifted her chin while raising an eyebrow at him. Almost as though she were daring Viva to just try and pick her up to lock her away. Viva smiled to himself as he thought, “No, there would be no keeping Lenore from any fight that she has committed to.”

As Viva turned back around he almost jumped out of his skin as he noticed the most recently arrived body, it was practically a skeleton wearing the uniform of a general. Behind him was an entire troop of undead soldiers, rather than just one or two stragglers at a time. Viva quickly looked from side to side and found that the darkness had shrunk back revealing that almost the entire circle had been surrounded by deceased men and women in various stages of decay. The time of the scouts had finished and the war was about to begin.

“Surrender!” hissed the dead general.

“You wish to surrender to me?” asked Viva. “Very well, I accept your surrender. Lay down any weapons and we’ll escort you back to your grave cells.”

“Surrender!” insisted the dead general.

“Go back to hell!” came Lenore’s calm voice from beside Viva. Viva hadn’t even noticed that Lenore had left her side of the circle to take command of the conversation with the general.

The skeleton general smiled cruelly and raised his arm to begin the attack just as Lenore took aim and blew off the general’s head. The skull snapped backwards and fell onto the floor. Just as it was about to expire it screamed out, “Attack! Leave no one alive!”

The kitchen then became a room of salt being kicked into the air, pieces of dead bodies being blown into different directions, shouts of orders from Viva and Lenore, and the sounds of the army’s drums and bugles.

The battle for the kitchen was underway.

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

James led Rachel to the ballroom to meet up with Mrs. Winchester. Upon arriving at the ballroom, Rachel and James were able to arm themselves with the last couple rifles, bandoliers, pistols, and gun belts that Brisco and Ellie had left inside the small séance room. As Rachel and James set up ladders below the windows that needed to be changed out, Mrs. Winchester explained where Brisco and his group had gone to and the mission that the female spirit had given regarding the ballroom. Since James knew where the storage room for the stained glass was located, it was decided that he would take Rachel to the room.

As Rachel and James were about to rush out of the room, James stopped and turned back to the widow. He came back to shake her hand before stating, “Mrs. Winchester, how could I ever thank-“

She patted his arm to stop him before smiling back, “You helped me to write my visions into words. We went on spirit quests together. And don’t forget, we’re bonded in more lives than just this one – so there is nothing owed.” She squeezed his hand before turning towards the ladder and slowly, albeit painfully, up the ladder. She could do this one thing, remove the old windows as the others worked on combating various dark forces.

James took Rachel by the arm and gently moved her in the direction of the stain glass room. They would need to hurry to have the stained-glass windows in place before the early sun’s rays brushed the mansion.

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