By L.H. Tupper
Elizabeth woke to thunder cracking outside. She pulled off the covers and stepped onto the cold wood floor. Rain crashed on the window, lightning flashed illuminating her bedroom. The fire still burned in the fireplace, and she used it to light the candle lighter. The lightning flashed again, followed by a thunderous boom that sent shivers up her spine as she lit the candle. She put on her dressing gown and stepped into the dark hallway, she held the chamberstick in front of her, shadows danced on the walls of the hallway. She went downstairs into the kitchen and set the chamberstick on the table. She bundled her dressing gown around her and stood at the large window watching the rain pour down. Lightening brightened the dark yard, and she thought she saw someone standing out in the rain. She waited for the lightning and peered closely out the window. The cat hissed from behind her, startled she spun around to find the cat also staring out the window. Another shiver went up her spine as she turned to look back. Lightning flashed, revealing a face looking in back at her. She stumbled back, tripping over the cat and falling to the floor. She hit her head on the stone floor, before her eyes closed she saw someone standing over her.
She woke up in bed. Thinking it had been a dream, she reached to the back of her head and found it was tender to the touch. She heard a knock on the door and told whoever it was to enter. Matilda, the only maid in the home, entered the room. She put a tray down next to the bed, a bowl of water, a washcloth and teapot sat on the tray. “How are you feeling?” She asked Elizabeth. “I’m fine, I think.” She replied. “I found you on the kitchen floor this morning, I had to call Thomas to help me get you up to bed. Whatever happened?” Matilda asked, a concerned look on her face. “I tripped over Cordelia, I must have hit my head on the floor.” She said, reaching for the tea cup Matilda handed to her. “Thank you.” She said sipping the hot tea. Matilda opened the wardrobe and picked a dress for Elizabeth. She laid out her undergarments and corset. She let Elizabeth finish her tea before insisting she get up and dressed. “You appear to be fine, but I can call on Dr Milton if you like.” Matilda said as she laced the corset around Elizabeth’s waist. “I don’t think there’s any need.” Elizabeth said. “Very well, I’m glad to see you up in time for your guests. They should be arriving in about four hours” She said. “My what?” Elizabeth asked. “That bump on your head must have made you forget. Sir William’s family is expected this evening. You are set to meet them.” Matilda said, guiding Elizabeth to sit in the chair in front of the vanity. “Yes, of course.” Elizabeth replied, picking up her face powder. She did her make up while Matilda put up her hair in flowing curls, being cautious of the sore spot on the back of her head. “Will you have Thomas bring Zeus around from the stables, I think I’d like to take a ride this afternoon.” Elizabeth asked. Matilda nodded and left the room.
Elizabeth looked at herself in the mirror. It had been two years since her parents disappeared and were presumed dead, and without any other family she had inherited the estate. The marriage to William Harrison had been arranged before their death. Two months after she turned twenty one, William formally proposed and she accepted.
She went downstairs and waited for Thomas to bring Zeus, a chestnut Arabian stallion was an eighteenth birthday gift from her father. She watched Thomas lead the horse up to the front of the house. She grabbed her parasol before going out the door. Thomas helped her onto the horse, she informed him that they would return within the hour. She clicked her tongue signaling Zeus to start walking. They rode off towards the woods that surrounded the house. She explored the woods often when she was younger, and now knew them like the back of her hand. She guided Zeus off the trail, and they went deeper into the woods. Zeus slowed his pace, the tall trees darkened their surroundings. The horse came to an abrupt stop and she leaned down towards his head “What is it?” She asked. She glanced down at the ground, a thick fog began to roll over the grass and surrounded the horse’s hooves. She tugged the reins, guiding Zeus to turn around and go back. Zeus turned around and before she could see what was in front of them Zeus reared up and knocked her to the ground. She saw Zeus run off into the fog and disappear. She sat on the ground and tried to look around. The fog surrounded her, she couldn’t see anything, she could make out some dark shapes which she assumed were trees. She stood up, with her hands in front of her trying to feel for a tree. She found a tree and hugged herself next to it. “Zeus.” She yelled as loud as she could, hoping the horse would come back to her. She turned around, with her back tight against the tree, she tried to see into the fog. A shadow moved slowly ahead of her. “Hello?” She called out. No-one answered. She watched the shadow move closer to her and her heart began to race. She reached over to the side trying to connect with another tree. She moved sideways, keeping her gaze on the shadow. The shadow kept moving in her direction and she picked up her pace. Moving from tree to tree as quickly as she could. She felt her feet hit the dirt path. She rushed onto the path, turning back she saw the shadow standing on the edge of the path and retreat back into the fog covered woods. The fog was less dense on the path and she hurried back to the house. Thomas met her at the end of the path. “Miss Elizabeth, you’re ok. Zeus returned without you, I was just about to venture into the woods to find you.” Thomas said. “Thank you, he got spooked by something and knocked me off. I’m ok.” She said. Thomas walked her back to the house. “Oh dear, let’s get you cleaned up.” Matilda said, wrapping an arm around Elizabeth. Matilda helped her change her dress and redid her hair. “I’ll take my tea in the library. I’d like a little quiet before they arrive.” She said. Matilda nodded and left the bedroom.
Elizabeth sat down in the wingback chair in the library and let out a large sigh. “Are you alright?” Matilda asked, setting the tray of tea next to Elizabeth. She only nodded and said thank you. Matilda turned, leaving the pocket doors open just a crack when she left. Elizabeth poured herself a cup of tea and slowly took a sip. Her mind wandered over the events of last night and in the woods. She had been in this house her whole life, nothing so strange had ever happened before. Cordelia jumped onto the arm of the chair and laid down, her fluffy white tail moving back and forth. “Oh Cordelia, perhaps I’m going mad.” She said to the cat and scratched its head. The cat purred and soon fell asleep on the arm of the chair. Elizabeth set her tea on the tray and went to look out the window. She noticed the fog had covered the woods and the path leading into them, it was now just on the edge of the lawn. She watched the fog slowly moved closer, until her gaze was interrupted by a carriage coming up the road. Thomas escorted William and his parents into the house. Matilda came in to announce their arrival, Elizabeth said she’d be there in a moment. She looked out the window at the fog once more before joining them in the parlor. William was pouring drinks for himself and his father, his mother was sitting and sipping tea. “Dinner will be served in half an hour.” Matilda announced. “Thank you Matilda.” Elizabeth said, announcing her presence. “Ah, Elizabeth, there you are.” William said and gave her an air kiss on the cheek. “Come meet father and mother.” He said, guiding her with a hand on the small of her back. She greeted them both, and took a seat across from his mother, Agatha. William and his father, Edward, stood sipping their drinks and chatting, allowing Agatha and Elizabeth to talk. Agatha took a sip of her tea, and Elizabeth glanced out the window, noticing the fog had now covered the lawn. “Is fog like that common around here?” Edward asked, bringing her attention back to the family. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.” Elizabeth replied. Matilda came in to tell them dinner was ready. They went into the dining room, and took their places at the table. Elizabeth and William both at the ends across from each other and his parents on either side. Matilda served the soup first and poured them each a glass of red wine. The lights on the candelabra flickered, Elizabeth watched them dance. “Are you alright Elizabeth?” Agatha asked. “Oh yes, I was thrown off my horse earlier today, I think I’m just a little tired.” Elizabeth said, smiling and taking a sip of her wine. She placed the glass back down and the candles blew out. Agatha let out a small shriek. Matilda ran into the dining room and relit the candles. “Check the windows will you Matilda.” Elizabeth said. Matilda came over and whispered in that they were all tightly closed, but she couldn’t see out of them because of the fog. “Have Thomas take a look outside, please.” She instructed Matilda. “Is everything ok?” William asked. “Yes, it’s an old house, just a draft.” Elizabeth said. “It’s quite stunning, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house so large. How many rooms do you have? Your father had it built didn’t he?” Edward asked her. “Yes he did. Twenty six total.” Elizabeth replied. She sipped her soup ending the questions about the house, mostly because she found it a boring topic.
Thomas came back into the house and shook his head at Matilda as she looked questioningly at him. “I haven’t seen a fog like this since…” He whispered and trailed off. “Do you think it’s him?” She asked, Thomas nodded. “I’ll lock the doors and windows.” She whispered to him. After locking all the doors, she went into the dining room and cleared the used dishes to prepare for the main meal. Elizabeth gestured for her to come over. “It’s a dense fog, no-one should go outside.” Matilda whispered to her. “Thank you.” She said and took another sip of her wine. They finished dinner and convened back into the parlor. “I was hoping to take a walk around the property, but I cannot see a thing through this fog.” Edward said looking out the window. “I’m sure it’ll clear by morning.” Elizabeth said. “I am dreadfully tired, I think I’ll turn in.” Agatha said and Matilda showed her upstairs to her room. “I should join her, thank you for a wonderful dinner. See you in the morning.” Edward said following them up the stairs.
A wind began to howl outside, William went to the window to look out. “Maybe the wind will move the fog away.” He said looking outside. “Hopefully.” Elizabeth said. The wind blew and banged against the house. “I think there’s someone out there.” William said, squinting out the window. “Most likely just Thomas.” Elizabeth said. “Did you need something miss?” Thomas said entering the room. “There’s someone outside, look.” William said. “Probably just a wild animal.” Thomas said and left the room. “No no, it’s a person. I’m sure of it.” William said. Elizabeth stood and joined him at the window. The sun had almost completely set, there was still just enough light to see the shadow moving toward the house. Elizabeth backed away from the window. “They might need help.” William said, putting his drink down and marching toward the door. Thomas tried to stop him from going outside, William pushed him away and Thomas stumbled back. “Mr. Harrison please don’t go out there.” He said as Thomas grunted at him, he unlocked the door and disappeared into the fog. “What is it Thomas?” Elizabeth asked. “I don’t rightfully know. I haven’t seen it in twenty-six years.” He said. Elizabeth looked at him waiting for him to elaborate. “Right after the house was finished being built, a thick fog like that out there came. And the dead came with it.” He said. Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she believed him, but with what had happened to her last night and in the woods, she wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
She jumped and shrieked when a loud banging came on the door. A faint screaming. Thomas looked at her, and she nodded. He picked up a vase that was sitting on a table next to the door and held it up and opened the door. William fell forward. His clothes were ripped, he had mud on his hands. Scratches bleeding on his arms. Thomas closed the doors and locked them again. Thomas shaking and pointing to the door, stuttering his words. Elizabeth called for Matilda to bring hot water and a washcloth. They helped him into the parlor and sat him on the couch. Thomas poured him some whiskey and William gulped it down. “What is it?” Elizabeth asked while she wiped the washcloth on the scratches on his arms. All William could do was shake his head. The wind howled again. A scream came from upstairs. Elizabeth nodded to Thomas to go check on Edward and Agatha. He rushed up the stairs. He knocked on the door and when there was no answer he opened it. The window was open, the curtains blowing in the wind. The room was empty. He quickly closed and locked the window. “They’re gone.” He said coming back downstairs. “Gone? How?” Elizabeth asked. “He took them.” He said, pouring himself a drink and sitting down on a chair. “Who did?” William demanded. “The same one that did that to you.” Thomas said and shot his drink back. “I can’t stay here.” William said. He stood up and looked around. He picked up the fire poker from the fireplace. He looked down at Elizabeth. “The engagement is off. You are cursed, death will follow you forever and I don’t want it.” He screamed at her and stormed off toward the door. “Sir William, you can’t leave. That thing will kill you.” Matilda said. “I will find my parents and we’ll leave immediately.” He said, unlocking the door he slammed it behind him. Matilda ran to the door and locked it. Elizabeth let out a sigh and her head fell into her hands. “We’ll be ok, as long as we stay inside. Let’s get you ready for bed.” Matilda said to Elizabeth. She looked up and nodded. She followed Matilda upstairs, looking back towards the door.
Matilda made sure that the bedroom windows were locked and closed the curtains. She helped Elizabeth out of her clothes and into her nightgown. “I’ll bring you up some sherry to help you sleep.” She said, leaving the door open a crack when she left. Elizabeth sat at her vanity and brushed her hair. She turned toward the window when she heard tapping against the glass. She slowly stood up and tiptoed to the window. Hearing the tapping again, she grabbed one of the curtains and moved it back. A man looked back at her. He was floating in the fog. She wanted to scream but all she could think was how handsome he was. He smiled at her and she reached to unlock the window. She pushed the window open and he floated through, gently landing on the floor in front of her. She stared at him. “Elizabeth. My name is Julius. I’ve heard so much about you.” He said. His voice was soft, like a lullaby. “From who?” She asked. “Your parents.” He said and gestured to the open window. She saw them floating in the fog. “Mother?” She said. “Come darling, come be with us” Her mother said. “But how?” She felt a cold hand brush the hair off her neck. She looked at Julius, gazing into his eyes. He smiled, revealing sharp fangs. “Yes.” She whispered. He smiled and moved his head toward her neck. She felt his teeth sink into her skin. A loud crash and screaming came from the doorway. Matilda dropped the tray with the sherry. Julius looked up at the screaming woman, smiling at her with blood dripping from his lips. “Leave them.” Elizabeth said before going limp in his arms. Thomas appeared next to Matilda with a shotgun. “Julius! How dare you come back here.” He yelled. He held the gun up and fired a shot, they were gone before the bullets hit the wall. “No” Matilda screamed. Thomas ran into the room and looked out the window. The fog was gone. The full lit up the yard. Three bodies laid out on the lawn, torn to pieces. He saw Elizabeth at the edge of the woods, standing next to her parents and Julius’ arm around her. She waved at him and disappeared into the woods.