Chapter 6 of UnRisen
Trina has been led through the entire residence. One more room holds her final count.
“In here, is a lady who also likes to be left alone, in the far corner. Over there.”
“Yes. Is that her rocking chair?”
“It hardly moves. And she’s another wonder. Don’t know much about her situation other than she has no one remaining in the world. Poor soul.”
“Oh, my. How sad.”
The moment Trina’s host walked away and before the door closed, the old lady in the chair started rocking back and forth. She turned her head and whispered, “You’re back. I knew you would return.”
Trina gasped and shut the door. Her size six soft-soled shoes scampered behind her host once again.
“You alright, dear?”
“Uh, yes, just caught a chill is all.”
“Well, then you’ll love the next room and its inhabitant. Have you accounted for everyone so far, dear?”
“Yes, so far.”
“Quick, in here, by the open fireplace. It’s always warm in here. Sir Walter is in here somewhere.”
Trina opened her palms to the fire and gently twirled herself around to take in the heat. But, she was interrupted by a booming resonant voice.
“Throw another log on. Don’t just stand there, young lady!”
One black-colored eye snuck behind a backless bookshelf.
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What she could not see was his fingers covered in paint, and a paintbrush tucked behind his right ear.
He silently moved the books back into place while holding her gaze.
She shuddered and skipped out into the hallway, where her host stood, briefly speaking with another resident in a hushed tone.
Trina chose to remain quiet and shivering to wait for another room tour.
This adventure is tiring me out. Just a few more rooms, now. Just a few more rooms and I can go.
As the afternoon wore on, Trina’s senses were exposed to weirder and weirder characters.
Her host continued to describe each inhabitant as having nowhere to go after a life of struggle. Each story spoke of something grasping and pulling at them, mentally, physically, or otherwise. Here in this manor, they found a place to “be” and remain far away from the Master of the manor.
Some of them claimed they were being hunted inside these walls but would say no more. The stories began to eat away at Trina’s sense of understanding, thus reduced herself to smiling and nodding her way through. Soon, this whole visit would conclude and she’d be on her way.
Her census was filling up properly, as was the reason for her presence in the first place. Her quota for success would be met or at least contain the minimum count requirement.
“And here is the last room, love. Not much to say about it or the one inside.”
“Why is that large head-bandage on her? Is she the only one hurt in this whole place?”
Trina couldn’t help herself but ask. But the damage had been done. Her job wasn’t to pry, only to count. She looked away in embarrassment.
“Oh, the question is a good one, my dear. Come at least say “hello” to the young lass. You might like her. She might take a liking to you.”
Trina followed with irritated steps, unsure of her ability to maintain professionalism. She was tired, hungry and desperate to go home. She cleared her throat with a slight cough and turned to the one with the head bandage.
In an instant, Trina’s vision of the whole room twirled into a three hundred and sixty degree motion and stopped cold.
“This is the one who fell out of the window. We still don’t know why she did it. Maybe you can say something to her. Go on. Do your best.”
“But, this is…is…”
An eerie moment of absolute quiet held itself still.
“This is who, dear?”
Trina`s whole reality turned upside down.
`It`s who, deary?”
“Oh no dear, that is not you. Come, I have something to show you.”
Trina could not take her eyes off the young lady with the head wound. Her host gently pulled at her elbow, demanding she go to the window.”
“Come, look. Down there. See?”
On the ground behind the house and directly below the shattered window was a body.
“That’s you Trina. You. And you thought you’d be leaving.”
Trina stood speechless, with mouth agape.
“You never knew you disrespected our corpse road, did you? You paid the price with your death and now you are a trapped soul inside our Manor. Master is most pleased with you. You’re quite predictable you know.”
The laughter from her host grew louder and louder, filling the entire mansion with a crazed echo. Awful sounds of chewing and fierce chomping vibrated the walls. All of the residents scampered into their rooms and closed the doors behind them.
Soon after this feasting, Sir Walter went back to painting his newest inspiration, the old woman smiled in her chair, satisfied with her prophecy come true.
The Middle Eastern man, also the Master of the manor, still remained a mystery and left alone, wiping the sides of his mouth after a healthy meal. A shadow behind him settled quietly, also echoing satiated groans.
“The Manor has held up nicely in its purpose, Master. Let’s carry on with this tradition, shall we?”
“Yes, our property will not allow exit, only an entrance,” the Mastor concluded, wiping the edges of his lips. The nearby candle extinguished with a pinch from the his wet fingertips.
BEFORE TRINA ARRIVED
“Paint, it is a most pure substance. A few strokes here and there allow naked space to be clothed. Articulated strokes shape a human, no, a spirit ~how about a deity or two ~ all can design a canvas into a grand theatre of the mind’s eye. Oh master, what shall I paint now?”
“Well, my fine old friend, you may assign that space there for your next masterpiece. My apologies to you. The remaining ceiling space is so small. You’ve done wonders in the openness of our foyer and master living room. You are our Picaso live-in!”
“Oh master, do tell of a secret from your homeland to spark my next work. You do inspire me.”
“A secret? Hmm. Well Sir Walter, there is one I am at liberty to express. Many of my faith practices are a silent collection of commitments that cannot be explained to humanity. Here, allow me to explain the design and purpose of the corpse road. It isn’t much of a secret as it is a practice inside my homeland. Do pull up a chair and listen to your heart’s content.”
“Please, do tell. What canvas will bear my work, Master?”
“Here, right here, the wall in front of me here, and then the remainder upon the ceiling in the main foyer. Create today’s accomplishment.”
“Today’s accomplishment, Sir?”
“Oh, forgive me. Our subject is not here yet. I am getting ahead of myself. You see, a young lass will be here in one hour’s time. She will have dishonoured our corpse road tradition and will…”
“Will what, Master?”
“She will pay. Her story inside our manor cannot be portrayed by your paint brush as yet. Allow me to give you inspiration!”
“It is the purpose of the corpse road that will feed my imagination, Master? How do you know of our visitor?”
“Shh, that I cannot tell. But I can offer you a hint about the road leading here.”
“And what of the young lady, Master?”
“My good man, you are about to witness a yarn going in circles with a young lady repeating her fate for all of eternity. It has been hinted to me inside the dark of my midnight rituals. But to understand why, you must appreciate the value of the corpse road.”
“Sounds delicious, Master.”
“Are you ready, Sir Walter? This might be your grandest work yet!”
“I am ready, Master. You know I have added souls to the ceiling and along the painted road you asked me to include. This is the first time you would be explaining why, Master. How generous of you to tell me.”
“You see my good man, the history in my country tells how the dead were buried alongside the main road leading to the centre of a small town. They were buried with their feet facing away from the village to provide a shield of protection against all invaders. Our village had its own ways to preserve against the physical presence of travellers. Their mere treading on the road was considered an insult deserving death. Families created a stronghold for their traditions by using the dead bodies of the intruders to protect the only road against the outside world. It was believed the souls would scream their warning and scare off intruders and travellers. When I traversed here, this Manor became ours and I decided to protect it. But I could not do it alone. Everyone who dares visit and live here must sacrifice their lives and bodies to protect what we have. It is the way of things. Do you understand?”
“Oh yes, Master. It’s a most wonderful tradition. I do love the richness of vegetation along our road. The summer sun feeds it well. I now know why the foliage takes on distinctive colourful hues. But may I ask one question?”
“Do ask, Sir Walter. I do love the sound of your royal name. It’s so regal.”
“Thank you, Master. Why do you keep me alive in here with you? We are the only two here. We aren’t dead.”
“You remain alive because you arrived from the rear of the Manor and nowhere near the corpse road, you intelligent respectful man. Plus, you keep the stories of our invaders “alive” upon our ceiling foyer. In between the dirt of earth and the heavens is your art; you and I must bear out the middle dimension of the universe’s ultimate weakness.”
“What is the universe’s greatest weakness, sir?
“My Sir Walter, you haven’t been aware? You shock me all of a sudden.”
“Well, I do like to hear you say it, Master.”
“Oh, Sir Walter, you do cause me a precious laugh from time to time. And to humour you, the universe’s greatest weakness is…lean in…Humanity’s ignorance. Every now and then, another human reaches us, following our own corpse road, thus insulting us. And we must preserve what we have here against intruders. Now listen. Can you hear that?”
“Oh yes, I do Master. I do!”
“The patter of small feet approaches. Let us prepare ourselves accordingly for our newest guest, our newest permanent guest. Do depict her arrival on the road leading to our door on my wall first. She is most delightful. As for our remaining ceiling space, use your imagination. I will give you a most delicious display of the remaining subject matter for your artistic flair inside our home. So I must give you a show by allowing our residing spirit family to entertain her and extend the visit of the young lass, who is about to visit any moment now. With my final show you may fill in every empty space upon our ceiling with your best work.”
“Oh thank you, Master. I will. Thank you!”
“Before you start, where is our only remaining human visitor?”
“Oh yes, your visitor is resting in your tall chair on the upper floor nearest the window.”
“This may take a minute. I have a request from my darkest spiritual friend to satisfy. It is a most hungry spirit these days. Are those hands we cut off our last victim still fresh? I have a most exciting spell to animate them before we bury its owner.”
end part 6 of Unrisen
~~ read the epilogue
Bill Bistak, Author, Producer of Bestshorthorrorstories.com & Founder of Friedrich Imagines, Ltd. a media production company