“Honey, what are we going to do in this castle? It looks old and abandoned.” Sarah looked at her fiancé, who was driving up the lane towards the building.
“We’re going to sleep there. It’s a bed and breakfast. Only a couple of rooms and I got us one! It’s perfect for our romantic getaway, don’t you think?” Frank looked at her but doesn’t see the smile he hoped to see, “You hate it. I can see it in your face.”
“No! I don’t hate it, it just looks creepy, like a horror movie. Those black clouds aren’t helping either. I’m just a little tired, honey. It’ll pass when we get to our room.”
Frank wasn’t completely satisfied but he just hoped for the best. He parked the car and they got out to grab their bags. The second they closed the boot, it started to rain, heavily. Both Sarah and Frank ran towards the front door. It took some time on the other side to open the door, but then it opened with a lot of creaks and moans.
Opening the door was a lovely old lady, who introduced herself as Mrs Hannigan, immediately arranged some towels and a cup of tea. It took Sarah and Frank two hours to finally reach their room and shake off the lady.
“Although it was very friendly to welcome us so much, I’m happy to be alone again. That woman became much too clingy for my taste.” Frank said as he started to unpack their bags.
“Agreed. I liked it at first, but she pushed it too far. We didn’t agree to anything other than dinner, right?” Sarah grabbed her brush and started to comb out her still damp hair.
“No, only dinner. It is supposed to be a fancy, kind of historical dinner. I’m happy I brought a suit, but do you have anything fitting to wear?” Sarah only looked at her fiancé, trying not to laugh.
“Alright, sorry I asked. Knowing you, you prepared for everything, from a weekend getaway to a surprise invitation to an African wedding. That explains those enormous suitcases of yours.” Frank pulled it on the bed and couldn’t hold in a groan. “Did you bring the whole washing machine in this thing or what?”
“That’s your punishment for not telling me where we were going. I can’t properly prepare for the unknown so I brought a little bit of everything.” How didn’t he understand that?
The couple got dressed for dinner and went downstairs again. It would be another half an hour before cocktails were being served, but that gave them a chance to look around the castle. Outside the rain had digressed into a storm, and Sarah was very happy to be inside by a cosy fire.
Sarah was looking at an enormous painting of the old Lord Manor of the house when lightning struck outside. In the second the castle was lit by the lightning the painting seemed to blink. Sarah kept staring, in total disbelief that actually happened. The thunder that followed made her jump and she was sure she heard laughing coming from the painting.
“Frank, I’m pretty sure the painting just blinked.” Sarah had her hand on her chest, in a useless attempt to slow her heart back down.
“Don’t be silly, love. Paintings don’t blink. You just got scared by the lightning. I know it’s an old castle but it doesn’t automatically mean it’s haunted. No ghosts here love. Now let’s get a drink.”
When they turned around, Mrs Hannigan was standing right behind them with cocktails on a platter, which scared the couple again.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’ve got the drinks right here, the other guests will probably join you soon.” She put the drinks on the table and was off again.
Shortly after they were joined by the Smith couple, the Browns, and the lesbian couple Jane and Lauren. Everyone got acquainted with each other and the next hour flew by.
Mrs Hannigan called that dinner was ready, and all of the guests were amazed seeing the dinner table. It was like a movie. A gigantic table with large centrepieces, above hung three giant chandeliers and everywhere were candela’s giving the room an enchanting glow. Already out on the table were salads, fresh fruit, boards with slices of cured meat, and bread baskets. Everyone had an assigned seat, mixing men and women. Sarah was desperately trying to remember that one lesson on etiquette when she saw all the silverware.
The hors d’oeuvre and consommé were lovely, paired with exceptional wines, but during the fish course, the thunder and lightning became more intense. Just after they had finished the salmon with mousseline a lightning bolt struck the castle and for a second everything lit up. A window broke and all the candles were blown out, plunging the room into darkness. Three of the women shrieked of fright and Mrs Hannigan came running.
Swiftly she boarded the broken window and lit all the candles back. Everyone was a little on edge but dinner wasn’t over for a while. They still had entrées, removes and sorbet to go before even reaching the roast course. After that, three more courses followed before reaching dessert, and by now, everyone was stuffed. It had been delicious, either Mrs Hannigan was an exceptionally good cook, or there was a hidden chef in the kitchen.
The party was escorted to the drawing room and after dinner drinks were served. It took only minutes before the women kicked off their heels and the men lit up a cigar. Yawns were hidden behind hands, but a sudden lightning strike woke everyone right up again. A second later a bird flew against a window, making an awful cracking sound.
One of the guests opened the garden door to check on the bird, which again blew out the candles. A howl sounded in the distance and Mr Smith, who wanted to check the bird, quickly stepped in again. The door slammed shut behind him, it was a miracle the glass hadn’t broken. The party started searching for matchsticks or lighters, who seemingly had all disappeared. Even Mrs Hannigan had vanished into thin air.
A mist of dread settled on the dinner guests and Sarah turned to her fiancé.
“Frank, I’m scared. Can’t we just return to our room and go to bed?” The trees made strange patterns on the walls with every lightning strike. She was on the brink of tears.
“I would love to, honey. But without some form of light, I don’t think we’ll be able to find the room. The last thing I want to do now is to get lost in the dismal hallways of this castle.” Frank tried to hold a straight face, even though he was deeply concerned by the turn of events. He tried to think about the situation rationally but he felt fuzzy from all the food and alcohol he had consumed. Could that have been the intention of all this? No, that only happened in movies.
The last of the fire died down, turning the room almost pitch black. It somehow turned the room more silent. Outside the wind was still howling and the rain blowing against the windows, it had turned into a proper storm. Frank addressed the other couples and pitched a plan to stick together until they found something to light the candles with. Nobody had any complaints, everyone had a panicked look on their faces.
“Most logical place to find any matches or lighters is probably the kitchen. If they kept the castle roughly as it was, the kitchen has to be close to the dining room. Let’s start from there.” Frank grabbed Sarah’s hand and opened the door to the dining room.
All the party members were astounded. The whole table they had had their dinner at was gone. It was a blank space without any furniture, knick-knacks or even wallpaper. No way did Mrs Hannigan do all that by herself, that table required at least six people to carry.
“We’re in some sort of TV-show, this can’t be real.” Jane was looking around, trying to find hidden cameras, but couldn’t find any. Nobody wanted to believe this was actually happening so they chimed in with Jane and started looking for cameras. Sarah wanted to help but was held back by Frank.
“We’re only going to live through this if we don’t give into angst and hysteria. Think and be rational. Someone is toying with us, but it isn’t some TV producer. Let’s keep going to the kitchen.” Sarah nodded to him and held his hand. She was happy someone did the heavy thinking for her.
Frank pulled the group together again and opened the door Mrs Hannigan had used during dinner. They ended up in what seemed a hallway for servants.
“This must be the route to the kitchen. It fits with other castles and their layout.” Frank held his head high and his back straight. Even though he didn’t feel it, he needed to be the backbone of the group, the strong rational leader. At the end of the hallway was a door that indeed led to the kitchen. It held another surprise, this kitchen hadn’t been used for decades by the looks of it.
Layers of dust covered everything. The stainless steel counters in the middle of the room, the old pans hanging from a rail, the stove and every other bit of equipment or furniture in the room. Sarah gripped her fiancé’s hand tighter and tighter. Even Frank didn’t know how to spin this in a positive direction. Something was happening and it wasn’t good.
To distract his mind, Frank started pulling drawers open to look for anything fire-related. It was to no avail, no matches, no lighters and it seemed that the stove had been disconnected a while ago. Frank furiously threw the contents of a drawer through the kitchen, making everyone jump of shock. It was followed by a lightning strike outside, making the whole party jump again.
While they all tried to get their bearings again, Mrs Smith gave an agonising scream. Mrs Brown was slumped over a stool in the kitchen, a knife sticking out of her back. Frank rushed over and checked for a heartbeat. Dead as a doornail, he thought. Mr Brown screamed and came over and held his wife in his arms, hopelessness visible in his eyes. The hopelessness turned to anger and the anger turned to fury. Mr Brown got up and pulled a gun.
“Who murdered my wife! WHO?” He pointed the gun to each member of the party, probably hoping someone would step forward and confess.
Frank tried to diffuse the situation as best as he could. He never considered someone carrying a gun.
“Please sir, try to relax. I understand you are angry about your wife being murdered, but I’m guessing it isn’t the first time this has happened in this house. No one here has a motive for killing your wife, before tonight, none of us knew each other. Please, put the gun away so we can try to get out of this wretched place.” With his hands open he slowly stepped towards Mr Brown. Who, in return, slowly dropped the hand holding the gun. He knew Frank was telling him the truth, but he didn’t want to believe it just yet.
“Save those bullets for the one who actually killed your wife.” Frank concluded, now with a hand on the gun, pushing it towards the floor, “I’m very sorry for your loss. Let’s find the person responsible for this.” The men hugged for a second and Mr Brown nodded and put the gun away again. A sigh went through the group now that the immediate danger was gone.
“Let’s find our way back to the drawing room, and see if we can find the front door so we can leave this haunted mansion.” Frank again grabbed Sarah’s hand and walked to the door.
“Leave? But our stuff…” Lauren said with a quivering voice.
“It’s your stuff or your life. I have no doubt that the longer we stay here, the more people are going to die. Your choice, but those things I can replace, my life, I can’t.”
Frank pulled the door open and started the walk down the hallway. The rest of the group quickly followed. Before the whole party had reached the end of the hallway, another agonising scream was heard. Everyone turned around to see Jane wailing at the strung up body of Lauren. She was hanged. There was a trap door in the ceiling from where the noose probably was lowered. The poor girl never saw it coming.
“You go on. I’m not leaving her.” Jane said voice laced with tears.
“Then you’ll die too, Jane. I know it’s hard but come with us.” Frank tried.
“No, I’m not going to leave her here. I’ll probably die anyway.” Jane was persistent.
“Nonsense. You’re coming.” Mr Smith grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the dead body of her wife. She tried to struggle but the grief made her weak and she had no choice but to follow the man.
They were again in the dining room, and it was still empty. The whole group was waddled together, looking around at the empty room. All of a sudden there was the sound of chains rattling in the far end of the room. The group crept forward but before they had reached the corner where the sound had come from, two women screamed. Frank turned around to see Mr Smith falling forward, eyes wide in terror. An arrow protruded from his forehead. Both women let go of his hands they were holding and rushed over to Frank. Another one of them had bit the dust.
“Alright people, let’s stay close together. Maybe that will make it harder to kill us.” Frank was mad but tried to stay calm for the rest of them. Frank took a deep breath and opened the door to the drawing room. As he suspected, that room was now empty as well. There was something diabolical at play here. The whole bed and breakfast thing was just a façade to lure people into the castle.
He was still holding Sarah’s hand so he pulled her with him. The first thing he did was check the garden doors but they were locked. Not that he had suspected them to be open, but you never knew. On the other end of the room he checked the windows, but no luck. Then Frank remembered something. He ran back to the door they just entered, Sarah hot on his trail. No way was she letting go of his hand. Frank opened the door and looked back into the dining room and sighed.
“What is it, honey?” Sarah asked him.
“I hoped that the window that broke was still boarded up. That way we could break it open again and escape through it. But it looks like it never broke in the first place.”
When Frank turned back around again, he saw a dart fly through the room and hit Mrs Smith in the neck. He flinched when he saw the life leave her eyes and sank to the ground.
Frank pulled Sarah along and passed the body of Mrs Smith. The party had been halved and it was only a matter of time before the next one would be dead. He led the group into a smaller room, used as a reception area by the looks of it.
“This room has no windows. If I’m correct, we’re close to the front door and this was used to receive guests.” Frank spoke. Jane reacted first.
“Well, let’s keep going then. The sooner we reach that door, the sooner we’ll be out of this hellhole.” She grabbed the doorknob and froze. The doorknob was set electrified and it was enough to kill Jane instantly. In her fall she managed to open the door, and a crazed laughter was rolling through the building.
Frank waited a couple of seconds before going over to her body. Jane’s arm was covered in branching redness from the electrical impact. He touched her lightly with his foot to see if there was still any chance of an electric shock but nothing happened. Frank shimmied the door open and went through it with Sarah. Mr Brown followed, gun held in front of him. They had finally reached the hallway and on the far side was the front door. Mr Brown scouted the room, steadying himself against the wall.
Slowly they crossed the room, coming from behind the great staircase. Like a real policeman, Mr Brown quickly turned to the staircase to look if someone was there. There probably really was someone there because Mr Brown was off to meet his maker. A dulled thud sounded and a bullet hit him square between the eyes. It took a second for the damage to be done, but then he fell forward onto the stairs.
Sarah screamed and Frank pulled her along, running to the front door. He tried to open it but was gobsmacked with frustration. The door was locked, or more likely, bolted shut.
“We are going to die, aren’t we?” Sarah asked him.
“I’m so sorry, but yes, I think we are.” He had dreaded this moment.
“I love you, Frank.”
“I love you too, Sarah.”