A Tale of Unrelenting Horror & Bad Muffins for Halloween
“Nevermore,” I said through gritted teeth, as I felt my way up the creaking, long-disused stairs, breathing deep the gathering gloom, feeling moody and blue.
Why does gloom always do that? Gather, I mean. It could learn a thing or two from me, learn to dissipate a bit, at least on weekends.
My nerve almost failed – – I mean, it’s hard to say “nevermore” with your teeth gritted, but then, the stairs hadn’t been swept in years, so I guess it would’ve been gritty no matter what I did with my teeth. My throat was knotted with tension and my teeth were already on edge from the howling storm. All in all, it was a desperately nerve-racking situation, dental-wise.
I paused to shield the guttering candle, almost snuffed out by a sudden icy draft. Nevermore will I stay in a haunted B&B, when it’s only rated 1 1/2 stars, and the only muffins at breakfast were prune and artichoke. Another icy draft filled the dank stairwell, and the storm outside rattled the windowpanes. I thought some more about icy drafts, and how nice it would be to have a cold beer, just to wash away the dust on my tongue. But one of the embroidered signs on the bedroom wall asked Guests Please Refrain from Eating or Drinking in Your Room. And Do Not Sit Upon the Counterpane.
I didn’t know what a counterpane might be, so I didn’t sit on anything, and slept in the bathtub.
Or tried to sleep.
The night was wild with a vicious storm, branches tap-tap-tapping on the window panes, some stupid raven trying to get in, too, but what really rendered the night sleepless was a horrible banshee wail from somewhere in the upper, supposedly vacant floors! Finally driven to distraction, I ignored the “Private. & Kind of Creepy” sign, and forced open the door to the back stairs with a poker I’d snatched from the hearth, the splintering wood and rusty screech drowned out by the storm. Man, beast, or spirit, I determined to climb the stairs and confront this evil, poker in my hand & black murder on my mind. The wi-fi was out, so I had nothing else to do anyway.
I also had a candle, the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand, and the bell from my bicycle. No holy water, but I brought the little complimentary spray bottle of Lavender & Paprika linen freshener, which really stings if you get it in your eyes.
(That’s a lot of stuff to carry, but luckily, I always travel with vintage 1920’s bathrobes from Abercrombie & Fitch, in MacKay tartan, the long-discontinued model called “The Huntsman’s Friend,” with tons of pockets, a hip flask, and ammo loops. You can unravel the belt for fishing line, in an emergency. I really recommend it.)
The horrible keening continued, and I froze for a moment, but with nerves of iron, I steeled myself to, no I mean, with nerves of steel and a backbone of iron, I was galvanized into action. That’s not quite right, either, is it. OK, like an iron, I pressed on. Whatever, I went up the stairs, metallically in some way, and burst open the attic door.
To be confronted with a scene of heart-stopping horror, beyond the capacity of words to express!
Well, actually, we do have words to express it – – it was the B&B’s butler, playing the bagpipes.
The ghastly shrieks died away, as the fiend drew breath, fixed me with a glittering eye, and intoned sepulchrally, “It’s not keening, laddie, ’tis ‘The Rose of Kelvingrove’.”
I snatched my trusty Webley .455 from my bathrobe pocket, the one with a built-in holster, and emptied it in his direction. “Ha!” I cried – – the stupid sign in my room said “Please don’t disturb the tranquility of our guests by turning on the shower bath, radio, or TV after 7:15 PM,” but it didn’t say anything about shooting guns! “Ha!” I said again. (In crisis mode, my thought process was so quick, the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking I’d said “Haha!” instead of two distinct “Ha’s!” but I figured, really, after discharging a large caliber pistol in a confined space, they probably wouldn’t have heard anything at all, so I pantomimed “Ha!” for dramatic effect.)
Six shots rang true. The perforated bagpipe fell to the floor like last year’s haggis after a pub brawl in Glasgow.
The butler never flinched. Totally impassive, he slowly turned, and bent to seize a large black leather portmanteau. I felt an instant of dismay, because his kilt was rather short. He dragged the sinister case toward me. I regretted having expended all six bullets on the bagpipes.
Placing it between us, his mad glare never leaving my face, with infinite menace, he slowly undid the clasps and opened it.
An appalling odor of stale mazurka flooded the attic.
His lips stretched into a hideous grin.
“Polka time, then?” he asked, as he removed the accordion.
A tale of B&B horror for Halloween.