There was only one way to confuse the spirits hunting her... Continue building.
|“When the hammers fell silent, the spirits came forth. The construction must continue.”|
Inspired by Legend of the Winchester House
Sarah gave the muscular foreman her latest blueprints, feeling a fleeting moment of relief at seeing them put in motion. The gray-haired man wrinkled his brow at the newest additions, and the corner of his streaked mustache twitched.
“M’am. . .” He began but she held her hand up and stopped him in place.
“You know, money is of no consequence here. I will pay you whatever you ask to finish it. But you must do what I ask, no matter how strange or ill-placed you think an addition is.” Her voice left no room for argument.
His broad shoulders slumped. They’d had this discussion before. It always ended the same. Her house grew under her conditions, and it would continue to do so.
As Sarah settled in bed that night, she listened to the steady hammers of the overnight crew. The steady rhythms brought a smile to her lips. She prayed the new twists in her ever-expanding home would give her one night’s peace.
She should have known better by this point.
The absence of noise woke her, the saws and hammers resting while the workers enjoyed a break. She hated silence more than anything in the world. For it was always in the quiet they sought her out. Her ears buzzed from straining to hear if they crept down the hall, looking for her room.
In the distance, something creaked.
Perhaps the house settled down upon its young foundation. Maybe, the false doors and random stairwells were not enough to lose the creatures hunting her. She pulled the heavy duvet to her chin and chewed her lip. Her eyes burned into the locked doorknob, waiting for something to turn it.
A soft thump resounded in the hall, so quiet she could have convinced herself she imagined it. Except for it was followed by the sound of something dragging and a child’s moan. Her chest tightened and tears pricked her eyes, but she couldn’t so much as scream.
They were coming, they always were.
Something scraped the wood at the base of her door. Fingernails clawed at the thin crack, the sound of something trying to see in.
Sarah shrank against her headboard, panic robbing her of breath.
Suddenly, the hollow echo of a hammer hitting wood bounced down the not-so-empty hall and she collapsed against her pillow in a puddle of relief. She could never let the construction end, could never stop working on the maze created to confuse her hunters.
With her heartbeat returning to normal, she closed her eyes and listened to the construction.
“Sarah!” The voice whispered.
Her eyes flew open. For a brief moment, she stared into the face of a soldier with a bleeding bullet wound in his forehead. A startled shriek ripped from her lips and she scuttled backward until she fell off the other side of her bed. When she peeked over the side to see if the apparition still stood there, she found herself alone once more.
Morning light poured through the window, bathing her room in a warm glow. It did little to chase away the chills dancing through her body. She needed to draft up more blueprints, give the foreman more to build, and more to appease the spirits.
A knock on the door interrupted her musings.
“Who is it?” She asked, terrified the haunting had not ended.
“T’is just me, m’am,” her servant said.
She rose unsteadily to her feet and grabbed her robe and veil. Fixing the sheer fabric into place, she opened the door to Rebecca standing with a tray of food.
“Good morning, m’am. Sleep well?” The question was delivered more out of courtesy than expectation. Rebecca, like all of the others, knew of her night terrors.
“They found me again. I will sleep elsewhere tonight.”
Rebecca nodded and carried the tray over to her vanity. Folding the layers of lace and robe beneath her, Sarah sat down with her head held high. Rebecca set to work, readjusting her dark curls with pins until she looked as if she rested a good night’s sleep. She never touched the veil hiding Sarah’s face from view.
Sarah’s eyes lowered to the plate and her nose wrinkled with disgust. The smell of bacon and eggs made her stomach bubble and twist.
Rebecca said, “M’am, you need to eat. Keep your strength up.”
“I’m not hungry.” Sarah’s tone made Rebecca lower her gaze and continue to work on her hair.
Something heavy shook the entire floor and Sarah grabbed the edge of the vanity, her knuckles turning white with effort. Both women looked at the open door, listening for any indication of what caused the thunderous noise.
And then they both heard a low moan and a single word hissed down the hallway, “Sarah.”
“Lock the door.” She barked, frozen in place.
Rebecca didn’t need any further instruction and ran to the door, slamming it shut and turning the key in the knob. She took several steps back, never taking her eyes from the wood before her.
Sarah’s gaze wandered crazily over the room until she found a pad of paper and pencil. Not wasting another moment, she leaped up and raced to her redemption. Listening to limbs dragging down the hallway, she began sketching out another addition, a continuation of her sprawling mansion.
The lead scratched against the paper, tearing through in a couple of spots where she pressed too hard. The noise in the hallway faded into a pregnant silence and she paused, listening for further invasion.
In the distance, they heard laughter from the construction crew and the sounds of carpentry took up. Sarah’s shoulders slumped in relief as she gazed at the new plan in hand. The foreman would sigh and grumble and protest, but he would build it.
“I’m not hungry,” Sarah repeated.
Rebecca slunk over and carried off the untouched tray. When she reached the door, she paused before unlocking it. She stuck her head out and looked first one way, then the other.
Sarah waved her hand dismissively at her. “Get that food out of here, the smell is making me feel ill.”
What did Rebecca have to worry about? They were not coming for her, they were coming for Sarah.
With Rebecca sent on her merry way, Sarah grabbed the new blueprint and held it like a knife. She carried it down the twisting hallway and made her way through the ever-growing maze until she found the newest wing being added.
The sweating men all stopped what they were doing when she stepped into the room. The foreman saw the paper in her hand and he shook his head.
“M’am,” he began, but she put her hand up.
“How many times are we to have this discussion? If it is too much for you, I will find someone else to do the job.”
He snatched the paper out of her hand and looked it over. His voice was gruff when he replied, “We can handle it, m’am.”
Sarah smiled under her veil and turned her back on him. Construction must never end. She just might survive the devils if the hammers never quit their handiwork. Maybe…
Years after Sarah passed away in her sleep, nails sit half-hammered, abandoned by carpenters at her death, doors open to nowhere, stairs lead to solid walls, and windows overlook other rooms. Products of a woman driven mad by grief or something more nefarious, something not of this world. Unanswered questions remain, rumors abound, but one thing’s for certain, something drove Sarah to build, ever build.
*Based off a real house (I would love to visit someday) and inspired by the designer of said house. Darkness lurks in its corridors and history, and perhaps someday, the answers will be revealed.”