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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2321542
Albert buys a 19th Century family album.
The Family

Albert Freen loved yard sales. Especially the really big ones that spread out across the lawn and then offered entrance to rooms in the house where the stuff was piled on every horizontal surface. These were the ones where a diligent searcher could find things of magic and mystery and romance, items that spoke of times and places far away, the stuff of dreams indeed.

In time, Albert became a well known face at these more professional sales, the ones where the owners had their own collections and did their own searching and accumulating before selling what no longer fitted with their current obsessions. Both sellers and buyers would see him coming and call out a cheery greeting, with suggestions of good areas to begin his hunt and news of something really special being considered by a competitor. And Albert would smile and follow the tips, always ready to take advantage of another’s special knowledge and taste.

For Albert would buy anything, it seemed. So broad was his interest that those who watched him never managed to discern a particular propensity for a type or class of collection, some fine specialisation that preferred one style or period or type over another. Speculation was rife over what drove his eclectic collection of just about everything under the sun.

They figured that the collection must be enormous, although no one had ever seen it. For Albert never sold anything. Not for him, this matter of spreading out his unwanted goods upon the lawn for the world to gawk at. He just kept adding to his hoard, buying new houses when the existing ones became full. People guessed that each house held items that, together, constituted museum class collections of period and style and use, but no one was ever allowed entrance to see for themselves.

Albert just smiled and said nothing to the neighbours as he came and went from each house in turn, living for a while with one collection and then moving on to live with the next. In this way he became well known throughout the various neighbourhoods of the city and yard sellers felt honoured when his battered old pickup pulled up at the kerb outside their sales.

So it was that, when Albert arrived at Ken James’ annual sale, he was welcomed profusely and led immediately inside the house to view “the good stuff.” And Albert smiled and began to sift through everything in sight and much that was not, while the little pile of things he was going to buy grew taller and taller.

Albert worked meticulously through the rooms, even digging into containers of assorted junk, on the off chance that some disregarded gem was secreted under the rest. And he came at last to something large and black, rectangular and heavy. He could see that it was a book, obviously old and worn, but with the potential of being worth a lot of money. He cleared away the trash pinning it to the table, produced a rag to wipe away the dust, and opened it carefully.

It was a family photo album.

He guessed that the first photos might be from the mid 19th Century, which would make them very valuable. They showed serious faces looking out from dark and severe backgrounds, assembled into grim family groupings or single portraits just as forbidding. Albert knew that this was caused by the necessity of their holding a pose for several minutes while the camera did its magic, but he still thanked his stars that he had not been raised in so dolorous a family.

He turned a few pages and marvelled at the continuing line of serious faces peering from the photos into his eyes. The album was valuable, yes, but a bit depressing. And besides, he had other stuff to inspect and add to his haul that day. He closed the book, hefted it into his arms and took it down to the first room where his pile awaited further acquisitions.

In the late afternoon, Albert paid the asking price for his items and piled them into the back of his truck. The sun had set by the time he arrived back at the Wensford house and he unloaded in the dark, with only the porch light to assist. When he came to the photo album, he took it into the house, set it on the kitchen table, pulled up a chair and opened it. It was time to make a first assessment of its worth.

He ploughed through the first pages fairly quickly. These he’d seen before. Then he was into the mid section and he slowed down to examine each photo more carefully. They were now late Victorian by the dress, but the expressions on the faces remained as unremittingly miserable as the earlier examples. He did notice that the people seemed uglier now, that the family resemblance had degenerated into a common reversion into coarse and unattractive features.

He turned the pages with growing revulsion at the faces. It was as if the family were turning into a race of evil, misshapen goblins and demons.

Still he kept turning the pages until he was close to the end. It was the Edwardian period now and the faces were indescribably and unbelievably ugly. The last photo was of a woman, with eyes like saucers in a face from which the flesh sagged like drapes from the underlying bone structure. Her ears poked out, huge and flapping, from her wiry and unkempt hair, her large mouth fell slack and open, dribble issuing from both corners and her pallor sickly unto death.

Albert stared at her transfixed.

And then he felt the weight of a heavy hand placed on his shoulder. In his ear, so close that he could feel the cold, unnatural breath, he heard the words, “Ah, so you’ve found me at last, have you? Feast your eyes on my prettiness, little one, for we’ll spend many years in hell together.”

House Martell

Word count: 999
For "Game of Thrones The North Remembers, His Story Prompt 23
Prompt: 23. Start your story with a character looking through an old family photo album.
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