Story written for the 'Weird Tales Contest'
THIS IS MY TESTIMONY
I recall looking over at Caroline as she applied the finishing touches to her makeup. A beautiful dim, naive woman. About as much fun as a cold shower. "Come on love, we're going to be late for the theatre."
"I'll be with you in a minute." She flashed me a fatuous smile.
We had travelled to London to choose new clothes for our wedding the following week. I shuddered at the thought of travelling back to that big dreary house that sat on a narrow promontory overlooking the grey North Sea.
You may wonder why I use words like 'naive and dim' to describe my future wife. That one's easy; she was.
Caroline had wandered into my small estate agency in Alnwick one month earlier, saying she had a large house to sell.
She sat, saying nothing for a moment or two as I weighed her up. When it became obvious she was waiting for me to open the conversation, I asked, "How many bedrooms?"
"Ten, I think."
"You don't know?"
I may have sounded somewhat abrasive because she buried her face in her gloved hands and wept.
While I was calming her, and apologising for upsetting her, she looked up with a tear streaked face saying "I lost my husband on our wedding day."
"Oh!" Was all I uttered, as an idea hit me. Opportunity was knocking on my door. "How did you get here?"
"Well, here's an idea." I beamed at her. "Why don't I buy you lunch in the tea shop across the road. Then drive you home and value your property. How does that sound?"
"Wonderful." She answered shyly.
This was going to be easy.
The house turned out to be a mansion, worth in total about two million pounds. And, with an inheritance that dwarfed the property value, it was a prize worthy of pursuit.
By the time I wrote everything down and costed it, darkness was falling, and a gale was driving torrential rain against the leaded windows.
Caroline walked into the dining room where I was putting the finishing touches to my survey. "I hate this place at night!"
"No, Peter my husband pensioned them off, because he was selling the place when we returned from honeymoon."
"That's tough on you. Look! Why don't I give you a lift back into town, and you can book into a hotel?" This was getting easier. I knew the hotels were booked up because of a town festival.
"Thank you! Thank you." She clasped my hands in hers, and for a moment I believed she would kiss me, but she pulled back. "Give me a moment to get some clothes."
I just nodded in answer. I felt I was being a bastard, but the emotion soon passed.
We went through the facade of going from hotel to hotel until we ran out of hotels. "I'll have to take you back." I shrugged at her.
"Oh God! I don't want to be there on my own?" She whimpered.
"Well?" I paused. "I have rooms above the teashop we visited today. You can have my bedroom, and I'll sleep on the couch."
"You'd do that for me?" She answered giving me a hug.
I pulled away, feigning embarrassment. "Anything to help a lady."
We'd been settled down for a few hours, when I heard Caroline sobbing. I considered turning over and ignoring it, but knew I might lose a chance to ingratiate myself further.
Knocking her door, I asked if she needed anything. "No, but would you come in and talk with me? I'm so lonely."
We talked until Caroline stopped and touched my hand, and without me initiating it, she was in my arms, planting wet kisses on my face, and fumbling her way out of her nightdress.
Later, as we lay still and exhausted, I asked "You've never said what happened to your husband?"
It was a strange story she told me. Peter insisted they marry in the family chapel in the grounds of the house, with only themselves and the vicar from Alnwick to conduct the service.
A lightning storm lit up the blackening sky as they entered the chapel. The electricity was out and the only illumination was from candles that cast deep shadows.
She paused in telling her story.
"Well!" Becoming impatient I asked. "What happened?"
"You won't believe me."
"Try me." I answered tersely.
"The vicar had pronounced us man and wife, but along with my husband was peering into the shadows of the nave. I turned and saw a black apparition with long clawed hands, a 'Shade' the vicar called it, drifting towards the altar."
"My husband dropped dead; from fright, they say."
Over active imagination, I thought. But, aloud I said, "Oh."
Months later, I insisted we marry in the estate chapel to prove nothing spectral would happen. Caroline eventually agreed and so there we were with a new vicar for company, the other one having retired early on grounds of mental illness.
"I pronounce you man and wife." Noticing the vicar playing nervously with the stole around his neck. I looked in the direction he was staring and saw a shadow with long talons drifting towards the altar. A tangible malevolence rooted me to the spot, and I waited with terrified apprehension for the worst to happen, only to feel Caroline fall against me, stone dead.
After inheriting the house and family fortune, I learnt of the curse. A necromancer, cheated out of a payment, dammed any suitors who laid claim to the estate.
This is my chronicle. Now, I'm condemned to sail the lonely oceans of the world, never leaving my brightly lit motor yacht. Never stopping and always searching out the sunniest places. For now, I fear the night and the evil shades from hell waiting to strike from the shadows and dark places.
May God forgive me and preserve my soul.