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by Puds
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2139933
A man seeking refuge at Dory's Bay discovers the sinister secrets lurking there.
The waves crashed against the jagged rocky cliffs that sculpted the island of Dory’s Bay. Jack Johnson, the elderly lighthouse keeper, bore a large LED flashlight to guide the disoriented tourist in this unforgiving thunderstorm. The violent wind whipped at the old man’s dirted yellow raincoat, making him appear like a tattered signal flag to the man who hobbled up the muddy cliffside behind him.

Blinded by the icy rain, the lighthouse keeper reached out a shaking hand to locate the door of the only residential area on this side of the island besides the lighthouse. With his fingers grasped firmly on the bronze knob, the old man yanked the heavy wooden door back, flooding himself and his guest with yellow light from inside.

“I hope this serves you well, Mr. Pierce.” the old man yelled over the storm.

“Prince!” shouted back the other man, his hands clasped tightly around his arms to keep himself from shivering.

“What?” The old man didn’t seem to have understood him.

“My last name! It’s Prince!” The old man stared blankly as the wind threatened to grasp his impermeable rain hat. “Nevermind,” said the man giving up on correcting his elderly guide. “This will do fine, thank you.”

The old man seemed to understand that his business with the tourist was done. He gave a jerking nod and closed the door, muting the wild din outside, and hustled back to his cabin at the base of the lighthouse.

Walter Prince stood soaking wet and shivering in a Victorian-style living room. This is not how he had intended to spend his evening. Away for business, Dr. Prince was a renowned anthropologist. For years he had studied the evolution of human history, and for years he had yearned to pay a visit to Dory’s Bay, the Galapagos of homo sapiens.

Prince planned on arriving on the south side of the island earlier this afternoon, where a Best Western with a fluffy queen mattress and flat screen TV had been waiting for him after a 6 hour ferry ride from Boston Harbour, but then this freak storm had hit and nearly capsized their boat, forcing the captain to bring Prince around to the north side of the island.

Being late February when the island was off season from sight-seeing tourists, Prince had been the only passenger on the ferry.

“For the best,” muttered the shaggy captain to Prince on their way around the island’s perimeter, “There’s only one place to stay on this side of the land.”

“And what’s that?” asked Prince curiously.
“Partridge Manor. Used to belong to an ol’ sorry son of a bitch who owned the whole island.”

“Used to?” picked up Prince.

“Yeah, poor bastard killed himself about 50 years ago.”

Prince was taken aback at the captain’s bluntness. “Why?”

“He was a painter, Joseph Partridge, but not a very good one. His work always got rejected, and one day ol’ Joey couldn’t take the shame anymore, and he jumped.”

“Jumped?”

“Yup, jumped right off those cliffs there.” The captain pointed a greasy hand at a section of jagged rocks that spiked out from the cliffside like daggers. They seemed to pierce each crashing wave with fine precision, splitting the water as if defending the manor above. “Son of a bitch didn’t leave no will or nuthin’, so the island sat empty for years. Then the Feds took over and renovated the whole thing, made it a tourist sight. ‘Cept they never touched that house.”

A flash of lightning illuminated the sky, silhouetting the massive estate and the deadly cliffs below it.

“Why not?” asked Prince.

“People say it’s haunted. I’ve never believed in no hokey ghost stories, but I’ve heard there’ve been some strange disappearances there.”

Prince’s eyes widen.

“Oh it’s nothing to worry about,” said the captain noticing Prince’s concern, “Probably just some ol’ folklore stories they tell to attract more tourists.”

The captain pulled the ferry alongside an algae-ridden dock at the foot of the intimidating cliffs. An elderly man in a yellow raincoat was waving a flashlight into the night as a signal to the new arrivals.

He told Prince that he was sorry for the sudden change of plans, but Patridge Manor really was the safest place to stay on the island during a storm as bad as this one.

“The whole place is made of hardwood oak,” the old man shouted into the driving rain, “You won’t even know there’s a storm out here once you set foot in there.”

For some reason, Prince didn’t like the way the old man had worded that, but Prince could feel his bones shaking from this rain and was willingly to stay anywhere that was warm and dry.

That was, until he set foot in Partridge Manor.

At first glance, you would have thought Partridge Manor looked like any Victorian estate. It was decked out with meridian sofas and Queen Anne chairs and even an impressive stone fireplace. The cherry hardwood floors paired nicely with the ivy green wallpaper that lined the living room and hallways. There was even a brilliant chandelier that hung above a delicately crafted coffee table in the front room.

Then there were the paintings.

The captain had said that Joseph Partridge was a painter, but Prince had not expected to run into the dead man’s work at all. The walls of the manor were covered head to toe in hundreds of paintings of all different mediums. Some acrylic, others watercolor, but what was most shocking about the pieces of art was their content. Each frame contained the image of a person being killed.

No two pieces were the same. Each painting depicted a different victim and a different death. One large oil painting portrayed a young woman being strangled to death in her bed. Another watercolor showed a man drowning in a bathtub.

Prince stared in horror at the hundreds of deaths that surrounded him. No wonder the sorry bastard got rejected so many times, he thought.

Although Prince felt a sickening feeling in his gut taking in the grotesqueness of the art on the walls, he knew that he had nowhere else to stay as long as this storm continued to rage outside.

Swallowing a lump in his throat, Prince dared to climb the creaky wooden stairs that led to the second floor of the mansion in search for a bedroom.

All along the banister of the stairs were dozens more macabre paintings, each one more gruesome than the last. Prince was most disturbed by what appeared to be an entire family hanging from a collection of gallows that overlooked the ominous cliffside, their bodies swaying in the salty breeze.

At the top of the staircase Prince found himself facing a long hallway with two doors on either side and one at the rear. He tried the first door on his left, only to find an ordinary bathroom.

The door on his right failed as well, turning out to be an abandoned study with a lone window that gave a wonderful view of the ocean. The scene would have been rather beautiful under any other circumstances, but the constricting darkness of the midnight storm and the neglected easel that stood in the center of the room sent a tingling chill down Prince’s spine. He quickly closed the door and tried the second door on the right.

The bedroom was nothing special. A four poster bed sat comfortably between two oak nightstands. A dresser decorated in picture frames was positioned opposite them under a large painting of the manor itself.

Prince walked over to the dresser and curiously examined the picture frames. They didn’t contain more paintings as he had expected. Rather, the frames held old photographs of dozens of different people. Some depicted single men leaning against the manor’s porch looking out over the horizon or slumped in a cozy armchair by the fireplace downstairs, others were of entire families posed on the couch or huddled around the kitchen table. Prince noticed that all of the photographs had been taken here at the estate, and there was something else peculiar about them as well...but Prince couldn’t quite place it…

Suddenly the door to the bedroom slammed shut with a deafening BANG. Prince leapt a foot into the air and grabbed a dusty candelabra off of the dresser as a makeshift weapon. After a moment of awareness, Prince realized that the open window in the bedroom had let in a strong wind, causing the door to slam.

Prince staggered over to the window, his heart still pounding, and pulled the glass pane shut. He sat down on the wooden sill to take a breath, only to have it be ripped from his lungs.

Directly above the four poster bed hung a tremendous painting of...Prince.

Prince would have bet his life that the painting depicted himself. The figure within it had the same salt and pepper streaked hair, the same square jaw and long slender nose, and the same heterochromatic eyes: one muddy brown and the other electric blue.

But what sickened Prince the most was what was happening to his painted form. His body was flattened spread-eagle across a practice target, like one a hunter would practice shooting a bow on. Just above Prince’s fear-struck eyes, a single arrow protruded from skull, a trickle of blood running down his forehead and into his multi-colored oculars.

Feeling a surge of panic and an overwhelming sense of dread, Prince bolted for the door. He would rather face the storm than spend a night in this murder house. He frantically pulled at the handle, but the sturdy wooden door wouldn’t budge. He tried using his shoulder to unjam the door, but still it would not move.

Sweat began to streak down Prince’s face and neck. He had to get out of here, someone was out to get him.

Suddenly he heard a rapping on the door and immediately jumped away.

“Walter Prince,” said a sinister voice lingering on the ultima of the doctor’s last name. “Come out, come out Walter Prince.”

Prince was paralyzed by fear. Who was on the other side of the door? Why did the voice sound familiar? Prince decided he really did not want to find out and willed his body to take action. Looking around the room his eyes fell upon the only window in the bedroom. As quietly as he could, Prince pushed the glass pane upward and looked outside. The rain was still coming down in sheets and the only platform accessible from the window was a narrow gutter that ran the length of the house.

It was going to have to do.

With the mysterious intruder still banging on the other side of the door, Prince threw one leg out the window into the pouring rain and latched both hands onto the window sill. Grasping with all his strength onto the slippery sill he swung his other leg out the window and lowered his body down so that he hung out of the second story window.

Carefully, Prince lowered his hands down to the gutter and heard a sickening CRUNCH. The gutter had given way under Prince’s weight and collapsed, sending Prince down towards ground from twenty feet above.

Prince’s agonizing screams were drowned out by the storm, but he knew even in the dense darkness that his leg was broken. He reached down with a shaking hand and immediately jerked it away in pain when he felt a large lump protruding from his left shin. The pounding rain felt like daggers against his skin. The pain was so insurmountable that Prince barely even noticed the front door of the mansion fly open.

A man carrying what looked like a harp stepped onto the front porch, his nostrils flared and jaw set. He was on the hunt.

Prince spotted the man and decided he had not detected him lying soaked in the grass yet. With all the strength he could muster, Prince dragged his anguished body up onto his good leg. The storm did well to muffle his cries of pain.

Prince hobbled as fast has his body would allow across the open field that lay behind the manor. With the rain stinging his eyes and the darkness of night consuming the land, Prince couldn’t see a thing. He trusted his intuition was leading him far away from Partridge Manor.

The man with the harp came bounding around the side of the mansion. He could see his victim’s limp body shuffling across the field. A malicious grin curved along his face.

Prince couldn’t stand the pain in his leg any longer. As if he had willed it there, a sudden sturdy object had appeared before Prince, allowing him to rest for a moment. Believing he was far enough away from the manor to be seen by anyone, Prince slumped along the tall circular object, taking the weight off of his broken leg.

It happened in an instant. Before Prince even realized what was happening, a tall shadowy figure had appeared before him holding what was not a harp, but a large long bow. Prince threw his hands up as if to surrender, his body flattened against a large practice target.

The arrow pierced through the rain with deadly precision, striking Prince right between the eyes.

“Bulls-eye.”

* * *

“You’ve completely ruined this one!” The angry photographer pointed a stern finger at the man slumped in the Queen Anne chair. “How am I supposed to take a nice photograph of a man whose bone is sticking out his leg!?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Partridge, he jumped from the second story window. I tried to get to him before he ran.” The apologetic man removed his impermeable rain hat, “Maybe you could cover his leg up with something?”

Joseph Partridge scoffed, “No, no, I will simply only capture his torso. Hand me my skin tones, I’ve got to get this part just right.” The old man handed Joseph a brush and palette with several nude colored paints upon it. Dabbing the brush gently in one of the lighter shades, Joseph Partridge parted Walter Prince’s hair and painted over the gaping hole in his forehead. “It’s always tricky with the more gruesome deaths, to make them look aesthetically pleasing. I think for the next one we should use the gallows again. Hangings always give my models a very pleasing appearance.”

Joseph Partridge adjusted his subject in the chair so that he sat up straight with his hands folded in his lap. “Ah ha, perfect!” He rounded about his camera and placed an eye against the eye lens. “Say cheese!”

A flash erupted from the lens, illuminating the lifeless body of Walter Prince, immortalizing his tranquil, variegated stare.
© Copyright 2017 Puds (lipudlo17 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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