A man inherits an estate from a long lost relative, but there's a catch - contest entry
|“If you leave before sunrise, you get nothing.” The bespectacled man with the tiny hands and shiny head seemed to be recommending the choice, rather than issuing a warning. He wiped a worn handkerchief over his forehead, dabbing away the beads of perspiration forming there. “The will is very specific on that point.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Griff clapped a hand on the diminutive man’s shoulder. “I feel very at home here, already. I don’t believe in ghosts.” To emphasize his invincibility, Griff assumed a flexing pose that showed his impressive physique.
“I couldn’t say sir. I only know what the terms of the will state and there’s nothing in there about ghosts.”
“Well, there has to be a ghost story or two in an old house like this and there’s no reason to require me to spend the night here if it isn’t to make me think the place is haunted. But, I don’t scare easily. “ Griff looked up and addressed the portrait over the fireplace. “ Do your worst Great Aunt Vidalia.”
The thin, angular face of a middle-aged woman stared down at Griffith from over the mantelpiece. Vidalia Barrichello had not been a beautiful woman, but she had been rich. Her wealth was all she needed to attract young men who remained devoted to her as long as she wanted them to. But none of them were rewarded for their service on the occasion of her death. Rather, her will instructed her lawyers to seek out her only living blood relative, a distant great-nephew, the son of a son of a brother from whom she had been estranged for many years.
When the little man from the lawyer’s office had gone, Griff explored his surroundings. There was no staff, the will forbade the presence of any other persons in the house for the first night he spent there. Feeling hungry Griff got down to the business of preparing himself a meal. He found the kitchen well-stocked and returned to the drawing room with a plate of assorted cold meats, cheese and bread. There was a bottle of wine and a glass sitting on top of the liquor cabinet, as if chosen for him. Griff shrugged, uncorked the wine and filled the glass to the rim. He settled into a plush, velvet armchair near the fire.
“This is very nice, Aunt Vidalia,” Griff raised his glass to the portrait and slightly bowed his head. “Thank you for being so rich and childless. I am going to enjoy living here and never having to work again.”
It was a fine wine, so Griff made no effort to limit himself in its consumption. He finished the bottle and dozed off in his chair. He assumed himself to be dreaming, therefore, when the wind whistling past the windows began to call his name and the crackling of the logs began to chatter a warning. Go, go, go! Oh no, too late. In his dream, he began to wander through the house. Griff ascended the stairs, his interest all in one door - the door to Vidalia’s bedroom. Shaking the images of what must have gone on in this room, Griff pushed the door open.
In the middle of the room was a glass coffin and lying in it like some sort of shriveled Snow White was the corpse of Vidalia Barrichello. The sight brought Griffith out of his fog and he realized he was not dreaming, though he may have been drugged.
“This is really creepy, Aunt Vidalia. You were a creepy, lecherous, old woman when you were alive and you’re still creepy now that you’re dead. Is this why I’m here? So I can discover your coffin and run screaming out of the house? Well, you’re not the only one with a trick up her sleeve. I’m not even your blood relative. I was adopted. But it’s too late now, this all belongs to me.”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” The voice seemed to come from inside his head. “My Prince Charming couldn’t be my nephew, that would never do. No, my dear, you were carefully chosen. You are so young, so strong, and so full of life. I need you.”
Against his will, Griff’s arms moved to open the casket lid. The face of the dead woman was gaunt and her thin lips devoid of color. Still, he felt his head lowering towards hers and his revulsion could not overcome the urge to kiss her.
“No” Griff insisted. “ I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“You don’t need to,” the voice replied. “I believe in you. Kiss me and we will be together forever. You will have this house and more money than you can spend - and I will have you.”
The clock struck the hour. Griff knew he had little time before sunrise, a matter of minutes before the sun came up and sealed the terms of the will. The effects of the drugged wine were beginning to wear off, and his strength was returning. He mustered every bit of resistance he had and pulled away from the bony arms that were wrapped around his neck, trying to pull him into a macabre embrace.
“I don’t believe in ghosts!” he cried.
Griff ran from the room. His legs were still weak and he stumbled down the stairs, his knees buckling on every step. He slid across the tiles in the great hall. With every bit of strength left in his arms, Griffith pulled the heavy front door open and fell out onto the gravel walkway just as the sun began to peek over the horizon. Griff picked himself up and started to put distance between himself and the accursed house. When he got far enough for his phone to show two bars, he dialed.
“Mr. Peebles. This is Griffith Barichello. I’ve changed my mind. I am not interested in accepting the inheritance. Country living is too quiet for me. You’ll have to find another relative out there.”
Word Count: 996
Entry for The Writer's Cramp
A distant relative you never met leaves you something valuable in their will.