Ghost Dream by Eileen Sheehan
I first saw a photograph of the abandoned house on Twelve Maple Lane about a decade ago. My immediate impression was what a wonderful inn it would make for those who appreciated the days gone by. So, without so much as a walk through, I bought it.
It was nightfall when I approached the old house that had been wholly unoccupied for years with reverence and a touch of trepidation. Its residents had long left it to the mercy of rodents, dust, and cobwebs. I felt as if I was invading the privacy of the ghosts who were left behind. Ghosts of occupants over the centuries since the building was little more than an idea in the mind of the builder.
Holding my flashlight firmly in one hand, I turned the porcelain doorknob that would allow me entry. It, like the door, was cracked with age. My mind pondered over how many hands had turned that knob and pushed their way into this dwelling in its glory days. Days when vibrantly colorful rooms glowed with the softness of gas and candle light and radiated laughter and happiness. My ponderings quickly left me when, for the first time in my life, my level head -that had always ignored and given no credence to superstition- experienced an overwhelming dread as an invisible cobweb clung to my face. I shuddered. It was only a cobweb, but it felt as if I’d walked through someone. Or, better yet, someone had walked through me.
Like a frightened child, I rushed to the one room that I had made certain was prepared for my occupancy by the workmen who were hired for the house’s resurrection. As I locked the door, a sense of security swept over me. I had not only locked out the moldy darkness, but the eerie feeling of unseen eyes was no longer hovering about. Someone had been thoughtful enough to make sure that there was a cheery fire burning in the oversized fireplace. Its flickering flames did wonders to give a sense of warmth and safety to the room. I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. The electricity was turned off, requiring the soft flickering lights of candles to illuminate my surroundings. Seeing the antique furnishings in such ambiance brought up visions of days gone by.
From the color and print of the faded wallpaper, and the delicacy of the bed and dressing table, I deduced that the room had once belonged to the gentler sex. I closed my eyes as I allowed my imagination to summon visions of faces out of the mists of the past. Faces that were long forgotten and voices that long ago grew silent for all time.
As a storm brewed outside of the thick leaded window panes, my reverie shifted to sadness. The singing of the voices from the past was replaced by the shrieking of the winds outside. The laughter in the ears of my mind shifted to a softened wail. The incessant beating of the rain against the panes stripped the room of all tranquility. The eeriness that I’d left beyond the closed door slowly crept through the cracks beneath it.
A nervousness overtook me as the fire burned low. An overwhelming sense of loneliness consumed me. Eager to shake it, I arose and changed into my night clothes. I moved about the room, stealthily preparing for slumber as if I was amongst others whose dreams would be lethal to interrupt. Diving onto the mattress, I slithered beneath the covers. With my head barely exposed, I lay listening to the rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters until a blissful, deep sleep overtook me.
The acute stillness of the home when I awoke filled me with a shuddering expectancy. All, but the beating of my heart, was silent as I lay in the pre-dawn light while I debated what to do. The workmen would not arrive for several hours. My stomach was announcing the need for the breaking of my fast, but my cowardly nerves refused to budge. So, I lay in the warmth and false security of my bed until an unseen force took matters into hand.
Slowly. Very slowly, the bedclothes slid toward the foot of the bed. It was as if someone was pulling them from me. Instead of being too nervous to move, I was now scared stiff. Not only couldn’t I move a muscle, but I could make no sound. I finally regained control of my body enough to allow me to grab the edge of the blankets and pull them back over my breast until they reached my chin. It took an even greater effort to pull them over my head. Beads of nervous sweat formed upon my forehead as a result.
I lay in frozen silence while I waited for what might happen next.
After a brief interval, that steady pull on the coverings returned. I roused my energies, snatched the covers with a vice grip, and pulled them over my head again. Suddenly the sound of heavy footsteps permeated my room. I felt a sense of relief that they sounded like they were moving away from me instead of toward me. When the footsteps reached the bedroom door, I waited for the creaking sound of it opening and closing, but it didn’t come. The footsteps, however, continued to exit the room and fade as they walked further into the empty house.
I lay trembling while contemplating what just happened until I had myself convinced that it was a dream. My nerves were further soothed when I crawled out of bed and found that the bedroom door was still bolted on the inside.
The day passed as normal. I exerted a good deal of emotional energy overseeing the workmen in my effort to keep the integrity of the old house in place. Once nightfall arrived and the men retired, I eagerly took my exhausted self to my bedroom once again.
I had just blown out the candle and snuggled beneath the bedclothes when I heard a grating noise overhead. It sounded like a heavy box was being dragged across the floor. When the dragging sound ended, a loud thud occurred. It was so loud that the windows shook.
Beyond my locked bedroom door, I could hear the muffled sound of doors slamming throughout the house.
A part of me wanted to get up and search for intruders, while the other part of me said to stay put and wait to see what would happen. I regretted not taking the precaution against intruders by having a bat or some other type of self-defense weapon in my room as I listened to the sound of stealthy footsteps creeping about the corridors, as well as up and down the stairs.
Sometimes these noises stopped outside of my bedroom door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard muffled sentences and occasional half-uttered screams that were faint, but discernable. Then, a light breeze passed by me as the swish of invisible garments reached my ears.
The eerie feeling that I’d felt the night before returned with a forcefulness unmatched. I sat up in bed and held my hand to my heart while I did my best to slow the beating that threatened to get out of control. Unlike the night before when the fireplace was ablaze with illuminating light, I had lit only a small fire that rapidly turned to embers. With the candles snuffed out, I was forced to rely on the glow of the embers and the filtered rays of the full moon through the window to see my surroundings. The shadows bounced about, but I was still able to make out a cloaked figure hovering in the corner of the room.
“Who are you and what do you want?” I nervously asked. The figure remained silent as it slowly moved toward me.
“This is my home,” I said with a boldness that I didn’t feel. “You are not welcome.”
“Why do you wish to have this home?” the figure asked in a deep voice that had a hint of echo to it.
Surprised by the question, I was even more surprised by the way I calmly replied with, “I wish to bring it back to its glory days and to share it with others.”
“Glory days?” the figure mockingly said. “Those were times long gone. The house belongs to me now.”
“I purchased this house,” I insisted. “I have the deed to it.”
“You may have the deed, but I have lived in it,” the figure argued. “It belongs to me. You will leave.”
Fear was replaced by indignation over the shadowy figure’s demand that I leave a home that I’d put so much of my heart and soul into and would require even more before its beauty could shine through once more.
“If you care so much for this home,” I challenged, “Why have you let it go into such disrepair?”
“It is as I desire it to be,” the figure firmly announced.
“It is not as I desire it,” said a female’s voice from seemingly nowhere.
“Josephine!” the figure bellowed. “Why have you come?”
“I never left,” the voice replied. “I simply saw no reason to negate your occupancy until now.”
“Why now?” the figure asked.
“Finally, there is someone who is willing to return the life and love to the walls of my home,” Josephine said. “I have cried decades of tears for want of such a thing to occur. Now that it has, I will not allow you to prevent it. You must go.”
“I have occupied this place too long for you to be able to push me out,” the figure bitterly announced.
“Perhaps, if it were just myself doing the pushing,” Josephine said with conviction.
Too stunned and amazed by what was occurring before my very eyes, I stayed motionless while I listened to what I discovered to be two discarnate beings verbally debating over who should take control of the house that I now owned. I was tempted to ask them both to leave, since the house now belonged to me, but, since I was only now being exposed to the reality of a world beyond the here and now, I was uncertain what the protocol for such a request would be. So, instead, I remained stoic and silent while I waited to see what the outcome of this verbal debate might be.
To my surprise and dismay, the arguing grew quite potent. So potent, in fact, that the stillness of the air left the room. It was replaced by what I could only describe as a violent wind. The bedroom door rattled, along with the windows. A fleeting fear that the glass might shatter flashed through my head before my attention was turned to the fact that the room seemed to expand in the darkness as the figure of a woman in a Victorian gown appeared before me.
Although I had already become aware of the presence of the cloaked figure, he was merely a shadow. This woman, on the other hand, was as opaque as myself.
She was neatly put together with not one hair out of place. Her dress was of vibrant colors that glowed in the moonlight. As I stared in startled wonderment, several equally opaque spirits, both male and female, in Victorian attire joined her. Soon, the room was filled with what I inherently knew were former occupants of the grand house.
The shadowy figure stood his ground, alone against a roomful of spirits wanting him out. At first, as the energy he projected blew like a hurricane through the room to the extent that I clung fast to the bedpost, I thought for sure that he would win. It took a moment for them to gather together with hands firmly clasped, but when they did, the wind changed direction and forced the shadow into oblivion.
I sat in silence on the edge of the bed while I debated what to do next. The spirits faded away, one by one, until only Josephine remained.
“You need not fear us,” Josephine said. “We are pleased that you bring to this home the life and love that it deserves. It has been our desire for decades. We will protect you and it from this moment on.”
With that, she also faded away.
Feeling safe and satisfied, I silently smiled and retreated to the security of my bedcovers. Within moments, I fell into a deep, exhausted slumber.
I awoke the following morning to the sounds of workmen bustling about the house. Surprised that I’d slept for so long, I raced to join them. As the day progressed, my thoughts, and memories of the battle between spirits the night before faded. By the time nightfall returned, I considered it nothing more than a vivid dream.
The restoration of the house continued until it was restored to its original glory with no more incidents from the unseen world. Since there were no more bumps in the night, bedclothes mysteriously sliding off me on their own, or spirits appearing before me, I eventually completely dismissed the dream as a reaction to the unsavory ambiance of a neglected home.
Today, I operate an historic inn that offers tours that are accompanied by the history of the house and its occupants that I acquired from the local library and town records. On rare occasions, I will receive a report from one of my overnight guests reporting vivid dreams of a woman in Victorian dress smiling as she stands at the foot of their bed.
Luthias groaned and raised his hand to his head. Gwendoline was at his side in a flash. She lifted him into a position that allowed him to easily drink the liquid she held to his lips and then lowered him back down again.
“This will help him regain a bit of his strength, but he’ll still need blood,” she said. She went to a tall refrigerator in the corner of the room and inspected its contents. “I doubt I have enough to bring him back to normal.”
“How much do you need?” I asked.
“He’s almost bled dry,” she said. “I have enough to keep him alive, but not much more than that.”
I bit my lower lip while I watched Gwendoline pull every bag of blood she had in her supplies and place them on a tea cart to roll next to the table. She emptied the first bag into a glass and urged him to drink. He weakly obliged. By the time she’d fed him the last bag, the hollow around his sunken eyes was beginning to disappear and his wounds were starting to shrink.
I pointed this out to Gwendoline and she smiled faintly.
“If he has more blood will they heal completely?” I asked.
“Within seconds,” she said.
“Where does he usually get his blood?” I asked hesitantly.
“He hunts deer or wolf. Large animals are generally the best,” she replied.
“No humans,” I mused admiringly.
“Verso vampires refrain from drinking human blood whenever possible. The risk of developing an addiction is too great,” she explained. “We live peacefully amongst ourselves and rarely venture out into the rawness of what’s left of our planet. An addiction to human blood would require they leave Verso.”
“There are some who drink it,” I said. “A maid told me humans don’t last long in Verso because rogue vampires drink their blood until they’re dead.”
“That’s true,” she said with a nod. “It takes a strong vampire to be able to stop drinking a human’s blood before they drain them dry. In my centuries of life, I’ve known of only a few who could do it.”
“Is it the magic that keeps you alive?” I asked.
“Indeed,” she replied with pride. “As it will ye.”
“I plan on becoming a vampire,” I reminded her.
“Yes, but until ye do, the magic will slow down the aging process,” she explained. “There’s no need to rush things.”
“How old was Geo when he was turned?” I asked while I mindlessly stroked the length Luthias’s arm.
“He was twenty-eight. He had a wife and three children, poor lad,” she said.
“I never thought about him having a family,” I gasped. “What happened to them?”
“They were killed by the raiding vampires. Geo was saved because of the strong magic in his veins. Luthias found him and brought him to me to tend to. He looked much like Luthias does now,” she said.
“When did Luthias turn vampire?” I asked.