Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unreal Estate IV

They climbed the steps together, crossed the wooden porch with only the faintest creak of wood beneath their feet, and stepped into the wide front entry. It was large enough for a game of football, but the floor was polished wood and doubtless had been intended as a ballroom. At the far end, a wide stair climbed to a balcony that overlooked the room and opened onto both wings of the second floor.

Adelle glanced at the ornate stone fireplaces, but saw nothing: no hint of movement, no cooling embers, no ashy footprints leading to or from them. She turned her eyes to the pictures, dark-eyed patriarchs and stern matriarchs, all seated stiffly and regarding the room with a mixture of disapproval and rigid dignity. There was nothing there, either; no hint of movement; not even the usual itchy sense of being watched. She frowned, puzzled.

Her client seemed to share something of her reaction. "You said the place was haunted?" he inquired politely.

She looked at him suspiciously, but he wore politeness like a mask; his stance and expression showed mild curiosity, but she couldn't read anything behind it. "Mr. Petrovich," she said, and then cut herself off. She was not going to tell him what it had been like the last time she was here, or what she'd found when she came to see why the young couple had never called them back. Besides, he'd seen the front doors open on their own; he had to know that there was something unusual about this place. So instead she took a breath, and then said: "Why don't we just look the place over, and see what happens?"

"Of course," he said. "Humor me, though, and tell me why you call the place haunted. We can walk as you explain."

Adelle sighed. "I suppose we can," she said, "but we don't have to go far. Steve -- my boss, who owns the house -- once told me that the first person he brought here turned and ran away not three steps inside the door. When he caught up with her outside, she swore she'd seen a shadowy figure dragging a... a struggling woman up one of the chimneys. She wouldn't go back inside. Those pictures on the walls? People say they feel like the pictures are watching them. I've felt it myself, though I suppose it could be just imagination."

"Go on," said Damon Petrovich. His voice was gentle, coaxing.

Adelle started walking. "Several people reported feeling a... presence," she continued. "Something watching them, something reaching for them. I've felt that myself... just a few minutes ago, in fact. One man insisted that something in the house kept brushing against him, but I haven't ever felt that -- thank God. One time, Steve was trying to show this place, and he kept hearing someone moving in nearby rooms, or overhead. It made him half-crazy -- I think he thought that some vagrant was living here, hiding from him, and spoiling his chances of making the sale. He searched for maybe four hours and never found anyone, or any sign of anyone. Just sounds. Somewhere in there, the clients got freaked out and left. Steve didn't leave until it started getting dark outside." She paused, still walking, remembering what he'd said about that. After a time she asked: "Would you like to see the family rooms, the kitchens, or the servants' quarters first?"

"The kitchens, I think," said Damon Petrovich. He sounded uncertain, but Adelle was committed. She was going to tell him everything she remembered, and he would either buy the place, call her a fraud, or run screaming like everyone else had. For a moment, she was completely, irrationally angry: at Steve, for leaving her saddled with this; at Damon, for taking an interest in it; at herself, for being fool enough to come out here again; at the house itself, for being such an utter, unrelenting, terrifying pain in the ass.

"This way," she said, and led him around the stairs, and through the discreet door towards the back of the house.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Music: Do I Want To Know?

Okay, so... by Herculean efforts last night, I have completed Firstborn's Halloween costume. So colossal were these efforts that I went to bed immediately afterwards. I'm hoping to get the rest of Unreal Estate written tonight, but for the moment, I'm just going to throw up some music.

Arctic Monkeys:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Unreal Estate III

The drive to the front door was what Adelle thought of as a Classic Haunted House Approach: through the high stone pillars, past the heavy iron gates, then up a winding gravel drive between dark, twisted trees whose overhanging branches blotted out the sky and reached down to clutch at the passing cars. She occasionally caught glimpses of the rest of the acreage through the trees: overgrown, but never completely wild; just as the stone wall that surrounded the estate somehow managed to be derelict and run down without ever actually being ruined.

The house was cast from the same mold: despite its decrepit appearance -- a few missing shingles here, a broken window there, the steps and floorboards prone to creaking, and vines crawling over half of it -- it was fundamentally solid, a dark and brooding presence overlooking its environs. Adelle slowed as they reached the circle at the end of the drive, and stopped her car between the broken fountain in the center of the circle and the front steps.

She opened the door and stepped out quickly, scanning the windows. Was that a flash of movement on the second floor? By the time she focused, it was gone. She glanced back, but saw nothing in the fountain (just empty stone, overgrown with the remains of a rose garden), and immediately turned her attention back to the house. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched, that something was approaching, just behind her...

Damon Petrovich stepped out of his car, and the house... went still. Adelle glanced around, startled and confused. The house hadn't been moving, of course it hadn't been moving, but that sense of something lurking had suddenly retreated; and the feeling the house was somehow gathering itself suddenly receded. For a moment, it was just a big, old, somewhat battered house.

Then the doors swung open.

"I'm curious," said Damon Petrovich. "Would you consider than an invitation?"

"I... I don't know," said Adelle, genuinely puzzled. Then her voice turned grim. "If it is, it's a probably an invitation that to some special unpleasantness that it's been saving especially for me."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cello Wars: The Jedi Music Duels

For this morning, I got nothin'. So, here: have a little slice of somebody else's awesome:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Music: Heaven Knows

The Pretty Reckless:
(Caution: the video isn't work-safe -- or church-safe, for that matter. Might be better to listen to it without watching the video in any case, but then I think that about a lot of music.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In which Secondborn inherits my musical tastes

So, we just came back from the grocery store, and I had my Halloween mix playing in the car, and Secondborn is now roaming around the house singing "Pwiests and cannibals, Pwehistowic animals..."

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my child.