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."

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