It was approaching midnight on a warm winter night, rare in medieval England, with the moon halfway on its journey towards fullness. Rarer still was the tempest, an approaching storm that brought howling winds, crackling light bolts and ear piercing thunder to the winter night sky. Isadore had never seen a thunder storm in the winter. She had only heard tell of it once, the year before her birth 23 years ago. Each bolt of lightning combined with the moonlight that peeked through the winter clouds to reveal strange shadows lurking everywhere in the darkness around every corner, behind each tree, jumping suddenly from under each large rock.
Isadore was approaching her uncle’s home, a large, frightening and imposing structure in appearance with high arches, several towers and a ghastly allure. She wanted nothing more than to be snug, warm and comfortable under the covers of a nice, soft bed. Despite its outward appearance, Isadore had heard that inside, the house was actually quite warm, inviting and comfortable. It was not the décor, but the atmosphere inside and surrounding the outside of the house that brought bewilderment and fear.
Once a house of horrors, the air of past events within its walls had never gone away but hung ominously in the air like an omen of future misgivings. They lingered inside like the fearsome shadows she now perceived outside. During its 120 years of existence, the house had been the scene of grotesque tortures, hideous punishments and cruel, mysterious deaths. Now, as Isadore approached the house, a chill in her soul, she had to wonder, “Was this rare, strange winter thunderstorm the foreboding of impending disaster and doom?”
As Isadore approached the gated house in her coach, she could not help but wonder what the storm might signal, if anything. Each bolt of lightning highlighted the cathedral arches and high towers of the house, and as her coach drew nearer to the gloomy exterior of the house, the tempest grew stronger, the winds howled more intensely and the air grew thicker with an atmosphere of horror and fear. Could the inside atmosphere be any more frightening than the cold, exterior atmosphere of the winter night.
Despite the strange warmth of the winter night, the sense surrounding the abode was still cold, as if the cold exited the doors of the house and poured out into the surrounding countryside. Even in the distance, Isadore could see that the “approaching” storm was no where in the distance. It hung over the house like a cloud of evil. Indeed, the storm seemed to be forming there, and continued to grow in intensity over the house as Isadore’s coach drew closer to the gates.
Upon its arrival at the front gate, the coachman announced, “We have arrived My Lady.” He got down, opened the door and assisted her out of her coach. She had no sooner stepped onto the ground when a bolt of lightning came from out of nowhere, struck a barren winter tree some few paces away and brought it tumbling towards the ground. Now startled and quite concerned, the incident sent a chill throughout Isadore’s soul, but not as much of a chill as what she saw next. A few moments after the tree struck the ground, the door of the abode opened and there, standing in the opening was…a man; a frightening, hideous being.
As this man stood in the archway, Isadore stared in horror. He spoke and fortunately, his voice was as pleasant as his appearance was hideous. It was almost mesmerizing. Then, as the wind howled with increasing vociferousness, he approached the gate to open it. Once he was near her, he asked for and received Isadore’s bags and assisted her through the gates and into the manor.
Much to her relief, the inside decor was a appealing as she had heard, but the atmosphere was anything but. It was as if the atmosphere had stories to tell, strange and wonderful, yet frightening and macabre. When the door closed behind her, it slammed hard enough that its knocker actually sounded as if someone was at the door. The man, merely a servant, asked Isadore to wait in the parlor while he fetched the master. “I will take your bags to your room, My Lady, if that meets with your approval, and fetch the master.”
“Thank you, that suits me fine.” Then he left. Only an instant after he left, Isadore thought she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. When she looked up, she saw the hem of a dress disappearing through the crack of a closing door. Perhaps that is what it was, for as she stood there watching, the crack remained and the door never closed.
Less than five minutes later, her uncle, the master, arrived, a young, handsome man perhaps in his early 30s, and greeted Isadore warmly. After a few moments of introductions and pleasantries, Isadore asked about the woman in the dress.
Looking puzzled, the Master remarked, “The woman in the dress? I don’t understand. We are quite alone, just you, me and the servant you saw. Otherwise, the house is empty…except perhaps….” He stopped there and said nothing more, so Isadore asked, “Except perhaps what?”
“Oh, nothing. I…I guess I was about to say except perhaps the howling wind outside. It’s no concern. My servant will take you to your chamber.”
“Dear sir, I wonder…I don’t mean anything by this, but would you mind accompanying me yourself? Your servant sends chills up my spine. I’m sure he is a nice enough person. His voice is absolutely mesmerizing, but otherwise, he is quite frightening.”
The master laughed and said, “Oh yes, I guess I understand. I’ve heard that comment before. Just give me a moment or two and I will accommodate you. Tomorrow others like you will arrive and there will be more servants as well. If you see anything in the meantime it’s…it’s just your imagination playing tricks on you.”
Isadore thought to herself, “What a strange comment. Why would he make such a comment? I was already frightened enough while outside. Was there something to fear within as well?”