"For God's sake, stop calling her, Simon. How many times do you have to be told?" Without waiting for a reply, the passenger ended the call and powered down the device. Turning her head, the younger of the female pair, wild red hair left loose, glanced to the driver as rain splattered the windscreen. "You should have blocked his number before leaving." Regardless of no physical notification from the bleach-blonde beside her, the passenger huffed, her sweet Southern drawl laying flat in the stuffy interior.
"I was curious about whether he'd even bother to call when he realized I was really gone. this time."
"Considering that was the thirteenth time since we left the motel, I'd say yeah: he noticed."
Rolling thunder rumbled overhead as heavy rain fell from the blackened sky. There were no street lamps nor light pollution like in the cities they were used to, only the pale yellow glow of the headlights leading the way as the car followed the erratic curves of hillside. The entire panorama above was inky and twined with overhanging spindly tree branches from either side of the narrow road in the middle of nowhere. It had been pelting it down for at least four hours straight, leaving a wash of mud over the cracked tarmac road meandering through back-country. Through the thicket of a stretching mountainous pass, the vintage cherry red Pontiac had been driving along for the last two and a half hours of their twenty-six hour journey with little action bar the occasional stop for gas, angry calls from 'Simon', and a begrudging pick-up from a rank fast-food joint. No other car had passed the Pontiac since darkness fell on the refreshing landscape, even longer since a public bus stop had been seen.
The driver, a young woman with long, platinum hair and a few facial piercings put her window down just enough so that the rain couldn't completely soak her arm. Scraping up a packet of cigarettes from the top of the dashboard by the old fashioned display, she lit the end of one and took a drag. The female in her mid-to-late twenties rolled her neck when the soothing fumes filled her lungs. "Check the radio, the sound of nothing but rain is sending my head west." She spoke, her Northern British accent thick, her tone low and husky as she scrunched her face repeatedly, her military boot heavy on the gas.
Shifting in her seat, the slightly younger woman poked the power button of the sound system. Eyes made up in a pin-up fashion locked on the display as she twisted the dial and tried to catch a signal for a decent station. Both women had tried to make sense out of the static miles back but nothing but fuzz and demonic noises had spewed from the only technological upgrade to the vehicle. For the past two hours, they had been left in silence bar the growing gripe of the weather hitting the tin they were travelling in and bouncing off the fast-disappearing asphalt.
A jolly voice came from the speakers, "-0.7fm, Whitevale Falls' one and only local station that plays anything but the newest trash with John Reese running the late-night show. Wow, what can I say about tonight's weather, man? Make sure to bring your pets and kids inside because we're in for this all week. Next, we have another classic and one of my favourites. I was lucky enough to see this performed live just after its release. Please put your hands together for Journey's Separate Ways. That is...unless you're driving," A scratchy har-har-har laugh faded into the aforementioned song as the iconic intro jingled through the heated interior.
The passenger looked to the driver with a grin and turned up the volume. "Welcome to Whitevale Falls, Cory," the redhead's Southern American accent was tinged with jest.
'Cory' opened her mouth to mock her friend but an orange glow flickering through the saturated woodland on her side of the vehicle stole her attention. "What's that?"
The redhead leaned forward as if it would help her get a better look at the details of the passing scenery; it wouldn't - you were practically blind out there during the night. "Looks like kids fucking around." Her heavy droll cut above the radio station dancing between the current song and the occasional mist of static.
Burning lids closed for a second, perhaps not even that long and the driver's line of sight dragged along the blur. "There shouldn't be anyone around h-" Heart wrung out, the blonde swerved the steering wheel to the left in order to avoid the obstacle in the middle of the road. The vehicle jerked at the brake being slammed, hitched as if they'd gone over something. Uneven ground grated the tires as the front of the car spun off onto the mud. Jolting when the side of the bumper met shrubbery, the female pair remained frozen for a second.
"Fuck me, are you okay?" Hand automatically out across her company's chest, the driver barked as she checked the woman beside her. "Holy fuck, I dropped my smoke," embers left on her torso were quickly slapped out.
"Did you hit something?"
"I saw someone on the road." Flicking the interior light on, the driver contorted in her search for her dropped vice.
Without waiting for any more of an explanation, the passenger got out and rounded the front of the car. Rain pelting her form, weighing down her clothes and hair in an instant, she looked like a creature crawled out of a bog as she pointed around. "There's nothing here."
"I fuckin' saw someone, Selene; they were wearing pajama's or some kind of tracksuit." Ragging her door open, the driver stepped out into the downpour. Feet skidding on the sloshy mud, she checked the cracked asphalt behind them.
"I think we both need some sleep; we've been travelling for hours." Peering out into the darkness, Selene looked to her left, further into the surroundings. Nothing but trees and a steep drop if Corrina would have driven a few more yards was to the left. "Good job you forked out for new brake-pads." Shielding her face with her hand in a futile attempt to save her face from running, the redhead inspected the bumper.
"Is it bad?"
"Just a few twigs stuck in the grill, as far as I can see."
"Good, I doubt they'd have the right parts around here." Scouring the road they'd travelled down, Corrina scoffed and got back inside the car, urging her friend to do the same.
Pointing across the road, Selene motioned to an incline in the treeline, a set of tall decorative iron gates almost hidden amongst the swaying branches and ivy grown feral. "I'll get it."
Reaching into the car, Selene scraped up a hefty ring of keys with tiny paper tags attached from the well beneath the handbrake. Dashing across the narrow road, she sifted through the keys and unlocked the rusted iron lock built into the gates nearly twice her height just enough for the Pontiac to get through.
"Shall I lock it?"
She called out through the darkness only broken by the headlights as the driver reversed out of the bushes. The blonde shook her head. Beckoning her hand, the driver again urged her friend to get back inside the car before she had to listen to the Amazonian whinge about her hair getting wet being her fault.
Once the redhead had dropped back into her seat and shut the door behind her, the driver began rolling down the driveway at a careful pace. There was only blackness surrounding them, the little orange splodge in the woods to the left of the driveway, and the headlights. After a few yards of moving at a crawling pace, old gas-style lamps began to flicker on as if they were prompted by sensors. Following the pathway overgrown on either side by tendril weeds and wild grasses grown just as their namesake would suggest, the occupants of the car tried to focus their eyes. The duo was now on their new property and it was more than either of them expected.
The pictures they'd been sent via e-mail did nothing to express the vastness of the estate they were approaching, and apparently, there was even more behind the imposing structure. Every twenty feet or so on either side of the private driveway in alternating order, the same old fashioned street lamps accented with bronze cherubs turned green with age struggled to flicker on. Unruly grass and wild-flowers that must have been at least three or four feet high sprouted from both sides of the grit drive; Corrina half-joked about goblins laying in wait when she noticed the lawn impersonating a mutant savannah, the rain coming down so hard it was like the surrounding nature was cymbals being beat by a thrash-metal drummer. The central water feature made of stone was almost covered by weeds, green algae seeping over the top two tiers. Even the towering trees surrounding every side of the house bar the front facade appeared to have a mind of their own as their branches swayed and got caught up in each other due to the growing bluster. It stunk of dehydrated soil being quenched, howls of wind whipping over the landscape and groans of evergreens were clearly audible over the engine and radio.
The main building itself was charcoal grey from what could be seen under the sparse lighting. At the front entrance guarded by stone angels taller than either girl, a large porch - which was more like stone wrap-around decking than anything else - held the main fieldstone stairway which tapered off around both sides of the structure - the right side completely engulfed by nature. When the car rolled over the fallen leaves and dead twigs to park, the security light above the ornate wooden double doors flickered on. Bright yellow light flooded the setting around the stark red vehicle stood stationary amongst the monotonous setting. Now having a light source more significant than the pair of old headlights, the beauty of the place which had almost lost its fight against nature was plain to still see. Not even the security bars over the ground floor windows and the woodwork in desperate need of a paint-job could distract from the immense detail and grand splendour that had gone into the making of the impressive structure.
The passenger looked out of her window and at the gem that had been left to decay out in the middle of nowhere. "It's creepy," she deadpan and the driver turned in her seat to show a quirked brow.
"Don't say that, Selene. You'll upset the house." The driver took the keys out of the ignition as she ignored the appalled glare coming from the younger woman. "Let's hurry and get inside."
Reluctantly, the younger woman had grabbed the few bags off the back seat which she had brought along and followed her friend up the wide stone steps smooth with wear. Corinna had taken the ring of keys from her friend; it jangled as she searched for the right one amongst the tagged bars of metal, the filigree left on some of the original old iron. Unlocking one of the two doors which made up the front barrier, the wood creaked from lack of use in recent years. In the same instance, groggy blipping signalled that the temperamental security system worked. Kind of.
The redhead took a step behind her friend and gave an encouraging push. "Go on then, Indi," she nodded upwards with seriousness as she used the silly nickname referring to Indiana Jones.
The older female peeked back over her shoulder, black liner smeared around her eyes and platinum hair stuck to the sides of her face, a sly grin being forcefully held back as she cooed. "Don't tell me you're scared, Len?"
Selene shook her head with a frown and gave another push, this time with a bit more oomph. "Just get inside; it's cold and I'm soaked."
With that, Cory shuffled into the foyer closely followed by her friend. A small lamp had been left on beside the alarm box attached to the wall. She tried not to drip on the electrical fixture as she prodded in the code which was yet another tag attached to the batch of keys. Three loud, crunchy beeps gave confirmation that the system was now docile. Huffing at what had been more of a struggle to get up the steps and into the building than had been anticipated, the pair sucked in a deep breath filled with the stink of old wood and fresh plaster.
Locking the door and shrugging off their wet outerwear and shoes, both women stood there for a moment, taking in the striking scene of the intricately carved, rich walnut staircase which twisted for what seemed like forever despite the lack of artificial light. On each banister pillar, statues of angels and cherubs matching that outside stared down on them contentedly with the heavenly grace bestowed upon them by their creator. Muted kaleidoscope glow from the stained glass dome-ceiling diaphanously veiled the reception like the frescoes at the Sistine Chapel, if it happened to be meshed by old leaves and rain patter. Neither women were traditionally religious but breath was held in sheer awe of the display unlike either had ever seen.
Tearing her eyes away to take in the rest of the spectacular visage, the redhead nudged her seemingly spaced-out friend, her verdant eyes dancing along the colours high above. "Don't go into the light, Carol-Anne~ Stay away from the light~" Smacking the hand away, the blonde rolled her eyes at the old joke.
The elder female, legally known as Corrina Larkin, was twenty-eight years old and 'self-employed'. She had drifted around for as long as she could remember and never really felt comfortable staying in one place for too long. She had too many bad memories in too many shitty towns, and she never made any acquaintance worth keeping except for a few individuals she could count on one hand, even if the threats she received were to be carried out to lop off a finger or two. Her relationships with men never lasted more than six months at best either: The only one she'd ever willingly kept in touch with for longer was her elder brother due to mutual breaks in the law, but even those occasions were tumultuous at best.
After finding her last residence outdated for more reasons than she cared to count, Corrina broke up with her then-boyfriend, packed up before a compromise could be pitched, and chose to leave without much hesitation. She didn't have time to even humour the thought of hesitation before packing her only bag. Before taking off and leaving the city she couldn't care less about if she tried, she asked the only person she considered her real friend in her own right, Selene Davenport, to come along for the ride.
Selene had just the week before found out she was not exactly who she thought she was. Her parents were a pair of old-money ranchers who had owned land in Arizona and Texas for generations - sections of which had been lent to the military during certain discrepancies and returned with interest and accolades for their 'service of helping to protect the country'; along with a pretty (not-so-little) five star White-Christmas cabin in Aspen, Colorado. They even forked out for their whimsical daughter-in-law's start-up beauty business in Washington, for all the good that did.
Selene didn't like to get into the details of how much money her parents gave her older brother and his empty-headed wife, but once the conversation had started, she found it difficult to stop. It was a hard stop - like a body without a safety belt going through a windscreen at a hundred miles per hour on a busy street. It only made matters worse that she never asked for anything from her parents. Or anyone, for that matter. Even the trust-fund for her education had been mostly left untouched due to her wanting to make her own way in life. Given, she almost dug her own early grave working three part-time jobs and studying at the same time, but she refrained from making a dent on what was handed to her on a platter. So why, after being crowned one of the special 10% who didn't blow free money and student loans, her parents were mad, "disappointed", that she decided to use what she had saved to buy a life of her own somewhere new, she couldn't understand. Perhaps it was that she was leaving. Perhaps it was that she was leaving after what she'd heard the week prior. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was leaving with a person they didn't agree with. Perhaps, using the phrase 'agree with' on the latter remark was a grave understatement.
Corrina walked straight down the prism-tinged hallway and for the sitting room she remembered was on the right from one of the blueprints sent in an e-mail. Selene wandered a few paces behind with the intent to follow. To her right just behind the front door, there was a narrow console table beneath a tall decorative mirror hanging on the wood-panelled wall facing the start of the staircase the which backscatter of grandeur behind her. When Selene had turned to see what was on the table, she had become caught up in the reflection staring back at her. Something was odd about it, something ominous about how the sparse warm glow laced the fixtures behind her. Moreover, the alter in her very own features that were irrelevant to her smeared make-up and sopping hair. The air left her skin tingling with a soft static electricity and she could envision a gruesome image popping up at her back at any second. Still, the iridescent glow which settled on the wooden carvings around her was so beautiful, enthralling, warm.
"What are you doing?"
The redhead snapped to attention. Looking over to where she'd heard the call, Selene blinked to restart her thought process. "What?"
Corrina, who was stood in the threshold to the now-illuminated sitting room a few yards away with a cigarette hanging from her lips, her left hand on her hip elaborated with a slight upwards nod. "I knew you were vain but this is taking it to the next level."
Scoffing at the dig, Selene snatched what had first grabbed her attention from the slim table and made for the blonde. "Shut ya mouth and smoke a joint already. You look like shit."
Both women stood in the largest room on the ground floor; it was the room that they'd agreed to use as the main living and entertainment area. Like the foyer, this space retained all its furnishings from the previous owner in the forms of intricate Gothic dark woodwork, lacquered furniture, and crystal-drop lighting fixtures. Even the gigantic fire-surround and hearth made from white-and-pale-grey-veined marble sculpted into an Epic-Grecian scene appeared to be authentic to the time the previous owners were going for. Above it, yet another expensive-looking mirror, this one taking up the majority of the broad chimney breast which sprouted two interior balcony-walkways on the second floor. The only off-putting feature was the majority of the wall at the far was a bare run of patio doors, trees and weeds pushed up against them from lack of pruning.
There were a few pieces of furniture, a couple of sofas and loungers, and a long dining table presumably, by the patio doors, covered in decorating tarpaulin. The women didn't have much furniture of their own - which was fine as Davies had said that most of the pieces in the pictures which had been sent via e-mail came with the purchase. What little they did own themselves was to be brought up next week via a moving company. If nothing else, it saved them lugging their shit up those monstrous front steps, and the staircase which would no doubt end up with one, if not both, of them dying in the process. They had brought the minimal amount with them in the car (mostly because it was barely big enough for the pair alone); the usual you would bring along for a one-week-long holiday, plus sheets for the air-beds which had been sent ahead of time and pumped up by the workmen via a $50 tip.
"I found this on the table." Selene passed the brown envelope that was bordering on the size of an A4 folder and half an inch thick. The emptiness in her hand was soon replaced by the herbal joint the blonde had been puffing on when they swapped.
The blonde tore open the top to pull out the wad of papers that was inside. The booklet was a map of the main and out-buildings, or what was left of them via scraps of blueprints which had been compiled from various sources, as well as phone numbers for things such as surveyors, gardeners, and decorators, plus the number for the estate agency and the local Sheriff's office. The documents had been assembled by the realtor who had been dealing with their sale: Marcus Davies. He was a fairly young, polite man who put in a lot of effort into finalizing the deal. But then again, who wouldn't in his position? Even if they couldn't sell it, the agency was unable to demolish it due to it being a listed building, so they were screwed if they couldn't palm it off on some unsuspecting first-time-buyer.
The house had been on the market for seventeen years prior without any takers and eventually, after a battle of wits (and some underhanded guilt-tripping and twists in wording on their part) the asking price had been lowered to less than a quarter of what was wanted for it due to several troublesome circumstances concerning the property. The remaining pages seemed to be an index of everything in the proceeding pages, a copy of all the paperwork signed by the pair, plus the contracted movers and decorators arrival dates and times and to end it, a seemingly informal good luck message by Davis himself.
Shoving the wad back in the envelope and chucking it on a cloth-covered sofa, Corrina scratched her head like a madwoman. "The new air-beds are upstairs. We should get some sleep and make a start tomorrow." She slapped her friend's arm lightly and took her medicinal cigarette back while making for the door.
Pinching the material of the well-loved Slipknot hoodie covering the blonde's back, Selene skipped behind the slightly shorter woman. "I'm staying with you tonight." She told as she repetitively tugged the cloth in her grip.
"Grab the bags." Corrina didn't refuse the statement as she gave her own directions. She didn't even turn around to send any kind of glare at the female treating her like a rag doll on the foot of the stairs. "If you kick me or mutter on with yourself like last time, I'mma throw the mattress out of the window with you on it."
Ignoring the threat, the redhead locked her arms across the top of the crouching blonde's chest and hoisted herself up, the cases swinging in front of her chest. Clenching her thighs on the older woman's hips, Selene clung to her friend like a koala bear. "I promise I won't." She patted her friend's arm, prompting the blonde for a turn on the herbal remedy. In preparation, Corrina held it over her shoulder and took a deep breath
One hand supporting her friend's left leg behind the knee, the other grasping at the bannister rail older than both of them put together and more, Corrina began hiking. "You said that last time and I ended up with a bruised tit and a nose bleed after you kicked me in the face when you thought I was a rapist after forgetting we were sharing." Instead of any kind of pleading or apology, the redhead vibrated with laughter.
"I'll sleep on the window side."
"Yes, you will." Shrugging the weight up her back, the blonde started as she meant to go on.
"Imagine going down these stairs on cushions, like at The County Crow." By the pause in the climb, the carrier probably did.
Corrina's eyes wobbled when she realized how high up they were. They were only half-way up the first floor of the open staircase and it was hell; the support barrier only came a few inches above her hip height. She tried with all her might to keep steady, using the dim plum step-runner as a guide. Her left hand reached out to test her depth perception against the four-steps higher than her foot, her knee brushing her under-bust as she leaned forward and hiked. All kinds of unfamiliar smells assaulted her as she fought with which sense she wanted to trust. "I'd rather not."
Updated: 24th December 2019 - 23:23
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