You had made the reservations for the weekend away. House out in the woods with a pretty lake nearby. Fireplace and very rustic feel but with lots of amenities. It sounded perfect. And yet….
We drive through the overgrowth, branches slapping against the top and side of the car, and laugh about how it will be very private. The driveway gets narrower and there are potholes that we could lose the car in. You slow to a crawl and then the house comes into view.
There is a lake to the left of the house and the sight is beautiful. We don’t really take enough time to appreciate it with the house looming in front of us. And looming is pretty descriptive. The windows are covered with shutters and the house is dark grey and just…dark. It feels like we’ve stepped into a classic film noir and expect Alfred Hitchcock to answer the door.
There is an old car sitting in front of the house just adding to the ambiance. It looks like it hasn’t run in 40 years and you park behind it, giving me an unsure look. “We passed that inn about 20 miles back. Should we scrap this and go back?” Before I can reply, Alfred opens the front door.
“You found the place. I was getting a little worried because you said you’d be here about an hour ago,” he said. “I’m Joe, the caretaker.” After exchanging some pleasantries, he hands us the key.
“I didn’t open the shutters because it tends to get drafty in there. I know it looks a little dark, but there’s plenty of light. I stocked it with all of the food that you requested and there’s plenty of firewood. There’s only one room that isn’t really ‘company’ ready. We had some vandals here last week and the old dining room is pretty sparse. “
We told him not to worry about that. It was only going to be the two of us and we didn’t really need a formal dining space. He grinned and got in the car. “Just leave the key under the mat when you leave on Monday.” We nod and he drives off in the car which purrs in spite of its age.
We decide to check it out before we unpack the car because it frankly looks abandoned. The front door swings open easily and without a sound. As we step inside, the furnishings are beautiful and exactly as described in the ad. There is an enormous fireplace in the main room and Joe has already lit the fire. It is was and inviting and we laugh a bit at our earlier discomfort.
After checking out the kitchen, which was shiny and new, we grabbed a glass of wine and headed upstairs to see the rest. The bedrooms were mostly closed but the master at the end of the hall had a beautiful bed and an attached bathroom with claw foot tub. You put down your wine and head out to get the bags.
I wander downstairs to see the rest of the house. There’s a sunroom that has beautiful views of the lake. Then I open another door that leads to the dining room. As I switch on the light, I see one chair lit by one light and a fireplace. I can smell fresh paint and the light is casting shadows on the wall in a creepy way. I slowly close the door, formulating a plan.
After eating dinner, we sit in front of the fire for a bit, drinking wine and just talking. My bare feet are on your lap, teasing you, and you groan. We can hear that the wind is picking up a bit and some of the branches are scratching against the shutters. I get up, taking my wine and tell you that I’m going to try out the tub.
“I’ll be up after I finish cleaning up the kitchen,” you say and I nod. Dropping clothes as I walk upstairs, I catch your eye. After I get to the room, I fill the tub, but don’t get in. I get out lipstick and write a message on the mirror, then splash water on the floor, stepping in the puddle to make footprints as I head back downstairs. I enter the dining room and set up my phone to play the creepy sounds that I downloaded earlier.
I can hear you moving around in the kitchen and then the lights switch off. You check the fire in the fireplace to make sure it is completely out and then I hear you head upstairs, calling my name. Then I hear you call it again, a bit louder and then start opening and shutting doors upstairs.
Finally, I hear your footsteps on the stairs coming towards me. I start the sounds and turn on the flashlight, throwing crazy shadows on the wall. I toss the white sheet that I grabbed from the linen closet over the chair and wait in the dark.
The door slowly opens and you pause in the doorway. The branches are scratching the shutters, the low sounds are echoing around the empty room and the slight draft is moving the sheet. You take one step inside and try the light switch, which doesn’t work. Amazing what removing the bulbs will do.
You take another step and whisper my name, trying to see in the dark. My bare feet make no noise on the wood floor as I move behind you to close the door. You jump and whirl around, just catching a glimpse of my hair in the shadows.
“Gotcha…this is payback for all of those April Fools pranks over the years,” I laugh. I open the door and take your hand. “Let’s go upstairs and rattle some of the ghosts in this place.”