A dark night. Shadows splashed across the sky. Clouds huddled together so that the sky was a bulge of darkness. The wind was hungry as it gushed to slap the trees. It was cold. It was midnight.
He crouched to avoid the clout of bony branches. Moving his way through the weedy trail, he hurried as rain began to needle down to the lands. His breath caught when he almost tripped by a rock, his legs ached as he dashed frantically to the shelter.
He found a mansion. It sat lordly in a piece of obscure land, adjacent to the cliff. The sea beneath thrashed as its stormy water climbed up the rocks, then splashed down again to gather force. The mansion, its beaten windows flapping with the wind, its statues of lions and tigers weathered through time, towered over everything so that when he stood by its door, he was reminded of an ancient Transylvanian castle.
Lightning slashed the sky and thrust the horizon. Thunders barked the distance. Rain splashed in a great wave of knives. The terror he felt was animal.
Rapping the door with fisted hands, he called. “Is anybody here? Someone?”
Though no one answered, the door swung open. He stepped inside, felt chill skid through his spine. “Hello?” he called again.
Raul stood there for a minute, engulfed by the darkness as the storm outside growled in fury.
The staircase spiraled upwards. He climbed it. Outside, a series of thunders bellowed across the skies. He climbed faster.
Raul gave the rusty knob a twist and pushed open the door. Dust scattered as he stepped inside. Coughing, he closed the door behind him.
“Hello?” He called. Raul knew someone was here. Instinct told him he wasn’t alone. “I’m not a robber or anything. I just need something to bunk in for tonight? it’s pretty bad outside. Can I see you?”
A blur of speed. A lithe movement. He saw something dash to his right that made his heart skip in shock. A rodent, he thought, some damn rodent who runs around like a maniac. House as old as this collects damn pests.
“I’m imagining things. Of course, no one would live here.” No lights. No life. It didn’t take a meticulous eye to see that this was a dead place.
Cool breeze ran past by him, brushing against his face. He felt the hair at the back of his neck stand in tension. He swore he felt fingers graze his face.
Raul stood still for a minute, afraid that if he moved, something would come out. Then, with a shaky laugh, he started to the door. There was a scream. The door flung closed. The curtains flapped. The wind had gone ice cold. The chandeliers rattled.
Then he saw it. Its face a skull, rotting with slimy maggots. Its antlers poked the ceiling, so that when it moved there were scratches up the wall. Its body floated, garmented by gray robe patched with holes. It whispered, like a silent death.
His world seemed to have shut off, like everything just went dead. Then he was off running. The staircase spiraled down endlessly. By the time he reached the hall he was panting like crazy.
“Oh, God.” The creature had the speed of the wind. His face pale, his heart pounding, he stumbled back as he frantically groped for a weapon. “Oh, God. Oh. Oh.”
Raul snatched a crowbar and bolted left. He stopped dead when the creature loomed before him. With careful steps backward, he lifted his crowbar, prepared to attack. The creature swayed toward him, its eyes teeming with maggots. Raul swung the crowbar and connected it with the skull. There was a thunderous blast that sent shards of bones flying.
For a moment Raul was still. His ragged breathing sped up. His heart beat wild. Then, careful not to make noise, he took a deep breath, and then plunged for the door.
Trees shook as the cold wind slapped them. Rain was harsh as it stabbed his back, as it needled through his eyes. The lightning was a vein of electricity up the sky, the thunders howling wolves from the distance.
Terror gathered in his chest so that it constricted in pressure. He looked back as he ran, and saw nothing when he did. With a frantic sob he pushed himself forward. Away. Just away.
He found a hut. With a deep breath he pounded on the door. “Please! Please, someone help me, please! Oh, God. Let me come in, anyone!”
Lazily the door swung open. He stumbled in, felt safe. But when he lifted his face, he saw the skull.
A scream. A bloodcurdling weep. The wind’s howl.
Raul wept like a child as the door closed behind him.