Saturday, September 24, 2016

FREE: PREQUEL TO THE HOUSE ON BLACKSTONE MOOR


Young Rose Baines lives with madness. There is evil there and sin, too. And it is that sin that will lead her to the vampires and The House on Blackstone Moor.

A Prequel to The House on Blackstone Moor

"My aunt is ill, that is why I have come to her. She is my mother’s sister and she is dying, but I fear we too are dying for we live with madness. It is like another occupant, a lodger who won’t leave. No writs will drive it away. It remains and kills all who live there. And so the house sickens too, as we all have.

Today, as I’m away from those oppressive four walls, it feels like a reprieve, albeit temporary. But I can’t stop thinking about that house, my father’s house, for today, I’m even farther from my loved ones. I cannot protect them from the evil that shrouds them.

Is a house a living thing, do you think? And when it harbors madness, does it show, I wonder? Will those walking past it know or suspect that there is great suffering occurring there, even if they don’t hear the screaming from within?

Perhaps those discerning individuals who stand apart from most of us as being particularly sensitive to various phenomena—might they know?

My bedroom window faced the street, and I quite enjoyed gazing at the houses across the way, wondering how those families lived. Then, if I happened to see them up close, I studied their faces for signs of suffering.

I often did that. I recall a childhood friend of mine—some nice little girl I knew before my father’s illness damned us all. She visited us often and he was kind to her. Then she moved away, surely never dreaming that he would change. But he did.

Before my father’s illness.

A great and meaningful marking in my life: before and after. Life before, life after. Was there ever really a time when I worshipped him, when I thought him kind and caring? Do I actually recall my mother smiling lovingly at him with no fear tainting that smile?

My brother and sisters, poor things, will not have known that happy time for they were too young…

Yet, can I be certain it ever really existed?

I used to think some dreams were real. Often, I would wonder about such things, as I stood and gazed out of my window, wishing I could save my mother from the madness. If I were granted one wish I’d save them all. And then, one further wish perhaps just an extension of the first wish; that my father be put down as any rabid dog is.

Take him away that he might sleep forever.

Each day passed as most of our days did, with us searching his face for signs of anger so that we might be prepared. There were the questions we asked ourselves: had we not smiled in the right way? Was the roast not to his liking, was he comfortable or was he too warm or too cold?

Moods were discerned by careful searching; his face being key to this. If I wasn’t searching his face, I was examining my mother’s expression that was always a good indicator as to what sort of evening and night lay ahead for us all. The best thing he could tell us was he that was going out.

“I am going for a stroll now.”

None of us, especially mother, ever questioned his plans; to do so was far too great an infraction upon his liberty.

An innocent word or expression could set him off. One careless unguarded moment, a slip of some kind, just one tiny mistake might light the fire and conjure the beast for the beast was there.

If he whirled around suddenly, we’d all try to steel ourselves for the fire and brimstone.

“Are you suggesting I should not leave the house?”

Immediate and vociferous protestations from Mother—“Of course not! I never meant that…”

Her protestations could never be freely given. She had to give them careful consideration before saying anything lest the wrong word be uttered. Even a well-intentioned plea might very likely be misunderstood.

“I wish you wouldn’t take it up that way. I never meant—”

“Madam! Are you suggesting that I don’t understand what you are saying? 
You’re not suggesting that I cannot understand what a stupid, insignificant creature such as yourself is saying, are you?”

“Of course not, dear…”

‘Dear,’ ‘darling,’ any such word would have done; whatever might soothe the enraged monster and calm him.

It seemed his rages had a life of their own.

I can recall, too, falling asleep during such rowing. His angry voice would shout at me, “Do you dare to sleep before this is resolved?”

At these dreaded times I’d try to see what my mother wished me to do. Searching her face wasn’t easy as he was watching me carefully.

That was all part of it. When you are watched by a madman who is enraged, you had best be mindful of each and every thing you do. You cannot afford to make a mistake!

I had learned, as even my sisters and brother had young as they were. My mother certainly had.

I would know with the highly developed instincts of an animal that something was wrong. One particularly vicious day, I felt it at luncheon and after, and then at dinner. There were more than one or two signs. Mother and I exchanged secret looks.

The evening was spent as most evenings are. Mother sewed; although how she steadied her hands I didn’t know.

I read, though I was not able to absorb much. Still, I kept the poetry book open on my lap lest he’d notice my trepidation.

My brother played with our sisters. The youngest hugged her doll to herself, looking up occasionally with frightened eyes, but then looking away. She was only five but she was learning!

And father, the source of all the trouble. The center of our storm, the very heart of the matter—he was most fidgety, which was a bad sign if ever there was one.

I saw him brush imaginary crumbs from himself and from the sofa. Then he’d take books from the bookcase, muttering to himself all the while. He’d sit down, flip through them and stare at each of us.


Occasionally, he’d pass a remark about the quality of reading matter in the house, none of it complimentary and occasionally most of it quite rude.

Sometimes he’d walk to the window to gaze outside, smiling to himself. Now, that was terrifying.

Occasionally he’d complain about the outside noise—the few carriages that came up our street, the far off sound of a barking dog.

I thought it likely we’d be in for it and I think my mother did as well. Still, we carried on, hoping for the best.


The children went to sleep at seven. Mother took them away. She did not request that they kiss their papa good night because by this time he was smoking a cheroot and laughing in a queer and fearful way.

I wanted so to flee from the room but I didn’t dare. Mother returned and sat back down to her sewing. Finally, the clock struck ten and he rose.

“I shall go to sleep now.”

Go to sleep and die, why don’t you? Please? Oh please, die in your sleep and leave us in peace!

He left but not before touching my hair to ruffle it. I cringed at his touch, although I tried so hard not to.

Mother and I did not speak or even whisper for fear of being overheard. Eventually we turned in, she and I silently embracing.


It began some time later. I heard his angry voice and then mother’s pleading one. Would her pleas work? Would he stop? Of course not. His raised voice grew louder by the second. She continued to plead, whimpering and begging. I listened for the sound of a slap, but I heard none.

Be grateful for small mercies. They are like little miracles.

But I was fooled! I was relieved too early for suddenly there was the sound of a slap. Mother didn’t cry out but I did.

“Stop it!” I shouted, loud enough that he would hear.

And then as if to answer me, he pounded on the wall—it was a warning.

I listened and waited, barely breathing, then I heard one further shout and the sound of his lunatic footsteps stomping out of the house.

He was gone. What joy! Alright, he’d be back but meanwhile we would enjoy the freedom. What greater gift is there than freedom in captivity though it be brief?

My sisters opened my door. Five year old Annie and eight year old Lucy were crying.

“Come Rose, Mama is sick and we don’t know what to do.”

Mother sat on the edge of her bed. She was in tears, yet, she managed a weak smile for us.

“Let us go to the parlor.”

I lit the lamps and saw how pale she looked, then, as I searched for signs of a beating I smiled, for I saw none; just the tell-tale sign of red finger marks on her fair skin.

I was thankful it was not worse.

Her lips trembled slightly but she smiled back at me. The two little ones needed to be held by her. I saw that. She spoke quietly to them—sweet consoling words, all lies really.


It takes a long time to understand the necessity for lies. But then one does. I think it is the reality of maturity, the first of many lessons one learns that accomplishes that.

Soon, my brother Daniel joined our sad little group. No doubt he was hiding under the bed again. Poor Daniel, trying so hard to be brave at twelve.

What a sad little circle of misery we were. Each of us trying to look brave for the other. My own shaky voice sought reassurance.

“Are you alright, Mother?”

She nodded and I smiled. Had I ever smiled with happiness? I couldn’t remember.

Or could I?

Had I forgotten everything? After all, it is easier to block out everything than to be selective sometimes. Memories can hurt and oftentimes be fatal.

“Rose?”

I recall my father standing in the doorway to my room on many nights. Lurking like a shadow. But then he’d move and I’d feel his closeness as he sat on the edge of my bed.

I’d pretend to be asleep, breathing as evenly as I could, not permitting an eyelid to flutter for that would be the worst thing I could do.

“Rose?”

A whisper in the night; the sound of my name like a dagger in my heart.

Shhh! He’ll go out. Be still! If I was lucky and he did leave, I’d pray. No more visits tonight, please…

“I only want to touch you…”

Ah, but some touches are killing things and some acts are criminal.

He didn’t do it to my sisters; I know I listened at the door, a conscientious sentry ready to spring to the aid of my younger sisters lest the beast hurt them by taking away their innocence.

Where was my mother then? Why wasn’t she my protector? Why did she never help?

She didn’t know. But she had to have. She was barely there herself most of the time.


Fragile and child-like. He used to call her his child-bride even though she was twenty when they married.

I think, looking back on it now, he enjoyed thinking of her that way.

She was a shy, fragile creature—so wrong for him.

She had been such a beauty, like a Rose. Her name and mine.

“He did love me once, Rose.”

Her sad pronouncement was a confession of sorts, an explanation declared to me between tears and the now vague and fleeting memories of love.

But had she been correct? Or had his madness always been there, lurking—hidden behind a smile and a tender touch?

She had been a quiet, refined girl. Her mother was a widow; there wasn’t much money, so when my father came along there wasn’t much consideration. Perhaps his request to keep company was too easily granted.

“He was alright at first. I was happy, truly.”

But happiness and strength do not always last. Life with him had created so many chinks in the wall.

I knew he was killing her slowly. I wondered if she knew it.

She was fading. Truly she was. I could see it. The others couldn’t they were too young but I could.


She had been with him the longest and who knew what really went on behind closed doors? What had he really subjected her to?

Yes, I did hear fearful noises—shouts and cries and the sound of hitting. And her veiled up—two three, four layers of veils sometimes for days on end. But she said she was alright. She always reassured me, telling me it was a headache and nothing more.

And if that headache seemed to last too long, she’d just smile and say it would soon be gone and attribute it all to needing new spectacles.

“Really Rose, I read far too much.”

She read but that was another lie, a lie that had to be seen as truth in order for the entire house of cards not to collapse.

I have come to the realization that there are devils among us. Devils and demons and they possess those we once knew making them different.

I tried to recall how he had been before his illness, before his crippling illness that affected his speech and his walking, as well as his mind.


Something evil had made a nest there in his brain and it grew and would continue to grow.

Imbued with the evil was the falseness: the big smile, the chummy wink and the presents. Oh yes, there were presents when I was a child. Not now, but then, yes. I remember one book he gave me, a book about legends.

“Read this, Rose. It is about the legends of the world!”

Yes, he was always giving me things then, like pretty ribbons and scented soap which I always threw away. He wanted me to use them for him!

“I like to see you look pretty.”

More rubbish for the rubbish. But the book—that gift I loved. The book fueled the dreams and the dreams calmed my heart and gave me promises. And those promises gave me hope.

Yet sadly, hope that is unrealized is another kind of punishment.

I read that vampires existed. That they were real and came at night. The legends said they had to be invited in.

How funny I thought that was—to invite in such a creature and yet wish to bar the room from my own father.

I think he gave me the book to frighten me, but I was not afraid. The only fear I had was of him.

When I was a bit older I used to imagine what it would be like… a tap on the window and some handsome prince of a vampire wishing to be admitted.

“I will let you in, kind sir but do you promise to love me?”

“I shall love you for all time, Rose.”

I smiled for I was dreaming again and I believed that was the stuff of nonsense. But I dreamed for there could have been no happiness in my reality. Because I lived with the monster.


And the monster always returns. What a sad lot we were his wife and children, mother’s once beautiful face marked by all the suffering she had endured.

“I’m alright, children. Please go to your beds,” she so often told us.

Why would she want this time to herself, to be alone with such fear?

A reassuring tap on our hands and a sweet smile, but the eyes never smiled. They shone with tears and reflected my hovering reflection.

I didn’t wish to leave her you see, I wanted to protect her from him even though I feared and dreaded him.

At last I would go. After kissing her and hugging her, I was off to my own room.

I would sleep and if I was lucky I’d dream of love and find myself in another place. A place far from that house, a place where there was love that was all for me.

My eyes would shut—the tears blinked away—and I’d sleep, dreaming once again of a lonely man who needed my love; a man I knew not.

I remember smiling in my sleep. It was the dark man I dreamed about. The one who I fancy dreamed of me, too.

But then I thought of the other night at home, a night I wanted to forget like so many others…

“Rose?”

My eyes opened and I saw my father silhouetted in the doorway for he had come home.

At the very least I should have heard his key in the lock. I had trained myself to hear things only a cat would hear. Yet I had failed this time.

And if I hadn’t heard the lock, I hadn’t heard his shuffling footsteps, either. The uncertain walk--a symptom of his illness.


Did it mark his life, taking that which was good from him and replace it with evil? Or was the evil always there?

"Rose?”

You’d never know he was shouting vile words at my mother not an hour since. His voice was soft and loving, a whisper in the night, spoken amongst the shadows.

He repeated my name. No, please. I’d best pretend to be asleep that’s the best thing I can do. He’ll go away then. He usually does.

He hovered by the door for a long time. At one point he stepped into the room and I held my breath.

I felt his hand upon my hair just briefly. He sighed and in between the touch and the sigh he was gone, and the door closed softly.

Peace at last. I prayed then for I was leaving the next day to see my aunt. I prayed that they would all be alright, not him of course—I do not care what happens to him.


It was already light by the time I drifted off. I dreamed that I had lost my way. I rushed this way and that only to find myself staring into a fathomless pit.


I wavered for I was standing at the very edge. Then, certain I would fall into it, I cried out. But strong arms grabbed me and I cried, this time with relief, for I was saved.

When I turned to see who my savior was, I didn’t see anyone. Then, realizing I was alone, I continued to cry in silence for I knew it was the dark man I dreamed of.

“It is but a dream,” I whispered. “A dream and nothing more and dreams rarely come true.”

Still, I knew even then, those were my dreams to keep for as long as I liked.


*

If she dreamed of him, he dreamed of her. He was damned through no fault of his own; a creature whose home was neither in Hell nor Heaven. He was but a damnable entity one who must exist forever, neither living nor dead, without peace or the hope of salvation.


Love had claimed his heart in the course of his existence, as had hate. The only things that steadied him were his own dreams, for he dreamed of love amidst the corruption that he knew… amidst the sin and wickedness, he dreamed of someone, somewhere, needing him.


He imagined a girl called Rose. A girl who existed on the other side of his sad eternity.


His eternity… what was it but endless longing for perfect love, for love that would calm his tormented heart and soothe his tortured being.


Was it ever not tortured? Perhaps in the eons of time he had existed he did love. And sadly, love and loss are one sometimes.
He opened the French doors and gazed up at the stars he remembered seeing when time began and with it, the world. This one and others. Yet, in all that time, love, the sort he dreamed of now, had rarely been his.


Still, there was the hope of it because there was the dream.


But there was sadly his own reality, he was what he was. And because he was, he winced, for the pain in his stomach was worse. Like an evil creature quite apart from his own being it gnawed at him, demanding food. Making itself known.


The moors were his feeding grounds for there is much wildlife there, yet when the pain becomes insurmountable he would have to seek different sustenance: human blood. This is not something he wished, but there were those occasions when that other part of himself needed to be satisfied.


The night air was sweet, for truly there was nothing like it this side of heaven.


A wry smile curled Louis Darton’s lips as he stepped into the night, cursed creature that he was..."




Copyright 2011 Carole Gill

~*~




eFestival of Words 2014: Best Villain, Eco/ Best Horror, The House on Blackstone Moor

Top 10 Books - 2013
Aoife Marie Sheridan - ALL THINGS FANTASY
Publisher, Ultimate Fantasy Books 

92 Horror authors you need to read right now
Carole Gill -- the Blackstone Vampires series
~Charlotte Books - EXAMINER

"The figure of the gothic child was there. Stoker's horror was there. Along with the romance! At the heart of her writing one stumbles upon a genuine search for that darkness we lost with the loss of Stoker."
~DR. MARGARITA GEORGIEVA ~ Gothic Readings in the Dark



Unimaginable horror awaits Rose Baines in The House on Blackstone Moor.

Her journey into the dark begins with the murders of her family by her insane, incestuous father. Evil has found a way in, as has the world of the undead. Will she become one of them? 

The horrific discovery causes her to be incarcerated in two madhouses. Doctor Bannion, superintendent of Marsh Asylum, helps his favorite patient obtain a position as governess at Blackstone House, but why is he so adamant? The house, her charges tell her, is built on haunted moorland. Nothing is as it seems for Blackstone House, and its inhabitants have hideous secrets; the greatest secret of all being that of the blood. 


Amid the unimaginable horror there is love - which comes at a terrible price. The House on Blackstone Moor is the first novel in Carole Gill's Blackstone Vampires Series. It is an epic tale of the eternal struggle of good vs. evil, and a story of love that strives to prevail, despite all odds.







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