(a short story.)

The old Adair manner had always held my interest though it was falling apart and was covered in weeds. Many of its large top windows were broken and the lawn was overgrown. The people in town called the place haunted; said that phantoms and ghosts walked the halls. I however, laughed at the notion.

The town had once been huge so I'd read, but was now only a small dot set on the fringes of a dark wood. My neighbors always seemed cold and indifferent but then, so did everyone else. I hadn't really wanted to move there, but the land was cheap and I didn't have a lot of money to throw around. You have to take what you can get I guess, and I got that place. Walking the streets, I got indifferent looks and frosty greetings. Maybe it was because I was a native, having lived in Adarian for only two years. Talk about your tight-knit community.

As you can well guess, the town was named after its founders, a family by the name of Adair. From the snatches of conversations and readings I'd ran across, I knew the family was rich in both cash and bloodline. Seeing Adarian as it was, I wondered why anyone would want to settle the place but I figured the city the town once was, must have been pretty damn prosperous.

In my two years in Adarian, I'd noticed that everyone steered clear of the manner, and I wondered why. Whenever I ventured to ask someone about it, they gave me the usual cold look and frowned disapprovingly. Others reacted with fear or shock. They were afraid of an old house?

So, to satisfy my curiosity which had been building for sometime, I took a trip to the library. I thought the librarian was going to have a heart attack when I asked for the materials I needed. Well of course she had to hand over the old newspapers, but the dirty look she gave me was totally uncalled for. What was so wrong with looking up a bit of local history anyway?

Climbing the stairs to the second story, I located an out of the way table where I could read in peace. I could already hear the librarian hissing the hot gossip to all her friends. 'That stranger is nosing into the history of the old Adair manner.' Oooooo, how interesting.

The window behind me darkened as the day wore on. Diligently, I poured over the texts at first finding nothing. As afternoon faded into twilight, I began piecing together bits of a puzzle that seemed never to end. By the time the Sun finally set, I had the picture, the story, locked in place. It wasn't a tale of fairies and rainbows either. It was a horror story that sent chills down my spine and froze my blood solid. But still, the horrors within that old house had happened long ago and I still didn't understand why the people were so wary of it.

After my little history lesson, I returned to my normal routine. I drove to my job at the bank, handled customers, and kept my distance from my coworkers, just as they did to me. It was all good. I saw their expressions though, and knew that the news of my trip to the library had spread like wild fire.

All through the following weeks, I found myself thinking of the Adair manner more than usual. I figured it was because of what I now knew about it, but a strange sense of longing came over me as well. I would find myself driving by the front gate on my way home from work, though I lived on the opposite side of town. And as I lay in my bed at night, I began recalling scenes from the books and articles. Those recollections soon morphed into ugly nightmares of violence and torture. It began to scare me.

Slowly, it dawned on me that there was something wrong with this fascination which was fast growing into an obsession. I was driving by the manner twice a day and the place was forever nagging at my mind. It was nearly the end of September when I started thinking about ways to be rid of the obsession.

The Sun was casting flames of orange and gold through the sky and in a desperate attempt to clear my mind, I'd taken a walk through town. The streets were deserted as usual, and the pull towards the manner was abnormally strong. I had no set direction in mind, so I wasn't surprised to look up and find the front gate of the Adair manner before me. I peered through the bars at the unkempt house and lawn beyond. It looked dead to say the least.

Pulling the rusted latch aside, I cringed as the metal screamed in protest. I half expected something to leap out at me, but nothing did of course. And so I started down the cracked and broken path lined with trees. I tried to move with the silence and reverence of a shadow for the house seemed to demand it. Up the stone steps and across the front patio I crept. What if someone from town saw me? What would they say? The sudden fear of discovery was an irrational one as I cared nothing about the town but it was there nevertheless. I glanced behind me to check, but no one was there, no one was ever there. Wait, what was I doing? I didn't care if someone saw me or not. Wait, hadn't I left the front gate open? Shrugging, I blamed it on the wind.

The ornately carved door was unlocked. What a warm welcome! I stepped quickly inside and let the door close softly behind me. The entrance hall with its many layers of dust and grime echoed with my shallow breathing. I was afraid yet, I was driven to continue.

Up the wide front staircase carpeted in deep red velvet; blood red velvet. But I knew the material upon which I walked wasn't blood. As I climbed, I trailed my hand along the banister, leaving a clear patch of white in the dust. The old house was deathly silent and still. I glanced around, looking for some sign of death or decay in the house but all I saw was one dead spider on the stair.

I felt sleepy, as if some drug were taking effect. Reaching the landing, I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall. I was so very tired, I'd just rest here for a bit, then go on. It was a rather interesting house though.

A sound; a soft creak overhead caused me to open my eyes and glance up at the ceiling. Cautiously, I turned to ascend the second flight of stairs leading up to the top most story of the house.

These stairs weren't as grand as the first. A dirty cream colored carpet lay over the stairs and the railing was chipped and dented. My feet felt like lead and I was moving in slow motion.

The third floor landing was bleak and dark. These were the windows broken by rocks and tree branches. A draft filled the hall and in the unearthly chill, I shivered.

Suddenly, I wanted to run. I wanted to turn and flee down the stairs, out the door, and back across the lawn. They called this house a haunted house and in the sudden wave of fear, I believed the stories.

But then, there was soft music issuing from somewhere. I tried to pin point the sound, but the hall was so spacious, all I heard were echoes. It was a chilling melody, carried by a single human voice.

A closed door on my right caught my eye and I turned the knob to find that it opened. What lay inside ripped a cry from my throat. The once clean sheets on the sagging narrow bed were stained with old blood. The mirror above the dresser had been shattered and several stained pieces lay atop the dark wood. Racked with fear yet unable to turn away, I ventured further into the room. The were knife marks everywhere as if someone had had a fit and just started slashing at random. The windows had been boarded over and the only light in the room was that from the hallway behind me. The closet door hung open; the clothes inside stained just as bloody as the bed. The shelves lay splintered on the floor. Vaguely, I wondered what had happened here. It was a scene straight out of Hollywood, but we weren't in California.

The melody seemed to fill the room; pressing into every corner. The image of a skull, battered and bloody flashed before me, and I closed my eyes and stepped back. I reopened my eyes and with a sly grin, the skull vanished.

A second door stood open and beyond lay the adjoining bathroom. I entered only to find that it was as badly trashed as the bedroom. There were deep gashes in the walls, holes in the floor, and large pools of blood in the bathtub and sink. The eerie melody was ear-splittingly loud now, filling my head so that I couldn't formulate any semblance of thought or rationality. And on the far back wall was set a narrow closed door. In the wood was written a message in fresh blood.

"Bye bye cutie pie."

Commanded now by some supreme force, I grasped the knob and pulled. I didn't want to see the secrets that lay hidden behind that door but I couldn't help myself.

I stepped into a large stone gray room with no windows. Dust lay three inches thick on the bare floor. In the center of the floor, clad in a dark blue evening dress from a century ago, sat a rotten skeleton, its face looking beaten and covered in blood. Allison Adair smiled up at me and beckoned an invitation.