Thorne Manor would now stand abandoned if not for twelve year old David Thorne, the only person living there. He threw a glance back at the house and shuttered; since he could remember, it had always seemed more a monster by the woods than a mansion; a phantom reminder that he was—and would always be—what the former servants called a freak: the boy who couldn’t come anywhere near electricity.
Perched high on the oldest tree in the backyard, he stared out at the world he would never be a part of. The smell of rain carried on the cool summer breeze that blew across his face as he lifted his crystal-blue eyes to the sky over Haven Creek, New York; the clouds were rolling in quickly, announcing the coming of a dark storm.
Knowing the pain it would bring with it, David’s heart began to drum in his ears. Then a flash of white exploded into the sky off in the distance, followed closely by another that broke through the stars, as though warning him to get back.
His eyes drifted from the house, to the sleepy little town, to the sky, shoulders slumping. With a wring of his hands, he let out a huff, then grabbed the sock full of berries he’d collected in the afternoon and shoved it between his teeth; the sock was old, but for the past month, it had played its part well in his survival.
He climbed down to the leafy ground and ran, trying not to think about the long, shadow-filled corridors and empty rooms that awaited him. But what he tried hardest to put out of his mind were the strange things he’d been seeing and hearing as of late; things he was certain any psychiatrist would have had him committed for even talking about.
David raced towards the window he’d left open at the back of the house; anything to avoid having to walk through the front door, as the echo of it closing was too cruel a reminder that the place was dead. The thunder roared behind him when he was about twenty feet from the window. Startled, he tripped over a soft spot in the over-grown grass and fell to the ground, face-first. He rolled over, sat up, and rubbed his ankle. As he made to stand, a rustle of leaves drew his attention forward.
There, not ten paces away, appeared—for the second time in the last few days—a figure in a black cloak, sitting on a red sofa, staring down at, what looked like a photo.
“Not again,” muttered David, closing his eyes. When he reopened them, both the sofa and the figure sitting on it were gone.
The storm screamed out again, bringing David back to the danger at hand. He leaped up and ran to the house, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds. Without missing a beat, he dove through the window. A cold blast of air rushed past him the instant his feet touched the marble floor. He looked back at the yard where the figure had appeared. It was still gone.
He whipped around at every creak and scrape that sang out of the darkness as he tip-toed into the living room. It was hard to ignore the few remaining pieces of furniture that sat shrouded in dusty sheets. But still, he forced himself to try, as images of things hiding under there just waiting to pounce, fueled his imagination in ways he hated more than the house itself.
Making his way to the once-grand staircase, he came upon the painting-sized mirror that the former servants had failed to cover when they left. Just as he passed by it, he caught a glimpse of the strangely-dressed people he’d seen earlier.
David stopped dead and jerked back to the mirror. The people were still there in the reflection, following the luggage that floated ahead of them as they hurried through, what looked like, a train station. In the blink of an eye, however, they were gone, replaced by a reflection David took no interest in: his own.
He was about to turn away when a long and loud whistle suddenly echoed behind him. He spun around and then back to the mirror just as a cobalt-blue and silver train flew from one end of the reflection to the other, and then vanished.
“That’s it!” he said, backing away.
He sprinted up the stairs, recalling, with each step he took, all the nights he’d spent watching from behind the banister, eyes cast towards the cobweb-covered front door, wondering if at least one of the servants ever thought about the boy they had left to fend for himself within the echo-filled halls of a house big enough to fit several others.
When he reached the second floor landing, a row of small, cobalt-blue flames appeared along each of the walls in the corridor that led to his bedroom. David froze, his eyes lingering on the flickering flames, which floated as though suspended over invisible torches. Then the voices came, flooding the corridor with whispers that blended into a hum he couldn’t make out. And then the kitten’s meow wafted out from under his door.
Suddenly, the light from the blue flames grew brighter, the voices louder, the kitten’s meows more persistent.
Feeling as though his head would explode, David ran to his room. When he grabbed the doorknob, the blue flames died away and the whispers fell silent, as did the kitten. Standing in the darkened corridor, he sighed with relief. And then he heard a man behind him say, “I need to know,” in a voice so sad, David felt a sense of great loss wash over him.
He turned back slowly, but there was no one there, so he opened the door and nudged it inward. Just as he crossed the threshold, a scraping sound whispered out of the darkness, like something being dragged across the wood floor, followed by the shrill scream of a woman and the agonizing wails of a baby in pain.
Heart racing, David sped into the room. He slammed the door, locked it with a frantic hand, and threw his back to it. He pressed an ear to the wood, and although nothing but silence answered back, the feeling that something was wrong hung over him.
“Get a grip. There’s nothing out there. Nothing’s wrong. It’s just me in my room, like every other night,” he said after several minutes. With a deep breath, he peeled himself off the door and kicked off his shoes.
He lit the half-burnt candle that sat atop the fireplace mantle, sickened by the fact that it was the last candle in his supply…a tidbit he discovered upon his visit to the Blizzard Room early that morning. It was the second discovery he’d made in the blizzard room that terrified him; the first was a month ago, when he realized that the can of beans he’d grabbed was the last bit of food left. Since then, he’s been relying on the berries he scrounged in the woods behind the house.
He’d been telling himself for some time now that he had to be more conservative with the candles, but without them, the dark would have taken over; the very notion was something he couldn’t bring himself to face. So, ignoring his better judgment, he had continued to light them anyway, knowing the darkness would eventually win.
And now it was upon him…the night he’d been dreading for the past nine months.
The candle sprang to life, flickering softly, giving the room an amber glow that did little to ease the sense that something was coming for him.