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Estimated reading time — 33 minutes

It was a minute past midnight on a humid August Saturday in Manhattan, and Adrian DeCaux sat alone in his office. From twelve stories below, he could hear the drunken yelling of the night. From what he could hear, the crowd on the sidewalk below was in good spirits. There was laughing and a good deal of drunken whooping. Adrian smiled. It was good to hear happy voices, even from a distance. He sat in the dark, trying to cherish the warm feeling for a few moments. Then his phone lit up and vibrated against the mahogany desk where he had left it. Adrian read the message. It was a notification from the car service; his driver had arrived.

Adrian stood up and took one last look around his office, a massive room twelve feet from floor to ceiling, with the entire western wall made of thick windows. The office was ostentatious for a workplace, indulgent in decoration, and conspicuous in location. The room’s massive windows were perfectly suited to flood the room with bright sunlight during the day, but in the black of night, they only revealed the distant lights of a restless city. Even after six years, Adrian still felt alone in the city at night. Lights of the endless concrete grid revealed the uncountable silhouettes of cyclopean skyscrapers.

The darkened office sat on the twenty-fourth floor of a towering grey building. Adrian hated this place. He had spent nearly every day of the past six years in the confines of this office, but nothing about the place was his. It was his father’s office, not his. The office, the entire floor it was located on, and the law firm that owned it were all his fathers. Adrian had only followed the old man here, but he would go on no longer. His father was dead, and Adrian was leaving this place forever. He had found out about his father’s death the previous Monday and had spent the last week handling the old man’s business. The memories of the days spent handling the will began to crowd in on him, but Adrian pushed them aside. That was enough, he thought as he took one last look over the cavernous office. It was over, he thought to himself. He never had to think about the man again. With that thought, Adrian turned around, picked up his suitcase, which he had left lying by the door, and exited the darkened office.

Adrian made his way across a sea of red carpet and looked out at the horizon of endless cubicles. The entire floor was silent but for the fluorescent lights that buzzed above him and the distant sound of typing. Someone else was here. There always was at this hour.

Someone who either didn’t want to go home or had nothing to go back to. That person had once been him, Adrian admitted to himself, but never again. His father had seen to that.
When Adrian reached the elevators, he pressed the button and watched the yellow L flicker to life. The young man shouldered his rucksack and settled for a minute of waiting. With a momentary pause, thoughts of his father returned. When he had seen the will, Adrian had thought that in death, his father had finally done him a kindness. The old man had left him nearly everything. Adrian had been left a sizable inheritance, all his father’s possessions, nearly everything except a place in the law firm. When he had seen that Adrian had felt immense relief, it seemed at last that his father had come to know him. He hated law, he hated the firm, and most of all, he hated New York. With the old man’s death, Adrian had been freed.

The elevator dinged as it finished its ascent, and as its metallic doors opened, Adrian returned to the present moment and stepped inside. When the doors closed behind him, and he felt himself begin to descend, another thought came to the young man. “Who made you come here in the first place?” That question tore away any pretenses of warmth for his late father. It was the old man, after all, who had made him come to the city in the first place. The elevator continued its slow descent. The young man stewed. It was his father who made him go to law school in the first place, his father who forced him out of his home in Vermont, and his father who brought him to Manhattan.

The Elevator doors opened again, and Adrian stepped out into the lobby. The office building had a grand entryway. The vaulted ceilings were gilded in gold and silver, and intricate art deco patterns were plastered over its massive marble walls. Everything about the place seemed wrong to Adrian, from the falsity of crystal lights overhead down to the chemically cleaned carpet beneath his feet. The young man sped up to reach his car before it left. He only slowed down when he reached the lobby’s front desk, which was still manned even in the little hours of the morning. Adrian stopped a moment and nodded toward the night doorman. The other man nodded back, and the pair of them exchanged a wordless goodbye, and with that, Adrian Decaux stepped out into the humid summer night.

The street was nearly empty. The revelers he had heard minutes before had by now moved on. The night seemed to be void of all life but for the young man and a few strangers waiting for the lights to change at the corner. It was eerie for New York, even at midnight. Adrian pulled his blazer a little tighter around his chest despite the heat and looked around for his driver. He saw his car was waiting for him at the curb, and when he approached it, a voice called out from the open driverside window. He heard a man’s voice. “Newark Airport?” the voice asked. Adrian didn’t reply; he only nodded and stepped inside the cab.

Adrian hadn’t even finished buckling his seatbelt before the car had sped off down Fifth Avenue. He watched the familiar grey views of the previous six years flash by as they drove. Restaurants and offices, storefronts, and hotels all began to dissipate into a concrete slurry as the city blocks blurred and melded under the soft glow of street lights and against the rush of tires on pavement. Adrian watched the ephemeral city lights from the car window for a moment before turning away and checking his phone. It would be another half an hour before they reached the Newark airport. The cab turned again, and the young man stifled a yawn as he leaned against his seat. The lights continued to flash overhead, and the city sights flew past him, but Adrian Decaux had stopped watching. Despite his best efforts, the lack of sleep had taken its toll, and the young man dozed off into a restless sleep.

When he opened his eyes, Adrian saw a room empty of life and covered in a thick blanket of heavy darkness. He was in a bed, and as he looked around, he noticed more. Adrian saw a blue dresser, a small child-sized chair, and an open window. The window had been propped open, but there was no moonlight to be seen, and in the black of that unnatural night, even the light of the stars seemed somehow dimmed. Beyond the fluttering curtains, Adrian could barely make out the familiar shape of great pine trees, standing tall and poised like watchful sentinels in the night. There was hardly a sound on that summer night. Nothing at all except for the rustling of curtains in the summer wind. Just then, the silence was broken. Adrian heard the sound of something scraping against wood from outside the window, and he whipped his head around to look. Where moments before he had glimpsed only a wall of trees, Adrian could now see a woman standing in the window.

The woman grasped the open window sill. Her long nails dug into the soft wood with a strength and pressure that showed in the expressed blue veins that throbbed against her skin. She wore a long, faded white gown that, to Adrian’s horror, bore a massive dried brown blood stain across the middle of its ruined facade. The woman looked up at Adrian through wild yellow eyes. Her face was a canvas for the purest of animal terror, and for a moment, she simply stared at the man. Then she let loose a terrible scream. The wail echoed through the darkened room with the force of hurricane winds. The curtains blew, and Adrian felt paralyzing, deadly fear course through his veins. He felt his heart would burst, and he would die if he had to listen to the awful wailing a minute longer. Then he felt a hand grab his shoulder.

Adrian’s eyes flew open, and he gasped for breath. He was back in the cab with his back against the door, they weren’t moving, and by the sound he heard from outside, they had reached the airport. His driver was turned away from the wheel and had his hand on Adrian’s shoulder, a look of concern written across his face. “Are you ok, man? We’re at the airport.” Adrian tried to catch his breath, his heart was beating out of control, and he noticed that he was clutching his chest. Adrian drew his hands back to his side and pushed away the driver. The young man collected himself and then spoke. “I’m fine, but I need to catch my flight.” The driver gave him a disbelieving look, but he seemed to take Adrian at his word. They left the car without another word. The driver helped him with his luggage and then got back in the car and drove away.

The Newark airport was awash with noise. Airplanes engines roared overhead through the hot night. The crowd of travelers, which spilled out the wide glass doors and into the drop-off lot, droned with distant conversation, but Adrian heard none of it. His mind lingered on the dream. Despite what he had seen, Adrian was not afraid. The fear seemed distant at the airport. The young man felt a peculiar safety amidst the crowd, and he was content to linger beneath the glare of artificial lights. Adrian’s mind remained fixed on the dream, but his tired body moved forward. He had a flight to catch, and so he moved on, moving mechanically through the check-in and towards his terminal.

Adrian made his way through the lengthy process of checking in for his flight. But as he navigated the unending lines and the stalwart bureaucratic barriers of customs, the man’s mind continued to wander. He realized why the experience in the cab had entranced him so. Adrian had dreamt of the woman in white before. Her piercing scream was familiar. He had heard it many times before. He remembered the great tree’s bending in the force of the unnatural wind that came with the woman’s presence. Adrian remembered the room as well. He knew the blue dresser and the tiny chair. Indeed, he could never forget his childhood bedroom. There was something else, something the picture he was missing. His memories of those dreams were constant, the woman bloody and wretched, her screaming and the wild look in her eyes. They all remained fixed in his memory, but these memories, as brutal as they were, never ended with fear. There was something he was missing. At the edge of memory, in the fog of his unconscious mind, Adrian knew there was more to this dream. He remembered waking up. He remembered crying, screaming for help. Adrian was starting to recall there was always an answer to his pleading. A reassuring voice, a calming presence, the soft voice of his mother.

The thought struck the young man with a terrible force. He had not thought of his mother in years, not since she had been sent away. He hadn’t even spared the time to grieve when, years earlier, he had gotten the news of her death. Adrian knew that there had been a good reason to forget the woman. These vague half-recollected thoughts of her calming voice paled in comparison to the innumerable memories of manic screaming and hours of crying. Adrian scowled through his mask, these recollections had reopened old wounds, and he was beginning to stew in the righteous anger of a wounded child. He would have gone on like that for hours uninterrupted, but Adrian was abruptly returned to reality as his reminiscing was cut short by the listless commanding of a TSA agent. He had reached the front of the line, and as he took in the metal detectors before him, Adrian forced his exhausted mind to contend with the here and now.

It took nearly an hour to get through airport security, and by the time the exhausted traveler had stepped into the terminal, boarding had already begun for his flight. As he joined with the line that had already begun to form, he absent-mindedly checked his phone. No new messages. This was not surprising but still disappointing. Adrian had reached out to all his old friends. He knew from Facebook a few of them had started families, most of them had moved away, and it seemed that the remaining few wanted nothing to do with him. Adrian tried to tell himself that this was fine. He had one thing to deal with and one thing only- the house and all that came with it.

The plane ride to Burlington from Newark was short, only an hour, but to Adrian, it felt like an eternity. Despite his exhaustion, he did not dare fall asleep. He did not want to return to that dream, not until he had to. Instead, he sat in his window seat, fighting a losing battle against sleep deprivation and resentment. Resentment against his friends for forgetting him, resentment against his father for taking him from his home in the first place, but most of all, Adrian resented himself for allowing the old man to do it. The various grievances began to morph and fold in on one other in the hot forge of his exhausted mind until the reason and subject of his anger became obscured. Adrian was left with only a deep unease and with a question. He needed to know what it was his mother had said to him all those years ago. As the plane began its descent and the vastness of the green mountain forests came into view beneath the cloud cover, the question seemed to grow a sense of urgency.

The sun had just begun to rise when Adrian joined the other passengers in leaving the plane. The Burlington airport was small, consisting of two modest terminals and containing just one little cafe, which had not yet opened. The traveler left the terminal behind quickly, making his way purposefully toward the airport parking lot. Before he had left New York, Adrian had made arrangements to lease a rental car for the few weeks he had intended to stay in Vermont as he handled his father’s affairs. It didn’t take long to find the car company’s representative. After a few quick words with them behind the counter and the exchange of a few documents, Adrian got the car and its keys and was back on the road.
Adrian had remembered the drive from the airport to his family home as beautiful. The natural beauty of Vermont, even this close to the state’s only city, was unmatched in his view. To his adult eyes, however, the traveler thought there was something deeply sinister about the thick forest that crowed in on both sides of the lonely strip of road. The mighty pine trees, which had once radiated such calm as the rose like steady watchers against the sky, now seemed to leer ominously down at the young man. The drive to the old house was not long, and in a matter of moments, his destination rose up on the road ahead.

Adrian knew he was approaching his old home when the forest road turned sharply upwards. Soon enough, the rough concrete of the public road turned to fine cobblestone. The free mountain air that flew through the car’s open windows seemed to turn impossibly stagnant and sickly as Adrian watched the wild northern grasses fall to a well-manicured lawn and the rows of venerable pine trees surrender to manicured shrubbery. With one final turn in the winding road, Adrian’s spirits fell, and by the feeling, he knew that he was home. A great lawn spread out ahead of him, delicately manicured with bushes and flowers picked out by the family’s serving gardener. The artificial landscape extended for yards in front of him, ending only at the very doorstep of his family home.

The Decaux Manor had been built on the low jutting cliffs that formed sporadically around this least of the great lakes. The old household did not stand on the cliffside; instead, it crouched. The building was still and hunched, full of coiled tension, like an ancient toad ready to leap into the water below. The traveler hated being home, but despite this, he felt a sense of relief; at last, his destination loomed up before him. His travels were over for now.
Adrian brought his car to a stop in the massive circular driveway that lay just beyond the doorstep and looked up into the darkened facade. As the young man closed the car door behind him and walked up the steps onto the familiar porch, he felt strangely at ease.

Everything was exactly as he had left it years ago. The porch chairs sat clean and upright, unoccupied but not abandoned. Adrian thought for a moment why his father had kept both the gardener and the housekeeper on payroll to care for a house no one lived in. He thought it might be time to let them go, but he pushed the thought away. Such a consideration was not one to take lightly, and he was far too tired to make a real decision about other people’s livelihoods. Still, finding the house in such a familiar state was a pleasant surprise, one of the few pleasant surprises his father had provided him, even if it was posthumous. Adrian cracked a smile at the thought, and with that, he produced the key to the front door.

He had been given the keys to the family home by his father’s longtime lawyer on the same day he had learned of the old man’s death. In truth, he had been surprised that the bastard hadn’t sold the house. He had said as much to the lawyer, but at that, the young man had been reminded; this house had been in his family for generations. When Adrian pushed the key into the lock and swung open the front door, he was immediately reminded of the manor’s antiquity by what lay inside.

Adrian stepped into the old house’s musty entryway. The walls were lined with paintings and portraits. He saw castles and landscapes painted in expert style, along with the countenances of long-dead Decauxs frozen forever in black and white. Beautiful carpets extended far into the long hallway decorated with complex arabesque patterns. As he walked further into the house, he came to the grand sitting room.

The living room was massive, dominated by a grand fireplace and complete with great timber pillars extending to a domed ceiling like Roman columns. There was so much space, but the room was congested. Old and overly ornate sofas and chairs cluttered every corner, ottomans blocked foot traffic in every direction, and countless curios sat on cluttered countertops. Adrian didn’t consider any of them. His father had taken great care to explain the significance of every one of the innumerable family artifacts kept in the house. He remembered lectures on the stories behind the old French language bible his great-great Grandfather had bought centuries ago from Quebec, the Mayan pottery his great uncle had recovered from a dig in Latin America, and many, many more. None of it had ever mattered to Adrian. To him, it was all nothing more than priceless junk.

There was only one keepsake in that museum of a living room that interested the young man. Above the mantel hung a portrait. It depicted a man of mediocre appearance. He had a head of thinning brown hair and a pudgy countenance and wore a suit typical of his eighteenth-century setting, but it was his eyes that captivated the young man. They were shards of blue ice, cold and white blue like Adrian’s own. To see them reflected in the painting, however, was a terrible thing. The man looked possessed entirely by hate, even in what was ostensibly a flattering portrait. Adrian had always hated the painting. As a child, he had once asked his father who the man in the portrait was. His father had told him with pride that the man was his namesake, his great-great-great Grandfather, also named Adrian Decaux.

To hear his father tell the story, their long-dead ancestor had come down from Quebec in the nineteenth century to take advantage of the trade in lumber and wool. The late Adrian Decauxhad had done so well that he had bought a plot of land from local sheep farmers and built their family home. Adrian remembered his father had always seemed so proud when he told that story, but as he looked around the lifeless living room and considered his father’s collection of useless keepsakes, the young man felt only disappointment. The house was full of history, surely some of these artifacts were even valuable, but not to the younger Decuax. Adrian sighed and turned away from the portrait’s hateful gaze. He made his way to the back exit of the living room, but as he did, something caught his eye.

Sitting on a small counter to the side of the back door was a long and ornate glass case. Within the case was an ancient-looking rifle, a bayonet’s point fixed eternally to its barrel. There was something that Adrian hated about the old rifle. He remembered asking his father what the gun was and why it was there. The old man had proudly told him it belonged to his great ancestor. According to his father, the weapon had been the older Adrian’s hunting rifle, but as Adrian stared into the polished steel bayonet, he knew the gun was not for hunting. A chill ran down the young man’s spine despite the summer heat, and he quickly left the living room behind, eager to stop thinking about the portrait and the old gun.

Finally, Adrian stopped at the door of his childhood bedroom. Pushing the door open, Adrian was surprised to see it entirely the same. He hadn’t stepped foot in this room for almost seven years, and in that time, it seemed nothing at all had changed. The blue dresser, the little chair, even his bed, all of it was just as he had left it. He walked over to his bed, still made up in clean white sheets. Adrian sat down. He remembered how afraid he had felt in this place. In the daylight, he had hidden here away from his parent’s screaming arguments. But no matter how bad the days would get, the nights were always worse. Adrian looked up at the window. He could see the pine trees standing tall and dark, and he saw the crystal waters of Lake Champlain sparkling in the noonday light. Under the zenith of an August sun, the view was picturesque, like a Norman Rockwell painting, but Adrian saw none of this beauty. All he could think of was the woman from his dreams, pale and bloody beneath the blue moon.

Adrian tried to shake the memories from his tired mind. He saw turned away from the window and tried to tell himself that they were all just nightmares. Adrian forced himself to focus on something else. He tried to recall what happened next, what would happen when he woke from these nightmares each night. Staring at the wooden floor, he tried to remember, and he thought of his mother. He would wake from his dreams, and there she would be, standing at his bedside, ready to reassure him. She would always ask him what was wrong, and he would tell her about the woman, who would by now be gone from the window. Now, at last, sitting in the room where the words had been spoken, Adrian remembered what his mother had said to him. She would hush him, stroke his hair and wrap him in the tightest of hugs, then she would say, “She was only screaming, sweet boy. Monsters don’t need to be scary. Maybe she just needs help. Maybe she just needs you to know that she’s there and to understand her.” Now as an adult, alone with the memories, it all seemed completely absurd.

Adrian wondered if his mother had believed those things she’d said about monsters in the end. He wondered if she believed that after her father had shut her out of the family. He wanted to know if she had still thought that understanding would solve everything after the real monster had made a weapon out of layers and psychiatrists and had locked her away. What did it matter anyway? Nothing his mother had ever told him held much weight anyway. She had been a dangerous lunatic, at least that was what his father had said, but he was dead now, and so was she. Only Adrian remained alone in that house, just him and his memories. The traveler stood up, he had decided that he would waste no more time on the past, and so he left his luggage where it lay. Adrian exited his childhood bedroom and headed back out towards his car. It was the middle of the day, and he still had many things to do before the night would come and he would get his well-deserved rest.

Adrian drove back down the hill and into the city of Burlington. His father had left him a house, but one empty of food and, more importantly, alcohol. Adrian would have need of both if he wanted to get through the two weeks he would have to spend in Vermont.
The grocery and the liquor store were not far from each other, and in truth, Adrian didn’t need to spend much time at either of them, but nevertheless, he lingered. The traveler spent hours at both stores, meandering aimlessly in the aisles and staring without consideration at rows of bottles. Adrian told himself that he was loitering around town in the hopes of seeing a familiar face, but he knew in his heart that this wasn’t true. He didn’t want to see his friends if, indeed, any of them remained. He just didn’t want to go back home. When he finally did return to his car, his whiskey, and groceries in tow, he fumbled with his keys and waited in the parking lot. When he drove back, he drove the speed limit and took every wrong turn he could find. By the time he finally came to the old cobblestone drive of the Decaux Manor, it was the evening, and the summer sun had begun to dip below the Green Mountains.

Adrian walked inside as quickly as he could. He walked the halls of his family home with a purpose, not sparing a moment’s glace towards anything but his destination. He reached the kitchen quickly and set his bags down on the table. He liked the kitchen. It may have been the only place in the house he had warm feelings towards at all. The room had been a modern addition to the old house. It had a large window with a clear view of the lake and had been designed by his mother when she had married his father. This was the only place in the whole building bereft of history. No pictures hung on its walls, and no storied artifacts decorated its shelves. It was a world of stainless steel, marble countertops, and shimmering pots and pans.

Adrian took a pot down from the shelving, filled it with water, and set it to a boil. He sat down and watched the shadows of sunset cast themselves against the darkening waters of the lake. The nature surrounding the old manor was beautiful, and for the first time that day, Adrian allowed himself to appreciate that. He watched the waves churn gently in the waters below, and he listened for the wind rustling softly in the pines. His mind began to wander with the wind, and images floated across his unconscious. He saw visions of a house on the lakeside. It was much smaller than his, built in a crude and old-fashioned style, but it was unquestionably in the same spot that he now sat. He saw fences outside of it and heard the bleating of sheep in the air. There was a woman with long dark hair and deep brown eyes. He watched her as she went about her life, tending to the animals, mending fences, and eating dinner alone in her shack by the lake. It was idyllic, a beautiful image, but it was soon shattered. An alarm rang out from Adrian’s phone. The pasta was ready, and his visions were ripped from him, gone as quickly as they had come.

The young man ate his meal in silence. He watched the evening turn to night, but his mind was not on the view or his food. He thought only of the little house. It seemed so appropriate to him. The manor his family had built was too big for where it was. It blotted out the beauty of the horizon with its grossness and polluted the landscape with its ostentation. Standing in the midst of generations of overindulgence, Adrian was enraptured by the vision of that woman, contended with her sheep and her shack by the lakeshore.


By the time Adrian finished his meal, the sun had disappeared completely. Alone on the cliff by the lake in an empty house, the only light for miles around was the overhead light above him. After years spent in New York City, the darkness outside the window seemed impenetrable. The rural night felt heavy all around him. Adrian also felt the weight of his exhaustion. He hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours, and it was starting to show. Adrian got up, finished his drink, and headed back to his childhood bedroom to get his luggage. He needed to find his toothbrush, brush his teeth, and sleep. Still, even as he walked, his mind wandered back to the little house, and it was not until he finally reached the old bedroom that something brought him back to reality. To his surprise, when he reached the old room, he found the door ajar, swaying in the wind. Looking further inside the darkened room, he saw more. The bedroom window had been opened. Adrian felt cold fear run down his back. He knew he hadn’t left this door open, and he certainly hadn’t touched the window. He mustered up his courage and went into the room towards the open window. Adrian pushed his head outside and looked around. There was nothing. He couldn’t see anything but the trees, bending and groaning in the wind. He told himself that he must have left the window open, the room had been terribly musty, and he left it open to air out. He scanned the forest fence a second time and saw nothing. The explanations he gave were beginning to make sense, and he could feel his hammering heart begin to slow to a normal pace. Adrian was ready to accept the story when he looked down at the window sill.

There in the soft pine wood, he saw dozens of long deep scratches. Some of them seemed quite old, but others were alarmingly recent. Stray bits of wood and splintering indicated that as recently as last night, taloned hands had reached in through the window and grasped at the room within. At the sight of the ghastly markings on the sill, memories of his recurring childhood nightmares came flooding back. The woman in white, her bloody dress and baleful eyes. He had dreamed of her each and every night, watched her as she stared into the window, her nails digging into his windowsill. He had had the dream again. After six long years away, he had seen her again just as he was returning home. A single thought echoed through an empty mind— Had it all been real?

The wind began to howl in the pines outside. As the gale screamed its fury out across the black expanse of Lake Champlain, Adrian DeCaux sat in horrified silence at the revelation. He stared for an unbroken minute at the deep gashes in the wood. Then the bare reality crashed upon him like a wave. It was real. What could it do to him? Adrian answered the question in the only way that seemed sensible. He turned and bolted out of the room, slamming the door behind him and abandoning his luggage. The last living DeCaux took off running down the long meandering halls of his family manor.

Adrian could hear the wind screaming on high as he ran. It didn’t sound like wind anymore. He realized that it never had. The night air was alive with the sound of mournful, hateful, and all too terribly human wailing. The sound was so terrible, and with the sound of it, visions came. He saw a shape in the woods, the burning of torches, and finally flash and bite of a blade. Adrian tried to shake the images from his mind and refocused on the light of the kitchen, which was now well in view. He ran faster as the light grew closer, and by the time he crossed the threshold into the white tile room, he was sprinting. It was then, as he saw his sanctuary fall in around him, that Adrian felt his bare feet slip on the linoleum, and he began to go to the ground. Adrian fell face forward and put his leg out in front of him. His knee collided with the tile, and white-hot pain shot through his leg as he crumpled into a limp heap on the floor.

He was in a lot of pain, but Adrian didn’t stay on the ground; instead, with a wince and an expletive, he forced himself back on his feet. The shrieking continued outside, and as he balanced himself against the counter, Adrian saw that sheets of rain had begun to lash the glass of the window. There was a flash of lightning overhead, and for a moment, the sprawling grounds of the DeCaux manor were entirely illuminated. There, through the driving rain and against the groaning pines, Adrian saw a woman’s silhouette amongst the trees. The glimpse was gone in an instant, and the forest was plunged back into darkness. He heard thunder boom in the night sky as he leaned against the marble countertop, reeling in pain.

Adrian refused to give himself a moment to recover. He knew he had to get out. As the wind wailed its lamentations on high, the last heir of the manor grabbed his car keys off the counter and forced himself to limp forward. Adrian struggled slowly and desperately through the dark house until, at last, he reached the great double doors and heaved them open.

The doors flew open with the force of the storm, their handles forcing themselves free of the young man’s grasp. The vastness of grass and night loomed before him, obscured by the downpour. Adrian swooned in the electric air of the storm, and his arm shot out for the wooden railings. Steading himself, Adrian looked out again. He realized everything looked different in the lively wet air. The effects of his wrecked knee and the whiskey he’d had with dinner began to meld with his exhaustion. He looked down at his keys and remembered that he hadn’t slept in two days. Adrian turned back towards the storm, the rain was cold, and the wailing wind was bitter. Why was he so desperate anyway? Because he had seen scratches in the wood? He told himself that those could have been left by animals. Adrian told himself that he was, by now, an urbanite and had no real idea what went on in the country at all.

Why was he standing out here well past midnight, barefoot in a viscous thunderstorm? He was drunk, he was tired, and he was clearly seeing things. At least, that’s what Adrian had decided to tell himself. Stabbing Pain continued to lay siege to his exhausted mind, and the man continued to rationalize. His eyes were heavy, and his vision was blurred. Even when lightning flashed again, and the looming figure of a woman again appeared in the forest fence, Adrian ignored it. When the thunder crashed moments later, Adrian let the crashing sound chase what he had seen from his mind. He looked at his car keys for the last time. They swam in his gaze. He knew that he was in no shape to drive. Lightning crashed again, but Adrian did not turn to look. Nothing he saw would change anything. The last Decaux turned around and limped back through the doors of his family home.

Adrian heard the doors slam shut behind him and stared out into the darkness of his home. He had to sleep, and so he struggled dutifully back towards the kitchen. The youth found the bottle of whiskey where he had left it next to his half-eaten dinner. He took a swig to deal with the pain and then, with a wince, slammed the bottle back down on the counter. Then, he stumbled towards the living room and collapsed upon one of the many overlarge sette’s. The youth ignored the wailing winds and shrieking pines and shut his eyes to the flashing lightning, allowing the wrath of the storm to rock him to sleep. When he finally slipped into a fitful sleep, Adrian opened his eyes to the world of a tenebrous dream; and he saw once again the sight of a little shack standing on a cliff by the lakeside. He smelt wet earth and smoke in his nostrils. He heard the bleating of sheep and the crashing of waves on his rock. The youth looked forward and saw that he held a torch in an old, gnarled, and unfamiliar fist. In his other hand, he held a rifle, the one he remembered from his living room. A bayonet was affixed to the gun, and it flashed in the torchlight. Adrian steadied himself. He knew the object of his desires lay at the end of the dirt road ahead.

He walked with a purpose up the unkempt and rambling path. When he finally reached the summit, he saw the despicable little shack hunched against the glorious horizon. Adrian hated this place. He hated the woman who lived there as he had hated her husband. He had meant to build a house to fit his station on this spot. He fumed as he walked. Adrian felt that he had a right to his anger. After all, he had made many generous offers for the land that these peasants were at present polluting with their wretched farm. The husband had flatly refused, telling him that this was his land and he wouldn’t sell. Well, Adrian had seen to that difficulty. The husband had disappeared on his weekly drive down to town for market. Adrian flashed a toothy grin as he thought about his role in arranging the farmer’s death. He had thought that this would solve his problem, but the woman had been uncooperative.

Adrian had noticed the wife on his first visit to the farmstead. She was young and very beautiful. He had wanted her from the first. When he had disposed of her husband, Adrian had thought that he could take both the land and the woman, but she had refused him and spat in his face. He grimaced at the memory of humiliation but gripped the butt of his rifle and grew giddy in anticipation of the satisfaction he knew was to come.

Adrian was almost out of breath when he reached the summit of the cliff. He saw the wild grasses of the savage’s untamed land illuminated in the light of the blue moon extend before him in the night. The sheep began to bleat and scream as the sound of his heavy footfalls disturbed their rest. Adrian thought of the mayor of Burlington. He thought of the sheriff and the bribes he had offered and of the promises they had both given him. He was smiling now. No one could stop him now. He saw a flickering light through the cabin window. This was good. He wanted the woman alert for what was to come.

Adrian DeCaux hurried forward towards the doorstep and pounded on the flimsy wooden door. After a minute of furious banging, he felt the door swing open and give way. In its place, he saw the woman appear, her black hair unkempt and flying in the summer wind, her wide eyes filled with a pleasing terror. He had meant to excoriate the impudent creature, to read her a list of every reason why this was happening, to punish her properly for her defiance, but he couldn’t. Adrian let his rage get the better of him, and before he could say a word, he was seized by a wild and oppressive fury. The Patriarch thrust the point of his bayonet through the folds of her white nightgown and heard it pierce her soft midsection. He heard a sickly wet crunch as he pulled the blade free of his victim, and she fell to the floor. There was a moment of silence, and then the woman began to scream. She wailed and shrieked her defiance in a language that Adrian could not understand. He didn’t need to hear her words to know the woman’s intentions. Even as she bled her lifeblood on the floor of her home, she shouted her opposition. Despite an increasing lack of air in her lungs, she howled her refusal. The sight enraged the Patriarch, he had come demanding her rightful submission, but even at this painful end, the witches forked tongue still dripped in rebellion and spat out only curses.

It took only a flick of his wrist to silence her. Adrian watched with satisfaction as his cold steel opened the woman’s throat. Her wailing turned to gurgling, and her defiance was silenced as blood welled up in the canal he had left in her windpipe. Adrian still burned with hatred as he watched the light die in her dark eyes. He heard thunder rumble over the lake as he turned to leave the shack. The pines groaned against the shrieking wind as a storm began to take shape in the east. The Patriarch was fuming, the rain might wash the woman’s blood from the ground, but he would not forget this. He would not let the witch rest peacefully. She would be punished for her defiance, if not in this life, then in the next. Adrian DeCaux made a vow to the shrieking wind. He swore that he would lay the foundations of his household over this woman’s broken bones. He would build a monument to power, a mausoleum for his family and all who stood against them. The house that would be built over these ruins on the cliffside would command the skyline for generations to come. The thunder crashed, and the rain began to pour. He looked out over the wild grass and huddled sheep for another moment, and then, with a flash of lightning, Adrian DexCaux opened his eyes.

The first thing he noticed was that he was in terrible pain. Adrian swore as he sat up in the massive and uncomfortable sette he had fallen asleep in. He looked out across his darkened living room. He saw the grand fireplace directly in front of him. Atop the mantle, the portrait of his namesake, the first Adrian DeCaux, stared back at his descendant through hateful icy blue eyes. The younger Decaux turned away from the portrait with disgust. Something in its eyes brought back the memories of a most revolting dream. Looking for anything else to focus on, the youth turned his eyes away towards the window.

It was dark outside, rain battered the window, and precious little sunlight made its way through the black storm clouds that hung heavy overhead. Distant thunder rumbled in the mountains, and lightning lit up the horizon. Adrian shielded his eyes and looked down at his phone. He saw a severe thunderstorm warning displayed, and then he noticed that it was one thirty in the afternoon. Finally, Adrian saw that he had no cell phone service. With his misery compounded threefold, the young man groaned and cursed himself. The gardener was supposed to be here at two, and he had left the house a mess. Adrian pushed himself out of bed, and memories of the previous night began to come back to him piecemeal. He tried to push them aside, and when he saw the still-open whiskey bottle on the kitchen counter, he found a worthy scapegoat for what he assured himself were hallucinations. Adrian limped passed the liquor and uneaten food and came to the landline. He picked it up, ready to call his father’s old landscaper, when he heard, to his increasing dread, that the line was dead. The storm must have brought down the phone lines in the night. The youth swore again and tried to come up with any idea as to what to do next.

He had an hour before the gardener was supposed to show up, but as he looked out at the raging storm, Adrian DeCaux was beginning to suspect that his guest would never arrive. This was an uncomfortable thought. After the night he’d had, the youth thought it would have been a great comfort to see another living person. Adrian sat down in one of the kitchen chairs, relief flooding his lower body as he took his full weight off of his damaged knee. Despite the pain and enduring exhaustion, it only took a moments time for a strange restlessness to set in, and Adrian was back on his feet. He realized that he could not stand to look outside. He heard the wailing cries of the woman in every groaning pine tree, saw her twisted silhouette in every darkened corner, and felt her damning gaze wherever he sat for more than a moment.


Adrian spent the next hour pacing the halls of the DeCaux manor, chased from room after room by raucous thunder, and driven ever onward by the steady drumbeat of rain on the walls. He told himself that the previous night’s events had been the understandable result of exhaustion and grief taking their full toll. Rationalizing further, he reaffirmed his earlier notion that the claw marks on the wood had been the work of some animal or another, and in his delirium, he had overreacted. Adrian told himself all of this, but somewhere within, the man knew it wasn’t true. He had not grieved for his father, and no matter how tired or drunk he had been, Adrian DeCaux knew that the things he had seen, the things that he had done in his dreams, were real.

Somewhere deep in his subconscious, the man had made a decision. He knew that even if he were to try to run, he wouldn’t get far. If, by some miracle, his leg was in no condition to run and if the storm had knocked out the telephones, then there was no telling what shape the roads would be in. No, he could not run, but if he were to stave off debilitating panic, Adrian knew he could not admit to himself that there was reason to fear at all. The last heir and namesake of Adrian DeCaux would not be leaving the old manor that night. Once he had accepted this reality, he grew deaf to the wailing in the woods. The youth turned his eyes from the windows and ignored the crooked bloody figure who, even in the light of day, now watched him from the woods.

Adrian continued his painful, manic, and yet constant pace through the halls of his family home. He passed the closed doors of opulent bedrooms and luxurious baths, but he opened no doors. The traveler saw walls lined with paintings, tapestries, and photographs brought back to the house from all over the world by generations of now-dead DeCauxs. Adrian thought that he had been wrong to ever think of the manor as a home. This place, littered with the refuse of long extinguished lives, was a mausoleum and nothing more. He spent hours in this manner, pacing the halls and shutting out the world, he walked until the sun had set over the mountains, and he found himself again, standing in the living room beneath the hateful blue eyes of his namesake.

It was a minute past midnight, and Adrian Decaux stood alone, wounded and desperate, in the lightless expanse of his family home. He saw the relics of four generations spread out around him and looked up into the painted eyes of the man who had built for them their household. The youth wondered for a brief moment what he would bring back here, what testament would be left to tell of his life. What would his children bring back here? The wind continued to wail, and, in desperation, Adrian looked to the silent portrait of his ancestor for guidance. He knew what awaited him in the woods, and he understood that he could not escape it. The face of his ancestor, frozen in time, gave only one answer; the spirits of hatred and violence declared themselves brazenly in his ancient and eternal glare.

Adrian tried to take solace in the violence he saw all around him. It was through brutality that this land had been won, and if he were to escape, it was to be through these means that he had inherited. He turned away from the portrait, and there across the room, he saw his deliverance. It lay in its glass case, glimmering and cruel as it had been left for centuries; his ancestor’s rifle, bayonet still affixed.

The screaming wind reached a fever pitch, and the youth began to feel as if his ears would burst under pressure but against all of nature’s wrath, he made his way toward the weapon. When the youth looked again upon the rifle, he saw the flames of long-gone years dance across the polished steel. He fumbled with the lock as he opened the case and nearly dropped the rifle from his shaking hands, but he steadied himself and stood tall against the raging storm and wailing wind. The youth walked towards the great double doors, gun in hand, with a confidence heretofore unknown to himself. When he stood in the darkened entryway, Adrian Decaux readied himself for what he faced outside. Lightning flashed and lit up the room. He saw for a moment, his own blue eyes reflected in the steel bayonet. He saw an alien hate in those shards of ice. The youth was animated, possessed, by a fury not his own. Something twisted inside of him, and he began to despise the thing in the woods. He was no longer afraid. Why should he be? Adrian knew at that moment that he had killed this woman before, and he could do it again. With that faith in blood and steel, Adrian Decaux shouldered his rifle and, for the first time in centuries, kicked down the doors of the house by the lake, ready for bloodshed.

The vast grounds of the Decaux manor spread out into the impenetrable blackness of midnight. The Perfectly cut grass had been torn up by the storm, and well-manicured shrubbery twisted in the roiling wind. The perfectly still and tamed garden that had been built with meticulous care had been ruined and corrupted by one night of nature usurping the proper sovereignty of man. The civility he had brought to this land had been defiled, and there, in the center of his land, on the circle of stone that his descendants had raised up, Adrian DeCaux saw the culprit standing alone and defiant. Her white nightgown bore the bloody marks of her first rebellion, and the youth flashed the viscous grin of his ancestors at the sight. He ran forward through the driving rain and towards his supposed antagonist, ignoring the shooting pain in his leg and with the point of his bayonet aimed forward.

Adrian moved toward his target with the precision of the lightning that arced above him. His feet sunk into the soft wet earth, and the winds wailed as he drew nearer to the bloodied woman. The closer he came, the more he could see of the figure. Adrian saw the dried blood caked across her midsection, the dirt caked behind her nails, and the gash across her neck. Through all the horrors, though, it was the look on the woman’s face that finally stopped Adrian in his tracks. He saw the world as it should have been in her dark eyes, set deep in a porcelain facade.

He saw a little farm sitting on the cliff by the lake. He saw a couple living within, tending to herds of sheep throughout the long years. He saw, then, generations in a single moment. He saw the couple’s children playing in the wild grasses, and amongst the sentinel pines, he saw their children’s children continuing in the same fashion. Then the vision was snatched from him, and Adrian saw only the specter, dead eyes lit only by sorrow for what would never be, cold purple lips mouthing a wordless scream in the face of this unbearable future.
The spirit of spite and hatred within Adrian marshaled a final attempt at control. The voice of heredity shrieked over the wailing wind. It told the youth that this was his land, his hard-won home, his birthright. Adrian gripped the gun’s barrel, but it only took one thought of that awful, cold home to shatter the spirit’s charge. Years of neglect and abuse bore down on the youth with a force greater than the hurricane winds. He thought of the grand fireplace, cold and empty of a hearth fire for as long as he could remember. He remembered his parents, his father, callous and cold as any Decaux. He thought of his mother, cast out and dead before her time. Adrian remembered her words to him.

“Monsters don’t need to be scary. Maybe she just needs help. Maybe she just needs you to know that she’s there and to understand her.” Adrian put his faith in that consolation and looked back into the pitiless black eyes of the woman in the night. He looked for compassion, he wanted to find leniency there and hoped for forgiveness, but the youth found none of that. There was only grief, anger, and despair in that specter. Adrian thought of the house that lay behind him, that massive cancerous outgrowth upon the land. He thought of what his family had taken from this woman, the generations that his ancestor had slaughtered on that one terrible night centuries ago.

Adrian Decaux allowed the rifle to fall from his hands, and he went to his knees. The shrieking winds and lashing rain no longer plagued him. Not even the ghastly apparition that stood mere feet in front of him seemed wrong anymore. How could there be anything else in a place like this? This house had been built on foundations of blood and bone, its wood hewn from strange trees, and its repugnancy imposed upon a land that did not want it. In such a place, there was room for nothing but lamentation. Nothing good could grow here. Adrian knew this now, not until the corruption had been rooted out completely. Adrian Decaux was left alone again, his only companions the ghosts of the past, the wailing of the wind in the woods, and the work that was still to be done. Fire and steel had started this all, and by fire, it would end. Adrian would make sure of it.

The storm raged until dawn, and when the sun’s light found the Decaux manor that morning, it found it a ruin. The fire had burned for hours, consuming timber and metal alike. Everyone for miles around the old house had seen the blaze, burning a red mar into the skyline despite the driving rain, but no emergency crew could hope to reach the place until well after the storm had receded and the many downed trees had been cleared from the country roads.

The fireman and the EMTs found nothing, no fire to fight, no people to save. There were signs of the young heir at the site. The young man’s rental car was later found abandoned in front of the airport entrance, but Adrian Decaux himself was never seen in Vermont again. Almost nothing was left at all. The Manor was gone, burned inexplicably to the ground. The devastation was almost total. The monstrous old house had been wiped from the cliffside. No wreckage stood testament to what had been done the previous night. There was only the stone foundation, sturdy and unrelenting in its hold on the earth.​​

The house was gone, but what was started in the black of night would not be so easily finished. The blood would not be washed from the grasping rock so easily. After long centuries, the clearing on the cliff by the sea was left empty of that monument to domination. All that remained were the memories of long-forgotten sins, the bones still entombed in the foundations, and the wailing in the woods.

Credit: B. Boethius


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