(Horror. This was just something I toyed with, even though I prefer the Part 5 ending. This picks up from the end of Part 4, and is a bit longer.)
The smell was what hit her first, followed by the nasty sound of something metallic clanking against something else. Her flashlight cut through the darkness, tracing through lines of chains and hooks and other things less clear to her. She could not make out a stairway, ladder or other door; her heart felt like it was going to jump out of her chest in raw panic.
“Colin,” she whispered hoarsely, “is someone else here?”
“Yes,” Colin half whispered, “well, kind of.”
A figure, vague and luminescent, appeared in the corner of the room. A powerful, nearly overwhelming, feeling of hatred poured from it. Although the image was faint and misty, it looked like a tall man in a long coat. His eyes were the only clear thing about him.
“Wouldst ye cheat your grandfather, Colin,” the thing spoke, shocking Macy out of her paralysis, “or hast thou been deceived by a wicked woman?”
“Speak plainly, grandfather,” Colin responded. “No riddles tonight, of all nights.”
“This creature has known a man,” the figure replied, pointing at Macy, “and ‘twas our agreement she be a virgin.”
Macy was locked in a combination of panic and fascination. Colin’s grandfather was long dead, and yet Colin acknowledged it as his grandfather. She wanted to believe this was some trick, an extremely distasteful joke being played on her. The entire thing was too preposterous to believe. She was too shocked to even pray, or call out to God for strength. And yet the feeling of hatred and rage from the figure was intense enough to be visceral.
Colin was looking at her. “Macy,” he asked, “is it true?”
She looked back at him, confused at his question but anxious to answer. It was a long moment before the matter of her virginity was being questioned.
“What?” she said, with a touch of her own anger. “How could you question that? I told you on our second date. Do you think that has changed or something? What is this?”
“Long story,” Colin said, and pointed to the dim figure across the room, “but he has a funny way of knowing these things. Is there any way he could be wrong?”
Macy was deeply afraid. Nothing was making sense; it was so overwhelming that it was all she could manage to not scream and run. The walls felt as though they were closing in on her. The glare from across the room was starting to freak her out.
“I don’t know,” Macy said, trying to think through a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. “Maybe. When I was little, a man might have, you know…done something, but I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?” Colin reproached. “You mean you were molested?”
“Yes, maybe,” Macy said, more confused than ever. She did not remember anything, but a cousin had let her in on the rumour. It was such a flimsy story she had not even bothered to tell Colin. She barely thought about, and really did not believe it. “It would have been a long time ago. I don’t know if it happened, even.”
Colin looked carefully at her. His eyes seemed to search hers for a real answer.
“So that would be it?” he asked, harshly. “Someone diddled you as a kid. Nothing else?”
“No, Colin,” she said, noticing the tears in her eyes for the first time. “I would never lie to you. What’s happening?”
Colin looked across the room. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he shouted. “You can’t seriously count that against her. It’s not the same thing.”
“I shall account as I will,” the figure spat. “Our bargain ist not complete. Ye owest me a betrothed maiden, pure and untouched. Doest thou forget our arrangement, young Colin? Time is short, boy.”
This has turned into an impossible task, Colin thought. Grandfather, his childhood companion and tormentor, had cursed the family to misery and failure until a sacrifice was made. The family had suffered numerous setbacks and early deaths for generations, supposedly from accidents or poor health, on account of grandfather Charles’ curse. In this moment of failure, so close to a resolution, Colin was through with it. Only a moment ago, he was prepared to kill Macy to shake off the family curse; to give himself a chance in life. He could not go any further down a road of madness.
“Macy,” Colin said, his voice commanding and firm, “we are leaving. Stay close to me.”
Colin heaved at the door, slowly opening it. “What is happening, Colin?” Macy asked, clinging to him, afraid to look away from the ghost in the room.
“The family has been under a curse, imposed by one of its own patriarchs many generations ago,” Colin explained. “You see, Charles, the grey haired man in the portrait in the master suite, came into conflict with his son over…business matters. The old man wanted to continue illegal practices as part of the regular business. His son wanted to phase that out. Things became tense between them, threatening to divide the family. Charles was making plans to kill off anyone opposed to him, family or not. Things turned worse when the family got wind of this old Charles and his plans. They took him into this very room, one night, and tortured him into a confession. It practically killed him, but not before he cursed the family to ruin.”
“And he needed a sacrifice…” Macy said, starting to put everything together. “You were going to…”
“That’s finished, Macy,” Colin said as he got the door open enough for them to pass. “It’s all finished, now.”
Charles, who had only watched and listened to this point, suddenly stirred. The change in his emotional state was palpable. Rage was being tempered with suspicion and blame.
“Ye shall not flee without tasting my pains, boy,” Charles said, angrily. “The Hardwick name shall die with ye, if thou barest not the terms of our bargain. I will see to it.”
Colin pushed Macy through the doorway and turned to flee. Charles screamed and surged with the power of the unrested. The chains, hanging quietly, rattled to life and struck out at Colin, slicing and gouging him before he quitted the room.
Macy was too terrified to scream; only keeping enough wits to escape through the secret passage with all the speed she could muster. Colin was close behind, and though Macy hardly noticed, he was being battered. Charles was unleashing over two centuries of hate; Colin was running on adrenaline, hardly feeling the physical effects of the attack.
When they reached the master bedroom, Colin was a mess; his body covered with bruises and cuts, some dangerously deep. Macy hesitated for a moment, troubled by Colin’s wounds.
“Keep moving!” he shouted, pushing her out of the room. “We have to get out.”
They ran down the corridors, nearly tumbled down the stairs, ending face to face with Charles at the front door. The old spirit had materialised in front of them. Macy got a clear look at the haggard figure, features clear and more fearsome than ever.
“Thou shall not escape my wrath whilst Hardwick House stands, boy,” Charles seethed. “Ye bear my blows well, yet I have more to give.”
The adrenaline rush was just beginning to slide from a peak, and Colin knew it. Charles was more powerful that he imagined. Still, he had a couple of cards left to play. He pulled out the dagger he had intended for Macy, brandishing it before him. It was old, but in perfect shape considering its history.
“Remember this, you freak?” he taunted. “This bring up any fond memories from your last minutes as a mortal? You were the one who told me about it. I expect it might hurt you, still. Willing to test that theory?”
Charles hesitated, fading slightly. For a moment, the emotional energy he had been projecting wavered.
Colin charged the door, dagger first. Charles flinched and disappeared before Colin reached the door. He pushed through, Macy close behind him, until they were outside. The night was a welcome sight.
“We made it,” she said, panting. “We made it.”
Colin was about to say something when stones from the ground tore free of the ground and began to fly. They were aimed squarely at the car; one destroying a tire, another smashing the steering wheel, and another one crushing the hood into the motor.
“What do we do now?” Macy cried. “This is crazy!”
“He doesn’t like the dagger,” Colin reasoned aloud, “but it won’t keep him at bay for long. He loses strength away from the house, though.”
“Then let’s get out of here!” Macy said. “Let’s get way out of here!”
“No,” Colin said, a look of resolution crossing his face. “You get out of here. I have to finish this.”
“I am not leaving you here,” Macy said, panic creeping into her voice, again.
Colin choked out a dry laugh. “I’m not worth it,” he said. “What I was going to do tonight…I am not worth it. Just get away. He doesn’t care about you.” The pain of the wounds was starting to hit. Colin was thinking, though. Charles had made a revelation, perhaps slipping up in overconfidence, that changed the game. It was risky, but Colin strangely felt no fear; like death would only be welcomed.
Macy stood there, shocked and afraid. She understood what Colin had intended, but running down a country road, alone in the night, was too much. Beyond the fear, she still loved Colin. Leaving him was not an option.
“No,” she said. “I won’t go alone. What do we do?”
Colin was too weak to argue with her. “We have to be quick,” he explained. “It took a lot out of him to wreck the car, but he is recuperating.”
“Why didn’t he just kill you?” she asked.
“Not sure,” Colin said, approaching the ruined car. “He probably wants to drag it out, torture me like the family did to him. The house has to go. Got to burn it down.” Colin fished out the emergency kit from the battered trunk. He removed the pair of road flares, the old school kind.
Macy’s eyes widened as she realised what he intended. “You’re not going back in there?”
“It’s the only way,” Colin said, lighting both flares. He felt lightheaded as he approached the open door. He had lost much blood, and time was against him. Macy stayed back.
“I’m afraid,” she cried.
“Just stay, then,” he advised as he plodded on. It felt as though Charles was egging him on, tempting him to return. Colin moved steadily, bracing for any possible assault. Charles was not about to lose his house so easily.
Colin gained entry and moved to the nearest set of drapes he could find. They would be dry enough to start the place up, especially if he could get several of them lit.
Something struck him hard in the back, knocking him to the floor, face first; the flares tumbled from his grasp. His eyes were clouded with tears, brought on by a broken nose. A wicked laugh filled the room.
“Ye know not the suffering I can deliver upon the living, wee Colin,” Charles whispered in his ear. “Drain me, though it dost, there is nought else left for me. I am cursed to an existence of no pleasure, lad, though your final torment will bring me near to it. Damned or not, boy, know well your last earthly moments will like unto hell!”
Colin was lifted from the floor and flung across the room, bouncing off a cabinet on his way back to the floor. Charles struck him several more times before his energy waned. It was at that moment the old ghost shrieked and faded, swirling down the hall, howling. Macy stood over him, dagger clutched in both hands.
“Heavenly Father, give me strength,” she muttered with a quavering voice.
“Looks like he already did,” Colin noted. “Get the flares…light the drapes. Quickly!”
She ran to the task as he struggled to his feet; broken ribs working against his every move, now. His head swam as Macy got a fire started. “What now?” she asked, seeming more confident.
“Another set,” he said, hurting him to speak while hobbling to the next room. “That should do it. Go quick.”
She darted to the next room and lit the drapes. She also got a couple of painting going. Smoke was starting to fill the area. “What now?” she asked, running to him.
“Out,” he croaked, feeling nauseous; breathing in shallow breaths. “Fast.”
She threw the flares into the hall and helped him struggle back out, into the safety beyond the house. Charles, who had been a wisp of a presence since Macy had stabbed him, stirred. Colin and Macy both felt it.
“Keep…going,” Colin gasped, hoping he would not collapse too soon.
“I know,” Macy confirmed, half afraid of what Charles’ last effort would be. She stayed focused on the idea he got weaker as he got farther from the house. They were past he car, moving to the road. Colin was nearly unconscious, barely carrying his weight.
Charles appeared before them, yet again. His form was blurry and vague, just luminescent enough to see in the light of the burning house. His rage still burned, but his weakness was clear.
“Young Colin meant ye to die this night, to finish our bargain. Know ye this?”
“I know it,” she said, out of breath and emotionally drained. Charles wanted her to abandon her fiancé at his moment of greatest need. It would mean a sure death for him, and she could not be certain of saving him, anyway. She felt the first tingles of heat from the house, beginning to properly burn, and noticed Charles, still hoping she would walk away, fading in tiny increments. She needed to stall him.
“I don’t even know why I am helping him now,” she said, noticing a flicker of hope from Charles. “He was going to kill me, sacrifice me. Our life together was nothing. I should leave him.”
“Yes, child,” Charles groaned, even that tiny effort testing his endurance. “Leave him be.”
Colin’s legs gave out, and she lowered him to the ground. He was barely conscious. Macy laid him on his back, stunned at the horrid look of his wounds in the fire light.
“Fly, now,” Charles instructed, impatiently. “He will receive what he hath earned.”
Macy was not sure what more she could do without being obvious. She leaned over Colin and gently kissed his forehead. She looked up at the house. Most of the ground floor was burning, casting a macabre light on grounds.
“Look at the house,” Macy said, just for something to say. “It is finished, just like you.”
Charles doubled over, fading; weakly reaching out to grab Colin.
“You…dirty…harlot…” Charles groaned, fading to nothing, his presence leaving like a bad smell blown away by a breeze.
She wondered if she was in shock. She lay down next to Colin, happy he was still breathing. The fire continued to throw heat; and yet Macy could not stop her shivering.