Flash Friday 28/10/2016: Low Spirits
Hugo gently closed the aged door behind him, creeping into the dark room. “Alright,” he said, in a soft yet gleeful voice. “It’s time!”
The person — or, rather, ex-person — he was talking to sat in the middle of the room. Her ghostly form meant that her 16th-Century dress was as puffy as the day it was made. Her emotional state, however, was less than perfect.
She looked up with annoyed eyes.
Hugo’s face fell. “What?” he said, with worry. “What’s wrong?”
The woman gave a heavy sigh. “You know, the novelty dies after the third year in a row.”
“What? No! It’s still fun, right? You said you enjoyed scaring the living half to death.”
“Yes, when they don’t expect it. And then you came along, came back for more, and then made an attraction out of it. Bringing people here every Halloween to see me wail and moan. And they all ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and take photographs like they’re in a zoo. Honestly, Hugo, I’m so sick of it.”
“But you–you can’t stop now! The next tour is fully booked and they’re going to be here in thirty minutes!”
“You know, the only one that gets any value of it anymore is you. I don’t find it fun, but you roll in the money.”
“Just give me one more chance, okay?”
The woman gave a deep sigh. “Fine.”
“Excellent! Then I’ll see you in thirty.”
Hugo was so pleased with the result, he practically bounced out of the room. He didn’t think to turn and look back at the woman, who wore the face of someone who didn’t think it was ‘fine’ whatsoever.
“And now!” Hugo said, with a flourish. The sudden raise in his voice caused the tour group to jump. “The crowning moment of the Bloody Mansion tour. Legend has it that on this night, on Halloween, the screaming visage of Lady Eleanor runs down this very hallway, carrying her severed head in one arm, chased by the executioner who would soon drag her back to face her execution.
“But enough legends! Enough of history! Hush! Be silent! For if you listen closely, you can hear her screams…right now.“
Hugo dramatically held an ear out with a finger, prompting everyone to listen out. This would be the time that Lady Eleanor would start her ghastly screaming, except the only sound in the mansion at that time was the wind against the windows.
Entirely silently, Lady Eleanor walked through the very same door the legends claimed she ran though. She began a slothful, undignified walk down the corridor toward the crowd.
“Help, help,” she said, like a bored child reading from a script. “Help, the executioner. He’s coming to get me. Help. Somebody help. Can anybod–what, what is it?”
“Your head!” Hugo quietly hissed in her direction. “It’s still on!”
Lady Eleanor pulled on her own head, like uncorking a bottle. After a silent struggle, it finally popped off, and Lady Eleanor continued her walk. “Right, where was I?” she said. “Oh, right. Help help, anyone, somebody, he’s going to catch me. Help. Hey, you. Yes, you, the man in the red shirt. My eyes are down here, you know.”
A man in the group suddenly flustered. “Sorry,” he muttered.
At this point, a ghostly man wielding a large axe wearing an executioner’s mask rushed through the same door Lady Eleanor entered through. He looked as if he was ready for a chase, but as soon as he saw Lady Eleanor putting no effort into her acting, he stopped and stared in confusion.
“Aaah, no,” Lady Eleanor whined, continuing her bored tone. “He’s here, he’s here. Someone save me. Please help me. Oh, no, he’s going to catch me. Please help. He’s going to catch me any moment now. Help, help. He’s going to–bloody come over here and catch me already! Christ on a bike!“
Stirring from his confused stare, the executioner walked forward. Without any fight, he took hold of her upper arm and pulled her back toward the door. Lady Eleanor went along with it, being dragged back as if she were a stuffed toy.
“Aah, aah, he’s going to kill me,” she complained. “Again. Just like last year when we did all this already. Don’t forget to buy something at the giiift shoooop.”
Then she was dragged out of sight.
Hugo turned to the crowd. His face was white and sweaty, but not from fear of any ghost. “I-I’m so terribly sorry about this. Usually it’s all very scary, and people get all frightened and take pictures and–listen, I can give refunds if you want. I can refund the ticket entry and everything, and you won’t have to worry. Just–sorry.”
The group looked at once another. Slowly, but surely, they began to break out into smiles.
Hugo thought his refund offer had gone down very well, until someone from the crowd said “blimey, was that a sassy ghost? That was amazing. I love it.”
“I know, right?” someone else said. “I was expecting a big scare, and that happened. I haven’t seen anything like it in my life.”
“All the ghosts I’ve ever seen all cried, or wailed, or yelled about returning something to them. This is the first ghost I’ve witnessed that actually had personality!“
“So, uh,” Hugo said. “Does this mean everyone’s…not mad at me?”
“Mad?” one of them said. “When do tickets go on sale again?”
And so, this began the gradual change into Hugo’s Peeved Ghost Tours, where guests were taken around the legendary Bloody Manor on search for Lady Eleanor’s ghost. Sometimes she’d rattle chandeliers half-heartedly, sometimes she’d loudly complain about tour groups, and sometimes she’d pop out of a door with an unenthusiastic ‘boo’ and sneer at anyone who actually jumped.
And such, Bloody Manor became a hotspot for ghosthunters around the world, even if she did make rude hand gestures in every photo she was caught in.