The Mansion In The Mountains is a short story that I wrote last year, and would like to share it with you and I will post it in parts. It is very different from my fantasy series, and has some dark elements. I would like to post it in honor of the fall season, and in honor of Halloween (Samhain) next month. My favorite holiday, of course. 🙂 I will post a new part each week–see you next Wednesday.
Stella Brians (The Paperback Writer)
The Mansion in The Mountains
Written by Stella Brians
Copyright Stella Brians 2016
Four years ago today, he had bought the old stone mansion that lay hidden in the mountains of Northern California. Built in 1870, the style and beauty were irreplaceable. Three square towers looked onto the road that led to it, and enormous porches that resembled upside down gaping mouths were held up by pillars. It stood about one hundred feet tall, but rather than producing ominous themes or feelings, for Vincent it welcomed him. Many windows were visible, and soft sunlight poured through them. There were thirty two rooms, not counting the five bathrooms, all of which had been maintained in good condition. Some cosmetic things needed to be replaced, but the realtor said she would take care of it.
When he first entered the mansion through the heavy oak doors, Vincent saw an enormous blue marble staircase, and a beautifully furnished entertainment room that lay loftily to one side. From above, a chandelier hung from a very high ceiling and seemed to watch them as they passed underneath it.
The building’s own stillness and beauty surprised him, and he asked the realtor if anything had been restored or remodeled.
“This building has never changed as I am aware.” She said, nodding as her perm nodded with her. He felt her gray eyes watch his every reaction, and there had been very little disappointment in any expression he had made. Over the years Vincent had learned to make his face impassive, which veiled him from others. That day he let go and smiled because after all, this was the first step towards his dream.
They climbed the beautiful stairs in silence. Vincent ran up them, leaving the old woman behind but he waited for her at the top. He stared at the long hallways set out before them, each with many doors, with numerous rooms to investigate later. She asked if he was planning on having a large family.
“No, there will just be me, and my owl.”
She gave him the strangest of looks; he thought she looked like a fiendish ghoul with makeup.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?”
“I’d like to see the towers, if I may.”
She nodded coldly, and led the way.
The first tower was above the great kitchen, the second above one of the porches and the last above the back of the house. Each of them looked in poor repair in contrast to the rest of the house, with creaking stairs made of old wood. He felt excitement rising inside of him every time they reached the top of a tower staircase. If he had thought the ceilings seemed high in the rest of the mansion, they fell short in comparison to those in the towers. The windows of the towers were stained glass, and the old woman told him that they told stories of the previous owners. Such odd stories they were, Vincent thought to himself as he looked at them. Nevertheless the light came through in rainbow shapes that seemed to decorate the otherwise dark rooms.
Before following the realtor’s lead out of the tower, Vincent turned towards a window that caught his eye. The stained glass held an image that struck him odd because it seemed something like out of a Brother’s Grimm tale. A long white dragon with a slender face and white fur was encircled around a maypole, except there weren’t any ribbons mounted from the pole. Children danced around the pole, save for the few that were sleeping while their parents looked on and wept on their knees. As Vincent looked closer, he thought he could see blood on the dragon’s jaws. He could feel a hand on his shoulder and jumped a mile.
“Just folk art, I believe the previous tenants had quite a knack for that.”
“I thought you said nothing had been changed or altered.”
“I’m sure it hasen’t been, dearie.”
There was something in the old woman’s queer smile that turned his stomach, but he had bought the mansion anyway. It had an alarming beauty which was tucked away in the high mists of the mountains.
Soon, he forgot about the strange images he saw in the stained glass, and slept in the opposite tower where the stained glass showed only flowers and beautiful life. He had made the old place his home; Vincent planted a garden, fixed the courtyard fountain and added a lit gazebo and stone benches. He placed statues of suns, moons, and Buddha. Aside from these additions he lived in a simple and frugal manner. Every day after buying his home he lived in joy. It didn’t take him long to add to his animal family a beautiful white peacock and two persian cats; Oscar and Wilde,
Further, he had hobbies and dedications. Vincent collected antique books, visited museums and frequented botanical gardens. He volunteered his time at the Northern California Animal Shelter, and experienced enlightenment in his individual way. It was through the animal shelter that he had met his close friend, Eloise Baker.
She was a few years older than him, and was from upstate New York where she had lived in a New Age refuge. He didn’t know much about her childhood because she didn’t like to talk about it, but the person he knew now was the endlessly spirited girl who hid her troubles behind her own self created veil. Eloise worked in a store in addition to volunteering at the shelter, which Vincent knew was because she needed the company and loved animals. To him, she was as beautiful inside as on the outside. Most of their time spent together was reading aloud passages from Leaves of Grass or going for long drives somewhere. Regardless of what they did, he thoroughly enjoyed their time together.
Vincent would see her in about an hour, and he held this thought as he dressed and got ready to go to the shelter. Once he was set to go he stood out in the morning daylight and turned his head to the left towards the courtyard, which looked like a ceiling-less temple. He could see the fountain, pouring water over and over into its large stone bottom, flowers he had planted seemed to nest around his statues, as well as wild ones that grew underneath the benches. Many times he had come out to watch the moon both alone and with Eloise.
After unlocking the iron gate that surrounded his mansion, Vincent got into his car and started on the wide path down the mountain. He put park on, relocked the iron gate and he was off again. Once he got off the mountain, he liked to drive very fast. No one lived this far out, and for miles he wouldn’t see a car. The animal shelter was thirty miles away, so he turned on the radio. He liked The Beatles, Cat Stevens, and The Moody Blues. The drive there was beautiful; he loved nothing more than seeing mountains, so he put down his convertible top.
The animal shelter, a fairly new building built in the sixties had three floors, the bottom one housing the kennel. Usually Vincent took care of the animals, bathing or feeding them. Anything, he had told them, where he didn’t have to deal with the public. He had given them a false name to protect his identity. Eloise was already there in a tshirt and jeans, her long dark hair falling down her back. She waved when she saw him, excited and ready to start another day.
“Morning, bright eyes. Did you eat breakfast?” He asked her with a smile.
“Bagel and cream cheese, decaf coffee.” she answered leading the way down the hall to the kennel.
“You should come to lunch with me after work.” Vincent looked at her tenderly, knowing how hungry she was. He knew how she survived on food stamps and coupons.
“Only if I’m not imposing.” She pushed the door to the kennel open, revealing every stray animal imaginable.
“Pish posh, Eloise. Okay, let’s see if Fido and Garfield have eaten yet.” He laughed, and she joined in.
It was their secret joke, they called all the cats Garfield and the dogs Fido. There was one cat to which they had both become attached and named her Lady Gray. She was very queen like and held such elegant postures and mannerisms so the name suited her. They dreaded the day when someone would adopt her, and they wouldn’t see her ever again. Eloise stood on her tip toes and lifted Lady Gray from her cage, the doll like animal allowing itself to be scooped up in her arms. She was part Persian, that was for sure, with long gray fur and the sweetest face.
“Meow.” She told Eloise simply, indicating that breakfast should be made and stat.
“I know, I know. We brought you contraband…canned cat food. It’s because we love you.” She kissed Lady Gray’s nose and let her wander by her feet. They knew this favoritism to one animal could get them in trouble but no one ever checked or questioned.
That night they sat on the cool marble floor of the courtyard, staring at the fountain as if it were a great fire burning an offering up to the heavens. They meditated on their worries and released them to the sky and stars. When Eloise began to cry Vincent wrapped his arm around her and lay on her shoulder.
“I feel so lonely, and I wonder often if I will die that way. I wish I hadn’t left him behind.”
This had been happening for as long as he had known her, her regrets were deep and descriptions were vague. Vincent had been able to get a few names out, but it hurt her to talk about it because to talk about it was to have what happened fully realized. The night closed around them like a protective velvet blanket and it became so late that he insisted she must sleep over.
Vincent always the gentleman gave Eloise his bed on nights she slept over, taking the couch for himself. This was one of those nights, and he led her into his bedroom where she could have privacy and sleep soundly. Once Eloise was tucked away, he turned to his mansion of looming windows and dark shadows. His two cays brushed at his heels and there was no telling where the owl was. Having not slept in twenty hours he was exhausted, sleep came quickly for him and so did his dreams. His dreams were hazy and confused, he was running through a city to get to his house which was at the end of a very long street. The sense Vincent got in the dream was that he was running to find something, information perhaps or a person. Until he was exhausted he ran, making it to the steps of his mansion just in time or that was what he kept telling himself. Morning came before he ever found what he had been struggling towards in the dream, and his senses were aroused by coffee brewing. Eloise had left a note by the coffee pot that read:
Your hospitality is always appreciated. I have been working so much lately
between the store and the shelter, and as always you were there for me. I just
needed someone to talk to and a good night’s rest. I will see you tomorrow,