We had inherited Thornwood Hall from a great-aunt, a strange and solitary woman whose name was well-known amongst the townspeople. She had been wealthy in her lifetime, owning more than a fifth of the property in town, and being next-of-kin, we had been left her most prized possession, the dark and antique-styled house neighboring the city cemetery. Had her fame been due to her charm and appeal, and not her ominous and eccentric mannerisms, I would not have been so reluctant to move into her old estate.
We arrived at the hall a month after receiving news of our inheritance. She had made it specific that we actually live in the mansion for a certain length of time, before gaining full possession of it. Our own apartment was located across town and we spent the entire day traveling back and forth moving our belongings. Amelia, my younger sister, was the only one of us who appeared even remotely excited about the move. She adored the look of the place so much so that not even the fact that a graveyard was our neighbor bothered her.
Inside the house, everything was dusty and covered. There were two floors with several doors and passageways leading to rooms unknown on each. Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately overcome with a sense of foreboding. The hall had a bizarre, almost frightening, feel to it, although at the time I had attributed my uneasiness to the rumors that had been swirling about in my head. Earlier that week, I had heard from a few of my friends that the land the mansion stood on had originally been part of the cemetery. The story made me laugh, for it reminded me of the horror movies I had been so afraid to watch as a child. Nevertheless, being inside the place brought back those silly fears.
I must've stood in the foyer for quite a while, because before I knew it the sun had set and Amelia was calling for me from within another room. I followed the sound of her voice until I discovered myself in what looked like the kitchen. It was rather old-fashioned in appearance, lacking both a gas stove and a refrigerator.
"We're going to go out for pizza, you want to come?" Amelia asked as I entered the room.
"Yeah, I don't want to be alone in this place," I said. She laughed and dragged me out the door. "Where are the appliances?" I asked.
"Oh, Mom had them taken out to make room for our stuff. They weren't working anyway," she answered. We walked through the halls for what seemed about five minutes before finally reaching the front door. All of the lights were off and outside the skies had turned gloomy. I stared around at the darkness surrounding me and then clung tightly to Amelia. I heard her snicker. She fumbled with the doorknob before pulling the door open. Our parents were already in the car and were honking the horn impatiently. I dodged towards the vehicle as quickly as I could. Closing the car door, I glanced in the direction of the cemetery. A gray mist hung over the many gravestones, although a few tall pillars towered over the fog. I turned away and looked back at the house. Amelia had locked up and was now in the car with me. My eyes wandered up to the second floor windows, half expecting to see a light turn on or a shadowy figure moving about from within. I sighed heavily at having not seen a thing. My attention returned to the empty cemetery.
"Okay, let's go. I'm hungry," Dad said and stepped on the accelerator. As the car lurched forward I saw someone moving—floating through the fog. My heart stopped and I blinked several times, but when I reopened my eyes, the figure was still there. Before I could say anything, we were already at the corner of the street.
"Amelia," I whispered, "what time does the cemetery close?"
"About half an hour ago," she answered.
Around ten, we returned to the estate. The streetlights had turned on and were casting distorted shadows onto the concrete sidewalks. The road led to a dead-end, with our new house being the last one on the block. Dad pulled the car into the driveway, which bordered the graveyard. I noticed that the fog had cleared up. The moon shone directly overhead, lighting the more darkened parts of the cemetery. While at the restaurant, I had resolved that the figure I'd seen earlier was probably just the gatekeeper. However, I was still fearful of spending the night inside the mansion.
We entered the hall, and Mom found the light switch. The foyer was as dusty and unwelcoming as it had been previously. Amelia and I separated from our parents, who still had more things to unpack, and headed up the grand staircase. Because of our earlier haste, we'd forgotten to check out the upstairs bedrooms. The steps creaked beneath our sneakers as we slowly made our way to the second floor. A long corridor connected all of the rooms. Candleholders jutted out from the walls and overhead hung a series of chandeliers. Only the latter lit up when all of the light switches downstairs had been turned on.
"So, where do you want to sleep tonight?" Amelia asked quietly, and began to head down the left end of the hallway.
I shrugged and glanced around me suspiciously. The atmosphere was peculiar and cold. I looked up at the crystal chandeliers, which seemed to sway from side to side. However, there was no draft. I gave a slight shiver and raced towards Amelia, who was fiddling with a doorknob.
"I think it's jammed," she muttered.
"Here, let me try," I replied and gave the handle a twist. We heard a click and I pushed the door forward. It flew easily open.
Amelia scoffed. "I probably loosened it up for you."
"Go in first," I urged.
"Chicken," she replied, but did as I suggested. She stepped a bit over the threshold and searched on the wall for a light switch. As she found it and switched it on, the room was overcome by a bright, illuminating light coming from separate floor lamps located in different sections of the room. The bedroom, itself, was rather large and plainly furnished. The bed stood against the wall opposite of where we stood, in the center. A nightstand was on one side and a vanity table was on the other. A bookcase and a writing desk made up the remainder of the furniture. Windows took up the fourth wall, covered in crimson velvet drapes pulled apart and tied with gold braided rope. The fabric of the curtains matched the bed sheets and pillowcases. A fireplace stood across from the bed, with a bear rug lying before it. Amelia made a face at the rug and headed towards the bookcase.
"I wonder whose room this was," I said.
"It was probably a guest room. She lived alone," Amelia answered, her eyes scanning the many books.
I started for the bed. "How long has this room been untouched?"
"Not that long, I don't think. I heard Dad say that this place has a caretaker."
"So, you want to stay here, then?"
"Sure. It seems cozy enough. Let's go tell Mom and Dad."
I nodded and followed her towards the door. I looked in the direction of the windows as I headed away from the bed. Unwittingly, we had chosen the room closest to the cemetery. A cold breeze blew by me, but nothing else in the room seemed to move with it; not even my hair had flown. I stopped suddenly at the sound of howling wind, but did not rest too long, for the next sound to reach my ears was the slamming of a door. My eyes darted towards the entrance.
"Oh, no," Amelia murmured. "I think we're locked in."
"What?" I cried in disbelief, and hurried to her side. I rattled the knob, but it didn't even turn in the slightest. "Oh, crap…"
"Mom! Dad!" Amelia and I screamed as we banged our fists against the door. "Let us out of here!"
At least ten minutes had passed, and we were still trapped inside the old bedroom, screeching for help without prevail. I was tired from trying to break down the door and my throat hurt from yelling, but I was scared for my life.
"I give up," Amelia said breathlessly and sank to the ground. "We have to wait until they come upstairs."
I agreed and dropped to the ground. "Man, it is cold in here," I noted. Goose bumps had formed on my bare arms, and I could almost see my breath before me, but again there was no evidence of a draft within the room.
"Yeah," Amelia replied. "It's like somebody just turned off the heat or something…except we're in the middle of July."
We both glanced at each other nervously and then, sprang back onto our feet. "We've got to get out of here," I whispered. I gave the doorknob one last try, but not only did it resist movement this time, it also fell right into my hands.
"Kati!" Amelia cried. "You broke it! You broke it! Now, we're definitely stuck in here."
"Amelia, be quiet," I said softly, and strained my ears to listen to the noises suddenly erupting from the bedroom. "You hear that?"
The eerie howling had begun again, this time combined with human voices, whispering in a foreign language that I could not recognize. Amelia and I clung to each other fearfully as we turned from the door. Our eyes quickly wandered around the room. Surprisingly, everything was still, except for the curtains, which had become untied and were flailing about. The windows were fogged up and a mist slowly seeped into the room.
"Oh, my God," I murmured. "What the hell is going on?"
"I don't know," Amelia answered, "but I'm going to check it out." She crept away from me and started towards the mist.
While she headed cautiously to the windows, I desperately searched for something to break the door down with. My attention was caught by the glowing lamp closest to me, but before I could grab it, it was lifted into the air by an invisible force and tossed against the wall. We were less one source of light. The whispers grew louder and louder, until the room was deafened by their ominous words.
Amelia held back the drapes with one hand and wiped a window with the other. As the outside came into view again, I saw her jaw drop. "Kati," she said uneasily, "you know those rumors we've heard about this place?"
"I think they're true."
"Look!" she cried and pointed outside with a shaky finger.
I did as she instructed and was met with the most horrific sight I'd ever seen in my entire life. Rising from the gravesites in the cemetery were ghostly figures covered in dirt and blood and wearing tattered clothing. They floated towards us, and as if by magic, all of the windows burst open. Amelia and I were both struck by the glass panes. The spirits disappeared from the graveyard and then, reemerged into the bedroom. The last thing I remembered before meeting with darkness was the face of an elderly woman looking over me—my great-aunt Katharine's.