We submit for your consideration the conclusion of an eerie short story.
TAPPING part four
(short story continued from the last three Thursdays)
[Emily and Sam, college professors, just moved into an riverfront historical home, where a persistent tapping could be heard but not be found. That coincides with a revitalization of their sex lives in unexpected ways.]
"I keep hearing tapping."
As if to confirm Emily's words, a soft tap...tap...tap began. "See," Emily said with obvious exasperation.
The woman cocked her head, narrowed her eyes in full concentration. "I heard nothing. It is an old house, my dear. There will be noises. Tapping the least to expect."
"Yes, of course," Emily said, but did not like the thought of never figuring out what made the tapping noise. Maybe recuperating in the kitchen would not be such a bad idea.
After Sam escorted the elderly woman out, he returned to Emily's side, all prim and proper. "Would you care for some sumacade, ma'am?"
"If memory serves me right, isn't that a drink made from sumac berries. Mind you, only the hairy red ones for the white ones will kill you."
"Yup, haven't heard or seen that outside of history books or historical sites."
"They really live an historical type of life," she said. "Maybe we won't fit in as well as I thought. I mean, I adore dressing up in period clothes and doing the whole high tea thing and even attending a few historical sort of events, but every day. No way."
"Think of it this way. It will be a hoot. We can laugh in private.”
“We'll keep to ourselves as much as possible. That has never been a problem. Forever together, just us two. Never drinking the sumacade."
Emily was not certain that would be for the best, but for the moment it was all she wanted. "Quite well put," she said her tone as haughty as Mrs. Wallingford's.
Over the next several days, Emily's sprained ankle started to improve. She had not returned to work, but was managing to get up and down stairs a bit, lessening her time in the attic. She also went through the trunks and found just the right outfits for herself and Sam. The impending high tea excited her, for she was certain Mrs. Wallingford would make it all as authentic as possible. They would also meet their other neighbors. Emily hoped they had a modern life as well as this old world one. Everything was coming together, perfect, but for that persistent tapping.
Sam after a power-nudging session, superficially investigated, and promised to do more when less busy all followed by an Emily, “Right!”
Then, the afternoon of the tea arrived, after they were completely dressed, and for no specific reason Sam recalled seeing the shadow in the attic's side window on the day of Emily's accident.
"Let's just go. I don't want to be late," Emily said.
"We have a full half-hour before tea time," Sam returned, he raised a pinky.
"But I don't want to get mussed up."
"Come on, don't you want to solve the mystery of the tapping wall."
With a sigh, she followed behind him as he climbed the stairwell. "Of course I do, but we can do it afterward."
"I might forget, again."
"Let's just do it."
Since they were now standing in the attic, she flipped up a hand in submission. "Go for it."
He walked into the closet and came out again, then walked back inside. "Doesn't it seem as if the space in here is smaller than this outside wall implies?"
“Rose nose.” Only the two understood their references.
She followed his example in and out of the closet. "It does, but maybe that's just because they walled over the window, which I'd really like to uncover one day."
“I hope the key word is you.”
“Yes, it is… you.” Pointing a finger at him.
He started to knock against that wall. "Let's do it."
"All right, after..."
"Now," he interrupted.
"It won't take long," he said, still knocking away. "I'll get the..." His words stopped in mid-breath as something squeaked and the wall popped open. Sam stuck his head in a puff of dust and sneezed. "Look at this."
Emily peered around his shoulder and saw a passageway leading downward.
“Mystery solved.” Sam pointed. Could it be the tapping came from a lantern, hanging from a hook? It swayed and hit the corner nook as the wind gushed through the worn window casing. Sam looked back at her and grinned. “SherlockfreakinHolmes.”
Their attention turned toward the staircase revealed. "Want to check it out?"
She nodded enthusiastically. All thought of tea and their formal wear forgotten.
Finding a box of matches on a small shelf next to the lantern, he struck one and lit the wick. The oil though aged burnt well.
They moved downward one creaky step at a time, down the spiral stairwell, brushing away cobwebs, spitting them hating the taste, entertaining the musty smells, hearing the patter of small claws rushing as they approached, testing each step for integrity, until they reached a room which had to be beneath the basement. It was not as dusty as one would have thought, nor were there as many cobwebs, almost as if the spiders avoided this place.
Through the dimness, Emily could make out furnishings and a box of candles. Using the lantern's flame, she concentrated on lighting them and placing them in holders until the room was better lit. "Look at this place," she said softly, nearly in awe.
"It's like a hideaway."
She grinned. "Look, a phonograph."
"A paint set."
"Always wanted to paint."
They continued to investigate the room, decorated with nineteenth century furnishings and accoutrements. There were even games and hobbies housed in bookshelves, and, of course, books, all leather bound. "Mark Twain," Emily said.
"Dickens," Mark added. “Bet they are first editions.”
"What a find," she said, her expression changing as she noticed a small dusty bottle on the end table with a crossbones on the label. Before being able to mention it, Sam pointed toward a portrait over the fireplace.
Stunned to see the couple that had been in Mrs. Wallingford's locket, Emily's voice grew breathy. "It's them."
"The couple from the locket."
Sam looked at the portrait and then down at the ornate red velvet sofa placed in front of the fireplace. He blinked, making out the tops of a something very white, yet sure it could not be what he thought.
He moved to the front of the chair and gasped. Two skeletons half dressed in attire similar to what they wore faced him. They were entwined in an carnal embrace, pelvis to pelvis. "Don't look," he told Emily.
She looked. Cried out. Swallowed. Held her hands against her mouth to lock in a scream.
Sam pulled her against him neither spoke, not knowing what to make of things. "They died doing it," escaped from his lips.
Suddenly, their memories cleared and all their passionate encounters since they first moved into the house became clear and vivid, including that they had not been themselves at all.
"No," Emily said, horrified, "we weren't possessed...we weren't...aren't!"
"Of course not!" Sam blurted but his eyes held a look of terror.
At that moment, the tapping began, the skeletons began to move in a mockery of lovemaking. One uneven leg of the sofa lifted and tapped against the floor, first slowly, and then more vigorously. At the same time, two voices erupted, clear and alive. "Forever together, just you two."
The voices came from behind. Emily and Sam spun about. A wash of white light came toward them out of the portrait, filling them, burning them. They were lifted and deposited on the couch, reenacting the sexual act that had taken place so long ago.
Screams echoed through the townhouse. Then silence.
Charles answered the door of Mrs. Wallingford's home. Noting the two arrivals, she grinned and held out her hands. "Ashton, Elizabeth, it is so good to finally have you back. You were wise to remain at the ages you did. I wish we had taken the serum much sooner."
"You took it at just the right age for you, m'dear."
The couple moved into the parlor. Other couples greeted them, men slapping Ashton on the back, women giving double-cheek kisses. They were all of varying ages, but had all been young at the same time, in the same era, and had belonged to the same cult who found a way to cheat death.
"It has been too long," Elizabeth said, in Emily's voice.
Ashton squeezed his wife's hand, his blue Sam eyes crinkled with happiness and very potent desire every time he looked at his wife. "We will only stay a bit, after all, we have much to do."
Six months later, in a home on the same block, another couple carried the last of the unpacked boxes up to the attic of their historical townhouse. The slight woman tilted her head and looked at her husband. "What's that tapping?"
Angelica Hart and Zi ~ Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane
www.champagnebooks.com - www.carnalpassions.com - angelicahartandzi.com