Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2001
High School Winners

First Place

Our first place winner in the High School category is tenth grader Hillary W. Steinbrook who attends the Marblehead High School. Ms. Steinbrook was a winner last year in the High School category, and the two years ago in the Middle School category.

The Unwelcome Visitor
A Gothic Tale

Hillary W. Steinbrook

The cold, steady rain falling on the weathered copper roof produced an ominous sound that echoed through the darkened rooms of the dilapidated mansion. In the dining room, the flames of the candles in the tarnished candelabra flickered brightly. Lawrence Vamposki gazed lovingly at his wife across the long mahogany table as he drank vintage burgundy from his large, gold-rimmed goblet. Outside, the violent wind howled like a dog in pain, loudly, and then dying down. Their sullen maid entered the dining room and, without uttering a word, removed the couple's empty plates and refilled Lawrence's wineglass. Olivia Vamposki ran a pale, bony hand through her thin, auburn hair, and her long fingers came to rest on a mother-of-pearl haircomb, which she tucked further into her short coif. She felt a painful prick on her scalp, like the sharp sting of an angry bee, but dismissed it as unworthy of attention. She sipped her cordial slowly as her mind wandered. Darkness encompassed the couple, for the candles had all but melted down to a small puddle of red paraffin. Lawrence and Olivia were like eroding islands in a sea of death and darkness.

"If only Kenneth were sitting across the table from me tonight and not Lawrence, oh, how different my life would be from the obligations of my present circumstances! But he will never hold me in his powerful arms again; Fate has taken its course." Olivia pined, averting her guilt-ridden glance as Lawrence caught her eye. Her own eyes swept the length of the room, observing the gossamer cobwebs that decorated each corner of the high ceiling, the ornate, velvet curtains that trailed on the floor beneath the closed, barred windows, and the frames painted in gold leaf displaying the portraits of many Vamposki ancestors from previous centuries. Olivia could barely discern, but knew nonetheless, that the walls of the room in which she was sitting had been carefully covered with red paint, concealing the spilt blood from an agonizing duel that had been fought in this room so many years ago.

Suddenly, Olivia clutched her head in distress. Headaches were not the only pains that plagued her, for the ghosts of her past still haunted her mind, returning in her thoughts at night as bats do in a belfry. She clawed ferociously at her hair, as if the pain were some demon she could capture in her hands and then throw upon the cold, wooden floor in violent triumph. Her headaches were frequent in occurrence, but Lawrence loved her devotedly and believed that reading to her served to dull the anxiety that these spells generated in both of them. Lawrence arose slowly and pulled a dusty tome off the bookshelf in the alcove adjacent to the dining room as the rain slowed. He returned to the table, stroking the worn binding of the book. He stiffly lowered himself back into the threadbare, brocade upholstery of his dining room chair and opened his novel to a page that had been marked off with a tasseled card and began to read aloud. Lawrence continued reading, perhaps believing that if he could engross himself in the novel's plot he could remove himself from witnessing his wife's agony. His eyes seemed to hold all of the light in the room, for his short, black hair, black clothes, and dark, angular features of his face receded into the bleak oblivion of the dining room.

Lawrence finished reading a chapter, replaced the bookmark and laid the heavy book on the cool, glass surface of the table. He observed his wife, whose struggles had diminished. Olivia was smoothing the wrinkles from her high-necked, faded mauve taffeta and lace dress self-consciously.

Just then, the heavy, cast iron knocker thudded against the warped front door of the mansion. The only sound in the house, it penetrated the silence as it reverberated through the vacant rooms. The only sound - the knocker thudded. Again a loud, dull sound that jolted Lawrence and Olivia from their composure and awakened the dormant thoughts in their minds. Someone was summoning them; a visitor awaited. Once again, the knocker thudded, and through the darkness, Olivia rose from her chair, as if in a trance, and slowly walked towards the front door at the end of the grand foyer.

"Who would come here at this time of the night?" wondered Lawrence, and suddenly, his life flashed before him. Door knocker return Olivia "She's mine" "I will be back" "A life will change."

"No!" Lawrence screamed in anguish as Olivia's fingers touched the damp, brass doorknob, pulled open the heavy wooden door, and stared into the eyes of the man in front of her. She looked straight at this person, who seemed to fill the morgue-like room with warmth, then out into the night behind him.

"Kenneth! You're alive!"

An embrace, warmer than she had ever known, followed her exclamation of delight, as if she were a prisoner freed from her years of bondage. Just as Kenneth stepped into the foyer, the massive door suddenly slammed behind the two reunited lovers.

"Kenneth!" an intense, but inebriated, Lawrence Vamposki bellowed, "We meet again!"

Paradoxically, a cold wind blew through the mansion, although the windows were still closed. A howling, similar to the sound of a thousand distressed ghosts, emanated from the bloodstained walls. The former master of the house, who had fled after suffering a serious gash in that duel years ago on the night of October 31st, had returned to reclaim from his brother that which had been taken from him. The spirits of their deceased relatives, whose portraits had witnessed the gruesome battle between Lawrence and Kenneth, were ready for another duel. Kenneth Vamposki had returned, and the fight, over one woman and worldly power, was about to begin again.

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Copyright © 2001 & Hillary W. Steinbrook;
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