Image Prompt comes from Quentin Regnes on ArtStation.com
The car pulled up to the house outside of town. Annabelle was immediately amazed by the large stone walls with detailed engravings. There in the middle was a large pair of bronze gates. Then on each side of the gate was a large, lion statue. No, not lion. Annabelle recognized these two large beasts as Griffins. Mythological creatures with the heads of lions but large eagle wings on their backs. The two starred down at Annabelle.
“Don’t worry, they’ll friendly,” The driver of the car said as he unloaded Annabelle’s things from the car.
This whole day was full of new experiences for her. Annabelle left her home with her belongings packed up in the car. She rode for several hours from her small house to the nearby town and then up to her uncle’s large manor. This far north, the country seemed untouched by the war ragging less than 500 miles from here.
Back home night bombings were a daily thing, and with Dad gone, Annabelle’s mother thought it was a good idea to send her off until the war’s end. Two war the war has gone on, but apparently now was the time to move her. Right before school is to start up again. Annabelle had many reasons for not wanting to leave, but it wasn’t up to her. Her stuff was packed up and she was shipped across the country.
Now she was here standing in front of a gate protected by stone Griffins.
“Ms. Price, would you like me to carry your bag?” The driver asked.
Annabelle had never had someone to offer to carry things for her. It was like she was a royal Princess or something.
“No, it’s alright,” Annabelle said. “I can carry my bag.”
“Very well,” The driver said.
Annabelle stood there at the edge of the gate unsure what to do next. The whole thing was overwhelming to her and she felt nervous.
The driver rounded the car and was about to climb back into the driver seat when he noticed the girl had not moved.
“Ummm… Excuse me, Miss Price? Is everything alright?” He asked her.
“Of course, of course,” Annabelle said trying to play it off. “It’s just that I…ummm… I’m not used to all of this.”
The driver laughed.
“It is a lot to take in all at once. But do not worry. Henry Price, your Uncle. He is a kind man. Mostly keeps to himself, but he is kind. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Does he know I’m arriving?”
“Should know. But I’m just the driver, Miss. I don’t work directly under Mr. Price. He just paid for the drive. I can wait for you if you’d like.”
“No. No. You’ve done enough for me today. Thank you, kind sir,” Annabelle said with a courtsey.
“You were a wonderful passanger,” The driver said tipping his cap.
Then he proceeded to climb back into the car. Annabelle heard the sound of the car turn on and sputter off leaving Annabelle in a cloud of ash and smoke.
She coughed a bit before wiping her mouth. She picked up her two large suitcases and wobbled over to the gate.
“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?” Annabelle looked around.
There was a small clicking noise and the two Bronze gates opened. She looked up at the Griffins.
“Thank…thank you,” Annabelle curtsied again before picking up her stuff and wobbling up the road to the large manor.
There was a long, black asphalt road that ran up the hill of the gate to the mansion. The road was lined with trees and topiaries. The whole place looked well manicured even though there wasn’t a person in sight. Annabelle was under the assumption that large manors like this one required a large amount of gardeners, maids, cooks, and other people to keep it working in proper order, but so far Annabelle didn’t see anyone. Not a single doorman or servant anywhere. Not that Annabelle was complaining. She didn’t know anything about servants or personal chefs. But when you hear you’re moving to a mansion, you expect the things you’ve heard in fairy tales and nursery rhymes.
Eventually Annabelle made her way to the large wooden doors at the front of the house. There was a large stone fountain out front running and she was amazed by the water being shot into the air and it crashing down into the large, stone basin. Again, this was unlike anything Annabelle had ever seen.
Annabelle sat down on the stairs leading up to the main door to catch her breath. It was quite a walk up to the door from the gate and the heavy suitcases didn’t make it any easier. Just the front yard seemed to take up more space than the entirety of Annabelle’s old home.
Eventually Annabelle’s breathing got a little bit more regular and she walked the rest of the way up the stairs to the large wooden doors. There in the middle of them sat large, bronze doorknockers in the shape of lion heads. Man, this guy sure liked lions.
Annabelle stood up on her tip toes and grabbed a doorknocker.
She managed three loud knocks before the she dropped back down, flatfooted on the top landing.
“Hello? Anyone home? Uncle? Mr…. Mr. Price?”
Annabelle called out, but there was no response. She knocked again. Still nothing. She tried pushing on the doors but they seemed to be locked. Or maybe they were just too heavy to be moved by a little girl such as herself.
“I thought family was supposed to be nice and welcoming,” Annabelle said sitting back down on the stairs.
What was she to do? There wasn’t anyone around. The doors seemed to be shut. No one is answering her.
“I guess I’m going to go have a look around,” Annabelle said.
She placed her stuff next to the door. She was sure someone would come along and find her stuff. They could deal with it from here on out.
Annabelle ran down the stairs to inspect the fountain more closely.
Looking up she noticed that the fountain was made from several stone women with flowing hair and large vases which the water poured out of. Up at the top was another stone Griffin facing outwards towards the gate.
Then Annabelle peered over the lip of the large, stone bowl and down at the water at the bottom of the bowl. There she saw her own reflection broken by the falling water from above. Her hair was a bit of a mess. That’s something that her mother would bother her about.
“But she’s not here,” Annabelle said out loud before realizing it was really childish.
Maybe there was more resentment there than she originally thought. Annabelle was angry sure. But bitter? Resentful? She was supposed to understand. But she didn’t. She didn’t want to go away. She just wanted this stupid war to end so she could go home and see her parents.
Suddenly her thoughts were cut off as she heard the slamming of the front door.
Annabelle turned around, but she didn’t see anyone. The doors were still shut. But her stuff was missing.
“Hello?” She ran up the stairs to the front door.
She pulled hard on the doors and they opened much to her surprise.
Annabelle stumbled forward into a large room. There were two twin stairs leading upwards. Painting on the walls. Glass cases full of a variety of fancy looking objects. There was also a large grandfather clock ticking away.
Annabelle stood up and noticed that her bags were there on one of the stairs leading up. But they were knocked over.
“How did you get there?” Annabelle wondered out loud.
There was a large noise behind her as the doors slammed shut. Without a light source in the room, the whole room went dark.
“Hey! Uncle?” Annabelle looked around. “Anyone? This isn’t funny.”
There was another sound of a slamming door.
Annabelle looked up the stairs and standing there with a candle in his hand was an older man.
He was wearing some sort of pajamas with a heavy coat over his shoulders. His hair was standing on end. His glasses hung on his nose. His facial structure were similar to that of her father’s.
“Who are you?” He said pointing a finger at Annabelle.
“Annabelle. Annabelle Price. Your niece,” Annabelle spoke quickly. “My mother sent me here. She said you knew.”
He continued to glare at her.
“Your…your my uncle right?” Annabelle asked.
“How do I know that you’re really Annabelle Price?” He asked.
“I…I… uh.. I don’t know. Ask me a question only that I would know.”
“Mary Price always grew flowers. What flowers did she grow?” He asked.
Annabelle thought for a little bit. Flowers? Annabelle didn’t know anything about flowers.
“My mother, Mary Price, did not grow flowers. She was always terrible at gardening.” Annabelle said.
The man’s composure shifted. He went from stern and scary to more relaxed.
“You are real, aren’t you?” Annabelle’s Uncle said with a smile. “You must be Annabelle Price.”
“I…I am,” Annabelle said.
“That’s fantastic,” He said adjusting his glasses. “What time is it?”
Annabelle looked at the grandfather clock.
“Umm…the clock says seven, but it’s still light outside.”
“That clock has never worked,” He said. “But if it’s light outside, then that should have been enough to prove you are real. The spirits are never seen in the daylight.”
Spirits? Annabelle didn’t know what to make of that or really what to make of the man in front of her.
“Come, come, Annabelle. We have much to talk about. I’ll make tea,” He said.
He walked down the stairs past Annabelle and into the other room.
“What should I do with my stuff?” Annabelle asked.
“Just leave your stuff there. They will get where they need to go.”
He yelled from another room.
“Oh…alright,” She said as she followed her uncle.
They walked through a large dining room with a crystal chandelier hanging above the twenty person table. Then they made their way into the large kitchen. There in the center of the kitchen was a large kitchen island.
Her uncle placed two cups down on the island’s surface and then poured them both a cup of tea.
“Well I’m glad you found your way here,” Her uncle said. “Did the gate give you any trouble?”
“No. It kind of just opened by itself,” Annabelle said.
“Interesting,” He said.
“Ummm…Uncle, why is there no one else here?” Annabelle asked. “Don’t large manors usually take large staffs to make them work?”
“Oh they are here. They are just hiding. Two things they don’t like are new people and the daylight,” He said.
“I don’t understand,” Annabelle said with nervous laughter.
“Let me show you,” He said standing up.
He clapped his hands together twice.
The lights in the kitchen flickered for a moment and then several people appeared before them.
Annabelle jumped out of the stool and fell to the ground.
Each of the people standing there were translucent and wore old clothing.
“They are ghosts. People who haunt the grounds,” Her uncle explained. “They also serve me. Keep the grounds in order. Cook. Clean. Everything here. That’s why I don’t need any real people.”
“Ghosts? Real freaking ghosts?” Annabelle stood up and started walking backwards.
“Obviously your presence bothers my niece. You can hide yourselves now,” He said.
The lights flashed once again and the many translucent ghosts disappeared.
Annabelle then ran across the floor towards the front door.
“Annabelle! Annabelle!” Her uncle yelled for her.
She did not haste. She ran and ran forgetting to check on her stuff. Annabelle grabbed onto the door and tried to open them. She pulled and pulled, but they would not budge.
“Let me out! Let me out!”
Annabelle slammed her fists against the door.
“Do as she says,” Her uncle yelled from the kitchen.
The doors opened in and Annabelle ran forward. Down the stairs and to the fountain.
She breathed deeply in and out as she turned back.
Her uncle appeared in the doorway.
“I know it’s a bit to take in, but know that they will not harm you. They are under my control,” He explained. “I hope you will come back in. But if not, I can have a car brought here for you. You can go wherever you like.”
“Are you, are you a ghost?” She asked.
“No, I’m not,” He said. “I’m as living as you are.”
Annabelle looked at him with wide eyes. All of this was way too much to take in. First it was just a strange place and now it was a strange place full of ghosts.
“I’m not coming in,” She said.
“If that’s what you wish. This is not a prison,” Her uncle shrugged his shoulders. “However, I do hope you will come in eventually. The stuff has been put into your room. Dinner should be ready in a couple of hours. Until then you can explore the grounds. Or come in.”
Annabelle looked at him in disbelief as he left the doorway leaving it open.
Header Photo Credit to Quentin Regnes on ArtStation.com