A Room With No View
By Michael J Rener
The darkness of the moors on this moonless night gave Angus Podgorny an uneasy feeling. It was not the kind of night you wanted to be outside in the middle of nowhere with a broken down vehicle. The cold wind ripped through everything, and to make matters worse he slipped into a puddle, soaking him as well. “Well”, he thought to himself, “If only I can make it to that old manor up ahead, maybe I can dry out and light a fire. No one has lived there in years, and I’m sure whoever owns it wouldn’t deny a traveler a wee bit of comfort”.
Now Angus wasn’t the superstitious type, and he has heard the stories about the myth of the moor with the ghosts, who supposedly walked these parts, and the mysterious disappearances, but that was easily explained, or so he thought. The wind howling across the moors, and the shadows from the brush in the starlight did produce an eerie sight, “but that’s for simple folk”, thought Angus.
It was then that he heard the music. He wasn’t sure at first, maybe the way the wind circled the valleys below, but it grew louder as he approached the old, deserted manor. It sounded like a single piano, and yes it was coming from the house!!
“Great, maybe someone is home after all, and they just might have a phone”, thought Angus, “lucky for me”. As he approached the house, a chill just ran over his body, “Just the wind and these damp clothes” he thought.
Strange, even though the music was definitely coming from the manor, there was no evidence that anyone has been here in years. Passing the feeling off as just letting his imagination run wild, Angus went up to the front door, and noticed it was open! More like the hinge just rusted away and the door couldn’t defend itself from the constant strong winds blowing across the moors.
Angus’ first instinct was to run away, very fast, but instead he decided to go in, “Hello”, he shouted, “Anyone home”? “My car broke down up the road and I was wondering if I could use your phone”? No answer came back. The music seemed to be coming from the upstairs. Warily he climbed the stairs in the dark, when he saw the light coming out of a room at the top. The haunting music was coming from within. As he reached the room, the music stopped. He peered in and thought he saw a dark figure hunched over the piano, but in an instant it was gone.
He decided to investigate further. He entered the room slowly, when all of a sudden he felt very dizzy and disoriented. As he came around the room seemed to come alive! It looked very different, as if from another time. The people in the room seemed to be dressed in costumes from 200 years ago, and he seemed to wander into a party. They were all grouped around the piano, where the dark figure peered at him with a vicious sneer.
A cold shiver ran down his spine as he turned to run away. He found he couldn’t seem to move his feet. He started to panic, and tried to scream, but no sound came from his mouth, not that anyone would have heard, but it was just an instinctive reaction.
That’s when he saw the pale, drawn face in front of him. “Going so soon?” asked the stranger, “but you just got here.” “WWHhoo aarree yyyouu?” quivered Angus.
“Who I am is not important”, answered the stranger, “what I want to know is why are you here?” ” More importantly what should I do with you?” At that point, Angus felt a cold sharp pain in the back of his neck, and crumpled to the floor. He was never heard from again, and when his car was found the next morning, without a trace of him anywhere to be found, Angus became part of the myth of the moor.
Kristin Johnson was one of the reporters covering the disappearance of Angus. She came up to this part Scotland for the magazine to investigate the stories and mysterious vanishings. Her publisher knew she had a special knack for solving these types of mysteries, and always seemed to come up with the most brilliant articles to boot.
“Well”, she thought, “If it was me I probably would head for that old manor on top of the hill”. “Who lives up there?” she asked one of the local policemen. “Nobody, that place has been deserted for close to 200 years”, replied the policeman, “It was owned by a local noble man and his family, but they disappeared mysteriously, as has anyone who tried to live or visit there. It is said to be haunted, the ghost of the nobleman, who was an accomplished pianist, who it is said to be heard playing on the darkest nights, just as he was the night he and his family disappeared, or so goes the myth.”
“Oh, nice place” replied Kristin . “Who owns it now?” she asked. “I believe it’s owned by an old retired general or colonel or something like that, name of MacArnold I think”, replied the policeman. “Though he has never visited here, I think it’s held in a trust, he might not even realize it’s his”.
“Mind if I go ahead and take a look around?” asked Kristin .
“Sure, no problem. The place is empty, except for rotten furniture and cobwebs. Been through there many times myself, but never found anything untoward.”
Kristin started trudging across the muddy moor. She wasn’t feeling anything eerie or odd, but then it was morning, and the sun was shining brightly. “Ouch”, she cried as her foot slipped, and she fell into the mud. “Must be a Thursday” she thought, “I never could get the hang of Thursdays”. Luckily she was prepared with her boots and rain gear, so it really wasn’t so bad, just embarrassing if anyone was watching.
As she neared the manor, she started feeling a chill, “Must be the dampness”, she thought, but her intuition said something else. She went through the front door, and the musty stench of a place that hasn’t been cleaned for a century made her cringe. “I’ve been in worse places”, she thought as she wandered around the main floor. There was nothing to suggest that anyone has been here for quite a while. The old furniture was all but eaten away by time, water and rot. There were two old paintings above the mantle. “Must have been the Lord and Lady of the house”, thought Kristin “Yes she was very beautiful, such a shame to be cut down like they were in the prime of life”. She saw another painting of a younger woman on another wall. She thought the woman looked very familiar, too familiar for comfort. “Well all these paintings look alike anyways, probably saw one done by the same artist somewhere else.”
She decided to look around the upper floor next. The rooms were pretty much the same, old broken down beds and tattered curtains. The mold and mildew was overwhelming and everywhere. As she went from room to room she was thinking, “I’m surprised that this place has never been vandalized. You would think someone would have ransacked it and sold off the property long ago. Of course it is rumored to be haunted, but surely someone would have tried. But everything looks like it was left alone to rot over time”.
She came to the last room, where she saw an old mildewed baby grand piano. As she entered the room she felt a cold chill run down her spine, and thought she saw a group of people in period costume, having a small gathering. She felt dizzy and disoriented, like, well she felt that way before, but couldn’t place the feeling. She also noticed the strange collection of dolls over the fireplace, but the way they were dressed up didn’t quite fit the scene. As a strange dark figure that was playing the piano at the center of attention noticed her, she went into shock. She fell back, and found herself looking back into the deserted mildewed room. For a minute, she actually felt she saw the room, as it was in its prime a century or two ago. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, she thought, “Maybe it’s time to get t9000 to check this out for me, I think I remember that odd felling I felt as I entered the room, but better safe than sorry. Also is that the same retired General MacArnold I know?”
General (ret.) Gordon MacArnold was pleased when he picked up the telephone and heard the voice at the other end, “Hello Ms Johnson, been a long time hasn’t it?”
“Yes, too long”, replied Kristin . “General, I need to talk to you, is it okay if I come by this afternoon?”
“Sure Ms Johnson, my door is always open for you, you should know that.”
“Thanks General, and please call me Kristin , There’s no reason to be so formal.”
“Okay see you around 1 then?”
“Yes, See you then”.
As he hung up the phone, the General felt a tinge of excitement. It must have been the urgency and anxiety in her voice. He knew something was up, and if she was calling for his help, it has to do with strange or unusual phenomenon. Even though Kristin wasn’t officially a part of The United Nations Alien Contact Team (UNACT), he did feel like she was an old Comrade-In-Arms, especially after what they went through with the Steward and all. And of course, if an old comrade needs his help, who is he to decline. Besides, he felt he could do with a bit of excitement.
Kristin was prompt, knowing that an ex-military person like the General hated to be kept waiting, besides she always liked him especially the way he treated her when she hung around UNACT’s
headquarters. He could have thrown her out, but instead he treated her respectfully and as if she was part of his team. That is why even though some might think she is imposing on him; she knew he didn’t see it that way.
“Hello Ms John.. er Kristin , come in I’ll put on some tea”.
“Thanks General, I could use some.”
After they had their tea and shared a bit of small talk, old friends catching up on each other’s lives, Kristin spoke up. “General the reason I need to see you is about a strange occurrence I had up in Scotland yesterday. By any chance do you or any of your relatives own property that is vacant with an old dilapidated manor house?”
“Why yes”, replied MacArnold, “In fact it’s been in the family for generations. Right now it’s held in a family trust. We have tried to get rid of it, but every time we thought we had a buyer, they would either come back and ramble on about ghosts, or we would never hear from them at all.”
“Can you tell me a bit about its history then?” asked Kristin .
“Sure. Pretty much most of it is boring old sot, about how the clan got together and made their money by farming and shipping. But about two hundred years ago something strange happened. My great great great etc. grandmother was away while with child, but when she returned, everyone was gone. No one saw anyone leave, nor knew of any foul play. When she tried to go into the house she was scared away by the “Evil Spirits” that seemed to inhabit the house. She tried to get the local clergy to exorcise the spirits; she even went as far as recruiting local witches. The story goes, it really wasn’t the whole house, just the upstairs parlor that was haunted. It was said you could hear eerie piano music coming from the room, but upon further investigations, the room was always empty. Most of the people who went into the house were never heard of again. Hence the myth of the moor was born.”
“I heard the music”, said Kristin , “And when I went to investigate the room was empty and all the furniture was rotted. But when I entered the room, I felt like I was transported back into the 18th century!”
I saw a strange figure humped over the piano, and when he looked at me my blood ran cold. I know I’ve seen him somewhere else, but I couldn’t quite place him.”
“That’s why I need your help General, I’m not sure where else I could turn.”
“Well”, said the General, “I’m glad you came to see me. I’ve been meaning to check out the stories myself for years, but always seemed too busy. In fact I almost asked the Steward to help, but I could hear him now, “I don’t do house calls General”.
“Oh “, replied Kristin , “You know he would have been glad to help, but I understand, you probably felt it was just an old tale that wasn’t worth the effort.”
“You’re probably right Kristin , still why don’t we go up and see what we can find.” Do you still have that computerized tin man, what did you call him?”
“If you mean t9000, yes General I do, but don’t call him a tin man to his face. He doesn’t like that. For a computer that claims to have no feelings, he sure does get them hurt a lot.”
“Great”, said the General, “Let’s go ghost hunting”.
Kristin , the General, and t9000 arrived at the old manor later that evening. It was a pleasant drive, and they spent the time catching up some more on their old adventures. “How illogical”, thought t9000, “Why do humanoids always want to talk about the past? Don’t they have more important things to do? At least they’re not prattling on about the weather.”
The General looked over the countryside in the evening dusk, and thought how beautiful and peaceful the area was. “I should really move up here now I’m retired, and play the country squire”, thought the General.
Kristin saw him and said “Enough daydreaming General, plenty of time for that later. We do have a more pressing engagement”. “Quite right”, said the General, “Lead on Mcduff..”.
“Oh General, I know we’re in Scotland, but could you lay off the Macbeth?”
“No promises”, replied the General. `Did you unpack the torches?”
“Yes here they are, I even brought extra batteries.”
As the trio cautiously entered the old manor, they turned on the torches so they could have a better look around. The General realized he never visited this place. He was also amazed at the
desolation and filthiness of the interior.
Kristin showed him the paintings over the mantle. “Relatives of yours?” she asked.
“Ah yes, the lady is the one I told you about earlier, the other is her husband. He was supposed to have been a great pianist and patron of the arts. It was his birthday party that was being held the night they disappeared. She was off seeing to a dying aunt or something, that’s why she wasn’t present.” Of course if she was, I probably wouldn’t be here”.
“”, said Kristin , “That’s the man I saw in the room. But I know I’ve seen him somewhere else before.”
“Now that you mention it”, replied the General, “He does look very familiar. But how do I, or we know him? Those eyes are so cold and forbidding, it’s hard to believe he was so charitable.”
As they looked around the rest of the downstairs area, they couldn’t find anything that seemed out of place. Just a lot of old cobwebs, dirt and mildew.
“Well I guess we’ve been avoiding the inevitable, haven’t we Kristin ” said the General.
“Yes”, replied Kristin , “Could you carry t9000? “
When they got to the top of the stairs, the music started again. “There”, said Kristin , visibly shaken, “from that room over there”. The General went forward and peered in. Nothing, just an old rotting piano and shards of drapery and carpets. But still the haunting music continued. But how? From where?
“Danger” chirped t9000, “There is an unknown energy force coming from that room. I believe there is some sort of barrier.”
“Can you identify it t9000?” asked Kristin . “I mean what sort of barrier is it?”
“Insufficient data” replied t9000, “I’ll get to work on it immediately”.
Kristin could see the General was mesmerized by the room and the music. He seemed drawn to the room as if he was being commanded to enter.
“Look out General”, but she was too late as he moved into the room and just vanished!!!!!
“Oh well” she thought, “I got him into this, I might as well see if I can get him out”.
“t9000, stay here and monitor the situation. See if you can figure out what is causing this anomaly, and hopefully pull us back. I’m going in”
“Unwise”, replied t9000, “I think it’s some kind of time barrier. There is only a 58.4657% chance that I can bring you back once I find out what’s causing it”.
“Well”, replied Kristin , “I always said I wanted to retire to simpler times”. With that she entered the room and vanished, she realized who the woman in the first painting resembled. It was her face she saw in that painting…
The General couldn’t believe his eyes. At first he felt disoriented and dizzy. The room was brightly lit with candles. It was then that he saw the dark figure hunched over the piano. It was the same man as in the painting he saw downstairs. The figure looked up at him, gave him a haunting smile. The General felt light headed and everything went blurry. When he regained his vision, he was still in the room, but the figure was gone.
He turned to leave, but a wall replaced the doorway.
“Well, what a fine mess you got me into this time”, he thought. It was then he heard Kristin call his name.
“Where did you come from?” he asked.
“There” said Kristin pointing to the non-existent doorway, surprised to see the wall.
“Is this what you saw before”, he asked.
“Yes” replied Kristin , “Only there were people here, and I was able to get back out.”
“Well”, said the General, “I only saw once person, or so I thought.” They decided to look around. The room was decorated in the height of fashion, for the late 18th century. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and the floor was finely carpeted, and the piano, which was all rotted out, looked brand new and in good repair.
They looked at the window, but it seemed all blacked out. It was then that they spotted the dolls on the mantle. They inspected them closely. It was a strange collection. Something was very odd, very odd indeed. That’s when it hit them. All the dolls were dressed in different clothing. Not just different in color or style, but them seemed to be from different time periods!
When Kristin saw the one on the end, her blood ran cold. She immediately recognized it as from the police photos of the missing person that brought her here in the first place. Yes, it was a doll of Angus!!
“I have seen this before”, said the General. “It’s the calling card of the..”
It was then that he was interrupted by a figure entering the room.
“Ah, so you returned” the figure said to Kristin , “and you brought a friend”. “My God, is that the General?” “My, my how you have aged”.
“Who are you?” demanded the General and Kristin in unison.
“I am the Eradicator of this household, that’s who, and you of course are my guests.”
You can simply call me “The Eradicator”..
With that he let out a haunting laugh that was all too familiar to the General.
Outside the room t9000 worked at the problem diligently. He finally figured out the wavelength of the barrier so at least he could see into the room and saw the General, Kristin , and a strange man dressed in black, stroking his goatee. He immediately sensed the power source as the piano. If only he could break through he could save his mistress and her friend.
“What are you doing here, and how long have you been here?” asked the General realizing the worst of his fears.
“All in good time, my dear General, all in good time.” Replied the Eradicator. “I am so glad you could make it to my party.” “It gets boring dealing with the same people over and over. What we need is some new blood to liven things up”. With that he let out another of his howls. Kristin ‘s and the General’s blood ran cold. Could it be, that they are trapped in one of the Eradicator’s deadly games? What was his game anyways?
“General”, said the Eradicator, “Did you ever wonder why I didn’t have you killed in our previous engagements? Yes, I am one of your ancestors. I guess it’s fortunate hat my so called wife is away, so we could meet later, or in your case, earlier.” “No way” barked the General, visibly shaken, “I couldn’t have come from such evil stock as you.”
“Ah, but it is true” continued the Eradicator, “Why do you think you were so open minded to the strange happenings and creatures you encountered throughout your career?” “Why do you think the Steward was so drawn to you?” “No, he probably didn’t know either, or why he was so pulled towards you.” “Come now, you must get changed so as to not arouse suspicion in these primitives.” “Here’s some clothing, change now or else.”
Kristin recognized the dress from the painting. “So that’s how it got there”, she thought. “Well we might as well play along, and give t9000 time to come up with a way to rescue us,” she thought hopefully.
The General looked at Kristin and she gave him a slight nod and a wink, indicating to play along. After they changed, the Eradicator returned with a string of guests.
“I think I would like a portrait of this young lady”, the Eradicator said to a man obviously a painter. “As you wish sire”, replied the painter. He then had Kristin sit down and he went to his task.
“Please, partake in the celebration, my dear General”. “I assure you the wine and food are not poisoned or harmful in any way.”
The General helped himself to some wine, and confronted the Eradicator.
“What’s going on, where are we?” asked the General.
“Where we are is exactly where you were before you entered this room,” replied the Eradicator. “Actually you are in my Travel Pod.” “You see I was on the run from the Controller when my Travel Pod broke down. I was able to use a trick I learned from another renegade Controller, and hid my presence from them, and was able to set up a time loop for these people. They keep reliving the same day over and over as if it never happened. I couldn’t have them going around loose in the countryside, I created this whole myth and they all just disappeared from normal time.” “Yes this is the myth of the moor they prater about. Anyone unfortunate enough to wander in, well, how do you like my doll collection?”
“You fiend”, shouted the General, “Why do you do it?”
“I have to”, said the Eradicator, “I need the energy from their bodies to power my illusion”.
“I should kill you now” said the General, and he rushed the Eradicator, only to be stopped in his tracks.
“I don’t think so my dear General.” “As you can see I can control your mind from here, as he patted the piano”. “This is how I lure my victims into my lair.” “My Travel Pod is back to full functionality, but I still have the need to remain hidden from the Controller”. “At least for a little more time. So, please relax, or die!”
At that point a women’s scream was heard, as a strange metallic being came crashing through the wall.
“t9000”, screamed Kristin , “Am I glad to see you.”
“Mistress”, replied t9000, “I have detected the power source and I am 99.987564% sure I can destroy it.”
“NO”, shouted the Eradicator, “You cannot defeat me you motorized tin can.”
With that the Eradicator pointed his matter compacter at t9000, but in doing so, released the General from his hold. The General was able to deflect the Eradicator’s arm, and he dropped his weapon. This allowed t9000 to extend his laser and shot a beam at the piano. As it exploded, the whole room started to whirl about, Kristin and the General rushed towards the hall as the Eradicator disappeared through a doorway. The room was back to the dilapidated condition Kristin and The General first saw it in. The old manor started to shake and shimmy.
“Quick, let’s get out of here” shouted the General, as he picked up t9000 and ran down the stairs, followed by Kristin .
They exited the building just as it started to collapse on itself. It seems that the Eradicator’s Travel Pod was the reason it was standing over all these years. After the shock wore off, Kristin started giggling.
“My aren’t you a sight”, she said to the General standing there in his silks.
“Well, I think I have a change of clothes in the boot”, said the General, “You’re not exactly what I would call with it either.”
“Well at least I can remove some of the inner layers, and look somewhat normal”, said Kristin .
“I wonder if he got away?” asked Kristin .
“I noticed a fracture in the time-space continuum as we exited the structure,” said t9000. “It had the signature of a Travel Pod.”
“How about all those people?” asked Kristin ?
“They were already deceased, ” replied t9000, `they were mere projections helping conceal the Eradicator’s presence.”
“Well General, how does it feel to know you are part Alien?” asked Kristin .
“I refuse to believe a word that man says,” replied the General, “No way, no way”, he kept muttering obviously upset and shaken at the news of his ancestry. “Never, Never”.
“Come on, let’s get out of here” said Kristin . “What are you going to do now with the property?”
“Oh I don’t know, sell the land, rebuild the house, it is a nice place to settle down” said the General. “Yes, beautiful and peaceful…. and no longer haunted.” The General smiled wryly as he and Kristin got in to the car and drove away in silence.
The General was in deep thought as he pondered the news about his linage, while Kristin dozed off in the passenger seat.
t9000 sulked in the back seat. “At least they could have thanked me”, thought t9000. Not that it was, as he always said, necessary, but somewhere deep in his programming he felt it mattered…..