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A Door in Thorston

A Door in Thorston

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A Door in Thorston

Länge:
339 Seiten
5 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Apr 18, 2015
ISBN:
9781311204028
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

In the haunted village of Thorston, danger does not lie behind every door. Just one.

Sten Carter's best friends Jeff Coyne and Vanessa Solomon are in love, and he's happy for them. He's happy when Jeff abandons the city for a quiet life in the country village of Thorston. The rural peace seems the best place for Jeff to recover from his breakdown, and maybe even make a life for him and Vanessa.

Then Jeff disappears.

As he searches for answers, Sten will uncover his friend's obsession with the village's past - and Thorston is a place of many hidden histories. There is the ruined Hall, and the men who let it burn. There are the unexplained murders that left the village priest a broken man. And there is the lost old lady, endlessly repeating a ritual she no longer understands.

Sten and Vanessa must unravel what links these tragic events throughout Thorston's past, because now more than Jeff's life is at stake. Somewhere in Thorston there is a door, and if it opens, they will not survive....

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Apr 18, 2015
ISBN:
9781311204028
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

By profession an investigator, I've lived and worked throughout North America, Europe and Asia over the last two decades. In that time, I've seen a great deal of corruption, and the occasional monster, although those have been human (to the best of my knowledge). A great fan of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, it was not until a forced sabbatical following an operation that I determined to plan out and finish a novel which had been floating around as an idea for some years. A Door in Thorston was the result. My second novel, The Dam at Hiramatsu, followed in April 2014. I am currently at work on a third (and fourth) novel. Various ramblings, horror game reviews and more information at: www.lawrenceanzen.com


Buchvorschau

A Door in Thorston - Lawrence Anzen

A Door in Thorston

by Lawrence Anzen

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2013 Lawrence Anzen

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

History

One: Reunion

Two: Knight's Way

Three: Visit

Four: The Lock

Five: Psyche

Six: Gathering

Seven: Changes

Eight: Promises

Nine: Others

Ten: Doors

Eleven: Elsewhere

Twelve Initiate

Thirteen: Of the Land

Fourteen: Of the Line

Fifteen: Of the Enemy

Sixteen: The End

About the Author

Acknowledgements

This book is dedicated to my wonderful wife, without whom not only would there be no book, but no point.

With many thanks to Nik for being 'The Reader,' and of course to Dan-chan for his ever timely edits.

PROLOGUE

It was early autumn, with much of the harvest work complete and the brutality of winter still a few blissful months away. There was a clear sky overhead, adorned with diamond stars, and enough of the summer heat in the air to make a pleasant night for a walk, or a romp in the back lanes for the courting couples of the village.

Old George Kent’s courting days were long behind him, but he was content enough. He had suppered at his cousin’s house, a small cottage on the outskirts of Thorston. The house was made of stone, and while the damp of its location made the lower walls a haven for moss, cousin Terrence kept a clean and healthy home, and the warmth of the hearth gently glowed from the simple shutter-less windows. A game of cards over cheese and Terrence's home brewed ale had seen the evening to an unhurried close, and now Kent was making his way slowly back across the village, enjoying the breeze and the quiet of the hour.

Kent paused and leaned on the slate-topped wall marking the boundary between the King’s highway and an outlying field. He was a man with a good heart, even if he lacked any spark of imagination. No thoughts of anything fantastical crossed his mind as he took in the night sky; no fairies or will o’the wisps. It was just that: a lovely autumn sky in quiet rural England.

Then something caught his eye, and he turned slightly to the right, and looked up at the sky. He squinted, trying to understand what had attracted his attention, puzzled, as there seemed to be nothing there. Just the autumn sky and the stars. And then he saw the place where there were no stars. A dark smear across the sky, obscuring the stars. A moving smear, billowing. It was smoke, drifting blacker than the night itself.

The Hall was burning.

His mouth dropped open as he stared at the distant smoke, awful conclusions rushing his mind.

Oh heavens, no.

Then resolve burst through the warm blanket left by his cousin’s beer, and he turned and ran. Minutes later he was hammering the brass fox-head knocker on the hard wood of his apprentice’s door. Patrick Weaver appeared after a few minutes of insistent noise. He was in his nightshirt and clearly not yet even half out of the fog of sleep. Seeing his master, his eyes widened and he blinked in a determined effort to wake himself. Despite his unease, Kent was in that instant very proud of the younger man.

Weaver opened his mouth to speak but Kent cut him off.

Wake up and listen close, lad. The Hall is afire. I want you to go get your friends, and meet me on the Green. And listen, when I say friends, I mean real ones, the ones you count on one hand.

Yes, Master George. Very well. I will. But where are you going?

To get the men. I will see you there. I mean it, lad. Only ones you trust. If you see anyone else, say nothing

And with that he turned and ran into the gloom. Weaver was immediately worried. Not because of the report of the fire, but because he had never before seen his master run. Never. There was no cause in Thorston to be running. And that alone sent fear icing its way to his heart. He dressed as quickly as he could and went to rouse his friends. He was not sure what he would tell them, but his master had entrusted him to bring them. So bring them he would.

Weaver himself was not village-born. He was from out near Derby, a whole county away, brought to Thorston by bonds of family and the needs of apprenticeship. When he had first arrived, he had been surprised by the Hall’s bad reputation. It didn’t seem to have enough of a history to warrant it.

He had, one day, attempted to ask his master about it.

That whole place makes no sense, lad, Kent had replied. It just makes no sense. You keep away now. They will surely keep away from you.

At the pub that night, after his day’s labours, he had asked Foley Marner, the publican of the Rusted Plough, what he thought about the Hall. He had not expected the vituperative response, and certainly not the way the conversation drew in others from surrounding tables, attracting them as moths to candle flame. It was there he had learned the name of the Hall’s founder, architect, and owner: John Beltrane.

As soon as the question was asked, Marner snatched up a pewter mug and began what seemed to Weaver a most ferocious polishing.

That Beltrane, he is no lord, said Marner, eyes narrowing, mood darkening.

No lord indeed, said another of the village, settling at the rough wooden counter, hunching over.

Has he issued some injury against us, then? said Weaver.

There is something not right, said a third. Of that, there is no doubt. And that cannot be good for us in the village.

You’ve had a schooling, your master George tells me, said Marner. You explain it to me, Pat. You explain it to me.

And so Weaver discovered that when the men of the village said Beltrane was no lord, they were not declaring he acted in a way unbefitting of his station. He was, very literally, not a lord. He was a merchant. He made his money from some arcane principles of exchange, not from the land. He had no title, yet lived like a lord – better, if some of the rumours were true.

Lord Manners, the Fifth of Rutland, he was true gentry. More than that, he was the King’s man, the Lord Lieutenant, like his father Charles before him. Many of the men of Thorston worked his land, with all the old bonds that brought with it. More than that, though, he was seen in the village, at least once or twice a year for a fair day, or a Sunday Church service.

Beltrane offered no such attendance.

Tell me this, said Marner, if he is one who sells, then why does he not sell to us?

Aye, said the third man to have joined, do we not also have goods to buy and sell? How then does he sit atop such a pile of gold, like the dragon looking down on us true Englishmen?

At the time, Weaver had thought he understood, at least to some small degree. He had indeed enjoyed something of an education, and understood there were some great trades being made by men who were not of the aristocracy, and other men who created machines of incredible capacity.

I have heard tell, he said, with some caution, of merchants who buy and sell many ship holds of cargo in one time, and reap great rewards from it.

That is as maybe, said Marner, not unkind. But surely he must pay his servants in coin, and they do not grace us with it here.

We do not even see them here, said the fourth man to join.

I have seen them, said the third. On the highways some of a time. They are a brooding lot. They do not look all well.

Aye, there is a darkness to them, the second agreed. And there is more. I do not know why the Lord Lieutenant agreed to that man’s purchase of Thorston Wood. But even so, why build a mighty palace such as that and leave the grounds fallow?

Fallow? said the third. There is no fallow ground! I have been to a nearness, back when there were still animals to trap in the woods. There are no grounds to that place at all! He has built his manor, but makes no clearance for lawns or other such. He has made the grandest woodsman’s cabin in all Christendom.

That at least I understand, said Marner. That is the Wood reclaiming its own.

A sullen gloom descended on the men at the comment, and they spoke no more. Back then, Weaver always thought it was a harmless thing, an empty superstition which sounded enough like an explanation to give comfort.

Now, as he walked at the head of a small column of those same men heading to the self same Hall, he thought that he believed it.

At his apprentice’s side, George Kent was thinking that tonight, John Beltrane believed it too.

They made their way in silence along the lane that led out of the village, heading for the trail that would loop around the low hills in front of the tree line and into Thorston Wood. Thorston itself was a village of several hundred souls, on gently rolling ground bordered by two small streams. If it could be said to face in any direction, it would be to the farmland on the flatter lands to the west, though there were fields close enough in, and in-between clumps of houses, historic plots creating a patchwork village, with lanes bordered on both sides by low walls guarding either pasture land or a home. Thorston Wood, could, therefore, be said to be behind the village, the slightly more difficult hills never having made it attractive for farming, left to its own devices, never frequented by more than a poacher prepared to risk the Lord Lieutenant’s switch. At least, not until Beltrane arrived.

As the snake of men crested the hill and faced the wood, they could see the orange of the blaze at its heart. They knew from the smoke plume the fire had taken full hold, but seeing it, even through the grill of trees, was a shock.

Despite the blaze, there were no animals fleeing into safer pastures, no screeching birds to quicken the pulse. Whatever foxes, voles, or crows that once called this place home had clearly long since left. Perhaps that was worse. The men shifted on their feet uneasily.

Weaver had sometimes, to his shame, felt a little superior in the village due to his education. As he stood here now, he did not feel superior at all. Instead all the superstitious mutterings of the pub were wrapped around him like a cloak soaked in ice water.

He shivered. Kent looked at him, grim faced, but there was no trace of disapproval in the old man’s manner. Weaver realised with a sinking heart that could only mean Kent felt the same way. He was scared.

Kent turned to face the stalled mission.

Come on.

The line of men crossed the threshold into the first of the trees. Weaver shivered and glanced back to reassure himself he was not alone. The fire blazed brighter through the trees.

Master George, he said, and hesitated. Kent said nothing. Should we not have brought more men with us? Why could we not wake the village?

Kent grunted.

For what, lad?

Weaver could already feel the heat from the burning building.

This looks bad, Master George. What if it spreads? The trees are close in to the Hall, if they catch it could be bad, very bad.

Kent nodded as he understood the younger man’s concern.

That’s at least one thing we don’t have a worry about, he said, glancing over and catching Weaver’s eye. Thorston Wood don’t burn.

Weaver doubted that, and he wanted to know why, then, were they going to the Hall at all, but he knew it would do no good to ask, as George Kent had settled into a focused silence he knew well. He would just have to wait and see.

But he had a horrible nagging feeling that he wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what they were going to do when they got there – or who they were going to do it to.

John Beltrane stared ahead, marvelling at the sight before him. The expression on his face was close to ecstasy. How could they have tried to keep this from him? Oh, those selfish bastards! No wonder they didn’t want him in this village. Oh, such secrets they kept. He was so happy he could cry.

Beltrane stood at the top of the staircase, gazing in wonder down the landing at the corridor beyond. Around him, the Hall burned. Well, let it. How had it started? Who cared?

Divine providence, he said, and giggled. He felt chosen. Had been chosen. Had been promised.

What was that? Something bothered him. What was happening?

He looked down. Someone was tugging his sleeve. He looked around, confused. A woman, almost on her knees like she was begging, tears running dirty little streams down her darkened face. Darkened by ash, soot, and smoke. Who is that?

John, please! Please unlock the doors! For the love of God, you’ve got to let us out! What’s wrong with you? Why won’t you answer me? John, please!

My wife, he thought. That was who this was. My wife. Maria. How could he forget his own wife? He smiled, amused at that absurdity.

Seeing the smile, the woman wailed in horror, and she fell against his legs, head down, weeping against his trousers.

Beltrane’s smile faded. She had distracted him, dragged him back. The Hall, the fire, what was happening, it all came rushing back. He felt the heat of the blaze, and he was amazed by its intensity before he could realise it hurt. The velvet above the windows burned, flames twisting slowly as if time had slowed for them. The wooden wall panelling was darkening, varnish warping. The staircase had caught, and the bottom steps were dancing in his vision, dancing through the heat. Not wood from the trees round here. He’d had that brought up from London. That had cost a fortune, he seemed to remember, dragging up the thought as if from a thousand years ago. He’d used the wood from the trees on the site in parts of the house, but the tradesmen complained it was difficult to work, and too rough for the finer needs of the interior. So he’d bought the rest from…where? He couldn’t remember. This also annoyed him.

Maria.

She looked up at the sound of her own name, saw him looking down at her, saw his eyes were focussed this time. She pulled herself up by clawing at his legs, put her hands on the sides of his face, and wept.

John! John! Please! We’ve got to get out of here!

Maria. Whatever is the matter?

Even with the dark coating on her face, her face visibly paled.

The house is burning, John! Please! You’ve got to let us out of here!

That’s right. The children were locked in the parlour. Had he done that? Maybe they were playing snooker.

Part of the ceiling crashed onto the floor by the front door below, taking the light fittings with it. He flinched at the crash, and that further irritated him. More annoyances. His brow furrowed with growing impatience.

He turned to his panicked wife with a scowl.

Why are you bothering me? he asked the woman.

John! she screamed, the one word imbued with all her frustration, her inability to get through to the man standing in front of her, the man she still loved with all her heart, the man who was also standing in the middle of an inferno and didn’t seem to realise.

If you want to leave, just go down there, he said, waving his arm around behind him.

She looked past him, over his shoulder, at the landing. The rich, golden carpet ran past several doors – all locked – to the panelled wall at the end, where the varnish was starting to crack and peel. She looked back to her husband’s face, saw the calm there, and a new, colder terror entered her heart.

Beltrane watched her reaction, and was disappointed. She couldn’t see. He had been worried about that. He loved her, wanted her to come with him, but how could she if she couldn’t see?

He turned back towards the marvellous vision, and then started in shock. There was nothing there. Nothing of value to him, anyway. Just burning wood.

No! he cried out in horror. But it was no use. The corridor to the other place was gone.

The woman grabbed his lapels and shook him, trying to get his attention, desperate.

John, please! We’ve got to get out of here! Please! Give me the keys.

The last word dissolved into heaving sobs. Beltrane looked at her with pity, and reached into his coat pocket.

Of course. The keys.

He pulled out a large cast iron ring, which was almost entirely taken up with keys, so many keys, all big and heavy. There was only just space for three of his fingers to hold the remaining part of the ring.

He swung it round and smashed the keys into her cheek, raking harsh metal through the flesh of her face, a delicate, pretty face he had once thought himself blessed to be able to kiss.

She didn’t even cry out; she fell away limp. He swung the clanging metal up in the same motion and brought the lot down on the top of her head, hearing the thud as the keys rained down on her skull, pushing her even faster to the floor. She lay silent, eyes closed, face a mix of tears, soot and blood.

Beltrane stood a moment, puzzled, as if he could not quite remember what he was doing. Cocking his head to one side, he turned back towards the landing.

The corridor was back.

Excellent.

Beltrane was delighted. He took a step forward. No, the corridor wasn’t just back. He could see it even better. Yes, that had made it much better. He could see the twisted black pillars lining its sides as the red walls and floor vanished into an impossible distance.

In the parlour, Maximilian Beltrane, twelve, and Lucas Beltrane, fourteen, were dead, their breath denied them by the smoke. They lay crumpled against the door, their nails bloody where they had clawed at it in their desperation, crying out for their mother even when the smoke had made their throats dry. Even when it had burned, they had cried out, hoarse whispers absorbed by the pitiless door. They died with their arms wrapped around each other, something they had not done since they were small boys, and their last thoughts were of fear.

In the servants’ quarters, all were dead, but in much worse ways. The fire had already taken their bodies, but the blackened limbs were twisted in ways that told of a different kind of death.

On the landing, John Beltrane stood by the body of his last victim, and wondered what to do next.

The men from the village reached the gates of the Hall, and silently pushed them open. The heat from the blaze had grown steadily as they approached, and now they were past the gates it was intense. Weaver screwed up his eyes as they approached.

The men started to fan out, and some of them disappeared around behind the Hall. Weaver suddenly realised they had brought no equipment for fighting a fire, but they had brought other things – pitchforks, rakes, and now he even saw one of the men, a large man with an equally large moustache, pull out a pistol.

Weaver looked questioningly at Kent, who simply nodded ahead of them, at the space in front of the main door.

Just stand there, lad.

Weaver wiped away the sheen of sweat which had formed on his brow.

And then?

Watch.

The men had the Hall circled now, but they went no closer.

What if there’s still someone inside?

What if there is?

Weaver looked doubtfully at the burning building. He blinked, and looked back at Kent.

Well, if there is, shouldn’t we try to get them out?

Kent turned his head slowly away from the fire, and gazed at his young companion gravely. Such a good boy, he thought. How on earth was he to explain to him, here, and now? George Kent had never worried about how Beltrane made his money, and had never taken him for a witch or a warlock. Kent knew there were things here far older, and certainly far, far worse than the merchant man. His father had told him of the Death’s Jester, and his own great-grandfather had seen it, and written much, a great labour for the old man who had little prior need for the ink and pen.

There was much Weaver would need to know, and much Kent needed from him. That was why he had asked his old friend in Derby to send his educated son to be his apprentice. Times were changing, and those who watched the Wood must change with them, or there would be great danger.

But those were conversations and revelations for later. For now all he could explain was:

Pat, we’re here to make sure nothing gets out.

At that moment Weaver understood, and, despite the intense heat, he felt cold. He turned back to the Hall. It was better than looking at the expression on his master’s face.

The breaking dawn found the villagers still standing around the smouldering ruin, the line they had drawn with their bodies thankfully unbroken.

Weaver’s eyes were still wet with tears. Partly from the heat, but that had long passed. Partly from exhaustion, but there was no way he could sleep. He didn’t know if he would ever sleep again. Now the sun was up there was no denying the scene before him.

By heaven, that can’t be, he croaked.

The walls had collapsed, and the ceiling had long since fallen in at some early morning hour. But the wooden wall columns and roof beams still stood, darkened by the fire, but undamaged. The Hall’s flesh had burned away, leaving a sick, black skeleton.

Kent shook his head.

I told you, lad. Thorston Wood don’t burn.

HISTORY

THORSTON BLACKSMITH DECLARED A SUICIDE

Will be Denied Church Burial

Thorston Chronicle, February 23rd, 1871

MULTIPLE MURDERS SHOCK VILLAGE

Thorston Constable Praised for Heroic Action

The Leicester Evening Herald, May 2nd, 1917

LEICESTER WAR HERO HANGED FOR MURDER

National Observer, November 16th 1957

VILLAGE MAN ARRESTED IN RACE ATTACK

Victim in Coma in Leicester Royal Infirmary

Thorston Chronicle, June 10th, 1974

ONE: REUNION

Jeff Coyne struggled out of one dark world into another, and for one awful moment, he thought he was still in the nightmare world - still in the horrid dark landscape that brought fear with every step he took.

A dark shape moved in front of him, and he took in breath to shriek.

Then the familiar sounds of an argument going on in the street outside his flat met his ears, and he remembered exactly where he was. Fucking London. Same flat, same place, same as ever. For just one self indulgent, self-pitying moment, he wasn’t sure which of those two terrors was worse. At least you were allowed to be afraid of nightmares. At least that fear passed.

He glanced down, and saw the dark shape was only the corner of the duvet that had moved as he had rolled. He smiled weakly.

Idiot.

For a moment, he just stared at the ceiling of the living room of his flat. The building was an Edwardian-era house that had been sold off by the council, dilapidated but still too good for council tenants. And not dilapidated enough to lower the exorbitant rent any, of course.

Like many old buildings, it had thick walls which didn’t stop the cold, yet served to insulate it nicely in summer and cook the inhabitants. And of course, the building pre-dated air conditioning. That was an addition the landlord was not prepared to consider, though whether this was through building codes or mean intransigence was not clear.

Jeff watched as the lights from a passing car cast strange shadows across the broken stucco, then fade back to the dull yellow from the street lights which made it over the top of the curtains. It was never really dark here, he realised.

Not like the other place. The one that had been in his dreams for the last four months.

Outside, the argument which had woken him rose up a notch. It was an energetic three-way yelling match between a shrieking woman and two men who were clearly very drunk. Someone from the flats across the street slammed up a window.

Do you want to go have your fucking row somewhere other than the middle of the fucking street? yelled the irate neighbour.

I’m not the only one not sleeping tonight, he thought.

The two men ran off, one in pursuit of the other.

Sorry! Sorry, whoever you are! shouted the woman with the sincerity of the hopelessly drunk.

Jeff glanced at the alarm clock. 3.18am. He heard the window of the other flat bump shut, then all was quiet again. Or at least as quiet as London ever got, the ignorable hum of passing vehicles rising and falling periodically.

Sleep was over for the night, nonetheless. He sighed, leaned over the edge of the futon and flicked on the night light that trailed over from the outlet. Blinking as the harsh light came on, he surveyed the books that had accumulated in the bookshelf he had put next to the futon.

Like any good insomniac, he had amassed quite a few on a number of subjects. Vanessa Solomon, his girlfriend, had noted the build up of apparently random literature, but was not unduly worried. In fact quite the contrary. Before, in what she called his Troubled Period, he had

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