Hello, Connector readers! It’s Kate Betts with our latest Writers’ Corner installment. This piece, “The Horrors of Hickleton”, was written by Kevin Behan as part of SCAD’s 24-hour design challenge, Generate. Stay tuned for more Generate pieces to come.
The Horrors of Hickleton
by Kevin Behan
Everyone knows about the haunted house on Hickleton Hill. The once enthusiastic “For Sale!” sign dangles on one chain, the other severed long ago, swaying in the cold wind of the night. White cardboard marred by mud and dirt, specs of red spread across.
With October’s full moon overhead, illuminating the grounds with not a cloud to be seen, you alone make your way to the metal fence barring your entry.
The black gates don’t push easily. It takes a shoulder to the cold, chipped metal to get the creaking curtain to part. The screech of decayed iron shouts your presence to Hickleton louder than any doorbell or knock could. There’s a sharp contrast between the smooth, pristine sidewalk on the curb and the shambled cobblestone winding up the house’s hill, with pieces missing and marks etched into the brickwork. A loose stone buckles and pops as you step on it, eyes shocked wide while your quaking feet carry you onto crunching petals and turf.
You spy a bird fountain on your left, shattered faces and angelic corpses carved into old stone. The tall blades of the lawn that once flourished near the bastion have died, turning brown, turning to dirt. You get a repulsive whiff of the stagnant dark water clutched still in its basin. Liquid so black it looks more like ichor than anything a bird might drink, and you take note that there isn’t a single songbird to be seen, nor can you catch what should be a natural reflection of moonlight. The absolute absence of light.
Something flashes in the corner of your eye — a shadow darting in the moonlight. Your head snaps to follow, seeing it dart into an old oak tree, dead and dry, bark peeling to reveal its bone-colored interior. Gnarled and twisted branches stretching outwards in a binding maze. Leaves crusty and brown, scattered about on the ground beneath. Two golden glows appear in its crown, but when you inspect, they fade away as your eyes focus.
You take a deep breath and get back to the path, making your way to the towering manor’s front porch. The wooden stairs threaten to snap beneath you, despite your gentle step. The splinters in the wood look like jagged teeth, each gap a mouth waiting to swallow you should you slip. A rocking chair taunts the wind, moving against it. You feel a breath on your neck, and spin around in fright. But you are alone.
Your hand moves to push open the twin doors, and at the lightest brushing of your fingertips, they part. Old joints crying and creaking. Dust puffs up in front of you, smelling of ash. You take an ill-timed breath and cough, causing a dust storm within the entry hall, swirling up over walls and furniture, paintings and the ornate bronze chandelier with smoking wicks.
You cross the threshold, and take your first step inside, crossing from wood to an ancient red carpet, trimmed and pleated with gold. Footprints of soot lead to the fireplace, wood in place for a roast. A shadow twists in the chimney, a stray spark forming a blaze.
The flame spreads across the room, one torch alighting after the next, candles on desk sizzling to life. The chandelier’s puffing fire reveals shadows of figures creeping into the room, and you panic. You bolt outside the front door, slamming it shut as the shades sprint closer. Gasping air in relief, you turn to leave, stopping in step as you see phantoms, beasts, specters and horrors rising from their lairs.
And you realize you were never alone on Hickleton Hill.