Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Away from it all By janet lister

In the end I went to the doc and he signed me off for a week with some sleeping pills. My head was always full of worries - work, health, money, Alzheimer’s, and now climate change was top of the list. I booked a luxury apartment in a castle in the middle of nowhere.

When I finally found the place it looked bleak and unwelcoming, crumbling except for the renovated middle section where I was to stay.

I unloaded my week’s provisions, made myself a cup of tea and took it into the sitting room. This was chilly, a bit dark with a high ceiling and thick tapestry curtains. There were some rather grim portraits on one wall. The floorboards creaked.

That evening after listening to the forecast, which predicted heavy rain during the night, I pondered whether to leave there and then. But I finally went to bed and, helped by a late microwave meal, several glasses of wine, and a sleeping pill, l fell immediately into a deep sleep.

I awoke to the sound of a storm. It quickly moved directly overhead. Great flashes lit up the room coinciding with deafening crashes of thunder. There was no light - the electricity had cut out. I felt my way into the sitting room, using the lightning flashes to help me manoeuvre round the furniture. I sunk down into the settee, waiting fearfully for the storm to end. The curtains shivered with me.

A lightning flash lit the room and I caught sight of one of the portraits. I knew that face. It looked like me, except this man was relaxed and confident. In disbelief I felt my way over to the portrait, waited for another flash and found with immense relief that I had imagined the whole thing. An old man with a grim face stared woodenly back at me. I was about to make my way shakily back to the settee when another flash revealed the next portrait. There was no doubt this time – me, only this time I was laughing. I felt sick with fear. But again, when the lightning flashed, the original grim old man was back in position.

And then, oh no, my eyes were drawn to the third portrait but the frame was empty. I heard the floor creaking and felt an icy hand on my shoulder. I fell to the ground.

The next day, the storm over, I was still shaken by my nightmare – obviously fuelled by my anxieties. I found that my neck was too stiff to turn my head and indeed my whole body seemed paralysed. Oddly, I was looking out through a frame.

I could see someone below me sitting on the sofa, drinking wine and humming contentedly. He turned to look up at me – my face, my voice. I saw him lift his glass and heard him say, ‘Cheers. No more worries. It’s my turn now.’


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