As if to give creedence to all the horror clichés one can imagine, it was a brooding, stormy night, one that invited lazy rests by the fire with a glass of red wine instead of unexpected detours that could only go wrong.
“What am I doing here?” Matthew thought as he roamed the corridors of the old Penderghast Manor, cerulean eyes peering at the shadows on the walls, heart racing like a madman on the highway.
He knew the answer, of course. He was wrapped up in yet another one of Phoebe's schemes because, no matter how much he tried, he could never seem to find the fortitude to say no to her piercing smile. Everybody needs someone to defy them and expand their confort zone though he had never expected his break to be a pink-haired goth girl.
Of all the crazy ideas she had ever had over the last couple of months since they had started dating, playing hide-and-seek in an allegedly haunted house was surely the worst. That's something crazy people do in slasher movies or macabre tales, not in the real world. There was no rational reason for doing so, especially on Halloween night.
"This is a dumb idea," he had said on the outside of the Manor although his words would never amount to a real protest as long as she said otherwise.
"It will be fun," she replied with a kiss.
"For whom?" He shrugged.
"Trust me. You'll be laughing in no time, promise."
"I seriously doubt that."
He had reasons for it. Despite being the queen of good intentions, some of Phoebe's notions of entertainment were awfully skewed, leading to controversial outcomes. Bungee jumping hadn't cured him out of his dislike of heights but only made him empty his bladder for everyone to see, and the less he talked about the spider-filled chocolate birthday cake from two weeks prior, the better. It was always the last time after everything backfired. He would never play her games again.
And yet, there he was, playing along out of love and lust and picking up the pace after she made him close his eyes and count to one hundred. He stood there for ages, each number piling up as doors slammed and windswept leaves committed suicide against the half-open windows on the first floor. When he finally opened them, he was alone, and with no reasons to be happy whatsoever.
He darted nervously in every direction as he tried to negotiate the dusty passageways of the gruesome estate. He was tired after running yet another double shift as a security guard at a jewelry store to buy her the necklace she had been admiring for so long. His disheveled hair was in perfect sync with his sweaty work clothes. He needed a bath, perhaps two. He also needed a bed to desperately lie in.
No one remembered exactly the reasons for the Manor's infamy. Ten different people were sure to give you ten different reasons from witches’ secret covenants to horrific satanic rituals taking place in an underground crypt, legends about flesh-eating shapeshifters or simply deranged stories of treacherous vengeance and suicide. His favorite was the tale of the escaped 19th century prisoner who had taken refuge there dressed as a young woman only to lead everyone that saw him to their doom. It was so ludicrous it had the most chances of actually having some semblance of truth to it but, whatever that word meant in the end, it was covered in layers upon layers of ill-fated feelings, an oppressive cloak of bad memories that lingered on the discarded painting of yesteryears, the broken chandeliers and the ever pervading creaks on the floor. Teens would often venture inside for their first joint and hallucinations were common among those that spent too much time inside. After only ten minutes, he was beginning to understand why.
“Phoebe?” he asked, noticing an eerie figure dance in the corner of his eye.
“Cold, very cold,” replied a voice very similar to hers but with a metallic rasp that made him shiver. Something screeched to his right and blue sparks came flying as a swinging axe almost tore his head off with a single blow. Matthew barely had time to react when the impossible shadow stepped into the light, a feminine-like deformity with a hanging neck and a horrifically burned party gown . Another axe materialized in her semi-translucent hands.
“Hi," the tormented specter giggled, seeing right through him with a vacant madness on her half-parted lips. "You look so smart and lively... Can I pick your brains... literally?”
He should have frozen with fear, yet his body had a different agenda. Without a moment's hesitation, Matthew's legs forced him to move. He ran past the ghoulish apparition, the sudden adrenalin rush keeping him grounded enough to understand there was no time to waste. He ran, ran, and kept on running across the darkened hallways, eager breath threatening to give way at any second, until the ghost simply faded out of view. The quietness returned sooner than expected, but it was a tainted one for other supernatural manifestations lurked within.
When he finally stopped to compose himself, Matthew took notice of the strange chamber he now found himself in. It mostly comprised of a circular altar adorned with candles of an undefined color. The closest to him appeared to be a dark mass of clodded blood after being exposed to the elements for long. A gold-trimmed coffin laid at the center, irregular lid slightly ajar. An inviting hand embellished by three emerald bracelets emerged from it.
“Phoebe? Is that you?” he asked again knowing deep inside he wasn't going to enjoy the answer.
“Freezing,” said the luscious vampiress turning into a cloud of smoke before reappearing behind his back. She had long, raven hair, a perfectly chiseled jaw line, and eyes cold as ice. A sharp, violet painted nail touched his neck with a promise of undying sensuality.
“Are you the toy I've been promised tonight?” She purred. “Hmmm... yes, I think you are. Let me taste you...”
Once more, Matthew's swiftness was surprising by human standards. His left hand reached for a candle and, with a throw worthy of an MLB pitcher, he hurled it at the undead seductress. It was distraction enough to make her flinch for a second and, when she looked up again, he was already gone, running for his life on a treadmill of horrors.
The disconnection between feet and mind was evident as he moved from one nightmarish sensation to the next, walls phasing in and out, marble floors deliquescing into endless quicksand. Eyes wide shut, he forced himself out of the abrupt chasm, stumbling his way into the deep end of a decaying garden. The dirt smelled of frozen roses, engorged maggots, and freshly dug corpses.
“Phoebe? Can you hear me?” He called out with a hoarse voice. “Phoebe... please...”
“For pleasure to live, something must die,” responded the echo of a cadaveric sorceress rising from the depths in front of him, a sapphire pendant glimmering around her bony neck. “Are you ready to die for me?”
“Stop this, STOP IT!” Matthew screamed from the top of his lungs as the dead bodies all around responded to the call of necromantic powers and dragged themselves across the mud. He fell, crawled, fighting gravity and the fear of fear itself. He blinked, and returned to the Manor, now alit from inside out.
Half-feverish, he stopped by a crumbling fountainhead, face buried between his hands, too exhausted to go any further. A dreamcatcher shimmered above his head.
“Damn it, Phoebe! Where are you?” He mumbled; his thoughts clouded by the most appalling desperation.
“Warmer,” she replied nonchalantly, the sound of her voice coming from very close indeed. To the left, Matthew saw an open door awash in a hazy tint. Beyond the threshold, a vague outline beckoned his attention.
He started moving towards it, her gentle voice guiding his steps without effort. In that moment, there were no bloody apparitions, no dark secrets to contend with for the game was coming to an end.
“Hot,” she said. "Hotter."
The outline revealed itself to be a full body mirror, the only object within the division. Liquid ripples oozed from the frame creating a set of intricate yet quite distinctive patterns he was sure to have seen before. After examining the mesh, he stopped in front of the reflective surface, looked straight into it and...
“It can't be!” he exclaimed, his breath dying out at the startling realization.
Phoebe's face was projected on his drowsy pupils and, looking at her, made him want to sink to the floor. She had been inside him all along, expertly weaving the fabric of reality to her liking until all that was left was the awareness of his puppet existence. As he knelt, one final question escaped his lips:
“Why are you doing this?”
“Fear is the ultimate rush,” she replied. “I know you're scared, but you're also more aroused than ever, aren't you? Resisting for so long has drained you completely, and now all you want to do is rest for a bit, isn't that right?”
He nodded, erection throbbing, his head feeling so very heavy. As his forehead touched the floor in ecstatic adoration, he knew he wouldn't be able to get back on his feet without a direct command from her and that was the way things were supposed to be.
“Just stay there, drifting further down, deeper and deeper under my control,” she whispered. “On Halloween, all naughty things come out to play and, trust me, you still haven't seen how naughty I can really be.”
The truth is always the truth even when buried in lies and he knew that for certain, now. She was the ghost, the vampire, and the evil priestess from the grave but, most importantly, she was his Mistress, and everything lived and died by her rules. With a finger snap, the whole world fluttered into entrancing darkness. He would never fear serving her, again.