Chapter 1: The Mansion


They say there are ghosts in LaRontue Mansion. Grim dark things not of this world. The long-lost souls of far away inhabitants who have never fit into these modern times. These are the outcasts, the old, useless dregs of a society that seeks constant youth, a precarious renewal at the expense of the accumulated knowledge and valuable experience of far older and wiser heads.

Dead men in cold dark graves, lying in eternal wait.

Some will wait no longer!

These are some of the hauntings that ramble through those lonely old halls in the ill hours of the night, times of darkness and mystery when most decent people are safely tucked into their warm beds dreaming sweet dreams of love and wealth.

No such thoughts were capable of entering the shattered mind of Amos LaRontue, as his long, boney fingers clawed the damp earth that surrounded him; as his frenzied hands grabbed fistfuls of the harsh detritus in a never ending struggle outward and upward into the land of the living.

The man—or what was left of him—had been dead all these long months, buried in a shallow grave out behind the walled garden of LaRontue Mansion, the recipient of brother Lamont LaRontue’s attack of insane jealously over the sexual attentions of the village girl, Alice Carmody.

That had all occurred in the dim past, in what was left of his dark, fetid memories. While it had been bare months ago, it was now a space of time that flowed into an era which no longer existed in the moldy vestiges of dim consciousness now awakening in the once formidable mind of Amos LaRontue. Now all that existed was a cold and thirsty primal hunger for revenge, and the vessel of that revenge was at hand with the appearance of the gypsy witch-woman, Sabella.

Sabella was dark and furtive, having recently been of alluring beauty, now grown suddenly grim and ugly in her desires to invoke black magic for hatred and revenge. She had powers but the use of them had twisted her, aged her immensely, so that the once lovely youthful woman she had once been, now had become an old withered crone. Nevertheless, she no longer cared about mere physical beauty, for now she possessed dark and mysterious powers, secrets that could not be explained by modern methods of science or logic. There were whispers uttered in dark quarters and the strangest of places about this woman—and in the past the name of Lamont LaRontue had been linked with hers in these dark stories as well. They would be once more.

These stories were scant and nebulous things, hints of black magic, animal sacrifice, potions of mysterious power and purpose. Sometimes worse. All in all, a woman whose reputation had preceded her to the dark halls of LaRontue Mansion and into the voracious arms of her once-lover, Lamont LaRontue.

None of this was of any consequence to the cold corpse that had once been Amos LaRontue as it continued to slowly dig itself upward from the fetid earth to escape its cold grave and bring itself into the stagnant warmth of the humid Louisiana summer night.

The last precarious dregs of memory remaining in this dead corpus had now been reawakened. Primal thoughts of terrible revenge and murder, made all so potent by the mysterious gypsy woman, who had made this nocturnal awakening possible by her mysterious manipulations of the magical equilibrium existing within the laws of nature.

The rictus of the dead thing smiled grotesquely, rotted teeth blackened to the gums, desiccated flesh hanging in casual patches, worms digging incessantly within the body like zealous playground children. The hot Louisiana air and moist soil had caused deep decay to what was left of the mortal remains of the murdered brother, but the body still somehow held together as a reanimated corpse that was able to move and walk and, soon, to kill. The thing that had once been Amos LaRontue slowly stood up and began walking in a lumbering gait towards the magnificence of LaRontue Mansion where brother Lamont was once more taking Alice Carmody to bed.

His beloved Alice!

The shudders held fast on the windows, flickering lights and low groans of male pleasure interspersed with female cries of passion and hunger came to the ears of the dead thing as it drew near. It knew not of these cries but somewhere deep within some dark vestiges of memory stirred. Slowly, and with the calm deliberation of one whose time is standing still within the eternity of death, Amos LaRontue placed one moldy foot after the other upon the old creaking steps and entered the huge white columned porch of the stately Southern mansion that had once been his home.

From inside, there was the sound of low moaning from the lovers in the second bedroom as the thing approached, drawing ever nearer, dragging its lifeless remains closer and closer to the impassioned couple.

Meanwhile, in the bushes outside the house, overlooking the porch of the great mansion, stood the witch-woman, Sabella. Her long thin fingers plying their macabre trade with strange and utterly bizarre movements and devilish gestures not meant to be seen by the eyes of men. Movements and gestures that now were mysteriously mirrored in the animated corpse of Amos LaRontue as the dead thing approached the door and entered the elegant home. Like some marionette being manipulated by magical strings, Sabella controlled the shambling dead thing, causing it to move, to walk, to do what she willed it to do. She was in control and now she would use this walking dead thing she had created to seek her all-consuming hatred and revenge.

“And to think, you spurned my sweet caresses for this village slut, Lamont!” Sabella muttered in a menacing hiss. “Well, so be it!” The gypsy woman whispered with fire in her deep cold eyes. “Enjoy your fling with the young flesh of the servant girl—though God should save her from your terrible pleasures—and in a brief moment, from my own more terrible revenge. For at this very moment a grim and ghastly death nears your door! But I can promise you that death will not be the worst of it! Death will be just the beginning!”

The gypsy woman further manipulated her long, bony fingers into strange unnatural images, slow dances of bizarre description outlined obscene patterns and uncouth designs in the air before her—while the creature she now controlled—that she had caused to rise from the grave—moved as she willed it.

Now inside the house, the reanimated corpse of Amos LaRontue slowly trudged up the stairway and then down the hall to where the sounds of human lust were heard. Like a monster from hell the creature barreled into and through the bedroom door with a resounding explosion of splintered wood.

For a brief moment the dead thing stood framed in the doorway, the twilight moon from the skylight overhead giving the creature a ghastly aura. The pungent odor of death was atrocious.

Lamont LaRontue and Alice Carmody stared up at the ghastly thing frozen in a silent tableau of utter fear and shock, held in a fierce paroxysm of terror and apprehension as the thing—dripping bits of rotting flesh fresh with wriggling maggots—relentlessly ambled forward toward them.

“Amos? Is that you? My God!” Lamont shouted over the screams of the terrified girl beside him, for now he suddenly recognized the intruder as the reanimated corpse of his own dead brother. Though he could barely recognize the rotten rictus that smiled so hauntingly upon him, Lamont knew that this horrible thing from the grave could be none other than the remains of the brother he had murdered with his own hands scant months before.

“No, Amos! Don’t do it! It was a mistake. I admit it, I wanted the girl. I wanted the house, the family fortune . . .but this! You can’t do this! We are still brothers and we will always be brothers!”

There was no reaction from the thing from the grave. It ignored the pleadings of the terrified man and the wild cries of the naked, shivering girl, but stood in silent contemplation as if awaiting orders.

Now Sabella’s nimble fingers described a short arc in the hot summer air before her and Lamont saw the deteriorated features of his dead brother twist into a horrible grin of impending doom.

Lamont was so terrified by this vision, a vision that could only have come from the darkest depths of hell, that he could not move. He was so frozen in terror. In fact, he could not so much as scream his abject fear as the dead thing approached him, so fascinated was he by the appearance of the horrible image. He could not believe what he was seeing—almost—but his fear told him this was all only too real.

The dead thing drew closer and closer, its long, bony, white fingers worming their way around the man’s neck, exerting a preternatural pressure. Hard and tight, those bloodless chilly fingers twisted, digging deep into the warm pink flesh, searing the delicate skin, choking off the life-giving flow of breath, and soon causing rivers of crimson to flow so freely down to the hungry floor boards below.

Finally, the dead creature’s hunger asserted itself as it plunged its mouth into his own brother’s neck, drinking the blood, feasting upon the flesh, rotted teeth cutting and tearing muscle and fat in ravenous bites as the dead thing feasted upon the warm human body it held prisoner. The devouring was a hellish thing to behold, the work of a demon with an insatiable appetite.

The girl, Alice Carmody, watching this abomination of horror and evil, screamed bloody murder and then fainted dead away. She was blessedly sparred the creature’s beastly attention because of her condition.

Once the ghastly deed had been done, the thing from the grave carefully picked up the still warm corpus, the bloody remains of its own brother, and carried it in its outstretched arms out of the house, down the white-columned porch, and out into the clearing before LaRontue Mansion.

Here the creature stopped for a moment as ordered while Sabella took one last look and whispered a fond, “Farewell, Lamont! You spurned my love. Now you and your brother shall live in hell for eternity!”

Sabella laughed wildly, whipped a tear from her cheek and then gave the dead monster standing before her the last instructions that she thought it would ever receive this side of hell.

Sabella watched in rapt fascination as the dead thing carried the corpse of her dead lover—and its own brother—to shamble off into the stagnant heat of the dark Louisiana night. The thing moved off with deliberate design, down to the family plot near the walled garden in the back of the large house. Then it placed the body of Lamont, with unimagined and gentle consideration, into the soft earth of a newly excavated grave.

Finally the reanimated creature slowly lowered itself into that very same grave, using its long bony hands to cover itself with the dirt heaped in such high piles all around that grave.

Then the thing went back to sleep the eternal sleep of the dead, as the witch-woman had so ordered it to do until it was awakened once again.

Unless that grave was opened and the bodies disturbed.

Sabella, the witch-woman, now an ancient crone, cackled with insane delight at what she had wrought to pass through her devilish powers. Powers that had grown far beyond the realms of time and space itself to actually enable her to reanimate the very flesh and bones of the dead. That dark knowledge had disturbed her, and the use of it had taken a steep price from her, for she had never truly thought her revenge would work, nor be accomplished with such vile circumstance. The dark knowledge she’d had to access to perform such a rite had quite unhinged her mind, and changed her significantly, aging her greatly. Her once lovely beauty was now lost and replaced with a leathery visage that looked like it had newly come from the grave itself. The effect had destroyed her sanity. When she saw her visage in a reflection she screamed at the ghastly site. She was now hideous and her mad mind conjured up all kinds of new thoughts and schemes to take her revenge upon the people she blamed for her misfortune. Not one of them being herself, of course.

Slowly she shambled off into the heat of the dark Louisiana night with schemes of hatred and revenge as twisted plots and schemes against all living creatures burned into her mind.