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For Sale:

Quaint Two-story Stone Cottage

By: J.Paulette Forshey

The Realtor stood there unaffected by the beauty surrounding him. Because he truly knew all about the cottage; its appeal quickly faded away. The whiteness of the picket fence and quaint two-story cottage would have blinded the eye if rose vines hadn't softened the glare. Those lush green vines and deep-red flowers were a beguiling splendor. Their fragrance permeated will beyond the confines of the sharpened picketry with an excessive sweetness a scent that seemed to coat ones teeth and mouth with a sugary substance by just taking a whiff.

He watched as the couple exited their car, and in pure reflex he glanced back towards the cool, shadowed woods surveying the area for any movement. Noting a slight rustle here and there of the undergrowth, he glanced upwards and sighed in relief. "The sun was still high enough in the sky he should have plenty of time to show the cottage before…" He shook his head as though this would help him clear his mind of the thoughts that had crept in. Turning his attention back to the couple, he unconsciously began drumming the fingers of one hand on the hood of his car. The young husband and wife broke into smiles catching sight of the cottage, and the Realtor smiled too. The cottage and grounds always had just enough whimsical wildness to its orderliness to charm even the most die-hard unromantic. To those who lived and breathed romance, well, sighed the Realtor to himself, it was like an aphrodisiac and these two were certainly romantics. As the couple approached him, his attempt at a sincere smile was nearly betrayed by the slight twitching of one corner of his mouth.

He took them upstairs to see that area first. He was not going to show this couple the cellar. That cursed dark hole. "You should see the master bathroom. It has a beautiful mosaic tiled hot tub big enough for four people." The Realtor rambled on listing this item and that about the upstairs as he led them into the room. "Indeed, the master bedroom is suitable to include a small office. In this corner you could place one of those antique writing desks. You did mention you collected antiques." He prompted then let them chat as his thoughts drifted. "Antiques. Old things. Ancient things. Things that no man should know exist. Oh, Bloody-Hell, he'd still love to burn this place down. No, he gritted his teeth. No, he'd tried to do that once and learned to value the old woman's parting words the hard way." His left-hand flexed its fingers around the handle of the cane it rested on, the cane that was now a constant reminder of that mistake.

Two weeks after he'd shown the cottage for the third time and lost another prospective buyer to the creatures, he thought to take matters into his own hands. The fire had caught nicely at first. Only instead of following the path he'd made for it, the flames behaved as if they had a mind of their own. They leapt onto him eating at the flesh of his left leg even as he tried to smother the flames with his jacket. It wasn't until he begged the forgiveness of the cottage for his transgression that the flames died out leaving him with a twisted blackened limb as a reminder of the bargain he'd made.

The couple milled around the room, and he closed his eyes as his thoughts flew back six months before when he'd signed the papers that gave him ownership to this place. He'd been very pleased with himself that day. First for the bargain he'd made, and second for profit he was already tallying up in his mind. That's when the old woman had smiled. Then before the ink was barely dry, when the few antique coins she'd insisted on being paid with had passed from his hand to hers, she'd laughed a dry brittle laugh. With eyes ancient, Hematite dark and shining, she told him just how much his bargain and profit were truly worth.

"Heed my words," she spat the utterance at him shaking one puny, gnarled finger in his face. "Heed my words, merchant of abodes, by only silver and coin may ye rid yeself of this accursed home. Without any heirs of my own I was forced to do as those in time past must and what you must now do. This house you have purchased for silver and coin now rests on what once was the lair of the Dark Lord of Toberon. Silver and coin, cold and hard, must pass from hand to hand, that was his curse. To try all else will lash ye back three times fold. Ages past when man was but a feeble thing crawling about on this earth Great Dragons, Wizards, Fairy Kings and Queens, and Dark Lords ruled unchallenged. One such Dark Lord, the Lord of Toberon, stole a Great Dragon's Fairy Bride. Not for lust or love did he do this deed, but for mere silver and coin did he. The Great Dragon who worshipped his new bride understood lust and love, but something unimportant as cold, hard, silver and coin were beyond his realm of reasoning. His bride stolen by the Lord of Toberon was killed trying to escape those who had bought her. The Great Dragon's grief was so vast he cursed the Dark Lord and those who had bought the Fairy Bride for all times to come, trapping them to this plot of earth and turning them into feral minions. As was the first bargain, and this ye just struck. All bargains that ye make of this place must be done between a day's setting sun and a new moon's full bloom, or the beasties of Toberon will overrun not only ye nights…but thee days as well."

Now, he was man schooled better than most of his boyhood chums. A man who was known to keep his wits and wallet about him at all times. He remembered laughing at the old woman and originally thought her to be quite senile if not melodramatic, until she introduced him to the other inhabitants of the cottage or to be more precise the cottage's cellar. He shivered in revulsion of that particular memory. She had taken him to a narrow door nearly hidden, nestled between a wall and a shelved storage case in the far reaches of the pantry. Down into the cellar she led him, he found his will would not let him do anything else but follow her. She had spread her thin, frail arms wide and proclaimed. "These are the descendants of the Dark Lord's and his minions of which the world and even time has forgotten." Horrified, he stood as they had gathered eagerly around him watching, grinning, and drooling as the old woman introduced them to their new keeper.

The Realtor tore himself from his thoughts as he watched the couple inspecting the room. So alike and yet he hoped so unlike the last couple that had viewed the house - well at least he was able to cover up that. He shuddered as if cold. The husband noticed.

"Is there a draft by that window?"

"No, oh no, there isn't, but please feel free to see for yourself." The Realtor stepped to one side as the man came over to the window. The young man ran his hand around the glass and frame. The woman disappeared behind a narrow door. Both men were suddenly startled, the Realtor more, when the young wife squealed shrilly as if harmed in some way. The Realtor glanced out the window as they hurried over to her. "The sun was still high enough wasn't it?" He thought, "Besides, they never came up this far into the cottage, well, that he knew of they didn't."

"Oh, Jonathan the closets are huge!" The young woman gushed. "I never would have guessed! This house must have many surprises to it."

The Realtor feebly smiled relieved. "If they only knew." He pondered to himself. Then, "Oh, dear," as the wife insisted on inspecting the kitchen next. The prospective couple was opening and closing cupboard and closet doors in the kitchen. Peering in, glancing about, the woman would occasionally make a sniffing sound as she checked for heaven only knew what odor. He knew there wasn't, shouldn't be any smell. The lime should have taken care of that. Oh, how he wished they would clean up after themselves.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a small dark form dart around a corner. He jerked his head around. Did the couple see what he had? No, they did not seem to notice. He hoped it had been a mouse and not… no, he would not think what else it may have been. Perspiration broke out on his forehead. He mopped at it with his handkerchief and then spying a small muddy taloned handprint on the wall wiped it away quickly. Smiling weakly at the couple he mumbled something about the heat hoping the couple hadn't observed his actions. He made a mental note to fasten the cellar door more securely since it appeared they were becoming bolder now that no one was living in the cottage. "This would not do. This would not do at all," he mused.

The man moved over to and entered the pantry. The Realtor held his breath praying and yet knowing his prayers would not be answered. The young man stepped back out into the kitchen. "There's a door way back inside here, where does it lead?"

"Door? Really, are you sure? I wasn't aware of another door?" The Realtor nervously smoothed down his tie.

"Yes, there is a door and that seems to be where the funny smell is coming from." The young man stepped back into the pantry, his wife following him. She stepped closer to the door. "Yes, there is a door, where does it lead?" The man moved over to the cellar door, grasping the doorknob. First he twisted it, and then gave it a hard jerk. The door remained stubbornly shut.

"Please don't let him ask me to open that door. Please don't let him ask me." He prayed silently to himself. "Let him move on to another room."

The man stared at the cellar door and wrinkled his nose, "What is that funny smell?" The Realtor did detect some unusual scent. "Could they have dragged something home on their own?" he wondered.

The Realtor fumbled in his pockets, "It must be a basement." Basement sounded much better than cellar, but the word cellar described perfectly what it was. Basements were dry, clean; smooth-walled, hard solid floored, with lights, many lights, lots of light.

This place had none of those things and plenty of…other…things.

A wetness that seeped up into and on the partially concrete floor to form intricate delicate patterns of symbols and writings long since forgotten or perhaps never known to man. Stone cut to fit expertly together forming walls that even the thinnest blade of a knife could not slip between their seams, walls that nothing should have been able to pass through but some things did. Walls and over-head rough beams glowed brightly with a luminescent purple mold that at times appeared to expand and contract as though it might be breathing. Shadows that flickered, fluttered, and became frightfully solid.

He patted his jacket and fumbled in his pockets, "I must have the key to that door here somewhere." "Why must they always find the cellar and ask to see it?" Unfortunately, he knew the answer to that question.

The couple was beginning to eye him suspiciously.

He wanted to be rid of this house and everything that came with it, but at what price. "Oh, please don't let this end like the last viewing. Let them wait until the time is right." He repeated over and over in his mind as he placed the key in the lock and slowly turned it. He stepped to one side allowing them to go first. They ooohed and ahhhed at the rich seasoned oak lining the corridor leading down into the cellar. Since the cellar door swung inward to open, one could not see the deep grooves and gouges to the back of the door. Those could only be seen once the door was closed. Thankfully, the mold that grew back daily to cover the stone stairs like a carpet (which many thought it to be on first sight) hid the deep scratches left forever imbedded on their surface. The couple didn't notice that upon seeing a shadow flicker dancingly on the wall ahead, the Realtor first hung back. Then silently crept up the stairs as best he could to shut the door behind them.

The prospective couple continued on to round the corner into the dimly lit orifice ooohing and ahhhing at the patterns on the floor.

The Realtor came out the front door, locking up carefully. He looked up to the sky. The sun was beginning its descent. Those in the woods waited, watched and drooled. Small only three or four feet in height, they were naked save for the thick dark hair that covered their bodies. Their eyes would glow red in the approaching eve-light matching the crimson of their wide mouths where many sharp-yellowed teeth glowed dully. Those in the woods waited, watched and drooled. The Realtor entered his car and drove away at a leisurely speed. There was no need to hurry. There would be no sale today he mused. He would be back in the morning to clean up any, leftovers, and dispose of the car. Those in the woods waited, watched and drooled. The Realtor's car disappeared around a bend out of sight. Those in the woods scampered joyously to the house to join those already in the cellar, grinning and drooling as they hurried.

About the Author

Ms. Forshey is an accomplished author and the winner of numberous prizes for her works. 1997 saw her elected to The International Poetry Hall of Fame for her outstanding poetic talent in open poetry competition. In 2000, her poetry was chosen for the book American at the Millennium. She continues to publish in various journals and magazines and has published her first book, Cat and the Wizard.

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