Camilla pushed through the iron gates with the fury as a hurricane.
“Hold on for a second!” Vivian shouted. Camilla was pulled to the mansion like a metal shard in a magnetic storm. The path to her self-destruction was beautifully paved, to say the least. Her heels clattered across a pathway of cracked flagstones and archways draped in vines.
The Vesely Manor sat at the end of a parterre-like courtyard capped off with a stone fountain. Beads of water trickled down the tiers as the wind danced to the garden path. Aside from a nocturnal concert of eerie chirps, the silence was spellbinding.
In the wayward crevices of Camilla’s mind, the estate conjured tales of an 18th century baron fallen into debt and despair. Perhaps it was no coincidence. After all, the Veselys once profited off a chain of asylums refurbished for rehabilitating troubled women and orphans. For shame, beneath the silky veneer of morality, those institutions were a breeding ground for abuse.
Camilla found herself enrapt and appalled as she looked upon the chateau walls concealing horrors fit for a fairytale. It was a perfect imitation, down to the familiar scent of aged mahogany doors barring entry to the foyer. No, this couldn’t be the same place that her family inhabited. There was something foul swimming in the air here.
A feverish warmth began to take substance in her veins that threatened to spill over into frenzy. Something about this newly resurrected Vesely Manor reeked of lies. It was only a matter of time before the mask came tumbling down and the storm crept in.
She jumped at the touch of Vivian’s hand on her shoulder. Her fingers felt as wintry as a cadaver drained of blood. Vivian’s eyes sparkled with a penetrating gaze that swallowed Camilla whole. She always fell victim to the intensity of her eyes.
“How long have you known about this? I watched as this manor was burned to the ground. This was nothing more than a valley of ashes the last time I passed through.”
Vivian’s throat ran dry as she remembered the man responsible for the annihilation of the Vesely Manor. A homicide detective whom she once deemed a friend and a father figured had set the manor ablaze. There was no easy way to explain why or how those events came to transpire without digging up the bones of the past. Suffice to say, he considered Vivian as a loose end that needed to be eradicated as quickly as possible. The father figure relationship didn’t survive that night.
“I had no idea until I received this in the mail,” Camilla said, holding up an envelope and a silver key that glittered in the dark. “It’s Uncle Sebastian’s last will. It states that the manor was to be rebuilt and titled in my name. I’m the sole owner of this estate now.”
Uncle Sebastian was as close to a father as she’d ever known. After all, she didn’t grow up in a traditional mother and father household. That didn’t make things any easier when her uncle was savagely murdered last year.
Vivian snatched the letter out of Camilla’s hand.
“Oh my God, you aren’t making this up… How in the hell is this even happening?”
“That’s not all.”
Camilla took the letter back and smoothed the creases, as if this flimsy scrap of parchment was all she had to connect to her family. She bit her lip, reluctant to confess the final detail. “He also gave me an inheritance.”
Vivian’s eyes widened impatiently.
“Well? Are you going to be a rich, eccentric future widow or not?”
“Let’s just say my criminal reporting is a hobby now instead of a living.”
Despite the specter of dead ancestors breathing down their necks, Vivian felt giddy at the prospect of this change. She was never a fan of stability. She was a craver of chaos and life running counter to plans. This mansion was the catalyst she needed in a life threatening to grow stale.
“Do you think we have time for a look inside?” she begged.
Camilla scanned the gleaming minarets and balconies that cried out to be explored. Her answer came in the form of an unexplainable key turning in the brass lock. As the hinges squealed and the entrance yawned wide, it felt like a proverbial door opened in both of their lives. Camilla stood on the barren threshold for a few heartbeats. She wasn’t entirely sure what she was waiting for. Perhaps it would have been easier if a Lovecraftian dimension oozed through the entrance and devoured her, sanity and all.