It was pitch black, and it smelled of damp, and mold, and the odd fustiness of 100-year-old buildings, as if the accumulated experiences of all those decades of time had permeated the timbers and dried out, leaving a saltpeter of sadness, and passion, and evaporated joys.
Harold withdrew his head, and reentered the cellar window feet first. He tore the knee of his pants on a glazier's nail on the window-frame, and said, "Fuck," in the stuffy stillness of the cellar; but it turned out to be quite easy to lower himself down to the floor. There was a sudden scurrying noise in the far corner of the cellar, and a flurry of squeaks. Rats, vicious ones, too, if they ran true to the tradition of Ol' Spithead rodents, most of whom were ship-jumpers. He groped his way across the floor, hands out in front of him, feeling like a blind man for the cellar steps.
He went around three walls before he eventually found the wooden banister rail, and the first stone step, and everywhere he shuffled the rats would squeak, scamper and jump.
Inch by inch, he worked his way up the cellar steps to the cellar door itself, and turned the knob. Mercifully, the door was unlocked. He eased it open, and stepped out into the hall.
Mrs. Baylor's house had been built when Salem was the fifth most prosperous seaport in the world, and the sixty city in the United States, collecting 1/20 of the entire Federal revenue in import duties. Its hallway ran all the way from the front door to the back garden door, and a magnificent suspended staircase came curving down one wall. Even though he was wearing soft-soled shoes, his footsteps set up a murmuring of echoes as he walked across the black-and-white marble floor, echoes that came back to him from the darkened living-room, the empty kitchen, and the galleried landing upstairs.
He reached the top of the stairs. The landing was covered in carpet, once thick but now threadbare. There were very few pictures on the walls, and it was so dark in the house that it was impossible to tell what they were. An occasional wan face peered out of the blackness of the oil pain but that was it; and he didn't want to turn the lights on in case he scared away whatever it was that flickered and flashed in the bedroom.
He stood outside that bedroom door for a very long time. What are you scared of? he asked himself. Electricity? Is that it? You're scared of electricity? Come on, you've just invented a really neat explanation for the appearance of ghosts, electrical matrices and discharge impulses and all that bullshit, and now you're scared to open the door and take a look at a few sparks going off? Do you believe your own theory or not? Because if you don't, you shouldn't be here at all, you should be high-tailing it down that highway to the nearest Ramada Inn, which is the only place where you certainly won't be disturbed by ghosts.
He grasped the bedroom doorhandle, and, as he did so, he heard the singing. Faint, fainter than faint, but clear enough to freeze him where he stood
"O the men they sail from Ol' Spithead
To fish the savage waters....."
He shut his eyes, and then immediately opened them again in case something or someone appeared when he wasn't looking.
But the fish they catch are naught but bones
With hearts crush'd in their jaws."
He found himself clearing his throat, as if he were about to propose a toast. Then he turned the doorhandle, and cautiously started to push open the door.
There was a fierce crackle, and a blinding flash of light, and the door was banged wide open, the knob wrenched right out of his grasp. He stood in the doorway terrified, staring into the room, and the sight that he encountered left him open-mouthed, unable to speak or move.
It was one of the huge master bedrooms, with a wide curtained window and a draped four-poster bed. In the far corner, dazzling and flickering, stood a figure of a man, his arms spread wide. All around him, in the air, there was a living, crackling aura of electrical power, rising up from the floor with a jerking motion that put him horribly in mind of incandescent cockroaches. The man's face was long and thin, strangely distorted, and his eyes were impenetrable sockets. But Harold could see that the phantom's eyes were raised toward the ceiling, and with an inexplicable feeling of dread he raised his own eyes toward the ceiling, too.
A vast glass chandelier was suspended there, with tier upon tier of crystal droplets, and dozen gilded candle-holders. To his alarm, the chandelier was swaying from side to side, and as the crackling of electricity died down, he could hear the crystal pendants tinkling and ringing, not musically, but frantically, as though someone were trying to shake them down like apples from a tree.
There was something spread-eagled in the chandelier. No, worse than that, there was someone impaled on it! Harold took two or three mechanical steps into the bedroom, and stared up at the chandelier in total horror, unable to believe what was suspended in front of his eyes.
It was Mrs. Donald Baylor. Somehow, unbelievably, the chain that held the chandelier had penetrated right through her stomach, and now she was lying face down on top of its twelve spreading branches, writhing and shuddering like a hooked fish, clutching at the candle-holders and the crystal droplets, twisting herself in the agonizing torment of her impossible situation. 410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXWMfisbWY2
"God, God, God," she babbled, and strings of blood and spittle dribbled from her mouth. "God, get me free, God, get me free, God, God, God, get me free."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0KjZGXb1To
Harold stared wide-eyed at the flickering apparition standing on the opposite side of the room, his arms raised. There was no smile on his face, no scowl, just dark and incomprehensible concentration.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6dtSvjjn1e
"Hey, you son of a bitch!" Harold screamed at him. "Let her down! Now!"410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNI4fZOYPC8
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But the apparition only flared and crackled, ignoring him, if he could even hear him at all.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOxj2hRzvsV
He looked up at Mrs. Donald Baylor, who stared back down at him with bulging eyes through the sparkling crystal pendants. Blood began to drip on the carpet, a few patters at first, then more rapidly, and then there was a sudden gush of it. She clutched at the crystal and it shattered in her hands, so that shards of it penetrated the flesh of her fingers and sliced through her palms.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡeTNK3dU2YW
Harold took two, three steps back, and then rushed forward and jumped up to catch hold of the chandelier's branches, in an effort to yank it down from the ceiling. At the first try, he only managed to catch hold of it with one hand, dangled for a moment, and then had to let go. At the second try, he managed to get a better grip, and swung grimly backwards and forwards, while Mrs. Donald Baylor shuddered and bled and wept for God to save her.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2cemORnYK3
There was a cracking noise, and the chandelier dropped a few inches. Then, with a hideous jingling sound, the chandelier fell to the floor, bringing Mrs. Donald Baylor down with it. The whole bedroom was spattered with blood and broken glass. 410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnBLqlZF95C
Harold got off his knees, where he had awkwardly fallen. On the other side of the room, the apparition had flickered away almost to nothing now, a dim and fitful flame. He crunched through the glass to Mrs. Donald Baylor, and crouched down beside her, resting his hand on her head. She felt death cold, although her eyes were still open, and she was murmuring under her breath.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlcMVIiGaVz
"Help me," she appealed, but there was no hope in her voice at all.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkSRzaEiSgv
"Mrs. Baylor," he told her, "I'll send for the paramedics."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKVnMiIMhZ7
She tried to lift her head a little, so that she could look at him. "Too late for that," she murmured. "Just----take out this chain."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡEk9xyoaQW2
"Mrs. Baylor, I'm not a rescue worker. I couldn't even begin to...."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlUnSMiLcWQ
"It's so cold," she said. "Her head dropped back against the broken glass. "Oh, God, Mr. Winstanley, it's so cold. Don't leave me."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡySgR5vZpg4
What could he say to her? He held her hand for a moment, but she didn't seem to be able to feel it, so he let her go. "Listen," he insisted, "I'm going to call the paramedics. Tell me where the phone is. Is there a phone upstairs?"410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNQJFcbLY3R
"Don't leave me. Please, whatever you do. He might come back."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡuoFpnSB4nn
"Who? Who do you mean, Mrs. Baylor?" 410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxCYcACvatj
"Don't leave me," she repeated. Her eyelids were starting to flutter now. He could see the whites of her eyes in the darkness of the room, sending a few final hopeless signals to a dimming world. "Don't leave me. Don't let him hurt me again."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡq9DURgULpv
"Who was it, Mrs. Baylor?" he asked her. "You have to tell me. It's important. Was it Donald? Was it your husband? Will you nod if it was Donald?"410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXEhMiwvk3Y
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Her eyes closed. Her breath rattled in her throat, slowly and laboriously. He knew that he should call the paramedics, but he also knew that it was useless, and that it was far too late.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBFmBWsi766
He bent down close to her ear. There was drying blood in it, and blood on her diamond earring, too. "Mrs. Baylor, you have to tell me. Was it Donald?"410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡz8HlVUioIw
She died without saying anything else. The final breath came out of her lungs like a long regretful sigh. He stayed beside her for a while, and then stood up, his feet crunching on the broken glass. 410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡcUU3q5ggtI
It hadn't really been necessary for her to tell him whether it was Donald who had appeared in this room tonight or not. He knew it had to be him. The same way that the apparition which had appeared on his swing had inevitably been Nancy. The dead returned to haunt the living who had once loved them.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYscYdiGhEs
He now knew something else, though, something horrifying. And that was that, far from being harmless flickers of cerebral electricity, these apparitions had the power to do strange and terrible things. Not just the power, but the will.410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9ch8hlr2pF
Harold found a telephone on the hall table downstairs. He picked it up, and said stonily, "Get me the police department, please. Yes, it's an emergency."410Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡc4XsjY1yPM
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