FP154 – The Haunting of Bilgehammer Manor, Part 1 of 1
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-four.
Tonight we present, The Haunting of Bilgehammer Manor, Part 1 of 1.
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present a tale of torment regarding the occupants of the storied acreage of Bilgehammer Manor.
Flash Pulp 154 – The Haunting of Bilgehammer Manor, Part 1 of 1
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Bilgehammer Manor had once been a sprawling country estate. The vast lawns had long ago been divided and sold as separate plots, and the outbuildings had, in years previous, been lost to fire or weather, but the central house was well maintained, and, despite its reputation, still looked as if it might make an excellent home.
Harvey Finlayson had purchased the property with no concern for its history – his imagination carried him no further than the agent’s very agreeable price.
Now he stood in the main hall, his furnishings piled about him. He clucked, tapping his lips with a pen.
Opening a cupboard, he noted the contents against his list. Satisfied with his findings, he closed the door, but found he’d applied too much force in the process, and sent a harsh echo through the entry area.
He winced, then began to whistle, as if it might cover up his mistake. Sheepishly keeping his eyes locked on his clipboard, he started up the stairs to the second floor. It was at the midpoint of his unobservant journey that he lost his footing.
His back arching, his hands flailed wildly, but never quite reached the banister.
Just as gravity began its inevitable process, ghostly fingers, wearing an ornate wedding band, closed about Harvey’s wrist, slamming his grip into contact with the rail.
“That was close,” Finlayson muttered to himself, never once considering the source of his salvation.
One of the movers pushed through from the porch.
“Hey boss, all this stuff ready to go?”
Unsure if the worker had seen his moment of peril, Harvey felt he needed to retake control of the situation.
“Well, Jerky, it ain’t stayin’ here,” he replied.
Frowning, the man positioned his bright-red dolly under a stack of poorly taped boxes, and wheeled the load onto the veranda.
* * *
A year earlier, when Finlayson had originally arrived, things had been different.
Upon his first evening, the three phantoms of Bilgehammer, the man in the blue jacket, the weeping bride, and headless Amy, had prepared an extensive welcome.
The spectacle had commenced at the stroke of midnight, an hour after Harvey had replaced the remainder of his six-pack in the fridge, and maneuvered up the runner that lead to his bedroom.
Once the man was settled, and the time for startlement seemed optimal, the man in the blue jacket initiated his pacing. Dragging behind him was a translucent duplicate of the chandelier which had collapsed, snuffing his life in that very same hall. To his surprise, the discordant chime of crystal, and the scrape of its metal frame, did nothing to disrupt Finlayson’s wheezing sleep.
A sure tactic for decades, the apparition was at a loss on how to proceed.
It was the weeping bride who next moved to disturb the dreamer. Passing through the wall of his bed chamber, she began to wail as if it were still the day the balcony’s rail had buckled, hanging her by her own veil. At first her efforts also went unnoticed, but, after a stuttering series of gasps punctuated by gusty shrieks, Harvey roused somewhat.
The man had long been a city dweller, however, and too cheap for air conditioning. Never fully coming awake, Finlayson began to shout noises which only vaguely resembled language, but which entirely conveyed his displeasure at the situation.
Embittered at the lack of proper reaction, the woman in white stepped forward, tugging hard at the high-pile of blankets under which the source of her frustration slept. He threw out a cluster of sharp expletives, and yanked the woolly-shell hard over his head, holding it there with a firm grip.
Within seconds he’d returned to snoring.
The gown hovered briefly, then took to the bed. Straddling his blanketed chest, she allowed her eyes to rot into buttery slop, and set her nose against his own. She unleashed a cry which she knew would leave her faint for days to come.
Harvey’s response was delayed, but the tactic was successful in finally making him conscious.
As he looked about the empty room, his gaze contained none of the terror for which the trio hoped.
Releasing a yawn, the interrupted slumberer rose. His kneecaps popped as he stumbled down the flight of stairs and towards the fridge.
He drank greedily from the open can of Old Milwaukee he’d opted to store for the morning, then extinguished the kitchen lights.
The spooks had held back their most potent scare for last.
As Finlayson plodded his way to the second floor, Amy revealed her presence on the landing. The girl stood in her billowing Sunday dress, and carrying her gory head in her hands as she’d been forced to since having it removed by a tumbling pane of glass in the decrepit greenhouse that had once dominated the back-lawn.
“Must be a nightmare, I guess,” Harvey said aloud. Rubbing at his brows, he passed directly through Amy and into his sleeping quarters.
If the night had been bad, however, the spirits found the days considerably worse. Having expended themselves in their exertions, in the sunlight hours they had little recourse but to observe the tromping and snorting that filled whatever corner of the house the new occupant entered. There was no shelter, either, from the clamoring television, which was left to spew unending political commentary at all hours. The one-sided arguments Finlayson conducted with the electronic equipment eventually drove the haunters to spend the majority of their time in the cellar, where at least the sound was reduced to an unintelligible blaring.
Worse still was the damage the clumsy homeowner conducted upon his own property – it seemed no journey to the washroom could pass without some scratch to the formerly grand plaster walls, or some new stain on the plush carpets.
Unnoticed by the opposing side, the nocturnal warfare continued for twenty-nine days, with little effect. It was on the thirtieth that Amy had nearly succeeded in ending the intruder’s life, with an extended leg, as he explored the disused coal chute.
The incident had precipitated a critical conversation between the long-serving companions, and a change in tactics.
* * *
The last item to leave the house was Harvey’s wallet. It had been forgotten on the kitchen counter, but unseen by the living, it had floated from its misplacement, out the front door, and directly through the passenger-side window of the former tenant’s car. It would be unmissable atop the dewy cans which were already warming in the sun.
“I’d rather he not have an excuse to return,” Amy later explained.
A celebratory meeting had been called in the library, which the phantasms found to smell pleasantly of settling dust.
“It would have been nearly worth the pleasure of killing him if he’d spent another afternoon complaining to himself about the current standing of the bloody Red Sox,” spoke the man in the blue jacket, sitting atop his restraining lighting fixture.
“Yes, but imagine if he’d managed to die here?” the bride replied, “I’d rather be moldering than suffer an eternity with that fellow always around complaining.”
The headless girl nodded from her lap. Her hands worked unthinkingly at her braids, as any child’s might upon a beloved doll.
“I’m just glad you thought to simply remain consistent with sabotaging his telly signal – otherwise he might never have gone,” she said.
It was sixteen months of undisturbed death until another resident tried their luck.
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I just re-read this one. In between readings I by chance came across the playbill for the Woman in Black, which I saw in London, and looked it over for the first time in a decade. I now visualize this as happening on the eerie stage set of the play. It is a very cool combination.