HEARTHSIDE STORIES: A Place of Mirth and Magick, by Nick Vossen
The old abandoned manor creaked eerily with each gust of ice-cold wind that blew through its weathered cracks. With dusk approaching fast, the impressive structure stood like a crooked sentinel watching over the silent meadow below from atop it’s elevated seat between its nest of winter pines. Quincy could but think of one word to describe the imposing building, once grand but now fallen from grace; beautiful.
Lilly wasn’t really the aesthetics-loving type like her twin brother. In fact, she waltzed past him and slammed the old iron fence open with such force that one of the rusted bars broke off in her hand. “Eh, whatchagonnado,” she shrugged. “So, this is the place, huh?” her eyes dwindled off from the front porch all the way up to the little belfry-ish tower on top of the house.
“Yup,” Quincy nodded. “Seems to fit the part, all right. Lil’ demon running around a small village at night, scaring the local children as it’s rummaging through their rooms doing who knows what. And when it needs a place to run off to…”
“It goes off towards the big spooky house on the edge of town where nobody dares to venture in the first place, yeah okay.” Lilly shook as another freezing breeze passed by. “Tell me one thing though,”
“Yeah?” Quincy fumbled with the lock for a little bit before a soft click indicated a clean entry into the place.
“Why the hell did we think it was a good idea to spend the holidays chasing devils on Nova Scotia?” Lilly’s teeth rattled so hard she was genuinely afraid they were going to fall out one by one.
Quincy held the door open for her and whisked her inside. “I thought you loved a good exorcism!” he laughed.
“These kinds of things can be terrifying, I’m doing this for the kids,” she countered him and slammed the door behind her. Immediately they heard a yelp coming from somewhere halfway across the stairs and soon the sound of galloping little footsteps running off could be heard on the floor above them.
Quincy turned on the flashlight and threw the second one he carried into his sister’s hands. “It’s running off, I can hear it skittering across the landing.”
“Split off on the grand staircase leading up, I’ll take the right-hand side,” Lilly nodded. Their flashlight beams wiggled in front of them as they ran up the stairs towards the second floor.
Making their rounds across the landing the twins nearly bumped into each other as they rounded the corner of the upper balcony. Quincy was about to open his mouth when Lilly quite forcibly held her hands over it and shushed him.
“Sshht!” she held up a finger. “Listen,” she whispered. “Listen close.”
From the far-right corner of the second-floor landing came a soft murmuring. It sounds like a small infant babbling but it had a distinct wrongness to it. The sounds were intermingled with what seemed like complaining and moaning, all in some unknown and guttural language. Quincy’s flashlight zoomed across the far side of the landing and they managed to get a glimpse of a tiny shadowy entity hissing and shooting off into the far-right room. The door slammed hard and the unsettling wailing continued, now slightly muffled.
The twins made their way over to the room and, with only a slight hesitation, Quincy turned the doorknob and instinctively flinched back expecting retaliation, but nothing came. Only the complaining noises could now be heard loud and clear from somewhere inside. Lilly’s flashlight passed over the floor and they could see it was littered with all manner of toys.
Dolls, action figures, trains, playsets, board-games, anything a kid could ever dream of. They took another few steps into the room and Quincy shone his flashlight over into the corner from where the yammering came from.
“Oh, I cannot believe this.” Quincy shook his head. Under the table in the corner sat a small furry creature with long ears like a rabbit’s. It had glowing red eyes and was shaking intensely with fear. The second Lilly took a step towards it, it started sobbing.
“It’s only a Pooka,” she confirmed. “What are you doing here, little guy?”
Quincy carefully inched forward and snatched the piece of paper that was next to the furry little apparition. He skimmed over it. “There’s a list of children’s names and… next to it a list of toys I…”
“Quince?” Lilly interrupted.
“Huh?” Quincy looked up.
Lilly pointed at the Pooka. Within a flash it had apparently conjured a pair of dolls in front of it. One was a boy with slick brown hair, the other was a girl with curly hair.
Quincy stared back down to the list. “It’s not trying to scare the wits out of the kids it’s… finding out what they like and making them toys.”
Back outside, Lilly tried her best to ease the slightly broken rusty gate shut. “We should head into town and let the parents know what’s up.”
“That was totally not what I was expecting,” Quincy scratched his head.
Lilly lightened up. “Well, I for one am glad we actually found something wholesome for a change. Just goes to show.”
“That sometimes us humans create the idea that all monsters are scary and bad in our head because we do not understand and fear what we do not know. The reality could possibly be a lot less malevolent.”
“What a weird yule-tide lesson to learn,” Quincy smirked and pulled his scarf up to his nose.
“Eh, what’s a bit of weirdness to us, huh? It’s in our blood. Happy Holidays from the Swansong twins!”
This short is based on the world of The Eldritch Twins, by Nick Vossen. The Eldritch Twins is slated to release with The Parliament Press on November 17th, 2020, and will soon be available for pre-order! Join twins Quincy and Lilly, and add it to your TBR here on Goodreads!