The Winston Manor Mortuary - I

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Andrew Fouché

The lull and dismal hour of that late October evening had arrived unexpectedly––just a mere knocking on my parlor’s door, and then, to my surprise, there lay a coffin upon my mortuary’s stoop. Grimly leaning against the coffin was its lid; a melancholy reminder of one’s demise. And a note, tucked underneath the narrow, gaunt fingers of the corpse. Oddly enough, it gave me the directions to where its burial was to take place. The paper specifically stated that the lid should be nailed atop the coffin at the grave site. My delivery was to be prompt, and if I arrived on time, my pay would be rather handsome.

Of course, despite how unusual this may have seemed, I undertook the task. Before becoming fully aware of the morbid actuality, I was already chauffeuring my patron in the hearse. I remember questioning myself; at such a late hour of the evening, where could this undertaking possibly lead me? The gray, oppressive gloom had lingered in the heavens that day, but shortly after nightfall, it had transfigured into a thick, ebony shroud which enveloped the twilight in the vast horizon. 

From what I can recall, there was a disconcerting draught of cold air that lightly brushed the draperies of my hearse––but what uneased my spirit most was the corpse lying in the back––there was no lid, and thus a baleful sensation trickled down my spine. Perhaps I feared it would abruptly arise from its reposing position––watching me––with such an unnatural grin. The visions were all too lurid in my mind, and so, I peered over my shoulders. As anticipated, the body was soundless and unmoving.

There was no moonlight to help us gain our bearings. Only the vague, wavering flame of my sconce could guide us through the persisting darkness. My steeds persevered through the opaque duskiness, and above us hung tree limbs. They appeared as draping shadows––spiny claws and talons––but all they seemed to be was purely by my very own imagination. Nothing less, and nothing more.

While steering my hearse through the unrelenting dreariness, I passed through the sullen cemetery gates. My surroundings had noticeably altered quite quickly––the menacing breeze had deadened and the only discernible noise was the clucking of my horses’ hooves upon the cobblestone path. At the very top of the hill is where I was to lay the body to rest.

The black haze had obscured most of my sight, and thus I was unable to tell if someone was awaiting me above, upon the shaded hillock. The darkened landscape that encircled me seemed to shift after every movement––black shapes and figures stirring hither and thither wherever my light shown. The lofty trees scattered about hung their gnarled arms over many graves. Their roots had slithered through the soil over a hundred years, and slowly claimed the tombstones––causing them to become crooked and crumbled.

Further on, we began ascending the bleak hillside. The path was exceedingly steep and it weaved through a dense woodland. Many of the strangled headstones were buried among dead leaves––some of which were even swallowed by the remorseless earth. Surprisingly, there were no restless critters––nothing crawling through the withered leaves––no perched owl hooting––not even the chirping of a lone cricket. It was all too disquieting.

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Carriage Ride by Midnight Syndicate

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