Soft lights slowly illuminated a room. A nearly naked woman had her head and hands confined in stocks. What was left of her dress hung down from her shoulders and lower hips, leaving her back exposed.
A few of the guys around her laughed and one even dared to say, “Ten bucks her boobs fall out and you can see nip.” She thought it was Kevin, one of Ryan’s buddies. She wasn’t surprised.
Ashleigh flinched with the woman when a whip cracked. A quick glance showed a man who’d been standing off to the side. His devil’s mask was nearly as realistic as the skull from the last scene. Shivers raced up and down her spine as the man whipped the woman again. This time, the woman let out a low moan. Was she enjoying this?
Just as the man pulled his arm back for another lash, the room went dark. From down the hall, a wavering light made its way toward them. An older woman stepped up to the edges of the group and held her candle high. “I am Martha, your new guide. Follow me.”
Ashleigh glanced over her shoulder at the space where the last room had been. The total darkness of it left everything to the imagination. The ideas lurking there frightened her with their appeal.
She sped up a little bit and nearly tripped over the heels of her classmate in front of her. She mumbled an apology and shook herself to calm down. This haunted house was getting to her. The faster they finished the tour, the happier she’d be. They turned left down the next hallway and then went around another turn. Her sense of direction, normally pretty decent, was all turned around and she had no clue where they might be in the house.
They trooped up a flight of stairs so narrow it must have been the servants’ staircase back when the house was first built. Martha led them into a bedroom and they spread out along a rope.
On the bed lay a woman with blood covering the bodice of her nightgown. Her eyes stared dully into the distance as a man in a Confederate uniform wept and wailed over her.
“In the waning days of the Civil War, Major Thomas Bailey snuck past occupying forces to reunite with his wife, Hazel. They’d been married in a hasty ceremony before Thomas fled the city with his unit as the secession vote neared. Hazel had kept hearth and home together as Union forces commandeered the home for hospital service. She had even demurred the suits of Union officers, sure her husband would return from the conflict and they could consummate their marriage.
“On Thomas’s return, he did not find the loving wife he had so pined for during the darkest days of battle. Instead, he found her freshly dead body after she’d been slaughtered by one of her rejected suitors. Thomas hunted down the man and killed him in broad daylight. His last words as he was brought down in a hail of gunfire were ‘For the honor of my beloved wife.’”
The man flung himself off the woman and raised his fists to the ceiling. “For you, Hazel.”
His voice, commanding, deep, battle-scarred, echoed through the room, through Ashleigh, as he stormed out. The door slammed behind him and the woman’s body floated up above the bed. She rotated until she was upright and raised an arm, pointing at them.
“When he first left, I prayed for his quick return. When he failed to prevent my murder after so many years of faithfulness to him, I cursed him. He forever haunts this home and has gathered other spirits and abominations to him. For his abandonment of me, he will forever remain here until my reincarnated self returns and lies with him in the marriage bed.”
Blinding light flashed in the room, and when her vision cleared, Ashleigh saw the woman from the bed had disappeared. This place was getting crazier and crazier by the minute. Her classmates shifted in place until Martha pushed her way through them, moving back into the hallway.
Ashleigh paused for a moment and looked over her shoulder. The bedspread was clean of blood and appeared as if it hadn’t been disturbed in the nearly one hundred and fifty years since the end of the war. Turning to catch up to her class, she skidded to a halt as the door slammed closed in her face.