Ghostly Terrors …
Ghostly Terrors … Another little teaser from my forthcoming ‘Rat Tales.’
Jacobs Manor had an unusual array of occupants even before its latest arrivals to the family, all long since dead of course. Like many a country house, it too had its fair share of wildlife lurking in the cellars, the walls, and every other nook and cranny where nature’s smallest and darkest creatures take refuge: spiders, mice, cockroaches, and of course the usual complement of rats scurrying about its dark corners. It had been many years though since it had any human occupants in residence, at least not living ones.
The ghostly residents looked on with eager curiosity as the removal van pulled up outside the main entrance. They had suspected for a while they might be getting new arrivals with all the recent building and renovation work that had been going on. For the most part, they had let the workmen go about their business unhindered. Specialising as they did in renovating such places, they were all past being troubled by the occasional wailing, creaking floorboards, or harmless apparitions that were an integral part of these old houses, especially ones with a history to rival of that of Jacobs Manor. Nonetheless, they had sworn they would never set foot in the place again for any future work. They weren’t sure if the place was truly haunted or just infested with stubborn vermin. It didn’t matter how many rats they got rid of with the usual traps and poisons, a couple of times when their work had carried on into the early evening, several of them had reported seeing a small spectral like creature scurrying across their path or leaping at them, seemingly from thin air. But work was work, and so they had kept their fears and sightings quiet from the manor’s new owners.
It was good having humans in the manor again. The presence of warm breathing living flesh seemed to inject new ghostly vitality into the manor’s spectral occupants. It was never their wish to scare or harass their living housemates and so most humans got used to them. All except the rat that was. The rat hated living humans and was none too fond of its fellow spectres either; the rat took as much delight in scaring and tormenting them as it did any human dwellers of the manor. Whilst the spectres were immune to any human interference, they were vulnerable to those of their own kind; the rat horrified them much the same way a living rat repulses living humans. What made it worse, there was no way of killing or getting rid of it the way the living dealt with their own vermin. For centuries, both they and living occupants of the manor had had to put up with the spite driven vengeful ghostly rat … several of the latter had literally been terrified to death at the sight of gleaming white teeth and claws hovering about their face at all hours of the night. It was those that the rat now shared the manor with in the same unearthly spectral realm.
The Earl of Dewsbury, the original owner and builder of the Manor back in the 16th century had been a practitioner of the sciences and black arts as well being a brutal sadist. Had he been born in modern times, psychologists would have had him earmarked a future serial killer with his liking for tormenting small animals. One of his victims had been a small black rat. The Earl had caught it and several others in one of his trapping cages. The contrast of its jet-black fur and almost fluorescent white teeth gave it a chillingly demonic look which fascinated the Earl. He noticed too the jet-black rat had killed the other occupants in the cage in order to live off their flesh. This particular rat clearly harboured a savagery to rival his own. The Earl’s vivid imagination and fascination with the black arts led him to wonder if indeed the rat was possessed of some demon … he was determined to know. What followed was all sorts of experimentation the Earl believed to be sophisticated science and black magic. It was mostly nonsense of course, but amid all the potions and spells, the Early had unwittingly trapped the rat in that spectral realm between the living and the dead. It was not a place meant for animal souls except those who were so intertwined with their human master’s they couldn’t be separated. But that’s where the rat found itself, not that it was complaining; it knew it would never die in the way others of its kind did after just a few years. It had learnt too to enjoy and even revel in the endless torment it could inflict on both the ghostly and the living alike. And so it went on down the centuries. It dismayed the other spectres of the manor the number of living the ghostly rat had driven from what could have been a lovely stately home for all of them, enjoying peaceful co-existence. They hoped it might be different this time, that the rat had wearied of its spiteful nature and would allow the humans to live in peace with it.
The rat had also watched the new arrivals with interest. It was especially pleased to see they had a cat. If there was one thing the rat hated more than any other, alive or dead, it was cats. It remembered several past experiences from when it was alive. The rat shuddered at how they had toyed with it in their playful ‘cat and mouse’ games, almost killing it several times with their fur and skin ripping claws when cornered.
Jack and Sarah, the young couple who had bought and renovated the manor had brought Jack’s mother to live them. She was a sweet old lady and would make a fantastic babysitter for the child they were expecting. She was also devoted to looking after the family cat, Molly. The two were inseparable …
“That’s right, Molly, you come and sit on mummy’s lap,” the old lady urged the ageing cat. Molly purred and nestled into her usual comfy position. Her mistress gently rocked in her chair, stroking the generous amount of fur the cat still possessed despite its frequent moulting in its twilight years.
Seeing the lavish care and love the human was doting on the mangy looking flea ridden cat was all the more reason to hate it, the rat decided. And the old human too. It was going to take great pleasure in tormenting them both, knowing it was safe from the earthly harm it had once been vulnerable to from such wretched creatures. And then it would turn its attention to the other two humans.
Molly was busy amusing herself chasing the many little mice and even some of the rats that made a home of the old disused cellar areas of the manor. She was of little danger to them now she was no longer as agile as she once was, Still, it was in her nature to play the part of the hunter even if all her food did come from the very best suppliers before being lovingly prepared by her mistress. It was during this latest ‘cat and mouse’ game the ghostly rat made its first appearance. It had shrieked its unearthly hiss in Molly’s ear just before appearing to leap across her path. Molly had been startled by it and instinctively swiped her paw at the apparition. She was delighted to see she had caught it full on only to be instantly disappointed to see the rat vanish. Time and time again the ghostly rat would appear and disappear into thin air, leaving the sound of its high-pitched shrieks ringing in her ears. Molly was getting on and the rat was easily nimble enough to avoid her but seemed to delight in showing off just how invulnerable it was to Molly’s attacks. It was a constant annoyance that its body was impervious to her swiping paws. There were times when she could hardly contain her frustration, seeing her claws harmlessly pass through the rat’s spectral form. It was like the rat was playing its own rat and cat game with her instead of the other way around.
The rat decided it had had enough of tormenting Molly directly, knowing it would distress the creature even more by tormenting her mistress instead. Night after night the rat would hover above the old lady’s face, knowing that its fang-like teeth would be the first thing she saw when waking up. It had only taken a few such sightings to reduce her to a nervous wreck.
Not wanting to worry her son and daughter-in-law, especially not in her ‘condition,’ the old lady hadn’t told them about the waking nightmares she was having. Molly knew of course; she had seen the rat hovering above her beloved mistress, powerless to help or protect the old lady. The ageing cat was slowly growing to hate that spiteful vicious little rat; normally she would only tease and play with such little creatures but this one, she would have gladly torn it to shreds if only her claws had something solid they could tear into.
A month had gone by and the old lady had resorted to taking tranquillisers and medication to sleep as often as she could, anything to shield her from the rat’s appearances. The rat was patient though. It would watch for hours at a time, waiting for the exact moment the sleeping pills wore off, hoping to catch the old lady whilst in that dreamy state between slumber and consciousness.
It was all too much for her, and so she died. A sudden and massive heart attack had sent the old lady ‘to her final peace’ as the doctor had put it, trying to cushion the blow to Jack and Sarah, the young new owners of the manor, still blissfully unaware of its other residents.
It was heart-breaking for them that she hadn’t lived just a little longer. They knew just how much she had wanted to hold her first grandchild, but it wasn’t to be … and nor was there to be any ‘final peace’ if the rat had its way …
Molly was desolate at the loss of her mistress, rarely moving from beside the bed in which she had slept. So depressed was Molly, she was even indifferent to the rat resuming its tormenting appearances, much to the other creature’s annoyance.
Jack and Sarah tried to the care for the old cat the best they could, knowing that Molly was too old to survive long if she didn’t eat or drink something. Three days later, Molly died too. The vet assured Jack and Sarah that there was nothing more they could have done for Molly, how it was not uncommon for a pet to die soon after the passing of a beloved owner.
The ghostly rat was pleased to have dispatched the two of them so soon following their arrival at the manor. It was even more pleased to sense the old lady’s returning as the newest spectral resident of the manor. She wasn’t there yet but was getting closer, slowly drifting her way to the other side of life’s curtain; it would then have all eternity to plague her for long as it amused the human-hating little rat.
Night-time was descending and the manor house rat was looking forward to again tormenting the now dead cat loving human the closer she got to their spectral realm. The rat knew she would be at her most vulnerable when she arrived, confused and afraid while coming to terms with her new state of existence.
The old lady crossed that curtain, first to the room in which she had died, and in which she had last held her beloved Molly. The rat lay in wait, ready to pounce once again – it wasn’t just the living that could be terrified by such appearances.
The old lady started to appear, gently swaying in her rocking chair. The rat was confused at how serene she appeared, like she was content – it was not the fearful and unhappy state in which most humans crossed over, the rat observed. No matter though, the rat decided as it prepared to make its presence known again, readying itself to leap out at her.
The rat never made that leap. It was Molly instead who leapt from the old lady’s lap. Molly too had crossed over with her beloved owner, and now with all the speed and vitality of her youth. That was why the old lady hadn’t looked afraid or confused as the rat had expected. She had her beloved Molly back. And this time, the cat was able to protect her mistress. This time her retracted spectral claws were able to rip through the rat’s body, splattering the floors and walls with the ectoplasm equivalent of the rat’s blood. It couldn’t kill the rat of course, it was already dead, they both were. But this inability to die was something the vicious little rat would regret for as long as Molly chose to hunt and torment it. Molly remembered the rat’s spiteful nature while she was alive. It was the rat that had frightened her mistress to death
In life, Molly’s greatest joy, apart from basking in human attention, had been the playful and gentle teasing of tiny animals, particularly rodents of any kind. She was looking forward to enjoying that pleasure once more. But it wouldn’t be the gentle playful teasing of before, not with the ghostly one that had plagued them both in their final days … she had all eternity to truly hunt and inflict her vengeance on her mistress’s ghostly terror.
Jack and Sarah were to live long and happy lives in the manor. The ‘other’ residents too were at last free of the rat’s torments. It hadn’t gone though; it was as much trapped in the manor as they all were, but it was far too busy trying to elude and escape Molly’s nightly hunting of it to give any thought to being the spectral pest it once was.