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Current Attractions 2016

Hearts of Darkness


Valentine's day came much too quickly. Marcus and I were planning our wedding and got so caught up in the little things that the day just snuck up on us. Marcus suggested the obligatory dinner and a movie. I'd remembered seeing in The Leader about ghost tours at the old Kingsbury Manor. They were running a Valentine's day special and Marcus and I had never been. What a fun and quirky way to spend Valentine's, right? So off we went.

The place definitely has a past. What was once a thriving dynasty of power and influence, was long deserted when I was born. It is said that none of the surviving Kingsburys will have anything to do with it, a fact that the tour promoters never fail to mention. There's no doubt that it's creepy as heck, even before the tour guide started detailing some of the macabre things that supposedly went down there.

Because we're a young, brash, millennial couple (I'm mature enough to admit it!) we ditched the tour. The manor was just too gigantic to explore and there were multiple tours going on anyways, so we slipped out into the old tobacco field. This was so exciting!

We walked hand-in-hand through the snow towards a small outbuilding, talking about the wedding, joking in the crisp and chilly dusk about one day owning our own labyrinthine estate.

Inside the shed, we found a large hole in the ground, lined with bricks. Maybe it used to be a well, or some kind of root cellar. There was a brick spiral staircase curling into the darkness and heat was rising up out of it. And you're darn right we went down there. Fearless, that's our middle names!

We must've been down there for an hour or more, exploring with the flashlight apps on our cell phones. There was a little making out. There was the scaring each other at some blind corners. You know, the usual.

I was blown away, though, when we came to a tremendous, dimly-lit atrium, complete with skylights on the surface. The nighttime stars were so clear through the glass. And it just went on and on it seemed; I mean, this place was huge!

It was wall to wall beautiful flowers of every kind and color. Such a sight in the winter time! They had labels on the pots, things I'd never heard of like "Bloodworm Poppy" and "Mandragora Lily." We wandered the aisles smelling them and admiring them and wondering at the why of it all when Marcus stopped dead in his tracks. Hunched over a wooden table was an old man, working on what looked like another person lying on the table. He looked up at us and smiled. Didn't really seem to care we were there.

And then, I smelled something so strongly it made me wince. A sweet, tangy smell, so powerful that I tasted it. Marcus made a little noise and by the way he jerked his head I could tell he smelled it too.

I looked back at the old man and at the...wait...ok I guess it was just a bunch of flowers on the table. He was still smiling. And that smell just lingered, making my eyes water. But it was good, too, you know? Like a spicy dessert. And I just felt so happy, so warm. I was having so much fun, I squeezed Marcus's hand and gave him a kiss and he grinned and laughed.

So we giggled and waved at the old man and we turned and ran back. No big deal, I guess.

I couldn't get the ringing in my ears to go away, though. And I just felt kind of run down, but we walked back to the manor, rejoined another tour and left. I was kind of buzzing off that smell so I don't remember the details. I'm glad Marcus drove because I just sat there kind of quietly, smiling to myself. Every time I looked at Marcus he was smiling too, his eyes fixed on something far away.

I was just so tired. At this point, our fun Valentine's day was ending on a drab note. No adult time for us; we both just wanted to crash. So happy though. content. Nothing in the world could be wrong.

Marcus curled up next to me in bed and I could feel his body slowing down, his breathing settling down. I smiled and closed my eyes. And I smelled that atrium again.

I opened my eyes, and was looking at the stars through the atrium skylights. I couldn't stop smiling. I rolled over and saw Marcus on the table next to me, the old gardner straddling his body, face down on Marcus's chest, sawing through his sternum with something that moved in and out of his mouth in a blur.

This nagging feeling in the back of my mind just kept poking at me, like I should be upset about this. You know, like when you feel like you're forgetting something but can't for the life of you remember what?

The old gardner paused his work and looked up at me, face splashed with crimson. I smiled and said, "Hi."

He smiled back at me, his mouth full of an impossible array of white little thorn-like teeth and his face blossomed like an orchid before he went back to work.

I sighed contentedly, breathing deeply of that tangy, musty odor. "Mmmmm...night night."

I was so happy to think I was going to spend the rest of my life with my Marcus.