There’s something eery about it.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, even as the horse stops with a sudden halt outside the looming gates of Crimson Peak.
It’s dilapidated, spiraling and stretching toward the sky, damaged and crumbling at the seams, but the darkness that sweeps over it seems to call to me, even from the distance separated between us.
I’m not so sure I can move fast enough to meet it.
Stepping out into the cool, English air, it tickles the nape of my neck, dragging loops of my raven colored hair from the knot of tresses on top of my head, and I hum in approval as John attempts to drag the crates containing my things from the back of the carriage.
The driver, William, is already down and trying to help too, but they both huff under the weight of it all, making a dusting of heat crawl over my spine in embarrassment.
Gathering the ends of my skirts, I attempt to wade through the frosted, muddy ground below us, but I realize with dread that it sticks heavily to my shoes.
“Did something happen here, William? It seems..”
William shoots me a quizzical smile, dragging the last of my things out before the crate slams onto the ground, and I flinch slightly at the noise as John dusts himself off.
“It seems old, and kind of spooky, doesn’t it? Well, it used to belong to the Sharpes. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, haven’t you? About Thomas and Lucille and all those women? Luckily his last wife, Edith, escaped, or she would have died too. It’s sad, honestly, and the place needs a lot of work, but I’m sure you have it plenty figured out. Johnny, here, will get it warm and comfortable in no time at all.”
John peers at me quietly, trying to read my expression on the whole thing, but I’m sure I don’t reveal anything; trying to stay cool and collected at the idea of what might have happened in this house to other women.
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
“So, how did you come across acquiring this place, then, John, darling?”
He shrugs, his tall stature hunching as he attempts to gather my belongings in his arms; his golden hair tucked neatly behind his ears, exposing the honey hues in his hazel eyes.
“At an auction. Remember, I told you about that last Autumn? Although, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it, and I might be regretting it.”
Giving it another look, I can see the majesty in it, but also the haunted curves of its’ design, looming over the land like a predator ready to consume prey, and my throat tightens before John’s heavy hand clasps my shoulder.
“Don’t worry so much, Emily. Come, we must go inside. I can’t have my new bride catching a chill.”
It is dreadfully cold, I think bitterly, so I don’t hesitate at the idea of finding warmth, and I take his elbow as we make our way toward the house.
As we edge closer, I have a certain feeling of dread settling over my system, the looming pull of the house tucking me carefully inside of its’ walls.
The chill of the house hits me as soon as John and I cross the threshold, the clatter of my belongings hitting the floor making me flinch away from him, my heart hammering in my ears.
There’s something off about this place, I can feel it, even when Michael drags the rest of our things in behind us; dropping them much more gently on the old rotting floorboards.
“It is a bit damp in here, madam, I’m sorry. I’ll go get a fire started for you and John and then be on my way. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us tomorrow, don’t we?”
John nods, gazing up at the sweeping high ceilings of the house, creaking with the gentle gusts of wind drifting through the cracks, especially the large gaping hole dead center, leaving a pile of slush in the middle of the front room floor.
The idea of anyone willingly buying this house makes me raise an eyebrow questioningly, but I ignore the thought as I try to ponder how many possible rooms this place has.
Dozens, most likely.
“Why don’t you have a look around? I’ll let you pick our room, so you’re more comfortable, and I’ll get started on something for dinner.”
I give him a nod as he draws me in close to his side, pressing his lips against my temple gently, and I can smell the faint hint of orange blossoms on his collar, making me smile.
If I had to find him with my eyes closed, that is exactly what I would search for, the scent of orange blossoms.
“Don’t you think it’s a little, um..?”
John chuckles, shrugging slightly before strolling through the front parlor, taking a look at the ceiling more pensively.
“Since when were you against a little bit of a challenge, Mrs. Peterson?”
I roll my eyes at the statement before gathering my skirts once again and ascending the staircase to the upper floor, my feet shifting painfully over the old wood; wincing as I hear some of the wood snap under me.
I can’t see that being much of a good thing for our future children, and I put the thought steadily in my mind, leaving John behind in the parlor to explore.
The house is very old, and if it isn’t evident from the outside, the upper hallways tell the tale; large, dusted paintings of elegant women sit peering at me from behind the veils of glass, and the ugly crimson walls chip painfully with every step I take past them.
It’s almost never ending, but I duck my head into every room I pass, some of them still containing furniture, to my surprise; ornate bathtubs and copper molding and porcelain sculptures that have long become dusty with age, along with the pale blue bedding that covers each bed I see.
In its’ prime, this house would have been gorgeous, a stunning thing to behold, but now it was barely holding itself together, gripping onto each other by the tips of fingers.
I pass a room without looking, almost not noticing the large oak door, but I stop rigidly once I hear it creak open loudly from behind me, the old doorknob wiggling wildly in greeting.
Spinning around, my heart almost stops as I take in the pale shape standing before me, not even four feet away, his eyebrows drawn sharply together as he eyes me intently; his body like a statue, cold and tall and very not lifelike in the slightest.
I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, but I know that I’ve never seen this man before, not in my entire life, but I know the likelihood of John hearing me all the way up here is low, intensely low, and the thought alone makes me terrified.
He looks familiar in the strangest way, in the most peculiar sense, and I can almost put my finger on it where I know him from, but I can’t seem to figure it out.
“Who...who are you? What are you doing in my house?”
The side of his mouth dips down into a lopsided frown, his dark hair curling around his ears before he gazes over his shoulder, almost taking a protective stance in front of me.
“You can’t be here. Please, you must leave. You must leave now, before she finds you.”
Scoffing, I shake my head, trying to convince myself he’s either a part of my crazy imagination, or maybe, just maybe, he’s helping Michael with the house.
But I don’t think either of those, deep down in my soul, are true at all.
“This is my house. I think it’s best if you leave, actually. I don’t even know who-“
“Thomas,” he says swiftly, creeping toward me, “Thomas Sharpe.”
That’s where I know him from.
“No, that’s impossible. Is this some sick joke? Thomas Sharpe is dead.”
He nods, swallowing loudly before creeping even closer to me, almost too close for my comfort.
“I am Thomas Sharpe. And if my sister, Lucille, finds you, you’re going to be dead, too.”