The House Tour
I was attending a business seminar in a city on the east coast. I was bored out of my mind and stuck in unfamiliar surroundings with nothing to look forward to but a long lonely evening at the hotel.
I suppose I should tell you a little about myself. My name is Henry Summers. I’m in my early fifties. I’ve been married for thirty years and I have two grown daughters. I guess I’m about as average as anyone can be. In fact, most people would think my life is boring and I suppose they would be right.
I don’t have many friends; drinking buddies, fishing buddies, golfing buddies etc. In fact, I’ve never had the least interest in sports and I don’t normally drink very much. Actually my primary interest is in women. This may seem very strange, since I just told you I’ve been married for a very long time. But remember, I said I was interested in women. That doesn’t mean I’ve ever done anything about it. My wife is a good person and although I can’t say I’m madly in love with her, I do care for her. Even though I’m not very happy with our current relationship, I don’t think I could bring myself to ask for a divorce. Besides, I probably couldn’t afford it and a man my age with no money isn’t very likely to have throngs of hot babes beating a path to his door.
Within the past few years I’ve begun to realize that most of my life is over and there’s not a lot of time left to me. At times I get very depressed. I mean, I see cute young babes everywhere and I’m sure not a single one of them would even give me a second look. They probably think I’m just some dull older guy, if they bother to think anything about me at all. It’s not that I’m particularly unappealing; physically I’m like the rest of my life. I’m just average.
Now there are a couple of things about me that aren’t average. I’m very romantic, although there’s very little romance in my life. I believe I can be a very interesting person. I could probably hold my own in a conversation on almost any topic, with the exception of sports. The big problem is that I’m not very outgoing, therefore I don’t get much of a chance impress women with my romantic personality or my many and varied interests.
So there I was in the hotel room early in the evening looking through the typical visitor’s information; what to see and places to go in the area. Nothing seemed very appealing. Then I noticed a little brochure on the floor sticking out from behind the desk. It was an ad for guided tours the Hayford House. This was apparently a mansion originally constructed around 1918 for one of the area’s early business tycoons. The last tour started at 5:30. I checked out the little map in the ad and glanced at my watch. If got a move on; I figured I just might make it.
In less than ten minutes I was pulling my rental car out of the hotel parking garage. As I got onto the freeway, I noticed that the sky was getting darker by the minute and it looked like a storm was coming up. Sure enough, before I had gone a couple of miles the sky opened up and I was driving through a blinding downpour. Then there was a booming roll of thunder and lightning flashed across the sky. I almost turned back, but I decided it was just as easy to go on now. I was having a terrible time trying to read the road signs and I was afraid I would end up getting lost. But in another thirty minutes I spotted the exit I was looking for. The exit put me onto a two lane state highway and after another twenty minutes driving I spotted the sign for the Hayford House.
I followed a narrow drive that wound its way through stands huge old oak and maple trees. I thought in good weather this drive would be beautiful, but now the trees just added to the gloom. As I rounded a sharp bend in the drive, a jagged bolt of lightning struck one of the trees. The resultant flash made me momentarily loose control of the car and I stopped just short of crashing into a tree. With my heart racing I backed up and proceeded. Then the house came into view. At the same instant another flash of lightning illuminated the scene with an eerie glow. I thought what a perfect setting for a horror flick, but I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of being the star. As for the house, it was a film director’s dream; complete with tall turrets, wings jutting out at odd angles and I was sure there would be a gargoyle of two perched up on the corners of the roof.
I parked the car and made a mad dash for the front entrance. This was a wasted effort. I plowed through a couple of particularly deep puddles and managed to get soaked. Once I was within the shelter of the entrance, I realized that the place was completely dark. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? I thought shit all this way for nothing! I checked my watch. It was just a little past 5:30 so I knocked on the door. I waited for a while and knocked again. I was just turning away already beginning to dread the drive back when the huge old oak door began to open. Need you ask? Of course it creaked and groaned as it opened. It probably had since it was installed nearly ninety years ago. Doors that big and heavy can’t do otherwise.
I was preparing myself to be confronted by the likes of Boris Karloff, Bella Lugosi or at least Vincent Price, but I was wrong. On the other side of the door holding a candle stood the most beautiful young woman I believe I had ever seen in my entire life. I thought thank God I didn’t go for what was behind the curtain. The woman was just a little above average height and that was the only thing about her that was a little above average. Everything else was way above average. She had thick shoulder-length red hair and big green eyes. Her face was absolutely beautiful and her complexion was flawless. She was wearing a short green velvet dress that complemented her voluptuous figure.
I was so much in awe of the beauty before me I almost forgot why I had come here. Finally I managed to say, “I came for the 5:30 tour.”
The woman replied in a soft almost musical voice, “Please come in. I wasn’t expecting anyone because of the weather and I’m afraid we’ve lost power. So I can’t give you a tour. But you can stay till the storm lets up if you like. I’ve just made some tea. Would you care to join me?”
I was beginning to think the drive out here was worth it after all. I usually don’t have this kind of luck. Even though I don’t particularly care for tea, I said, “Yes that sounds very nice. By the way, I’m Henry Summers and you are?”
“I’m Helen Hayford. My great grandfather had this place built for his bride in 1918. I’m pleased to meet you Mr. Summers.”
I said, “Please call me Henry.”
“Very well Henry. If you’ll just follow me, we’ll see about that tea.”
Would I follow her? I would follow her to the ends of the earth. Helen led me down a long hallway. In the dim glow of the candle, I could just make out the elaborately carved oak paneling on the walls and a high beamed ceiling. Finally we entered a huge dining room. On the immense table there was a candelabrum with about a half dozen glowing candles. The scene was right out of some gothic romance novel. I was already weaving a fantasy in which I was lord of the manor and Helen was my adoring wife. I was speculating that after our evening tea, we would adjourn to out bed chamber for an evening of lustful pleasure. My reverie was interrupted by Helen asking, “Is there something wrong?”
“No why?” I asked.
“It’s just that you seemed to have gone into some sort of trance. You had the strangest look on your face.”
As I sat down at the table I said, “It’s nothing, I was just admiring the room.”
“It’s a lot more than nothing Henry. There’s something bothering you. I can tell. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do. I can tell you haven’t been happy with your life for a very long while. There’s a need deep within you that’s not fulfilled. You believe that you’ll leave this life with your utmost longing unsatisfied. A
ren’t I right?”
I don’t know what came over me. But I knew I was going to be co
mpletely honest about my feelings with another person for the first time in my entire life and damn the consequences. I said, “Yes you’re right Helen. I’ll tell you something that I’ve never told anyone else. I hope you won’t think I’m being juvenile. But I guess I just don’t care anymore. I want to be in love and I want that love returned. I want to know passion and fulfilled desire. I don’t understand why I should have to miss out on that. I have so much to give if I could just find the right woman. I see so many men who take having a beautiful woman loving them for granted. It wouldn’t be that way with me. I just don’t understand why I can’t have that chance. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted. Sometimes I want it so bad, I hurt inside. Sometimes I’m so lonely I can’t stand it.”
“Well Henry, they say if you really want something bad enough you’ll do the things it takes to achieve that goal. I believe that. What about you?”
“There’s no doubt that it’s true and I guess that’s why I’m so unhappy. I’ve never had the nerve to do what it would take. I can’t even seem to take the first step in that direction and for me time is running out very quickly. I know it. Each year goes by faster and I see opportunity slipping away. I hate myself for being a coward. I’m afraid to take life on its own terms and deal with it. I know I could fail and end up being completely alone and that scares me. But even if that happened, at least I’d know I tried.”
“Well it seems that you have a handle on things. You know I sense in you the same feelings that I have. I believe we’re kindred spirits. I will tell you this, what you desire most may be right in front of you. All you have to do is reach out and take it.”
I got up from the table, pulled Helen into my arms and held her very tightly. Our lips met and I felt a thrill of desire course through my body like nothing I had ever experienced before. At that instant a crash of thunder shook the whole room and a flash of lightning dazzled my eyes like a million fireworks going off all at once. It was as if the bottom had just dropped out of the world and Helen and I were clinging together as we fell into a bottomless chasm.
Two days later the rental car was found smashed into a tree, but there was no sign of Henry Summers. A thorough search of the ruins of Hayford house failed to produce a single clue to his whereabouts. What had possessed him to come way out here and where he could have gone were to remain an unsolved mystery.
Now if the search party would have stayed around until just a little past midnight, they might have noticed a dim glow illuminate one of the upper story windows. The might have also heard the soft murmuring of voices drifting on the wind and a little giggle as the light went out.