Five minute fiction

Five Minute Fiction – Laura’s Room

copyright © Merita King October 2016

My wife dragged me along that night, against my will I might add. I’ve never been into the supernatural and if I’m honest, my usual reaction is one of disdain at best and outright sarcasm at worst. I guess you could call me a skeptic. Jen was into that stuff and despite my teasing, her belief never wavered. From time to time, she would disappear for half the night with a few of her friends and go ghost hunting. These events usually cost quite a bit of money to join, but she enjoyed it and as she worked and paid her fare share of our combined expenditure, I never complained. Besides, it meant I could have a few of the guys around for some beer and a football game.

This particular night, the friend she was due to go with got a stomach bug, so Jen nagged me to go with her. After calling a couple of her other friends, both of whom had other commitments, I reluctantly agreed. We armed ourselves with cameras, flashlights, snack, a flask of strong coffee, and set off for the two hour drive north. On the way, Jen told me about the place and its famous legend.

“They found a secret room during some renovation work back in the sixties,” Jen said.

“That’s nothing unusual in those huge old mansions,” I replied. “There’s supposed to be one in that castle in Scotland; the one the royal family owns.”

“Glamis,” she nodded, more than a little astonished at my knowledge.  “Anyway, once they opened this one, weird things started happening.”

“What sort of weird?”

“Like people disappearing kind of weird.”

“Oh come on Jen,” I laughed. “You must realise they build up these stories to get more visitors. Running those huge places costs a fortune and they have to attract as many visitors as possible.”

“Don’t get all superior, Dave. There were three cases that made the newspapers. One back in sixty four, another in sixty five, and the third in seventy nine. There might have been more but those three made national headlines. They’re still officially classed as missing persons by the police. I checked on the internet earlier today.”

My disdain melted and I felt myself losing ground in the discussion. Jen grinned as I squirmed. “So do they have any theories about why they disappeared or where they went?”

Jen sniggered. “Theories abound and vary from the mildly implausible to the totally ridiculous. Aliens are popular of course, timeslips is another, inter-dimensional portals, abduction to hell by demons, abduction to heaven by angels, murder by one of the current staff employed at the castle, you come up with a theory and someone has already thought of it.”

“This kind of stuff brings the wackos crawling out of the woodwork I guess,” I said as I signalled a left turn into a tree lined avenue. “Looks like we’re here.”

I was somewhat surprised at how friendly everyone was, even to a skeptic like myself and quickly found several interesting people willing to discuss both sides of the believe/not believe issue with me. Several of the guests had a more scientific interest than a spiritual one and I found them to be even more skeptical than me. It seemed to me that their gizmos were designed more to disprove any form of afterlife than detect one and I wondered if my own skepticism came across to others as theirs did to me.

I asked Jen about it but she grinned and shook her head. “Those two would drop dead of heart failure if they actually saw a ghost. Their desire to debunk is due to fear more than anything else, poor dears. Come on, the tour is starting.”

Laura’s room was the last stop on the tour, being at the top of the West tower but the tour guides kept referring to it as we traversed the various rooms and corridors and I saw right away that this was done to build up the hype. One young guide, a girl of no more than eighteen with spotty skin and greasy hair, told us that the room was named after the wife of the original builder of the castle, who disappeared one Christmas morning and was never seen again. Having been accused of murdering her, her husband the Duke found himself both a social and financial outcast. Within five years he was penniless, having used the last of his savings to have his wife’s room bricked up and hidden behind panelling. After selling the castle at a much reduced price, most of which he was forced to use to pay debts, he and an unnamed colleague worked their passage aboard a ship sailing for the far East and were never seen again.

The spotty young guide opened the door to Laura’s room and we entered to find ourselves within a small square space with faded floral wallpaper and richly patterned soft furnishings. The furniture was sparse, two chaise longues and several small tables, a sideboard,  and glass fronted display cabinet were the only pieces within the room. I was about to turn away to speak to Jen when I noticed something on one of the chaise longues, so I wandered over to see what it was. Faded material that must once have been white lay stretched over a circular wooden hoop, the blue and green stitchwork of the unfinished peacock still rich and undimmed. How odd I thought that the coloured threads should still retain their rich lustre while the white fabric aged to yellow.

All this thinking was giving me a headache so I turned away to rejoin the group who by now were exiting back into the short landing that led to the spiral staircase down to the lower floors. A stab of pain made me wince and I massaged my temples as I turned and looked for Jen.

“Are you here to measure up?” The large man demanded, his bright blue eyes holding my own with the kind of confidence borne of good breeding.

“Huh?” I replied with a frown. “Measure up? For what? I’m on the tour, aren’t you?”

“Tour? What tour? Have you taken leave of your senses, man? Someone was due here an hour ago to begin boarding up the room. I take it that person is you?”

“Err, no. Look here, I think we’re talking at cross purposes. I’m Dave and I’m here on the ghost tour. I seem to have been left behind by the rest of the group.”

His face relaxed as a slow smile spread across his lips. “So we have another one eh? Come downstairs with me and have a drink.” He put an arm around my shoulder and steered me out of the room. “Tell me, David, you don’t mind if I call you that do you? what is today’s date?”