“Sarah, do you think that this is a good idea?” whispered Lucy while sneaking up to the old mansion at the edge of town. It was already late at night, and the wind started to blow wilder and wilder. According to the weather forecast a thunderstorm was on its way.
“Oh come on Lucy! Are you scared?” Sarah peered back at the new girl teasingly. “Bates Morde is just a fiction. It won’t bother anyone if he gets bullied.” She shrugged her shoulders and continued “Anyway, if you want to be accepted at school, you have to get this done, Newbie.”
Lucy felt her heart beating faster as they approached the old mansion surrounded by bushes and trees that almost made it impossible for the sunlight to catch sight of the garden and the entrance gate. The house looked like a typical haunted house of a small town: it was built in Victorian style, and painted black originally, but on some parts of the facade, huge parts of the paint had fallen off, revealing the red bricks. Some of the windows were boarded up or just broken, and everything was covered in rubble and dust.
“Now New Girl, climb in, take something with you, then come back and run home.” Sarah gave the instructions and peered at Lucy defiantly.
“Okay,” she answered while pulling herself up to the window sill. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Wait for me, okay?” she murmured back to Sarah as she carefully climbed inside.
She found herself in the kitchen of the house. She saw an old-fashioned stove and furnace and a few wooden kitchen cabinets. Lucy could not resist the urge to run her fingers through the ghost-cold furniture while slowly walking outside the kitchen to the long dark hall. She lit her lighter to see where she was going, but at the same time avoided being easily seen. She was walking close up to the wall, while often throwing a glance behind her back. After a few more steps, she found herself in a big salon. There weren’t many things there besides an old piano (“This looks way more beautiful than ours”), some mice-chewed furniture, and bird feathers on the floor. She cautiously stepped into the salon. Even if she thought the house was spooky, she got enchanted by it.
“So majestic and mystical…How could someone let this happen to this beautiful house?” she mumbled to herself while running her fingers though the piano and trying not to make any noise while stepping on some sheet music papers that laid all over the floor in a mess. She was fighting the urge to press some keys on the piano, when she heard a roaring thunder and the howl of the wind. She immediately became more alarmed. As her wonder towards the house quickly became suppressed, she realized why she was actually in that spooky mansion. She immediately tried to look for something she could take with herself as a trophy. She was running her eyes all over the salon, when she heard some unnatural hissing sound. She sprinted across the room and hid behind a curtain and a table with some weird three-dimensional puzzle on it. She wanted to examine it briefly, when the hissing became lounder, and a tall figure appeared in the entrance of the salon, in the exact same place where she had stood a few minutes earlier. The tall thing walked to the piano as quietly and elegantly as a cat. As it came closer and closer to Lucy’s hiding spot, she was able to examine him, but not so briefly. She could discern that the tall figure was a man with extremely pale skin and darker hair than the longest night in December. He sat down at the piano and started to play like a virtuose. Lucy was amazed and almost revealed herself before Bates Morde. While he was playing, she reached out to the 3D puzzle on the table that consisted of tiny sculptures of monsters. She cautiously grabbed one that looked like some gnome, and started to look for escape routes. Unfortunately, the only way was behind the back of the pianist’s, who was playing the Blue Danube Waltz with lots of movement and emotions.
“If I walk quietly enough, he won’t notice me…” she hoped, then slowly crawled out of her hiding spot and started to beetle towards the hall. When she was almost there, the piano stopped. She was terrified of the sudden silence, when a suave voice spoke:
“You better put that thing down, Honey! Your friends have stolen lots of my stuff, and I am not fond of your little pranks.”
“Shut up, you freak!” Lucy murmured in terror, and started to run. She heard the weird hissing behind her back, so she sped up. After getting back into the kitchen, she looked out the window, yelling.
“Sarah, I have it!”
Then she realized that Sarah wasn’t there. She had left her alone in the haunted house, after making her steal from a creepy man that was said to have lived in that house for more than 100 years, but still looked young. After hearing the mysterious hissing and now even footsteps, Lucy jumped out the window. After landing, she looped one, stood up and ran out of the estate, while the wind was howling into her ears.
She stopped running after she reached the street where she had moved with her family a few weeks ago. She had been attending the local high school only for one and a half weeks, so she had hardly had any chance to get to know her fellow students. And now, the meanest of the popular girls had played a very awful prank on her. What if she later reported her to the police for stealing from Morde? And if that happened, would anyone believe her, if she said that it was Sarah’s idea?
While she was trying to organize her thoughts, it started to rain heavily, and Lucy was drenched by the time she reached her home.
She went straight to her bedroom to change. Both of her parents were now asleep, so she didn’t want to wake them up. After closing her door, she sat down at the floor, took the goblin-like toy out of her pocket, and tried to examine it. It was a small little green figure, around 5 centimeters tall and roughly carved.
“I have to hide this somewhere,” she mumbled to herself, and then put the toy under a loose floorboard. She then wanted to put on her pajamas, but a loud thunder and lightning startled her. Then she felt shivers on her spine, because she heard the Blue Danube Waltz being played on their piano. She peered out her door, while her parents also came out from their room, confused.
“ Lucy, what is happening here?” her mother yawned.
“Sweety, I thought you had started to play, but if it’s not you, then who?” Her father was worried.
Lucy had an idea, but it seemed way too absurd.
“It can’t be him, can it?” she thought, and then the family carefully beetled towards the living room, where they saw a tall, dark-haired figure playing. As they approached, the music stopped. The Father switched on the lights, so they were able to see who this mysterious figure was.
“Sir, I order you to leave my house right now!“ thundered the Father, but the man just rotated himself on the piano chair, so Lucy was able to examine his face briefly. He had fair skin and big dark eyes. His slender face was framed by his shoulder-length hair, which was as black as a ravens’ feathers. And the most surprising thing was that he didn’t look older than 23.
“I’m afraid, it’s impossible until this lovely young lady gives back what she stole from me,” answered Morde with his suave voice.
“Lucy, what is this man talking about?” her mother asked, concerned. Lucy knew that she had to lie.
“Lucy, I know, you wouldn’t steal from anyone, right?” Her father looked at her, confused. “It’s not how we raised you.”
“No, Dad” she murmured, then continued, “I don’t know what he is talking about…I…I don’t even know who he is…” Lucy started to panic.
“Oh, if that’s the case, pleased to meet you, I am Bates Morde,“ he snapped. “ Now give me that goblin back, and I promise not to hurt anyone.”
“Goblin? What Goblin? Lucy, have you done something?” the father started to get angry.
“No Dad, I don’t even know what he is talking about!” Lucy cried, acting like she didn’t steal that figure, but in reality, she was extremely terrified.
“Well, you have chosen the hard way,” Morde said calmly, then stood up. He opened his fist, revealing the other five figures Lucy had seen on that table. He blew them and they turned into dust as the lightning struck a tree nearby. Then he simply walked out of the house. After he left, the parents turned to Lucy.
“Explain it! Now!” the father demanded.
“You said that you were with Sarah. Is it true?” the mother asked.
“Yes, I was.” Lucy answered, shivering. Technically, she was with Sarah. Except that she had left her alone in a creepy mansion with this Bates Morde chasing her, and now demanding that weird toy back, like some six-year-old kid. “But we haven’t done anything. Actually she turned out to be an asshole,” she continued. She was mad at Sarah. She had betrayed her, and Lucy was sure that she would be made fun of. Awful prank, really.
“We believe you, and we hope that you are telling the truth.” The parents shut down the conversation, and everyone went back to sleep. Still, Lucy was only able to lie and gaze at the ceiling.
Suddenly she saw a long shadow, forming into some anthropomorphic shape, reaching out with its hand towards her. She froze; she couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. She seized her blanket above her head and curled up under it. She spent the rest of the night shivering.
The next day on her way to school, she observed something very strange. A huge amount of crows were sitting on the roof of the school, and it seemed as if all of them were watching her. The millions of black bird-eyes were staring at her very soul, and while looking at the birds, she felt as if she were standing face-to-face with Morde. “You have chosen the hard way.” This sentence haunted her all day. And with more and more crows appearing on the school grounds, she started to have a bad premonition.
After entering the school, the popular gang of Sarah and some football players came up to her.
“So, New Girl, did you bring anything from that freak’s house?” Sarah asked, which made Lucy lose her temper.
“OF COURSE, BUT YOU LEFT ME ALONE THERE WITH THAT CREEPY PIANO-VIRTUOSO!” she snapped. “You promised to wait for me, but you left! How dare you?”
“Chill girl, I had to go.” Sarah put her hands up in defense. “Now come and we will show you the Gallery of the Brave, where we store those objects we seized from Morde.”
They led Lucy to a locker, which was full of old objects that could be found in the Morde-Mansion: old forks, spoons and knives, a sheet of paper torn out from a musical collection, a piece of broken mirror, and so on.
“Wow…” Lucy gasped. “You guys really take this bravery test seriously.”
“Of course,” a football player answered. “Bates Morde is only a legend anyway. The parents use him to scare little kids”
“But…I saw him…and talked to him…” Lucy quickly got confused.
“Oh New Girl, don’t be silly!” Sarah waved, relaxed. “Everyone knows that Morde is just a tale.”
After this conversation, the gang went to the same class, where none of them really paid attention. Sarah was painting her nails, and the football players were whispering about the new training techniques. Lucy on the other hand, always had a mysterious and unexplainable feeling that she was being watched.
During class, the teacher opened a window, and right after that, a crow flew inside the classroom. It distracted everyone from the lesson for a moment, but they could still concentrate. But then more and more birds flew in and started to harass the students. They tweaked their hands, pooped on their desks and crowed aggressively at them. One of the football players had just been tweaked by a crow, and he hit the bird with his book. Suddenly, all the other birds turned to him. They flew to his desk, grabbed his clothes with their small legs, and seized him out of the window. As the menagerie of crows was tossing the football player in the air above the ground, the birds seemed to melt into a big man-like silhouette with wings, giant hands and legs. After playing enough with the footballer, the creature dropped the boy down from a four-meter height. The teacher quickly called the ambulance, where they said that the boy had suffered serious injuries and would be paralyzed down from the waist.
“How unfortunate… He was a douche, though” commented a familiar suave voice to Sarah. “ But you chose to play with the fire”
Lucy froze. She looked to the direction of the voice. Sarah snapped.
“HOW CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THIS? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?”
“Well, I think you already know it, Honey,” Morde answered in a bored tone.
“Sarah…He is…” Lucy gasped, pointing at the man in terror.
“Oh you, don’t spoil it for her, darling, please.” Morde pushed his chalk-white pointing finger onto Lucy’s mouth, making her keep quiet. Lucy was paraéyzed and petrified. She still managed to squeeze out a few words.
“Oh, come on!” the man snapped. “I think it was obvious to her!”
Lucy couldn’t be more confused. This man, who wasn’t even a human, lived in a haunted house and was the embodiment of pure evil, acted like a complete Hollywood buffoon.
“MORDE? WHAT?” Sarah was getting nervous. “Bates Morde is just fictional! His story is used to scare children. MORDE IS NOT REAL, NEW GIRL, DON’T BE SUCH AN IDIOT!”
“There is no need for this tone. I am very real.” Morde looked down at Sarah and Lucy, trying to show superiority. “And I can play the piano too. Your charming thief-friend was able to hear me play twice.”
“This can’t be real…you are not real!”
“Well, I certainly am. And I am fed up with you and your stupid friends stealing my possessions for fun. So give me back my things, and no one will get hurt next time.” Morde yawned as if he had been taking part in boring small-talk.
“Pff, get lost!” Sarah yelled and ran away, leaving Lucy with Morde again.
“You’ve got yourself a nice friend, eh?” he asked cynically. “I don’t think she would ever get your back. Choose your friends more wisely! Both of you chose the hard way. Now live with that,” he mumbled to Lucy, then disappeared in the shadows.
The following week, hardly any students could sleep. The corridor hummed with friends telling each other about the scary shadows they had been seeing in their rooms recently.
“It looked like some man with wings, but he was made out of birds…”
“That thing looked like a vulture, but with a human body. It was watching me from the window…”
“I have been hearing footsteps all night, but there was nothing. And somebody was murmuring and laughing all along.”
The hey-day of the week was when another football player disappeared with his cheerleader girlfriend. The most spooky factor was that the couple was spending the night together at the girl’s house, and they found stretch marks on the floor next to the bed.
Everyone was wondering what was happening. More and more people were thinking about the legend they had been told about a boy who was a wizard, but everyone was hurting him. So he decided to surround himself with magical creatures and monsters, who would defend him and hurt all those people who bullied him. This boy was Bates Morde.
“Sarah, what happened to you?” Lucy asked one morning in the school after seeing her friend becoming extremely paranoid. She was always looking for Morde while holding a cross.
“He was at my place, Lucy,” she murmured “I saw him. He was standing at my door. and lately, some clown-like creature has been following me. Am I going mad, Lucy?” she panicked.
“No, you’re not,” whispered Lucy. “I have also been very high strung for a very long time. Maybe we should not have stolen from him…”
“That is bullshit, Lucy! This Morde is just some loser, virgin boy, whose pranks were always lame, and he could not comprehend it,” she snapped, but immediately cast a glance backward, looking for Morde.
As the days passed, everyone became more and more paranoid. They had been seeing things that should not have been. More and more started to suffer from insomnia, or extreme anxiety. A few days later, a couple was found dead after committing a dual suicide. They couldn’t bear that much fear and panic attacks. And while all these things were happening, Bates Morde was just playing piano in his mansion, while letting his monster-menagerie make mischief across the town.
“You have chosen the hard way. Now live with it!”
Meanwhile in the school, the lights suddenly went out. The teacher was standing at the blackboard, when the surface suddenly became liquid, and a hand reached out from the liquified board, grabbing the teacher by his neck, dragging him into the dark liquid. In other classrooms, the doors of the cabinets flew wide open and long shadows started to reach out from them, grabbing students and teachers, who then disappeared in the cabinets filled with school excipients.The school was overflowing with screams. The students and the teachers started to run away, hurtling, pushing each other to the ground and trampling on the poor kids.
“Sarah!” Lucy shouted in the fleeing crowd “We have to bring all the stuff back to Morde! He is a freaking psycho!”
“I won’t go to that place again!” she yelled back. Then she followed the crowd.
“Fine!” Lucy murmured and lurched through the crowd. She managed to find the locker, a.k.a. the Gallery of the Brave. But there was only one problem: she couldn’t open it. She had no keys for it, nor did she know the passing code. She grabbed her school bag and started to smash it on the locker, but she was too weak to do any serious damage. Her problems increased when a bunch of thirty-centimeter-tall dwarves appeared with pickaxes that they were using to smash the fleeing people’s feet, luckily with hardly any success. Lucy tried to seize a pickaxe from one dwarf, but the little thing was extremely attached to his pickaxe, so she slammed the creature at the locker, then started to smash the lock with her newly seized tool.
After managing to open the locker, she started to empty her bag and put all of the repository of the Gallery of the Brave in it. She managed to fit everything in, and even if the bag was heavy, she managed to move easily with it. She avoided the fleeing crowd by jumping out the first floor window, but the landing wasn’t the most comfortable for her feet.
Still, Lucy stood up, and hurried up to the old mansion. She barged into the building, heaving heavily.
“Hey!…huhh.. Morde!” she shouted “You psycho, here are your useless toys!”
There was no answer.
“Heeeeey! Can you hear me, you toy-freak pianist?” she continuously yelled, but it seemed that the owner couldn’t hear her.
“HEEEEEY MOOOOOOOORDE!!!!!!!! WHERE ARE YOU?” Lucy became more and more angry, and she started to march all over the house.
“DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE GOT HURT BECAUSE OF YOU? YOU ENTITLED BRAT!!” as she walked towards the piano salon, she didn’t feel any fear of Bates Morde. She was furious and desoled.
“YOU KILLED INNOCENT PEOPLE BECAUSE SOME IDIOTS STOLE SOME KNICKKNACKS FROM YOUR OLD SHACK!!”
While approaching the salon, she heard fragments of sounds resembling the Moonlight Sonata. Lucy found Morde at the piano playing.
“Oh, here you are, you son of a…”
“Please don’t say it,” Morde interrupted. “These people made my house end up like this. They vandalized it, they destroyed my home, and when I gave them the chance to apologize and give back what they took from me, they denied it. You denied it as well, Alicia Rockwell. Why are you so surprised now?”
“Look…” Lucy started. “I have brought everything back to you. All your stupid toys. Just stop what you are doing! People died because of your hysteria!” She didn’t want to, but she started to beg. “Please…stop this madness!”
Morde stood up from the piano and walked up to Lucy, whose heart was beating so fast that it almost exploded.
“Deal,” he grinned, then took away her backpack. He started to toss the pieces of the Gallery of the Brave, and in the end, he was holding the gnome-like figure that Lucy stole from him.
“See? If I put all of these figures on this table, the monsters won’t hurt anybody. They are just parts of a puzzle here. Only I can bring them to life and let them make mischief. Now, everything has stopped. Don’t provoke me to use them again. Now you may leave my house!” he groaned.
Lucy ran away from that place as fast as she could. She didn’t look back. She just hoped that Bates Morde would stick to his promise, and wouldn’t let his menagerie free again. Or that there wouldn’t be any more adventurous teens, who would steal his beloved knickknacks for fun or to prove how brave they were.