Deadtown Abbey Part 12

DOWNTON ABBEY MEETS LOVECRAFT MEETS NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in Deadtown Abbey.

It is a world few of us have ever known. A world of masters and servants, where everyone knows one’s place. A world of newfangled technology like telephones and motorcars. A world of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and monsters of the deep. At the center of his necropolis estate lives the Earl of Monroe, who must hold the family he loves and the servants he trusts together against the eldritch onslaught of this rapidly changing world.

a old looking house with tentacles behind it
Deadtown Abbey by Putnam Finch

PART 12

It wasn’t all for naught in Velma’s mind, however, because she noticed the new heir and Lady Maureen having a quiet and private conversation while young Sheryl was holding forth. “Do tell us more about your proof of the only religion worth following,” the dowager countess said to her granddaughter, sincerely, if somewhat obliquely.

“Thank you, Grand-mère. I don’t mean to denigrate anyone’s service in the Boer War fighting smelly natives, but the only metaphysical reality is the fight between the Jesus and his former best friend and partner, the Satan fellow.”

Lord Monroe knew that his daughter was a free spirit and, yes, a creative thinker, but he couldn’t help but bristle a bit at her boldness. “I assure you that one’s metaphysical status is greatly affected when one is bitten by a zombie, darling. The living dead have no souls.”

“Besides, what possible ‘proof’ could you have regarding the Jesus?” Eleanor said snidely. “The vicar tells us that our faith is only as strong as our willful ignorance.”

“Oh, the vicar again,” Sheryl repeated with a cheeky mixture of sympathy and disgust. “Here’s my proof. I tried the Christish summoning spell, and—”

“Dinner is ready,” came the booming voice of Foree as he stood to the side of the doorway. Since no one cared what childish facsimile of evidence would be provided by Her Youthful Ladyship, the group as a whole moved towards the dining room with a murmur of conversation meant to block out any further talk. This left Lady Sheryl sitting alone on the settee, still poised as she had been to share her secret.

“Milady, will you be joining for dinner?” Foree said gently, the way he always spoke to the daughters of Lord and Lady Monroe.

“They fear what I have to say, Foree. They don’t want to admit to themselves that I have one of the Jesus characters filling me with faith and power.”

Foree didn’t know to what she could be referring, but if he were to speak his true personal thoughts—something a butler avoided, of course—he would have said that it was the very fact that the Jesus religion offered no actual power to anyone that made it so attractive to the upper classes. The Jesus and his Father and their Spirit lived at the top of the (metaphorical) mountain, the head of the holy household, the three fathers of the family (the metaphor broke down, admittedly)—all of these were rigid and unbending. In that religion one did not aspire to become a Jehovah. The best one could do would be to serve one.

As soon as the upper classes had learned about Christism several generations earlier, the characters of the new faith supplanted the old gods as better for the nobility’s purposes, forcing the lower classes to at least act as if they believed in the whole story.

The only problem with that, of course, was that the old gods responded to requests if the correct sacrifice were made. It had been thus since the dawn of man, because it was what worked. It would be quite an accomplishment to convince the working man and woman, who were used to saving their pay to buy a sacrificial animal for guaranteed results, to embrace a religion based on phantom triplets and metaphysical IOUs. Foree embraced it as he embraced all official traditions of the family, of course, as was a butler’s duty.

As Lady Sheryl gave him a polite smile and passed through the doorway after the others, Foree closed the door. As he did so, he realized that if anyone could find proof that the Jesus and his lot did answer summons and provide favors, that—combined with the upper classes’ backing of Christism—might be too much for poor folks to resist.

* * *

Perhaps inspired by the confidence shown in her by Lady Sheryl, Mrs Gonk turned out a legendary meal. Meat, pudding, soup, everything was whipped into shape by the cook and Dawn, and the footmen seemed to dance on air as they lifted each tray and dish from the staging table and glided up the stairs.

Miss O’Dea could see that Roger, the poor boy, was shaky with every step he took. Why was he so nervous? The new heir didn’t seem so bad, and His Lordship probably wouldn’t be dying for twenty years anyway, so what was the problem? He was acting so odd, especially after the bravery he had shown in fighting off those werewolves the month before at a visit to her home. (He had been good enough to accompany her with the bags of grain she had … procured … from the stores at Deadtown Abbey.) The sun had set and the full moon rose, and it had seemed like the huge creatures were everywhere. A few minutes after moonrise, O’Dea’s sister and her nephew had been torn to pieces by what used to be her sister’s husband. He must have been scratched the month before and never said anything about it! As soon as the moonlight hit him, he erupted into a huge grey man-wolf and ended his wife and child’s lives in seconds.

Roger had been able to jab a silver pie-lifter into the monster’s face before it attacked O’Dea and himself as well, and the precious metal poisoned its wolf part to death in seconds, leaving behind only the now at-peace human. Or that’s what she remembered, anyway. Perhaps it was a trick of the light and shadows. All they ever had as evidence in these attacks was a denuded human body, none of the wolf left in it.

They blockaded themselves inside her sister’s house, using her silver as projectiles as the werewolves attacked in wave after wave. The wolves had gotten hold of Roger at one point and swept him from the house. O’Dea thought that surely he (and so herself as well) was lost, but less than a minute later Roger returned to the house, battered but alive. Then, miraculously, the werewolves’ attempts to gain the house fell off almost immediately and the pack ran off into the woods. Soon other screams could be heard in the distance. Dazed, O’Dea and Roger sat in the darkened, quiet house with the clotting remains of her sister’s family.

She had to thank the gods that her relations hadn’t simply been bitten or scratched and then left alive. That would have meant that at the next full moon they would have changed into monsters themselves and continued the murderous cycle. That was something that had obviously just happened to a dozen neighbors in that village, a half-day’s journey away from Monroeville. It seemed like the whole town had been turned in the six months previous to Miss O’Dea’s visit with Roger. Dear, dear Roger.

It was deathly dark inside the house then, at least until Roger used his Pist-O-Liter to light a couple of fags and then handed her one. They each enjoyed watching the red glow a few inches from their faces, and the hot smoke entering their mouths. Friends who could smoke together, as Roger and O’Dea did, communicated in ways that didn’t require words. They had survived something together; they were too far apart in age to be lovers, of course, but working together in the house and now fighting off waves of supranatural beings, they were friends for life. It was a bond that Miss O’Dea had never had before, and she cherished it.

“Roger,” she said now as he passed by with an empty serving bowl.

“Oi, Miss O’Dea, how are yeh?” Roger said brightly, but she picked up on the dark circles under his eyes and the sweat beading on his forehead.

“What’s wrong, my boy? If you’re feeling unwell, Mister Foree could—”

“If I was on fire, that old goat wouldn’t cross the street to piss on my leg. No use lookin’ to him to save me.”

Save you? What—”

“I’ve got to go upstairs and face the music,” he said mournfully. As he said it, he looked in her eyes, and they shared a look that wouldn’t have been possible before they fought off a murderous pack of werewolves together. “Take care of yourself, Judith.”

She couldn’t get another word in before he had grabbed a tray and forced his leaden feet to move and carry him back up the stairs to the dining room.

NEXT WEEK: PART 13 — CHRISTISM VS. THE OLD BELIEFS

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