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.
If the motor of the automobile and the rush of air had not been so loud at the breakneck pace of fourteen miles per hour, one could have heard a pin drop.
After a moment or two, Sheryl said, “Mrs Gonk?”
The cook turned her gaze from Lady Sheryl’s face to the back of the chauffeur Grimes’s head and back to Lady Sheryl before breaking into a huge grin and saying, “To the Satan, you say? The Christish trickster god or whatever that is?”
Even though she was in no way having a laugh and was telling the complete truth, Sheryl couldn’t help but smile herself at the sheer force of Mrs Gonk’s giant grin. “The very one,” she said, almost laughing, then added, “Why are we smiling, exactly?”
“Begging your pardon, milady,” the cook said, her face returning slowly to normal, “I know that your lot—excuse me, but you know, noble folk—go to Christish churches and such, but I never thought any of you actually believed in such …” She considered her words carefully: Sheryl was a complete dear, but one never did well to insult an employer’s family member. She finished with delicacy she hadn’t known she possessed, “… in such stories.”
Lady Sheryl was the furthest one could be from insulted. “No, that’s exactly my point! I have always thought the Christ Mythos was a bit too spot-on, you know? But it’s considered very base to raise any skeptical voice, because no one among the peers really cares much one way or another. It’s just a pleasant fiction.”
“That was your … hy-poth-es-is?” Mrs Gonk said, quite proud she remembered the word.
“Indeed, yes! I have been reading about Faraday and his lot recently with electricity and thought: Why not put my hypothesis to the test? Everyone I know who has ever tried to summon the Jesus of Christ or Jehovah or the spirit person has failed to glean even the slightest favor from that entity, let alone an appearance to do one’s bidding.”
“So you found a spell to compel the trickster god to make an appearance?”
“Yes. I am so glad I chose you to confide in, Mrs Gonk.”
The cook absolutely beamed. First the chickens and now a lady of the manor talking to her as a trusted friend … it had become quite the day. She noticed that they had passed through the village of Monroeville and they would be at Deadtown Abbey before much longer, so she tried to move things along by saying, “And did he appear?”
It was Sheryl’s turn to beam with pride. “Well, first I had to remember what I had heard in church about the summoning spell, this ‘prayer.’ I asked the vicar how to contact the Jesus or that type, knowing he would frown upon my calling the Lucifer or the Satan. Same chap, different name is all.”
“He told you? Isn’t that quite powerful magicks to Christists?”
“It’s hard to explain. The vicar talks endlessly each week about prayer and salvation and such, but he never seems to think one can expect much from it. I suppose he’s keeping the good stuff to himself?”
“The priestly class guards its power jealously in any religion, milady.”
“Quite true, Mrs Gonk. In any case, I tried an ‘intercessionary prayer’ to the Prince of this World—”
“Quite a cheeky name, for a bedtime story,” the cook said, but instantly apologized and said, “I suppose that’s my own hypothesis.”
“Very good,” Sheryl said, and saw that the house was now visible from the road and she would have to finish her confession. “I did the prayer, not really thinking anything would happen, of course. But then there was a flash of smoke and an awful stink of sulfur and there he was, Mister Satan himself.”
Mrs Gonk was listening now with rapt attention, her earlier snark vanished.
“He spoke in a voice lower than Mister Foree’s and said, You rang? Cheeky was the right word!” she said brightly, and continued, “I told him that indeed I had and commanded him straight away to prove his alleged supranatural nature for my scientific enquiry.”
“Goodness! What did he do?”
“He laughed, Mrs Gonk. He said straight to my face, to a daughter of the Earl of Monroe, that I would have to pay for any favors I ‘demanded’ of him.”
“Pay? Oh, yes—as I said, his price was my soul, which I’m not using anyway as it doesn’t exist, and so I signed his scroll of human flesh. Quite naff, that. In any case, he said that he granted my demand, and disappeared in the same smelly way he came.”
“But, milady, you left something out, if I may say so. What did you demand of the creature?”
“Ha! I must make this quick, as we are pulling into the garage. I hadn’t ever expected such an appearance, since the Christish pantheon is usually quite thin on the ground, if you get my meaning, Mrs Gonk. Once he told me his silly price, I was so amused that I thought of the grandest power possible to request—power over life and death!”
Lady Sheryl laughed then, and the cook almost immediately joined in the gay feeling. Grimes stopped the motor and came to Sheryl’s side and opened the door. But it took a moment for the noblewoman and the family cook to get their hilarity laughed out. Both of them were red in the face—of course, Mrs Gonk was always a little red in her face, but now especially so—and tears of laughter streamed from their eyes.
For his part, “Flyboy” Grimes could not help but start to chuckle at the infectious atmosphere, despite the fact that he had not been able to hear two words the women were saying. It was a good four or five minutes before all three were able to keep a straight face enough to leave the garage and enter the house.
“You will keep this between us, won’t you, Mrs Gonk? I wouldn’t want to give the others a laugh like we just had. I don’t think it would be motivated by the same spirit of conviviality.”
“Spirit!” Mrs Gonk was barely able to squeeze the word out before they all doubled over with laughter again. But when she could once again breathe, she swore on the Mad Arab’s book that she would keep safe Her Ladyship’s delightful little story.
* * *
Not long after Lady Sheryl and Mrs Gonk returned to Monroeville Hall, a hired motorcar traveled down the gravel and into the circular drive in front of the great manor. As with the Duke’s arrival the week before, the family was arranged to one side and the staff to the other. Lord Monroe was visibly annoyed that his youngest daughter had not remembered the Hall’s future heir, Johnny Shambley, would be visiting that day, and that she was still freshening herself and her ensemble as their most important guest pulled up to the house.
But no matter: Here was the future of Monroeville Hall, George’s cousin Johnny Shambley, who George was sure would be as noble as their dear, lost Stu—
Skinny, nebbishy, and lantern-jawed with a forehead so high it looked like it was pushing his hairline back out of spite, the heir spilled from the door that the hack opened for him, resembling nothing so much as a praying mantis realizing that he had just mated and his partner was eyeing him with a smack of her lips.
After him, the woman who George presumed was Johnny’s mother popped out of the car like the contents of a squeezed boil. She was rounded in strange ways, concave in the front and convex in the back, her head perching on the end of a great citrus rind. As her son looked like a nervous garden insect, she gave the general impression of a giant cricket batsman’s glove.
Lord Monroe shook his head slightly to get the imagery out, and strode forwards to greet his new heir, his hand extended and a smile freshly placed upon his face. “Cousin John, I presume? What a pleasure—”
“Johnny,” the man said, looking pallidly at Lord Monroe’s hand and then grasping as if unused to the practice of shaking hands. “I don’t say the other name. It has … associations.”
“Of course,” George said, although that was not at all the thought that had come into his mind in response. But he didn’t say anything about anyone possibly being a complete loon, instead acknowledging the man’s mother. “I am Lord Monroe. Welcome to our home. You must be Cousin Gargoyle—”
She looked up sharply.
“—Cousin Gaylen, of course, is what I just said. Won’t you … em …” He stopped off making sound because he had ceased breathing entirely when he saw her pet. “H-How charming! Is that a Madagascar Man-Ferret?”
When she spoke, her voice was as pleasant and soothing as a cool bath after a long walk. “I am pleased to introduce you to John Jenkin,” she said brightly, holding the blighted-looking brown … thing.
Lord Monroe found his head darting back and forth between the man, his mother, and her thing. “Em, associations? John—Johnny—? What is that—charming—John, you say?—creature—”
A hand was placed on his shoulder and he heard his wife speak, and realized that he had never been so glad to hear her voice in their twenty-five years together. “If I’m not mistaken, Cousin Gaylen’s little friend is a dog-snouted pentadactyl monkey rat. From deepest Sumatra, yes?”
Gaylen’s face showed her delight and surprise. “Indeed, my dear Countess!”
“Please, call me Barbara.” She extended her hand so that they might walk together and she could introduce the family and staff. Gaylen took her hand and Lord Monroe watched them walk off together, John Jenkin being playfully bounced like a baby made of hair jerky.
“You see what I am dealing with,” Johnny said.
Breeding kicked in at last and George said “Of course! I must say, you bear up well, all things considered.”
“You must never allow it in your room at night.”
“I—em, will remember that. I assure you I have no plans to share a bed with anyone but my wife,” Lord Monroe said, then realized that was a bit familiar and added, “We all prefer our beds not to contain pterodactyl dog monkeys, or what have you. Won’t you follow me?”
The tall and lanky heir gave a polite nod and kept slow pace with Lord Monroe as the family was introduced. “The Countess is going in with your mother, so please allow me to introduce my eldest daughter, Lady Maureen,” George said, and watched carefully if this interesting but odd man elicited any reaction from Maureen. It really would be perfect if they fell in love, he thought, and then chastised himself for possibly rushing things in his mind just a tad.
NEXT WEEK: PART 10 — THE VIRGIN VAMPIRE ASTONISHES