Swing Low

The house is not as old as it looks. It’s the kind of old style manor you’d see in that rare class of American B Horror film that can afford to shoot on location. Three such films had, in fact, been shot here. Only one of them, “Ghost Story,” ever hit the direct to video market, and that had only ever been released on Betamax. The first film situated there, “Dark Deeds” had ended when the director followed three of the main cast in checking himself into an asylum to deal with stress. The third film, “The Barghest” had ended just a week ago. The ambulances had come and gone with their body bags, the police with their notepads. Only the flies remained, along with the yellow tape.
The house makes certain noises in the night. The floorboards creak. The walls groan. The shutters clatter. It is like any other old house in this respect. It is quite unlike almost any other house, however, in that, when someone inside hears these noises and feels the chill run up their spine and the hairs on their neck stand to attention, and they say to themselves, “It’s just the house settling,” they do not buy themselves even the slightest reprieve.
This is because even as they say it, they know, with absolute certainty, that it is most definitely not the sound of the house settling. It is the sound of the house unsettling.
And as the house unsettles, as it creaks and groans and clatters, someone ducks under the police tape. He jingles in his pocket for a moment, curses flowing from his lips in a light, and none to wet, drizzle. He is an odd figure in these modern nights, a tailored suit that has worn away almost to rags completed with a top hat that is more ratty than a rat.
“Aha!” he cries at last, drawing out the item he was looking for. A simple metal key with the teeth filed away. He dusts it off and, with a flourish, places it in the keyhole of the house. The lock pulls back with a satisfying click. The door opens with an equally satisfying squeal as the rusty hinges turn inward.
It is as though the door were specifically designed to produce the ambience of a haunted house. This was, naturally, not the actual case. No effort of design could have resulted in the peculiarities of the house.
The enters the house, and begins to sing soft and low as he takes the rickety stairs one careful step at a time, “Swing low, sweet chariot” down, down, into the basement of the house. “Coming for to carry me home.”
A few decades back, when the house was new, the basement was floored, carpeted, and contained a rather nice selection of wine. A significant portion of the floor has, however, been dug up, and the hard stony ground made to look like loose soil, for the benefit of a particularly unpleasant scene “Barghest”. The police had done their best to check for bodies buried in it, but found the loose soil didn’t go very far down at all before you hit rocks and hard packed dirt.
All in all, it was going to make the man’s work so much easier.
“If I get there, before you do,” he sings somberly.
“Coming for to carry me home,” sing a chorus of voices that sound no more than an echo.
A wide white grin splits the man’s dark face, “I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.” As he sings he draws a circle in the dirt.
“Coming for to carry me home,” the voices sing, louder now. The ground inside the hole falls away, and a voice sings back.
“If you get there before I do,” it sings in a smooth, mellow voice.
“Coming for to carry me home,” the voices are far more substantial now, growing in volume.
“Tell all my friends I’m coming too,” a head emerges from the circle, followed soon after by shoulders and the body of a tall man-like being, though too hairy and low of brow to be a human.
“Coming for to carry me home,” the voices chorus.
“Swing low, sweet chariot,” they all sing together, “Coming for to carry me home.”
The man bows before the man-thing, “Welcome back, sir.”
The manish creature stands a moment and breathes the first new breaths of a new reality.
“I thought that would never end.”
“There was some suspicion,” the man says in a thick creole accent, “That that would be da case. But we’s just beginning, Papa.”

When one gets right down to it, Ireland is not a particularly spooky place. Between famine, rebellion, war, terrorism, and all the other harsh cards history has dealt, it is often quite a scary place, but not a spooky one. Something about this blessed Emerald Isle, where St. Peter fought with dragons, oh yes, not mere snakes, but dragons, and won, has left a stain of wholesomeness that even the wailing of banshees in the dark nights can’t quite dismiss.
There is, one place, however, where that sense of comfort does not hold sway. It is a quiet place, for not even the Banshee’s howl there. A lantern guides the way. A horrid looking beast of a man, who looks like every picture of a hairy barbarian you’ve ever seen, holds the lantern. When the light flickers and the shadows shift, however, his visage flickers to that of a charming and innocent young man… perhaps even a woman. But, the flicker changes and it is gone again.
Behind him trails a man in a fresh new suit, with hair as slick as the city, a calm and perfect step, and an air of total control. Behind him is a gaunt woman who looks to be nothing but skin and bones and an overpriced pleather corset. Everything else there is as silent as the grave, but he has a song on his lips, one he sings without worry. “Tonton Bouki, Tonton Bouki, Ou ap dòmi? Ou ap dòmi? Lévé pou bat tanbou-a, Lévé pou bat tanbou-a Ding ding dong! Ding ding dong!”
“You must be out of songs by now,” the flickering voice of the lantern bearer says.
“I don’t know,” the man says in the French accent that only foreigners educated in French Universities have, “I think I still remember Allouette, Alloutte.” He smiles, showing a great ivory teeth.
“Please don’t,” the lantern bearer says.
“I don’t think you need worry,” he replies, “We’re here.”
The place is very quiet.
There is a particularly distinct absence of the sound of things slithering through the lank, gray grass. The man in the suit taps his shinning black cane upon the ground once, twice, thrice.
There is a pause.
He turns back to the woman behind him.
“My dear Mademoiselle,” he says, with a slight bow, “I would hope by now I wouldn’t have to spell these things out.”
The woman looks at him, blankly.
“I think,” the lantern bearer says, “That she wants them dug up first.”
“Well, Jacques, that is why you have a shovel. Dig.”
The man nods, and sets his lantern down. It is surrounded by pale gray moths. He takes the shovel off his back and begins to dig.
The other man begins singing Allouette under his breath. The first man digs faster, grumbling in equally low tones.
The silence around them eats the noise.
After a time, he pulls up a headless corpse. And heaves it up above.
The other man kicks it with a superbly polished shoe.
“Get up Sammy, boy, we got work to do.”
And the corpse gets up.
“Let’s find you a head.”
The woman raises a hand, and the ground heaves. It roils and trembles, and then mounds rise up and the dirt sloughs away to reveal filthy, grimy, brown and gray and black skeletons. The bones of dragons, standing tall, and spreading skinless wings into the sky.
Presently, the sound of hoofbeats breaks the silence.

The hoofbeats do not break the silence, so much as splish and splosh mud all over it. The horses do likewise. There shoes are rusty, their lungs full of water, their skin wrinkled as walnuts, their manes flopping in their eyes, their tailcoats reeking fish and sea water, and their cigars stubbornly refusing not to light. Only one horse managed to keep his top hat, but only by virtue of a hermit crab taking up residence in it.
Wet, sullen, and in ill temper, they plod forward, shivering and dragging the damp bloated carriage behind it, one wheel long fallen off.
They stop before the cyclopean doors of steely gray granite carved with squamous shapes and horrible effigies. The door to the carriage opens, and a small deluge pours out like a very small exploding dam. It seeps across the carvings on the floor.
It is followed by a tattered boot that shows a holed sock underneath. A tall, thin man emerges, pulling something that could be mistaken for a fish if it only had more spine and fewer eyes out of what could be mistaken for a suit if it had more buttons and fewer patches.
“That is the las’ time I travel by sea, you understand, the last time!”
The horses look at him with the cold dead looks of a choir who is sick of the priest preaching to them while drunk.
“Ya, ya,” he says. Then he strides up in his flapping shoes and raps hard upon the looming doors. “Oye, wake up in dere, ya loon! In strange Ages, even Death may die, and no Age is stranger than that of Peace!”
He keeps banging on the door until there is a rather violent tremor in the zigguraut. Then, after a moment, the door scrapes along the vast stone floor as a mass of tentacles and polypous flesh heaves it open.
“We’s got work to be doing, big man!”
There is a sound like the death throes of Brobdingnag.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License