Good night, Countess

G

Chapter 1

“Good night, Countess,” he droned solemnly, his head bowed slightly but watching his Lady as she swept down the grand staircase and across the slate floor towards the entrance with a flapping of dark, heavy velvet. She held his gaze with her steely grey eyes and said – as she did every night, “Good night, Arthur. Keep the place tidy for me won’t you?”

Arthur didn’t reply, but instead just smiled gravely — the sort of smile that starts tentatively at the corners of the mouth but never quite makes it up to the eyes. The Countess had never been great at reading emotions, and Arthur had, over almost two hundred years, managed to cultivate a smile which did at least ensure he would stay, as it were, off the menu.

With a nod, the Countess swept out of the grand doors and down the long path outside, cape billowing behind her as she floated past the grotesque statues that lined the path. Arthur barely gave it any thought that the Countess didn’t make any sound as she crossed the gravel path and quickly disappeared into shadow. He turned on his heel and headed with a limp towards the great stairway to get on with his chores for the night – the great doors of the entrance swinging silently to a close, and a gentle click denoting the latch dropping.

Arthur paused, frowning. He’d have to look into that, it just wasn’t right. No matter how hard he tried, if he left the doors long enough they lost their characteristic rusty scream and traditional booming close and ended up sounding a bit… domestic. Well, it certainly didn’t sound intimidating, and that was the whole point, wasn’t it?

In the old days, before the Count had died, leaving the Countess in charge, Arthur’s chores had been more… interesting. He would have started cleaning upstairs and worked his way down. That way, the grime, dirt — and in this case, blood and bones — kept heading downwards and you didn’t run the risk of having to scrub the same place twice over. With a long brush he would have started with the ceiling of the drawing room — so called because the guests were, ahem, drawn here as part of the breakfast frivolities — and continued his way slowly all the way to the dungeons, making his way to bed as screams carried on the wind would herald the Count’s arrival back from his hunt.

These days, however, Arthur had a much more challenging clean-up, as his mistress had developed an obsessive compulsion for everything to be neat and organised, and it was amazing how untidy everything became over just one night in even a slightly haunted castle. However, tonight Arthur wasn’t going to tidy up and wasn’t going to follow his usual set of chores, because tonight, Arthur was going to escape.

About the author

Graham Ormiston

Graham is a creative who'd love to be a writer when he's all grown up. He's a fan of thriller authors such as Michael Crichton, poetic wordsmiths like Thomas Hardy, and fantasy writers like Terry Pratchett. He also likes some books by people who are still alive.

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Graham is a creative who'd love to be a writer when he's all grown up. He's a fan of thriller authors such as Michael Crichton, poetic wordsmiths like Thomas Hardy, and fantasy writers like Terry Pratchett. He also likes some books by people who are still alive.