HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:
Dark Divinations edited by Naching T. Kassa
It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun.
Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown.
Choose your fate.
Choose your DARK DIVINATION.
An excerpt from Dark Divinations
The Pocket Watch
Northern England 1883
Gretchen Windemere stood tall in her sapphire taffeta bustle dress, her neck and vermillion hair adorned with sapphire velvet ribbons and pearls. She smiled and nodded as her new husband gave her a tour of his family estate in Northern England. She’d never been inside such an antique home in her life. Growing up in Manhattan, she was no stranger to glamor but her family mansion was no older than 1780. Harrison’s estate had been built in the 1500s, seen kings and queens, lords and dukes, and at least eleven Lady Windermeres in its time. She was the newest and most unlikely mistress of the house being American and “new money.”
“Gretchen? Did you hear me?”
“I’m sorry?” She turned, taking in her new husband, Harrison. He was bright and trim and easy-on-the-eyes. All the things young girls like Gretchen looked for in a mate.
“This is to be your private study.” He smiled, wrapping his arm around her waist. “Would you like to stay here while I attend to some business?” Harrison’s butler, Prescott, stood by inspecting her with almost a sneer. She supposed the right answer would be yes.
“I’ll return for you at luncheon.” Harrison kissed her once on the cheek and left with his butler in tow.
Gretchen removed her traveling gloves and took in the room, admiring the antiques and placement of all the furniture. The color scheme of the room was very last-century, harkening back to the white and gold of Versailles. The desk sat in the middle of the room, facing the two front windows that looked out over the gardens to the right or left of a dainty golden mirror. A luxurious settee sat in front of the massive gold-encrusted fireplace mantle. A toasty roost if she were chilled. The chaise lounge near the closest window looked a sublime place for an afternoon nap. Everything seemed to be in the precise place it should be.
How very efficient the last Lady Windermere had been. So efficient, Gretchen felt the need to adjust the chaise ever so slightly askew just to break up the perfection.
Gretchen’s life in Manhattan had been too perfect. Her mother had groomed her from birth to be the prettiest, the most refined, the classiest girl in all of New York City. Her friends were Vanderbilts and Astors. Their pastimes were tea parties and cotillions. She’d been taught the manners, the traditions, and the tastes of the extremely wealthy. But after fulfilling her mother’s purpose for her—marrying a titled man—she was of no use to her anymore. It was her sister’s turn to catch a lord, duke, or count. It was all so cold, Gretchen could barely stand it.
Luckily, she just happened to be in love with Harrison. They had met at the Vanderbilt Ball that spring, she in a forest sprite costume and he dressed as a matador. He made her laugh before she knew his title. His quirky disposition and a promise of a life away from the New York City social scene sealed the deal. By September they were wed and as October drew to a close, they’d returned to his country estate to settle in for the winter.
Satisfied with her private study furniture arrangement being “not-quite-perfect” Gretchen set to the arduous task of writing her family. First, she’d write to her mother—saying all the things she’d been taught to say—then shortly to her father, and finally to her sister.
At half-past eleven, Harrison strolled into the room, catching Gretchen as she stared out into the garden.
“Love, I have come to take you to lunch, but first, a surprise.”
“You’re going to spoil me with all the gifts,” Gretchen said, turning to find him holding out a red velvet box.
“You deserve all this and more. I can’t believe I convinced you to come overseas. To leave your family…”
“My family is nothing to me, you know that. Though, I do miss my beloved Annie.”
“There is a reason I fell in love with you. A woman who loves her horse more than her family. How am I so lucky?”
She smiled. “I do love riding.”
“But this gift isn’t from me, it’s from my mother.”
“Oh.” Gretchen’s heart pulled when he spoke of his family. Both his father and mother were deceased. They’d left him only a few years apart and the wounds were still very close to the surface. “I’m honored.” She took the box from him and opened it.
Inside was a golden pocket watch, by its appearance very old, but shined to the hilt.
“It was my mother’s. I’m only sorry she couldn’t give it to you herself.”
The pocket watch was rather large for a lady to carry, but had evidently been repurposed for Lady Windermere. A golden chain enabled the owner to wear it as a necklace and Gretchen looped it over her neck, admiring the impression of the Windermere crest on the front. Gretchen pushed the crown and the door flipped open, displaying the hands of the clock inching forward. On the inside of the door, a mirror had been inlaid at its base. Although the brilliancy of the glass was faded with age, Gretchen could see her Josephine curls and velvet choker in the reflection. She closed the watch with a click and hugged Harrison.
“Thank you. It’s beautiful. I feel so honored to have something of your mother’s.”
Harrison smiled sadly, taking her hand.