Monday, 28 October 2019

A little horror story; Nightmare on Swinnendael...

There was a strange sound that woke up Belle Zonneschut. It was the middle of the night. She peeked though the curtains of her four poster bed but could see nothing. Not the painted ceiling, not the marbled wallpanels, nor the furniture in it. She was only married for two months to Carel Polyander and this was the first night she spend alone at Huis ter Swinnendael. He had to leave this evening on an errand for the Prince of Orange. He would be back soon. Wouldn't he? Silence...

It must have been a bad dream. She laid her head to rest on her pillow. Adamant to go back to sleep. But wait... There it was again.... Some kind of scratching. It must have been the wind. A tree branch scratching against a windowpane. Nothing to worry about. There it was again. A lengthy screech this time...

But wait. This was not her family house in The Hague. With the century old chestnut tree caressing the windows on the left of the second floor. This was a moated country house. The nearest trees stood at least 30 meters away, and those were clipped boxhedges. No not a tree...

Oh why was Carel not here? He would know what it was. Surely it could not be a ghost, could it? 

Silly me, she thought, I must have drunk a glass of wine too many. Or was the pheasant undercooked? It was probably the blancmange with those poached pears. They easily give you gas and bad dreams. Although... Could one really trust those newfangled potatoes?

Belle's ponderings about her lonely diner that evening was rudely disturbed by more scratching and a loud BANG. She sat upright in her bed. With eyes wide open she peered into the darkness around her. Whatever that was, was not done by an undercooked pheasant. She stepped out of her warm bed into the chilly room.

She found the bellpull and rang for the servants. Normally she would hear a distant bell ringing. And servants feet running towards her room to do her bidding. But now she heard nothing. She pulled again and again. More furious with every pull. But not a sound. With one last pull the rope in the ceiling snapped and the embroidered bell pull fell down on the floor. No bell had rung.
Godfried Schalken, Lady with a candle.

Now Belle really started to get scared. She found the door handle. the metal was so cold. She turned it and opened the door. Expecting to see light in the art gallery. But it was pitch black. Only the faintest moonlight fell through the lantern on top of the roof. But that, together with the candle she found and lit, was not enough to dispell the dark shadows in the corners. Belle walked up to the balustrade and looked down. She could hear the sounds coming from behind the diningroom door.

"Who is there?" she asked sharply. Surprised at the fear that was audible in her voice.
"Don't go there. You are not invited..."  a sombre voice whispered in her ear. Belle turned around but there was nobody there. The only eyes she could see in the shadows were those behind the varnish of the old painted portraits on the wall. Cold but watchful eyes. Belle decided that she had to know to what exactly she was not invited. It must be the servants. Making good use of their masters absense. How dared they! she was the mistress of this house. And she was going to get to the bottom of this. The fear that had gripped her moments ago had dissipated and turned into anger.

Belle walked towards the staircase. When she stepped on the top step she heard another bodyless voice behind her.
"The yearly banquet of the Zonneschuts of old. Those poor sods who lost their souls and died without the mercy of redemption. Don't go there..." Belle looked back but there was again nobody in sight. Belle hesitated. Lost souls? The servants are having a laugh at my expense!

Belle rushed down the stairs and felt the cold marble tiles of the hall under her bare feet. The candle snuffed out when she ran down the stairs. Now only the pale moonlight that shone through the windows remained. In front of the diningroom door she clearly heard the scratching and squeaking. She looked around her in the empty room. The portraits seemed to be watching her every move. Holding their breath. A loud bang from behind the door brought her back to the here and now.

"Well, I am warned... But why stop now?" she whispered. She put her hands on the door and wanted to push them open when she heard what seamed like a dozen voices whisper in alarm, "Go back, go back!" She shook her head in an attempt to shrug of her fear.  She pushed and the doors swung open. But nothing could have prepared her for what was in that diningroom.

The room was a mess with red eyed rats large and small crawling over the tables and into dishes. Eating the rotten foods and drinking the putrid wines that stood everywhere. The scratching and squeaking stopped immediately as the door opened. A chill made Belle shiver...

"She is not one of us..." the rats said as one. "She is alive. She still has her soul... Give us your soul! REDEEM US!" The rats, ghosts of Zonneschuts of passed ages turned to her. Adament to eat her soul out of her. Desperate to stop wandering this earth in perpetuety after death. Belle screamed her longs out. Turned and ran as quick as her feet could carry her. But he rats were faster and gained in on her. She could hear their voices rasping 'Your soul. Give us a bite of it!" She could feel their claws sink in her skin as they ran up here nightgown to reach her neck. She missed a step and fell....

She kept falling and falling and never hit the ground. Instead she woke up screaming. Cold sweat all over her body. It must have been a bad dream. But wait... There was a sound.... Some kind of scratching.

The End... or is it?


  1. Goodness Mr H, you have really 'turned the screw!' scary stuff, you really have a talent for storytelling. I once assisted the reading of the 'SleepyHollow' horror story in the actual Church at Sleep Hollow in NY upstate. It was halloween, a dark night and the actors were in period costume, it was amazing. I love your little red table and candelabra ! Great post my dear ,, xxx huggss

  2. Thank you for the compliment Mrs. M. I am glad that you like my little story.
    Performing Sleepy Hollow in Sleepy Hollow at Halloween will indeed have an added value to the suspence of the story. :-)
    I wanted to add a little story to introduce all the rats and mice I have bought from Elly's Estate. Same as the red table. The diningroomtable with the White linnen table cloth is actualy a stack of travelguides and a White hankerchief.

    I am very happy about the two candelabra. I was given one as a birthday present two years ago. And as luck would have it I found a second one a few months ago. So now I have a set to put on the diningtable. How great is that? :-)


  3. Iewwwww, écht een eng, griezelig verhaal, Huibrecht, je hebt onverwachte talenten, joh!! Geweldig goed geschreven, ik zat er helemaal in en tegen het einde had ik gewoonweg de kriebels. Die heb ik niet gauw, ik ben niet zo gauw bang aangelegd, maar het is jou gelukt ;O!! Ik ben benieuwd hoe het afloopt...
    Prachtig zoals je de scene hebt opgebouwd én beschreven. Nou, zoals je ziet: ik ben "terug van vakantie", dus als ik even de tijd kan vinden en alles weer op de rit heb, mail ik je ;).
    Groetjes, Ilona

    1. Hoi Ilona, blij dat je ervan genoten hebt. Het leek mij een leuke manier om de muizen, ratten en 2 schedel kralen met jullie te delen. En ja hoe het verhaal afloopt... Dat hangt van de lezer af. :-)

  4. Oh Huibrecht! What a delightfully thrilling tale that sucked me right in! It's like all the horror films where you scream at the screen "Don't go in there you idiot! What are you thinking?!?" But in reality our curiosity gets the better and we stumble mindlessly into the fray! You hope when Belle awoke the second time she stayed put. But a good story is not a safe one! Great writing!
    And best of all it was wonderful to see such treasures laid out, even as the rats descended upon them! Amazing pieces, and so much fun to have them wrapped around a scary tale!

    1. Glad you like it, Jodi. And yes curiosity always gets the better of us. Even if that turns out to be the bad choice. And like many suspense stores the end is left open. For you to fill. Perhaps the scratching Belle hears aftervwaking is just her companiondog Quintus. Trying to get into her room. Feeling that his mistress had a bad dream... Or the nightmare starts all over again...

  5. Hihi leuk spookverhaal!
    fijne dag,
    groetjes van Marijke

    1. Dank je wel, Marijke. Blij dat je het leuk vindt. :-)

  6. CHiLLING! I'm actually sitting on the edge of my seat!!!

    1. I am glad that you enjoyed it. Part two cones at the next hallows eve. :-)

  7. Brrrrr… it feels as if the temperature in my room was falling while reading this post. ;O) What a wonderful story - and very spooky and exciting. And although this was a big horror for poor Belle it's somehow a relief that the potatoes were proven innocent. *grin*

    Bravo also for the stunning installation of this horror banquet of the lost souls. You have quite a collection of gorgeous rats made by Georgia Marfels (I love her work). And now - sweeter dreams to Belle!


    1. Yes Birgit, the patatoes go free. They would perhaps not be so innocent if the patatoes were made by Georgia Marfels too. ;-) I love the little mice and rats she made. Grand houses in the 18th and early 19th century were seldom pest free. So I wanted to have at least a few rats and mice for the kitchen and the cellars and attics. In the finished house there will be some cat's and dogs as well.

      I also have two Robins. But I still have to figure out where to put those. :-)