The Sinister Seat: Chapter 6

Sir John looked around the room. It was indeed a games room with a billiards table in the middle. Around the edges of the room were some racks with cues and there was a globe on wheels. Lord Arlington was gibbering.

“Seems normal enough,” said Sir John warily.

The globe rolled towards them and the top opened. Inside were bottles of spirits and glasses. Lord Arlington’s gibbering grew more intense. Sir John picked up a bottle of whisky and looked at it quizzically.

“Seems your guests aren’t so terrible,” said Sir John.

“Don’t drink it!” said Lord Arlington. “It’s poison.”

“Well it’s not one of the premier names, but I think you can be too picky about these things,” said Sir John. 

He looked back at the bottle in his hands. It had a skull and crossbones on it now. Sir John put it back gently.

“Earlier,” said Sir John, “you said it was obvious why these… phenomenon wanted you to leave. But I don’t think it is. At least not to me.”

“They want it, the house,” said Lord Arlington. “For themselves.”

“But why?” said Sir John. “What do they want with it?”

Lord Arlington gibbered some more then and pointed at the cues. They were rattling in the racks.

“That can’t be good,” said Sir John. “Funny how this keeps happening when I ask you questions.”

The cues all jumped off the rack in unison and started hopping around the room. At the same time the balls on the table began bouncing lightly. Then one flew off the table, straight at the two men. Sir John moved to the left and a second ball flew at him. He grabbed Lord Arlington and dragged him under the billiards table. There was just enough space under for them to fit. Around them they could see the base of cues hopping all over and balls flying about. Sir John looked to see where the door was.

“Why do they want the house, Lord Arlington?” said Sir John.

At this point all the cues stopped hopping.

“They want to use…” whispered Lord Arlington. He screwed up his face and looked confused. “They want to use…”

His answer was drowned out by all the cues banging on the table and the balls bouncing violently on the top.

“They want me to not know, that’s for sure,” said Sir John. “I’m just going to do something, and then I have a little escape plan.”

Sir John tried on his goggles and then did something with the cryptozoetropometer. Then he scrabbled to each corner of the table.

“Hmm, as I thought,” he said. “Ok, Lord Arlington, we’re going to get out of here now. Press up with your back and we’ll walk with the table to the door. And if we’re really lucky, the door will open out.”

“But it must weigh a tonne,” said Lord Arlington.

“Yes, but it has wheels,” said Sir John. “Which I have just unlocked.”

The two men slowly moved the table in the direction of the door. The cues and balls grew more frantic as they did. When they got to the door, Sir John gave it a push. It didn’t move.

“It’s locked! We’re doomed!” said Lord Arlington.

“I have a little device which will help,” said Sir John. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small silver box.

“Bosch safety lighter,” said Sir John, who flicked it open and pushed it to the door. “Keep to the back of the table.” 

Seconds later it exploded and the door fell open. Sir John and Lord Arlington ran out of the room.

Background Painting by Mary Ramsey Pichette

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 5

“Well I must say you have a most impressive library,” said Sir John, looking around the bookshelves.

Lord Arlington started wildly about the room.

“Wait, wait,” he said, “they’ll do something.”

“These ‘they’,” said Sir John. “What are they exactly? What do they want?”

“What do they want?” said Lord Arlington. “They want to drive me from my home, but they won’t, they won’t.”

“Do you know why they want to do that?” said Sir John.

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Lord Arlington. He pointed suddenly. “Look, look.”

Sir John looked and saw that two of the walls had extended, seemingly to infinity. He snapped on his strange goggles again and looked down the length of it. He tutted, then pulled out another device that looked like a fat gun.

“This is a cryptozoetropometer,” said Sir John. “It can detect all manner of living creatures. Since the ectoscopic glasses are showing nothing, again. I thought I’d try this.”

“What’s it called?” said Lord Arlington, looking perplexed.

“It’s a cryptozoetropometer,” said Sir John and then sighed when he saw the confusion on Lord Arlington’s face. “Also known as an omega device.”

“Oh!” said Lord Arlington and looked relieved at that. Sir John pointed the device down the infinite corridor. A frown formed on Sir John’s face.

“Still nothing, I wonder…” he said and walked to the bookshelves. 

He glanced at a few books before spotting one.

“Oh you have an original copy of Tamerlane ” said Sir John. “That’s rather rare.”

He walked past a large vase and a suit of armour and stopped at another bookshelf.

“And another one,” said Sir John. He walked further down past another large vase and suit of amour before stopping.

“And a third!” he said. He picked up the third copy then walked back towards Lord Arlington. Lord Arlington in turn pointed behind Sir John.

“Look!” said Lord Arlington. “Look! Look!”

Sir John looked behind and saw what Lord Arlington was pointing at. In the far distance books were starting to fly off the shelves. It looked like a literary tsunami as books crashed into a great wave, heading toward them. Sir John glanced down at the bookshelf either side of the vase and suit of armour, before turning to Load Arlington.

“Tell you what old chap,” he said. “Let’s run!”

Both men ran as fast as they could to the door. But the door was no longer there, it was just another book shelf. Sir John put the book he was holding in a gap on this shelf and turned round.

“Is there another door?” he said,

Lord Arlington was gibbering again and the flying book wave was getting closer.

Sir John looked at the wall opposite and saw a door. He grabbed Lord Arlington and ran towards it. A few books were starting to fly around their ears, harbingers of the greater oncoming wave.

“No, no!” cried Lord Arlingon as Sir John tried to pull him through the next door. “That’s the billiards room.”

Sir John sighed and gave the man a sharp tug and they fell through the door just as the storm of books arrived.

Infinite Library

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 4

The room was gloomy and sparsely furnished but still retained elegance. Plants were being used to fill the gaps where once chairs and tables might have been.

Lady Arlington sat and smiled thinly at Marie. She poured two cups of tea from a tarnished pot.

“No servants,” she said.

“Because of the financial problems?” said Marie.

“That at first,” said Lady Arlington, “then my husband’s erratic behaviour did for the rest. I’m forced to make my own tea now.”

“Your husband was very vague in his letter,” said Marie, “but wrote very convincingly. It seems he genuinely feels something amiss. Do you know the specifics?”

Lady Arlington laughed humourlessly.

“Oh good Lord, yes”, she said. “The house has somehow turned on him, wants him gone. This manifests in strange, uncanny behaviours. Pens writing messages, rooms changing and so on. It’s a complete hallucination, of course. I’ve seen him with my own eyes staring at nothing and shouting absurdities.”

“Do you know why the house has, as you say, turned on him?” asked Marie.

“You’re rather ascribing agency to what is clearly madness,” said Lady Arlington. “But I’ll humour you. The house wants him gone from this place so it may use the place for something more worthy. And with someone more worthy to use it. He, as a financial failure, is not fit to keep it. I’m not an alienist, but it’s not hard to see the ‘house’ is nothing more than his own internal voice, racked with guilt.”

“It’s none of my business, of course,” said Marie, “and maybe I am reading too much into a short conversation. But, you don’t seem very concerned about your husband’s state of mind.”

“Quite the contrary!” said Lady Arlington. “I have lost my best lady’s maid. Frankly I’m livid.”

“I mean, you don’t seem very concerned about him,” said Marie.

Lady Arlington smirked a little.

“My dear,” she said, “I do not wish to patronise, and I am sure things are different on the continent. But it is rare that people of my social standing marry for love. More often we marry for… convenience? For the importance of continuity? A little fondness helps of course, but time and circumstance often cause even that to wear away. I doubt one marriage in four is functioning well in my social circuit. But still, we keep up appearances as best we can. Affection is not expected but appearances most certainly are.”

“Lord Arlingtons behaviour must be affecting those… appearances,” said Marie.

“Quite,” said Lady Arlington. “Another good reason to keep him at home. I’ve gone to quite some lengths and some degree of subterfuge to maintain a degree of respectability. No-one discusses business, so the financial ruin is a secret. And servants are for talking to, not listening to, so I don’t worry about gossip. But it’s frankly a nuisance that with half our furniture absent and him raving, we simply can’t entertain here. I have explained that he is deep into a novel.”

“He likes to read?” said Marie, puzzled.

“No my dear, the poor lunatic is a writer, or at least aspires to be,” said Lady Arlington. “Complete waste of time in my opinion and you can see for yourself what an overactive imagination gives you.”

Lady Arlington looked sourly at the tea.

“Do you want some more, only I’d have to go to the kitchen,” she said forlornly. A small tear formed at the corner of her eye.

Painting in background by Mary Ramsey Pichette

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 3

“You see! You see!” said Lord Arlington manically, pointing here and there in the room.

“Actually,” said Sir John, looking puzzled. “I don’t. It looks like a normal study to me.”

“Shh,” said Lord Arlington and Sir John fell quiet.

At first it seemed silent, but then Sir John noticed a scratching sound in a closed bureau. Lord Arlington made a noise between a giggle and a gibber. Sir John went over to the bureau. The noise was coming from the top section, the part which opened into a writing desk. Gently Sir John opened it and looked inside. There was a small pot with some pens and one was moving around, making the rattling sound. At the opening of the bureau a sheet of paper slid itself out and the pen hopped out of its holder. The pen began to write on the paper. Lord Arlington’s noises grew louder. 

“You see, you see!” Lord Arlington said. “What does it say?”

Sir John looked at the writing. The letters were spidery and uneven. It was a single word, repeated over and over.

“It says ‘Leave’,” said Sir John. “Hmm, this seems like some normal poltergeist activity. Let me just try the ectoplasmic goggles.”

Sir John put on a cumbersome pair of brass goggles and looked again at the scratching, dancing pen.

“How odd,” he said. “Nothing thaumaturgical at all. I wonder what’s moving it. This will prove an interesting puzzle. I’ll just go next door and get some more equipment.”

Sir John removed the goggles and turned towards the doorway. He stopped suddenly as there was no door, just a wall.

“Did… we came in there, didn’t we?” said Sir John.

“They move them,” said Lord Arlington, wild eyed and nodding enthusiastically. “They move the doors.”

Sir John walked back to the place where the door had been and pressed his hands on the surface, in case it was a disguised door. It was not, the wall felt solid behind the oak panelling. He heard a noise then from a desk in the corner of the room, and saw another pen jump from a pot and start scratching on paper. Sir John went over to look. Again the same word, “Leave” repeated over and over.

“Are you sure there’s not a switch or something to open that door?” said Sir John, clutching, he felt, at straws. Lord Arlington giggled by way of explanation.

Suddenly another pen on the bureau jumped up and started writing, then a third. A fourth pen flew across the room and joined the one on the desk. All of them wrote the same word over and over. The pages were turning into a spinning gyre of ink.

“We’d better, we’d better do what they say,” said Lord Arlington. “This way now, to the library.”

He grabbed Sir John and pulled him to a door opposite from where they had entered the room. Sir John looked perplexed at the study as he allowed himself to be pulled through to the next room.