Summary: ‘The Echoing Halls’ is a work of short fiction about a haunted mansion by Dr Bimal Roy Bhanu.
In the mist-covered expanses of the hinterland, Catherine, a maiden with an insatiable affinity for the relics of bygone eras, chanced upon a listing that beckoned her very soul.
The listing she stumbled upon, in an old newspaper yellowed by time, was a clarion call to her spirit. It extolled the virtues of a stately mansion, replete with architectural nuances from a bygone century.
But nothing could prepare her for the tangible weight of melancholy that descended as she laid eyes on it. As she approached its imposing silhouette, her heart grew heavy.
The vast edifice bore the marks of long neglect, its facade marred with peeling paint, and the floors beneath betrayed the rot of decades. Nature, in her wild frenzy, had reclaimed the once-cultivated gardens, now a verdant labyrinth of chaos.
Although weathered, the Manor had a proud aura around it as though it hadn’t let go of its more illustrious past. Time’s inexorable march had etched its mark onto every brick, every frame, and every slat of wood.
Vines and creepers had made peace with the structure, their roots delving into cracks and fissures, lending the mansion an organic, living feel.
Catherine was drawn to the house in a way that she couldn’t explain. She surprised even herself as she pushed aside her normal cautious approach when making decisions and decided to take the house.
On the eve of her inaugural night, she was roused from a troubled slumber by the susurrations echoing through the gloomy corridors. Braving the consuming darkness, she sought out the origin of these phantom whispers but found naught.
As dawn broke, she endeavoured to rationalise the midnight murmurs as mere echoes of an aged dwelling settling into its bones.
Catherine’s following nights were anything but peaceful. The restless energies of the mansion roused her from sleep. The disembodied whispers seemed like residual memories of the mansion, murmuring tales of old, tragedies, perhaps.
She tried convincing herself that they were merely the nocturnal sounds of an old house, the walls, and timbers creaking with age. But as days turned into nights, the peculiarities grew pronounced.
Mirrors in ornate frames threw back reflections that didn’t belong to her, darkened corners seemed to breathe, and the wind carried with it conversations from unseen entities.
What unnerved her most, though, was the garden’s transformation. The pathways she’d walked upon were now overgrown, leading her in maddening loops back to the mansion’s doors. The walls, the trees, the very air, all seemed to conspire to keep her trapped.
In her attempts to escape, the once-charming gardens ensnared her with tendrils and thorns, ever leading her back to the mansion’s mournful embrace. The very walls, it seemed, conspired to imprison her.
One night, the very fabric of the mansion’s reality seemed to warp. The haunting murmurs crescendoed into a deafening symphony of spectral voices. Plucking up courage she didn’t know she had, she issued her challenge: “Reveal thyselves!”
From the shadowy tapestry of the mansion’s history, apparitions manifested—souls of different epochs, bound in torment – faded remnants from the mansion’s storied past.
But one amongst them, Lord Alistair, stood out with a darkness that seemed almost tangible. His proclamation filled Catherine with a chilling dread.
“This domain sustains on entrapped souls, and none who heed its call may depart.”
He seemed to have command over the other wretched souls that groaned pitifully. Lord Alistair’s eyes, though lifeless, projected a malignant spirit. Trying hard to evade his piercing stare, it became clear to Catherine that the House was a snare, and she was the latest in a long line of captives.
Catherine ran to escape the malevolent spirts and longed to be free from the Mansion, but each door or window which led outside was moving.
She hammered and pulled at doors and windows in a desperate attempt to reach sanctuary, but to no avail. Her heart was beating in pure terror and in the background, Catherine could hear the evil laughter emanating from Lord Alistair.
Catherine was suddenly overcome with a feeling of utter tiredness and despair. She ran to her bedroom, locked and bolted her door and lay on the bed whispering prayers for divine help.
The house suddenly fell quiet, with the screeching moans and shouts vanishing. Shortly afterwards, exhausted by the events, Catherine fell into a fitful sleep only to be awoken sometime later by the soothful sound of someone singing. Catherine thought she must be dreaming and struggled to make sense of what she was hearing.
From somewhere in the gloom of her room, a clandestine whisper proffered counsel: “Resist him.” Catherine bolted upright in terror, beseeching her voice to respond. “Who are you? ” She managed to say.
There followed what seemed an eternity before a ghostly apparition of a young woman came into her view and replied, “I am like you, trapped in this house. I came here a very long time ago and could never leave. I am one of many others who are trapped here by his Lordship.”
Catherine felt unable to move, a mix of fear and relief at seeing and hearing from a friendly apparition fixing her to the spot. Catherine’s mind was full of questions she wanted to ask when suddenly the apparition started to fade, saying, “The answer is somewhere in this house…. please find it…for all of us.”
Catherine found herself alone again in her dimly lit room but felt a surge of hope. Armed with this newfound hope, Catherine delved into the arcane history of the dwelling.
She went down to the library which was stacked with musty books and manuscripts and buried herself in the ancient records. The hours seemed to fly by, and she only realised it was mid-morning as the sun shone through the tall windows, shedding the library in a bright yellow glow of light.
Catherine did not stop and was spurred on by the desire and desperation to find the answers before she was visit by Lord Alastair again.
Finally, after hours of searching, Catherine unearthed forgotten tomes where she learned of Alistair’s obsession with the Occult and the malevolent rites he used, which yoked innocent souls to fortify his wicked immortality.
Yet, in the margins of these bleak chronicles, lay an ancient rite to unshackle the ensnared spirits and to undo the power Lord Alistair had over the house and its spirits.
As nature raged outside, mirroring the tumult within the mansion, Catherine began reciting the ritual she had found.
The house started to shake in response to her incantation. Catherine, fighting every instinct of fear in her body continued with the ritual, hands trembling, voice shaking.
With every chant, she could feel the oppressive weight of Alistair’s malevolence bearing down on her. As she intoned the forgotten verses, Lord Alistair’s spirit, enraged, lunged at her.
He moved objects, hurling them at her, while his screeching grew louder. Catherine knew that the ritual was having an impact and persevered despite having to move and hide from flying objects.
Lord Alistair’s spirt grew ever more maddened, hurling crude insults and objects, finally baring down on Catherine with a what seemed like a sword. Catherine struggled to maintain her chants and felt it was only a matter of time before Lord Alistair was upon her and she would join the other spirits in the house.
But she wasn’t alone. The other spirits, emboldened by Catherine’s courage and now alight with hope, rallied by her side. United against Lord Alistair, they fought back whilst Catherine continued the incantation.
The house shook violently as the ethereal forces clashed. The noise was deafening, but Catherine found renewed courage and continued the ritual. Lord Alistair’s spirit started to scream and fade as the other spirits encircled him. Catherine had come to the end of the ritual and for a moment her heart sank as nothing happened.
Suddenly a luminescent maelstrom enveloped the room accompanied by screams which were so loud that Catherine clasped her ears in terror and then her world grew dark, and silence prevailed as she passed out.
Awakening, Catherine found herself in a strangely serene and rejuvenated mansion. She was confused and struggling to clear the fog in her mind and make sense of what had happened and where she was now. As her mind cleared and she took stock of her surroundings, the mansion felt transformed, no longer a prison of despair but a sanctuary of peace.
Lord Alistair’s malevolence seemed to have been exiled into the void, never to ensnare again. Catherine took it upon herself to restore the mansion to its former glory, converting it into a refuge for those seeking solace.
Under Catherine’s guardianship, it became a haven for the weary and troubled. Whispered tales of horror became heartwarming stories of redemption. In the hallowed halls of the mansion, the haunting became the haunted, and the captive became the guardian.
Cover image by Francesco Ungaro/ Pexels. The copyright of ‘The Echoing Halls’ belongs to Dr Bimal Roy Bhanu.