Shadows Of Guta 220-239

Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 239) Apologetic

“Ah, I am so sorry Istvan, I had no idea you would still be asleep.” Laszlo says in an apologetic way. “We went to the gatehouse first because I thought you were staying there.” He looks around nervously.

“It’s alright, I slept too long anyhow and yes, I was staying at the gatehouse.” Stephen says as he runs his fingers through his deep brown disheveled hair then looks back at the staircase. “I just came up here last night and decided it was foolish to keep running back and forth between the two locations.”

Strong in his mind at this moment, are the strange dreams he has been having. This is the second odd one he has had since coming here and for a person who does not sleep for more than a few hours at a time, he knows he needs to go back to his old ways. The less sleep he has, the fewer times he will drift off deep enough for a dream to generate, or so he believes. Now a little more alert, he looks at the elderly man and then notices Tamas is grinning ear to ear, which causes Stephen laugh.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 238) Wide Smile

Just as Stephen is about to back away from the window, Tamas steps up, on the other side of the glass, and waves at him. He has a wide smile on his face as he continues with his motions until Stephen lifts his hand in return. Only then does Tamas let out a loud laugh as he steps over to where his grandfather is now patiently waiting.

“Hello. . . Istvan, you in there?” questions the old man in a loud but surprisingly not an angry tone.

Looking up at the clock on the mantel, Stephen realizes it is a little past nine in the morning. He slept a full seven hours to be exact. That is more in one setting than he usually gets over a three-day period. Shaking his head in amazement, he staggers toward the entrance door hoping he becomes a little more alert before having to answer to Laszlo Eszes.

With his hand on the bolt that secures the door and the visions of his dream still clear in his thoughts, he takes in a deep breath. Pushing with the palm of his hand, the bolt slides to one side and Stephen opens the door. The bright light of the morning makes him squint as he lets out a long yawn.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 237) Noise

Coldness, unlike anything Stephen has ever felt before, starts at his neck filling his entire body with chills. Clenching the now frozen handrail, his fingers ache from the severe pain of frostbite as he stands paralyzed by what he fears is lurking next to him. Again, the wicked voice calls him by the Hungarian version of his name, “Istvan!”

Jarring Stephen from his slumber is loud repetitious pounding on the front entrance door. Stephen jumps violently from his sleep as the rapping has become forceful and more deliberate. This sudden jolt causes his heart to pound rapidly as he looks around, lost at first, confused as to where he is, but then he realizes he is in the sitting room of the manor.

Leaning on one arm, he now hears a man yelling but is not able to discern the words. Still half asleep, he staggers to the lightly curtained window near the now cold fireplace. Poking his finger in the crack between the drapes, he pulls one to the side and looks out. To his surprise, the sun is up and Laszlo is the one making all the noise.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 236) Teasing

Inside the walls of stone, the rooms are peaceful and insulated from any sounds of the outside world. The ticking of the old clock has created a rhythmic pulse and neither it nor its hourly chimes stir Stephen as he sleeps. The fire has served him well at keeping the chill out of the room as it continues to burn at a slow and steady pace. Up to this point, he has yet to dream but now little bands of color begin to drift into view as he finds himself looking out over the gurgling waterways of the conservatory. To him, what he is experiencing is real, but in reality, the images are simply playing out in his mind with sounds from his memory.

The grounds below him smell of fresh earth and rain as moisture collects on the glass that encases the large overgrown garden. He finds this odd because the day Zsofia took him there it was well groomed and tended to but now, in his dream, it has nearly escaped its boundaries.

Standing on the metal walkway of the third tier up, he becomes dizzy as he looks down at the overgrown foliage below. Grabbing the thin damp handrail, he steadies himself and not a moment too soon, for from somewhere very near comes a summons once again.

“Issstvaaaan,” Hisses a ghastly voice in his ear in a mocking teasing manner.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 235) Tops The Hill

In the massive marble fireplace, short bursts of sparks pop and crackle as the well-established fire burns evenly. Drooping to the side with his head resting on the arm of the sofa, Stephen is fast asleep and has been so for several hours. It all seems to have finally caught up with him, the jet lag, his typical inability to stay asleep for long periods of time, and the late hours he has been holding have taken their toll. He needs this resting period in order to have strength to tackle all the projects he has taken a mental note of and wishes to complete.

The manor sits quiet atop the hill as a gentle breeze presses its way through the valley below and rattles the leaves of the dense forest. A steady stream of smoke rises out of the chimney at the front of the structure as the lights of the lower level glow brightly out the tall thin windows. Ever so slightly, the entrance lanterns swing back and forth with each passing ripple of wind that spreads from the forest and up the ridge as it tops the hill.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 234) Warmth

Wadding the paper into small loose balls, Stephen places them on the grate. Next to the fireplace is a large metal box filled with thin strips of wood, heavy logs, and tall slender matches. The kindling feels dry and brittle, which should aid in getting the fire started. With the temperature in the house becoming colder, he is anxious to feel a little warmth. After several times of striking a match on the brown grout between the sections of green marble, the match finely takes and he touches it to several different sections of paper before dropping it in the middle of the stack.

Once the flames are established, he adds several larger pieces of wood to the grate then brings the old trunk of photographs and notes into the room. Setting the trunk on the floor next to him, he realizes he feels content. He is on the sofa that faces the entry hall and as he stares out from the room, he begins to think of the many things he needs to do. At the same time, an intense drowsiness comes over him as he lays his head on the back of the sofa. Glancing to his left, he watches the flames as they hop around the wood as if confused about which side to burn first. Before he has a chance to get up and stoke the fire, he falls asleep.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 233) The Flue

“You, old clock, should sit on the mantel of the fireplace.” Stephen says as he crosses the room and lifts the clock up, centering it on the thick piece of marble.

Looking around the room at his surroundings, he realizes he feels very comfortable here, much more than he did at the gatehouse. Pulling the poker from the fireplace stand, he hooks the handle of the flue and pulls it open. A small amount of ash falls from it causing a light dusting to coat the hearth.

“I wonder how long it has been since a fire was built in here?” He mumbles as he tries to look up the chimney and coughs from inhaling the ash. “Ah, come on.” He says in a frustrated way for getting dirty.

He wipes the dust from his sleeve and pulls the flashlight from his pocket and again looks up in the chimney, this time shining the beam of the light up to see inside. He is surprised to find that as far up as he can see, it looks fairly clear and clean. He decides it is safe to build a fire so he brings his duffel bags into the room, opens the largest one, and pulls out a newspaper he purchased at the airport.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 232) Ambiance

Squatting down next to his bags, Stephen unzips the largest one and lifts the old clock up to eye level. The face is dusty as is the complex detail of the carved wood casing. He blows several puffs of breath at it causing dust to fly into the air. Standing up and without moving his head, he looks with his peripheral vision at the two sets of stairs that lead to the second floor. In some way, he feels that if something is there, watching, it will not know if he is looking.

Slowly he turns, hoping with all his might that no one and nothing is there, and he is correct. This lower floor of the manor appears to be quiet and exempt of any other dwellers. The only sounds he hears are of his own rapid breathing and the perfectly timed ticking of the mantel clock he is clutching in his hands.

“Where do you need to go?” he questions aloud as he looks around the large entry hall. “Ah ha, the sitting room.” He says as he walks toward the large double sliding doors opposite the dining room.

Pushing one of the doors into its recessed place in the wall, he enters the large sitting room, which is the very first room he investigated upon his arrival days ago. He pushes the switch on the wall and lamps on either side of the fireplace, as well as several along the walls, light up giving the room a soft and natural ambiance.



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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 231) Finality

With his foot, Stephen nudges the heavy door of the manor and it slams shut rather hard as if he shoved it with anger. Sealed, that is the first word that comes to mind, it shut with such finality, that it feels eternal. A bit shocked at the force of the closure he turns the handle to make sure the door will open again and thankfully, it does. Lightly, he closes it back and slides the bolt through to lock it for the night.

One at a time, he carries the boxes of food to the kitchen and places the items in their appropriate locations. He sets the milk, cheese and meats on the top rack of the refrigerator, canned goods on the shelves, and breads and coffee on the counter. Tossing the empty boxes in one corner of the mudroom, he looks up at the door that leads outside.

“I wonder if there is another exit door that has been left open around here.” He says to himself as he thinks about his theory of a wild animal finding its way inside.

He hears a clock begin to chime and remembers he brought the mantel clock from the gatehouse with him. As he walks through the kitchen and into the dining room, he counts each chime as it plays. Once he steps foot in the entry hall the final one rings out.

“Twelve o’clock. . . midnight.” He says to himself and this sends a sensation of wariness through him.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 230) Outrageous

As Stephen approaches the manor, he looks up at the few lights that are on in the upper floors. The thought of having to wander the halls in order to turn them off does not settle well with him so a debate ensues in his head about what to do. Even though he knows he placed his pill bottle in his pocket, he taps his jacket to make sure. The rattling sound of its contents is soothing to him as he reaches for the door handle. Holding firmly to the knob, he presses on the door, which with all the recent activity, now opens easily.

With one final shrieking sound that echoes throughout the large open entry hall like a scream, he pulls the dolly of supplies inside. Dropping the duffel bags from his shoulder to the floor, he looks up at the staircase. The thought of having to travel throughout the structure at this time of night is outrageous to him and he decides right there, with the door still open, that he will simply let the lights burn.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 229) Warning

With his load of supplies and personal necessities, Stephen slowly begins the twisting turning and very dark walk up the hill to the manor. His thoughts go to Zsofia and her ability to brighten each encounter they have had together, but then he thinks of her walking the trails alone at night. He is not so sure that he himself would feel safe navigating through the woods where even in the daylight hours, it is shadowy and mysterious.

“I should have walked her home.” He says under his breath.

The wheels of the cart he is pulling squeak with every other step that he takes. In an odd way, it sets a suspenseful mood in contrast to the eerily quiet night. It bothers Stephen to the point that he feels it is giving him away to unseen eyes. His need to stay hidden and secretive seems threatened by the unnatural sound of metal scraping and squealing like a siren of warning.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 228) Relief

As many thoughts are traveling through Stephen’s mind taking him back days and years, he has gathered a few empty boxes from the kitchen filling them with the small amount of food on hand. Walking to the hallway, he looks in the hall closet and finds a luggage dolly, which will work perfectly in hauling the items up the path to the manor. The only remaining things are the two duffel bags containing his clothing and necessities. They have been sitting on the dusty wooden floor of the front bedroom ever since he arrived.

He takes the clock from its position on the fireplace mantel, gently stuffs it in one of the bags, and slips both bags across his right shoulder. He then turns off the lamp in the sitting room as well as the kitchen light, and pulls the loaded dolly out the back door.

At the last minute, he decides to bring the small trunk of letters and photographs with him and quickly removes if from its position on the hearth in the sitting room. He locks the door and double checks that it is secure before pocketing his keys. Stepping off the porch into the night air, he feels a form of relief as he begins to walk away from the little house that haunts him.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 227) Burden

Hospital security was involved as Stephen lashed out at the few individuals tending to his parents bodies. They escorted Stephen from the room to spend two days under the watchful eyes of the psychiatric ward. From that day forward, Stephen began to rely on the medicine more and more as his ability to maintain a calm demeanor grew more difficult. Anger was only a small portion of his inability to deal with the loss. He also carried the burden of depression and an anxiousness that held onto him like a vice.

As a child and with a daily dose of medication, he could suppress the fear he had with the knowledge that his parents were there to protect him. It was all very manageable, but after their passing, even though he was at the time a young man, he became overwhelmed with how alone he was in the world. The only light in his life was his girlfriend Kate who seemed, at the time, to understand him. To this day, he feels the relationship has yet to develop into anything long lasting and they continue to spin in a damaging cycle of being a couple and then becoming estranged.

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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 226) Agitated

Stephen lets the kitchen door swing shut with a loud bang, as he steps inside and turns on the light. Immediately, he searches the table and countertops for his medicine bottle. Sweat begins to build on his brow as he glances around wildly getting more and more agitated the longer he looks.

“Where the hell are they?” He says loudly as he steps into the sitting room.

On the table, near the lamp and chair, is the bottle. He now remembers setting it there when he began to rummage through the trunk of pictures and letters. Quickly he opens the lid pouring out its contents of forty-five pills. He takes two and tumbles the rest back into the bottle securing it in his pocket before walking into the kitchen.

Stephen has been on anxiety medication since the age of nine and as he grew, so did the need. Only once before has he been without the pills on his person. It was the day of his parent’s accident when he came to the hospital to identify their lifeless bodies as they lay in the morgue. He lashed out at hospital personnel for he did not want to leave them there in the coldness of the silver toned room.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 225) Little House

“What happened to my pills?” Stephen asks himself as he continues to pat at his clothing in the hopes they will simply appear.

He does not remember the last time he took one and the thought of losing this aid terrifies him. Walking from the kitchen to the dining room, he looks at and around the table by frantically pulling the chairs away from where he and Zsofia were sitting. Looking under the table and again at the tabletop, he realizes the bottle is not here in the house.

“I had to have left them at the gatehouse.” He says to himself as he quickly walks to the front entrance, pulls the door open, and steps outside.

After securing the door, and at a rather quick pace, he walks back down the long and incredibly dark stone path to the gatehouse. He decides now is as good a time as any to gather as much food and supplies as he can to take back up the hill. This will allow him to stay at the manor moving forward, with only short visits to the gatehouse as needed. The thought of staying there at the little house frightens him more and more each time, as does his entrance into it now.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 224) His Pocket

Stephen’s assumption that a wild animal is the cause for the strange events at the manor may be wrong, but it is what he continues to tell himself repeatedly. He is trying desperately to convince his own radical thoughts that this is the only possible explanation. Monsters do not exist, they are only in your head, or so his many therapists have told him through the years. He forces himself to stop thinking about his doubts and he begins to focus on what to do next.

The only room he has not yet picked to organize and clean is the one he will use as his bedroom. He would not mind being on the first floor, but if he is going to do this right, the second floor of the south wing is the place to start. It is the more masculine side of the building and is where the man of the house would have stayed many years ago.

“Yeah, well I don’t need anything more than a couch to sleep on for now.” Stephen murmurs to himself as he sticks his hand in his pocket for his pills.

A surprised look crosses his face when he realizes his pills are not in their usual place. In fact, he does not have them with him at all. He checks both pockets of his jacket, his pants and again the inside pocket of his jacket where he always keeps them.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 223) Obstacle

Leaving the basket of baked goods where they are, Stephen walks through the dining room and opens the small door that connects to the kitchen. It is obvious the kitchen is on Zsofia’s cleaning list, for it is spotless and well-organized. He feels very confident that all he needs to do is move his supply of food from the gatehouse to the manor and he will be able to settle in.

Although he has been here a couple of days, he still cannot get past the dread he has for the smaller house. Even though the manor seems like more of an obstacle than a home, he feels more comfortable inside its masonry walls than in the house of his childhood fears.

He has been thinking about his day of discovery as he roamed the floors and wings of the manor and has decided that an animal must have found its way inside. This would explain the strange tracks on the dusty floor. The same woodland creature was probably responsible for the curtains moving in the second story window as well as the breathing sounds he heard.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 222) Roots

Without saying another word, Zsofia opens the door exposing the brightness of the large outdoor lights hanging over the entrance. Glancing back at Stephen, she grins and waves as she pulls the door shut, leaving him alone in the manor. Standing still, in the spot where she left him, it takes Stephen a few minutes to realize he is smiling.

“Thank you, Zsofia.” He whispers as he runs his hands through his dark hair while grinning ear to ear.

He knows she could not have heard his words and he did not intend for her to. She has helped him realize there are good people in this world and he looks forward to more conversations with her in the future. Tonight, it was interesting to hear more about his great-uncles last days, not because he enjoys hearing painful stories, but because it has helped him understand the man a little better. In an odd way, with Zsofia’s help, he feels more connected to his family roots than he ever has before.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 221) Next Time

At first, Stephen looks at Zsofia, puzzled that she has forgotten he walked Tamas home after his strange encounter with him earlier in the afternoon. Almost immediately however, he realizes she was at work during that span of time and is completely unaware of her brother’s excursion. Quickly he begins to explain what happened and tells her of the conversation he had with her grandfather.

“So grandfather actually said that? He said you should leave?” She looks surprised and a bit angry at the same time.

“It’s okay, he was nice about it and I would like to talk with him again but, now is not the time.” He looks her in the eyes and there is another pause to their conversation until Stephen clears his throat. “Ahem, so. . . are you going to be okay walking back? Alone?”

“Yes, I can manage,” she grins as she leans toward him kissing him on the cheek before quickly turning to walk away. “You enjoy the breads and muffins. I’ll collect the basket the next time I see you.”


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 220) Full Day

If the circumstances were the reverse and she was the one who lost her grandfather in such a dramatic manner, Zsofia is positive her life would be forever altered in the worst possible way. It was not until she was older that her grandfather explained how horrible it was to watch his best friend die. He said the terror in his friend’s eyes is something he will never be able to erase.

“So, are you staying here, in the manor or the house tonight?” Zsofia questions as she leaves the basket of baked goods on the table and walks toward the door that leads to the entry hall.

“I napped earlier and feel like I need to expend my energy here, uncovering furniture and getting the place organized.” He replies as he follows along behind her. “You can stay and help if you like.” He grins.

“Oh no, I’ve already put in a full day.” She laughs. “Just remember, if you need anything, take the path that leads into the woods. It will bring you right to my door.” She smiles.

“Yes, I know, but it’s quite a walk.” He responds but the reaction from Zsofia is not what he expected.

“How would you know that?” she laughs in a questioning way.


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