From the author: As Sarah, a young nanny hired to care for the reclusive Dalton children, settles into her new - and deviously gothic - surroundings, she soon realizes that something...or someone...is not quite right. How long will the new nanny last?
The new nanny’s stay at the Dalton House would be anything but ordinary. She was admittedly nervous about this full-time position in one of the area’s most intimidating homes. Of course she had held plenty of part-time odd jobs in the past, but never one of this caliber. The home itself sat on an unusual piece of land, with an unusual air that hung like a dense fog around the place. In a word, it was daunting, and isolated behind nearly two miles of trees and hanging moss.
The cab driver couldn’t be troubled to carry the young woman any further than the end of the drive, which she found incredibly rude, but she stepped out of the car anyway, laying a dollar and some change behind as a meager tip. For only being two towns removed, the people here certainly didn’t seem to be any friendlier. Oh well, she hadn’t come to make friends. She had come to work and, thereby, to make money. Like Father always said, money didn’t make itself.
Leaving her elderly father behind with all the other kids hadn’t been too difficult and she knew that the decision to fill this position would be well worth the separation. It was only healthy to escape for an indefinite amount of time, any adolescent’s dream. Ever since her mother’s death two summers ago, she felt trapped. Life in the family apartment just wasn’t the same and her father wasn’t the same, either; in fact, he hardly said a word, much less an encouraging one.
Her feet led the way, modest suitcase in hand, up a long and winding path through the woods and up to the front door of the giant’s lair. Much like Jack from the children’s tale, she felt she had finally mastered her own personal beanstalk and now must conquer the beast, for a lack of better terms. Her hand reached out for the large brass ring and -
The door swung open before she had time to knock. An older woman with an indifferent expression and hair tucked into a loose bun stood before her. She ushered the girl over the threshold and into an impressive world of antique mahogany and golden finery. It was all a bit gaudy for the girl’s taste, but it certainly outdid anything to which she had been exposed.
“Missus Dalton will be with you in a moment,” the woman announced in a tired tone. She reminded the girl of her own mother in a vague sort of way, in those last few years of her life: the eyes, the salt-and-pepper hair pinned haphazardly at the back of her head, the overall apathy toward life she had found so cowardly. “I’ll take your luggage upstairs.”
“Oh, no, that’s alright,” the girl protested. “I can take it when I go up.” She was accustomed to doing things for herself.
“No, no. We don’t want the Lady of the house to be upset.” Without further explanation, she grabbed the girl’s bag and disappeared.
Another few minutes passed as the girl waited in the foyer. Her eyes scanned the room, looking for markers of the family’s personality. She wasn’t nosy - just inquisitive.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Elmira Dalton’s entrance. If the girl were Jack and she had just climbed the beanstalk, this woman must truly be the giant.
“You must be the new nanny!” Mrs. Dalton oozed, the wrinkles in her brow creasing to a peak. She wore so much powder and paint it was almost startling. The girl found herself staring into the face of what seemed a wealthy, however washed-out, circus clown. “It is so good to finally meet you! I’m Elmira Dalton and I want to make you feel as welcome as possible while you’re staying in my home.”
The girl squirmed for a moment. “Well, it’s very good to be here.”
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Elmira grinned. The grin soon dissolved as a small girl padded into the room. Elmira’s voice deepened. “Oh, hello Emily. Meet Daniel’s new nanny, Miss...” Her voice trailed. She was obviously annoyed by her own slip of memory.
“Breneman, Sarah Breneman,” she interjected uncomfortably.
“Right,” Elmira smiled. “Breneman.” She turned back to Emily. “Aren’t you going to say hello?”
Elmira’s nostrils flared, not unlike those of a racehorse bracing for the word go. “Where are your manners, Emily? Say hello to Miss Sanfo-” She caught herself. “Breneman.”
Still no response. Sarah stood in awkward silence, wanting so badly to say something on the child’s behalf.
“You’ll have to excuse Emily,” Elmira explained. “Sometimes she can be such a jealous little thing when we discuss her big brother. She gets absolutely green with jealousy!”
Emily looked on without saying a word, her eyes taking in the conversation. She seemed awfully accustomed to hearing her mother talk down to her this way.
“You see, Daniel is different from other boys his age. He’s special in a way. When he and Emily were younger, we almost lost him in a horrible ordeal, but thank God he made it! Why, he’s our own little miracle. A perfect angel! Isn’t that right, Emily?”
“It seems as if little Emily doesn’t understand how special her big brother really is and how truly blessed we are to have him here with us.” Almost a minute passed, Emily’s eyes locked in line with her mother’s, until Elmira broke the silence in a maternal tone. “Emily, dear, isn’t it time for your bath?”
Sarah looked on as Emily’s eyes widened, transfixed. Her lips quivered as if she were about to speak. Instead, she bolted from the room, leaving behind a single tear that fell against the hardwood floor. Sarah stood, speechless and waiting.
This story originally appeared in Frightful Fables: Volume I.
Frightful Fables: Volume I is an anthology of original horror and suspense tales with plenty of twists and turns that lurk around every corner. From a young woman who fakes her own death with disastrous results, to an elderly pet lover whose demise is avenged by a cat’s restless spirit, this collection includes something delightfully dreadful for every aficionado of the macabre.
Note: Curious Fictions may receive a commission if you purchase through Amazon.