Perched on the hilltop was the castle. It had been there since the middle ages, the home of the local Baron. Since the last of the Baron’s line, there had been no inhabitant. The people of the village that lay at the foot of the mountain were able to sleep peacefully again. No dark deeds were done in the night, and the lights, sounds, and smells that came down the hill were gone, for generations. The memory of the mad Baron and his vile experiments that went against God and nature was present, however. That made the chilly September night so horrible.
No villagers were sure just how the castle could have become inhabited without their notice, as the only approach was a long, winding drive up the steep mountainside, and it had been gated off long ago. Nonetheless, September 6 brought eerie lights and strange sounds, and an odor of formaldehyde came wafting down the hill at two minutes to midnight. It seemed the Baron’s progeny had returned, and brought his perverse scientific experiments back home.
The Mayor was already on horseback riding to the nearest large town, as frightened villagers huddled in their homes, and less frightened villagers milled about the ridge on the edge of town, holding lanterns and torches aloft as they watched the castle.
It was an hour later that, as the anger of the villagers grew, the Mayor returned with another rider, Dr. Phipps. Phipps’ forefather had been the man who had put down the old Baron and the fiendish things in his castle. The legacy of the Phipps family was eternal watchfulness, and it showed in the alert air of the dignified older Doctor as he rode up to the castle view.
“Men… what we see now is a continuation of the past. Just as my forebear Samuel Phipps strove against evil, the elder Baron sought to perpetuate it. His legacy is here, come to fruition on this cold and dark night.” He looked upon the castle with a numinous expression that seemed to convey a surprising pity. “Our duty is clear, men. To the castle… we ride!”
A hurrah rose in the air, and the bustle of the mob increased in volume and purpose. Runners went from farm to farm around the village, and at last all sensible, able-bodied men of fiery temperament were rounded up for an expedition to the castle.
They headed up to the castle, breaking the gate as they went, and at last were at the vast doorway. The castle loomed over them, a dark and craggy mass. The sounds that were so eerie down below echoed horribly up on the mountain, and from the cracks in shutters came the green glow that sent a few men scurrying back down the mountain to their families.
Dr. Phipps, boldly carrying a torch, approached the portal and turned once more to the men.
“Be bold, fellows. What comes to the door may look human and normal, but it will be the spawn of the old Baron in human guise. We must show no mercy!” The mob answered him with a shout and cry, then Phipps rapped boldly on the wooden doors, the sound resounding in the craggy space around them. It was a long moment, though no one dared as much as breathe, when at last came a rattling of the doors, and a deep voice from within.
“It is us,” cried Phipps righteously, “the good and decent folk of this land, who have come on a mission of piety, to stop in the name of the Lord all diabolical acts against man and nature. The Baron’s hideous experiments have gone on too long!” Again the good Doctor was echoed by a brazen hurrah, when suddenly the door swang wide, revealing an enormous figure.
“I’m sorry… there’s no Baron here. I’m just the Tigerman.”
The name was a perfect description. The Tigerman stood eight feet tall, and must have weighed a thousand pounds of rippling feline muscle on an ogrish human frame. The head was that of an enormous tiger, with shining eyes, cruel fangs, and long whiskers. He wore a long white coat over his bulk. “Look at the monster!” cried John Stibbens the miller.
“Excuse me!” exclaimed the Tigerman. “How rude. You must have the wrong castle. And you can see,” he said as he gestured vaguely behind him, “that there is no Baron here. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to be left alone.” The bestial face expressed a curious mix of indignation and embarassment for the assembled villagers. Dr. Phipps, looking abashed with a torch in his hand, spoke up unsteadily.
“We’re very sorry to have disturbed you.” He looked behind him at the crowd which was waiting expectantly. “Come on men. Back to the village. We’ve wasted enough of the Tigerman’s time.”
They left dejectedly, muttering and scratching their heads. From the doorway, Tigerman watched them go, and once they had all returned to the village and all the lights were out, he returned at once to his hideous experiments and diabolical acts against man and nature.
Copyright: © 2011 Jess Gulbranson
Jess Gulbranson is the author of 10 A Boot Stomping 20 A Human Face 30 GOTO 10, MEL, and Antipaladin Blues. His poetry has been featured in Umbrella Journal, the Portland Fiction Project, and Bradley Sands Is A Dick. Also a critic, interviewer, and actor, Jess makes music under the name Coeur Machant.
He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.