THE HALLOWING OF HALSBURY MANSION
Dark, moonless nights at the end of October always sent a chill through Dr Orson's bones. His arms rattled as he carried his lantern through the old, Victorian mansion.
"Why's it always got to be old, Victorian mansions?" Randall, the intern, wondered aloud.
Dr Orson kept silent, reaching out with his weathered fingers, trying to spread as much light through the dank rooms as he could. He was certain it was here. Filmore Dodd had promised it was here.
"And what are we looking for anyhow?" asked the intern, impatient and ghastly in the dim light of the lantern.
Dr Orson set the lantern in the center of a table in the mansion's library. He began pulling books off the shelves, and they fell to the floor, flopping in massive heaps.
"It'll be a box," said the doctor, "about yea high, yea wide, and yea long." He gestured with his jittery hands and went back to tearing the books off of their shelves.
Randall, the intern, cracked his knuckles and joined in the doctor's efforts, but carefully set his books in stacks on the table instead of heaping them on the floor. The floor creaked as they moved about, and the building seemed to groan once in awhile. It was an old, hollow sound, like the voice of someone near death. A shiver ran up Randall's spine as something soft rubbed against his leg.
A black cat started purring, staring up at him, and the intern sighed in relief.
"That was Mrs Holsbury's most beloved animal before she passed," said Dr Orson.
He stooped to pick the cat up, but it ran from him. The cat jumped to the table, and the very floor beneath their feet began to groan. The cat jumped again, to the highest stack of books.
Randall and Dr Orson could do little but watch in horror as the floor beneath one end of the table fell into the room below. Books tumbled, the table clattered against a cement floor, and the oil lamp shattered. The black cat made a valiant effort, leaping into the empty air, but it too fell into the room below as it was engulfed in flame.
"The cat!" Randall shouted, and he ran for the stairs to the basement
From across the library, a small, round container slowly rolled, as if it had been awaiting just this moment. Dr Orson gasped. The container was about yea high, yea wide, and yea long, just as he suspected. He hobbled over, keeping away from the now blazing edge of the broken floor, but just as he neared the rolling object, it fell into the fire below.
"The parchment!" Dr Orson yelled, and he ran for the stairs as well.
As he stumbled his way down the stairs, Randall stumbled his way up, coughing.
"I've got the cat," he said, holding the ragged animal up for the doctor to see.
Dr Orson shoved his way past the intern. "Did you see it? It fell into the fire!"
"I've got the parchment too," said Randall, holding the long tube up for the doctor to see. "Let's go before the building goes."
They climbed their way up the stairs, and walked outside. Randall called the fire department as Dr Orson watched the building burn. By the time the firemen arrived, little more than the outer frame remained.
"Memories," the doctor said with a sigh. "Halsbury Mansion was baptized by water in the flood of '62. Now she's been baptized in fire. This place is hallowed ground now if you ask me."
"Seems a real waste," said Randall, still petting the black cat. "I just hope whatever's in that metal tube was worth it."
"Oh, it is," said Dr Orson, clutching the tube close to his heart. The Halsbury family had many revolutionary scientific achievements, and the key to them all lay within that single piece of parchment. After 53 years of trying to steal their secrets, Dr Orson finally had the parchment in his hands, and he dared not let it go.
He opened the metal tube. It was empty.
To be continued....