A Gilded Age Horror Story
Sylvia loved the soft sweetness of her young cousin Genevieve’s mouth, the feel of Genevieve’s smooth skin on her own. The gentle innocent, yet open passion of the young girl. They were Sappho’s own daughters of desire. Every inch of her body was explored and used for Sylvia’s desires.
But then, after a summer of heated love, Genevieve turned her eyes to a boy of 16, the wealthy son of the Gold Coast. Sylvia was a married woman of 26. Genevieve, aged 16 was fascinated by the young man, as handsome and masculinity beautiful as any artwork in Rome. But it was more than a beautiful body – the boy was kind and smart. He made her laugh. He was perfect.
Sylvia would have liked him for her own pleasure but knew the boy saw her as a matron of good standing – the same standing as his own mother.
Sylvia knew he’d be like all men, rough and vulgar and warned her young lover. Genevieve didn’t see the same and found herself lost in the arms and in the bed of the boy.
Soon Genevieve found she was pregnant. Sylvia took the girl away where she gave birth to the child and died in her sin. The boy never knew. Sylvia raised the child as her own (as her own husband had been away in South America and the timing made it right that the child would be his).
Genevieve was thought to have drowned in the ocean after a morning swim. Her body was found battered by the surf with crabs and sea plants tangled in her waist length hair. Her parents grieved and put up a monument with an angel in mourning so that all would see for years to come the great loss of such a sweet innocent young woman. For 10 years after the boy would visit the statue and leave sprays of white roses and fragrant gardenias and wet them with his own tears of sorrow.
Sylvia hated the baby girl for killing her sweet tender Genevieve, but even hated the boy who Genevieve had loved more. For years she planned revenge. Unable to love the child she sent her off to the finest boarding school where she grew to be the image of her unknown father.
In the meantime Sylvia had treasured children of her own, but she told the world that the first-born child was too willful and undisciplined to be brought home.
The girl, named Marietta grew to be an intelligent, sweet and beautiful young woman. She made friends easily and rarely longed for her parents or siblings.
Upon her 19th birthday, being independent and having to make her own way in the world, her father (Sylvia’s husband), with the urging of Sylvia, found the girl a post as a research assistant with a wealthy explorer named Robin Hannover.
Marietta found the older Mr. Hannover to be the most attractive man she had ever met. Much to her father’s surprise and her mother’s delight she found herself falling in love with the man.
Robin Hannover, also found he was falling for his young assistant and after a year asked for her hand in marriage. She was 20 years old and he was a young 36. The difference in age made no difference for their love was timeless and would last forever.
Their passion engulfed them in a flame of unquenchable happiness. Those who saw them said theirs was a perfect love – the kind that only happens a few times each century.
But alas, it was not to last.
Marietta came home to find Robin in his study, head in his hands, eyes red with tears. It shocked her to see her strong manly husband in such a state.
“My love what is it?” She cried.
“We’ve committed unspeakable crimes against nature and society. My heart breaks. I love you with all my heart and soul but I can no longer bear to look upon you or think of the passion that has transpired between us. All of our hopes and dreams are crushed in base evil.”
“Tell me what has happened?” Marietta questioned her husband, ready to burst with anticipation of the bad news.
“I’m your father. “
“No, it cannot be. NO!” her hand went to her face as she looked into his eyes. His beautiful eyes were exactly the same as hers. The way his hair picked up bits of auburn in the sunlight was exactly the same as hers. The shape of his fingers, the way he laughed, the curve of his ears, the sharp lines of his nose – all the same.
That night they lay in bed, not as lovers, not as husband and wife, and not even as father and daughter, but as an unholy union of unspeakable acts. They lay side by side not touching except for the tips of their fingers, afraid to even hold each other’s hands. They loved strong and deep, no longer a lover’s passion, but the love of two fated souls, the best of friends, like minds who had been delivered to Hell by a hateful woman they couldn’t defend themselves against.
That morning, while Marietta was out with her charity work, Sylvia had visited her son-in-law with a small packet of letters addressed to him but never sent. She said they were childish letters of love to the young Robin from Genevieve. Poor Genevieve wrote that she longed for her dear Robin and missed him. They would be married. They’d be together with their baby.
“Why Sylvia? Why?” he cried as she told him the truth about his daughter.
“Because she was mine and nobody takes away what is mine.” Sylvia told him.
When Robin threatened her she said “You can never tell anyone Marietta is your daughter. Considering she is now carrying your child of incest, society, which you hold so dear, will treat you as a fiend, no better than the lowest rapist. You will be shunned and your child will have the scorn of everyone he meets. No man, aside from a dull simpleton or someone who both lusts and pities after Marietta will ever want to marry her once you divorce her. And what woman would want to be with a man who has relations with his own daughter.”
Robin knew she was right but tried to speak up but she cut him off. “How did it feel on your wedding night when you took her virginity? How did it feel when you touched and tasted every inch of her body as she offered it up to you like a sacrifice? How did it feel when she lusted after you and read exotic books filled with passion so that she would know to please you. I put the books where she would find them, knowing that she was just like her mother, prone to the pleasures of the flesh and the desire to know all of the carnal skills of the most gifted whore.”
Robin ordered Sylvia out of the house as she laughed and demanded a large sum of money to keep quiet. And as a last insult she described in detail her own carnal affair with the young Genevieve, complete with details of how Genevieve had always been possessed with pleasuring another woman.
So that night Robin lay in bed next to Marietta, his devoted wife, beautiful daughter and soon to be the mother of his second child. He wanted to scream in Hellish agony, but knew he had to keep a level head and protect this woman, his best friend, and the person who he loved most in the world.
The next morning the Robin and Marietta traveled to the cabin by the ocean where Marietta had been born. Robin knew it well as the place where Genevieve loved to spend her lazy summers. She loved the beach and the smell of the ocean. She adored to scramble on the tide pools and feed bread to the sea birds. It was there that Sylvia lured her and there her body had been found, swept on shore, eyes eaten out by crabs, long brown curls tangled with seaweed and sand.
They discovered a cabin long abandoned and in disrepair. A large lock remained hanging from a bedroom door, no doubt where Genevieve had been kept. A narrow bed sagged under rotted stained sheets.
Robin, being the explorer that he was, looked around the room trying to discover any hidden treasures his first love had left behind.
Marietta as if in a trance walked around the rest of the house, quietly as if she was afraid of waking the ghost of her mother.
Finding nothing, Robin was about the leave the bedroom when he was something sharp sticking out of the corner of the rotting mattress. He looked closer and discovered it was the edge of a book. He took his pocketknife and slashed open the bed and pulled out a yellow journal with the name “Genevieve” in script on the front. Inside was the frantic writings of a desperate pregnant girl held prisoner by an older cousin.
Robin and Marietta sat on the back steps and read the sad pages. Genevieve had been taken there for a weekend of fun, but held captive against her will. Sylvia tortured and belittled her pregnant young cousin even as she begged for mercy.
Genevieve cried for Robin but he never came. She spoke of how they’d planned to marry and held out hope that he’d rescue her. She tried to escape but was always captured and sent back to her prison room.
Robin brushed away the tears, for he had indeed talked of marriage to Genevieve when they were older. But he never knew what had happened to her until her body was found on the beach 7 months after she vanished.
Everything in his world came crashing in around him. He looked at his daughter beside him, raised by strangers, then…the very idea of him being married to her and sharing her bed made him sick. He loved her more than all of the heavens above and more than anything on earth, but not as a wife, never again as a wife.
Finally Marietta took Robin’s hand. “My love.” She whispered.
“Don’t call me that. You are my universe and my entire reason for living, but don’t…”
“Don’t torture yourself over something neither one of us could control. We must move forward now with our lives. We must avenge the death of Genevieve. We must also avenge our own lives and love.”
I was finally restoring the old beach cottage. Nobody had used it for years. It was said that it was the love nest of many of my ancestors but I couldn’t imagine any passion in the stern faced old portraits I’d seen, except maybe Marietta and Robin. They were the ones who had adventure and passion in their lives.
When I was a kid everyone said the beach cottage was haunted – a great way to both keep kids away from something and at the same time dare them to explore it!
The big house was up the shore on the cliff overshadowing the once quaint structure. My wife Heather was more than happy to poke through the old boxes and furniture that was jammed into the structure. It was a true time capsule of the last half of the 19th century!
Heather had found a photo that morning. “It’s Great Great Grandfather Robin. You look so much like him.” She said showing me a photo of a man in an extremely formal setting. It could have been my own reflection, except that in this portrait his eyes looked sad, as if he’d lost someone he loved. I shrugged it off. I had other things to think about.
I’m also named Robin, like every first born male in my family since he first married Marietta. Family ties were strong – that was one of the reasons I was so excited about fixing up my great great grandparent’s “love nest”.
“Did you hear that?” Heather said suddenly. I didn’t hear anything. She’d been telling me that there was a cat or something moaning. At first she said it sounded like crying but there weren’t any children around except my teenage son and daughter who rarely came down from the big house we lived in to the beach cottage.
I woke up that night in a cold sweat, thinking I was going to have a heart attack. I walked down the hall to my daughter Allison’s room. She was sleeping like a log (like most 15 year old girls).
In my dream I was in a church. 500 people must have been there. The air was thick with the smell of gardenias and lillys. I was so happy. I was getting married. When I lifted the veil to kiss my bride standing before me smiling was my daughter Allison.
I tried to work off the memory of that dream in the cabin. The next night I dreamed barbed wire had been tied around my neck. I was forced to watch my daughter leap into the ocean and drown. The dreams continued with increasing horror as I watched night after night as unimaginable acts happened to my darling Allison.
In the meantime Heather had become obsessed with her “cat”. A faint mewing sound continued to be heard in the cabin. I chalked it up to the wind or old boards. I was too tired from my nightmare filled nights to be concerned about the ghost of an old cat or sounds of rotting timbers.
I started to go through the papers of Robin and Marietta. They were happy, or so it seemed. But there were two others who appeared, another couple, Andrew and Ramona. It seemed they were always there, more and more as the years passed. Soon it seemed as if Robin spent most of his time with Ramona and Marietta spent most of her time with Andrew, or Andy as they called him.
In the box of papers were cards with love notes, scraps of paper with poems, theater tickets and postcards.
My darling Ramona love R
My darling Andy love M
It was odd
And there was always I love you from Robin addressed to Marietta. There was in turn I love you Marietta, you are my gift from an angel, from Robin.
The nightmares continued. The mysteries gave no answers.
We continued on the cabin. I wasn’t sure it was worth it. The joy had been sucked out of it with nightmares and Heather’s new obcessions about noises.
It was finally time to tear up the floor. I pulled up the first board and heard a scream. Fuck what was it, I kept thinking as I pulled up more and more boards. With every single board came a moan or a whimper. What was going on?
Heather was working in the front of the cabin and ran back to watch. She looked horrified as she watched me dismantle the screaming floor.
As I pulled the last board up and looked at the foundation we both saw it at the same time. There were stairs to a basement.
We took an electric work lantern and climbed down to find out what was there. I expected to find a lot of 100 year old canned goods, old broken lawn furniture and rotted beach umbrellas.
What we found horrified us. In the middle of the room was a bed. On it a woman was tied down with rope and barbed wire. Her naked body was covered with a rotting cover. Her hair was full of spider webs and mummified rats.
Her skin was a dusty shade of white and yellow. The word “Devil” had been carved into her forehead and was now dried and black with jagged unhealed flesh hardened into a frightening script.
“Who is she?” Heather gasped.
“Sylvia” the corpse-like woman gasped in a voice that was dry as the desert and directly from Hell. “Help me”.
Sylvia, who’d gone for a walk on the beach and never come back. That was 100 years ago.
I reached out to undo her from her bonds when she turned to dust, leaving nothing but bones and tangled hair.
Under her head was a journal. At night we read it, the story of Genevieve and Robin.
Forensic anthropologists came to the cabin to investigate and collect what was left of Sylvia. Heather and I didn’t tell a soul what we had seen or heard.
It didn’t matter for it was our story alone, and there was nothing more to tell.
The cabin was finished but we never stayed the night. Guests rave of perfect slumbers, unbridled passions and sweet dreams but we never go in there. It’s a dream we don’t want to have again.
It was their story alone…not ours to judge or even wonder
Thanks for visiting…the countdown to Halloween continues…