The Mansion

Four horror-style stories from a haunted-style mansion: "The Portrait," "The Trophy," "The Conservatory," and "The Stables." General.

1 – The Portrait

At the front of the hall hung a portrait painted in oils: a woman in a gown and corset, with dark lips and darker hair. Its eyes didn't follow the viewer so much as pierce through them. Though its mouth curled down into the slightest scowl, the light and shadow across its cheeks made it seem, if you caught it in the corner of your eyes, as though it was smiling.

Paintings lined the hall, but it was the portrait that Jason's flashlight lingered on. He stuffed a fist into the pocket of his puffy jacket and hunched his shoulders to fend off a shiver. Did it count as creepy? It was working on him, but he'd have to convince the rest of his friends if he wanted to win their contest. Setting his flashlight down on a nearby table, he dragged his phone out of his jeans pocket.

While he framed the portrait in his phone's camera, his fingers grew cold. He clenched his hand into a fist, then blew on his knuckles, then patted his cheeks, but they remained cold and oddly pale. Hurry up and get the shot, he told himself.

With a ruby-nailed finger, he tapped the screen, then lowered it to peer at the finished picture. The zipper on the front of his jacket twitched before sliding downward, slowly baring the front of his shirt.

No good. The picture had come out blurry. Jason took a few steps forward. His sleeves thinned out while he rubbed his hands together to warm them up—slender fingers, slim wrists, goose- bumps along his soft skin. He swept a lock of darkening hair behind his ear, out of the way of a red teardrop earring.

The portrait's hands, folded in its lap, now looked large and plain in comparison, and its ears were conspicuously unadorned.

Lifting his phone again, he held it as still as possible. His pursed lips were overtaken by red lipstick. The collar of his shirt stretched lower across his chest and his copper-red hair tickled his slender shoulders. He tipped his head back, held his breath, and snapped another picture. This time, the shot was clearer, but the photo itself seemed wrong. Instead of eerie scornful beauty, there was a confused, almost shocked look in the portrait's eyes.


An amorphous furry monster grows by turning hapless victims into new parts of its body. Explicit.

Tom opened the door onto a completely dark apartment. Usually at least one of his roommates would have been around at this hour, using the TV in the living room or cooking in the kitchen, but all the lights were out. It was quiet. Slipping off his pack, he set it down by the front table, then grasped for the switch on the lamp.

When it clicked on, he was confronted with a total mess. One of the floor lamps had been knocked to the ground, the living room table was on its side, and the couch cushions had been tossed in all directions. It looked like someone had ransacked the apartment, but everything valuable was left in place. Leaving the front door ajar in case he needed to run for it, he picked his way around the strewn cushions and called out, "Hello? Guys?"

As he rounded the back of the couch, a heavy thump brought his attention to the floor. He froze in place, staring down at a big, purple, furry...something. It was long and oblong and lumpy. His eyes couldn't make sense of what they saw. That mass looked a bit like shoulders, that protrusion could have been a thigh, but the whole thing was too big and too jumbled-up to be a body. All that was clear was that the entire thing was covered in thick, almost silky, magenta fur.

Then it moved. The fur flowed across its surface as two of the closest lumps lurched outward and swiped at his ankles.

Tom yelped and stumbled back. His feet caught the corner of a pillow; he kicked it, spinning, off into the living room. The huge furry mass lumbered towards him, bulging and rolling like a body writhing beneath tar. Tom turned to run for his bedroom. The thing swatted at his ankle, knocking his feet from under him, sending him tumbling toward the ground.

Then everything smelled like pain and went black.

Tom woke to find his cheek against the floor and his nose swollen and tender. His thoughts were sluggish and groggy. He pushed himself up on one arm, bent a leg underneath him, and felt a weight tugging the base of his spine back down. With a grunt, he slumped against the floor. He groped behind his back, and his hand met thick fur.

Second Skin

A woman gets swallowed up by her new scaly skin and turned into a cobra. (Contains biting.) Explicit.

Emily stepped barefoot across the tiled floor. A sliver of the North African breeze rustled the hem of her nightgown as she paused in the doorway, looking back at her fiancée slumbering amidst the sheets. With a small smile she swung the door closed, leaving only a crack open.

Filling the basin of the sink from the tap, Emily scooped up two handfuls of water and stroked them across her face. It had taken weeks of negotiating for Simon to agree to bring her on one of his 'expeditions', so she wouldn't let him see a hint of regret, even if the sun singed her nose pink and the dry air left her skin feeling like parchment.

Hands on the edge of the sink, Emily lifted her face and let the water drip off her chin. The cool air brushed against the edges of her cheeks. She chased an itch on the back of her palm with her fingers, then sunk her hands into the water and rubbed them together. Leaning over the water, she splashed several more handfuls across her face, too, in an attempt to soothe the itch running down her forehead and across her nose. After a thorough scrubbing, she groped for the washcloth and dried herself off.

The water hadn't helped. She scratched above her temple, along her cheekbone, across her jaw. Her nails left red tracks across her skin. She dug her fingers underneath her gown and scratched at her neck.

With a small breath of frustration, she lifted her nightgown from her shoulders, pulled it off over her head, and laid it out beside her while she retrieved a bottle of oil from her bag. She set aside the glass stopper, then poured a splash of the oil into her hand and spread it across her bare shoulders and onto her neck and cheeks.

As she rubbed the oil into the nape of her neck, Emily felt a tug around her midsection, like the grip of a corset, or more likely the tautness of dry skin. She turned toward the mirror. What looked like a translucent, silky sash had wrapped around her stomach, from her waist up to just below her ribs.

It wasn't silk. It was patterned, textured, scaled; it was snake skin. And it wasn't staying still. It slid outward along her skin, like a sheet pulled by an invisible hand. It was swallowing her up.

Belong to the Sea

While on vacation, a chemical spill kicks off a college student's transformation into a squishy sea monster. Explicit.

Leah's day at the beach had been cut short by a chemical spill, and then everything else went wrong too. She was diving as far out as she could go, so when the hazmat guys started calling everyone in, she didn't hear. By the time she saw something was up, she'd spent an extra fifteen minutes more in the water. Waiting at the back of the line for the quarantine tent, every itch was acid and every turn of her stomach was flesh-eating bacteria. And then, once she'd been checked over and put through the decontamination shower, she learned they had run out of spare clothes.

To make things worse, she was dry. The salt, plus standing in the sun, plus the chemical rinse, left her skin in desperate need of moisture. She was taking a bath as soon as she got back to her hotel room.

Leah left the tent with nothing but a towel wrapped around her waist. As soon as she stepped out, she was assaulted by a broad smile, a yellow-and-orange baseball cap, and a yellow piece of paper thrust into her free hand.

"We at TransCo hope your experience today has been a pleasant one," the young man in the cap said. "We'd love it if you took the time to fill out that survey."

Leah swallowed to wet her throat. "Do you have any water?"

The young man grimaced. "Ooh, no, sorry. But I do have some pens with our logo," he said.

"I'm good," Leah said. She started along the boardwalk back to the hotel. That chemical shower must have done a number on her skin. She was so dry she could feel her skin brushing against itself, like little tectonic plates. She fought the urge to scratch at the itch on her back. Untended, the prickling spread over her shoulders and sides.


Poor spellcasting turns both Stella and her boyfriend into mermaids. Explicit.

Michael opened the door to his Santa Monica apartment and found candles strewn across the counters and tables. Curled runes written on sheets of printer paper were stuck to the wall with masking tape.

'Not again,' he thought.

"Stella? Are you casting a spell?" he called. He dropped his messenger bag next to the door and took a few steps toward the hall. Stella stepped out of her studio, with two more sheets of paper in her hands and a roll of masking tape around her wrist.

"It's almost ready," she said, flashing her boyfriend a smile as she passed by. With a creak of tape, she tore off enough to stick up the last two runes on either side of their TV. Stella took a seat on the sofa, then looked up at Michael expectantly.

Michael walked up behind the couch and leaned on its back. "I thought you said after the vacuum cleaner nonsense you weren't going to cast spells."

She rolled her head back, so that she was looking at him upside-down. "I've been practicing. Just small stuff, but I haven't messed up again. This isn't even a dangerous spell, it's not going to go...'vacuum cleaner'." She gave him an upside-down smile and reached up to scratch his neatly-trimmed blonde beard. "Besides, this is a spell for you."

Lophiformes Elapidae Cordyceps

A batch of contaminated eggs cause a series of strange mutations. Explicit, body horror.

T-0:30 to Patient Zero; six eggs remain.


Alice pushed open one of the few remaining cartons of eggs. The last one had two that were chipped, but these seemed all in order, except for one of the eggs which was smaller than the others by a centimeter or so and sitting at an angle to all the rest. Alice picked up the exceptional egg. It weighed fine in her hand and there were no marks or otherwise to hint that it was damaged.

Maybe then it was a sudden spasm of her hand, or she had misestimated the strength of the egg, but whatever the reason, the shell cracked open. She expected a mess of white and yolk to drip down her hand, but what oozed between her fingers was an opaque, sticky, whitish substance. Alice shook her arm and wiggled her hand and spread her fingers but the white goo only bounced and rippled and stayed stuck fast to her hand.