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Michael Lance Kersting

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The Taxidermist
By Michael Lance Kersting
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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           >> View all 56


All MacGregor wanted was a quiet place to write his horror stories.

 

 

It was a small, quiet town in Georgia with many heritage houses from the Forties dotting

Along the narrow streets.

As the rackety bus pulled up at the depot stop Trevor MacGregor, writer, got off carrying a

brown leather duffel bag.

Just the place for me
he thought looking around at the quiet surroundings. He noticed that there

weren't many people around and the few he saw were all resting in the shades from the blazing

noon day sun. A mangy dog nearby stretched and yawned widely, looked him straight in

the eye, scratched it’s left ear which was slightly bitten off at the top, then went behind a store.

He took in a deep breath and sighed."What a relief to get away from the mad, hustle bustle of

the city.

Unloading his luggage from the luggage compartment of the bus, he went in search of

lodgings.

He saw a man lounging in front of a hardware store and approached him.

"Good day ,sir, I s there a guest house around here?"

"Yes, there sure is, young fell, try the "Knife and Fork," it’s jes a block ahead. Tell the landlady

that Mac sent you ." The old guy then spat some tobacco juice in a bucket standing nearby.

MacGregor thanked the man, and sauntered up the dusty street. Checking out the buildings.

Finally, he found the place.

It was a two storey building painted in white, with a well kept flower garden in front.

The sign over the entrance read : " THE KNIFE AND FORK, BED AND BREAKFAST" in bold faded red

letters. A little note beneath read : ‘Room to let"in bold letters.

MacGregor walked up the three steps, crossed a small porch, and pushed the door open. A bell

tinkled as he entered.

The lobby was a bit gloomy looking, with stuffed animals and porcelain ornaments everywhere.

He walked over to the small counter and put down his luggage.

Eventually an elderly lady dressed in gray, emerged from a small door behind the mahogany

counter. She was carrying a small pot of flowers in her bony hands. She had a pair of bright blue

grey eyes and cotton white hair. Setting the plant pot gently on the counter. She brushed down

her apron and said in a strong voice

‘Welcome,Sir, I am Mrs. Robinson, the landlady, what can I do for you?"

" I am looking for a place to stay for a few days. I saw your sign and Mac said….." He replied,

nodding towards the front.

The Landlady smiled, He seems quite a pleasant young man she thought

" Well, young man, you are in luck. I do have vacant room to let. She turned an old register

around to face him on the counter.

"Will you please sign here" she said, pointing a bony finger at a line.

MacGregor took out a pen from his pocket, and signed his name, noticing that only two other

tenants had registered previously. Both about a year ago, which made him curious.

She looked at the signature.

"It’s two pounds a week, Mr.MacGregor, including meals"." She said and added "in advance." .

"That will be fine." he replied, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.

He paid.

‘I will give you your receipt later, She said pocketing the cash, "Now would you please follow me."

He took up his luggage and followed her up a short, creaky stairway, down a long narrow

corridor, to a room marked 3 on it’s door.

She handed him a key, smiled, and said, "Tea will be served at four o’clock "

Mac Gregor thanked her and went into the room, which was a big chamber with a bathroom

off to the side. The bed, centered in the room, was enormous with a tall gilded headboard

decorated with a pair of angels facing each other. The gold paint had dimmed, and the angels

had cracked wings. There was also a huge dresser with a huge mirror with decorative  moulding

"A bit old fashioned, but impressive." he thought impressed. He always had a yen for Victorian

stuff.

After a cold shower and a change of clothing, he decided to take a nap.

Later, at tea, and sitting across from the landlady, he said" I can’t help noticing all the stuffed

animals around, ma'am. Are you a collector?"

"No, Mr MacGregor, I was a taxidermist before I retired." She sighed.

"And what do you do, may I ask ?" she inquired.

"I am a writer." he replied proudly.

"Oh, really?" She said looking impressed. "What kind of writing do you do?"

"Mostly fiction," He replied quietly," " Horror and Science fiction"

"Oh, that must be fascinating, creating all those scary situations?"

"Well, it does have it’s bright spots, but it’s truly a lot of hard work."

"Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. "she said looking steadily at him.

"I was just wondering, Mrs.Robinson, I noticed that there were two other tenants , a Frank Owens,

the name sounds familiar, wasn’t he the famous Archaeologist who disappeared a couple years

go?"

Her face clouded a bit.

"Yes, actually, Mr. Owens is a tenant ,of mine, he is still with us."

"Really ?"replied McGregor a bit of excitement building upin him

"Yes, but he’s a very private person and he doesn’t like to be disturbed, He likes to keep to

himself, and I respect my tenants wishes’.

"I see," he replied, " Just curious. I certainly would like to meet him, "

"Perhaps, I can arrange that for you, Mr. MacGregor." she said with a slight smile."Would you like

some more tea?"

‘That would be fine, thank you." He replied,

As she poured the tea into his cup, she looked at him steadily. MacGregor felt slightly uneasy by

the stare .but didn't say anything.

"I read some of his works on Ancient Egypt. Quite fascinating stuff, actually."

"What about the other person, Mr, Donaldson, who is he?"

"Oh, Mr. Donaldson," she looked at him then laughed "He was an Artist and quite a character. He

 came out here to do some rural landscape painting . He was a very nice man, a bit eccentric,

 wearing odd coloured socks and rather bright clothing but all in all he was a pleasant man."

"Was?"

"Yes," she said a sad expression crossing her pinched face." He left here one day and just never

returned. After a couple of days, I notified the authorities, a search was made for him, but they

never found him. He just up and left. A very mysterious case that one."

After sipping the tea, MacGregor said "I think I will go for a walk."

"Are you alone here, Mrs. Robinson ? "

"But for Mr.Owens, pretty much so ,Why?"

"I felt as if I were being watched,"

The landlady threw back her head and laughed heartily.

"Oh, please, Mr MacGregor, it’s just your imagination, I have to admit that the place can invoke

spooky thoughts, but you don’t have to worry, you will get used to it after a while" she

responded .

He got up and said "Well, Ma’am, It certainly was interesting talking with you .I think I will go for a

walk"

"My pleasure, Mr MacGregor," She replied evenly,

On his walk, he passed some old Victorian houses in dire need of repair, their garbled bay

windows were cracked and shadowed., Porches sagged, As he looked around, he felt a bit sad,

"A great town gone to seed,"
he thought, "and almost deserted."

He stood looking at an old church, admiring the Gothic Architecture, the stained glass coloured

windows, the buttresses, the little rose window above the entrance.

"Those old architects sure had a lot of imagination" ,he thought.

"New in town are you?"said a raspy voice from behind him, which startled him. He hadn’t heard

the person approached. He was a tall, gaunt man with a bald head with long flowing grey hair

 beneath a black wide brimmed hat. and was dressed in a faded black suit.

"Yes" replied MacGregor.

"Where you staying at, young fella?"

"At the 'Knife and Fork,' and who are you, may I ask ?"

"Oh, forgive my bad manners, am Hudson, the town’s undertaker" he stretched out a hand.

MacGregor reluctantly shook it. It was ice cold.

The man's beady black eyes searched him and seem to burn through him.

Mac Gregor felt a bit uneasy.

‘And what brought to our little town ,Mr …..?"

"MacGregor. I am a writer."

"Yeah? Now ain’t that somethin', we had a writer fella here once, name of O’Brien, he spent a

couple of days then took off on the next bus like a bat tryin' to bust outta Hell, outta here, he

was."

"Really ?" Replied MacGregor, intrigued." and why was that, do you know?’

"He claimed that the town was too spooky for him.".

"Can’t blame him"
thought MacGregor.

"Well, I gotta go", Hudson said abruptly," Nice meeting you, Mr.MacGregor, have a good stay"

They shook hands and the man turned and left as quietly as he came.

Later at dinner, the landlady asked."How was your tour of the town, Mr. MacGregor, found

anything interesting?"

"Fine.’ MacGregor replied" just fine. It's quite a quaint town you have here, I met Mr. Hudson, the

town’s undertaker"

Mrs.Robinson’s face suddenly turned as white as a sheet .

"Oh really, but that can’t possible be."

"why not?"

"Well, Mr. Hudson died three years ago!"

MacGregor felt a chill ran through him.

"Really?"

"Yes, he died shortly after his wife. poor man, he couldn't stand the loss. He grieved to death ."

"You are pulling my legs, aren’t you?"

"No."She replied, " ah, but we live in a mysterious world, aren't we?

A chill ran down his spine and he felt goose bumps all over.

***

One day ran into another, and still no Mr. Owens, and MacGregor began to think that maybe

Mrs.robinson was a bit dotty and only imagined that Mr.Owens was still there at the boarding

house.

"What about Mr Owens?" he blurted one night over dinner.

"Oh Yes, Mr. Owens, I will take you up to meet him as I promised."She paused, "Are you still sure

you want to meet him, Mr. MacGregor?"

"Definitely ,That would be a great honour."

They got up and he followed her up the stairs to a door marked 4, with a sign hanging on the

 doorknob saying in bold letters: "DO NOT DISTURB."

She keyed it open. An overpowering, nauseating smell assailed his nostrils as she opened the

door. A smell of leather and disinfectant and death pervaded the room.

"Well, Mr.MacGregor, there is Mr.Owens "she said as they entered, and pointed.

MacGregor looked, and recoiled in shock and terror. He couldn’t believe his eyes. His body

turned cold as ice at the sight that greeted him.

For there on the wall opposite him,were five human heads mounted on highly polished

Plaques, their faces a blotchy white and their sightless eyes staring mockingly down at him!

‘Mr.Owens is in the middle." cooed Mrs Robinson, and gave a mad ,cackling laugh.  

Mac Gregor raced down to his room and stuffed some clothes into his duffel bag and ran out of the building, the landlady's cackle still lingering in his ears.

He began walking along the road until he became exhausted and sat down under the shade of a nearby tree.He waited until he saw a truck coming his way. He got up and waved it down. The truck stopped alongside him

"Can you give me a lift to the next town? he asked

The driver looked him over then said

"Okay, Get in"

Macgregor  got in quickly.

Along the way, the driver asked MacGregor what he was doing alone in this almost deserted area."You won't believe  it" and told him about his experiences at the Knife and Fork."But That couldn't be" Replied the driver "The town was abandoned sixty years ago !

 


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