A chilling sort of awful
A strange kind of place
A howling in the distance
A twisted, crooked face

The shadows past the moonlight
The step upon the stair
The monster in the closet
The risk you shouldn’t dare

Where prayers are never answered
Where luck is always bad
Where dreams fall into nightmares
Where visions drive you mad

Prepare, for hope is fading
Prepare, for time is near
Prepare, to hear a story
Prepare, to face your fear…

Welcome, friends. I’m Romulus Blackwood, and this is…

BLACKWOOD THEATER

I certainly hope you enjoy your stay…

THE BLUE DRESS

It was sunny, warm and friendly, the grounds neatly kept and decorated with blooming flowers in abundance. The sidewalks were swept and the paint was new. Saffron Yellow. Not a bad shade at all. However, as Marjorie Bazeel was escorted into the lobby of the retirement home, her eyes squinted in a distasteful manner. Right away she didn’t like her new surroundings, and she said so without any hesitation whatsoever.

“This rat trap is a dump! I wouldn’t be caught dead here!”

Her son tried to make her comfortable. Explained that this would be good for her in the long run. But old Marjorie was set in her ways. Convincing her otherwise was not a possibility.

“Come on, Mom. Will you give it a chance?”

“You’re leaving me here to rot! A place for Mom means a place for Mom to DIE!…”

Nurse Ellie did her best, of course. She was in charge of all the residents at Salem Swoon. Yet, she promised to extend Marjorie an extra measure of kindness, and, true to her word, she did so. Longer nap times, an extra dessert, whatever it took to make Marjorie happy. Yet still, this did not pass muster. The coming weeks were full of:

“No, I will not take my pills! Lousy poison anyway!”

“Get away from me before I smash your ugly face with my cane!”

“That’s MY chair! I want it back or else I’ll scream until sundown!”

“I’m not going to eat that slop! Even a dog would walk away from it!”

Things became even worse the following month when visitors arrived for Easter Sunday. Marjorie’s son showed up late and she caused a scene, dumping a whole basket of eggs all over his head. Then old Marge made certain to spoil the holiday brunch by knocking the spiral ham onto the ground. She claimed her hand slipped on the platter but that was just a lie, and of course everyone there knew it…

So…what next?…

That answer came a few days later, when a mysterious fire had to be doused by a groundskeeper who noticed smoke rising from behind the bushes near Marjorie’s window. Nurse Ellie had been reluctant to address the problem at hand but now the decision had been made for her. Sometime in the evening, past 8 o’clock, she went to the attic and pulled out a trunk both tattered and worn. Popping the latch, she removed a blue dress which bore a distinct triangular pattern, matched with crescent moons of a ghostly color, all laughing.

“Here we are again,” said Nurse Ellie, holding up the garment and shaking her head.

Later on, when the rest of the home was asleep, the caretaker crept into Marjorie’s room without a sound. She sprayed a mist from a tiny bottle into the old woman’s face, which caused her to snort but remain sound asleep. Slipping the blue dress over Marjorie’s bathrobe, Nurse Ellie snapped the buttons shut and pulled the senior citizen up into a sitting position. Producing a small leather-bound book from her left pocket, she read aloud while holding Marjorie in place with her right hand.

“As you were, you shall not talk, but rise instead, and freely walk…”

With that, as the last word was spoken, Marjorie’s body straightened abruptly like a telephone pole. Eyes still closed, she rose robotically, shuffling forward as Nurse Ellie led the way quietly. They marched down, down into the basement, through a narrow doorway and into a small room next to the furnace. It was empty except for a single lit candleholder, which exposed the wallpaper, crudely applied.

The wallpaper matched the blue dress exactly. Right down to the crescent moons and their evil grins.

The nurse led Marjorie into the center of the room and stood her there, standing still but still fast asleep. Ellie then produced the leather-bound book again, calling out in a voice which seemed distant and detached.

“As you were, no longer still, but here awake, as is my will…”

Marjorie’s eyes popped open, red and bloodshot, and she nearly fell as she found her footing.

“What is this nonsense?!,” she growled in a deep voice. “What am I doing here, in this cellar?! Why do I have this ridiculous get-up on?! I want to go back to my room NOW, do you hear me, you no-good warthog?!”

“I’d like to oblige,” answered Nurse Ellie. “But we have to come to an understanding first. That is, I’d like to give you a chance. To make all of this unnecessary.”

“What are you talking about, you cow?!,” roared Marjorie. “I told you to bring me back to my room this instant! If not I’m going to call the authorities! Have your license pulled! Close this hell-hole down!”

Nurse Ellie remained calm, drawing in close to Marjorie, eyes intent.

“Ms. Bazeel, I’m only going to ask this once: Will you PLEASE try and behave yourself from now on? Stop fighting with all the staff? Not start anymore fires? Become a decent member of this household?”

Marjorie only sneered. “I’m not going to be ordered around like a maid! Not by you or any other low-level nurse! I will do EXACTLY what I want, when I want to, and YOU of all people aren’t going to stop me!”

Nurse Ellie shrugged: “Well, I did my best. Gave you one final chance…Okay, everyone. You can come in now. Let’s just get this over with as quickly as possible…”

The light in the room suddenly intensified and the entire staff of the nursing home began to enter, one by one. They were dressed in black satin robes and chanting in unison, pressing in on Marjorie as she backed up, horrified.

“What is this?!,” she screamed at Nurse Ellie. “Some kind of sick, twisted joke?!”

“No,” replied Ellie, rather dejected. “It’s you leaving us with no other choice.”

“I’ll call the police!,” threatened Marjorie, still retreating. “My son will be furious about this!”

“I doubt it,” answered Nurse Ellie flatly. “The children never seem to mind.”

The staff of the nursing home were almost upon Marjorie, who was now pressed up against the wall. It was then that the material in her dress met the same blue decorative paper, causing it to wrap and intertwine the two together. Marjorie opened her mouth to scream but it was rapidly filled with the blue dye of the faded wallpaper. Like an ocean it poured over her, spilling across the cloth of her dress, drowning and pulling her inward as an octopus does with its prey. As the crescent moons all laughed maniacally, the old woman was sucked into the wall with a final feeble shriek. All that remained afterward was the blue dress, which had been spit out onto the floor like a pile of dry and discarded bones.

Nurse Ellie walked over and retrieved the dress, giving a sigh as one of her colleagues looked on.

“That’s the trouble nowadays,” lamented Ellie. “People just don’t listen to witches anymore…”

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